A January 2004 trip
to Placencia by lcampbell
Quote: Visiting Placencia is like going to an offshore caye without leaving mainland Belize. The relaxed and friendly atmosphere, combined with miles of white sand and plenty of activities, make this a great vacation destination. This is a place I would definitely return to over and over again.
The village of Placencia is located at the far south end of a 13 mile white sand peninsula in southern Belize. Originally a fishing village only accessible by boat, Placencia got its start in tourism around 25 years ago. Since then, a road was built all the way down the peninsula, and tourism has become the primary income source for residents.
One of the owners of the guesthouse I stayed in told me that about 15% of visitors to Belize come to Placencia, with the majority going to Ambergis Caye and Caye Caulker. But unlike the shores of the cayes, which are dominated by mangroves, Placencia has miles and miles of sandy beach, a rarity in Belize. There is a definite laid-back Caribbean atmosphere, and the people are friendly. Most of the population is of Creole descent, but there is some diversity as well.
Numerous small companies in Placencia offer the same sea activities as on the cayes – fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, and diving. In addition, though, there are also inland excursions to see tropical forests and Mayan ruins – something not available on a trip to the cayes.
As I already mentioned, numerous companies offer sea and land excursions. Reservations can be made after you arrive in Placencia, and prices for day trips start around US.
All beaches in Belize are public, just please be respectful if using a stretch of beach in front of a private home or business. We enjoyed being beach bums at the Tipsy Tuna Sports Bar (closed) which had lounge chairs for the public to use. The far north end of town (near Kitty’s Place) was also very nice.
During almost seven weeks of traveling in Belize and Guatemala, the small shop at Dianni’s Guesthouse was the only place I found with one-for-one book exchange.
Placencia Tourism website
Internet access is available at Placencia Office Supply (my preference), Purple Space Monkey Internet Café, and the gift shop at Dianni’s Guesthouse.
There are two banks in Placencia with limited hours. One has a machine, I think, but I’m not sure that US ATM cards work in it.
Other Belize journals:
Check out my other journals – "Belize on per day," "The Sultry South Coast of Belize," and "Cayo is Cool."
There are numerous bus companies, with changing schedules, so I can only give information on the buses that I took to and from Placencia in January and February of 2004.
Maya Centre to Placencia -- 11-11:15am/US.50pp/1.25 hours (bus originates in Dangriga approximately 10am)
Placencia to Dangriga – 6am/US/2-2.5 hours
Note: you should arrive in Dangriga in time to take 8:30am regular bus or Express bus to Belmopan or Belize City. Dangriga to Belmopan on regular bus cost US. Dangriga to Belize City on Express bus cost US. In Belmopan you can switch to bus to San Ignacio (Cayo), US.50pp.
Punta Gorda to Placencia – take bus to Mango Creek - 10am/US.50pp/2 hours. There, a man in a pickup truck meets the bus and gives a free shuttle to boat dock. Boat ferry to Placencia (15 minutes) cost US pp.
Maya Island Air and Tropic Air fly within Belize. The Placencia airport is ½ mile from town, so you will need to arrange for a taxi or hotel transfer.
Only feet are needed to explore Placencia. If you want to explore farther north on the peninsula, bike rentals are available, or take the bus.
Private or Shared Bath?
Shared. There are two toilets, one sink, and one shower. These are shared by all four rooms. The bathroom is very nice and is cleaned daily. The water is nice and hot.
Deb and Dave’s guesthouse has a friendly and safe atmosphere. There are only four rooms, with a maximum of two people in each room. The screened wood porch, overlooking a flowery garden, has plenty of chairs and two hammocks for lounging. It is a great place to compare notes with other independent travelers, meet new friends, or hook up for dinner. Deb and Dave are very mellow and helpful. They will make food and activity recommendations, and offer information if they have it. The guesthouse is also their home, and their daughter and local kids play in the yard sometimes. There are plenty of pets that will keep you company if you are homesick.
Food and Other Amenities:
There is no food or beverages at Deb and Dave’s, but there are plenty of restaurants and grocery stores nearby. Deb and Dave offer guided overnight kayaking trips with their company Toadal Adventure - advance reservations necessary. There are also two-person kayaks for rent for US$25 per day (no half-day rentals).
Deb and Dave’s is centrally located in Placencia, halfway between ocean and lagoon, halfway between north and south ends of town. It does not lose any points in my book for not having an ocean view – the added security, beautiful garden, and fantastic atmosphere more than makes up for it. Just across the sidewalk, at Tipsy Tuna Sports Bar (closed during daytime) is an uncrowded beach. There are beat-up beach chairs for public use.
This was one of the most secure places you can stay in Placencia. The property is fenced in, and the guest rooms are just next to the owners’ home. Anyone coming and going through the property is noticed. It also helps that Deb and Dave have lived here for a long time and are well known and respected in the community. The locks were sturdy, and there fellow guests know who is in each room and would know if someone wasn’t supposed to be there. This should be the first stop for single women travelers.
US$21.50 per room per night for a double room (you won’t find much cheaper).
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 12, 2004
Deb and Dave's Last Resort
Attraction | "Snorkel Fun"
The barrier reef off the coast of Belize is said to be the second largest barrier reef in the world, the largest being the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. So of course snorkeling was one of our high priority activity goals while visiting Placencia.
As you walk through Placencia, you will see that there is no shortage of small companies offering snorkel trips, as well as other trips. There are licensed and unlicensed guides, so make sure to check at the Tourist Office by the dock to find out which guides are licensed. The prices are generally the same, with no more than a US$5 difference between companies. We chose to go with Nite Wind Tours (phone 501-522-3176, fax 501-522-3487), located by the Placencia dock, as it was recommended by Deb Vernon, one of the owners of Deb and Dave’s Guesthouse, where we stayed.
So it was easy to pick a company to go with, but very difficult to get cooperative weather. The woman at Nite Wind knew us, because for days we stopped twice a day to check on the weather forecast. She would say, "No, girl, it still looks bad."
Finally, one afternoon, the sun came out and it looked like it would stay. It was too late for a full day snorkel trip to the reef, as the boat trip out is at least 45 minutes. Instead, we went on a half-day trip to the closer in Lark Caye and Bugle (Lighthouse) Caye. We had only five people in the group, which was great. Our guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, as well.
The visibility the day we went was OK – not great, not horrible. The water was a bit churned up due to the previous days bad weather. The visibility started out pretty good, then deteriorated later in the afternoon as the clouds moved back in. But before that happened, we saw some great coral and fish. I had no idea there were so many colors of coral! My favorites were the bright purple and the deep burgundy corals. We saw many colorful fish as well, including a big puffer fish. We also saw crabs, lobster, sea stars, and blume worms.
Some folks on our trip said they had been to Silk Cayes (on actual barrier reef) a few days before, and they found the boat ride to be very long and bumpy, and the snorkeling clearer (likely due to better weather), but not any more interesting than Lark and Bugle Cayes.
The price for this half day trip was US$25 per person, which included gear, guide, and drinks. Make sure to bring towels, plenty of sunscreen, a dark colored T-shirt to wear in the water, sunglasses, underwater camera, and snacks. The full day trips (around US$45-50 per person) include a barbeque on the beach. Advance reservations are not needed – you can generally sign up the day before, or even the morning of, the trips.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 27, 2004
Nite Wind Tours Snorkeling
We had originally planned to do a three day, two night unguided overnight camping/kayak trip with a company in Placencia. Unfortunately the owner of the company had taken ill and the company was no longer operating.
Other options were too expensive or required advance reservations, so we decided to be happy with a day trip. Then, of course, we had bad weather on and off almost our entire time in Placencia. We did fit in a half-day of kayaking, though, during a sunny period on our anniversary.
There are two main options for kayaking in Placencia – you can head out to sea, or you can head into the lagoon.
Given the unpredictable weather at the time, we chose to play it safe and headed to the lagoon. The lagoon is much more pleasant than its name implies. It is the large body of water between the mainland of Belize and the 13-mile peninsula that Placencia is on. It is protected from wind and waves, and offers interesting scenery and wildlife. We followed the shore of the peninsula for a mile or two, occasionally venturing into the endless mangroves. We caught some glimpses of huge iguanas and different turtles and fish. We hoped to see manatees, which are said to live in the lagoon, but we could not find them. There are also crocodiles. We saw many birds and kayaked into the lagoon to check out some mangrove islands.
Sea kayaking is possible if the weather is very calm, with no change of weather predicted. The best choice is to head from Placencia around the nearby Placencia Caye out to Bugle Caye (look for the one with the lighthouse). This is open sea kayaking, so should only be attempted if you are fit and the sea is flat. The trip out takes around 1.5 hours. There is a small beach around the backside of the caye to land the kayak and have some lunch. I am told there are many bugs (like sand fleas), so it is not a beach to lounge at for long, even with good bug juice. The snorkeling around Bugle Caye is pretty decent (we visited briefly by power boat), so bring along snorkel gear to check it out before heading back to Placencia.
Deb and Dave’s Last Resort rents two-person kayaks for US$25 per day (no half day rental available). They have the best, most modern, equipment in Placencia. For a half-day rental, Deb suggested Bruce and Caroline at Tutti Frutti Gelato Shop. We got a very simple, older, two-person kayak for US$15 (US$10 for a single-person kayak). Prices for both rental places includes life jackets, paddles, and dry bag, as well as a wheeled cart to take kayak to water. There are a couple other kayak rentals around Placencia, all of which I believe are the same rates.
15 Back Street San Ignacio
011 (501) 602-8597
All of the food that we ate in Placencia was somewhat unremarkable. We never did find anywhere that we considered excellent. Most of the food was either very bland or very salty. We were trying to stick to a modest budget, so we mostly ate at the least expensive places, which may explain our lack of rave-worthy food. Here are the places that we tried:
BJs: Inexpensive with a large variety. Dan had the large chicken dinner, with rice and beans and coleslaw, which he said was decent and filling, but salty – the price was US$5. I had the veggie burrito for US$2.50, which was average. Other choices included a daily special (typically rice, beans, and meat) for US$3 or $4 for lunch/dinner. A large pizza cost US$15. I heard that the pizza was good, and also that the milkshakes were good (US$2). We also had a good breakfast one morning. Dan had chicken and beans and fry jacks (like popovers) for US$4 and I had just fry jacks for US$1.50.
Merlenes: Excellent choice for breakfast. Merlenes is removed from the main center of town, so it is peaceful. It is located directly on the water, with nice views of passing sailboats. Merlene is gregarious and a pleasure to be around. But she runs the place alone, so you must be patient with the service – she’s doing her best! The two of us had breakfast for US$6, which included a huge fruit plate, fry jacks with jam and butter, and coffee (unfortunately instant).
Tutti Frutti Gelato: Yummy! Rich! Creamy! Small is US$1.50, large US$2.50.
Omar’s: We ate at Omar’s three times, with varying success. The first night I had the crab claw dinner for US$7.50. The crab was excellent, the rice and beans and boiled veggies were OK, and the fried plantain was good. Dan had a similar dinner, but with kingfish instead of crab for the same price. A glass of lime juice cost US$1. The second night we had HUGE chicken burritos for US$3 each. They were tasty and filling by themselves, but a side of rice and beans was just US$1. The final night we ate at Omar’s left us with a bad impression. It was the last day of lobster season and it was Valentine’s Day so we splurged for the US$15 lobster dinners. We were disappointed first when the lobster was chewy and the melted butter didn’t help. We were really bummed out at 2am when we found out why the butter wasn’t very good – it must have gone bad and we both had mild food poisoning from early morning to early afternoon. I stopped at Omar’s later to warn him about the butter, and he seemed not to believe me and didn’t really care about our illness.
DeTatch: We really enjoyed DeTatch. It has a great location on the beach, with pleasant deck seating. The waitresses were friendly and the service good. Dan had a cheeseburger and I had some nachos, each at US$3. There is a Scrabble game to borrow, making for relaxing entertainment.
Cozy Corner: We went to Cozy Corner after learning that Deb and Dave (owners of the guesthouse we were staying at) ate there almost every day for lunch. It must be good if the locals ate there, right? We did find the atmosphere to be lively and the food good (and reasonably priced). I recommend Cozy Corner, at least for lunch. Dan had the BBQ chicken (very yummy) special, with rice and beans and potato salad for US$4. I had some OK nachos (they would have been very good, but I don’t like canned cheese sauce) with chicken, salsa, and hot peppers. The portion was amazingly huge and the price was US$3.50.
Pickled Parrot: This was a busy place. It is more of a bar than a restaurant. A hamburger with potato salad was US$6, and pizza bread was US$4.50. There were entertaining drunk elderly people too.
Finally, there are three different small grocery stores in Placencia. The food is affordable and there are good choices for breakfast, snacks, and lunch. This is the best place to buy hot sauce (for souvenirs) as it is cheaper than the gift shops.
Port Angeles, Washington