Have we reached the tipping point in Placencia, Belize?
You’ve seen this trajectory before: a place is completely unknown, then is discovered by a few pioneers who move there, then word of mouth and a few travel articles bring more and more visitors each year. Better hotels go up, including one or two luxury ones, and suddenly big media deems it worthy of coverage. Apparently that time has arrived in a small town at the end of a peninsula down the coast in Belize, because lately Vogue, GQ, and the New York Times have all started to sing its praises.
We started writing about Placencia, Belize back in 2009, soon after Luxury Latin America launched. I have a photo of my daughter on a tiny little raft in the swimming pool on our vacation. Now she’s going into her senior year of high school. Even back then there were great places to stay: Turtle Inn and Chabil Mar were already running, in close proximity to the village, where this sign exemplified the vibe:
Apparently the dressed-up crowd is just now catching on, however. The headline in a Vogue article this past February was, “The Must-Visit Caribbean Destination You’ve Never Heard Of.” As these things usually go, it sounds like they’ve just stumbled upon a hidden Eden they’re going to let you in on. They mention only one hotel, so that’s probably the one that invited them there, but they give a great sense of all the excursions you can easily do from the peninsula. They highlight cacao, whale sharks, uninhabited islands, snorkeling, a nature sanctuary, and Mayan ruins. See the full article here.
The New York Times also took the opening of a new hotel as a cue to add the country to its 52 Places to visit at the beginning of this year. In predictable fashion, they had to mention yoga, juice bars, and “locavore”in their short description so the Manhattan natives would perk up, but noted that golf carts are “a popular form of transportation here.”
You can’t find the GQ article online, but the title in the print article tells you what to expect: “A Quaint Town that seems to have Forgotten About Mass Tourism.” This and a Brides magazine article mention the good Placencia restaurant scene.
While I love to make fun of these “Look what we found!” latecomers, they do have a point that Placencia is not a mass tourism market. You won’t find any mega-resort chains that look and feel like every other mega-resort from Cancun to Ibiza to Phuket. Golf carts and your feet are still the main way to get around the village. Yet you will find plenty to do nearby to keep you occupied for a week or more.
Read more about Placencia Village here, including a calendar of major events and festivals. Also note too that if you’re Canadian, you can now fly direct to Belize from both Toronto and Calgary.