Placencia is one of the most popular visitor destinations in Belize. With 16 miles of coastline along the Caribbean, the Placencia Peninsula features sandy white beaches and access to some of the best fishing anywhere in the country. The village of Placencia at the southern tip of the peninsula serves as the unofficial capital and is home to some of the best restaurants, cafes, bars, stores and dive shops in the area.
One of Placencia’s principal attractions is its close location to the world famous Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Hundreds of postcard-perfect tropical islands and atolls are located in and on the Belize Barrier Reef, ideal locations to fish, snorkel, kayak and dive. The rich ecosystem, sandy white ocean bottom, and crystal clear waters make the Belize Barrier Reef a true natural wonder of the world.
Locals in Placencia refer to their village as “Barefoot Perfect”, an apt expression to describe the relaxed, friendly and welcoming atmosphere that you’ll find there. Placencia Village is especially proud of its spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the narrowest main street in the world, actually a 4,000-foot long sidewalk or footpath that is just four feet wide. With no cars to contend with, visitors can amble down the central sidewalk to enjoy one of the many bars, restaurants and cafes that line the one and only main “street”.
Placencia Village is also a great place to arrange for sailing, fishing, diving and snorkeling trips to the Belize Barrier Reef. The village is home to a number of certified PADI and NAUI scuba and dive shops.
The Placencia Peninsula is also an ideal place to relax, soaking in the sun or spending time at one of the lovely luxury resorts that offer private beachfront access, gourmet restaurants, infinity swimming pools and world-class spa and massage services. Many visitors enjoy using a golf cart or bicycle to make their way up and down the peninsula, visiting the Garifuna village of Seine Bight and taking in the beautiful views while looking for some of the dozens of tropical birds that live in the area.
Things to do in Placencia
Below are 10 of the best things you can do while in Placencia:
Experience the Jungle
Much of mainland Belize is covered in jungle, but the area just outside of Placencia is ideal for hikes along well-maintained trails. A popular destination is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, an enormous protected park that is home to jaguars, green iguanas, wild deer, boa constrictors and dozens of species of birds. For the best experience, hire a local Maya as your guide who can share with you their own knowledge of the wildlife and nature while pointing out plants that are used for traditional remedies and medicines.
For more dedicated hikers, multi-day expeditions in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary are possible with the end goal being climbing Victoria Peak, the highest point of land in the country.
After a long hike through the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, relax and cool off with a refreshing ride down the river on an inflatable inner tube. The gentle currents of the river will take you downstream, allowing you to kick back and marvel at the scenery. Although the currents can pick up speed during the green season, sailing down the river is a unique opportunity that should not be missed.
Learn about the Garifuna and Creole Cultures
Belize is home to a diverse blend of cultures. The unique Garifuna culture is centered around the village of Seine Bight on the Placencia Peninsula, giving visitors an opportunity to see their traditional way of life, listen to their famous drumming style, and learn more about their art and food.
Creole culture is also an important part of the area. Visitors are recommended to visit the Monkey River Village, a traditional fishing village where small family-operated restaurants serve up delicious Creole dishes.
Enjoy a Wildlife Ride up the Monkey River
Just a few miles from Placencia is the Monkey River. Starting where the river empties into the ocean, visitors will take a boat that slowly wends its way upstream, with plenty of opportunity to see an astonishing variety of wildlife, including crocodiles, iguanas, tropical bird species, and howler monkeys.
Although the lagoons in and around Placencia open out to the sea, the waters are calm enough to enjoy a serene and leisurely paddle through some of the most beautiful nature sites in the country. The shores of lagoons in Belize are replete with saltwater-resistant mangrove forests, home to a tremendous variety of wildlife, including birds, fish, rays, manatees and dolphins.
One of the most fun experiences in Belize is renting a kayak from a hotel or shop to head out into the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Close to land, tidal conditions are relatively mild, making it relatively easy to kayak up and down the length of the Belize Barrier Reef. Adventurous kayakers can take a multi-day tour of the Caribbean, hopping from island to island, spending the night at campgrounds.
Snorkeling at the Silk Cayes
If you close your eyes and imagine a perfect tropical island, the picture you’re thinking of is what you’ll find at the Silk Cayes. With pristine white sandy beaches and shallow offshore waters that lead right to the reef, the Silk Cayes are the perfect place to see a rainbow of marine life including sharks, sea turtles, anemones, barracuda, angelfish, trumpet fish, and damselfish.
With crystal clear waters, a white sandy ocean bottom, and an abundance of marine life, Belize is a scuba diving paradise. In the waters between the Placencia Peninsula and the Belize Barrier Reef there are miles of coral canyons, cut throughs, and reef walls that are a dream come true for diving. Located right near Placencia is the White Hole but experienced divers seeking to plumb the mysterious depths of the Blue Hole can accomplish their dream with a longer tour.
Between March and June, migrating whale sharks rise to the surface to feed in the waters just off of Placencia, providing a unique diving experience.
Sailing and Boat Rides
With hundreds of islands strung out alongside the Belize Barrier Reef, sailing and caye hopping are popular activities in Belize. Test out the waters with a lovely day trip to some of the picture postcard islands like the Silk Cayes, Long Coco Cayes, or the Laughing Bird Cayes or set sail for a multi-day trip up and down the reef with overnight stays on the islands.
The waters of Placencia are teeming with game fish. Whether you’re a lifelong angler or trying fishing for the first time, Placencia is an ideal location to go after permit, tarpon, snook and bonefish in pursuit of a Grand Slam.
A History of Placencia Belize
Placencia is both the name of a narrow peninsula in southeastern Belize as well as the small village of approximately 1,000 inhabitants at the southern tip of the peninsula that serves as the peninsula’s unofficial capital.
Originally colonized by English Puritans in the 17th century as a religious community, Placencia was largely abandoned until the end of the 19th century when several fishing communities were established on the peninsula thanks to its proximity to both the reef as well as nearby wetlands. The first families to arrive include the Garbutt family, Westby family (from Scotland), and Cabral family (from Portugal). The peninsula soon served as a popular stopping point for sailors who would come ashore to rest and enjoy home-cooked meals.
The name Placencia stems from the original Spanish name for the area, Punta Placencia, which means “Pleasant Point” in English. In 1962, local fishermen from Placencia Village formed the Placencia Cooperative, which still exists today, producing seafood for both the domestic and export market. In the 1970s, the Cooperative brought electricity to the peninsula for the first time.
In 2001, Hurricane Iris struck the peninsula, destroying or damaging 95% of the buildings in Placencia. In the aftermath of Iris, real estate prices dropped significantly, paving the way for developers to begin building high-value properties like hotels, condominiums, and resorts.
Today, Placencia Peninsula is one of the top tourism destinations in the country, home to several luxury resorts, boutique hotels, and an airstrip (code: PLJ). Serving as a gateway to the southern Belize Barrier Reef, Placencia is often referred to as the eco-tourism capital of Belize partly because the primary form of transportation is by bicycle or golf cart.
The most iconic feature in Placencia is its main street, holder of a Guinness World record for being the smallest main street in the world, a 4-foot wide sidewalk measuring 1,000 feet long and off-limits to vehicular traffic. The brightly colored houses and vivid street art are popular images shared on social media.
Every year, the Placencia Sidewalk Arts Festival draws in thousands of visitors to enjoy games, food, music, and a wide diversity of arts and handicrafts produced by local artists. Other popular events in Placencia include its Lobsterfest, held every June to celebrate the opening of the lobster fishing season. Placencia is also the most popular place to depart for the outer part of the reef during the spring in order to dive with migrating whale sharks
Barefoot Rentals and Services
Barefoot rents SUVs, golf carts, dirt bike and scooters for visitors in Placencia to explore the peninsula and nearby attractions. Barefoot Rentals and Services maintains a modern fleet of well-equipped vehicles and may deliver your scooter, SUV, golf cart or dirt bike anywhere in Placencia or Belize.
Barefoot Rentals and Services can also help book your hotel or resort in Placencia and arrange for guided tours to all of the top attractions in the country.