Outside of Costa Rica, Belize is the most touristic destination in Central America. Known for its exquisite coral reefs and an English-speaking population, it is extremely popular with foreign tourists. Once Southwest Airlines began flights to Belize City, I knew that I had to go.
Always one to go against the grain, I decided to avoid the touristy Ambergis Caye, and instead head to the less visited southern region. I chose to base myself in the village of Placencia, which is in the extreme south of Belize.
Getting to Placencia is not easy, it is approximately a one hour flight (with a stop) from Belize City on one of the two local airlines, Tropic Air and Maya Island Air. I chose Tropic Air because I found a code for a 10% discount online and I didn’t have to pay for the reservation until I wanted to. That being said, the flights aren’t cheap, about $79 (before discount) each way from Belize City.
The transfer process in the Belize City airport wasn’t difficult, I just went through immigration, claimed my bag, and checked it in at the Tropic Air check in desk. After that, it was just a two hour wait for my Tropic Air flight. There isn’t much to see in Belize City so it’s basically a transit destinations for nearly all tourists.
Tropic Air is probably the most interesting airline I’ve ever taken, the plane was a single propeller plane with only 8 seats. The leg room was good by airline standards and the views were amazing. That being said it did frighten me that there was only one pilot; if something happened to him we would be going down together. This seems like an unsafe practice to say the least.
Once I arrived at the Placencia airstrip, my bag was waiting; it appears another plane came with baggage only. Note that I say airstrip because it is literally just a short airstrip with a trailer for people to wait inside with no lights. Due to the lack of lighting, there are limited hours.
From here, a couple of local drivers were waiting. I hopped in with one and he gave me a ride to the apartment that I rented for 12 Belize dollars, or 6 American dollars. The apartments I chose to stay in are called Miramar Apartments, which were right on the beach. The owner was very nice and upgraded me to a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment, the cost was only $110 a night.
This place is truly a village, one can walk to the end of the town in 10 minutes. There are a few restaurants and a few shacks as well, mostly serving fresh seafood. The village is known for its beaches, known as the best in Belize.
The one big mistake I made on this trip was to choose a cheap snorkeling operator. The morning after I arrived, I got a call and rushed over but was told the boat left. The next two days, the owner said that it was too windy to go. I learned later that the more expensive operator went every day because it owned a much bigger boat. This is something that I will regret forever because Belize is known for its lovely coral reefs. Placencia is about an hour out from the reefs, much further than in other parts of Belize, but the wait is worth it from what I was told.
Since snorkeling wasn’t an option, I had to find other things to do. The first day, I literally did nothing, just walked around the town and hung out around the beach. At night, I went to the local bowling alley, Jaguar Lanes, which was actually pretty fun. It was an old school alley, you had to take score yourself, and the pizza was actually good too. On the second day, I arranged a horseback riding tour with Outback Trails in nearby Kendal. I had to rent a Jeep from the local operator Barefoot Rentals to get there, but it took up most of the day and was pretty fun, my first time riding a horse. The ranch owner Michelle Gonzalez was very friendly, and for $40 US I got to ride for several hours. After this, I drove to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. The drive off the highway was quite rough, thank goodness for the Jeep. I walked a few trails, the one that was memorable was the Plane Wreck, which is a wrecked airplane that was left to ruin.
The next day, snorkeling was again canceled to so I went to a banana tour at Fun Banana Farm Tours. This was interesting, I was probably half the age of everyone else there. This lasted a few hours, and then I just went back to Placencia and hung out. I probably had the best meal for dinner, creole gibnut, which is basically a rat. It was actually quite good, tasted like chicken.
After this, it was back on Tropic Air to Belize City, and then back on Southwest Airlines to Houston. The trip was relaxing, a little too relaxing for my taste. My one regret is that I didn’t arrange the proper snorkeling tour operator, and since then I’ve taken the attitude of doing too much to avoid this situation in the future.