Just over a week ago, Brad and I returned from a 7 day vacation in Placencia, Belize and it changed me. I fell in love with this small peninsula and the people that live there in a way I could not have predicted. We went on this trip to relax on the beach and celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, but this vacation-turned-adventure proved to be more than we could have hoped for.
On our first night, we rode bicycles around town in search of restaurants for our first meal and coffee shops for the next morning. We sang Karaoke with new friends and locals (lots of Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline) while drinking Panty Rippers (a very popular Belizean cocktail made of local coconut rum and pineapple juice). It was kind of a Lost in Translation: Belize Edition kind of situation. During the week, we ate lots of stewed chicken with rice, beans, and fried plantains for lunch and cooked red snapper that we purchased from a fisherman just after he returned to the pier from his day of deep sea fishing. We explored a cave in the jungle that was filled with Mayan remains, including a perfectly preserved and crystallized skeleton. And of course, we relaxed on the beach and alternated between reading and napping while sipping on rum punch. It was a dream.
Getting to Placencia
The best way to get to Placencia, a long, narrow peninsula on Belize's East coast, is to fly into Belize City, then hop on a puddle jumper (i.e. a teensy, tiny plane) for a 30 minute flight to Maya Beach Airport. The flight is, surprisingly, not scary, mostly because the scenery is so stunning that you don't have time to be afraid.
When we landed, we were picked up by the managers of the Caribbean Beach Cabanas, where we booked our stay. When we arrived at CBC, we were given ice cold rum punch to sip while we filled out our paperwork and tried not to look too blissfully happy about all the beauty surrounding us (we for sure failed and looked like complete dorks).
I'm going to do a couple separate posts about the excursions we went on during our trip, but I wanted to include a quick overview in this post of what we did during our 7 days in Placencia, Belize. It was truly the perfect combination of relaxation and adventuring!
7 Days in Placencia
- Sunday: Today was half travel day, half introduction-to-Placencia day. We arrived around 3:00pm, giving us time to explore the town a bit, grab a delicious dinner at Rum Fish (their coconut mojito is delicious!) and, as mentioned above, hit up a local bar for some karaoke! We met some great people who were also staying at CBC, so we spent the night chatting and singing and enjoying local libations.
- Monday: We bicycled to a local coffee shop, Above Grounds, where I had a fresh green juice, an iced latté, and toast with housemade preserves. We sat on the balcony overlooking the street and people watched in the morning heat and humidity. When we returned to our little casita, we immediately hit the beach to cool off and commence the relaxing. That night, we went to Tipsy Tuna and Barefoot Bar, both right on the beach with a stunning view of the sea. Barefoot Bar has the best atmosphere and food (the tamarind quesadillas are amazing), but both are perfect for a fun evening!
- Tuesday: We got up early and headed to the ATM Cave (Actun Tunichil Muknal) and this day, more than any travel experience I've had in quite some time, changed me in so many ways. I have so many things to say about this, so I'm going to save most of it for a separate post. But let me at least say that if you go to Belize, this is a MUST DO. It takes the majority of the day, so plan for a restful night when you return to Placencia. But be prepared to be completely blown away. At the end of the tour, we had a delicious lunch (stewed chicken, rice and beans, macaroni salad and banana bread) with a rather large cup of rum punch. Oh, and we ate it at the edge of the jungle. THE JUNGLE, PEOPLE.
make me hungry.
- Wednesday: This was Monkey River day! Yes, another excursion into the jungle. WHO EVEN AM I. We got up early enough to grab some Belizean fast food (NOT McDonald's) before getting on a boat with Percy Gordon, our jungle-expert tour guide. Our mission: to see howler monkeys, manatees, crocodiles, and learn about jungle medicines. We did all of those things and more. For example, we saw some adorable little bats who, once our guide startled them, flew directly over my head and peed on me. Lovely. The rest of the day was amazing and a little scary (hello- it's the REAL JUNGLE guys) and included the most delicious version of stewed chicken with rice and beans that we had on the entire trip. That night, we pan fried an amazing snapper caught and cleaned by local fishermen, and made fish tacos with our lovely new friends who went on the Monkey River tour as well. We were all happy to have full bellies and cold beers in hand that night!
- Thursday: After two full days, I needed a day off. So Thursday was a beach/nap/reading day that began with coffee and Johnny Cakes at another local coffee shop, Brewed Awakenings, and ended with a delicious dinner at the Maya Beach Bistro (I have an entire post about this wonderful place, with Denver connections, coming soon). There was something so vibrant and fun about Brewed Awakenings. The women working there played amazing music and let their bodies move to it in a way that was catching. The art on the tables, the bright colored posts, and the cats lazily lounging on benches made place this a fast favorite. Oh, and of course their coffee, shakes, and baked goods were incredible. It was a perfectly low key, romantic day with my sweet husband.
- Friday: Brad went snorkeling on Friday morning and had a pretty amazing time. He saw sting rays, sharks, jelly fish, sea turtles, and so much more. I know this because he told me when he got back. I opted to stay back for a relaxing day of Thai Massage/reading/napping/rum punch. Worth it. Completely worth it. The day ended with a delicious dinner at The Secret Garden and gelato for the fifth (?) time at Tutti Fruitti. Hands down the best gelato I've had outside Italy!
- Saturday: On our final full day in Placencia, we took it slow, soaking in everything we loved about this place that felt like another home to us by the end of the week. We took kayaks out onto the Carribean Sea and Brad convinced me to get into the water with a snorkel. I did it for all of 3 minutes before 3 jelly fish started swimming right at me, their long tentacles trailing behind. I may have panicked slightly and gotten right back into my kayak, saying, "It's fine! I can see things JUST FINE FROM THE SAFETY OF MY KAYAK!" I need to work on that fear a little. But at least I got in the water! The rest of the day was spent smashing coconuts on tree trunks and guzzling the delicious water from inside, reading on the beach, floating in the warm, salty water of the sea, and wondering how 7 days could hold so much adventure and relaxation all at the same time. That night, we watched the sunset from Barefoot Bar, made one last stop at Tutti Fruitti (their dark chocolate gelato is still stuck in my mind as the BEST chocolate gelato/ice cream I've ever had) and took one last dip in the pool at CBC.
are the new breakfast burrito.
- Sunday: We had a few hours to spare before we had to hop on our little puddle jumper to begin our journey home, so we returned to Above Grounds for coffee (Brewed Awakenings was closed, sadly), stopping to buy a Fry Jack (a tortilla filled with meat or eggs, cheese, and beans, then folded in half and fried) afterwards for breakfast. After that, we took one last dip in the ocean before getting cleaned up and packed up. Goodbyes are no fun. This time was no exception. But I know we will be back in Placencia someday soon, so it was goodbye for now, not forever.