A Live Report from Caribbean Belize

This postcard is a special delivery, direct from Belize’s Placencia Peninsula. I’m on an editorial assignment in the Stann Creek District and I have to admit, life seldom is sweeter than this!

After spending the better part of Monday flying and driving, I arrived at my destination—near Maya Beach—anxious to settle in and check out our friends’ beach home. Also prominent in my mind was which of the many recommended restaurants we’d pick for that night’s meal. But we’ll return to that topic later…

The next day, after a solid night’s sleep, I walked out onto our bedroom veranda to behold a cloudless, brilliant blue sky, the sun’s rays reflecting off a sea surface as smooth as glass. In other words, the perfect day to explore the beach…

The Placencia Peninsula is reputed to have the country’s most exceptional beaches. One of my goals while here is to check out several popular beach areas on the peninsula, so after breakfast we headed out, dogs in tow. At 8 a.m. the sun was already intense, with not a whisper of a breeze in the air.

It’s quite common for the sea to be calm and serene here most mornings, my friend tells me, with the waves picking up in the afternoon.

One of the most appealing things about the Placencia Peninsula’s beaches is that they’re about more than sand (which they have in abundance). The variety of trees we passed during our walk really took me by surprise. There are plenty of coconut palms, of course, but the coast along the beach is also peppered with attractive palmettos, as well as fruit-bearing sea grape, cocoplum, and craboo trees.

Our friend pointed out fiddlewood, and their distinctive purple flowers. And the Australian pine is now a fixture along the Placencia coastline.

Despite the intense morning sun, every view was worth another picture. Many offshore cayes can be seen clearly on the horizon. And docks, with inviting palapa-roofed leisure areas, are common sights along the coastline.

Many of the homes in this area between Maya Beach and Seine Bight are part of pre-established boutique communities, each with its own vibe, plans, covenants, and restrictions. We passed a number of other residents, either walking their dogs, or working on a local construction project. Each time we stopped to chat. This is clearly a community where people get to know one another…

Although beachfront lots on the peninsula are no longer a deal, there are plenty of lots on the lagoon side going for between $50,000 to $100,000, with fantastic views of the lagoon and the Maya Mountains part of the package.

There’s more to recommend this area than just beaches and lagoon-fronting properties though. I’m constantly hearing rave reviews from friends who’ve just returned from a visit to the area. Whether discussing the latest restaurants, cafes, bars, boutique or craft stores, or commenting on the general colorful Caribbean ambiance, the majority return with positive reports.

The Placencia Peninsula is known to home some of the most stunning beaches in Belize.

Placencia has come a long way in the last five to 10 years. The road along the peninsula is now fully paved…a variety of chic restaurants have opened…there’s now a yoga studio…and even a bowling alley!

You’ll find plenty of retired expats living here, part or full time. But younger expat couples are not uncommon, either. They’re raising their children and operating businesses. And a growing number work online. They weren’t willing to wait until retirement to live their dream…

But let’s revisit our first night’s dinner. I was anxious to try one of Belize’s most lauded restaurants, the Maya Beach Bistro. It didn’t disappoint. The night started with an unexpected surprise. In Belize most wines are South American, but the Bistro was offering one of my favorites, a little known Austrian wine called Gruner Veltliner. It’s difficult to find this wine, even in the USA.

Things went from good to great as the evening proceeded: quinoa and pepper churros, watermelon and feta salad, prosciutto-wrapped grouper, gnocchi with black truffle oil, and last, but not least, chocolate soufflé with homemade vanilla ice cream. All of that was eaten on an open-air deck in mid-November…without a sweater…with an orange moon rising over the Caribbean Sea…

Admittedly, it was a splurge to eat at the Bistro—one that, for me, was well worth it. But Belize’s own specialties are freely available in Placencia, too. You can eat at Wendy’s or Omar’s, authentic Belizean restaurants in the village, for under $10 for a full meal. The stewed chicken and pork roast with mashed potatoes and veggies costs only $6. And the ambiance at Wendy’s, a charming pink building right in the village, is especially appealing. But when we’re in the mood for a San Francisco style gourmet meal, it’s nice to know there is yet another bistro we can visit to satisfy that longing.

And after Placencia, we head to Hopkins. It’s tough work, but someone’s got to do it!

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