The small village of Placencia is situated on the tip of a peninsula off of mainland Belize. It’s a one road town with a parallel boardwalk that stretches 4,000 feet and is dotted by small artisan shops, beach bars, and brightly coloured cottages. On my first walk through town, the local children have just finished school and are running up and down the boardwalk in their uniforms, a reminder that people live their lives here.

The clear blue waters of Placencia are so calm and warm it’s like being in a bath. Though some swim out farther, most vacationers lounge in the gentle surf, half emerged in the water. Servers from the nearest beach bars casually walk over to ask if you want anything – perhaps a margarita or local beer Belikin. Everything is a slower pace here and time seems to stand still, not dissimilar from Belize’s other easy going destination, Caye Caulker. Placencia is the perfect destination for low-key families who don’t need a kid’s club to enjoy themselves or couples who want to truly unwind in each other’s company.

The small wooden cabanas lining the beach are charming yet bare-boned, most with a bed, small kitchen and washroom. Wet clothing and towels sway in the breeze on the patios during the day, while tourists watch the sun go down with drink in hand in the evening. Those looking for a more luxurious option can book a villa at Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn resort at the north end of town.

Placencia Travel Guide
Placencia Travel Guide
Placencia Travel Guide

What to Do in Placencia

Snorkel & Diving

Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world making it a spectacular destination for underwater activities. There are several dive shops that offer equipment and tours to phenomenal spots like Ranguana Island and Silk Caye. In addition to the array of tropical fish that you can expect to see, whale sharks are an impressive sight when they inhabit the waters from April to June.


This pre-Columbian Mayan city that had its heyday in the 8th and 9th centuries. The ruined city lies two hours from Placencia, making it a good day trip for those spending a good chunk of time here. Although not much is known about Lubaantun’s origin or purpose, many ceramic artefacts and tools were found during excavation.

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

An hour’s drive from Placencia is Cockscomb Basin Reserve, a tropical forest that spans 150 square miles. A jaguar reserve is located within the park grounds, to protect the endangered species in its natural habitat. Those visiting the park can head off on hiking trails through the lush jungle, swim in  waterfalls, or kayak in the river. Though you probably won’t catch a site of an elusive jaguar, there are plenty of other animals and birds to be found.

Monkey River

Monkey River is one of Belize’s main waterways. The river winds its way through the country and is critical in sustaining an array of ecology. Eco-friendly boat tours originate from Placencia, taking passengers 15 kilometres to the mouth of the river, traveling through dense mangroves. Boating along the river you’ll encounter several species of birds, crocodiles, and howler monkeys.

Laughing Bird Caye

Laughing Bird Caye National Park is an island just off the coast of Placencia. The island’s narrow shape and its location within the barrier reef makes it an important element in the local marine system. Laughing Bird Caye offers an even more remote experience than Placencia, with pristine white sand beaches and superb snorkelling conditions.

Laze it up on the beach

The beauty of Placencia is that you don’t have to do anything at all if you don’t want to. The long beach is perfect for spending the day in the sun. Numerous restaurants and bars offer chairs to patrons, or just throw your towel down on the sand.

Placencia Travel Guide
Placencia Travel Guide
Placencia Travel Guide

Where to Eat & Drink in Placencia

Rumfish y Vino

A gorgeous restaurant located on the second floor of a wooden building. As one of Placencia’s finer dining establishments, Rumfish y Vino is perfect for a special dinner. Food is island focused (think fresh fish) and high quality. You can’t miss the restaurant at night when the entire patio twinkles with hundreds of small lights.

Dawn’s Grill

Located in a small, enclosed patio is one of the best dining experiences in Placencia. Dawn’s Grill is a family restaurant with friendly service and top notch seafood. The house specialty is lobster – cooked perfectly and spiced up with local flavour. Dawn’s is a great stop for any meal as it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Maya Beach Bistro

Located on the northern end of the strip, Maya Beach Bistro is the onsite restaurant of the popular Maya Beach Hotel. The beachside restaurant is consistently ranked as one of Placencia’s top restaurants – and for good reason. From breakfast to dinner, the Caribbean cuisine at Maya’s is so delicious you’ll probably find yourself dining here more than once on your vacation in Placencia.


Located in the Naia Resort, 1981 is a modern restaurant that offers great ocean views. The trendy eatery has tremendous fresh fish dishes like a conch carpaccio, grilled octopus, and pineapple shrimp. Don’t pass up a specialty cocktail while you’re here. 1981 is open for dinner only.

Brenda’s BBQ

Brenda’s is a must have experience when in Placencia. This tiny food stall near the pier is local Belizean home cooking at its best by one of the village’s favourite characters. Large plates of grilled fish and meat are served up alongside Brenda’s famous rum punch. Part of the fun is chatting with Brenda herself as she prepares your food.

Tutti Frutti

Nothing helps to beat the heat in Placencia more than homemade gelato from Tutti Frutti. Expect the friendliest of service as you peruse the range of flavours on offer – not an easy feat! As the owners are Italian, the gelato is authentic, delicious and utterly addictive.

Brewed Awakenings

This adorable coffee shop is a godsend if you require your daily caffeine jolt – even on vacation. A few tables on the patio make Brewed Awakenings the perfect spot to start your morning with a pastry and a coffee, or perhaps a fruit smoothie.

Barefoot Bar

You can’t miss Barefoot Bar with its colourful tables and chairs spilling out onto the beach. The vibe is low key, even in the late afternoon when people begin flocking to the bar. Live music always creates a fun environment. It’s the perfect place for a stiff drink and a reasonable price.

Pickled Parrot

This thatched roof beach bar is a fun spot anytime of day in Placencia. A popular spot with expats, the Pickled Parrot offers entertainment like trivia nights and live music. Staff and patrons are super friendly making this an easy spot to throw back a few drinks when visiting Placencia.

Getting to Placencia

You have a few options to get to Placencia from Belize City, where most international visitors enter the country. Private and public shuttle buses drive the three hour route from the Belize International Airport to Placencia.

The most efficient transportation option is an inter-country flight from Belize City. These small Cesna planes take passengers from the airport to Placencia in just 35 minutes – and provide an unparalleled view of the country from above.

And now those on cruises can visit Placencia; Norwegian Cruise Lines private island, Harvest Caye, is a short ferry ride from Placencia. Cruise passengers can visit Placencia for the day as Norwegian offers boat transportation to and from the village.

Placencia Travel Photos courtesy of Zhu and Lauren Barth

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