Placencia ticks all the boxes for a Caribbean seaside town – beautiful beaches, turquoise waters and an abundance of rum. We were there at the peak of 'Semana Santa' so it was difficult to gain a true insight of what this small town might be like without the large influx of party-hungry Belizeans, but it is unlikely that time spent here will feel wasted.
Although Belize is a country populated by beach-side towns, Placencia is undoubtedly one of the nicest.
The large expanse of white sand offers the perfect respite to the muddy shores further north and the relatively new concrete main street which zig-zags between the beachfront hotels and bars is a convenient route from A (alcohol) to B (beach). Locals going about their business mean plenty of characters, including fishermen sorting out the day's catch.
A lot of divers make a bee-line here for the potential to spot a whale-shark and enjoy the reef. Typical costs are around $200 USD and 'Splash' is recognised as having better equipment. It is worth noting however that there is no guarantee of spotting the whale-sharks and a number of divers end up disappointed. For $75 USD, snorkellers can join the trip.
Unfortunately, over the last few years, greater Placencia has been overrun by the tourist trade. This is hugely apparent on the bus ride into town – what was previously a large lagoon, has been ruthlessly sectioned into plots and sold to the highest North American bidder, dredged and populated with tasteless, overly manicured mansions reminiscent of the set of 'Stepford Wives'.
What was once something to be enjoyed by the residents of Placencia has been destroyed by those with more money than compassion. Although protested by local residents, ultimately, this was a decision won by the dollar. One can only hope that the local government look beyond money when deciding on any further development of this picturesque town.
Take a stroll down to the main dock in early in the morning to see the fishermen return with their daily catch. For those that have access to a kitchen, you could even buy yourself dinner.
For those with higher budgets, the scuba diving here is spectacular although more expensive than elsewhere in Central America.
Where to drink
Those looking for a more social evening will do no worse than choosing between Barefoot bar and Tipsy Tuna. If one is a bit dead, then thankfully you usually only have to go next door to find the crowd.
Where to stay
We searched high and low for the best budget option and came up with Lydia's Guesthouse - pleasant, clean and very close to the beach!
From the north, Richie's unmissable blue and purple old school buses are the only road transport down to Placencia. From Dangriga there are three buses daily ($10 BZD). From Hopkins Junction the fare is $8 BZD.
By boat, a the Hokey Pokey shuttle service departs frequently to bring you to and from Independence. This can fill up quickly, so try to get there around 30 minutes before departure. Tickets are $10 BZD per person.
A 15-minute walk or short taxi ride will take you to Independence bus station with services up and down the coast.
There is also a small airport that flies to-from Belize City and Punta Gorda.
Budget-breaker or maker?
Maker. In high season, there is a run on accommodation due to Belizeans based inland venturing to the seaside. However, cheap stalls and accommodation mean that your budget won't be as stretched as elsewhere in Belize.