Travel guide to Placencia, Belize
[Editor's Note: Megan Wood is the first writer-in-residence to participate in the Road Warrior program, a partnership between MatadorU and the Belize Tourism Board. Megan is spending the spring in Belize, documenting traditions of the country's diverse cultural groups. Each week, she reports on her experiences for Matador, her personal blog, and for other outlets.]
PLACENCIA IS A PENINSULA in southern Belize with 16 miles of sandy beaches — there’s the Caribbean to the east and a quiet lagoon to the west. It’s divided into two parts: south of the airport and north of the airport, though the whole thing can easily be biked on a beach cruiser.
Generally, the southern portion has a greater density of action, with coffee shops, the harbor, guesthouses, and creole restaurants all packed together. The northern half includes the Garifuna village of Seine Bight, is a bit more spread out, and has many of the more expensive resorts.
How I got to Placencia
I took a 20-minute flight from Punta Gorda to Placencia on the local commuter airline, Tropic Air. Both Tropic Air and Maya Island Air offer several daily flights from Punta Gorda and Belize City. Cost is about $100 US.
Where I stayed
Blue Crab Resort – Also home to Goss Chocolate (see below), the Blue Crab Resort is located south of the airport. The vibe here is laid back and homey, with four thatch-roof cabanas right on the ocean.
I count thirty steps from my front porch to the water’s edge. Air conditioning is available, but I hardly see the point, with the cool breeze off the water. There’s a small cafe for breakfast and free organic chocolate bars.
Sea View Suites – Sea View is located on the “world’s smallest street” between the Caribbean and the main drag north of the airport. A quick walk took me to the harbor where fishermen sell their catch.
The rooms have fast wireless and flatscreens with American cable — nice when I needed a break from the sun.
Chabil Mar – I actually wept tears when I discovered a washer and dryer in my villa.
Chabil Mar is fancy but not pretentious. After I went for a run I discovered fresh flowers in my room, but when the waiter brought me breakfast this morning we had a long conversation about the rims on his car. There’s a spa on the property and massages are available on the beach.
What I did
Splash Dive Center – This morning, I went snorkeling with the environmentally friendly Splash Dive Center on the UNESCO-recognized Barrier Reef. My guide invited me to move to Placencia. I’m considering it.
Cockscomb Basin Widlife Sanctuary & Jaguar Preserve – A morning hike with a guide resulted in the viewing of toucans, jaguar tracks, and swimming under a waterfall. Splash Dive Center set up the tour for me, as most trips in Belize require a licensed guide.
Biking, running, yoga, kayaking, swimming –
It’s possible to lie on the beach all day, but Placencia is ideal for more active outdoor activities.
The long, clean beaches are perfect for running. Beach cruiser bikes and kayaks are widely available for rent. Dive shops offer snorkeling, scuba, river tubing, and bird watching excursions.
What I ate
Above Grounds Coffee – In a land of great coffee, most restaurants serve instant. At Above Grounds, you can get free wireless, fresh banana bread, and 16oz of Guatemalan roast for $4 US. I usually fueled up here before a morning run on the beach.
They close at 4, though, so no late night caffeine.
Goss Chocolate – Organic. Dark. Chocolate. Located at the Blue Crab Resort (see above).
Wendy’s Creole and Spanish Cuisine – A slightly formal, sit-down restaurant that started as fast food.
Wendy’s has inexpensive and fresh seafood, especially at dinner. I tried the snapper cooked in foil with vegetables. The lunch menu is more of the nachos, wings, and burgers variety.
Street BBQ – I could smell it before I saw it. Locals barbecue chicken, ribs, and fish on the side of the road, and sell it in takeout containers.
I got ribs, beans, tortillas, and coleslaw from a place called Food Orgasm for $6 US. From there I pedaled to the beach, where I threw away the plastic fork and ate with my fingers.
The Shak Beach Cafe – Right next to the harbor and on the water, The Shak’s decor and menu wouldn’t look out of place in Malibu, California. They have an extensive menu of wraps, salads, and smoothies.
I came, though, for a seaweed shake, which locals claim was invented in Placencia.