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With more than 400 islands to choose from, almost 300 kilometers of coastline and the longest unbroken barrier reef in the western hemisphere, Belize is a world-class destination for scuba junkies and island adventurers alike.
While the „Blue Hole“ is undoubtedly Belize’s most famous dive site, you can find even more vibrant underwater beauty in the warm and clear waters off the coast of Placencia, a peninsula in the south of Belize. If you’re looking for a scuba adventure off the beaten reef (woohoo!) with diverse dive sites and excellent conditions all year round, be sure to add Placencia to your diving bucket list!
1. The Town Of Placencia
Located at the tip of a peninsula around 185 kilometers south of Belize City, the small coastal town of Placencia attracts backpackers, families and seasonal vacationers alike.
Vacation & Water Sports
Placencia has 25 km of white sandy beach, optimal diving grounds, crystal clear water and an incredible abundance of marine life. It’s the perfect place for those seeking both relaxation and water sports. From swimming, scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing to kayaking and casual strolls on the beach – Placencia has something to offer for everyone.
Wide Range Of Accommodation
Placencia offers a wide range of accommodation – from small guesthouses to boutique-style beach cabanas and fully-equipped holiday apartments. Most of the places are located close to the main street and are therefore walking distance from the beach.
⭐ TopTip: I stayed at Lydia’s Guesthouse, which is beautifully located in the heart of Placencia, only minutes away from most of the dive shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for a basic and budget-friendly yet clean and cozy place to stay, I can totally recommend Lydia’s!
Plenty Of Restaurants
If you’ve always wanted to get to know the Belizean cuisine, there are many cool local restaurants that offer all the classics, including burritos, fry jacks, chicken with rice and beans and tacos. However, you’ll also find typical western food like burgers, fries and pizza if that’s what you prefer. Most of all, Placencia is a great place to get some fresh seafood, especially lobster, snapper and lionfish.
⭐ TopTip: The Barefoot Bar offers a pretty good lunch special for BZ$ 12 every day until 5 pm. The dish changes every day and the portions are HUGE – definitely great value for money!
Excellent Starting Point For Excursions
From Placencia, you cannot only go on self-guided kayak tours, SUP adventures, fishing trips or, of course, dive and snorkel trips. There are also a couple of tour operators in town that take you to other parts of the country on a day trip, e.g. to visit the Mayan ruins, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary or to explore one of Belize’s famous underground cave systems.
2. Different Dive Locations
Placencia serves as a gateway to different diving locations with a variety of different dive sites each.
Among the most famous dive locations on the Belize Barrier Reef are the Silk Cayes, South Water Caye, Pompion Caye, Laughing Bird Caye, Glover’s Reef, Gladden Spit and the Great Blue Hole, as well as many other small islands in the area.
While the inner reef is the perfect place to get certified and for dive novices to work on their skills, the outer reef is for more advanced divers with deep diving and steep walls dropping off into the blue.
The Most Famous Dive Locations: Silk Cayes & South Water Caye
The main barrier reef lies approximately 36 kilometers east of Placencia. It features many small beautiful coral islands, which offer both incredible scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities with a great variety of aquatic life. The most popular sites here are the Silk or Queen Cayes, Pompion Caye, South Water Caye as well as Laughing Bird Caye on the inner reef.
It takes between 45 – 60 minutes by boat to get here – I do recommend Dramamine pills if you’re prone to seasickness, though. 😉
Meeting The Gentle Giants: Gladden Spit
The Gladden Spit & Silk Caye Marine Reserve is one of the largest spawning aggregation sites for many different fish species in the Caribbean, which attracts whale sharks at a particular time of the year. You‘ll likely see and even be able to dive with whale sharks between March and June. These gentle giants are the biggest fish in the ocean growing up to lengths 18 meters and will certainly make for an unforgettable dive experience.
UNESCO Awarded: Glover’s Reef
Glovers Atoll is an oval-shaped reef system with a total of five islands lying on the eastern side where most of the diving is done. Glovers Reef is a UNESCO awarded marine reserve and even has several designated conservation zones. The clear waters of Glovers feature unique coral formations and an abundance of marine life.
3. Underwater Diversity
What is so great about diving in Placencia?
Well, I’d say it’s mostly two things: the incredible underwater diversity and the fact that you’ll likely be enjoying it with a handful of other divers only!
While the main attraction in Placencia is, of course, seeing the whale sharks, which attract both divers and snorkelers in spring and early summer, diving outside of whale shark season still promises many amazing underwater encounters.
The outer reef features plenty of nurse sharks, barracuda, moray eels, sea turtles, a variety of rays, pelagic fish, and enormous soft and hard coral formations. Plus, you might get to come across dolphins during the boat ride, which happened to us on our dive trip to the Silk Cayes.
The inner reef has plenty of rays and is even visited by the majestic manta ray. My friends over at My Mola Travels were fortunate enough to capture them one day after I’d just left Placencia. So jealous, lucky them! By the way, this part of the reef is also a haven for underwater photographers as there is a wide range of macro to be found here as well, such as mantis shrimp and colorful crabs.
4. Professional Dive Operators
While many countries around the world are happy to employ dive professionals from other parts of the world, Belize is very strict about its labor laws. In most places, you’ll only find local Divemasters and Belizean dive instructors working alongside a local boat crew and office staff.
The reason why I’m mentioning this here is that I have found those local Divemasters to be extremely knowledgable about their reefs and marine life. They know all the currents, all the waters, all the corners on the reef, which not only made me feel very safe and comfortable while diving there, but I could also get a lot of background information about the reef condition, the way it is affected by climate change and what is being done to prevent coral bleaching.
⭐ TopTip: I went on several dive trips with Splash Dive Center – the whole crew is very professional, well-organized and fun to be around. They also have a pretty good websites including an FAQ section, which answers all kinds of questions you might have before diving in Placencia!
Speaking of coral bleaching, the small country of Belize is, in fact, a world leader when it comes to ocean protection. Over the past 30 years, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Belize has been implementing numerous conservation initiatives, including the very successful Managed Access Program, which prohibits fishing in specific „no-take“ areas of the reefs.
However, I was mostly impressed by seeing that the local community is as involved in the conservation work as the government. The dive centers take marine conservation seriously and will let you know about it on every snorkel or dive trip that you go on.
5. Dive Community & Vibe
Placencia village is one thing for sure: colorful! When strolling along the small main road (or shall I say path?), you will come across colorful wooden cabanas on both sides, which either serve as accommodation, shop or restaurant.
Placencia is more or less a village, pretty much everything is in walking distance. There are a few small shops in town, where you can buy handmade goods and souvenirs, like paintings, t-shirts with unique Placencia prints on them, towels, hammocks, bags, etc.
Walking around Placencia, you’ll notice that many people come here just for diving and chances are you end up eating dinner or enjoying a Belikin with a local Divemaster, an underwater photographer or a regular who comes back to Placencia for diving every year.
The colors and the friendly community of both travelers and locals give Placencia a unique vibe that will, for sure, make your dive trip an „unbelizable“ bucket-list-worthy adventure you don’t want to miss.
*On my trip to Placencia, I was kindly supported by the Belize Tourism Board and the lovely people of Splash Dive Center in Placencia. Of course, this doesn’t affect my own opinions and this post only reflects my personal views of this place.