The town of Placencia, near the southern end of Belizes coast, is a quiet place in contrast to Ambergris Caye, an island that is as busy and as touristy as Belize gets. At Belize City Airport, it seemed as though four prop planes departed for Ambergris for every one to Placencia.

And unlike Ambergris, where visitors are dropped off in the middle of a bustling village, landing at the Placencia airstrip makes passengers feel like intrepid travelers.

When I arrived, there was nobody else around, apart from a handful of locals who came by to pick up passengers at the one-room building that serves as the Tropic Air terminal.

My destination was the Inn at Roberts Grove, a 53-room resort thats on the high end of Placencias accommodations. The place is run by two former New Yorkers, who hopped down to Belize from Miami on a whim and ended up opening Roberts Grove in 1997.

Based on my experience, heres a list of must-dos in Placencia and Roberts Grove:

1. Forget your fear of flying. Tropic Air and Maya Island are the two main airlines in Belize, and travelers really cant get anywhere without them. My friend nicknamed the Tropic Air planes minivans of the sky, since theyre as glamorous on the inside as a Dodge Caravan. But they get the job done. If you are afraid of flying, dont look at Placencias short, patchy runway during takeoff or landing.

2. Enjoy the check-in. At the Inn at Roberts Grove, each group of arriving passengers is welcomed together. Its as refreshing as the breeze that blows through the open-plan lodge.

With all the doors and windows open to the sea, there was no need for air conditioning. However, unlike other resorts in the area, Roberts Grove does have air conditioning if you want it.

3. Love your room. Be sure to pick an oceanfront room, not a beachfront.

I saw all the room configurations, but in the end I was partial to the junior suite I stayed in, Room No. 2. I joked to reservations manager Timoteo Mes that the room was over the shop since its on the second floor of the main building.

Room No. 2 had a decent-sized balcony with hammock and a decent-sized room with a big bed. A small room near the entrance had a bunk bed for small tykes.

4. Go to the photo by Rebecca TobinAfter I settled in, I did a little exploring by walking up a set of stairs outside my door.

What a surprise: Each building has a rooftop hot tub, high enough in the sky that you can see all around Roberts Grove, from the ocean to the mangroves.

The resort also has three pools, each with its own vibe. My favorites were the infinity pool with a built-in bar and a pool with a teak deck and wood loungers. Theres also the Caribbean Sea lapping at the resorts shores.

5. Tours! Diving! Ruins! Most people are in Belize to do something. It varies from person to person, but doing something could mean snorkeling, diving, fishing, visiting Mayan ruins, cave tubing, hiking, horseback riding, boating or zip lining.

There is always something to occupy visitors. The bad news is that many of these somethings start early, so getting a good nights sleep is critical.

The Belize Barrier Reef is closer to the shore of Ambergris Caye, so the boat ride to the reef is longer from Placencia.

However, Placencia is the place to be if youre interested in whale sharks, the worlds largest fish. Many divers book into resorts in southern Belize between April and June in order to get an opportunity to spot one of these huge, but harmless, spotted fish.

Since Placencia is on the mainland, its relatively easy to get to ruins like Lubaantun, boat along the Monkey River and cave-tube at the Cocscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Nonetheless, its not cheap. Trips to Lubaantun and Lim Li Punit cost $100 per person, and a three-and-a-half-hour kayak trip down the South Stann Creek River will set you back $100 per person.

6. Do photo by Rebecca TobinYou should allow at least one day for doing nothing. At the end of the dock at Roberts Grove is a thatched, open-air room with two hammocks strung up underneath. Drag a chaise lounge into the sun and then lay in the hammock: Alternate sun and shade with a plunge into the sea.

6a. Remember sunblock. The sun is brutal in Belize. I found myself slathering on sunscreen like I had a nervous tic: Every 15 minutes I applied more to the bridge of my nose, shoulders and feet. Unfortunately, I forgot my back. Ouch!

7. Take a trip into Placencia proper. This is a fun town to spend a few hours shopping up and down its main street, a four-foot-wide piece of pavement.

I had a Belikin, a beer brewed in Belize, in the open-air bar at the Cozy Corner, which seemed like the ultimate beach bum/expat hangout.

A sign over the bar said: Dont bring your ugly dog in here. (Im paraphrasing.) About five minutes later, a group of locals walked in with a dog. 

7a. Forget nightlife. Another thing about Placencia thats great, or not: Theres not a lot of nightlife choices, other than maybe a few Belikins in town or at the Roberts Grove bar. I didnt have to feel guilty about staying in.

8. Buy a meal plan. Back at Roberts Grove, I didnt get a chance to sample the Mexican food, the cocktails or the sunset at Roberts Groves Habanero restaurant, which is right across the road from the resort proper and next to its dive shop. But I ate twice at the Seaside Restaurant, and the seafood was delicious.

9. Get a massage. Roberts Groves spa is like a treehouse, since its in the second floor of a thatched-roof building. A list of spa treatments is available online at

The spa facility is above the hotels Internet center. I was so busy relaxing that I never stepped foot inside.

10. Go to the out islands. Roberts Grove owns two private islands without TVs or phone service but with snorkeling and fishing opportunities, a private chef, drinks on the deck and the blue sea at the doorstep.

Ranguana Caye has three rustic cabins with decks. Tiny Roberts Caye has four thatched-roof bungalows built partially over the water.

If you stay three nights, for example, starting at $704 per person, you get a roundtrip boat transfer; all meals; local rum, beer and non-alcoholic beverages; and the use of sea kayaks and snorkeling equipment.

If you want to rent out the whole island, its yours for $2,776 per night.

To contact Rebecca Tobin, managing editor of the print edition of Travel Weekly, send e-mail to [email protected].


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