Belize, formerly British Honduras, became its own nation in 1981. It is located on the east coast of Central America, south of Mexico, and northeast of Guatemala. With 239 miles of coastline and 200 islands and cays, it’s easy to see why tourists flock to Belize. A quick 22-minute flight from Belize City to Placencia and you’re ready to embrace the beach life.
Placencia, a fishing village on the south coast, attracts tourists with the ecotourism excitement offered by water activities and historic hikes through Mayan ruins or tropical jungles — and the best soft white sand beaches in the country.
The Placencia peninsula is a 16-mile spit of land that runs north to south, narrowing to just 80 feet at some points. To the east, white sand beaches and luscious palm trees frame the Caribbean Sea. To the west, Placencia Lagoon, a nature and water playground is the foreground to the Maya Mountains.
Wherever you land on the peninsula, you’ll notice its laid-back attitude. It’s one Placencia consciously cultivates.
1. Lower Cost Of Living
Belize has become popular with American expats looking for a less expensive place to live with American amenities and proximity to their grandchildren.
Expats stay in Belize due to decreased cost of living and favorable tax benefits. Residency can be obtained after staying 50 out of 52 weeks in a year. With that comes the ability to work in the country.
Expats stay for the simplified, less materialistic lifestyle available, yet enjoy multiple restaurant options, an active lifestyle, and a great place to invite friends and family. And, for added convenience, the official language is English, the currency is the U.S. dollar and the electrical current is the same we have in the United States. No need for adaptors or converters.
2. Belize Climate
The temperature is typically 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. That makes it the perfect place for Americans to escape our winters. After the snow I’d been experiencing in both Minnesota and Arizona in February, it was a welcome change. My laundry needs are dramatically reduced as I spent most days in shorts and a T-shirt and flip flops, covering up only for my boat trips and kayaking to reduce sunburn risks.
The rainy season lasts from June to November. The locals tell me it’s “not bad,” with only a few hurricanes of importance in the last several years.
3. Placencia History
Settled in the 1700s by Puritans from Nova Scotia, the Spanish American War in the 1820s led to the population dying out. It was later in the 1800s the Spaniards are said to have named it “Punta Placencia,” now adapted to Placencia. And a Pleasant Point it is, with gentle sea breezes and wonderful weather the norm.
Its Mayan history, however, takes you back 3,000 years, where the Placencia Peninsula was said to have been an important producer of salt. You have a great sense of history with an excursion into the jungles or the Mayan ruins, but also visits to the restaurants where you have the best food combination these different peoples graced upon the region will give you an indication of their diversity.
4. Great Food
At the intersection of many cultures, Placencia food includes traditional Mestizo, Garifuna, Creole, and Mayan offerings.
Whether you stick to the Placencia Sidewalk at the Barefoot Bar, Tipsy Tuna, Cozy Corner or The Shak, or move over to Placencia Road with Wendy’s, Omar’s, Ruth’s, Rick’s or Tutti Frutti, there are enough choices that you could go to a different place each day.
5. Best Beaches
People arrive in Placencia ready to enjoy the white sand beaches with sunbathing, snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, or kayaking in mind.
You can kick off your flip-flops or tie up your sneakers. Enjoy the most relaxing 90-minute sunrise walks (or run) along the crescent beach as the sun quickly enters another day (average sunrise takes 3 minutes here).
A few of these daily excursions and It’s easy to see why people focus on the dreamy beach lifestyle Placencia offers.
6. Jungle Adventures
But there’s even more to do. Hike. Explore Monkey River and see the howler monkeys scream at the intrusion of their territory and maybe catch a glance of some crocodiles, too. Wildlife tours are available to see jaguars, macaws, and anteaters.
Perhaps the most exotic of the local tours offered is visiting Monkey River. This tour gives you a look back at rural Belize. We found a small family of howler monkeys in one section of the jungle and a single howler out on his own in other explorations.
Through luscious stands of mangroves, we returned to our origin at Sunset Point happy to add another unique adventure under our belt.
7. World-Class Fishing
When you’re ready for the “reel action,” hire a boat and go out sport fishing.
Pro Tip: If you have access to kitchen facilities and eat fish, plan your fishing trip early in your stay — you’ll have all the protein you need for the rest of your visit.
Typical catches include tuna, snapper, grouper, and barracuda. The latter doesn’t make good table fare.
Hiring Alfred and AJ as your captain and guide, you’re virtually guaranteed to have a significant haul from your fishing experience. Anyone in the area can tell you how to get in touch with the duo.
It’s a race out to their selective fishing hole of the day. With the decline of tourism during the pandemic, the fish population has soared due to the lack of fishing pressure.
Your guides allow you to be as involved as you like. You can do it all or they can do nearly everything for you, or anywhere in between.
8. Reef Adventures
Placencia is only 20 miles from the second-largest barrier reef system in the world, for scuba and snorkeling.
Whether visiting Silk Cays or the Blue Hole or Half Moon Cay, you’ll find different structures of reefs creating different environments to explore.
All levels of experience can be accommodated by the Placencia tour operators.
Beginners can get their feet wet right along the white sandy beach on the crescent portion of the Caribbean on the east side of Placencia’s peninsula or in front of The Shak at the beach area by the community pier.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll want to explore the Silk Cays and Laughing Bird Cay.
Be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and reapply often. Consider wearing sunscreen-embedded clothing. The unrelenting equatorial sun will damage your skin before you realize it’s happening.
Nothing soothes the soul like a walk on the beach.
With sunrise around 6 a.m., the best time to walk or run along the crescent portion of the beach is 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. It’s a peaceful time along the shore where you can gather your thoughts, plan your day, or walk hand in hand with the one you love.
The most beloved sport remains available in Placencia with multiple PADI tour operators present up and down the village.
Choose between the Blue Hole offering, leaving by 7 a.m., and returning around 5 p.m., or a more local dive to Glover’s Reef, Southwater, or the Silk Cays North Wall.
12. Mayan Ruins Tour
The Mayan people settled this area between 2000 and 1250 B.C. Ruins from their civilization can be visited via multiple tours.
The Lubaantun Maya ruins, where the “crystal skull” was discovered in the south, contains 11 structures and is thought to have been inhabited between A.D. 700 and 900.
The Xunantunich ruins allow people to climb the temples. This “stone woman” site located in western Belize is just 1 mile east of the Guatemala border. It was once known as Belize’s tallest building. From an archeological standpoint, it served as a Maya civic ceremonial center in the Late and Terminal Classic periods. Some believe that cave tubing in this area allows you to view the Mayan underworld.
The Nim Li Punit ruins are famous for the tall stone pillar carvings found onsite.
13. Chocolate And Spice Tours
Once traded as currency, Mayan kings drank cacao seeds in a spicy, sacred beverage. Mayan chocolate farmers cash in, thanks to the world’s love for specialty chocolate.
Right in the middle of town, you’ll see the green shack to sign up for chocolate, spice, and rum tours. You can visit Ixcacao Chocolate and taste a variety of chocolates (hint: one is from an Oceania company you’ll recognize from home) and see how the roasting of the nibs makes a difference in the bitterness of the chocolate. At the Belize Spice Farm, you’ll learn more about the origins of cardamom, vanilla, allspice, and nutmeg and how they’re processed. You’ll never look at your spice rack the same way again. Some tours also include rum tasting.
14. Sunset Sail
When you gather a small group of people together, it can be as economical as $50 per person USD to experience the sunset sail.
We hired Hank’s catamaran with a wide open and netted foredeck with spacious areas for all to sit or recline as they see fit.
Soft drinks, water, beer or rum punch served with cheese and crackers or ginger snaps accompany the sail out into the Caribbean Sea.
As 6 p.m. approaches, the sun turns from yellow to orange, lighting the sky and the clouds.
It’s not the same as a sunset against the horizon, with the Maya Mountains to the west, yet a respectful, hushed silence descends as the sun slips behind the mountains.
Hank Rhamdas owns both the catamaran and a motorboat.
It’s just one of many ways to spend a perfect day in Placencia.
Belize has generated a lot of interest from vacationers because of its watersports and dive sites, but retirees like it for its economical lifestyle: