How To Decide Between Ambergris Caye or Placencia (or Why You Should Visit Both)
Two of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize are Placencia and Ambergris Caye. These are quite distinctive places with unique features. Because of their differences, they will tend to appeal to different types of visitors. While you should definitely visit both if you get the chance, if you only have time to go to one place – which should you choose?
Do you dream of an island vacation?
Then Ambergris Caye might appeal to you, as it is the largest island in Belize. Known for its beautiful beaches and as a destination for scuba divers, snorkelers and deep-sea fishermen, it also has a vibrant social life.
If your idea of a great vacation is one where you can spend active days filled with water sports and active nights bar hopping and dancing – then you will love San Pedro. The largest town on Ambergris Caye, it is also the hub of the island’s social scene. Everywhere you go, you will encounter live music and plenty of people. There are bars holding various contests and offering prizes.
While there is a vibrant singles scene here, there are also many family-oriented entertainments including movie nights and child-friendly contests so that all types of tourist groups can find something appealing.
There are also a wide variety of fantastic restaurants. Fine dining options abound as do places which offer home-cooked fare. Ethnic restaurants include Indian, French, and Chinese.
Special events are normally scheduled at least a couple of times a week. There are also boutiques and shops, spas, yoga studios, bowling alleys, places to rent bicycles or golf carts, movie showings, etc. In other words, you will never have to worry about how to stay busy!
For those who would like to experience island life without the hub-bub… Ambergris Caye is 25 miles long and there are less developed sections for those who prefer a more tranquil vacation.
However, overall, the vibe here on Ambergris Caye is one that will appeal most to those who want an extroverted, busy and active vacation with lots of options.
The Placencia Peninsula is closer to the mainland than Ambergris Caye. This immediately gives it some advantages for tourists who would, for example, like to check out the rain forests or the Maya ruins while they are in Belize. At the same time, the pace of life here is more relaxed and many visitors to Placencia choose to forgo the normal round of tourist activities and simply chill the way the locals do.
This can involve just walking or napping on the most beautiful white sand beaches in the country. For a more active time, the Belizean Barrier Reef is just a short boat ride away. The diving and snorkeling is fantastic here.
The peninsula itself is 16 miles long. On one side are mangrove lagoons while on the other is the Caribbean Sea. This allows visitors to experience two types of habitats. The peninsula itself is narrow enough that visitors can have their coffee while watching the sun rise and have dinner overlooking the sunset.
While the once-sleepy fishing village of Placencia has expanded to accommodate tourists, it is still quite peaceful, particularly when compared to San Pedro. This allows visitors to enjoy Belize in a nostalgic way. There is a funky and artistic vibe that permeates the area, along with a gentle small-town feel.
So, should you visit Placencia or Ambergris Caye?
If you prefer an exciting time where the social life seems more like a frat party and where you have many options to keep you busy – go to Ambergris Caye. Placencia, on the other hand, might seem more like the bar on Cheers, where everybody knows your name.
If you prefer a more rustic and authentic experience, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and truly enjoy a laid back and relaxed vacation – then go to Placencia.
This is partly due to population density. It’s been estimated that if you count both locals and tourists, the overall population on Ambergris Caye is about ten times that of the Placencia Peninsula. On Ambergris Caye, people will be concentrated towards San Pedro, so that adds to the relatively hectic quality of life there.
On Placencia, you can relax and watch the sun set over the lagoon while sipping your nightcap and chatting gently with friends as you end your day. In Ambergris Caye, sunset can be the beginning of your nightly adventures as you bounce from party to party.
One other difference between these two popular destinations is price.
Ambergris Caye is a more expensive vacation spot. For those looking to retire to Belize – many find they are priced out of San Pedro, where real estate can cost as much as it does in the United States. For tourists – you will have to budget more for everything from food to accommodation to diving rentals.