We’ve hiked, twitched and kayaked our way through the jungle of Belize, but there is much more to this amazing country and it was time for some R&R on the Caribbean coast, to experience a different side to the country.
About three hours for Black Rock Lodge is Placencia, one of the best known resorts in Belize. It’s a charming, low key strip sandwiched between the Caribbean and a lagoon which basically consists of one main road. There are no high rise mega resorts or discos here, just the beach hotels, the palmed fringed beach and some great eateries which still boast an unpretentious, local feel. It all looks fairly unassuming but don’t be fooled into thinking there isn’t plenty to do and plenty of luxury here. I am all for quiet places which haven’t been ruined by the boom of discos and the hoards which go with them. Here you jump on a hired bike or stroll the main street at night to find everyone out enjoying a chat and slice at the open air bar, both locals and expats who have found the pace to their taste.
We stayed at Turtle Inn, one of Francis Ford Coppola’s stable of hotels in exotic locations. We like our wine and thought, with his links to Sonoma County, this was the place to get the good stuff (we were not wrong as we proved most lunch times with a very lovely Director’s Cut Russian River Chardonnay, which I could quite happily drink right now). The Balinese inspired hotel is low key from the main road, all palm trees, thatched roofs and a little bridge over the water with the eponymous turtles, and has a lovely laid back feel which we really appreciated throughout our stay. Who needs glitzy and blingy outside Vegas? This was much more in keeping with the location and we never felt required to do anything and could saunter through our day at a relaxed pace.
There are only 25 cottages and villas and they are set in lovely gardens so you don’t feel like you are crammed in. You can waft from the beach to the pool between the villas without seeing another person most of the day and we had the adult pool, set in a quiet corner, mostly to ourselves for the duration – I don’t think that’s due to anything we did?! There is family pool nearer the reception and beach bar area which was more well used.
Our seafront cottage was lovely – up on stilts, all wooden and thatched with a veranda and big lounge/bedroom space so you can get all your clobber out of your case. We slept every night with the shutters and doors open (sorry neighbours) so we could see and hear the waves and watch the moon on the water – really magical. And we’d wake up early every morning and shuffle to the front door to watch the sun come up over the sea and the pelicans flying in. Every day they would top our cookie jar up and we would contemplate not having to go out for lunch today and save ourselves for the evening – and every day we would go and have lunch as the pull of the seafront bar menu and wine list proved too much. We enjoyed lovely seafood, as you would expect, and there were always specials to supplement the menu. I loved the fish tacos and the fish burger.
Now, apparently, the coast off Placencia is fantastic for scuba diving being as it’s home to the Belize Barrier Reef – the largest in the Northern Hemisphere. Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve are just off the coast, as is Blue Hole, made famous by Cousteau and there are amazing cayes you can stay on – apparently. Full disclosure – we spent every day by the pool or on the beach and the closest we got to diving was watching the weary, sunburned divers come back to shore all salty and sandy, from the our spot at the beach bar. We were just ready to relax so didn’t take up any of the concierge’s kind offers to go bobbing about. But, if you are more adventurous, and better with boats, than us, rest assured the hotel can facilitate any number of excursions for you. There is also a jaguar sanctuary and birding opportunities if you don’t mind being in the car some more or getting up early.
In the evenings we would jump in the outdoor shower in our walled back garden and get our swankiest (ie. not very swanky at all) gear on to head out. The hotel run a regular shuttle service down the main street to the main hub of restaurants, it’s not far but there are no streetlights for some of it so best not to walk. We tried a range of local delights – from sitting with our feet in the sand rustic style to up on a verandah, the food retained a local, traditional flavour wherever we went. Some look quiet unassuming but be brave, these are small establishments run by locals so whilst not fancy, the food is awesome. And the cocktails are pretty amazing too.
Rumfish Y Vino is probably the ‘poshest’ outside of a hotel. Upstairs, with a lovely balcony, it has an American style dinner sort of feel. Expect lots of great fish and shellfish, all really fresh and served with a Caribbean twist – a spicy sauce or special side. Buzzy and fun, this was a good night out and there is the Tutti Frutti ice cream shop next door so you can either save yourself for dessert – or have two! It’s pretty cosy and gets busy so be sure to book.
Dawn’s Grill is altogether more rustic and homely but the queue out the door will tell you all you need to know. This place has a great reputation for its seafood and is a really laid back, fun evening out. The fresh seafood is amazing, all cooked by Dawn and with lovely flavours. Cosy up and spend some time.
Some evenings we would get back to Turtle Inn and join some of our new found friends for something else from Mr Coppola’s cellar to round the evening off. The Mare Restaurant is very lovely and lots of non-residents seek it out for the great food and atmosphere. We enjoyed great big breakfasts here every day and it has a wonderful romantic setting, just off the beach.
So, what a wonderful stay we had in this beautiful, laid back town. Placencia and Turtle Inn were just the right vibe for us, authentic, low key, quiet with all the right amenities. The cottage was really made for relaxing and taking in the beautiful scenery, the staff were very friendly and helpful, popping up just when a fresh glass of water or a cocktail was required. The perfect end to our amazing stay in this amazing country. Thanks Mr Coppola.
Does this sound like your cup of tea? Let us know if you’re a jungle or a beach person, we’d love to hear your thoughts.