‘You Betta Belize It!’

Lysa Allman-Badwin | 7/16/2015, 11:42 a.m.
It’s cute, catchy and you’ll see it everywhere you look in Belize: “You Betta Belize It!”
The main pedestrian-only drag in Placencia is a boardwalk dotted with jewelry huts, handcraft stores, clothing boutiques, restaurants and the like. (Lysa Allman-Baldwin photos)

It’s cute, catchy and you’ll see it everywhere you look in Belize: “You Betta Belize It!”

In part one of this travel series, we had just arrived at our first destination on this sojourn, the beautiful village of Placencia, located along an 18-mile stretch of the Placencia Peninsula (population 3,458) and encompassing four small villages—Riversdale, Maya Beach, Seine Bight and Placencia, which is home to about half of the denizens here.

Despite its size, there is a great expanse in the topography here, from approximately three feet above sea level to over 3,600 feet a short drive away in the Maya Mountain range. From here you can embark upon numerous short excursions, such as deep sea fishing, whale shark diving (four times a year during full moon), caving, sailing, scuba diving, visiting to the Mayan ruins, going on a Monkey River howler tour or trying an extensive jungle hike through a jaguar preserve, just to name a few.

Surf and sun lovers will enjoy immersing themselves along vast stretches of secluded, coarse, auburn sand beaches while dipping and out of the bathtub-warm, turquoise-hued water that ebbs and flows calmly from the offshore Barrier Reef (more on that later).

PLACENCIA VILLAGE

Placencia Village itself can be described as burning the candle at both ends but in a good way, in that it has maintained the substance of its traditional fishing village charm while also slowly developing into a more recognized tourism destination.

As the latter, it is evolving with a mix of new, locally owned retail shops, accommodations, restaurants and the like and will never (thankfully!) become an overly Americanized locale with a Starbucks, McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donut on every corner. In fact, there are no American chain establishments anywhere in the entire country.

The main pedestrian-only drag here is an almost one-mile stamped concrete “boardwalk” dotted with jewelry huts, handcraft stores, clothing boutiques, excursion offices, bars, restaurants, small hotels, home and apartment rentals and locals selling handmade items on blankets, with pathways jetting out like spokes of a wheel on both sides to either the beach or the main street.

At the far end is a beautiful marina where the fishermen return daily, their boats laden with fresh snapper, shrimp, lionfish, lobster and other fresh seasonal catches of the day. The main thoroughfare running parallel to the boardwalk is where both denizens and tourists alike walk, bike, motorcycle, golf cart and drive along a combination paved-dirt street that’s peppered with oodles of bars, restaurants, alfresco produce vendors, retail boutiques, beauty and massage salons, art galleries, souvenir shops and a few large grocery and sundry stores.

At any of these places you will get the real feel for Belize and its wonderful people, as they greet you like family or close friends at every turn. They genuinely want to know where you are from, how you like their village, if it’s your first time in Belize—lots of questions followed by personal sharing in an attempt to make deep connections that make you feel as if they will last a lifetime.