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.
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.
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
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
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.
your room. Be sure to pick an oceanfront room, not a
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
4. Go to
the water.After I settled in, I did a
little exploring by walking up a set of stairs outside my
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
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
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
Barrier Reef is closer to the shore of Ambergris Caye, so the boat
ride to the reef is longer from Placencia.
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.
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.
nothing.You 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.
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
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 RobertsGrove.com.
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
If you want to
rent out the whole island, its yours for $2,776 per
To contact Rebecca Tobin, managing editor of the print
edition of Travel Weekly, send e-mail to [email protected].