“Mabuiga!” shouts the sign in Garifuna, welcoming you to this cultural hub and district capital. Built on the Caribbean shoreline and straddling North Stann Creek (or Gumagarugu River), Dangriga’s primary boast is its status as the Garifuna people’s original port of entry into Belize—and their modern-day ethnic center. But although the majority of Dangriga’s 12,500 or so inhabitants are Garifuna descendants of that much-celebrated 1823 landing, the rest are a typically rich mix of Chinese, Creoles, mestizos, and Maya, all of whom can be seen interacting on the town’s main drag.
Aside from Dangriga’s ideal location for accessing the surrounding mountains and seas—and the limited, barely adequate tourist services available to do so—its chief attraction may just be its total lack of pretense. Dangriga (formerly known as Stann Creek Town) does not outwardly cater to its foreign visitors as does Placencia  or San Pedro —there is simply too much else going on in this commercial center, including fishing, farming, and serving the influx of Stann Creek villagers who come weekly to stock up on supplies. Consequently, this area is still relatively undeveloped for tourism, which is either a shortcoming or an attraction, depending on what kind of traveler you are.
If poking around the casually bustling vibe of Dangriga (which, by the way, means something like “sweet, still waters” in Garifuna) sounds intriguing, you’d do well to stay a couple nights. And if it’s culture you’re looking for, just listen for the drumming.
Dangriga is on the coast, only 36 miles south of Belize City  as the crow (or local airline) flies. However, the land trip is much longer, roughly 75 miles along the Manatee Road or 100 miles via the Hummingbird Highway.
By Air: Maya Island Air (tel. 501/223-1140, U.S. tel. 800/225-6732, mayair [at] btl [dot] net, www.mayaislandair.com ) and Tropic Air (tel. 501/226-2012, U.S. tel. 800/422-3435, reservations [at] tropicair [dot] com, www.tropicair.com ) have a number of daily 20-minute flights between Belize City and Dangriga. It’s also possible to fly between Dangriga, Placencia , and Punta Gorda .
By Boat: Boat service from Belize City is entirely custom arranged—they tried running a regularly scheduled shuttle, but it didn’t make money. Ask around the docks by the Texaco station, at your hotel, or at the Belize Tourism Board. Expect to pay a decent sum for this trip (probably US$100 each way). Service to and from local cayes or other coastal villages is also dependent on how many people want to go. Only two passengers are required to make the trip to Tobacco Caye  (US$35 each); ask around the Riverside Café or Texaco Station Tackle Stop. Captain Doggie will charter 1–3 persons for US$70; groups of 4–12 can expect to pay US$17.50 per person.
By Bus: Bus service between Belize City and Dangriga takes close to three hours, including a stop in Belmopan, and costs US$6 each way; buses run between 4:30 a.m. and about 5:30 p.m. There are a few expresses during the day, but the schedule is changing all the time.
There are eight daily southbound buses to Punta Gorda , from 8 a.m. to the day’s only express at 5:30 p.m.—a three-hour trip. Buses to PG stop in Mango Creek; from there you can make a connection to Placencia on the water taxi. As of press time, there are three daily buses that go directly to Placencia : 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4:40 p.m. (2.5 hours). These buses used to always stop in Hopkins  and Sittee River , but that schedule is in question, so ask around the station.
By Car: From Belize City, take the Western Highway to either the Coastal (Manatee) Road or Hummingbird Highway, which you’ll follow till it ends. Taking the Coastal Road may shave 20 minutes off the Hummingbird Highway route—but the rutted, red-dirt surface may also destroy your suspension and jar your fillings loose. The unpaved Coastal Road is flat and relatively straight and is occasionally graded into a passable highway, but you’d better have a sturdy ride.
Be prepared for lots of dust in the dry season and boggy mud after a rain. Numerous tiny bridges with no railings cross creeks flowing out of the west, and the landscape of pine savanna and forested limestone bluffs has nary a sign of humans (except for the crappy road, of course). About halfway to the junction with the Hummingbird Highway, you’ll find a pleasant place to stop and take a dip at Soldier Creek; just look for the biggest bridge of your trip and pull over.
Watch out for snakes in the bush, and once you reach your destination try not to spend those hard-earned extra 20 minutes all in one place.