Placencia: the once-sleepy village along the best beach in Belize
Placencia may be a less-visited destination in Belize than Caye Caulker or San Pedro, but don’t take that to mean that it’s going to be remote and off-the-beaten-track. It’s a favourite amongst Canadians and Americans for somewhere to retire to, which is either horrible or great depending on who you ask. These expats do tend to bring the expected quality of services up, but they also drive the prices of restaurants, accommodation and things to do in Placencia up exponentially. We never expected to see prices like that up on the walls of a tourist company’s shack in LatAm, with happy customers coming out full of praise about how cost-effective their tour was. Perspective is everything when you travel in Central America!
Nevertheless, it’s a lovely place to chill out, get some good food and enjoy life abroad. The town itself doesn’t have much to write home about, so all the action is to be found along the beach or the ’Sidewalk’ (a long, long path that runs through all the main tourist attractions). There are certainly enough bars, shops and beach clubs to keep you busy for a few days!
Placencia is often touted as having the most beautiful beach in Belize. As mentioned in my 9 things to know before you travel to Belize, the country is not blessed with sandy shores despite being lined by the Caribbean Sea. Placencia Beach is still quite shoal-y, and at some points it suffers from the effects of micro-plastics pollution, but the nicest thing about Placencia Beach is the lack of other people around. True tranquility!
The geography of Placencia is pretty interesting, with the Caribbean Sea to the East, a long lagoon (more like a river in parts) to the West and islands, cayes and reefs in every direction. The area is abundant with marine life, being home to manatees, rays, reef sharks, dolphins, turtles and even whale sharks between March and June.
This guide in going to take you through the best things to do in Placencia, where to stay when you visit, my favourite restaurants in Placencia, where to grab a good coffee and how to get from Belize City to Placencia by bus, transfer or plane.
After this guide to Placencia, Belize, you might also want to have a read of:
Now, it has to be said that Lydia is a strange, strange lady with very little in the way of customer service skills (we watched her have quite a heated argument with a customer about the size of their washing load, charging them twice for it). However, the guesthouse itself does the job, with a good location away from any noise, decent enough living quarters and a really friendly vibe amongst guests who tend to convene out on the porch. We met one German couple who said they’d been coming back to Lydia’s annually for 11 years.
At the top end of the main town, Village Inn provides private bungalows for up to 4 people. These cosy cabins are right on the beach, come equipped with kitchenettes and have sizeable private balconies. Alternatively, Inn The Trees Cabañas are CRAZY COOL, but they’re a little far away from the main action of Placencia, so you’d probably want to hire bikes.
Placencia is home to some of the most luxe resorts in all of Belize. My top luxury choice would be Turtle Inn, for its great location and insanely beautiful interiors of its straw-roofed beach cottages and villas. It’s pricey, but you can expect to be treated like a star.
Things to do in Placencia, Belize
Lounge on the beach
Like duhhh, this is what drew you here in the first place, right?! Although not a white-sanded paradise, Placencia Beach does give the whole tropical relaxation thing a good shot. You’re unlikely to be hassled by vendors, and a few of the beach bars have chairs and sun loungers for you to use. The water tends to be calm; perfect for a swim.
Chillax at Placencia Beach Club
Wanna wind down in inexpensive luxury? For only $5USD, you can buy a day pass to the beautiful Placencia Beach Club where you can enjoy the pool, restaurant and bars. It’s closed on Mondays, and kids are allowed in on Sunday and Wednesday.
Explore the peninsula
There’s a lot going on in all the hustle and bustle of daily life in Placencia, and taking the main road (or lagoon!) up the peninsula is a great way to take a break from all the tourism and experience a bit of real Belizean life. There are other villages to see to the North, such as Seine Bight and Cocoplum. You can take out one of Captain Jak’s kayaks from $22.50, hire bikes at $12 USD a day, rent a golf cart from $35 USD or even go by a dirt-bike at $29 USD an hour.
Spice things up with a Garifuna cooking class
The Garifuna community makes up only 4% of Belize’s population, but their vibrant culture has a huge impact in this part of the country – especially in the nearby towns of Dangriga and Hopkins. While I’d normally steer clear of the types of tours that take you to a village to watch dancing, etc, there are several cooking classes you can take that will give you a good insight into the culture in a less intrusive, non-zoo-esque way. You can make Garifuna candy on a traditional fire, or take a Taste Belize class to prepare a fuller meal.
Join the party at Barefoot Bar or Tipsy Tuna
Not exactly local bars, but popular with locals anyway, these two beach-side spots are known for their themed evenings and raucous parties. The staff are all pretty friendly and you’re bound to come out with some new mates.
Get a taste of Big Titty Rum
This is a hard-to-ignore local brand in Placencia, and despite the somewhat outlandish approach to marketing, the rum is actually really good, and the bar is run by an eccentric chap who’s happy to splash out some free tasters for those looking to buy cocktails or a bottle. We went in to check out what was on offer and ended up staying an hour, returning later in the evening to smash back some creative rum cocktails. It’s an intimate bar with a laidback vibe, so we made friends easily!
Have your pick of the tours & excursions in Placencia
Tourism agencies in Placencia really do offer a lot, both sticking to the local area and transporting you around the rest of Belize, so I’ve rounded up a list for you with the lowest prices I was able to find. Lots of these tours have minimum numbers of people to join before they run (usually 3 or 4), and most also have the option to do as a private tour for a fair chunk more cash. Remember to shop around, negotiate if you’re in a larger group and check if meals, water and park entrance fees are included. Here are some of the tours & excursions in Placencia and beyond:
Peninsula Tour $50 USD
Ranguana Caye $125 USD
Laughingbird Caye $70 USD (inc. lunch and park fees)
Silk Caye $90 USD
Island-hopping $110 USD
Horse-riding $130 USD
Monkey River and Manatee Tour $70 USD
Manatee Lagoon Cruise $50 USD
Scuba Diving from $135 USD
Zip-lining 125 USD
Fishing boat tours
Half day $300 USD per boat (shared by up to 3, $75 pp after)
Full day $400 USD per boat (shared by up to 3, $100 pp after)
Mayaking Waterfall 75 USD
Rivertubing $110 USD
Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve $125 USD
Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit $130 USD
Best restaurants in Placencia, Belize
Inexpensive, welcoming and tasty as hell, Dawn’s Grill offers one of the best lunchtime menus in Placencia. It’s located on the main road, not far from the large MNM hardware store. Lunch deals start from 10 BZD.
Brilliiiiiant lunch located on the beach. This restaurant had some of the best chicken I’ve ever tasted, and stuffed me right up till the evening. To find it, head down the Sidewalk, turning right after entering from Leslie Street.
Unnamed burrito hut
For major money-saving vibes, get yourself a cheap dinner at the fast food hut with 2 long tables outside, on Placencia Road opposite the MNM hardware store. Large burritos start at an ultra-reasonable 4 BZD, making this one of the cheapest restaurants in Placencia. The 2 little ladies running it only speak Spanish (from memory I think they were Honduran), but if you don’t know any of the language there will be locals around who are keen to help translate.
Buba Wuba’s Grill
This gets a mention in our best restaurants in Placencia mostly for its location. It’s one of the few spots where you can get some grub actually on the lagoon, and this gives it a totally different vibe to other restaurants in the area. A little more premium than the others above, Buba Wuba’s Grill is a big favourite with expats to chill with a few drinks of an afternoon.
Best coffee shops in Placencia, Belize
Somehow managing treehouse vibes, this well-stocked coffee shop at the end of the peninsula is a lovely place to relax on the balcony and let the world pass you by. Above Grounds prides itself on its strong connections to small independent farmers in Guatemala.
Came for the pun, stayed for the snacks. This is the perfect place to pick up a cheap, homemade muffin or a local delicacy such as a Johnny cake for breakfast, and you might even want to tickle your taste buds with one of their sweet seaweed shakes.
How to get from Belize City to Placencia
Getting from Belize City to Placencia by bus is relatively easy, providing you don’t travel on a Sunday. This is because Sunday transport services are usually very much reduced in frequency, or sometimes not available at all for certain routes, so try to avoid this day if possible. We ended up having to wait in the dingy one-room terminal of the fairly non-descript town of Dangriga for 4 hours waiting for the last leg to Placencia on a Sunday.
From Belize City bus terminal, take the chicken bus to Dangriga, which passes through Belmopan. Ask around for the most direct bus as the local stopping services can take a while, we found a non-stop one at 12pm. This should cost 12 BZD, and takes 2 and a half hours. From Dangriga, there are buses every few hours to Placencia for 8 BZD. This leg takes 2 hours. On a Sunday, the only options are with Ritchie’s bus at 11am and 6pm, and private taxis will charge you whatever they think they can get away with – the lowest offer we got was $75 USD.
Feeling swanky? You can book your place on a door-to-door shuttle minibus from San Ignacio or from Belize City to Placencia or for $60USD. Water and WiFi included!
You can fly from Belize City to Placencia, which is the option taken by many people who are here on a shorter trip and don’t have the time for a full travel day on a bus. Between them, Maya Island Air and Tropic Air put on something like 30 flights a day from Belize City to Placencia, costing around $100-135 USD one-way for a basic ticket. The flight only takes 25 minutes, and are done in small propeller planes, of course.