If a word can be spoken that evokes the essence of the thing or place it is describing, then the word “Placencia”, is it. The sound of the word is as beautiful and exotic as the place itself.
Say it out loud and slow: Pla-cen-ci-a. Gorgeous!
We almost skipped stopping in Placencia. Guide books and other travelers warned us that it was too touristy, but we wanted to see it anyway. As soon as we stepped onto its shore, our two day affair with Placencia started.
First with miles of sandy beach and later with a peep show of delight. Placencia is a long stretch of beachy peninsula on the southern coast of Belize. As we walked onto the beach, we noticed something was missing – docks, which made for a beautifully clean beach line. The beach seemed to stretch for miles with a coarse raw sugar-like sand. The sand is beautifully clear, almost as if it’s illuminated from within. If you pick up a palm-full, it will leave behind a sparkle in your hand. It is so different than the fine, white sand of Ambergris Caye, and I couldn’t get enough of running it through my fingers and toes. The Caribbean waters were clear and the waves were small, making it perfect for the kids.
Placencia brought on her peep show innocently enough. At dusk, as we were getting ready to go back to the hotel we spotted the shiny curves of something in the water. The sun was setting and the shimmer from the grey skin and unmistakable fins of dolphins was captivating. They didn’t jump out of the water, they just crested above it, wanting to be seen without being obvious. This was the first time we’ve seen dolphins in the wild. It was a magical moment.
“Dolphins are the smiles of the ocean.” – S. King
That sealed the deal: we fell for Placencia and her flirtatious spirit.
We played in Placencia for two days. In our eyes, this quiet little paradise did not seem touristy at all, even though we were there during the most visited time of year between Christmas and New Year. Maybe this is because we live in San Pedro, the most touristy place in Belize. There were definitely options available with tours, souvenir shops, bars and restaurants, but they seemed to be in the background.
A great thing about Placencia is that there is a boardwalk, or concrete walkway, that runs parallel to the beach and the street and gives access to many of the bars, restaurants, shops, and places to stay. There are no bikes allowed on this boardwalk so it makes for a nice relaxing stroll and easy way to get where you need.
One of the highlights of our stay in Placencia was when K and G went out to find bicycles to rent, but found something a little more interesting. They stopped in Captain Jaks rentals, who just received some new Surrey bikes. Surrey bikes fit up to 3 adults and 3 children (see picture below), which was perfect for all of us to tool around the town. Since these were new in town, and with our two cute kids up front, we got lots of looks, comments, and smiles. We even had a special competition with the other Surrey bike renters as we yelled out to each other every time we passed. Some of the locals kids were really amazed by it, so we took them for a ride to get some ice-cream.
Where we stayed: Serenade Guesthouse
Remember, this backpack trip was all about budget, which means cheap-o! Placencia has beautiful hotels and all-inclusive resorts, but we opted to stay close to town in a guesthouse. The Serenade Guesthouse was recommended by fellow backpackers as cheap, clean and in the center of everything, so we started our accommodation plans there. Luckily, they had a room with 2 beds for $60bzd/night. The room itself was comfortable and clean, but very tired. It seems someone decorated it from a JC Penney “Bedroom in a bag” set. The curtains, bedspread, bed skirt and sheets were all the same pattern, a 1990’s floral that needed to be retired 15 years ago. Not that the decor of a room really matters to us anymore. All we look for is a clean place with a bed and a good price. But it was in the heart of everything and about 50 paces to the beach.
What we ate: Lots!
Da’Tatch: Right on the beach, which is perfect to allow kids to play on the beach, while we wait for food. Fish sandwich, conch fritter & key lime pie. All were okay, not great, but did the job of filling our bellies. The next morning, we did have a great “real” coffee there. Most restaurants in Belize serve either instant coffee or Maxwell House. I supposed the coffee grown here is only for spendy tourist shops or export.
Barefoot Bar: This fun lively place is on the street side, but is completely open air and colorful. We had lunch here that consisted of enchiladas with a tamarind Sauce (highly recommended), Chips & beef dip, Tacos. Great food & $3.50 bz beers during lunch.
Tipsy Tuna: Located right on the beach with colorful tables, chairs and beach lounges, we ate a dinner here of $1 hot wings. We’re hot wing fanatics and they were very good. Not greasy, but a bit heavy on sauce (who would complain about that?)
Jerk Hut: This was a tiny little shack near the Serenade Guesthouse. Run by a sweet Garifuna lady. What caught our eye on the menu board out front was Okra Punch. K grew up on okra so he had to try it. It was actually pretty good. More sweet than okra taste. We also saw that she had corn dogs on the menu , which we thought would be a nice little treat. But once we opened the aluminum foil we realized that a corn dog in Belize is a little different than what we are used to. It was a burrito with a hot dog in the middle. It was really good but you just cannot expect everything to be the same as what you are used to when traveling in different countries.
Cozy Corner: Highly recommended for breakfast! This restaurant is located on the beach and has nice open air, covered seating. Perfect for any time of day, but we ate our last breakfast here. Veggie stuffed Fry Jack, BELT (Bacon, Egg, Lettuce & Tomato) Sandwich and ok coffee. The food was incredible. The Veggie stuffed Fry Jack was packed with eggs and vegetables and was not greasy (sometimes an issue with Fry Jacks if they are not prepared well). The BELT was great as well. The only downside was no free refills on coffee, who has ever heard of that? At least it wasn’t instant.
Street Food: Our kids are early risers around 5:30 am and need some food right away. Most restaurants are not open this early but street vendors catering to locals on their way to work are. Little carts set up on the street serving tacos, burritos, and instant coffee. Match this with a banana purchased from a street vendor selling produce and we have the perfect breakfast, all for under $5 US for the whole family.
Highly Recommended: We did get some recommendations for restaurants from others in town but were unable to visit them on this trip. Rum Fish is towards the south end of town on the street side, usually has live music and is only open for dinner. We were told that they have great seafood. Wendy’s is also located on the south end of town and is known for really good breakfasts. It is in a large Victorian style house with a nice wrap around porch. We did not eat here but did get a Seaweed Shake. It sounded so interesting we had to try it. It was delicious, especially since the bartender talked us into adding a little splash of Brandy.
Would we go again?
Are you kidding, we want to move there! We will definitely return to Placencia and highly recommend it to anyone. It is a perfect paradise in so many ways – the beach, the people, the colors, the size, the food, the mix of locals and tourists, and the energy. And to think that we were going to skip it, seems silly, now that we’ve experienced it.
Up Next: Hopkins, Belize – where we get more deeply surrounded by the culture. Do you hear the drums?
How to get to Placencia:
By Bus from the North: You may want to check this but we believe the James bus line out of Belize City makes a stop in Placencia.
By bus & Water Taxi from the South (the way we took): Take the James bus line from Punta Gorda to Independence. Then walk about 1/4 mile, or take a taxi ($5 bzd) to the Water Taxi terminal. The Hokey Pokey Water Taxi ride is only 10 minutes toPlacencia.