Hopkins is also laid back, but doesn't have as much to do, imho. I've had friends recommend Hamanasi, but it's not really applicable if you're on a tight budget. You could always do both if you'll have a week...
thanks.......did you find the beaches to be overly dirty and trash-laden in either locale??
Because the Mayan ruins are on your list, I think you should spend at least one day in San Ignacio. A day trip to any of the major ruins from either Hopkins or Placencia will entail more travel time than ruin time. For Placencia, add at least two hours more than Hopkins.for travel there and back. If you do decide to stay in San Ignacio, I would pick Hopkins over Placencia because it is closer to San Ignacio (check out the map on this web site to get an idea of distances: http://ambergriscaye.com/pages/town/map.html ). Hopkins is definitely more laid back than Placencia and overall cheaper (beer at a beach side restaurant for $3.50). Budget-ish accommodations (beach cabana, hot water, private bath,fridge) can be had for $50US and budget rooms one lot off the beach for $15US. Beaches in either locale that are near tourist accommodations, restaurants etc. are maintained by the business people and usually garbage free.
Beaches are kept clean in both locations. We do have issues at times (maybe a few days every other year) during the rainy season when the rivers in Guatemala flood and our beaches are simply overwhelmed with rubbish. Then there is a mass turnout of the population with black bin bags to clean it up.
Other than that, you will find them clean, though gritty sand.
I find that every beach, and just about every island(or caye) has a slight trash problem. It's inescapable since it's 2010, and we use the oceans as our personal garbage cans. That being said, the main beach of Placencia is kept clean, by an effort of those that live there, and while there might be some trash off the beaten path, and some very small pieces of plastic matter on some parts of the beach, it's relatively clean. I like Placencia's beaches.
If you only stay in Placencia, then you can do Nim Li Punit or Lubantuun down south. If you do stay in the Cayo district, you have access to other ruins. All have their own amazing history, stellas, and stories.
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