Placencia – Belize’s Affordable Tranquil Caribbean Paradise
One of the best and most affordable Caribbean vacation spots is a lovely little Belizean seacoast village just a few hours from the USA.
Placencia, Belize, is one of the most laid back, pretty and interesting places in the Caribbean. This friendly little village situated on the tip of a long sandy peninsula in south eastern Belize is an affordable, uncrowded little gem of a tropical paradise.
With sixteen miles of sandy beaches, the impossibly blue Caribbean on one side, a mangrove-fringed lagoon teeming with life on the other, Placencia is indeed very special. And just offshore are myriad cayes, or small islands, dotting Belize’s Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world. Uncrowded diving, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking and island exploration trips are less than an hour away, and you’ll also get to meet some of the friendliest people on the planet.
As Caribbean holiday destinations go, Placencia is still relatively untouched, and retains an air of a place where people live, rather than a place where people visit. Everyone seems to know each other, and the main thoroughfare, a 4,071 foot long by 4 foot wide footpath recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the narrowest main street in the world, is usually alive with conversation and laughter.
Scattered along Placencia’s sidewalk and fronting Belize’s Caribbean Sea is an assortment of affordable, comfortable, casual bars and restaurants that tick over slowly during the day and come alive when the sun goes down. Attire is emphatically informal, with the “no shirt, no shoes no worries” rule firmly in place throughout Placencia village.
If you’re looking for a more serene Placencia experience, the resorts scattered along the peninsula are quieter and often have their own beach front amenities. Since we were enjoying a second honeymoon vacation, my wife and I opted for one of the Jungle and sea packages offered by The Lodge at Chaa Creek and found ourselves at Robert’s Grove, a beautiful bit of luxury on 22 acres of white sand and coconut trees. Chaa Creek’s affordable packages are some of the best to be found anywhere in Belize, and we were not disappointed with this combination of rainforest and pristine beaches. We stayed close to this lovely resort and beach our first few days and were wonderfully lazy.
When you’ve had enough relaxation, there’s plenty to do along the Placencia Peninsula and in the sea. Placencia is universally regarded as having the best beaches on the Belizean mainland, and they’re perfect for swimming, snorkelling, or just reading and sunbathing. And the nearby Belize Coral Reef system, the second largest in the world and dotted with some 200 cayes, constantly beckons.
Reef excursions and dive trips are all easily booked from town, with certified, affordable PADI and NAUI scuba instruction available year round. The dive shops have come a long way over the years, and can cater to the most demanding diver. The Blue Hole, featured in the famous Cousteau/Calypso documentary, is easy to get to, and Placencia is definitely the best place to see huge whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. Caribbean turtles, manatees, dolphins, giant rays, conchs and lobsters are all native to the Belizean seacoast and commonly seen even while snorkelling.
For those more comfortable above the water, trips to Laughing Bird, French Louie, Silk and other Cayes are popular, with kayaking and all the other water sports one expects from a Caribbean island vacation. There are catamarans and sailboats with or without crews to hire, incredible sport fishing with knowledgeable guides, and relaxed, informal water tours of the Belizean reef system.
But many people find that Placencia Village itself offers enough entertainment and relaxation to fill their days. Spend an hour at village watering holes or up the coast at Kitty’s Resort, Maya Beach or Robert’s Grove and you’ll quickly learn what’s going on and when. Bicycle around or walk the seven miles of uninterrupted palm lined coastline to the Village of Seine Bight, where you can experience first-hand the unique Garifuna food and culture. Birding in Belize is excellent, and the Placencia Peninsula is no exception.
We enjoyed a magical week in Placencia and could have easily spent another. As an affordable Caribbean holiday goes, it would be tough to beat Belize’s laid back and lovely Placencia Village.