Recreation and Activities in Dangriga, Belize
“Mabuiga” reads the welcome sign greeting visitors who come by bus while those traveling by plane are greeted by expanses of citrus orchards. Both of these announce your arrival to the seaside town of Dangriga.
Once called Stann Creek town, Dangriga is the district capital and the cultural center of the Garifuna people (of Amerindian and African ancestry) who are the majority of a population of about 9,000. Wooden houses perched on stilts to catch the Caribbean breeze sit alongside coconut palms and mango trees giving the place a dreamy, tranquil air about it. With rainforests and the Maya Mountains to its west, cayes and the reef in the Caribbean east, Dangriga is a marvelous spot to spend a few days of discovery.
The commercial center of town, which includes 3 major banks, runs along St. Vincent and Commerce Streets, the same street with different names on either side of a bridge that spans the North Stann Creek River. The south bank is busy with boats that shuttle passengers to and from the surrounding cayes while a bustling market occupies the north bank where you can buy fruit, vegetables and fish fresh out of the ocean.
Dangriga is full of things to do and see for the culture hungry. The Gulisi Garifuna Museum houses permanent displays that highlight the culture and history of the Garifuna people while the Pen Cayetano Gallery, which opens in November of every year, showcases the artwork of musician and painter Pen Cayetano. Other stops of cultural interest include the Drums of my Father Monument, the National Garifuna Council headquarters, Thomas Vincent Ramos Monument. Several artists and craftsmen who live and work in Dangriga, including painter Benjamin Nicholas and drum maker Austin Rodriguez, welcome visits to their studios.
For the plain hungry, there are restaurants in town catering to tastes that range from local fare to Chinese, to cheeseburgers and fries. Big barrel barbecues appear on the street side in the evenings offering the most delicious fresh grilled chicken served with flour tortillas, beans and coleslaw, all for about US$2.50. For an authentic experience, grab a seat on a rock or a wall near the river and watch Dangriga go by while you refill.
Things To Do:
- Gulisi Garifuna Museum – It brings together artifacts, pictures and documents on Garifuna history and culture, including film of the original punta rockers, Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band, in Dangriga back in 1983.
- Drums of our Fathers monument – a monument to the Garifuna ancestors, inspired by a poem written by E. Roy Cayetano – linguist, educator and artist
- The sheds – Large, open-sided thatched sheds with a bar and tables for playing dominoes or catching up with the latest news.
- Pen Cayetano’s studio – self taught painter, singer, songwriter, percussionist and guitarist who recently returned to Dangriga after living for several years in Germany.
- The Riverside – a bustling waterway where the boats come and go for fishing, caye trips and crossings to Guatemala and Honduras.
- The Dangriga market – “Dangriga’s mall” with local produce and fresh fish stalls on the one side across from clothes, shoes, hammocks and household items meticulously packed away each night by their Central American vendors.
- Austin Rodriguez’s drum making shed – watch as drums emerge from sections of tree trunks in a small shed right next to the beach
- BTL Park – formerly “Princess Royal Park”, just outside the Town Hall. The park was recently refurbished and renamed by the local telecommunications company. Picnic tables, a concession stand, a stage and band stand make this a favorite hangout and venue for the occassional musical concert or religious revival.
- Carl Ramos football stadium – Soccer is BIG in Dangriga! Games between local teams can often be seen here on weekends.
- Marie Sharp’s Fine Foods – Simply the BEST habanero pepper sauce in Belize – available in several heat levels! A case makes a great present and easily fits inside a suitcase.
- TV Ramos monument – A monument found on the north end of town, it was built to honor the Garifuna leader who helped bring local recognition to the rich culture and heritage of the Garinagu with the establishment of November 19th as a public and bank holiday.
- Deserted beaches – Dangriga’s beaches are devoid of man-made structures and usually quiet except for early morning fishermen with their castnets.
- Garifuna Settlement Day – November 19th is the anniversary of the Garifuna arrival to Belize in 1823. The preceding weeks are filled with cultural pageants, contests, ceremonies and events culminating in all night drumming to bring in the dawn of November 19th and the early morning reenactment of the Garifuna arrival in wooden doreys on Belizean shores. Drums then lead a spirited procession with offerings to the local Catholic church where a packed Ecumenical thanksgiving service is celebrated in the Garifuna language.