Dangriga is centred around North Stann Creek, which flows out of the Maya Mountains and enters the Caribbean Sea there. This area of Belize was first settled by both European traders and Puritan farmers in the late 1600s and it was the Puritan custom of calling trading posts "stands" (later corrupted into "stann") that led this town and area being called 'Stann Creek'. However, the arrival of the many Garifuna immigrants in the early 1800s eventually led to the town being renamed to Dangriga (which means 'sweet, still waters' in their language).
We parked our vehicle at the Bus Terminal, which is located in the centre of Dangriga beside the main bridge across North Stann Creek. This was a busy spot with busses coming and going, along with small stands set up by the locals to hawk their various wares - including a vile-looking yellowish bottled drink made from seaweed! At home, I eat seaweed called 'dulse' from the Bay of Fundy, but I don't usually drink the stuff!
Other than these pretty views up and down the Creek, there is not a lot for a tourist to do smack in the middle of town (other than to check out the internet in a cyber-cafe just down the street).
One of the first things you will notice on driving into Dangriga from the main spur road off the Hummingbird Highway is the large steel "Drums of Our Fathers" memorial that was erected in 2003 to commemorate the heritage of the Garifuna, as the people are commonly called (this is actually the name for the Garinagu language).
The main cultural attraction of the year is the National Holiday of November 19, to officially recognize Garinagu Settlement Day. The town comes alive with colourful costumes as the landing of the settlers is re-enacted to the accompanyment of lively African-based dances, music and food. Even during the remainder of the year, both Dangriga and Hopkins are noted for their distinctive musical and dance styles. It was too bad that our timing was off, and we were only in town for about 3 hours in the middle of the day, so we completely missed out on this aspect of Dangriga.
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After spending about an hour in the internet cafe (see my 'Shopping' tip), it was already 1:30 PM by the time the four of us set out on foot looking for a place to have a quick lunch before we headed back to Hopkins. Where we were parked, beside the bridge over North Stann Creek, seemed to be the centre of things as far as restaurants in Dangriga went. We could see the King Burger on the other side of the creek, but my Moon's Handbook also mentioned two other places on our side of the Creek, close to where it enters the Caribbean Sea. We stolled in that direction (second photo) in the afternoon heat, initially seeking out Ruby's Rainforest Cafe - but found it permanently shut-up. Reversing direction only a few hundred feet, we finally settled on the dilapidated appearing Riverside Cafe. The book says this about the Riverside: "It's popular with travelers (boats to the cayes leave from right outside), and a gathering spot for local fishermen and folks with tourist businesses on the cayes. If you want to witness a real slice of Dangriga, set up camp at the bar here, order a Guinness with your eggs and beans, and watch the deals go down".
Favorite Dish: By the time we ordered at 2 PM, there were not many deals going down! We kept it simple, with two Chicken Burritos (US$1.75 each), one French Fries (US$1.75) and a Lighthouse Lager plus Belikin Mayan Temple beers. The service was quick and the food not bad either, especially for a total bill of US$10 (No credit cards accepted). Then, it was back to the rental for a return visit to the beach in Hopkins!
After our first few days in Belize spent out on the northern cayes, when we turned up at the Thrifty rental-car booth outside the main international airport building, our lone agent was very helpful and efficient. He did mention that there were no vehicles available in the Tracker-type size I had pre-booked, so we were upgraded to a V6 Honda Passport at no extra cost (except for my fuel bills!). Not knowing the 'lay of the land' in Belize, I decided to take the very reasonable daily insurance as well, raising the total cost to US$323 for three days rental (the most expensive I have ever paid on any of my trips!).
In the end, the Passport worked very well during our 3-days of driving and was quite comfortable as well. We had virtually no rain during our entire trip and the main highways we used were in excellent condition anyway. In hindsight, we did not actually need a 4WD for what we did, but we also did not venture very far off-the-beaten track in the short amount of time we had. The large rear cargo space did come in handy for holding our combined four large backpacks when we met up with our new Canadian friends from Caye Caulker! With the cheapest grade of gasoline costing US$4.66 per Imperial gallon (or US$3.91 per smaller US gallon), the 310 miles we put on the vehicle resulted in a total rental cost of US$409 (or US$1.32 per mile travelled). Ouch, thank goodness I don't do that too often!
If you have to travel from Belize City to Dangriga it will take by car around four hours.
You can cut this short by using an airplane from Belize City to Dangriga. The trip takes about 15 minutes and cocst around 55 USD one way.
The trip with the small aircraft from Maya Island Air is an adventure itself !!!
You can book this trip eays via Internet
In addition to just wanting to see what Dangriga was like while we were in the area, we had a few other reasons to pay a short visit. In Hopkins, we were unable to find any stores selling wine, no ATM machines and no internet cafes - in short, a desperate situation without wine, money or communications!
Our first pass through Dangriga was in search of banks and we hit the jackpot on our second attempt (the intial attempt at the Bank of Nova Scotia failed because they do not accept foreign ATM cards) as we replenished with BZ$. Because of the one-way streets in this part of town, we circled again, this time looking for an internet cafe - specifically Val's Laundry & Internet as detailed in my Handbook. It was not working, so we headed further downtown and parked at the bus terminal beside North Stann Creek.
What to buy: A walk of a block or so back the busy streets (where parking was almost impossible) revealed the second floor Griganet Cafe. Access was a bit tricky but we finally figured out that we needed to open an iron gate on the right side and proceed up the stairs from there. This place was quite nice, with air-conditioning and high-speed connections. I checked up on VT, Sue checked on home emails and our two friends from Saskatchewan updated their travel site for friends, regarding the progress on their planned 7-week trip from Belize to Panama (PS - they made it safely through Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama)!
What to pay: Prices were US$1 for 15 minutes, US$1.50 for 30 minutes, US$2 for 45 minutes and US$2.50 per hour.
Favorite thing: The Dangriga Town Council has a new website (http://www.dangrigalive.bz) that has tons of information for visitors and tourists. We've got stuff about hotels and restaurants, how to travel to the nearby islands, internet cafes, and more.
Favorite thing: The map shows our meandering 3-day trip with our rental vehicle from the International Airport outside Belize City into the central Belmopan area before heading south on the Hummingbird Highway to the coastal village of Hopkins. While there, we back-tracked for a quick look at Dangriga, since it is located up the coast only about 20 miles by road. All the marked roads we travelled on were good sealed roads and Belize is not a very big country - it is only 105 miles from Belize City to Dangriga.