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Why I Loved My Sabbatical in Placencia, Belize

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

With 239 miles of coastline and 200 islands and cays, it’s easy to see why tourists flock to Belize. As Belize re-opened to tourists during the Covid-19 pandemic, it provided my home away from home during a 3-month sabbatical from my hospital work. Decreased cross–border movement allowed some of the inland inhabitants to staycation in their “own backyard” and discover why Placencia is one of the favorite spots in the country.

Better still, it’s a quick 22-minute flight from Belize City to Placencia.

Guest Blogger: Gail Clifford, ABLE Travel & Photo

Table of Content: "Why I Loved My Sabbatical in Placencia, Belize"

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"Wave to Belize City as you fly over. No need to stay" - Photo by ©Gail Clifford

"Belize City from the air" - Photo by ©Gail Clifford

Beach Life in Placencia, Belize

Be ready to embrace the beach life when you touch down in Placencia. Whether you start with lunch at The Shak, dinner at The Quarterdeck, or breakfast at your condo or hotel, you’ll be able to slow down, exchange your shoes for flip flops and let your cares slip away.

At sunrise, on my first day in town, empty docks and moored motorboats were my tropical backdrop as a light rain fell just as I began a walk on the beach.

The palms waved in the soft breeze. My walk along The Sidewalk reminded me of its Guinness Book of World Record as the narrowest Main Street in the world. Across the sand, the blue-green water turns to aqua as you look further out into the Caribbean Sea with splashes of aquamarine blue unsettled only by the rare speed boats.

"Palm trees" - Photo by ©Gail Clifford

About Belize

Belize, formerly British Honduras, located on the east coast of Central America, south of Mexico, and northeast of Guatemala, became its own nation in 1981.

Perhaps, for scuba diving and the Blue Hole, the country known best has become popular with American ex-pats who stay in Belize due to decreased cost of living and favorable tax benefits. Residency can be obtained after staying 50 of 52 weeks in a year. With that comes the ability to work in the country. Yet still, be an easy plane ride to the grandchildren.

"Don’t gain the world and lose your soul" - Photo by ©Gail Clifford

Climate in Belize

While the rainy season lasts from June to November, the equatorial temperature is typically 72F to 86F and humid. That makes it an ideal place for Americans seeking to escape frigid winters.

Why travel to Placencia?

Placencia, a fishing village on the south coast, attracts tourists with the ecotourism excitement offered by water activities and historic hikes thru Mayan Ruins or tropical jungles. And the best soft white sand beaches in the country.

Ex-pats stay for the simplified, less materialistic lifestyle available, yet maintain multiple restaurant options, active lifestyle, and a great place to invite friends and family. And, for added convenience, the official language is English, the currency is the U.S. dollar and the electrical current is the same we have in the United States. No need for adaptors or converters.

Colorful Beach Cabanas – Photo by ©Gail Clifford

From Placencia, in addition to diving the Belize Barrier Reef (second only in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), there are many excursions to enjoy, including sport fishing (go early in your trip and you’ll have all the protein you’ll need for your stay), the Monkey River tour, Mayan ruins and a surprising number of enjoyable restaurants.

Spending a few months there gave me the chance to experience most of them while still maintaining my project schedule.

The Placencia peninsula is a 16-mile spit of land that runs north to south, narrowing to just 80 feet at some points. To the east, white sand beaches and luscious palm trees frame the Caribbean Sea. Placencia Lagoon, a nature and water playground to the west, in the foreground to the Maya Mountains, with a protected Manatee area and a great place for early morning kayaking.

Wherever you land on the peninsula, you’ll notice its laid-back attitude. It’s one Placencia consciously cultivates. While adding the amenities you want in a boutique space.

Placencia History

Settled in the 1700s by Puritans from Nova Scotia, the Spanish-American War in the 1820s led to the population dying out. Later in the 1800s, the Spaniards are said to have named it “Punta Placencia” as it became re-established, now adapted to Placencia.

However, its Mayan history takes you back 3000 years, where the Placencia Peninsula was said to have been an important producer of salt.

Great Food in Placencia, Belize

At the intersection of many cultures, Placencia food covers traditional Mestizo, Garifuna, Creole, and Mayan.

Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola chose Placencia for one of their Family Hideaways and remains one of the most captivating places to stop – for a meal or a stay. We enjoyed their Cuban burger, refreshing watermelon salad, and excellent choices from the well-stocked bar.

Whether you stick to the Placencia Sidewalk at the Barefoot Bar, Tipsy Tuna, Cozy Corner or The Shak, or move over to Placencia Road with Wendy’s, Omar’s, Ruth’s, Rick’s or Tutti Frutti, there are enough choices that you could go to a different place each day.

"Tutti Frutti Gelato" – photo by ©Gail Clifford

Then up the road from the village, options like Turtle Inn, The Quarterdeck, and the Maya Beach Resort offer exceptional meals just a drive away.

"The Quarterdeck" – Photo by ©Gail Clifford

Try some Belizean specialty items I’ve not seen elsewhere:

  • Specialty meats and seafood: Gibnut (aka The Royal Rat), spiny lobster, iguana (aka Bamboo Chicken), conch. Deep-fried conch fritters are a popular appetizer around the country.

  • Belize Fruit Cake: a traditional Belizean rum cake is popular around holidays, It’s a cake with preserved fruits baked in and then stored for a couple of days after being generously doused with dark local or Caribbean rum.

  • Fruit wines: Belizeans make wines from all kinds of local fruit including cashew, craboo, blackberry (not the berries of the north), star fruit, sorrel (a hibiscus), and soursop. Many of these are homemade, overly sweet, and the alcohol content is uncertain.

Find the Best Beaches in Placencia, Belize

People arrive in Placencia ready to enjoy the white sand beaches with sunbathing, snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, or kayaking in mind.

"Footprints in the Sand" – Photo by ©Gail Clifford

You can kick off your flip-flops or tie up your sneakers. Enjoy the most relaxing 90 min sunrise walks (or run) along the crescent beach as the sun quickly enters another day (average sunrise takes 3 minutes here).

"Beach Chair Lounges" – photo by ©Gail Clifford

It’s easy to see why people focus on the dreamy beach lifestyle Placencia offers.

Jungle Adventures and World-Class Fishing in Placencia

But there’s even more to do. Hike. Horseback ride. Explore Mayan Ruins. Explore Monkey River and see the howler monkeys (and maybe some crocodiles, too).

"Monkey River Village" – Photo by ©Gail Clifford

Wildlife tours are available to see jaguars, macaws, and anteaters.

When you’re ready for the “reel action” above the water, hire a boat and go out for sport fishing.

Pro Tip: If you have access to kitchen facilities and eat fish, plan your fishing trip early in your stay – you’ll have all the protein you need for the rest of your visit.

Typical catches include tuna, snapper, grouper, and barracuda. When my neighbors brought some tuna over, I made a pineapple poblano salsa that was the perfect complement, with rice or tortilla wrap.

Placencia Reef Adventures

Placencia is only 20 miles from the second-largest barrier reef system in the world, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It’s easy to see why scuba and snorkeling are such a big deal in Placencia.

Whether visiting Silk Cayes or the Blue Hole or Half Moon Caye, you’ll find different constructions of reef creating different environments to explore. All levels of experience can be accommodated by the Placencia tour operators.

"You Better Belize It" – Photo by ©Gail Clifford

It’s also a great place for ecotourism, where the mangroves offset our carbon footprint.

"Hank and Mary in the Mangroves" – Photo by ©Gail Clifford

Whether in Placencia for a working holiday, staycation, or to retire, you’ll find plenty to see, do and eat with a welcoming community who all wish to embrace an active lifestyle close to nature.

Travel Plan Your Next Belize Trip

This is a Travel Guide to Belize and Guide to Placencia. To start planning your travel to Dublin, check out these helpful Travel Tips and Travel Resources:

  • Always start your Travel Planning by using a Trusted VPN Service like NordVPN to avoid Algorithms interfering with your multiple searches for the best price. It will save you a lot of money in your overall Travel Budget.

  • Check out Expedia for flights, stays, and car hire at your destination.

  • Find Hotels, Accommodations, and Rentals at Booking.

  • iVisa has the latest Travel recommendations and hassle-free online Visa applications.

  • Make sure you always Travel Safely and Awesome with Travel Insurance for Travelers from Safety Wing.

  • Create Travel Memories on your destination. Get Your Guide and find Tour Guides, Activities, and things to do in Belize.


Gail Clifford, MD, a physician for more than 25 years, has traveled to five continents and all 50 United States. An avid traveler, despite meager means in school, she has enjoyed trips with her parents, her siblings, and her daughter. She happily goes on new adventures, and blogs about her discoveries as a Travel Writer and photographer at ABLE Travel and Photo.


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