My most recent travel adventure took me to Placencia, Belize. Back in September, my friend Sarah had asked if I wanted to go on an all-inclusive vacation in November. Since I never turn down the opportunity to travel, my immediate answer was, “yes” but I wanted to pick the perfect location. Since I was already in Cuba this year for Jamie + Pat’s wedding and since I am going to Domincan Republic in June for Michelle + Ricardo’s, I wanted to choose a new place to visit. I wanted to read on a beach, to drink rum and to also have a little adventure. Belize seemed like the perfect country to check out. I have a lot to say about this trip so I am going to break it up into two blog posts: this one that is about the resort that we stayed at and the next one that will be about what I did while in Belize.
I had always wanted to go to Belize. It borders Mexico so is very close to Chetumal where my sister owns a house. It is the only country in Central America where the first language is English (although Spanish & Kriol are also spoken everywhere here). Belize is not a very popular all-inclusive vacation destination spot but when I saw that Sunwing does offer one there, we jumped on it. I have traveled with Sunwing a number of times and it has always been a great experience.
The Sunwing trip was to stay at The Placencia located near – you guessed it – Placencia. The town of Placencia is located on the tip of a peninsula in the South of Belize. It is a relatively underdeveloped area of the country in terms of tourism which was partly what drew me to it. There are big plans for this area with new hotels and an airport but for the time being, it is a secret little paradise.
Placencia is a bit of an adventure to get to as you cannot fly directly there from Toronto. To get there you have to fly into Belize City and from there take a small plane to Placencia (or alternatively drive about 3 1/2 hours). The Sunwing vacation had the flight from Toronto divided into people going to Belize and others traveling to Roatan in Honduras. The plan for our trip was to fly to Roatan, drop off the travelers going there and then to continue our flight to Belize City. It was very cloudy when we arrived to Roatan and the airport was closed there so we ended up going to Belize City as the first stop. Customs was easy and painless to go through at the Belize City airport (BZE). Before going through security we paid about $0.75 USD to a woman in a booth but I am not sure what it was for. BZE had a few shops and a couple of places to get food. Most importantly, it had this little bar where you could get rum punch ($5 USD, beers were $3). The bartender claimed that he makes the best rum punch and I have to say it was pretty good. We even managed to snag some free wifi while we waited to board our next flight. The actual flight from Toronto to Belize City is about four and a half hours.
The airline that took us to Placencia was called Maya Island Air. We had no idea what to expect and when we saw the tiny planes, I was pretty excited. I have never been on such a small plane before – it seated twelve. The flight took a half hour and we flew straight down the coast. Seeing the country from that vantage point was gorgeous. For the flight home, I was chosen to ride co-pilot which was pretty cool. Although, I must admit that I was a wee bit nervous when I saw that the pilot was rocking out to his iPod during the flight and was also texting away the entire time.
The airport in Placencia is teeny tiny and the airstrip was the smallest I have seen. It seemed as though we were going to land on the water. There is a road that runs at the beginning of the airstrip so you can imagine the hazards of being a driver there – keep your eye to the sky!
From the Placencia airport, we loaded up in vans and headed to The Placencia. It was about a twenty minute ride. Since Placencia is a very narrow penisula, there is only one road that runs the length of it. It was recently repaved so it was a smooth ride but filled with lots of speed bumps (In Mexico we yell “tope!” when we see one!). There are two little towns that you drive through on the way to The Placencia and they are called Siene Bright and Maya Beach. Otherwise, you will see lots of million dollar homes and plots of land with For Sale signs.
We were a fairly small group of twenty traveling so check-in at the resort was pretty quick. They were ready for us with these delicious glasses of rum punch. Everyone at the hotel was super friendly right from the start.
The Placencia is a very quaint and relatively fancy resort. It has only ninety rooms and I loved this. I have stayed at big resorts where you need to get a ride on a golf cart to get around and hated it. It was nice that everything was so close. If you are looking to go on vacation to party it up, this is definitely not the place to visit. Besides our small group from Sunwing, there were only about ten other guests at the resort. It was quiet but I found this great. It was exactly what I needed.
The Placencia is only about eight years old so everything seemed very new. Our room was what they call a “Gardenview” room. It had a very comfortable king-sized bed and a balcony. I also loved the rain showerhead.
The infinity pool was simply gorgeous. It had two different levels and great lounge chairs and umbrellas everywhere. It also included the mandatory-for-all-resorts swim-up bar. I liked the lounge chairs that were actually in the water. The bar was located right there so you could access it from both the pool and the beach.
The Placencia has a beach front with more lounge chairs and big palm-leaf umbrellas. The water was very warm but was not very clear. For myself, it did not bother me as I will basically swim in any sort of water. The bottom of the water was black silt/clay-like so it stirred up when you walked in it. Some people at the resort were turned off by the water so stuck to the pool which was fine by me. I love salt water, no matter what.
The best part about the beach here was definitely the starfish. Never in my life have I seen starfish like this. They were hanging out everywhere close to the shore and they came in all colours and sizes. I loved them.
You could also see lots of fish close to shore, as well as jellyfish. The jellyfish just floated around like plastic bags in the water and did not do much. There was no need to be afraid of them stinging. On the first night that we were at Placencia, Sarah and I saw two coatis. Later on I was walking the beach and found some of their footprints. I think that is pretty cool that there was so much wildlife close by. We were told that there is a crocodile that lives in the lagoon at the resort but the only one that I saw was one when we went out for a bike ride down the road. Don’t worry, he was only about four feet long.
The Placencia has two restaurants: the A la Carte one and the buffet. For us Sunwing travelers, we were allowed to have dinner once at the A la Carte. Otherwise all meals were at the buffet which was located in a large gazebo at the end of a long pier. I loved that we were eating out on top of the ocean. Hands-down the food here was the best that I have ever consumed at an all-inclusive resort. It was incredibly fresh and delicious at every meal. At dinner there was always three protein options: beef, chicken and fish. Since I do not eat meat, I always had the fish. One night they had lobster and shrimp in a coconut curry. Another night there was two big Red Snappers and they cut off a piece for you. Every night there was entertainment at dinner including African dancers, Mayan dancers and, uh, karaoke. The alcohol that was included in our package included the regular rail drinks as well as domestic beer (my favourite was Belikin that came as a lager or a stout). At dinner they served wine but be warned that there was no white wine available. The choices were red or rosé. I am a red wine drinker so this was fine by me.
One very cool thing that The Placencia has, and that I have not seen at any other resort, is their very own organic garden. At first when you see it, it just looks like a few beds of vegetables but as soon as you walk in, you discover that the garden is it’s own little paradise. The full-time gardener, Nicola Flores, was very eager to give me a tour of the gardens. I was exhausted just hearing about it all and am amazed at the amount of work that he does to keep everything growing. A lot of the fruit and vegetables that they serve in the restaurants is grown right here. The kitchen waste is then used to make compost so it is a perfect cycle. Nicola grows everything from papaya, banana, plantain and pineapple to squash, eggplant, peppers and sugarcane. He told me about how he fights insects in organic ways with marigolds and chili peppers. I loved seeing his enthusiasm and love for the plants. It is not everyday that we are lucky enough to meet such incredible, hardworking and genuine people like Nicola. I also liked that he was wearing a hat with a Canadian flag.
The one downfall of our trip was in the last couple of days when sand flies seemed to take over. In the first few days that we were in Placencia, there were hundreds of big dragonflies. I am not sure if they were eating the sand flies or the mosquitoes but during the last couple of days that we were at the resort, it was very cloudy and the dragonflies had disappeared. Whatever the reason, they sandflies were pretty bad and we came home with very itchy bites everywhere. The problem with these insects is that they are the size of basically a freckle so you do not see them until it is too late. I have never had any experience with insects like this before in all of the traveling that I have done so was surprised by this. I did buy some Jungle Sauve at the hotel and it helped ease the itchiness when I got home.
The people working at The Placencia were really what made the trip that much more enjoyable. Everyone was so kind and genuine. They knew your name and room number by the end of the first day and really made you feel comfortable. They were dedicated and hardworking and they also all had big dreams for their lives which I loved hearing about. All and all, if you are looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation, I would definitely recommend visiting The Placencia.
Note: you can buy wireless internet for the cost of $50 USD per week or $15 per day. We opted for the week and could use it anywhere on the resort’s grounds which was super.