Why Now Is the Time to Move to Placencia, Belize
Those who visit Belize frequently return from their travels in awe of the country, its landscape, and its ecological wealth. Many describe this Caribbean nation as a place where Mother Nature has outdone herself.
Not only is it breathtakingly gorgeous and a nature lover’s dream, it’s also affordable and offers that distinct laid-back Caribbean vibe that so many tourists and expats crave. However, not every destination in the country offers all of these characteristics.
Placencia, Belize, is one glorious exception.
Located on a 16-mile long peninsula that reaches into the Caribbean from the country’s southernmost region, Placencia offers miles of beautiful beaches, plenty of land and sea adventures, and some of the friendliest folks you’ll find in Central America.
It truly is the best of what Belize real estate has to offer. Here are a few of the great features of this pristine mainland getaway and what you can expect to find awaiting you there.
Placencia, Belize is more accessible than ever.
Located just 3 hours from Belize City, Placencia, Belize, can be reached by way of the Southern Highway, which is paved all the way from Belize City to the end of the peninsula. There’s also a regional airport that has a paved airstrip and updated terminal buildings with modern equipment.
As you travel the peninsula, you’ll pass through the community of Riversdale, followed by Maya Beach and Seine Bight Village (a settlement of the Garifuna people), before finding yourself in Placencia Village, a town of only about 1,000 residents.
Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with many familiar sights.
First settled by the Mayas as early as 1500 B.C., Belize is the only Central American nation that was colonized, not by Spain, but by Great Britain. Among its earliest settlers were British, Scottish, and Portuguese descendants, as well as descendants of African slaves.
As a result, Belize is the only Central American country whose official language is English, although quite a few others are spoken (most notably by the Garifuna who speak their own Creole dialect).
In addition to the spoken language, you’ll also enjoy road signs, menus, and legal documents all printed in English and based on British law. The currency is also relatively straightforward, as the Belize dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 2:1. This makes conversion a breeze, although U.S. dollars are readily accepted everywhere.
The peninsula’s name, however, was influenced by the Spanish who called it Punta Placencia, which means Point Pleasant. We think you’ll agree it fits.
Placencia’s vibe is casual and welcoming.
Once a fishing village, Placencia now depends largely on tourism with its numerous resorts and entertainment options. However, despite the improvements of the past few decades, it has successfully retained its small-town feel, an atmosphere than many claim is much more authentically Caribbean than many of Belize’s own island developments.
The locals offer guided fishing and diving excursions or work at the local spas or other businesses catered to tourists. They’re an active and social culture who support local youth sports, plan community events, and gather often to enjoy reggae music and dancing on the beach or in the local venues.
The village of Placencia has no paved roads, only sidewalks, including the town’s Main Street which appears in the Guinness Book of World Records as the narrowest street in the world. However, the shortage of roads has not limited the number of luxury resorts, restaurants, and boutique hotels that line the footpaths and beaches.
You’ll only need one season of clothing for your stay in Placencia.
Placencia’s climate is more tropical than that of northern Belize, with only a little bit of rainfall (and an 8 degree temperature difference) to distinguish between the two basic seasons. The rainy period begins mid-May and continues through November, although August tends to be considerably drier.
Temps during this time reach a max of around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with lows in the 70s, but cool off a few degrees from November to February which also have less rainfall. However, the driest season is February to April.
During these warm, dry months the lower humidity and pleasant sea breeze prevent Placencia from ever becoming too uncomfortable.
Placencia offers every type of attraction you could ever hope to find in a Caribbean destination.
When you visit an island, you sometimes miss out on the mountains and rainforests. And inland destinations can be a disappointment to beachgoers.
That being said, you’d be hard-pressed to find any interest or activity that you can’t enjoy either in or at least within a short distance of Placencia. Here are a few of the more popular things to see and do in and around Placencia.
It’s a practically undisputed fact that Placencia is home to the most beautiful beaches in Belize. With wide stretches of white sand that extend for miles, it’s entirely possible to find a swimming or sunbathing spot that’s almost completely isolated. At sea are the barrier reef and a sprinkling of cayes and atolls, which form spectacular silhouettes in the beautiful Belizean sunsets.
Only a half mile wide at its widest point, the Placencia peninsula has the double benefit of being bordered by the Caribbean Sea on the east and the protected Placencia Lagoon on the west. The lagoon houses many important species, such as endangered manatees, saltwater crocodiles and turtles, dolphins, and rays. It’s also home to mangrove forests that offer great fishing and bird watching.
Diving and Snorkeling
Placencia is only about 17 miles from the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the hemisphere and second largest in the world after Australia’s. Between the reef and the many nearby cayes and atolls, divers of all skill levels can see the famous whale sharks and a number of other aquatic species.
The waters off Placencia’s coast are great for sailing, and a number of charter options and tours are available. Island hopping is a popular excursion, with destinations like Laughing Bird Caye offering great diving and snorkeling, as well as hammocks, grills, and picnic tables for your convenience. You can also kayak through the lagoon and its mangroves.
Not only is Placencia a great place to catch snapper, kingfish, and wahoo in the open ocean, the lagoon also offers opportunities for fly fishing. Many excursions end with a beach barbecue where you can sample your own fresh catch.
Offering both land and water adventures, the Monkey River tours take you through the mangroves, with their birds, iguanas, turtles, and more, to Monkey River Village. There you’ll hop ashore and take a nature trail to search for the howler monkeys that give the area its name.
Just across the lagoon from the peninsula lie the Maya Mountains. There you can see the Mayan ruins of Nim Li Punit and Lubantuum, as well as rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
A short drive from Placencia, this wildlife preserve contains all five species of Belizean wildcats: jaguars, jaguarundi, margay, ocelot, and puma. There are also almost 300 bird species, including scarlet macaws.
Restaurants and Bars
Visiting Placencia is also a culinary treat. Fresh caught seafood is served up and dressed in the style of a variety of ethnicities. There are casual bars and open air dining, as well as a few more formal, international dining options. You can find practically every type of cuisine, as well as the finest cocktails and wines.
Placencia has a number of annual events, although its most popular is its Lobsterfest held each June. During this festival, the local bars and clubs are alive with the rhythms of the Garifuna drums and dance tunes from local DJ’s. There’s also a Sidewalk Arts and Music Festival each February.
Despite its small local population, Placencia’s large tourist numbers allow for a number of services and amenities you’d only expect to find in much more established destinations. There are spas, yoga studios, salons, and even a bowling alley that was recently opened by an expat couple. There are also plenty of conveniences such as medical clinics, pharmacies, and grocery stores.
Perhaps the only thing you won’t find in Placencia are cultural offerings in the traditional sense, such as orchestral concerts or theater performances. However, most residents and visitors agree that the authentic local culture more than makes up for the lack of conventional options.
Placencia real estate is still a good value.
Due to recent infrastructure improvements, such as the paving of the main road that runs the length of the peninsula, the entire area has experienced a big surge in value in recent years. The boom has led to the construction of a number of condo developments and the sale of many seaside lots to would-be expats.
Property has been steadily appreciating, although the global economic downturn caused a bit of a stall and resulted in a buyer’s market as many foreign owners were forced to sell. Currently Placencia, Belize, real estate represents a good value. There are also a few bargains to be had if you’re willing to venture just outside of town. Due to the size of the peninsula, it’s difficult to ever be too far away from all of the popular hotspots.
It’s also wide open for tourism investments.
Despite Placencia’s already satisfactory representation of businesses and services, it still offers tons of room for new ventures. As the area continues to grow and attract even more tourists and expats, additional consumer goods and services will continue to be needed.
Case in point, the Belizean government has just opened its doors to Norwegian Cruise Lines, which will soon be building a terminal and theme park just outside of the village. Although locals and even those in the tourism community have expressed opposition, fearing the influx of tourists would negatively impact the area’s pristine environment and low-key atmosphere, the new traffic means a wealth of opportunity for investors.
The area will not only need more of what tourist infrastructure is already in place, there will be a much greater demand for all kinds of niche businesses and services. It’s just a matter of matching your passion with a consumer offering that will be well-received by others just like you.
If becoming an expat in a laid-back Caribbean beach town where natural beauty abounds and shirts and shoes are optional, then maybe you should take a serious look at Placencia, Belize. There’s never been a better time for expat entrepreneurs to make it their home!