Is Placencia the Actual Best Beach Destination in Belize?
Belize is widely known for its beautiful landscapes, incredible biodiversity, and some of the friendliest people in the Latin tropics. It’s also celebrated for the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world, and the Great Blue Hole.
Thanks to these oceanic features and the incredible opportunities they provide for diving, fishing, and exploring, much attention is given to the many islands or cayes that dot the waters of the country’s coast.
Tourists and expats flock to destinations like Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, seeking what they hope will be an authentic Central American experience with postcard-worthy beaches and a laid-back lifestyle, far from the madding crowd.
I hate to be the one to break it to them. But to find exactly that, they’ll need to head to a destination just a little bit further south. On the mainland.
The Caye You Can Walk To
About 3 hours south of Belize City, and a comfortable drive thanks to the recently paved Southern Highway, lies the Placencia Peninsula. Or–as the early Spaniards called it–Punta Placencia, which means “Point Pleasant.”
And the area lives up to its name, as what you’ll find as you travel the length of the 16-mile long peninsula is nothing short of pleasing. In fact, Placencia, Belize has almost, if not all, the same perks as its island counterparts. Yet with one obvious exception. It doesn’t require a plane or boat to get there.
Placencia Has Better Access to Water Adventure than Belize’s Islands
The Placencia Peninsula divides the Caribbean Sea on the east from the protected Placencia Lagoon to the west. As a result, it offers many additional opportunities for exploration than some other popular destinations in Belize.
Because the reef extends for miles, parallel to Belize’s coastline, Placencia also offers easy access to spectacular diving and snorkeling sites. Divers of all skill levels can see the famous whale shark and many other species on both the reef as well as the many caves and atolls near the peninsula.
In addition to its ocean offerings, the Placencia Lagoon also houses species such as saltwater crocodiles, endangered manatees, turtles, dolphins, and stingrays. In its mangrove forests are various species of fish and birds, as well as rare species of coral.
The waters off the coast of Placencia are also great for sailing as well as fishing for wahoo, snapper, kingfish, and more. There are also some excellent spots to go fly fishing in the lagoon. Kayaking and cave tubing round out the menu of Placencia’s water adventures.
Some Placencia Water Adventures Culminate with Land Excursions
Another benefit of being a mainland destination is that Placencia also offers river tours, such as those that journey up the Monkey River, so named for the howler monkeys you’ll find at the end of the tour. Along the way, boaters can see iguanas, turtles, and rare birds before hopping ashore for a jungle tour under the forest’s lush canopy.
Another popular land excursion is to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, a 128,000-acre jungle preserve which contains all five species of Belizean wildcats: ocelot, puma, margay, jaguarundi, and jaguars. Its nearly 300 bird species include scarlet macaws which fly in formations of up to 40 birds.
The Maya Mountains also lie just across the lagoon from Placencia. There you’ll find the ruins of Nim Li Punit and Lubantuum, as well as some incredible waterfalls and rapids.
But Nothing Can Top Placencia’s Beaches
Even the most devoted of the island lovers agree; the beaches along the coast of Placencia, Belize, are hands down the most beautiful in the country. They’re shimmering white, surprisingly wide, and they stretch for roughly 16 miles down the peninsula’s coast.
As a result, it’s entirely possible to find a secluded spot where you can swim or sunbathe completely alone, or with your favorite companion. The docks that jut out into the waves are few, allowing for an uninterrupted view of the Caribbean Sea and an unobstructed path for sunset strolls.
No one can argue with the fact that Placencia is the real Belizean beach that deserves to be on the back of a postcard.
Placencia, Belize Offers the Real Caribbean Culture Many Island-Goers Seek
Many expats choose to settle on one of Belize’s islands due to the high level of development and infrastructure that comes with living in a popular tourist destination. What they don’t count on is the fact that they’re trading North American-style amenities for authentic culture.
While the islands can lean a bit towards the touristy end of the spectrum, Placencia is about as genuine as you can get, starting with its people. Placencia’s population includes people from many ethnic groups including Latinos, Creoles, Maya, Mennonite, Chinese, East Indian, European, and North American.
There are also the Garifuna people, descendants of African slaves, who settled in the town of Seine Bight in 1832 and remain there to this day. A trip to this village, just north of the peninsula, offers the chance to taste Garifuna cooking and listen to their native music.
Everyone in Placencia is warm and welcoming. To the unassuming residents, not much has changed in recent decades as the town has progressed from a sleepy fishing village to an albeit lesser-known haven for expats and tourists.
Locals still work as fishermen or tour guides. They’re a close-knit community with regularly held events and celebrations and a vibe that most agree is much more authentically Caribbean than what’s manufactured on some of the island developments.
Yet It Still Offers World-Class Amenities, In a More Charming Setting
That’s not to say that Placencia doesn’t have plenty to offer, compared to its more developed counterparts. Quite the contrary. Recent improvements and newly opened businesses continue to make Placencia, Belize an incredibly comfortable place to live.
The northern part of the peninsula is more sparsely populated. As a result, that’s where you’ll find some of the high end resorts and all-inclusives.
As you travel south, there’s a higher concentration of consumer options like coffee shops, banks, bus stations, restaurants, bistros, and internet cafes. Yet even the main part of town has no paved roads, only sidewalks, which helps it maintain its small-town charm.
Real Estate in Placencia, Belize is Also Pleasantly Affordable
Thanks to recent infrastructure improvements, like the newly paved roads, the area is seeing a boom in tourism and development. As a result, property values are on the rise.
They’re far from maxed out though, as Placencia is still a great place for potential expats or investors to find beachfront property in Belize at a reasonable price. Another perk to buying property in Placencia, Belize is that the process is made simpler since English is the official language and the U.S. dollar is accepted as currency.
Another thing that makes Placencia, Belize real estate a smart buy is the opportunity to invest in tourism. Norwegian Cruise Lines is now shuttling tourists from its private port on nearby Harvest Caye. With that influx of visitors comes an increased need for businesses catering to tourists.
If buying a boat and offering fishing charters or opening up a beachside smoothie stand sound right up your alley, then maybe you should consider Placencia, Belize. You’ll love the locals, and you can’t beat the view!
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Two little cons: hurricanes, when they come, are no joke. And, re: “an incredibly comfortable place to live”–the summers are very, very hot and muggy. If you like to sweat, you’ll like them. You will need a/c.esp. senior citizens. These really are important points, and I think you should have mentioned them (you want to be better than sleazy old International Living, don’t you?). An objective assessment of a place to live–live, not just visit–should include both pros and cons–the more detail the better the information, rather than chamber of commerce-type pleasantries.
I want to echo the Apr. 30th sentiments of Vero. Very well said…….Without the pros and particularly the cons ( almost always lacking in these promo publications) its all fluff and of very limited value to someone seriously considering relocating. For instance, what about the sand flies in Belize? There are also some nasty biting flies found further S on that coast.
Nonetheless I enjoy your stories but remember, full disclosure….. Good luck with your publications and related businesses. M