Placencia, Belize is quite the getaway. This 16-mile long peninsula in southern Belize has it all.
Aquatic adventures top the list of things to do in Placencia, Belize due to the amazing barrier reef nearby. Whether it’s scuba diving, snorkeling, or just riding in a boat between the countless islands, this area is a treasure trove of ocean-centered fun.
On the other hand, you can also head inland to find things to do in Placencia. Go to the jungle-filled Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve for incredible hiking and views above the treetops. Or book a tour of Monkey River and see all sorts of exotic wildlife.
Whatever the case, this area is sure to have something to do for everyone. If you want to get more information about what makes Placencia, Belize so special, check out our post Why We Got Married in This Hidden Paradise.
9 best things to do in Placencia, Belize
1) Relax on the Beach
At the top of the list of things to do in Placencia has to be relaxing on the beach. Placencia is a wonderful beach paradise and you will definitely want to set aside significant time to enjoy relaxing on one.
Our favorite beach area is right in the heart of the village area next to the municipal pier. This is at the southern tip of the island and has a large sandy area to spread out on, plus some picnic tables. Many people bring their own beverage, such as a mixed cocktail in an insulated mug or a locally-brewed Belikin Beer.
The beach near the m is also excellent because it is protected from the sargassum (seaweed) that can flow in at times. Unfortunately, other beaches in Placencia on the eastern-facing side of the peninsula can become saturated with sargassum at times, like a lot of the Caribbean beaches.
Another popular beach area in town is by the Tipsy Strip, near Tipsy Tuna, Barefoot Bar, and Cozy Corner. This tourist-centered area is the choice for many visitors to the area. The food is acceptable, the drinks will be flowing, and there is live music quite often.
If you want to get away from the village, our second-favorite beaches are in the Maya Beach area. You can either go to the Maya Beach Hotel and Bistro (which we loved and you can read more about in our post on 11 Top Restaurants in Placencia and The Best Rentals, Resorts, and Hotels in Placencia).
Or just go to the public park in Maya Beach to enjoy a free day on a small beach which has some trees and a makeshift firepit with benches. (Fair warning: since there’s no pest control here, the bugs might eat you alive.) Here’s a Google Maps link to the approximate location and the GPS coordinates are 16.612681, -88.353539.
For beach days, don’t forget to pack:
- Yeti Insulated Tumbler (Yes! Tourists really bring these to Belize and walk around with drink in hand!)
- Small waterproof case for valuables
- Reef-safe sunscreen
2) Scuba Diving
Placencia is located on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef system in the world which stretches from Mexico, through Belize and Guatemala, ending in Honduras.
You can get to one of Belize’s most popular scuba diving sites from Placencia, the Blue Hole. However, you will have a 3-hour boat ride there and back. You’re in for a long haul and it’s not the best for seeing reef or aquatic life.
This area is also famous for diving with whale sharks. Gladden Split is a good place to go for this and it’s best to go sometime between April to June, either on the night of a full moon or up to a week after it. You can find the moon phases here.
There are plenty of other dive sites in Placencia, including Silk Caye (most popular entry-level site), Laughing Bird (similar to Silk), Glover’s Caye (more advanced diving, but we found it hard to find boats going here), the inner & outer Placencia reefs, Pompion Caye, South Water Caye, and more.
GoSea & Seahorse are the two outfits which almost everyone recommends. But we soon found out that neither one of them would commit to taking us anywhere other than the most popular dive sites (Silk and Laughing Bird). And they both have quite large dive groups with upwards of 10-12 people per divemaster.
To be frank, when diving in Belize, make sure you temper your expectations regarding the dive shops. Cozumel is one of our favorite areas to dive and there is a stark contrast in the quality of shops in Cozumel compared to Belize. While the coral reef and aquatic life is incredible in Belize, you should be prepared to dive using more personal responsibility.
Also, it is quite common for places to accept reservations for the more exotic locations then cancel when the trips get closer due to a lack of participants. Communicate as much as you can with the shops and ask as many questions as you need to make sure you are covered.
We went with Seahorse and were happy with Bryon’s communication, but unfortunately, the conditions on our day left a lot to be desired. In fact, another local found out we went diving on the day we did and they were shocked that they took us out at all. It ended up that most other shops canceled their trips due to conditions.
If we were to do it again, we would go with Splash Dive Center. They are a smaller operation outside of the village and had slightly higher rates, but they had nicer equipment, guaranteed going to the more advanced areas, and kept to small dive groups around 6 people per divemaster.
Prices for scuba diving in Placencia for one day with two dives ranged from around $100 USD per person to $250 USD per person. Blue Hole and other sites far away might be a bit higher.
3) Snorkeling in Placencia
If you’re not quite ready to go underwater with scuba gear, snorkeling is one of the best things to do in Placencia, Belize. You will need to go out on a scuba trip or another boat tour to get excellent snorkeling since the reef systems and aquatic life are far from Placencia’s shoreline.
But if you do, you won’t be disappointed. There are great coral reefs all over the area and most companies let you spend some time on at least one island to relax and possibly even have a meal in a secluded paradise.
We went out to Moho Caye to celebrate our wedding and enjoyed the snorkeling quite a bit! It is a fairly shallow reef area, but still had plenty of diverse coral, sponges, and fish.
You can expect to pay about $100 USD per person to join a tour to snorkel.
You can always rent snorkel gear, but we recommend getting your own if you enjoy it. It quickly pays for itself since you can get awesome combo deals such as this Wacool mask and snorkel kit or the ultra-affordable US Divers mask, snorkel, and fin combo.
4) Island Hopping Boat Tours
The main boat tour option in Placencia is what they call “island hopping.” It typically involves a small motorboat with 6-10 people on board and cost around $100-$150 USD per person for an all-day tour usually with the Marine Park entrance fees and lunch (or at least snacks) included.
They take you to 3-6 different islands, commonly including at least one snorkel spot and one stop for lunch. On the other hand, you can do a private charter boat tour and choose your own path.
GoSea does this tour. We shopped around quite a bit and we actually liked the sound of one shop that is located just to the left of GoSea (unfortunately we cannot find information about this shop online).
We recommend exploring the boat tour options in person when you arrive into Placencia. Discuss the options with operators you like and find which one suits your personal needs the best.
Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible, such as: how many people are on the boat? What time do we leave and return? Where does the boat stop? How much time will we have to swim? What happens if other people don’t register; will the tour still go on as planned?
To keep your things dry when you head out on a boat tour, pack a dry-bag! We love the Sea-to-Summit brand for these.
5) Catamaran Tours or Private Boat Charter
Since we visited Placencia to celebrate our wedding, we splurged to have the day of our dreams. This involved a privately chartered catamaran tour and an incredible day sailing around the ocean.
You will have to search a little more to find a private charter of any type (unless you go with our recommendation). And make sure you ask a million questions about what is involved because the quality differs dramatically.
But ours was spectacular.
All drinks were included, served up by our personal bartender (who also served as first mate). The captain was awesome and also did an amazing job cooking our food once we reached Moho Caye. They let us decide the itinerary – keeping in mind that sailing doesn’t get you around very quickly, so we just went to one island intead of hopping around like you would on a speedboat tour.
We went with Nautical Adventures. Lee and Garrick were top-notch with their communication. They also did an excellent job of dealing with multiple special requests, including special dietary needs and drink requests. The food they provided was killer.
We highly recommend them, although their prices are slightly higher than most. Prices for privately chartered tours of the area typically range start around $500, the large majority are around $700-$800, and the prices continually climb up with bigger boats and more services.
You can also find groups offering overnight trips, which we REALLY want to do someday. If our wallets can ever handle it, you’ll be the first to know!
Note: Nautical Adventures did not provide free services nor are they giving us a commission for our recommendation.
6) Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve: Hiking and Tubing
Even though Placencia itself is a beach peninsula, hiking is one of the best things to do near Placencia, Belize! Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve is the perfect place to do so.
This is a large wildlife preserve, focused on helping the jaguar population in addition to many other species. But it is also loads of fun for humans.
With many trails to choose from and a calm river to tube down (with rental tubes and life jackets available onsite), this makes for an excellent adventure day. Some of the trails are intense and long, but there are a few relatively easy loops to do close to the parking lot.
One has a nice waterfall with a small pool in front of it. Perfect for a place to cool off. And it’s on the way to Ben’s Bluff lookout point. And another trail close to the main parking lot has a self-guided tour with many points of interest, teaching you about the local flora and fauna as well as the history of the park and area.
Want to jump in the water to cool off? You should consider getting a nice travel towel! We love bringing these with on our adventures since you never know when you’ll find a spot of water to jump into.
Our favorite aspect of Cockscomb Basin was climbing a steep switchback up to Ben’s Bluff lookout point. It took us from the dense, humidity-filled jungle below, up to a completely different arid pine-forest environment up top. There is a shaded picnic area up top with epic views of the distant peaks around. Those 25 minutes of intense hiking are completely worth it.
You can also do some much longer hikes. We ran into a trail-running couple who had completely nearly 12 miles of hiking by early afternoon. Then we saw them walking back to the highway a bit later on, where we stopped to give them a life. (And if you see people in a similar position, please do the same! We were offered a ride when we visited Misol-Ha waterfalls in Chiapas, Mexico and made some excellent traveling buddies out of the experience.)
$10 entrance fee to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve. And $10 to rent a tube on the river.
7) Monkey River Tour
The other very popular tour and top thing to do in Placencia is a tour of a nearby river that is filled with spider and howler monkeys. It is known simply as the Monkey River tour, which is the name of the river and is apparently spot-on for what it offers.
Monkey River tours range in price from around $75 to $150 USD per person.
You might also see some crocodiles, manatees, and a wide variety of birds. Likely some spiders too when you get off the boat to do a little trekking.
8) Visit Hopkins
Hopkins is another beach area located about 40 miles (65 km) north of Placencia. It is a popular destination which we have not had the opportunity to explore much, but it is definitely on our list.
Hopefully we can give you more first-hand information about this thing to do near Placencia after we go there sometime in 2019 or 2020 as we start our overland expedition!
9) Fishing Expeditions
I’ll be honest, this isn’t our cup of tea. But a lot of people say deep sea fishing as one of the top things to do in Placencia. Included in this list for those of you who want to get out there because it is a very popular choice in the area. Just make sure to go with a reputable boat because there are strict regulations on areas to fish and what is in season.
Summary of the Best Things to Do in Placencia, Belize
And there you have it. With everything from chill beaches in town to adventurous scuba diving in the world-famous Blue Hole, Placencia has a bit of everything for everyone.
We highly recommend taking some sort of boat tour, and if you like hiking, don’t miss the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Preserve.
For more information about Placencia, check out our other posts covering this wonderful area in Belize:
- Why We Got Married in This Hidden Paradise
- 11 Best Restaurants in Placencia, Belize
- The Best Resorts, Rentals, and Hotels in Placencia
What sounds better to you – scuba diving in the coral reef or relaxing on the deck of a catamaran as you sail across the water? Leave us a comment to share your thoughts!