Placencia is probably the country’s second most popular coastal destination, after Ambergris Caye. A rugged dirt road extends from the Southern Highway all the way down the 16 mile-long peninsula ending at Placencia Town at the southern tip. The eastern shore of town is lined by palms and beaches that stretch unbroken all the way up the peninsula, making it one of the finest coastlines in the country. A mile-long sidewalk cuts through the heart of town (about a block or 2 from the beach) and was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s most narrow street”. Budget guesthouses, tour shops, restaurants and bars are scattered throughout this very laid-back town where the motto is “barefoot perfect”. Locals are a mix of Creole, Garinagu, Maya and many American and European expatriates. Surprisingly, although Hurricane Iris hit strongly in 2001, the relatively new construction still looks aged. North of town, nestled along the beaches, are many upscale resorts offering more seclusion. You will also find Seine Bight, a sleepy Garinagu village, a few miles north.
The Caribbean Sea around Placencia offers plenty of activities to fill your days. Between the barrier reef (20 miles offshore) and coast is an interesting series of sinkholes, pinnacles and faroes (shelf atolls), as opposed to the grass beds and patch reefs to the north. There are 3 marine reserves, all UN World Heritage Sites, within these waters. South Water Caye Marine Reserve is northeast just off Dangriga. Laughing Bird Caye National Park is a faro surrounded by deep walls which enclose a central lagoon that offers abundant marine life due to its varied habitats. The Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve sits along the southernmost tip of the barrier reef. Within these reserves and the interceding waters there are dozens of mangrove and coral islands. Additionally, Glover’s Reef Atoll (also a UN World Heritage Site) is only 36 miles northeast. March, April and May bring whale sharks in the nearby Gladden Split area. The diversity of dive sites with varied marine life has led some to call the diving here better than in the northern barrier reef. The fringing reefs and mangroves around the many islands provide prime grounds for fishing as well. Popular coral islands, which are usually included for lunch breaks on dive and snorkel trips, include Ranguana, Randevous, Silk and Laughing Bird Cayes. Kayaking between nearby islands and sailing along these waters are also popular activities.
There are many activities on land as well, making Placencia a destination that offers the best of both worlds. To the north is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (or Jaguar Preserve) which covers 155 square miles of Maya Mountains and is probably one of the country’s most popular parks. It’s not hard to imagine why, with rivers, waterfalls, over 300 bird species and abundant wildlife including the jaguar. During the day you will mostly likely see only footprints; however as a nocturnal cat, night hikes offer the best chances to spot them. A boat ride south of the peninsula will take you to the mouth of the Monkey River. This popular tour goes through varied habitats along the river and nature trails into the surrounding jungle (mostly protected reserves) harboring a great deal of wildlife. You will also see the sleepy riverside village of Monkey River with about 150 residents. The Placencia Lagoon, behind the peninsula, has an extensive network of mangroves and grass beds. Manatees are quite common here while plenty of water birds can be seen perched on mangrove branches. The saltwater flats provide great fishing. Kayaking the calm waters is also a good way to experience the wildlife on the lagoon.