Placencia Beckons Visitors With Its Scuba, Snorkeling Options

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By Carla Hunt

Reed Travel Features

PLACENCIA, Belize -- It is no secret that Belize has some of the Caribbean's best scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing, played out among 200 white-sand atolls and cays that are part of the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.

Belize's tenure as a Caribbean vacation Valhalla began a decade ago on Ambergris Caye. Divers and anglers arrived to explore the 185-mile-long stretch of coral wall, 20 miles off shore. Placencia is not as well known, a country cousin to the more developed Ambergris Caye but moving into the spotlight with new air service, better road access and a host of new accommodations -- all commissionable.

Placencia sits at the tip of a skinny 12-mile-long peninsula, where a lagoon meets the Caribbean Sea, about 130 miles south of Belize City. Accommodations are clustered around Placencia and Seine Bight Village, two miles north. Small inns are what the Placencia peninsula vacation is all about.

North Americans are turning out to be first class builders and innkeepers. Expatriates Coral and George Bevier put Placencia on the map as a resort destination with their Rum Point Inn, which opened in 1974 and is still the most upscale property on the peninsula. Guests are accommodated in 10 large, round bungalows with king-size beds, large seating areas, big baths, coffeemakers, refrigerators and ceiling fans.

Dining is available in the main house, where guests also gather at the bar, on the veranda and around a library of books and videos on Mayan civilization and the region's history. The resort recently opened eight air-conditioned mini-suites with two queen-size beds, large bathrooms with tubs and showers, personal safes, coffeemakers, refrigerators, sitting areas and a desk. Rum Point has its own dive program and packages, with instruction and resort courses for PADI-NAUI certification. The resort's boats also take snorkelers to scuba sites.

Another top-class spot is Nautical Inn, owned by Ben and Janie Ruoti. The 12-unit, air-conditioned resort occupies elevated octagonal buildings behind a palm-studded beach. Guests gather in the Oar House for drinks and meals featuring seafood, Belizean and American dishes. The resort's Nauti-One Dive shop offers daily snorkeling and scuba expeditions with a captain and a dive master who are PADI certified.

Serenity Resort was opened by Tom Giblin in 1993 with 12 seaside cabanas featuring ceiling fans, tiled baths, refrigerators, coffeemakers and private verandas. Each unit has a king-size bed or three double beds, resulting in not much charm but plenty of space and comfort for families. Although several guidebooks note that alcoholic beverages are not served, this is no longer true. The hotel's rooftop terrace and patio offer sunrise and sunset viewing as well as star-gazing.

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