Imagine a small fishing village located on a long peninsula which jets out into the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.
16 miles of white-sand beaches stretch along the eastern edge, while the western coast is filled with a wonderful lagoon located next to a mainland covered in lush jungle. Beautiful sunsets and sunrises on either side of the thin strip of land. Placencia, Belize is a hidden gem.
The hustle and bustle of mega-resorts is non-existent. The main village area is full of newly-constructed small hotels and nice rental homes, plus a wide variety of restaurants and drink options.
And just up the road are a handful of boutique resorts with excellent spas and pools – even a bowling alley.
World-class snorkeling and scuba diving are a short boat ride away in a magnificent marine reserve located in the world’s second-largest barrier reef.
There are countless islands you can stop on to take a short break from the aquatic adventures and relax in a hammock under palm trees swaying in the wind. A drive inland can get you to the jungle-filled Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve or Monkey River tours.
Sound like paradise? We certainly think so, which is why we chose this location for making our wedding vows official. Not an easy choice for two traveling nomads.
And if you visit Placencia, Belize, you’ll fall in love with it too.
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In this post, I’m going to try to convey the overall feeling of Placencia. I’ll start off describing what it is like and why you should visit. Then I’ll tell you our personal story so you can visualize your trip through our shoes.
After that, I’ll lay out all the options for how to get to Placencia and provide our short-list recommendations of places to eat, where to stay, and things to do. The best of the best in Placencia, Belize.
- Why You Should Visit Placencia Belize
- Our Visit to Placencia Belize
- How to Get to Placencia (From Belize City and Elsewhere)
- Seven Top Things in Placencia: Restaurants, Bars, Hotels, and Activities
Why You Should Visit Placencia Belize
That introduction still doesn’t do justice for the wonderful area that is Placencia, Belize. While it’s impossible for me to encapsulate the entire area in images and text alone, I want to give you a better understanding of what the area is like.
Relaxing on Miles of Beach Paradise
Placencia is all about balance. Sure, there are plenty of areas to relax on the beach. Whether that’s in a hammock, on the sand, or at your resort’s lounge chairs, there’s something for everyone.
The municipal pier and beach area is our favorite. It is low key, there is plenty of space, and there are a few great options for food and drinks nearby (or you can just bring your own).
All along the eastern side of Placencia Belize, you can find white-sand beaches stretching nearly the entire 16-mile distance of the peninsula. You can choose from small hotels or plentiful VRBO rentals located right within the village area – keeping you close to many restaurants and a bit of nightlife.
Or if you want to get away, you can stay at one of the small resorts located north of the village area. Maya Beach Hotel, Naia Resort, and Turtle Inn are three of the best.
Unfortunately, like a lot of places all over the Caribbean, sargassum is an ongoing problem here too. Not going to lie to you about it. This is a major reason why we enjoyed the municipal pier area. The location and direction of the beach there is well-situated to avoid clumping of seaweed.
Adventure Days in Barrier Reefs, Isolated Islands, or Lush Jungle
But like I said, Placencia has balance. After a relaxing beach day (or three), head out for some adventure! You can do tons of aquatic activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Take an island hopping tour, going out to many desolate and isolated places. Or go inland for a monkey-filled river tour or hiking in the incredible Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve. There is simply no shortage of fun things to do.
Keep Your Belly Full and Happy
Beach days and adventure days are great, but an incredible vacation also needs to include excellent food and drinks. Placencia, Belize won’t let you down in that regard either. There are plenty of great choices for food and drinks all over the entire Placencia Peninsula.
This includes everything from upscale bistros with gifted, creative chefs (The Secret Garden and Maya Beach Bistro) all the way down to roadside shacks which serve incredible local cuisine your taste buds will never forget (Carmen’s Kitchen and The Shak).
Or you can head down to Wallen’s Hardware to buy a case of beer for the best deal in Placencia. Hold onto your receipt and the empty bottles to get your deposit back. Belikin Beer comes in two styles: “Beer” which is akin to an ale/lager and “Stout” which is a maltier brew that’s not too heavy (my favorite).
Believe it or not, there’s also an amazing French bakery (Mademoiselle French Pâtisserie) and killer Italian gelato (Tuttifrutti Gelateria). Plus, of course, a solid pizza place (Cha Chi’s Pizza) and coffee shop (Above Grounds Coffee).
Seriously, Placencia, Belize has it all. But sometimes places like this can be ruined. They can feel completely inauthentic and lose their local culture.
While Placencia has grown tremendously recently, it still has tons of happy, smiling residents. They love to help the people visiting and always welcomed us with open arms. The architecture is small-scale and keeps the beach-loving vibes fully intact.
Placencia has not been ruined by tourism and we truly hope it continues to grow in the way that retains its culture.
Our Visit to Placencia Belize
Placencia holds a very special place in our hearts because it is where Kristina and I decided to make our wedding vows official. As you might imagine, it was not easy a couple of travel bloggers to come to a decision about where to go for this special time.
After much research, we decided on Placencia and couldn’t be more satisfied with that decision. It was a perfect celebration full of lifelong memories.
For us, the ultimate place was somewhere which feels like we escaped reality and stepped into a world of our own. A world with amazing beaches and low-key vibes, but also one with great food and exciting adventures. Somewhere that could host a small group of people, but without having mega-resorts or an overly-touristy environment.
Placencia hit that all.
Driving to Placencia
After traveling through southern Mexico for months on end, we met up with our very small group of family in Belize City. While we wish we could have invited more family and friends, we were thrilled to have our little group of five together.
We all piled into a rental car and began the journey south. Right from the beginning, it was incredible.
The vegetation around us grew larger and larger. We passed a lot of excellent tourist attractions, including cave explorations, archeological ruins, and national parks, but Placencia was set in our targets.
The roads were recently renovated almost the entire way, albeit there were more than a few speed bumps to cross on the 3.5-hour drive down.
We eventually made our way through a mountainous region and out onto the peninsula. It was dark by the time we arrived, but we could still see the moon’s reflection on both sides of the road for the final 30 minutes of the drive.
We had made it to the Placencia Peninsula.
Settling Into Our Rental and Village Life
That evening we checked into our rental for the trip: a lovely single-family home with a covered parking area, full kitchen, laundry area, and large living room. All recently renovated and clean. Great start to the trip and perfect for our group.
That morning, Kristina and I went out to pick up some of our favorite local breakfast cuisine: fry jacks. A fried-dough concoction filled with your choice of cheese, beans, and/or meat.
We discovered these in Caye Caulker, Belize. Another one of our favorite locations. Check out our post Go Slow in Caye Caulker for more information on this golf-cart-only island getaway.
Unsurprisingly, fry jacks weren’t hard to locate in Placencia. Right in the main village area across from the gas station and marina, there was a nice group of small food and fruit stands that sold these for less than $2 USD. A few fry jacks plus some fresh and we were good to go.
After enjoying breakfast at the house, we gathered up our group and made our way out the door and into the village. The village has essentially one main road, along with one main “sidewalk” which runs perpendicular to it.
We walked along the road for about 5 minutes and were greeted with the beach area right by the municipal pier – located at the southern end of the peninsula. There was a nice stretch of sand, a few tables to put our things on, and very relaxed energy flowing over it all.
Placencia Sidewalk: Options, Options, Options
Immediately following a bit of beach time, we began to search for two things we knew we wanted to do while there: (1) go scuba diving and (2) take a private boat tour to hold a very quick and informal wedding ceremony and reception on an isolated beach.
From the municipal pier, we walked along the sidewalk in Placencia. This essentially acts as the main street of the area, with tons of restaurants, watering holes, small hotels, tour operators, and souvenir shops flanking both sides. It is only about 50 feet (15 m) from the beach and stretches a good ¾ of a mile (about 1.2 km) next to basically the entire village.
And it wasn’t hard to find plenty of great options for both scuba diving and boat tours. But we still weren’t 100% sure what we wanted to do, so we went for some lunch.
We stumbled into Tipsy Tuna, one of the most popular restaurants in the stretch known as Tipsy Strip. The food there was pretty good. We had some salads, tacos, and of course, local beer and rum drinks.
Trust me, no trip to Belize is complete without a Belikin Beer and a rum and pineapple drink at some point.
Time for an afternoon nap.
After a quick shower, dinner was past due. We saw so many options during the day, we had a tough time deciding.
Ended up going to The Secret Garden. This time we were blown away by the quality of the food and service. Plus, the ambiance of the restaurant was stunning. Tipsy Tuna was fine, but Secret Garden was superb.
Everyone was starting to fall in love with Placencia.
Exploring Farther Away from the Village
The next couple of days were a blur of beach time, restaurants, and rum drinks. But there was one adventure which topped them all: Maya Beach Hotel and Bistro.
Before getting to Placencia, we debated if we would need a car since we were staying in the village and there are plenty of options for getting from Belize City to Placencia (discussed below).
After using the car to visit Maya Beach Hotel and Bistro (about 8 miles or 13 km north of the village), we were VERY glad we had a rental car the whole stay.
This place was incredible. We first started off with some drinks and hanging out by the beachfront pool. A few of us wandered out to the wooden pier and lounged in the hammocks over the water for a little while. And we had such a good time that we decided to stay for lunch.
They served up some awesome sandwiches: a veggie-stuffed grilled cheese and a sourdough “boat” filled with a wonderful shrimp and cheese combination.
It was amazing. We knew we would come back.
Another highlight was a couple of afternoons spent at a wonderful restaurant and bar located in a small canal filled with nice boats on the lagoon side of the Placencia Peninsula: Buba Wuba’s Grill and Smoke Shack.
This place is relaxing with wonderful staff and friendly faces everywhere. It’s more of a permanent resident spot, hidden a bit away from the main village area. It is the perfect sunset spot.
Scuba and Jungle Time
Eventually, we decided on our scuba adventure and our boat tour. The scuba adventure came first. It was a bit of a choppy/stormy day, so the boat ride out and the surface time were a bit rough. But underneath, the coral was stunning.
And our surface interval was spent on a wonderful, tiny little island: Laughing Bird Caye. I had to blink a few times when I saw that the park ranger was wearing a hat from my alma mater. Ends up a fellow alumni gave him the hat just shortly before we got there. Small world. (Go Buffs!)
We had our wedding boat trip scheduled for the next day, but it was delayed by the stormy weather. So we decided to go up into the mountains to see Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve. And that was another unexpected delight which made us very happy to have the rental car.
After driving for about 1.5 hours, we arrived at the parking lot. We were well within the jungle area already and heard howler monkeys on the way in.
We explored the park for hours, hiking through the jungle, looking up at gigantic trees, spotting tons of coatimundi (white-nosed coati) and a variety of beautiful flowers. It was a very fun – and hot – day of exploring.
The best part of the visit to Cockscomb Basin was one of the lookout points: Ben’s Bluff. After hiking a bit into the jungle along a fairly flat trail, we climb a steep switchback. In just 20-minutes of hiking, we went from dense, humid jungle to an entirely different world: semi-arid and full of pine trees. Almost reminded me of home in Colorado. Capped off with an excellent view from Ben’s Bluff.
Here Comes the Bride
For our wedding day, we ended up booking the boat tour of our dreams and could not have had a better day. It was a catamaran perfect for our group of five, complete with a captain (who also acted as an amazing chef) and first mate (who couldn’t have been a better bartender and snorkel guide).
We made our way out to a different island this time: Moho Caye. It is practically completely isolated from civilization. Only about 1,000 feet wide (300 m), with palm trees growing all over the place and hammocks strung between them. The water was crystal clear, the rum drinks were flowing all day, and our five-minute ceremony went off without a hitch. Smiles all around.
We filled our bellies with a smorgasbord of incredible grilled food, laid in the hammocks for a bit, then hopped into the water and snorkeled around for a while before getting back on the boat.
The sun was setting right in front of the boat as we sailed back to Placencia. One of the most beautiful scenes you can imagine. Kristina and I cuddled up in the front net area of the catamaran and shared a very special moment. It was something that we are both eternally grateful for.
We highly recommend using the tour operator we used: Nautical Adventures Belize. Lee and Garrick handled a lot of special requests with ease and left us with the memories of a lifetime.
Might as well take this as the perfect opportunity to say a big, giant, humongous THANK YOU to both of our mothers and Carey for making this all happen. It was an absolute pleasure to share this special moment with you and we are so happy with how it all turned out.
And to all of our wonderful family and friends that weren’t there with us in person, we want you to know that you were there in our hearts. We wish we could have had everyone right there with us, and we look forward to celebrating with each and every one of you in the future.
Headed Back North
And that wrapped up our Placencia adventure. The next morning, we drove back to Belize City. Decided to take the scenic route which our host warned us against – got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, but thankfully were able to fix it without a problem. (Read out tips on how to get to Placencia below to avoid this mistake – you cannot listed to Google Maps.)
After getting back on the road and to Belize City, some of the group went to the airport to head home while others hopped on an ADO bus headed to Bacalar Lagoon in Mexico. We had just gone through there a few weeks prior, but we like it so much we came right back. Read our Ultimate Guide to Bacalar Lagoon for more details on this Mexican treasure.
That is our story of a wonderful, memorable vacation to Placencia, Belize. But it’s just the highlights.
Kristina and I also did a lot of work for this blog post, including tons of research beforehand and making our way around to as many restaurants, bars, beach areas, tour groups, and other sites to find the best of the best when we were there. We get lost so you don’t have to.
I’m sure the rest of the group was sick of us exploring, taking photos, and asking questions by the end of it. But that’s literally our job, and we’d both say we’re very lucky and happy to be doing it!
Let’s dig into those details.
How to Get to Placencia (From Belize City and Elsewhere)
The easiest way for most visitors to get to Placencia, Belize is by flying to Philip SW Goldson International Airport (BZE) just outside of Belize City. It serves as a major hub for many Belize locations.
In order to get from Belize City to Placencia, you have a few different options: (1) rent a car and drive 3.5 hours one-way, (2) take a 20-minute flight to Placencia, or (3) book a shuttle service (shared or private).
If you prefer the peace of mind and customer service that comes with using a transportation agency, check out GuateGo. They offer a wide variety of transportation services all around Belize and nearly every destination in Guatemala, including shared shuttles/buses, private transit options, and even flights.
Driving to Placencia
We recommend renting a car to get from Belize City to Placencia, mainly because there are a lot of things to do around Placencia that are hard to do without a car.
There are many trusted car rental agencies in the parking lot of Belize City’s international airport with rates around $60 USD per day for a good-sized SUV ($400-$500 per week), depending on the time of year.
As long as you can deal with a 3.5-hour drive from Belize City to Placencia, we found the ability to go between the main village, resorts, and the mainland of Belize added a lot to our trip. You can also stop at many sights along the way down.
Warning: Do NOT listen to the directions that Google Maps provides for this drive. You want to stick to the main highways and go through Belmopan. The road near Sibun Forest Reserve is a narrow dirt road with no services and many hazards.
We listened to the advice on the way down but chose the adventurous route on the way back. And picked up a screw in our tire from the significant construction traffic which uses this road. Thankfully we were able to change it. But trust us: it’s worth a bit of extra time to go through Belmopan.
Flying to Placencia
Flying from Belize City (BZE) directly to the small airfield in Placencia (PLJ) is the quickest and likely the most expensive option, especially if there are more than two people going. This costs around $100 USD per person, one-way.
The flights are usually operated by Maya Island Air and Tropic Air.
The biggest downfall of flying is that you’re left with fairly limited rental options in Placencia. You can find some car rentals, but it’s more likely that you’ll go with a golf cart rental (not that great for driving miles at a time) or even just rely on the few cabs in the area.
Barefoot Rentals were routinely recommended to us by many people for rentals of all sorts: bikes, golf carts, jeeps, and more.
Bus and Shuttle Services
Finally, the most affordable options are to use a bus system or book a shuttle service.
Bus services generally rely on very informal systems which can be hard to get information on. In Belize, they commonly used old american school buses for public transportation. There is very little room for luggage and likely no air-conditioning. Some buses are in poor condition.
But this will be the cheapest route and will get you to Placencia for around $10-15 USD, taking around 5 hours total. You’ll likely need to stop at Dangriga before getting to Placencia. Or get off at Independence and take a ferry (Hokie Pokie Ferry) from there.
If you want to get from Belize City to Placencia on a budget, but want a bit quicker of service in nicer vehicles, there are many shuttle operators to choose from.
These usually cost around $50-$60 per person, one-way for a shared shuttle. Private shuttle service prices vary dramatically, but we found one that’s around $300 total for a private shuttle of up to 3 people.
Seven Top Things in Placencia: Restaurants, Bars, Hotels, and Activities
Municipal Pier: This pier and beach area located right within the main village is the highlight of town for most people in Placencia. It has a nice beach which is protected from sargassum, as well as a lovely area for picnics, a nice restaurant (The Shak), and a good bar for drinks, pool, and darts (J-Byrd’s Bar). It is located at the end of the sidewalk and the end of the main road.
Maya Beach Hotel and Bistro: If you’re looking for something more exclusive, head up to this 4-star resort and restaurant located 8 miles (13 km) north of the village. The food will keep you coming back for more, but the pool, pier, and restaurant atmosphere will have you smiling all day.
The Secret Garden: A great restaurant with a very nice ambiance located in the heart of the village area. A hidden gem that’s well worth it.
Mademoiselle French Pâtisserie & Tutti-Frutti Gelato: Two separate establishments, but both are owned and operated by masters of their trade and won’t let you down. So if you’re in the mood for a fresh pastry or some flavorful gelato, look no more.
Buba Wuba’s Grill & Smokeshack: Just a 10-minute walk from the village, this laid-back bar is full of great people and flowing drinks, plus some live music at times. Our favorite sunset spot.
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve: This makes having a rental car completely worthwhile if you enjoy hiking and scenic views. You can even rent a tube and go for a lovely float down a relaxing river.
Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, and/or Island-Hopping Boat Tour: You can’t go wrong by getting out onto the water near Placencia. And no trip would be complete without it. Head underwater or grab a snorkel and life-jacket to float around the surface. But if you can, make sure to make at least one trip to the incredible, tiny islands just off the coast of Placencia.
And don’t forget to pick up a case of Belikin Beer (or stout) from Wallen’s Hardware! Or you can always swing by Ming’s Supermarket to put together your own drinks and even wine.
Summary of Placencia Belize
If you’re considering going to Belize, Placencia should be in the mix. With a great balance of awesome beach days and adventure-filled aquatic adventures, you’ll never be let down. Head inland for Monkey River tours or for hiking in Cockscomb Basin. Or just grab a beer or rum/pineapple drink and wander around aimlessly.
Have you been to a wonderful paradise area that is similar to Placencia, Belize? Leave a comment below to share!
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