Why We Didn’t Click With Placencia, Belize

We really expected to fall in love with Placencia, Belize.

It’s supposed to have some of the best beaches in Belize, to be a quiet and laid-back place, and right as we were planning our Latin America backpacking trip in late 2016, it was even listed on the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2017!

Not everywhere can live up to expectations, though, and despite our best intentions, as long-term backpackers on a budget, we simply didn’t click with Placencia.

Here’s why.

kate storm in a red dress standing on the beach in placencia belize

Our Impressions of Placencia, Belize

Placencia is very expensive for its region.

Clocking in at about double the cost of what we spent visiting Isla Holbox right before arriving, Placencia had quite a bit to live up to.

Our private room in a hostel outside of town came in at $54.50/night USD with no a/c and no kitchen access (excellent wifi though!), along with shared bathrooms that were in a separate building from where we were sleeping.

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Food was incredibly expensive, with a cheap restaurant meal setting us back an average $7-10/person, and groceries costing about double what we are used to seeing in the USA–even more for Western brands.

Tours were very pricey as well, starting from around $70 USD for basic day trips and averaging around $140 USD for a two-tank dive.

sunset over the water on a partly cloudy evening in placencia belize

It felt like a town designed exclusively for tourists.

We are not the type of people to complain about other tourists being around–that’s what happens when congregating around stunning sights.

But Placencia, Belize took it to a level that not even Siem Reap, Cambodia or Dubrovnik, Croatia did.

Placencia barely even felt like a “real” town at all, even away from the main tourist drag.

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The center of tourism is a sidewalk lined with cafes, tour companies, and hotels, set just a few feet off of the beach.

It reminded me forcefully of the affluent town of Watercolor, Florida that we visited back in 2013, or even what I’ve always imagined the Florida Keys to be like.

While those are beautiful places, they were not what we were looking for when visiting Placencia.

collection of colorful houses on the beach surrounded by palm trees in placencia belize

The beaches in Placencia were good, not great.

This is probably a controversial opinion, but after visiting some truly stunning beaches in the past year, from the pebble beaches of Croatia to the white sand beaches of Koh Tao–not to mention the beautiful beaches of Puerto Escondido and the Yucatan Peninsula very recently–Placencia just didn’t “wow”.

This is certainly a bit of travel snobbiness talking–your 50th beach will never be as stunning as the first (for example, I know that I’ll never be able to objectively view the beaches of Nassau after seeing the Caribbean for the first time there).

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And, of course, this is still the Caribbean at the end of the day: globally speaking, the beaches in Placencia are lovely.

Within the context of the Caribbean, though?

We weren’t as impressed.

That being said, though, we definitely didn’t have our socks knocked off by the beaches in Placencia.

colllection of palm trees and beach huts on the sand

Where We Stayed in Placencia

Sailfish Resort — Our opinion of the Sailfish Resort is one of extremes.

The good: the property was well-kept, the staff very nice, the wifi excellent, and the resident puppy (Einstein) was adorable.

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The bad: No a/c, the smallest room we’ve ever stayed in (and that’s saying something!), and shared bathrooms that required us to walk outside, down a flight of stairs, and to the back of the property to access them.

Not a lot of fun in the middle of the night, especially if it’s raining like during three of our nights there.

a small black and white terrier on the first step of a pool at sailfish resort placencia
Einstein was an excellent addition to the property.

Who Might Have a Better Experience in Placencia, Belize

Does all of this feel a little whiny and ridiculous to type out?

Yes, but I value writing honestly about the places we’ve been, and I can’t truthfully say we were as impressed by Placencia as we were by many other destinations.

Does that mean that it’s not worth visiting?

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No, absolutely not.

There are plenty of people that Placencia is perfect for, including people looking for an English-speaking destination in Central America and willing to pay more for it, people traveling Belize with kids, people ready and willing to open their wallets for pricey tours, or retirees looking for somewhere quiet and compact.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that–in fact, a few years ago when we were planning short-term trips and willing to pay more per day for them, Placencia may have made it to a higher spot on our list.

corner of two hammocks hanging from a palm tree in placencia

As long-term travelers, though, Placencia didn’t offer the value that we found in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, or Nicaragua during the rest of our 6 months spent backpacking Latin America.

The comparative value killed a lot of our desire to get out and about in Placencia: why pay $140 for a dive when we can go diving in Utila, Honduras for half the price?

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Why take a day trip here, when there are so many other options in Central America offering equally incredible experiences for pennies on the dollar?

Truthfully, our next time visiting Placencia, Belize probably won’t be for many years.

But, if and when we go back, it will be during a different season in our lives when we are planning on spending a lot more per day than we are now.

photo of palm trees on a sandy beach, white and pink text reads "why we didn't click with placencia"

About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

38 thoughts on “Why We Didn’t Click With Placencia, Belize”

  1. Good to hear your honest opinion. I thought about going back to Belize (visited Ambergris Caye in 2015) on this trip but decided against it in favor of more time in Nicaragua and a trip to Cuba. Sometimes places just aren’t right for us at that moment 🙂

    Reply
    • Sounds like a great plan to me! I can’t wait to see how you like Cuba–we toyed with the idea of adding on a Cuba visit to this trip, but couldn’t really justify the extra time/money at this point.

      Reply
  2. counting myself lucky that we found a last-minute 2bed apartment for $1000mo. driving down from $$ San Miguel de Allende; prices in Placencia won’t scare us!
    Next time, with more advance planning, Puerto Escondido is my first choice.

    Happy trails!

    Reply
    • Very nice! Hope you love your rental. We loved Puerto Escondido and definitely recommend it if you get a chance in the future–so many pretty beaches there!

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    • It’s all in your perspective, isn’t it? In American English, we don’t really use the word “village”–“town” or “small town” is the equivalent.

      I’m glad you love your home–we all should–but we definitely stand by our opinion that Placencia wasn’t the right fit for the kind of trip we were on.

      Reply
  3. Thanks. This is informative. I am planning a return trip to Belize and was entertaining going to Placencia only after rejecting Honduras because I am amazed at how expensive it is to visit the bay islands. I mean Costa Rica is pricing cheaper and I think CR is a rip off. Do you have any information on Honduras?

    Reply
    • We have a few posts on Honduras! You can search “Honduras” in the top right of the blog and they’ll come up. We visited Copan, La Ceiba, the Cangrejal River Valley, and Utila. Utila was definitely significantly more expensive than the rest of Honduras, but we did find it to be a bit better value than Costa Rica. I can’t quite remember exactly how the number compared to Placencia, but Utila was definitely the more affordable of the two from our perspective!

      Reply
      • I’m considering “Retiring” to my wife’s house in San Ignacio, Cayo Dist. There’s PLENTY to do, and tho I’m Legally Disabled, my US Disability money is ’bout $5000 Belizean! My Sister-In-Law is a Doctor; yet I can always travel to Texas or Florida for “Severe” Medical/Health issues…

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  4. Read your article about Placencia. Thank you, it is helpful. If you think that is expensive, you definitely should NOT go to Grand Cayman.

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    • I’m thinking I should raise my prices now! Lol! A private 1-bed apt with AC and laundry for US49! lol. Center of town. Placencia is expensive compared to the rest of Belize, but coming from California its not that bad at all. Lol!
      Enjoy the rest of your travels! It’s the best thing isn’t it?

      Reply
      • I’m considering “Retiring” to my wife’s house in San Ignacio, Cayo Dist. There’s PLENTY to do, and tho I’m Legally Disabled, my US Disability money is ’bout $5000 Belizean! My Sister-In-Law is a Doctor; yet I can always travel to Texas or Florida for “Severe” Medical/Health issues…

        Reply
  5. I had a different experience there. We stayed in a hotel with a private bath and air conditioning on the beach for $50 a night. Our meals were very reasonably priced and we drove the local bus very inexpensively. I agree that the tours were much more pricey, but the reef is the best in the Western Hemisphere. And I appreciated that they took great care of the reef there. The reef and a short trip to some cays like Moho are much better then the Placencia beaches. This part will be more costly but is worth it. My trip was in June away from high tourist season.

    Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it! We’d certainly be willing to give Placencia another try if/when we make it back to Belize. 🙂

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      • Placencia and Maya Beach is the best of Belize. Surer safe, not stinky and crowded as the islands, not total back of bush like most places in Belize, lovely peninsula with lovely people. Price is fair to what you get.

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  6. I travel to Placencia regularly for 15 years. I have rented a private cabana for as little as $25/day. I eat lobster for $22.50 US and stew chicken with rice and beans for $3.00 US. I have met the most wonderful Belizean residents and expats alike. I find it affordable and friendly. Not for those that are looking for the night-life.
    I don’t look to be entertained by “tours” and tourist parties. I have rented a car and travelled. I have met residents that have taken me out for a day on the caye.
    I love the little fishing Village. It’s the real deal if you’re into how other people live.

    Reply
    • I’m hoping to visit Belize this summer. May I ask where you stayed? I’m checking it out in the hopes of retirement there
      Thanks
      Nancy

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      • Me too Nancy. Planning a trip to check it out for retirement. I am planning on spending about $1000 for a 10 day stay in some small beach cottages.
        That and the flight will be the expensive part. When we get there we do not plan on living like tourist. We want to sample what it will be like to live there. Cook our own meals. Walk the beaches. We plan on talking to realtors and maybe look at what’s available and make some contacts. If we like it. We will probably retire there. If we hate it, our next trip will be Ecuador.

        Reply
    • Can you give me some insider info please? I’m planning a trip there this summer to check out the area for retirement. Thanks

      Reply
      • We have a retirement home in Hopkins. We traveled to many different villages in Belize before we settled here. The north side of the village is where you feel the true love of the villagers. The kindest people we’ve encountered ever. We bought our home because of the people, food, and amazing weather. This hidden gem is worth a look. The south side feels more touristy to us but it has the best italian restaurant.

        Reply
  7. So sorry you didn’t enjoy Placencia. Depending on the time of year you went, plays a big Roll in pricing. However the year they have endured there has been brutal. They had over 89% unemployment rate, with the country closed down for around 8 months,I believe. A VERY slow reopening. So most locals could not afford to buy food, and had to try to grow what they could, but seeds were either poor quality and didn’t germinate, or were simply not to be found. Even after relief packets were sent, much was lost to flooding. They are struggling desperately to recover.
    If you had perhaps researched the area a bit more, you may have discovered that the best places to stay, and often better quality for a similar or even cheaper price can be found all along the Placencia Peninsula. Maya Beach, and Rivers Dale are two of our favorites. Actually Plantation , Maya Beach,, and Caribbean Way have some of the better beaches.
    As for excursions and diving. Did you notice the vast difference in quality of gear and equipment, safety standards, or the fact that guides were certified and licensed. N
    That extra costs money to maintain. I’ve done zip-lining in Mexico and in Belize. Night and Day difference. Diving and fishing are similar. Gas is very expensive in Belize, and if you want to get out and dive where you may get to see a whale shark, or the best spots, you have to go further out. The reef extends 18 to 25 miles from shore. Also, I personally like knowing that my tanks for diving have been filled properly and I’m out with knowledgeable divers. I may be PADI certified, but I am not experienced enough in the area to feel comfortable out on my own. I guess I’m a cautious one. Lol. But Blue Reef Adventures, Pollyanna, Roland and their crew are always above expectations.
    Also some of the best food you’ll find in Placencia is the little roadside Taco stops. Less than $15 usd for 3 people to eat. The Saturday BBQ at the southern end of the walk is some of the best we’ve had. Humble but good. And he is across from the best wood carver . Tyronne is very talented.
    Hopefully you splurged and drove up to Hopkins and went out with Happy Go Luckie tours for their nighttime bioluminescense? If not you really did miss a delightful gem.
    Again I’m sorry it didn’t click for you. I fell in love with the people before the country .
    Good luck in your travels and be safe!

    Reply
  8. My wife and I just got back from Placencia last Sunday. We enjoyed the resort but all but one are not in the village. Small hotels/hostels..yes. Our resort was 4-5 miles from the village. We had to use the resort shuttle to get around. The village of Seine Bight had to be passed to get to and from Placencia Village. The people there are very poor and live off of fishing. To us it was sad to see their living conditions. I expect,though, that they are happy people. My next visit will be to San Ignacio. Ambergris Caye was nice but a bit congested. There is quite a bit of building there if you like condo living.

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  9. Placencia is my least favorite area to spend some time. If you want to see the real Belizes go to Punta Gorda and on the way down spend a couple of days in Hopkins. I highly recommend Jeanies by the Sea at the very end of Hopkins for the very best experience. They serve food there there’s an incredible Beach and the rooms are a little cottages dotted around just off the beach in the trees and is wonderful. It is clean, inexpensive, authentic friendly friendly friendly they even have yoga there. As far as Punta Gorda goes it’s my favorite place in all of the Belize. It’s truly tropical, and inexpensive, very rustic, down home, not developed not developed not developed at least not yet. There are great places to stay there. The reason why it’s not developed is it doesn’t have the fanciest beach in the world. I guess that’s the reason. But I find it is by far the most authentically Belizean spot. If you want nightlife go to Amberges Cay, if you want family canned tourist area go to Pacencia; if you want ramshackle go to San Ignacio. If you want authentic go to Punta Gorda or Hopkins or Sittee River is also nice. If you want the best island experience in all of the lease go to Sapodilla Cay about 35 miles off the coast of Punta Gorda. Other Island destinations are South Water Caye and tobacco Cay which you can spend the night on off the coast from Dangriga.

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  10. Placencia is a tourist destination just like Caye Caulker and Dan Pedro/Ambergris Caye, and now Hopkins is getting there. I don’t believe you did proper research or you would’ve found that out. Actually, walking around Placencia, all you see is tourist. Your technically paying for the peace and quiet and saw se of safety you get there bc it’s a tourist area. Next thing, how did you expect a hostel to be very clean, A/C, full serviceetc in a 2nd world country (not 3rd world for the person who said it was)? You cannot compare Belize to Mexico or Guatemala bc their population is more and they are more developed and not “broke(according to the Bze govt). Groceries is known to be expensive even for the locals, but it’s cheaper to buy groceries and cook your own than eat out at restaurants. What I’ve also found that some places had tourist price vs local prices and they are allowed to do that. But though I think you shouldve research more before your next trip, your honest opinion did put a bad taste in my mouth should I have been a 1st time visitor thinking about going. Fortunately for me, I did my research before every visit to Belize ( I try to go to different places). So for anyone reading this blog, do your own research, your experience would more than likely be way different and better!

    Reply
    • We mived to belize in june. I think its a very dirty country. Over priced
      We have a year lease and can leave until may 2020. It cant come fast enough. I will never regret leaving this country. Not impressed a bit

      Reply
  11. Agree on your article and the comment above on Hopkins. Hopkintes joke about P town being a tourist trap. For that village vibe head to Hopkins. We loved it in May and heading back in Feb.

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  12. Kate & Jeremy, I respect your opinions on Placencia, and as a Disabled former Vice Pres for JPMC Bank in the States; I have to beg to differ with your take on the VILLAGE… EVERYWHERE in Belize is Pricey (especially the $11.67/gasoline!), but I found the Locals friendly, helpful, & courteous. My wife Rented 3 NON-AC Cabanas on the Caribbean shore for $50usd per nite. I, personally Loved Everything in Belize and am amidst plans to Retire there by 2022! 🇧🇿😀😃 ☣️👎🤬😷

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  13. I enjoyed reading your take on Placencia, we retired and decided to check Belize out, went to Placencia, Hopkins Belmopan, and we felt Placencia was too much like anywhere in Florida, yes lovely wayyyy to boring in our opinion, not a true feeling of Belize or the people, you don’t have the feel like you are living in a small town. To each their own, we were looking at being in the huddle and bustle of golf carts , fruit stands and local food, Placencia had non of that. We bought and very happy on Ambergris Caye, yes it’s expensive for excursions and western food, we don’t miss that, we buy local brand names and love the dusty roads and golf cart rushing about town. This is what we wanted otherwise We would have moved to Florida. Belize in general is not for everyone, you have to be happy with your choice, there is no right and wrong, it’s just what suits you and your lifestyle. I hope everyone finds their happy place, for us AC is perfect!

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  14. This was very informative. My husband and I are retiring in the middle of next year. Wondering if we should stay in USA, or stretch our dollars better else were. Thank you for some insight

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  15. I agree that it is what you are looking for when you choose a destination. We stay north of San Pedro about 2 miles at Bella Vista Resort, home to Aji Tapas Bar on Ambergris Caye. Manner, Linda and the crew are now like family to us.
    We are far enough out of town for peace and quiet, but close enough to shop, etc.
    We have fallen in love with the people in Belize and consider this our second home now.

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  16. This was super helpful. Thank you for your honest opinion! I’m hoping to dust off my passport and head to Belize this summer.

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  17. I agree Placencia isn’t for everyone my husband and I stayed here for over one year and this place is more for retired older individuals and quite boring. My husband and I will be leaving here soon. Yes it’s safe but everything here especially the food sucks literally rice and beans everyday. The have the same food every day and there has been times where we placed orders and never got the order we placed smh. I am glad you spoke up regardless of the backlash. Someone said to go to market and cook. The market here isn’t too good either limited fruits and vegetables. Top value which is one of their grocery stores sell items higher than what you pay in the United States. Also you have to catch the hooky poky every month just to get a visa stamp which they increase the price from $50 to $100 per month. The immigration people are rude and nasty they could be more kind especially its us foreigners that is helping Belize economy stay a float. The area we like most in Belize is San Ignacio they have beautiful mountains and nature. They have huge market and lots of restaurants.

    Reply

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