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Why We Didn’t Click With Placencia

We really expected to fall in love with Placencia: it’s supposed to have some of the best beaches in Belize, to be a quiet and laid-back place, and 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, we simply didn’t click with Placencia.

Here’s why:

1. Placencia was very expensive for the region.

Clocking in at about double the cost of what we spent on 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.

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.

Placencia, Belize

2. Placencia 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 took it to a level that not even Siem Reap in Cambodia or Dubrovnik in 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 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 in Placencia.

Placencia, Belize

3. The beaches 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, Playa del Carmen, and Isla Holbox 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), but either way, we definitely didn’t have our socks knocked off.

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? No, absolutely not. There are plenty of people that Placencia is perfect for: people looking for an English speaking destination and willing to pay more for it, people traveling Belize with kids, people ready and willing to open their wallets for pricey tours, retirees looking for somewhere quiet and compact, families wanting to take the kids to an “easy” international destination.

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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. As long-term travelers, though, Placencia didn’t offer the value that we found in Mexico, are finding in Guatemala, or expect to find soon in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

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

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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. 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.

Our verdict? Just like Placencia, the Sailfish Resort was nice enough in some areas, but too expensive ($54.50/night USD for a private room) for what it was.

Placencia, Belize

 

17 thoughts on “Why We Didn’t Click With Placencia”

  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.

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  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!

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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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  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.

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    • 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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  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.

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    • 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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    • 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.

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  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!

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  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.

    Reply

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