Last Updated on February 15, 2021
Placencia, Belize is a destination for beach and adventure lovers. In Placencia, experience tranquil shores, spectacular snorkeling and scuba, and laid-back beach bars in a small-town setting. On its own or part of a longer Belize itinerary, Placencia resorts, beaches and tours make for a stress-free tropical getaway.
Belize first landed on my vacation radar as a place to see whale sharks in the wild. Upon researching it, though, I discovered that the window of time is very limited: a few days before and after the full moons in April, May and June. But there are so many other options for amazing snorkeling, as well as chilled-out beach towns, that I quickly added Belize to my bucket list.
When I traveled to Belize, my first stop of Placencia did not disappoint: it’s been my favorite snorkeling destination yet, and I loved its small-town island vibes. The friendly people and atmosphere reminded me of the Florida Keys, another favorite beach vacation!
In this travel guide, I’ll share tips on the best Placencia Belize resorts for your stay, as well as Belize Airbnb rentals, things to do, plus bonus planning and packing tips. Ready for a beach getaway?
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In this Guide to Placencia, Belize Resorts, Airbnbs & Tours
Belize Travel Basics | Where to Stay in Placencia | Placencia Belize Resorts | Airbnb Placencia Stays | Placencia Belize Things to Do | Best Time to Visit | Getting to Placencia | Placencia Packing Tips
Belize Travel Basics
Language: The official language of Belize is English, due to its former status as a colony known as British Honduras. Many Belizeans also speak a creole patois known as Kriol.
Currency: Belize currency is known as the Belize Dollar, abbreviated as BZ$. The exchange rate is locked at 2 BZ$ to 1 USD. You do not need to exchange US Dollars when you arrive in Belize; most merchants will accept it, but might return change in BZ$. Try to take newer bills in denominations of $20 or smaller. ATMs are available in most tourist destinations.
Belize cuisine: Rice and beans with stew chicken is a Belizean staple, served with a side of plantains. The Maya influence in Belize is still seen though foods like tamales and marinated cochinita pibil pork. And of course, ceviche, fresh fish and seafood are abundant. Belize’s most popular beer is Belikin, available in lager and stout.
Souvenirs: Popular souvenirs of Belize are woven baskets, artisan wood carvings, Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, chocolate, and One Barrel Rum.
Instagram tips: Get ready with your punniest captions, including “You better Belize it,” “The snorkeling was un-Belize-able,” and “Belize it or not, I’m staying an extra week.”
Safety in Belize: Find updated Belize information and advisories from the US State Department here.
Where to Stay in Placencia Belize
The Placencia Peninsula is a narrow, 16-mile stretch of golden beaches ending in the town of Placencia. Between the peninsula and the mainland lies the mangrove-lined Placencia lagoon, home to manatees, marine turtles, and saltwater crocodiles.
The other side of the peninsula faces the Caribbean Sea and the Belize Barrier Reef, a section of the Mesoamerican Barrier reef which begins near Cancun and continues to Guatemala and Honduras.
There are many Placencia accommodation options, from budget stays to mid-range boutique hotels and luxury resorts. I’ve got tips on all, including Placencia Airbnb stays.
The Best Place to Stay in Placencia
For first time visitors and those wanting to experience the laid-back atmosphere here, the best place to stay is the Placencia Village, at the southern end of the peninsula.
North of Placencia Village, there are luxury resorts in Maya Beach that include “Placencia” in their name. There are also luxury resorts at the edge of the village which are just a quick bike or golf cart ride away. If you’re looking to disconnect in a luxury setting, one of these resorts might suit you best.
The Placencia Sidewalk
Many Placencia resorts and vacation rentals are located in the village along the Placencia Sidewalk. This is a pedestrian-only “main street” just 4 feet wide, which you can follow more than 4,000 feet through the colorful homes and shops of Placencia Village. Local artists showcase their work here, and it’s a popular place to stroll in the early evenings.
Placencia Belize Resorts
In Placencia, you’ll find hidden gems that offer romantic beach views with a side of luxury, plus fantastic home bases close to the restaurants and beach bars of the village. Whether you’re headed to Placencia with someone special or planning a family getaway, these hand-picked Placencia resorts will provide an escape at prices anyone can afford.
Caribbean Beach Cabanas – A PUR Hotel | Beachfront Placencia Resort
Caribbean Beach Cabanas is a stylish beachfront Placencia resort, conveniently located on the Placencia Sidewalk, but far enough away that it is secluded and peaceful. Each cabana has a kitchen and balcony, while the larger 2-bedroom cabanas also feature a living area. The resort also has a pool, beach area, sun deck, free parking, and complimentary paddleboards, kayaks, and bikes.
If this resort is available, don’t hesitate to book! It has spectacular reviews for attentive service, and is perfect for couples, families and friends visiting Placencia.
Miramar Apartments | Oceanfront Placencia Resort
The Miramar Apartments are located along the Placencia Sidewalk, within easy walking distance to restaurants and shops in town. Each apartment has its own kitchen, dinette, and balcony, making this a perfect extended stay option. The oceanfront apartments also feature a shared pool, free parking, a terrace with barbecue grills, and free rental bikes for getting around the village.
Ocean Breeze | Beachfront Placencia Belize Resort
Located in Placencia Village on the Placencia Sidewalk, Ocean Breeze resort offers bright studios and one-bedroom suites for up to 4 guests with kitchenettes and balconies. Resort amenities include a pool, swim-up bar, sun deck with barbecues, and free bicycles. Ocean Breeze gets exceptional reviews for helpfulness of staff, sparkling clean rooms, and convenient location.
Chabil Mar Villas |Boutique Placencia Beach Resort
The luxury Chabil Mar Villas are located just steps from the Placencia Beach with an outdoor pool, a bar-restaurant and stylish villas with partial or full sea views. The Chabil Mar Villas are located just outside of town, but bikes are available or inquire about renting a golf cart. With two pools, a gorgeous garden setting, onsite bar and restaurant, and secluded beach, Chabil Mar is perfect for a romantic getaway, family vacation, or honeymoon.
Want more Belize travel tips? Don’t miss my guide to the best Airbnbs in Belize – jungle getaways, beach escapes, and luxury private island rentals!
Plan a tropical escape with these Airbnb Belize stays: luxury homes, Belize Airbnb islands + chic condos for beaches, snorkeling & adventures. Includes options with pools and kitchens, at prices anyone can afford.
More Beachfront Placencia Belize Resorts
The posh Placencia, a Muy’Ono Resort, is a luxury pick located in North Maya Beach, about 10 miles north of Placencia Village. With an outdoor pool, spa, wellness center, a private beach area and a tennis court, this is a perfect honeymoon or couples option for a chic retreat.
Turtle Inn is a luxe beach getaway located about 1.5 miles outside of Placencia Village. Featuring an outdoor pool and a spa, Turtle Inn cottages and villas are located on a private beach with garden or sea views.
This was where we stayed, at the edge of the Village. I rented a golf cart to get around since it wasn’t on the sidewalk, but this was a quiet retreat that I really enjoyed. With kitchens, porches with hammocks, and a private beach area, plus friendly staff.
Belizean Nirvana is located on the Placencia Sidewalk, just steps to the beach as well as restaurants and shops. With a private beach area, lanai, airport shuttle, kitchenettes, and breakfast included, Belizean Nirvana is a top Placencia resort with great reviews.
Airbnb Placencia Belize Stays
Looking for a private space, or need more room for a family vacation, girls’ trip, or friends’ getaway? Check out these handpicked Airbnb stays located in Placencia Village as the perfect home base for your adventures!
Things to do in Placencia
The Belize Barrier Reef just off the coast of the Placencia Peninsula is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier reef. This makes for fantastic snorkeling, scuba diving, and sport fishing opportunities! The coastline of Belize makes up 30% of this reef system, including protected areas and parks.
Placencia also has many options for nature adventures on land as well including hiking, boat trips, exploring the jungle, and even ancient Maya ruins.
It’s possible to arrange tours from local outfits in the Village and along the Placencia Sidewalk once you arrive. But if you’re visiting during peak season, or will have only a few days, you might want to book online ahead of time. I’ll include links to tour companies with online bookings and good reviews, so you can be sure to fit in the sights you want to see!
Placencia Belize Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Placencia is a great destination for both snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts. The dive shops here also offer PADI Open Water Certification for anyone who wants to get scuba certified.
I recommend at least one snorkeling tour in Placencia. The corals are so beautiful, and it’s exciting to see colorful tropical fish, rays, nurse sharks, and sea turtles. We even saw a spotted eagle ray!
If you’re worried about snorkeling from a boat rather than the beach, your tour company can provide a life jacket for you to wear.
Laughing Bird Caye
Just 10 miles off the coast of Placencia, Laughing Bird Caye is a tiny island and popular day trip for scuba and snorkeling. Laughing Bird Caye is a national park named for the Laughing Gull, which used to breed on the island. The small island’s position on a faro – an angular atoll on a continental shelf – contributes to its abundance of coral habitats and marine life.
Laughing Bird is both a snorkeling and diving location, with many options for day trips from local tour companies. Most tours include a picnic lunch on the island. We went to Laughing Bird with the Splash Dive Center, which offers online booking here for Laughing Bird Caye snorkeling. Splash is a larger dive center just at the edge of the village (less than 1 mile), which was very professional.
Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes
If you have to choose just one snorkeling tour in Placencia, I would choose the Silk Cayes. It’s possible to snorkel with sharks and rays here, as well as see other marine life like sea turtles and fish, and many coral formations. As with day trips to Laughing Bird, a picnic or barbecue lunch is usually included.
Our tour included two guided snorkels from the beach and another from the boat, where we got to see a sea turtle and spotted eagle ray (which I was super excited about). We also saw butterflyfish, parrotfish, and many types of coral. The water was very clear and visibility good.
One thing to note: the Silk Cayes Marine Reserve is about a 1-hour boat trip from the Placencia dock. Be sure to bring what you’ll need for the day including reef-safe sunscreen (see my packing tips below) and take Dramamine if you have a tendency to get motion sickness. This is a good outing to book early in your trip, in case you get a day with big waves and it has to be rescheduled.
We went to the Silk Cayes with Seahorse Dive Shop, a friendly local snorkeling and diving company, which I recommend. To read reviews and book online with instant confirmation, you can book with Splash Dive Center here for Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes snorkeling. We went with them to Laughing Bird Caye and had a great experience.
In comparing the two companies, in my opinion Splash is a larger outfit, with newer boats and equipment; while Seahorse is a smaller local outfit with a friendly feel. I would definitely book with both again.
Need a Camera for Snorkeling?
All of my underwater snorkeling photos above were taken with an Olympus Tough TG. Waterproof to 50 feet, it also takes good underwater videos and photos on land! It’s easy to switch between photo and video modes underwater, too. Be sure to get the floating wrist strap and case with a clip to secure it for your adventures.
Deep Sea Fishing
Sport fishing aficionados can spend a day chasing marlin, tuna, wahoo, snapper, grouper, mackerel, jacks, and more. Blue Reef Adventures, On the Hook, and Placencia Fishing Charters are companies with good reviews.
If you’d like to book online, Placencia Fishing Charters has options for Outer/Inner Reef Fishing and Inner Reef Fishing with instant booking and confirmation. Or book a combo tour with snorkeling and “island time” – perfect for a family or group with varied interests!
Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary
Spend a adventurous day hiking, inner tubing, and exploring the world’s only jaguar preserve at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary! The jungle sanctuary covers about 150 square miles of tropical forest. Hike to Ben’s Bluff and cool off in a secluded waterfall before a leisurely inner tube float. Most tours here include a picnic lunch.
Note: Jaguars are masters of stealth, so it’s unlikely you will see one. 🙁 It’s more common to see jaguarundi, peccary, howler monkeys, gibnut, agouti, snakes, coatamundi, and over 300 bird species.
Island Hopping in a Private Charter
Want to punch up your Instagram? Book a private catamaran charter to island hop for a day! Snorkel and explore pristine beaches with a private charter and captain. Check out Daytripper and Nautical Adventures. Or spend all day on a private island with this day trip to Ranguana Island.
The village of Monkey River, located about 15 miles south of Placencia, is home to abundant flora and fauna. It’s possible to see many tropical birds, butterflies, crocodiles, iguanas, howler monkeys, and manatees. Tours here often include seeing local life in this fishing village with no cars and only two streets! Book online with Untame Belize.
Day Trip to See Mayan Ruins
If, like me, you enjoy your vacations with a side of history, consider adding on a day trip to explore the Maya ruins of Xunantunich. The core of the ancient city covers about one square mile, and is made up of a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples and palaces. El Castillo, the main temple, is the second-tallest structure in Belize at 130 feet tall. You can climb it for views over the site.
The Xunantunich ruins are located deep in the jungle several hours from Placencia, so some companies offer this trip by small plane. Or book an adventure tour that includes Xunantunich and cave tubing or this option that adds ziplining too.
Love ruins and history sites? Check out my Mexico ruins guide with history, visit tips, and virtual and in-person tours!
Nestled in the jungles of Mesoamerica, the rediscovered ruins of Maya, Aztec and Zapotec cities stand as monuments to the power and knowledge of these ancient civilizations. How many of these Mexico ruins have you visited, and which are on your bucket list?
More Placencia Tours
Some Belize sights are best explored from other cities like San Ignacio or Belize City. But if you’ve picked Placencia as your base and are looking for more adventures, check out these other tours includng the famous Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave, Blue Hole, and even Maya ruins at Tikal in Guatemala!
Restaurants and Bars in Placencia
What should you eat in Belize? Rice and beans with stew chicken is a Belizean staple. The Maya influence in Belize is still seen in food like tamales and marinated cochinita pibil pork. And of course, you’ll also find ceviche, fresh fish and seafood on most menus.
Belize’s most popular beer is Belikin, available in lager and stout. As in many Caribbean countries, rum is practically a way of life: popular rum drinks include rum with cranberry juice and rum punch.
When to Visit Placencia
The best time of the year to visit Placencia is during the dry season, from December to May. This is also the busiest tourist season, but you’re practically guaranteed sunny skies and dry days for all of your adventures. I visited in mid-April and had perfect weather; it was a bit busy, but not overrun by tourists.
If you want to try your luck at seeing whale sharks, local lore says that April, May and June are your best chance. For a few days before the full moon and up to 10 days after, it’s possible to see whale sharks in the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes.
If you’re hooked on whale sharks, check out my guide to visiting La Paz, Mexico in Baja California, where they’re seen daily inside the La Paz Bay.
How to Get to Placencia
Placencia is located about 130 miles south of Belize City and can be reached by car along the Southern Highway. There are inexpensive buses that depart every few hours from Belize City.
Placencia also has a small airport (PLJ), which is about 10 minutes north of Placencia Village.
To get to Placencia via bus from Belize City, buses take about 4.5 hours and depart twice daily.
Two airlines operate within Belize: Maya Island Air and Tropic Air. I ended up flying both during my travels there, and both were fine.
The planes are very small, though – I was surprised to be able to sit next to the captain! Your flight might also make stops at other airports along the way to let some passengers off and allow others to board. (I experienced this in Brazil, so this part didn’t freak me out!)
On one of my trips back to Belize City, our flight stopped at both the Belize City Municipal Airport (TZA) and the Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE). Just ask the captain to be sure you’re getting off at the right stop.
Note that Tropic Air has a bit better reviews on TripAdvisor. Also when I booked with Maya Island Air, there was no confirmation page, which caused me to think the sale didn’t go through. I later received two confirmations and realized I had double booked. After talking to customer service and following up via email, I did get refunded, but it could not be credited back for two weeks.
Getting Around Placencia
When I arrived, taxi drivers were there to meet incoming flights and shuttle passengers to resorts or to the Village. Many resorts also offer airport shuttle service, which is an easy way to be sure you have a ride!
Or book a private transfer to have a car waiting when you arrive: this option has online booking and good reviews.
Once in Placencia, you’ll be able to walk to most spots in the Village. Or you can rent a golf cart at one of the local shops or with the help of your resort. Many resorts also provide bikes to get around.
What to Pack for Placencia
Placencia Village is a very laid-back beach destination. It’s definitely a place where you can pack shorts, t-shirts, and casual dresses for evenings out. I recommend also bringing a cardigan or light jacket for cooler evenings.
If you’re staying at a luxury resort, you’ll probably want to pack a few more dresses for dinners at the resort. Men might want to bring khakis for cool weather or nicer dinners; but the most “dressed up” I saw guys in Placencia was shorts and a polo or short-sleeve button down.
You’re probably gonna want a packable sun hat and a cute straw bag too 😉
Swimwear and Rashguards
Pack at least 2 bathing suits and cover-ups or sarongs for pool and beach time. The Caribbean sun is very strong, so for snorkeling trips, I also recommend a rashguard shirt with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). In fact, if you burn easily, you might even want UPF capris or tights so that your backside doesn’t get burnt (true story, so painful!).
Gear for Beaches, Snorkeling & Day Trips
I also recommend a pair of hiking sandals – my favorites are these from Keen. They give you a little slip resistance for boats and wet rocks, and you can even swim in them!
Most day trips include snorkeling gear. But if you’d like to have your own, this kit from Cressi includes a bag. I tend to travel with just my mask and a tube, and use flippers from the rental company. I wear glasses, so I have a mask that lets you switch the lenses for Rx lenses like this one.
Sunscreen, Bug Spray & Toiletries
The mosquitos are the only not laid-back creatures in Placencia! For tropical destinations, I always pack Ben’s bug repellent spray and wipes that I can tuck into my purse.
Want more packing tips?
Get my full packing list for snorkeling trips and liveaboard adventures and check out my list of favorite gear. Plus, sign up for my mailing list to get free packing list planners and links to my curated Amazon gear lists including quick-ship travel-size toiletries!
Safety Note: USCG Approved Life Jackets for Kids
Tour companies should provide life jackets for all passengers, but it’s especially important for children to have a life jacket (or personal flotation device – PFD) that is meant for their age, size and weight and approved by the US Coast Guard (USGC). USGC ratings specify that jackets for infants and small children should have a padded head support, grab handle, and crotch strap to keep it from riding up (and the child from slipping out).
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