A guide to the best beaching, bitters hopping and day tripping the peninsula has to offer.
Tucked at the end of a peninsula on the Central coast of Belize, Placencia draws vacationers and retirees alike thanks to its tropical climate, prime beaches, laid-back vibe and English speakers.
The village won’t overload you with activities or bustle — part of its charm is that the Belizean adage “Go Slow” takes on a literal meaning here — but the longer you hang around, the more likely you’ll find there is more to this town than first strikes the eye, from the warmth of the intertwined local and expat communities to back streets that wind into the canals, revealing pockets of life not seen from the main stretch.
Like other tourist destinations in Central Belize, the prices are on the high end for Central America, a reality that should be evident at the first passing of shore-lining mansions and the celebrity-attracting Turtle Inn — a Francis Ford Coppola property that touts rooms for upwards of $500 USD a night. But just as there is luxury to be soaked up if you’re so inspired, there are deals to be found, too; and plenty to entertain for a week or more.
Here’s what to do while you’re in town:
Take a boat trip.
There are a handful of companies in town with whom you can book a variety of excursions: half or full-day snorkeling trips, sunset cruises or ventures to Monkey River or the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve, to see some of the local fauna. In town, check out companies Daytripper, Ocean Motion, Placencia Adventures and Barefoot Rentals for information and pricing.
Stage your own bitters crawl.
A trip to Belize isn’t complete without sampling the country’s “bittahs” — made from overproof rum and a variety of rainforest and medicinal herbs. Many establishments offer bitters, served at room temperature, like a shot (but meant to be savored slowly), and most make their own, unique rendition in-house, meaning no two drinks are quite alike. Start at Mr. Que’s (a barbecue stand on the main strip) and go from there. Be sure to ask each bartender where their other favorites are!
Hit the beach.
Unlike in the popular Caye Caulker, which has plenty of places to dip into the water, but no sandy stretches, the playas are one of the major attractions in Placencia. The stretch of coast bedecked with beach bars like Tipsy Tuna and Barefoot is open to the public — with some areas boasting beach games. All the way at the beach’s end, toward the pier, it forms a sort of sandbar peak, with calmer waters for swimming.
Watch the sunset.
The bars, restaurants and beaches in Placencia are, for the most part, on the east side of the island, meaning you won’t catch the raws as they descend. But there are a couple of prime places to watch — neither or which are well advertised. First, there is the aptly named Sunset Pointe. If you journey down that dirt road, it would be easy to think there is no pedestrian access, the point lined with guesthouses and homes. But if you cross to the small island where SailFish Resort (a hotel boasting a range of dorm-style housing, micro rooms and suites) and follow the shore, you’ll find a dock surrounded by mangroves at the very end, boasting stellar views of the sun melting into the islands beyond. Alternatively, you can access the fishing dock at the Placencia Municipal Pier and Plaza. The angle of the sun setting isn’t direct, but good enough for some photo opportunities, especially of the birds that flock around the sailboats around this time of day.
Stroll the boardwalk.
Besides Placencia Road, the main strip, the village long, parallel boardwalk is home to the bulk of the town’s bars, beachfront restaurants and trinket shops. Hop into the hammocks with a cocktail and a book at Cozy Corner. Jump into party central at Barefoot. Grab lunch at Rick’s Cafe. Or browse handicrafts at stands along the way.
Exercise your vocal chords.
Karaoke is absolutely a thing in Belize, and Entertainment No. 1 on the weekends in Placencia. Head to Tipsy Tuna to belt ballads on on the beach on Thursdays, and Jay Dee’s for similar shenanigans but a little more of a local experience, on Sundays.
Shop for Belizean goods/ take a cooking class.
Looking for a practical souvenir to take home? Taste Belize, who also organizes tours, has a small storefront on Placencia Rd. where visitors can purchase soaps, coffee, fruit wines, jams and more, as well as sign up for cooking classes and various tours.
Cruise around town.
Placencia isn’t a big town, but it can be hot, and walking up and down the main road can get old. Consider a bicycle rental for $10 USD/day at Captain Jack’s.
Indulge in a wine tasting.
The Little Wine Bar — a cozy nook worthy of a couple hours sipping and snacking on any day — hosts intimate wine tastings with food pairings and some dropped knowledge from Turtle Inn wine expert Peter Garay a couple times a month. Check the bar’s Facebook page for upcoming dates and times.
Splash into a pool.
Not staying at a fancy hotel? No worries, there are pools at your fingertips if you so desire. The closest option to town is at SailFish, where the glorious piscina with a swim-up bar is free for non-guests on Wednesdays, and just $2.50 USD every other day. On Sundays, the hotel holds a pool party complete with live music and food. Other options include the luxurious swimming opportunities at both Turtle Inn and Maya Beach Hotel and Bistro — 15 and 30-minute cab rides from the village center, respectively. Rooms at these two hotels cost a pretty penny. But as long as they’re not overly busy, both establishments will let non-guests use the pools with food or cocktail purchases. (The brunch at Maya Beach Bistro, alone, is worth the trip.)