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Placencia, Belize Travel Guide Hot
 
Last Updated: Feb-17-2015, Hits: 18,783, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Location: Mexico & Central America
Geography: Beach, Jungle/Rainforest
Vacation Type: Romantic, Relaxation, Adventure
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path, Moderate Tourism
Costs: Budget, Moderate
Attractions: Food Destination, Scenery, Boating, Cultural Attractions, Ecotourism, Fishing, Scuba & Snorkeling

Facts and Stats:
Population of Placencia Village: 1,512
Population of Seine Bight: Approximately 1,166
Government: Parliamentary Democracy within the British Commonwealth
Country Dialing Code: 501
Languages: English, Spanish, Kriol, Garifuna
Electricity: 110V
Currency: Belizean Dollar
Time Zone: GMT -6
Current Time:

Introduction:
Placencia (AKA Placencia Village), once a small fishing village, has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize. It is known for having the best beach on the mainland, world-class scuba diving and snorkelling, excellent fishing, and numerous eco-tourism opportunities in the nearby jungles and offshore cayes.

Geography:
Belize lies on the southeastern shore of the Yucatan peninsula, sharing a border with Mexico and Guatemala. Belize is about 176 miles long, and covers 8,867 square miles. Mainland Belize is home to rainforests, rivers, waterfalls, labyrinth-like limestone caves, and Mayan ruins which are accessible via tours from Placencia.

Placencia Village is located at the southern tip of the narrow 16 mile long Placencia Penninsula in the Stann Creek District of Belize. 6 miles to the north of Placencia is the Garifuna settlement of Seine Bight, and 2 miles further north is Maya beach. Both of these communities are also covered in this guide.

The majority of the eastern side of the peninsula is lined with white sand beaches, described by the locals as "Barefoot Perfect", while the west side is a mangrove lagoon. Approximately 20 miles east from the peninsula lies the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef which is the longest living reef in the Western Hemisphere and the 2nd longest in the world (next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia). Between the peninsula and the reef are over 200 cayes (islands), a few of which have lodging and can be rented.

The peninsula is traversed by 1 road that, until 2010, was a very rough trip. Recently, the road was paved from Placencia to Riversdale which has decreased travel times up and down the peninsula. The road dead ends at the southern tip in Placencia Village. The village itself offers another north/south transportation artery - The Placencia Sidewalk. It is 4,071 feet long and 4 feet wide, and according to the Guiness Book of World Records, the narrowest main street in the world.

Brief History:
Mayan civilization occupied the entire area from around 1500 BC until 900 AD when they mysteriously disappeared. Unlike other Mayan cities, their settlements in Placencia were small and the inhabitants made salt and traded other items.

Unlike the remainder of Central America, Belize was not colonized by Spain. Spain had attempted to claim sovereignty over Belize many times, but repeatedly were beat by native Belizeans with the help of Great Britain, whom also wanted to lay claim on the land. The first Europeans arrived in Placencia in the early 17th century establishing the first settlement. This settlement only lasted until the 1820's and Placencia would not be settled again until the Garbutt family arrived in the late 1800's. The Garbutt family later went on to own most of the peninsula.

Fleeing a civil war in Honduras, the Garinagu people fled to the areas of Dangriga and Riversdale in Belize arriving on November 19th, 1832. They were led from Riversdale by Emmanuel Moreira and settled in Seine Bight around the year 1869.

Meanwhile, Belize was named "British Honduras", and in 1862 it became a Crown Colony of England.

In 1894. Abner Westby, whose family originated in Scotland, came to Placencia and bought land from the Garbutt family. He was later joined by a another member of his family, John Eiley. Then a Portuguese family, the Cabrals, settled in Placencia and the village began to grow. The village sustained itself almost entirely on its fishing industry.

Maya Beach was a Canadian development founded in 1964. Today, the community consists of ex-pats from the U.S. and Canada, along with Mayans, Spanish, and Creole.

In the early 1970's, Placencia was provided with limited electric service from generators.

British Honduras became a self-governing colony in January of 1964 and was renamed Belize in June of 1973. It was the United Kingdom's last colony on the American mainland.

George Price led the country to full independence on September 21, 1981, although it remains part of the British Commonwealth to this day.

In 1993, the Belize Electricity Limited was formed in order to supply the increasing demand for power on the peninsula.

On October 8, 2001 Belize was hit by Hurricane Iris. Placencia and neighboring communities of Seine Bight and Independence incurred significant damage. The residents of Placencia immediately began clean-up and rebuilding.

Since 1990, Placencia's has attracted an increasing number of tourists and tourism has become the chief industry here.

In 2010, many residents are currently fighting Royal Caribbean's attempt to bring cruise ships to the village.

Attractions & Ecotourism:
Placencia's tourism has grown over the years largely due to the abundance of ecotourism opportunities in some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world. Below is a list of some of the most popular draws:
  • Diving and snorkeling - From Placencia, scuba divers and snorkelers have short boat rides to the UNESCO world heritage sites of Glovers Reef, Laughing Bird Caye, and the famous spawning ground and Whale shark feeding site of Gladden Spit. Other popular dive spots are the Silk Cayes and the famous Great Blue Hole. Most of these sites are 45 minutes to 1.5 hours away via boat.
  • Placencia Lagoon Tours - Typically done in a kayak, these tours allow visitors to see the diverse wildlife of the mangrove lined lagoon. Potential sightings may include manatee, crocodiles, dolphins, and birds such as the enormous Jabiru Stork.
  • Caving - Belize is home to the largest and most extensive cave systems in Central America, many of which, have likely not yet been discovered. Some cave tours are done on foot, while others are done on kayaks or inner-tubes. Cave tubing has become one of the most popular attractions in Belize. The Mayans heavily used these caves and many of them still contain artifacts. Most of the cave systems can be explored on a day trip from Placencia.
  • Jungle tours - Belize has a real jungle and you can explore it. On a jungle tour, you may see a variety of wildlife, learn about plants and natural medical remedies, and see beautiful scenery. For the more adventurous, night tours are available. A popular spot for jungle exploration is Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary which is the world's first jaguar preserve (although you won't likely see any). Cockscomb is also known for its spectacular waterfalls, mountain views, nature trails, and rich diversity of neotropical birds.
  • Fishing - Placencia is known as the "permit capital of the world". This doesn't mean that you have to get government approval for everything you do; permit is a type of fish. There are numerous fishing guides in the area, and if you are a serious fisherman, you can stay on Whipray Caye where an experienced guide will make sure you have the fishing vacation of a lifetime.
If the beaches and all of the activities above don't keep you busy enough, Belize is home to some very impressive Mayan ruins, and a tour from Placencia will open a window for you to the area's past. Recommended ruins include Althun Ha, Caracol, Xunantunich, and La Milpa.

For more information, check out the Attractions section of this guide.

People & Culture:
Belizeans are quite a melting pot. They are a combination of Maya, Mestizo, Creole, Garifuna, Mennonites, East Indian and many more. Each culture has maintained their unique ethnic identity while merging harmoniously into a national Belizean identity as well. Although English is the official language, you will most definitely hear Kriol (Belizean Creole) and possibly Garifuana and Spanish. Kriol is unofficially the language spoken by Belizeans. Kriol began as a form of pidgin between English and several other languages. Since the inception of Kriol to communicate between different languages, it has evolved into its own.

Of the groups mentioned above, the Garinagu (plural of Garifuna) deserve special mention. The Garinagu originated in St. Vincent, and were the descendants of African slaves and the local Carib Indians. In the late 1700's the British exiled the Garinagu and deported them to the island of Roatan in Honduras where they remained until civil war broke out. They arrived in Belize in 1832. They eventually settled Seine Bight just north of Placencia and remain there to this day, although there has been an influx of people from nearby Central American countries in recent years. The Garinuga speak English, but still maintain the Garifuna language, which is an African dialect combined with a mixture of French, Spanish and English words. To this day, they have preserved their cultural drumming, dances, and customs, and many tourists visit the community to learn more about their food and culture.

In addition to the local ethnicities, Placencia is loaded with expats from the U.S. and Canada, and there is a sizeable Chinese population as well.

No matter what ethnicity, Belizeans are known for being friendly and laid back about most things. The one thing they take seriously is maintaining their reefs and jungles. In fact, 40% of the Belizean mainland is protected land and a good portion of the cayes and reef are protected as well.

It is for this reason that Placencia has been embroiled in a bitter debate about letting Royal Caribbean make Placencia a cruise ship destination. Those for allowing it cite a need for better paying jobs and more money in the area. Those against it, say that it will hurt local businesses as Royal Caribbean plans to build their own village near Placencia Point (southern tip of the village and peninsula). Many are also rightfully concerned about the effects on the reefs, lagoon, cayes and other habitats by what some describe as the worst polluter in the cruising industry. If that weren't enough, some claim that an elected official who owns a share in a real estate company, used his company to purchase the land for Royal Caribbean - a clear conflict of interest. At the time of this writing, residents are putting up a pretty strong fight against it.

It is not surprising that this situation occurred. While many people have not heard of Placencia, enough have to create a demand for condominiums, resorts, and the general "Cancunization" of the peninsula in recent years. Like anyplace in paradise, the people here try to walk that fine line between improving their standard of living while maintaining what made their location special and attractive to visitors in the first place. It is hard to say at this point if they are winning that battle.

Food & Nightlife:
If you know someone that has been to Belize, it is likely that they told you that the food is very good. And it is. Belizean cuisine combines different cultures like Mestizo, Creole, Garifuna, Mayan and more to blend a type of food that is spicy, delicious and diverse. A classic Belizean staple is white rice and red kidney beans and stewed chicken.

Due to Belize's location on the Caribbean, seafood is commonly found in restaurants. Conch, shrimp, snapper, grouper, lobster are popular here. Fruit is plentiful here also. But Belizean food isn't all you will find as there are Italian, Mexican, Asian and other types of cuisine available. Dining in Placencia is casual.

The tap water and ice in Placencia is safe to drink as it comes from an artesian well with modern PVC piping system. For the nervous, bottled water is available.

Placencia's nightlife is fun, but subdued. There was a dance club, however, we aren't sure if it is still there. There are a number of bars to visit including a beach bar or 2, but most of them don't stay open very late. In other words, Placencia is perfect for day drinking.

Money & Costs:
Even now in 2015, one U.S. Dollar is still pegged at 2 Belizean dollars despite the U.S. economic situation and the constant running of the printing presses. Keep in mind that the banks may give you a much worse exchange rate than merchants will.

When looking at hotels, restaurants, and tours, make sure you check to see which currency they are using as many places list their currency in USD. If they are using BZD, you can basically cut the price in half to come up with the USD price. U.S currency is widely accepted and credit cards are accepted at many hotels, restaurants, and shops. U.S. traveler checks are also accepted. There are a couple of banks and several ATMs in Placencia Village (Again, note the conversion rate that you get).

As far as Central American countries go, Belize is up there with Costa Rica as one of the most expensive. Having said that, Placencia is less expensive than Ambergris Caye (San Pedro).

Until fairly recently, most of the accomodations were in the inexpensive to moderate range, however, much of the newer construction has been more upscale. There is a 10% hotel tax on lodging.

Tipping isn't necessary, however, it is appropriate (and expected) to tip if service has been very good from wait staff, drivers, or tour guides. Some hotels apply a 10% service charge (which is an average restaurant tip), so be sure you aren't tipping twice unless you want to.

Belize has a 12.5% general sales tax on goods and services. When you leave the country, there is a $39.25 USD departure tax. Airlines may cover this fee in their ticket costs.

Getting There & Around:
Belize's largest international airport is Philip S. W Goldson Airport (BZE) and is located about 30 minutes outside of Belize City. It is about 2 hours and 15 minutes by air from Miami, Florida and Houston, Texas. United, Delta, Continental, US Airways, Taca, and American Airlines all service Belize.

From the international airport, you can catch a 40 minute flight from Maya Island Air or Tropic Air to the landing strip just north of Placencia Village. At the time of this writing, that will run about $180 USD.

Construction has begun on a new airport called "Placencia International Airport" just north of the Peninsula. The airport is owned by The Placencia, a condo resort development located about halfway between Maya Beach and Riversdale. The airport was slated to open in 2011, however, as of February 2015, the airport still isn't operational and there are no set timelines that we have found. There have been concerns about proper permitting and environmental damage has already been caused by the construction.

If you want to drive to Placencia, it takes about 3.5 hours from Belize City. The trip will take you from the Coastal Road to the Hummingbird Highway to the Southern Highway, and will offer nice scenery. It is recommended that you do not do this drive at night.

For the budget traveler, there are buses that make 5 hour trips down to Placencia. The first leg of the trip will take you to Dangriga where you will catch a bus to Placencia. Most of the buses are in rough shape and do not have A/C.

After arrival by flight, if your hotel does not offer shuttle service, you can catch a taxi. The airstrip is very close to the Village and will be inexpensive. Placencia Village is very walkable, however, if you wish to explore the surrounding areas, Barefoot Rentals offers rental cars. They also have golf carts available for rent for about $65/day USD. It is reported that there is a guy near the tourist information center that rents scooters and some hotels rent them as well.

Entry Requirements:
For more information about entry into the country of Belize, read Belize Entry / Exit Requirements.

Weather:
The climate in Placencia is subtropical with annual average temperature of 80 degrees F. The temperatures do not fluctuate much during the year, nor during the day. June to November is the rainy season which provides significant amounts of rainfall - up to 160 inches/year. July to October is the hurricane season and more information can be obtained from the National Hurricane Center.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Placencia.


The table below shows the average high and low temperatures.

Month Avg High Avg Low
January 80 70
February 80 71
March 83 74
April 85 76
May 87 79
June 87 79
July 86 79
August 86 78
September 86 77
October 84 75
November 82 73
December 80 71

The temperatures of the Caribbean waters range from 75-84 degrees throughout the year.

Services:
  • Emergency: 90
  • Marine Emergency: 999
  • Placencia Police: 503-3142
  • Seine Bight Police: 503-3148
  • Hyperbaric chamber, San Pedro: 226-2851 or 604-7599
  • Belize Coast Guard: 225-2125
  • The United States Embassy: 227-7161
  • The British High Commission: 822-2146
  • U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory: 202-647-5225
  • U.S. Passport Agency: 202-647-0518
Tips & Additional Information:
  • The legal drinking age is 18.
  • Many places in Placencia have internet access, but it can be a little slow at times.
  • Service in restaurants can be slow as well, but if you are in a hurry, why come to a place where most come to slow down?
  • There are Portuguese Man o' War in the Belizean waters. They won't likely kill you, but will cause severe pain. In some cases, a feeling of overall illness may develop, or a red streak develops between swollen lymph nodes and the sting. In these cases, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Don't forget high quality repellent. The mosquitoes here can be vicious. If you plan to visit the jungle on the mainland, you may want to consider antimalarial drugs before visiting. Although there are only a few thousand cases of malaria per year, keep in mind that there are only about 350,000 people in Belize. A Hepatitis A shot is also not a bad idea before visiting.
  • There are occasional outbreaks of Dengue Fever in Belize. This illness will make you beg for death, although you most likely won't die. It is carried by mosquitos. Another good reason to make sure you have repellant.
  • If you go to Belize City, be extra careful. They don't have the tourism money that the cayes do and the crime rate is much higher. If you don't need to be there, then don't go. Other areas to be wary of are the Mountain Pine Ridge area and the along the Guatemalan border.
  • Despite what other travel guides say, you may be offered marijuana and even see locals smoking it in the open. While it may seem safe to indulge, keep in mind that it is not legal and Hattieville Prison is no place to vacation and the fines can be hefty.
  • Placencia is a pretty safe destination, however, like many similar locations, petty crime does occur. Make sure you are very careful with any valuables, and leave unnecessary items at home.
  • Up-to-date information on safety and security can be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • In addition to reporting crimes to local police, American citizens should report all criminal incidents to the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan, telephone 822-4011 (after hours and weekends 610-5030).





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