Mix yourself a mojito and set yourself up on the sands of this blissful beach town in the sultry shore-lined south of Belize.
If it’s good enough for Francis Ford Coppola, Placencia is good enough for us. This coastal town, on a sand-lined peninsula in the south of Belize, is home to one of the Oscar-winning director’s Coppola Hideaway resorts. After all, it’s hard to argue with Placencia’s silver-screen looks. If vivid blue waters, white-sand beaches, freshwater lagoons, coral reefs and a laid-back Caribbean vibe are your must-haves for a winter-sun escape, Placencia will slap a smile on your face when the seasonal tide swings. Here’s how to explore it in style…
What do you brag about first? The natural beauty bestowed on Francis Ford Coppola’s beachside resort north of Placencia, or the plush rooms? Well, let’s start with the natural attributes, which span a 7ha (17-acre) estate, showing off calm waters in the Placencia Lagoon, lush rainforest and the Maya Mountains. Then, your quarters: luxurious, Balinese-inspired, thatch-roofed cottages and villas, laden with Indonesian art, Japanese soaking tubs and hand-painted tiles from Thailand.
This five-hour tour will take you to the subtropical rainforest along the banks of the Monkey River, 19km (12mi) south of Placencia. You’ll start with a 40-minute boat ride through mangroves, then follow a medicinal hiking trail accompanied by an expert, hoping to spot howler monkeys, exotic birds, iguanas, crocs and possibly tarantulas and snakes along the way – and, if you’re incredibly lucky, the elusive jaguar.
Locals and visitors converge daily and nightly on this split-level beachfront bar. Patrons at the lower-level watering hole can stick their toes in the sand as they enjoy Belizean food, catch-of-the-day lobster and shrimp tacos washed down with a local rum punch. There are burgers on the menu, but you’re here to eat like a local. Opt instead for the ginger lime fish with coconut rice. Thursday is reggae night.
Rooms and villas at this cut-above coastal stay are designed with wraparound terraces, indoor living areas and private plunge pools – so you know you’re in for a good time. There’s equal emphasis on good food and drink, too, with oceanside Limilia restaurant dishing up only local ingredients and fresh fish caught by Itz’ana’s own fishermen. Similarly, the Biblio Bar and aptly named Rum Room summon locavores with a menu designed by master mixologists Bar Lab, the duo behind Miami’s Broken Shaker cocktail bar.
Full-day outer-reef snorkeling tours by Placencia Eagle Ray take guests to the many cayes on the second-largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. The itinerary includes Ranguana Caye, Pompion Caye, Round Caye and the Silk Cayes – also known as the Queen Cayes. Snorkelers are likely to see large lobsters, shrimp, snappers, barracuda, arrow crabs and schools of colorful reef fish. Lunch and gear are included.
For a somewhat fancy dinner, head to Rumfish y Vino to try one of the ceviches, such as the Peruvian version with fresh snapper marinated in lime juice with ginger, spices, sweet pepper and cilantro. Other mains on the menu include Yucatán chicken, with an extra kick from harissa on grilled filets. This being Belize, rum also makes its way onto the menu in the form of various mojitos, including one with pineapple and another with ginger.
After an energetic day exploring Placencia, or perhaps the last night of your family vacation, book a sunset catamaran cruise. Sip on your drink and tuck into cheese and snacks as the captain takes you through the waters along the Placencia Peninsula from late afternoon, returning after sunset.
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