Heartbeet Kitchen
Travel Scenes: a Guide to Placencia, Belize
March 23, 2016 in Travel · 23 Comments

Travel Guide to Placencia, Belize.

I gave myself a deadline of one month from the time we returned from Belize to tell you guys about our vacation. And I did it, with one day to spare! I got caught up a few times writing the post, sifting through all the pictures and replaying the memories in my mind. There were so many things that made me fall in love with the village of Placencia – a vibrant, yet somewhat hidden gem situated at the bottom of this 16 mile long peninsula in southern Belize. From dockside dinners of fresh jackfish (above), beautiful morning rains, the hot afternoon sun, the cultural diversity, a tiny gelato stand we couldn’t stay away from, making chocolate by hand at a Mayan family chocolate company, and more….. it was 10 days well spent.

There’s so much I could share with you, but to make it easy, I decided to split up this guide to Placencia in terms of where to stay, the food, things to do, and the culture. Hopefully it gives you a grasp of our adventure, and I say without hesitation that you should book a trip to this beautiful place.

Travel: Placencia, Belize

Where we stayed:
As I travel more, renting a house through Air BnB has worked out great for us. There is a lot of flexibility in finding your price range, the location you want to be at, and because they are personally owned, always well kept/furnished.

This is the home that I found, and it was really easy communicating with the property owner before we arrived to make sure it was a good fit. It was beautiful you guys! I dream of having that much open space, and the bright modern feel was just our style. The little pool and cabana was ours too, which made for perfect afternoons reading and relaxing. The house was less than $130 a night, whereas the average rate of any hotel or resort in Placencia is at least $200.

air Bnb Placencia, Belizeair Bnb Placencia, Belizeair Bnb Placencia, Belize

Getting around: The house was a 5 minute drive from the heart of the village, and although we couldn’t walk to anything, I really liked that we had a little privacy and were away from the nightlife noise. We took a taxi ride to/from the village each day, which was super affordable at $10. You’ll see golf carts buzzing around the road, which I do not suggest because the the roads are so narrow, and they cost $350 to rent for a week. (Side note, I might just move down there and sell golf carts….)

What to Do: 

What I love about Placencia is that it’s not nearly as busy as anywhere we’ve gone in Mexico or San Pedro & Caye Caulker which Brian has been to. The town is small, yet alive, with plenty of places to eat and all the necessities. You can snorkel, scuba dive, visit the rainforest, seeing the Mayan ruins, go deep sea fishing, or drink rum punch and sun-bathe for hours.

Be sure to spend a day at Maya Beach, the nicest of them all on the peninsula, and make an afternoon of it at Maya Beach Bistro. Great food, the best wine list you’ll see, and a swim-up pool that you can use. And there’s happy hour. We walked the entire length of the beach, which was beautiful, and also how this picture came to be, right after I chased after a coconut that had dropped, and found a man to whack it open with a machete. It was my first taste of fresh coconut water, and wow – barely sweet and so refreshing, just amazing.

Maya Beach {Placencia, Belize}

If you enjoy food or culture, setting up tours with Taste Belize is the way to go. Run soley by Lyra Spang, who grew up here on a cacao farm and has gotten her PhD in anthropology along the way. Her knowledge is extensive, and she gives you have an authentic experience that is above and beyond the many other tours you will see touted. I set up a day comprised of going to Ixcacao Chocolate and a spice farm. Both visits were great, but making chocolate from bean to bar, with my own hands, was an experience I will never forget. It was as chocolate should be, without preservatives or artificial junk. As someone who sees the beauty in real food, the growing, the process, the end result – it came full circle. You can watch a short video here to see me in action making it.

Making Chocolate from Bean to Bar - Ixcacao Chocolate Making Chocolate from Bean to Bar - Ixcacao Chocolate Making Chocolate from Bean to Bar - Ixcacao Chocolate

Visiting the Spice Farm in Toledo

nutmeg grows on trees!

Lyra also took us to the spice farm where we were able to see many native plants growing. Lucky for us, there was one nutmeg ready to picked! It grows inside two shells, and the red one is actually mace, a spice often used in Indian cooking.

green peppercorns, drying

Peppercorns are green when picked, then as they dry they turn black like we are used to using in the kitchen. At the green stage, they are super spicy, almost like cayenne pepper.

cinnamon bark

Did you know that culinary cinnamon is the bark of a cinnamon tree? Here it is drying in the hot house.

And below is the kind, intelligent man who taught us took us around the farm and explained all the interesting things. This is the fresh turmeric they harvested.

harvesting turmeric

The Food:
Sometimes it can be hit or miss when you travel to Caribbean destinations as to how the food is going to be (we had this experience in Aruba, and I’ve heard the same about the Bahamas) but Belize, oh you have an amazing, authentic food scene!

As we become acquainted with the roadside stands and a few of the restaurants, we quickly learned that rice and beans (simmered in coconut milk – yum), handmade tamales, stewed chicken, and grilled fish (like conch and barracuda) are some of the classic dishes. You’ll find fresh squeezed tropical juices everywhere, the perfect refreshment as the sun gets very hot. Watermelon and guava were my favorites, so hydrating.

Plantain and cassava chips. Starfruit, mango, passionfruit, soursop. Fry jack, tortillas, garnaches (tostadas), panades (empanadas) – homemade by women on the street, rolling them out like clockwork. Watching them, you know these are recipes and techniques passed down from past generations, and their is so much pride in carrying that on.

Rice and Beans, with Barbecued Chicken & Fish from Brenda's (in Placencia, Belize)

This was our lunch from Brenda’s roadside hut, situated at the end of the village by the docks. She cooks every day, by herself, and she’ll talk a mile a minute as she stirs and serves. The smell of burning, sea soaked planks with creole chicken and fish takes over, and her rum punch is definitely a recipe she’s perfected over time.

an authentic Mayan meal in Belize

When we visited Ixcacao Chocolate the owners graciously made us a traditional Mayan meal. So colorful, so full of spice and deep flavor. I had a chance to taste things I’ve never had before, like stewed cacao chile chicken, and the native squash you see on the right side of the plate.

Must Try Restaurants:
Tranquilo – the first picture in this post was our dinner at Tranquilo, a unique restaurant that you get to via a small boat at the pier. You’ll coast across the ocean, and approach the stand alone restaurant on the Caribbean sea. Amazing bar, amazing food, and laid back atmosphere. The lights twinkle, the fish is caught fresh every day, and the sunsets are not to be missed.

Rum Fish y Vino – Take your favorite farm to table restaurant here in the United States, and that is what you have at Rum Fish, what I thought was the best restaurant and service in Placencia. The menu changes daily, and the dishes are super creative and capture local flavors. Everything is made in house, and the unique presentation of the dishes was stunning! We enjoyed the Fish Columbo (pan roasted snook fillet with curried vegetables and rice, and a papaya pineapple riata) and the Lionfish Crudo, as well as their house infused cocktails. And they were very accommodating to my gluten-allergy, which made things stress free.

Rum Fish y Vino (placencia, belize)Rum Fish y Vino (placencia, belize)

Other notables:
Above Ground Coffeehouse: great place to work, and they have terrific coffee, all from fair trade, organic farmers. Brian loved their warm toast and housemade jams from local fruit too.
– If you want a casual bar with a good TV for watching sports and good vibe (I have that man who can’t miss many Minnesota Wild games): Pickled Parrot
Tutti Frutti Gelato: you’ll go once, and go back every single day you are there. No joke. The owners are from Italy and it is the richest, creamy gelato I’ve ever had. And a cone is only $2!

And lastly, be sure to wander.
Let go of your “to-do” list back home,
enjoy the time with those you’re traveling with,
embrace your body as it gives you strength and see beauty in it when you bare a little skin,
see the happy in the little things,
and the big things (Brian and I celebrated 6 years together on our last night)…… I’ll leave you with a few miscellaneous pictures that I just couldn’t leave out, and if there’s somewhere else you suggest similar to Belize, let me know in the comments! xo

Travel: Placencia, Belize abandoneed air stream trailorPlacencia, Belize 5amanda and brian

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google +
  • Stumble
  • Email

23 thoughts on “Travel Scenes: a Guide to Placencia, Belize

  1. Shelley | Sevengrams

    Can I hop a plane ASAP? These photos are so dreamy Amanda, and Belize looks like such a perfect combo of good food, great sites, and ‘informative expeditions.’ You’re also too adorable all giddy with your coconut. I remember chasing a man down the beach in Costa Rica for some fresh coconut water #worthit. Happy Thursday! xx

    Reply
  2. Madeline

    What a fun trip! I use Airbnb often when I travel now and seriously think it is the best way to go. It is so much cheaper than a hotel and it usually has so much more space since you can rent an entire house/apt! It looks like you had a great time–now I need to get to a beach asap.

    Reply
  3. Abby @ Heart of a Baker

    Well now I have an incredible hankering to travel to Belize! My husband and I were talking about taking a trip like this, but away from the typical tourist destinations of Mexico. This looks perfect! p.s. You and Brian are the cutest!

    Reply
  4. Faith (An Edible Mosaic)

    What an experience! You travel way I love to travel – by immersing yourself completely in the cuisine and culture! The cacao and spice farms both look incredible, and I want to dig into that beautiful Mayan meal! I am dying to try Air BnB too – I’ve heard so many good things! xoxo

    Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      i will gladly plan a girls trip there with you! there were plenty of things i didn’t even get to that i wanted. and i can’t get the gelato out of my head, and i want to make chocolate again. and drink margaritas. ;) xo

      Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      Yes, the orange kitty friend may have been one of my favorite things we stumbled upon! There was another black one that looked just like Grace that I wanted to take home…. Also, you would have loved the handmade corn tortillas….

      Reply
  5. Tessa | Salted Plains

    The photographs you caught on your visit are beautiful and so vivid. I want to go there (and make chocolate)!!! And what a find of a house! I’m so glad you shared this and happy you two were able to have such a fun way to celebrate 6 years together! <3

    Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      Aw thanks Tessa! It’s such a vibrant, colorful place. Was such a welcomed change from the gray and “just about spring” look of Minnesota right now. You should take a trip there with your beau! xo

      Reply
  6. carrie @ frugal foodie mama

    Soooooo… now I totally want to plan a trip to Belize, and more specifically Placencia! This looks amazing! The food & the foodie experiences alone have me convinced. ;) And just $130 a night for the house you rented?? That is awesome!

    Reply
  7. Andi

    I have been all around Belize, but not Belize itself. I have a friend who bought retirement investment property down there and raves about it. I was supposed to stop there this past Christmas on a cruise but we were weathered out and I didn’t get the peek I wanted. I definitely want to go there and after reading this post, I’d just like to do a copy/paste! This is exactly how I would want to do it and everything looked amazing and delicious, I will be keeping this post for further reference! Beautiful photos too!

    Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      I would love to go where you have been, we could flip flop! The Yucatan, which is just above Belize, is high on my list. Thanks for stopping by, and happy traveling!

      Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      You and Tony would love it. Lots to do, but not typical tourist-y things if you search it out. The spice farm was super interesting, and made me really appreciate pulling a jar off my rack. And Air BnB, so the way to go these days!

      Reply
  8. Rachelle

    Love all the spiced featured here! Nutmeg looks wild! My husband and I made chocolate in Costa Rica, much like you did here. Was an experience I”ll never forget.

    Reply
  9. Steffy

    I went to Belize for just one day on a cruise over ten years ago, and I have been in love with it ever since. Although we didn’t get a chance to experience such a variety of things, the traditional chicken, beans, and rice in coconut milk is just as divine as she describes… ask my family, I am little obsessed with that dish now. The people were amazing, vibrant and funny, and the feeling of the place was enchanting. There are Amish people in Belize City and probably other areas who live simply but carry on a thriving furniture trade. The Mayan ruins are as spectacular as you can imagine. The flora and fauna are both familiar and new, some a little dangerous. The children swam in the same river where, a mile or so beforehand on the boat trip, I had seen an alligator sunning.

    Reply
  10. Kristina

    Hi Amanda. Great blog on Belize. We are going in August to dive. Looking forward to it! I wanted to ask where you got the suit your wearing sitting on the dock with the white hat on. Blue strappy trendy looks like a one piece. I’ve not worn one pieces in the past but this one looks really cute!!

    Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      Hello!
      Have so much fun in Belize. We loved it. My suit is from American Eagle, which I bought about a year and a half ago. Sadly I don’t believe they sell it anymore. :(

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *