It’s cute, catchy, and you’ll see it – the motto “You Betta Belize It!” – everywhere you look in Belize, located in Central America and bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the south and west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
After arriving at Philip Goldson International Airport, a three, 75-foot wide runway airport whose entire operation would fit inside one terminal at any U.S. airport, it is an effortless 10 minute Customs process, and, literally, five second walk across the breezeway to catch a “puddle jumper” flight to many of Belize’s cities, islands and cayes, including Ambergris Caye, Kanantik, Punta Gorda, San Ignacio, and Caye Caulker, among others.
Taxing in a Maya Island Air, Cessna C208B Caravan 12 seater takes about 30 seconds before soaring up and over miles of dense vegetation and thick banana fields, with expansive views of the shoreline so close at only a cruising altitude of about 2,500 feet that you can watch the waves rolling over each other as they hit the beach.
A short 35 minutes later, the pilot hits a tiny airstrip just right, and moments later pulls up in front of a small office building.
You have arrived in Placencia!
The beautiful village of Placencia located along an 18-mile stretch of the Placencia Peninsula (population 3,458) and encompassing four small villages—Riversdale, Maya Beach, Seine Bight and Placencia, which is home to about half of the denizens here.
Despite its size, there is a great expanse in the topography from approximately three feet above sea level, to over 3,600 feet a short drive away in the Maya Mountain range.
From here you can embark upon numerous short excursions such as deep sea fishing, whale shark diving (four times a year during full moon), caving, sailing, scuba diving, to the Mayan Ruins, on a Monkey River howler tour, or for an extensive jungle hike through a Jaguar Preserve, just to name a few.
Surf and sun lovers will enjoy immersing themselves along vast stretches of secluded, coarse, auburn sand beaches, while dipping and out of the bathtub temperature, turquoise-hued water that ebbs and flows calmly from the offshore Barrier Reef.
Placencia Village itself can be described as burning the candle at both ends, but in a good way, in that it has maintained the substance of its traditional fishing village charm, while also slowly developing into a more recognized tourism destination.
As the latter, it is evolving with a mix of new, locally-owned retail shops, accommodations, restaurants, and the like, and will never (thankfully!) become an overly-Americanized locale with a Starbucks, McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donut son every corner. In fact, there are no American chain establishments anywhere in the entire country.
The main pedestrian-only drag here is an almost one-mile stamped concrete “boardwalk” dotted with jewelry huts, handcraft stores, clothing boutiques, excursion offices, bars and restaurants, small hotels, home and apartment rentals, and locals selling handmade items on blankets, with pathways jetting out like spokes of a wheel on both sides to either the beach or the main street.
At the far end is beautiful marina where the fisherman return daily, laden with fresh snapper, shrimp, lionfish, lobster and other fresh seasonal catches of the day.
The main thoroughfare running parallel to the boardwalk is where both denizens and tourists alike walk, bike, motorcycle, golf cart and drive along a combination paved/dirt, about a lane-and-a-half wide street peppered with oodles of bars, restaurants, alfresco produce vendors, retail boutiques, beauty and massage salons, art galleries, souvenir shops, and a few large grocery and sundry stores.
At any of these places you will get the real feel for Belize and its wonderful people, as they greet you like family or close friends at every turn. They genuinely want to know where you are from, how you like their village, if it’s your first time in Belize…lots of questions followed by personal sharing in an attempt to make deep connections that make you feel as if they will last a lifetime.
As you amble around talking to folks, you’ll learn that the locals are a diverse mix of native Placencians, Belizeans born in other parts of the country, people from neighboring Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, and large numbers of expatriates from the U.S. and Canada.
The ambiance here is very warm and welcoming with a distinctive Belizean/Caribbean “no rush, island time” vibe, and without the crush of mass tourism.
It is but one of the many “mini-paradises” to explore and enjoy while in Belize.
Learn more about Belize!