In the rambling beachside village of Placencia in Belize, you can sip strong Central American coffee by day and feast on spiced conch fritters as the sun sets. With its 16-mile stretch of sand lined with coconut palms, the place has a distinctly vibrant, Caribbean vibe. Take to the water for the chance to dive and snorkel among the corals of the Belize Barrier Reef or venture inland to Mayan ruins and exhilarating hikes through the jungle. Around town, you can spot manatees and crocodiles in Placencia Lagoon.
Sway in a hammock at a Placencia hostel with an outdoor bar or book a few nights at a place that has a pool complete with swim-up bar. To get to know the area better, try a hostel that plans excursions for you. Lots of Placencia hostels give you free Wi-Fi with your stay, while at others you can cook up dinner on shared barbecues and meet other travellers in colourful common areas.
Placencia village is fairly small and has a chilled-out attitude that's easy to get behind thanks to the long stretch of sand and shore. You could go scuba diving or simply sit by the water and soak up the sun. With plentiful beach bars and eateries, the place takes on a lively feel come late afternoon. For a quieter stay, try Seine Bight, an old fishing village where you can experience authentic Creole culture through festivals and ceremonies.
For snorkelling or diving, head to Laughing Bird Caye National Park. This small island off Belize's coast is a protected area that's well preserved, meaning you can spot rare species of fish and bask in untouched natural beauty. For more wildlife, join a boat tour along a jungle river to hear howler monkeys or soak up the magic of diving with graceful whale sharks. If you want to explore further, drift between islands by sea kayak or spend an afternoon tubing down a Jaguar Reserve river.
Philip SW Goldson International Airport in Belize City is the nearest major airport to Placencia. Small domestic planes get you to the tiny local airport in 35 minutes, or you can hop on a bus for around 3 hours. To get around the village, many hostels offer bicycles for rent. If you prefer a faster mode of transport, you could hire a motorbike or golf buggy.