Placenciaâ€”the long, narrow finger of sand pointing languidly to the southern tip of Belizeâ€”offers visitors a thoroughly laid-back experience that can be tailored to almost any age group or style of tourism.
Placencia glides, rather than bustles, even in the high season. Unlike San Pedro, which has a decidedly Latin lilt and is energetically chock-a-block with people and made-for-tourists businesses, Placenciaâ€™s people and food are largely Creole or GarĂfuna, the town has a genuine heartbeat of its own, and the pace is placid.
Visitors may opt for active days spent touring inland Maya ruins and villages, or diving and snorkeling on the coast off nearby cayes (pronounced â€śkeysâ€ť), or fishing for tarpon or snook. More relaxing pastimes include sunbathing on the regionâ€™s gorgeous sandy beaches, taking a boat tour of the Monkey River (where you can expect to see a good deal of wildlife), or grilling fresh lobster for an island picnic. For shopaholics, Placencia offers a few souvenir shops as well as the chance to buy handmade crafts directly from the descendents of ancient Maya, who sell baskets and carvings, necklaces and needlework along the sidewalks and beaches, pulling their goods from backpacks and displaying them on the sand.
Luxury may be had in the moderate- to high-priced resorts on the outskirts of town where one might lounge in lavishly appointed thatched-roof cabanas and see the occasional movie star, or take in breathtaking flora nurtured in a resortâ€™s lush tropical garden.
But for the budget-mindedâ€”and for tourists wishing to experience the â€śrealâ€ť Belize and meet native Belizeansâ€”Placencia Village is the place to hang out. Generous portions of alcohol as well as food and cheap prices make this community a great place for living it up without breaking the bank. The tap water is drinkable. Internet is available. Families, Baby Boomers, hikers, adventure travelers, rich and poor alike mix and mingle peaceably while soaking up the areaâ€™s sights and sounds.
Bars, restaurants, tour agencies, hotels, cottages, and private residences (as well as the primary school, post office and library) dot both sides of the mile-long sidewalk once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the â€śworldâ€™s narrowest street.â€ť Visitors can plunge into village life just by chatting with friendly townspeople, shopping for potent, bargain-priced Belizean rum or homemade snacks at the local grocery, getting ice at the fishing co-op at the docks, watching a game at the fĂştbol (soccer) field, or dancing in the sand with a local at the Sunday afternoon punta rock concert; the sense of community here is strong.
Throughout this charmingly ramshackle fishing village, a distinct Creole cadence dominates the voices and attitudes of the Belizeans who make this town their home. Tourists are welcome, but are well advised to leave impatience and perfectionism back at home. Better to get in step with the locals and slow the pace to match the gentle ebb and flow of the tides along both shores of this salty strip of land. When people in Placencia say, â€śNo problem, mon!â€ť they really mean it.