Placencia Village is a small, idyllic fishing village that serves as the unofficial capital of the Placencia Peninsula, a 16-mile stretch of golden sands on the southeastern Caribbean coast of Belize.
Placencia proudly lives up to its motto of “barefoot ready”, a laid-back charming Caribbean community where bicycles and golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation. Far from the maddening crowds of northern Belize, Placencia is a largely undiscovered little gem of tropical paradise.
On the eastern side of the narrow Placencia Peninsula lie the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean, while the western side of the Placencia is a gorgeous mangrove-lined lagoon teeming with fish, birds, and wildlife.
Placencia is the gateway to the Belize Barrier Reef, the world’s second-biggest barrier reef. Top attractions on the reef include fishing, sea kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, and scuba diving. Visitors can also enjoy island “hopping”, playing Castaway For a Day while relaxing in a hammock strung between palm trees or enjoying fresh-caught seafood at a beach barbecue.
With some of the friendliest people you’ll find anywhere, Placencia is a great place to enjoy all the benefits of the Caribbean in a largely untouched setting. You won’t find Starbucks or McDonald’s on Placencia, only small sidewalk cafes, yoga studios, juice bars, and “mom and pop” style restaurants serving up delicious food.
Despite its growing popularity, Placencia is still a place where everyone knows everyone. The 1,000-strong community of Placencia Village is proud that their home town holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the narrowest main street, a 4,000-foot long by four-foot long sidewalk that is open to pedestrians only.
In a country famous for its beaches, the golden sands of Placencia are considered especially beautiful, perfect for long strolls along the shoreline or watching spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The casual bars and restaurants that can be found up and down the peninsula are a great place to meet locals and enjoy tropical cocktails and live music.
Placencia firmly abides by the unwritten rules of “no shirt, no shoes, no worries,” a region where the dress code is always casual, and you’ll never see a suit and tie.
Placencia is also home to several top quality resorts that offer world-class customer service, luxurious villas, and beautiful tropical gardens. For a different experience, boutique resorts and hotels offer budget travelers a chance to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
Top activities to enjoy on the peninsula itself include swimming, snorkeling, fishing, sunbathing, and relaxing and drinking in the view. There are also plenty of exciting adventure tours to enjoy nearby, including hiking through the trackless wilderness of hte Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve (home to the world’s only dedicated jaguar conservation program), boat safaris up the well-named Monkey River, bird watching, zip lining through the jungle, and the uniquely Belizean sport of cave tubing where participants float for miles down subterranean rivers on inflatable inner tubes.
Placencia Village is a great place to find scuba and dive gear as well as affordable PADI and NAUI-certified instructors that can get you ready to enjoy trips out to the reef. Placencia Village is also where tour operators depart to the reef for fishing, sailing, diving, and snorkeling trips. The islands are a great place to see fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and even migrating whale sharks as they visit Belize on their annual sojourn around the planet.
One of the top dive spots on the Belize Barrier Reef is the Belize Blue Hole. Largely unknown to the outside world before 1971, the Belize Barrier Reef gained international recognition when celebrated French marine biologist Jacques Cousteau declared it one of his top 10 favorite dive sites in the world.
A Brief History of Placencia, Belize
The Placencia Peninsula was inhabited by the ancient Maya starting around 3,000 years ago with at least 14 known sites situated on the perimeter of the Placencia Lagoon. Archeologists believe that Placencia was an important source of salt for the ancient Maya as well as being a lively coastal trading center.
The name “Punta Placencia” or “Pleasant Point” was given by the Spanish, but the first permanent settlers of European origin were primarily English-speaking Puritans from Nova Scotia in Canada. Unfortunately, due to civil unrest throughout Central America in the first half of the 19th century, the original Puritan settlement was later abandoned.
Towards the end of the 19th century, however, the Garbutt family settled on the Placencia Peninsula, eventually controlling most of the land. In 1894, Abner Westby, originally from Scotland, moved to Placencia after purchasing a sizeable tract of land from the Garbutt family. Later, a Portuguese family from Brazil relocated to Placencia, arriving in two schooners that they owned, the Colibri and the Jane. Later, the Leslie family, originally from Roatan in Honduras, also moved to Placencia. Together, these families became the leaders of the emerging Placencia Placencia community.
Throughout its entire modern history, Placencia has relied on fishing and other activities related to the sea. On June 20, 1962, the leaders of the peninsula formed the Placencia Produces Cooperative, an organization that is still operating, in order to industrialize seafood production. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that electricity came to Placencia after the Cooperative purchased several generators. Only in 1993 did Belize Electricity provide a consistent power supply from the mainland.
Today, Placencia has successfully managed to preserve its idyllic charm and traditional lifestyle. Placencia has emerged to become a leading eco-tourism area with residents from all walks of life in Belize as well as visitors from around the world. Placencia Village has gained global fame after being awarded a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the smallest main street, a lovely, four-foot wide pedestrian-only sidewalk framed by cafes, colorful murals, and boutique shops.