Placencia, Belize

Photo: Naturalight Productions Ltd.
Photo: Naturalight Productions Ltd.

The western Caribbean has some of the cutest, most laid-back beach towns in the world. If you’ve fallen in love with Tulum, Mexico; Ambergris Caye, Belize; and Coxen Hole, Roatán, Honduras in the past, then your next vacation destination is an easy one. Introducing Placencia.

Placencia is another beautiful spot in Belize. But this time, instead of catching a flight out to the islands, you’re heading south to the Placencia peninsula in the Stann Creek District. The 16-mile peninsula, a long and narrow strip of land, is lined with white, sandy beaches and dense mangrove forests. The village of Placencia sits in a sheltered bay at the peninsula’s southern tip. It’s filled with candy-colored clapboard houses that stand on stilts. A pedestrian-only sidewalk runs the length of the village. Open-air beach bars, seafood restaurants, and art galleries sit at the edge of the sand. Plus little hotels have uninterrupted views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea.

You’re staying just north of the village at Chabil Mar. The resort is behind a 400-foot beachfront of white sand. A thatched-roof pier reaches into the water. Villas with sea-facing verandas are hidden between groups of palm trees. Each is decorated with Belizean hardwood floors and original artwork. Two infinity pools are surrounded by lounge chairs with bright blue cushions and even brighter tropical flowers. While the bartender at Kaleidoscope Bar & Lounge is already waving you over to offer you a Belikin Beer.

Photo: Naturalight Productions Ltd.
Photo: Naturalight Productions Ltd.

You happily accept the beer and take a seat in a tall rattan chair. Your new friend fills you in on what you must see in Placencia while he dries glasses under the thatched-roof bar. Start with lunch at the resort. Café Mar, an al fresco restaurant, serves avocados stuffed with shrimp, lobster, and a tangy mustard sauce. Ride bikes into town; it takes less than 10 minutes. The Placencia Lagoon, on the western side of the island, is home to dolphins, manatees, and manta rays. Birdwatchers like to paddle kayaks through the wetlands and seagrass beds, while fishermen try to catch snook and tarpon. Snorkelers and scuba divers will want to head out to Laughing Bird Caye National Park, an island just off the coast. Laughing gulls breed on the small island, and sea turtles, barracudas, and moray eels live among the vibrant coral that circles the island.

Back on shore, eat blackened fish tacos, sip One Barrel Rum, and people-watch along the edge of the beach. Talk to tourists like yourself who are visiting for the first time, retirees who were lured south by the promise of year-round gorgeous weather, and people who have lived here their entire lives. Return to Chabil Mar for a frozen Chunky Monkey cocktail during happy hour. Then dangle your feet off the pier and watch the sky turn purple as the sun sets. Belize has enchanted you again.

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