Placencia is a gorgeous emerald peninsula in southern Belize with 16 miles of sandy beaches. The Caribbean Sea is to the east and the charming Placencia lagoon lies to west looking towards the Maya Mountains on the mainland. Placencia is essentially divided into two parts: south of the airstrip and north of the airstrip. The entire peninsula can be easily navigated on a beach cruiser bike. The busy part of Placencia lies in the south where the visitor will find the greater concentration of coffee shops, bistros, internet cafes, the harbor, guest houses, taxi and bus station, banks and local restaurants.
Land on the peninsula is low-lying and flat. The Maya Mountains are visible to the west. Placencia, a Creole village is at the southern tip of the peninsula. A long concrete sidewalk runs up the center of the village. A stroll up and down the sidewalk will give you a good introduction to life in the village. The 16 miles or so of beaches on the peninsula are a beautiful resource, a narrow, long loaf of toast-colored sand.
The northern portion of Placencia includes the Garifuna village of Seine Bight, is less densely populated and has many of the more expensive resorts. Because of its distance from the reef , it also has “real’ though not very high surf. The water is clean and clear; the trade winds gentle and cooling. There are few sights more calming to the spirit than a Belizean sunset on a deserted Plaencia beach. A visitor on her first visit to Belize had this to say about Placencia:
“All the fears of going to Belize were unfounded. I had friends tell me I was crazy for going to an obscure Central American country that they had never heard of! They envisioned rebel infested jungles at every turn. And the thought of me being susceptible to snakes, crocodiles, scorpions and a various array of insects sent them into a incoherent and somewhat amusing frenzy, I am so glad I did not heed their unwarranted objections.
“What I found in Placencia was simply, Paradise. A warm and caring people and an unsurpassed tropical haven. I have traveled to several tropical destinations and I have never found such beauty.
I chose Placencia because of its proximity to the Reefs and The Rainforest and my limited amount of time, only 6 days. I was not disappointed. I have never been to a place as lovely as Placencia. The people of the village are a caring, gracious and insightful people. They care for each other and their beautiful surroundings.”
The Spaniards that traveled the southern coast of Belize gave Placencia its name. It was once named Punta Placencia (Spanish) or Point Pleasant (English).
In colonial times Placencia was primarily a fishing village but it is now a major tourism and resort area offering many attractions and entertainment ranging from kayaking, snorkeling, diving, saltwater fly fishing, whale shark watching during the full moons between April and July of each year, light tackle saltwater fishing, and an annual Lobster Fest. Some images here courtesy of the Inn At Roberts Grove.
The Beaches At Placencia
The beaches along the Placencia Peninsula are dotted with small resorts that can arrange dive and snorkel trips to the reef, which is about 17 miles away. They can also arrange day trips to many small, idyllic cayes, such as Laughing Bird Caye, a mini-atoll that offers protected snorkeling and swimming, a white sand beach and many cooling palm trees for beach girls to cool off (it even has hammocks!). The beaches are great for swimming, as there’s a good deal of seagrass, except where hotels have removed it around piers. You can snorkel here, but for world-class snorkeling you take a boat out to the reef or to one of the small offshore cayes, an easy 10-mile boat trip. (There is closer snorkeling at False Caye off Maya Beach and in a couple of other areas.)
Laughing Bird Caye is also a favorite camping site for reef kayakers who base their expeditions in Placencia. A hotel can also arrange deep sea or reef fishing trips, or day sailing on a 36-foot catamaran.
There are many places to stay in Placencia – from low-cost lodging to all inclusive resorts and others. Snorkeling is easily accessible from virtually any point from the beach. The waters are clear and shallow – often just a few steps from your hotel room to find an excellent snorkel spot.
Placencia Now Major Tourism Attraction
Placencia is now one of the country’s main tourist destinations, especially for those stopping over on their Caribbean cruise in the southern part of the country, and it is also well visited by Belizeans from across the country on local holidays. The peninsula has a wide range of restaurants, some of which are set up in the patios of private homes along the path between the beach and the lagoon. You can get a delicious plate heaped with stewed chicken and rice and beans for about US $5.
There are several small gift shops, a post office and some night life. Nearby Mango Creek-Independence Village has a nightclub and weekend activity for the adventurous wishing to get out of Placencia, as well as a big football field which is home to one of Belize’s top football clubs. A trip to nearby Hopkins, a traditional Garifuna village a few miles south on the Southern Highway, provides a chance to sample Garifuna cooking and music (including drumming and modern Punta Rock). The Maya ruins of Nim Li Punit and Lubantuum, as well as the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve are a day trip from Placencia.
The Placencia Lagoon is an important breeding area for saltwater crocodiles, marine turtles and the rare and endangered manatees; there are also numerous species of birds. The lagoon has dolphins, stingrays (the lagoon is a nursery for some species of rays), mangrove forests, birding by canoe or kayak, fishing (juvenile tarpon, snook, barracuda), and extensive wetlands. Check out our Top Ten Things To Do In Placencia.
Placencia is about a two hour drive from Belmopan, capital of Belize. The Placencia road is now fully paved but unfortunately has dozens of speed bumps, several weather-worn and unmarked. Not a few out of town drivers have wrecked their suspensions, or worse, gone off the highway after hitting a speed bump. So unless you know the road well, stick to under 50 miles per hour. A modern airstrip is right at the entrance to the peninsula. Placencia is located at 16°30′50″N 88°22′0″W (map opens in new window).
Thirty years ago the area was a quiet fishing village with a narrow meandering sidewalk that served as its main street. Today this destination retains its traditional charm while offering first class amenities. A few docks jut out from the shore leaving an uninterrupted view of the Caribbean Sea and unimpeded routes for walking. Dozens of islands off the Placencia coast make for exotic day trips and romantic overnights. Below the surface whether by snorkel or scuba, divers will discover forests of coral and schools of colorful fish including the biggest of them all the, majestic whale shark.
Fly fishers look for the picky permit in search of a Grand Slam while hardy kayakers paddle from one postcard island to the next. For more leisurely island hopping climb aboard a luxury catamaran complete with a captain and catering staff.
Watch Belize Placencia Video – A Bike Ride Through The Village
The people of Placencia remain its greatest asset. A microcosm of the nation at large, in Placencia you would find every ethnic group including Latinos, Garifunas, Creoles, Maya,, Mennonite, East Indian and Chinese and of course hundreds of North American and European immigrants. For visitors this means an experience that is unabashedly authentic. No one remains a stranger for very long. From your first very first of footstep in the sand you are a welcome member of the community.