The route we had planned started with Cuba and then was due to follow the well-trodden Mayan loop- Mexico, Belize and then Guatemala. As we were finishing up our time volunteering at H’ohm Jungle Retreat we began reading and hearing recent stories regarding safety in Guatemala, predominantly on shuttle buses. The stories hit a little close to home and, giving the struggles I have had with anxiety, we made the really tough decision to take Guatemala out of our route. I remain devastated, and wouldn’t want to scare anyone else off if they feel comfortable going (the majority of travellers have no problems), but it was the right decision for us and meant that we allowed ourselves a little longer to explore Belize, starting with three nights in Placencia.
We said goodbye to Louisa, who had hosted us at H’ohm, and made our way out to the road to flag down a bus. Remarkably we were only waiting about five minutes before one heading to Punta Gorda picked us up. We jumped on the very full bus and took out spots standing in the aisle before I was ushered to the back by the conductor as a Belizean guy had offered me his seat (I was the only woman standing). Admittedly I was embarrassed by this false sense of privilege but happily accepted the invitation so I didn’t have to stand for the next hour, trying not to end up on someone’s lap after every corner.
Our plan had been to change at Dangriga (about 60 minutes, $6BZD/£2.40) for a direct bus to Placencia, but as we arrived we were reminded that today was a public holiday and told that the next bus wouldn’t be for seven hours. Luckily our bus had been hanging around for a toilet break so we managed to jump back onto it down to Independence (about 90 minutes, $8BZD/£3.20 ). From there we took the Hokey Pokey ferry to Placencia (about 10 minutes $10BZD/£4).
South of Belize, Placencia is a peninsula in the Caribbean that has all of the island vibes of Caye Caulker with a lot more beach, beautiful beach at that. Happy hours are still aplenty and, unsurprisingly, so are the expats. Craving some comfort food, we stopped by the Pickled Parrot on our first night for tasty burgers and potato skins. Owned by Eugene from New Jersey, the Parrot is one of many expat hubs here, that almost have you forgetting where you are, even walking around we were frequently greeted with ‘hey there’ or ‘have a nice day guys’ by (we assumed) American expats. It felt like there was a nice community here- if that’s what you’re after.
Similar to Caye Caulker, Placencia offered a lot of tour opportunities. You could dive, snorkel, ride horses, sail to nearby Cayes and even go on a tour of a chocolate farm. However, we found that even after haggling prices didn’t drop below $80 per person on the tours we were interested in, which was just way out of our budget. A budget which perhaps could only be broken by one-on-one time with otters or sloths (our respective favourite animals). So unashamedly we treated ourselves to three nights of soaking up Belize’s Caribbean beach culture one last time and did nothing but eat, drink and work on our tans.
Where we stayed:
Situated at the North end of the peninsula, Lydia’s is a good budget option for a private room. Each room had a ceiling and wall fan and bathrooms were shared at a ratio of 1 per 2 rooms. There was also a shared kitchen, wifi and a little outdoor area to chill out in. We booked very last minute through booking.com for $60BZD (£24), but Lydia told us that not all of her rooms are available online so it’s still worth checking it out if you arrive without accommodation. Available to book via Booking.com. Follow this link to get £15 off!
Where we ate/drank:
The Pickled Parrot
As mentioned above, this is an expat-hangout with daily events and $10BZD daily lunch specials. We got nice and juicy burgers here with a side of amazing potato skins and then, after Eugene the owner sold it to us so well, ended up coming back for the Wednesday special chicken parmesan, also delicious and great value for the location.
The Mojo Lounge
A little pricier than other places nearby, with mains at around $30BZD (£12), this was a cosy upper-floor restaurant with a balcony with views of the Pier. We got the coconut fish and Mayan fish, both of which were well-cooked and flavourful.
The Tipsy Tuna
One of two beachfront bars/restaurants along with Barefoot Beach Bar, the Tuna is a good spot for sunbathing with drinks – we managed to get a spot every day, though that is likely due to it being low season- and has a good mix of daily food/drink deals as well as live music. Go on Wednesday for the $1BZD (£0.40) wings and Garufina drumming.
Barefoot Beach Bar
With daily drinks specials, happy hour and a beachfront setting, this is a good bar to sit back and take Placencia in. We visited in low season so generally the bar was busy but not overcrowded. If you are in town on a night that BBB is hosting a Jam Session, be sure to check it out.