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
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.