Placencia, a tiny fishing village with a population near 2,000, presents you with an alternative to tourist Belize.
Settled in the 1700s by Puritans from Nova Scotia, the Spanish – Central American wars in the 1820s led to the population dying out. It was in the 1800s the Spaniards are said to have named it “Punta Placencia,” Point Pleasant, now adapted to Placencia.
Its Mayan history, however, takes you back 3000 years, where the Placencia Peninsula was said to have been an important producer of salt.
And, as salt preserves and flavors, the restaurants that have survived this pandemic, have taken up the mantle of their forefathers (and mothers) to continue to provide excellent gastronomic choices in this southeast section of Belize.
The Peninsula does have that Caribbean Island feel; Margaritaville may be heard as often here as in Miami. Yet at 19 miles long and just half a mile wide, you tend to stay where you are planted.
Fortunately, I started at Carol’s Cabanas, a great place for a camping-style experience under a roof with a great porch and hammock, and easy access to the 4,000 foot long and 4-foot-wide Sidewalk, recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the narrowest main street on Earth.
Visiting other destinations in Belize? Check out our other delicious guides:
If you start at the beginning of the Sidewalk, you’ll want to eat at all of these great Placencia restaurants, starting with:
- The 11 Best Placencia Restaurants
- Which of these Placencia Restaurants do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
The 11 Best Placencia Restaurants
Placencia Sidewalk // +5016221686
A great place to start. You can get sun-kissed in the open air, colorful picnic tables, or Adirondack-style chairs that line the pier.
You can watch the children and adults, or the fishermen returning to the pier with their daily catch. And play in the water.
For sun protection, you may choose the deck by the kitchen.
For extra fun, you could even choose the swings at the bar. Yes, right at the bar. Just be warned, the seat is a little lower than you would expect to eat comfortably from that position.
Their shake list is long and legendary. Few people have made it through the entire list and, after just one, I have to say the Sexy Berry is already my favorite. I may try a few others, but it’d be a hard sell.
It’s a wonderful place for healthy options from Seaweed shakes and veggie burgers to a curry falafel AND they offer breakfast all day!
They have an entire section of their menu for curry choices, but delicious items for the rest of us, too.
Their sandwiches range from grilled fish/chicken/ cheese to a lamb burger or teriyaki chicken. All are served with fries and pineapple coleslaw.
Their “Other” section caught my eye, though; Jerk Chicken Nachos. Grilled Chicken Nachos. Jerk Fish Tacos. Conch Fritters. Lobster Fritters (June is Lobster Fest month). Smoked Fish Tostadas. Chicken Tostadas. Lobster Tostadas.
Freshly made ceviche can be conch, shrimp, or fish, or a combination of them. Hummus and calamari round out the menu, with fish or chicken fingers and fries for the kids (who knew fish had fingers?).
But wait; there’s more.
Scour the breakfast side of the menu to pick up the available salads, quesadillas, or wraps, then ask the server for a recommendation. It’s a sweet family, with little kids running around, so they have plenty of experience being patient with you.
Ultimately, my choice came down to the Jerk Chicken Wrap labeled as hot or the Baja Fish Wrap with Chipotle Mayo, not labeled as hot but warned by the server.
After she discovered I was new to town and my taste buds remain intact, she recommended against the hot Jerk Chicken Wrap.
That Baja Fish Wrap was delicious. The chipotle mayo had quite a bite to it; I finished off my Smoothie and four glasses of water before I left the restaurant and more when I got home. It contained fried (not breaded!) snapper fillet with a Mexican relish.
If you’re in Placencia for a week, you could go here every single day and not experience the same taste portfolio twice, giving you a good reason to try this Palencia restaurant again and again.
Placencia Rd // +5015233335
Along the main car thoroughfare toward the pier, Wendy’s is a sleeper hit. I didn’t originally understand the French Creole influence on this area historically, yet it’s the first place I ever had Fry Jacks.
Eaten warm, they taste like beignets without the powdered sugar. Delicious! Add salted butter and a spicy papaya jam, and you’ve got a breakfast treat that we enjoyed over and over again.
Grilled snapper was my choice that day, which had a small side of mashed beans. It was filling and fulfilling. How could you ask for more?
For the more adventurous eaters, their daily specials that day included a Cow Foot Soup, Roasted Pork, or Stewed Chicken. All are served with coconut rice or stew beans (I think that’s what the mashed beans are called here).
After I moved to a townhouse across the lagoon, I’d mentioned the Fry Jacks to my new neighbor, Mary. She and her husband, John, love to go to Wendy’s for Fry Jacks and she hadn’t thought she liked papaya either. We’re both going to be taking papaya jam home with us if we can. For authentic Creole food in Placencia, make sure you try Wendy’s.
Placencia // +5016209916
Whenever you can’t decide where to go for a meal or just want something light, go to Tutti Frutti. Its owner describes the creamery as gelato from Lil’ Italy.
The choices include many of the same flavors you’d expect in Italy, pistachio, straiticello, with the tropical coconut flavors thrown in.
If you bring children with you during your Placencia vacation or even the young at heart, you’ll find yourself making several stops at Tutti Frutti.
But let’s get back to the Sidewalk…
The “Tipsy Strip,” about halfway down the Sidewalk, includes places to eat along the beach – meals, bakery – and also contains several bars.
Placencia Sidewalk // +5015233089
Its namesake, this wonderful restaurant, has the same indoor/outdoor seating options you’ll quickly become accustomed to here. You even have the option here to eat at a lounge under a sun umbrella if you’d prefer that to a chair.
The wait staff is patient and helpful, and if you arrive on a holiday, be prepared for an awesome special.
My visit coincided with an awesome Feature of the Day: $1 wings. Even better when I learned I could order them boneless (Yes, I do know that’s essentially the same as chicken strips). They have so many unique flavors, it’s hard to narrow them down. Sweet & Spicy and Honey BBQ seem fairly pedestrian, but safe, right? Garlic Parmesan and other options took me out of my comfort zone quickly.
Ordering two of everything I could eat, with a side of fries and a Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri was way too much for one meal.
They were tangy or sweet or garlicky, exactly as you would want them. Served in individual plastic bowls so the flavors don’t intermingle is a brilliant move on their part.
And then, they allow take-away! I was moving onto an island and wanted to be certain I had protein to go with me so ordered a dozen to go. The smart choice was when I ended up without transportation one weekend – they lasted the entire time. And were just yummy warmed in the oven.
Tipsy Tuna also has burgers and tacos and all the drinks you could want. It’s one of the most popular destinations on the Sidewalk, so make sure you try this restaurant while in Palencia.
Placencia Sidewalk // +5015233515
The Barefoot Bar has the “Best Hamburgers in Placencia” according to neighbor Mary.
I first went there early in my stay, so I was sticking with the fish and trying some new things. Their answer to the pandemic? At the sink outside the restaurant, they included songs from the ‘90s that you can sing while washing your hands. From Barbie Girl, Macarena, Gangsta’s Paradise, Hit Me Baby One More Time, Wannabe, to I Want it That Way, give them the chance to see how much fun YOU are going to be as their guest.
The menu is on the chalkboard, drink specials on the left (Creole Gyal contains dark + coconut rum, pineapple, and OJ) while the lunch and dinner specials are on the right.
That day, their specials included Tamarind Chicken, personal size nachos, Shrimp Grilled Cheese, Conch Ceviche, and Portobello Mexican Pizza.
Trying to choose was made more difficult when my server presented me with the largest menu I’ve seen on the peninsula with FOUR packed pages of alcohol blends.
Their “Barefoot Bitchin’ Burgers” would have to wait for another day, even though there was another full page of offerings.
After consultation with my server about the choice between salbutes and wrap, since I’d never had them before, she recommended the grilled fish salbutes with spicy cilantro. It didn’t feel as though my taste buds had recovered from my visit to the Shak so she said they’d go easy on me with the spice.
The salbutes were small but mighty. One wouldn’t fill you, but there were four. They were filled so you had to eat them with care, less you lose some, but only as far as your plate and silverware were available. It was important to be certain you had each of the components in each bite for the best experience. Yum!
Their dessert specialty is cheesecake. From peanut butter cookies and raspberry chocolate to blue velvet, if you like cheesecake, this is the place for you.
The Barefoot Bar is just plain fun. They have a different special every night and a local musician play on Wednesday (visiting musicians welcome), Reggae on Thursday followed by a DJ, and then Friday and Saturday BOTH offer live music. If you’re here on a Sunday, go to the Barefoot Bar’s All Day Beach BBQ to maximize your fun. This Placencia restaurant is another you can come to again and again without having the same thing twice.
Placencia Sidewalk // +5016668466
The favorite restaurant of our caretaker’s kids, Rick’s serves food made from quality ingredients with imported Italian olive oils and semolina pasta and cheeses. Everything else seems to be locally sourced. They pride themselves on their organic and free-range steaks and chicken.
There were many options, from jalapeno poppers and salads to quesadillas and sandwiches, but with the hard sell from young Samir, the pasta and the pizza couldn’t be denied.
Ultimately, I chose the 12-inch Margherita pizza.
Delicious tomato sauce, with mozzarella cheese, the high heat of the oven made the thin crust taste almost like a flatbread. It was the best pizza I’ve tried in southern Belize.
Rick’s is definitely worth a return visit – for a take-away pizza (yes, I took one back to Samir and his sisters) or to try more items on the menu. If you want pizza in Placencia, Rick’s is what you are looking for.
Placencia Sidewalk // +5015233540
Located in the same section of the Sidewalk as the Tipsy Tuna and the Barefoot Bar, it’s no surprise that this restaurant has a well-stocked bar with great beach access. It appears to have the best-covered beach seating of them all.
The menu was a blessing at only two pages, with an extra sheet for drinks.
After conferring with the server, I chose the House burger and then debated with her the merits of French fries (all a la carte) vs. a smoothie.
The smoothie won out. Banana vs. strawberry? Strawberry took the day.
For the first time in my trip, a pressing matter at home had me on my phone during this meal, and the other customers were very gracious and the server quite helpful.
The burger came with lettuce, onion, fresh red ripe tomato, and a Thousand Island-style sauce. Ketchup was available on the table (I hadn’t seen it thus far on my trip – DelMonte).
The smoothie lasted well through lunch and the burger was cooked to my specifications – delicious!
The best burger I’ve had in Placencia thus far.
Main Road // +5016140594
Highly recommended by my neighbors, this open courtyard area recently re-opened behind Rick’s Café and the Tutti Frutti ice cream store.
Park your bike or walk right into the open courtyard with palm trees and a few plants for your choice of seats.
Today, the interior was empty of tables. They’re scattered in the courtyard for the good health and well-being created by this breezy 75F day.
The chicken taco or the fish?
Surprisingly, the server recommended the chicken tacos – it’s her favorite.
It was tasty, a little salty for me (or is that a reflection of the reduction in my diet of processed food here in Placencia?), but chicken, cheese, beans, peppers, onions, and chunks of avocados – the biggest surprise.
The service is leisurely, the servers are pleasant. It’s a nice place to stop when looking for a restaurant in Placencia.
You know you should stop at a restaurant or food stand when it’s where all the locals and ex-pats go…
This small shed on Placencia Road across from the hardware store, Wallen Market, is frequented by those on foot, bike, or car.
The most popular item that morning? Chicken burritos, by far. All but one customer ordered multiple.
One Australian lady was kind enough to help translate for me – chicken, onions, beans, spices (can be extra spicy if you want that sauce added) and plenty of cheese rolled in a tortilla.
It takes about fifteen minutes to make, and the lady served us one at a time. Though several of the locals would shout their orders through the screen and return later.
It was nice chatting with people as we waited. There’s not much to rush to here and everyone is pleasantly patient in Placencia restaurants.
The locals had been there their entire lives – young men on their way to work or down to the beach.
The ex-pat from Australia was just starting her extended stay in Placencia – she had about two weeks on me – and was filled with information. This was her favorite “quick” stop.
One family visiting was only here for a week before they explored Belize further.
All but one of the locals had the chicken.
It was spicy, packed with beans, and one was definitely enough for a meal; they were reported to be much smaller than they actually were. Lucky for me, they held well for re-heating. I started stocking upon them for the days I wasn’t able to leave my little island.
My second time through, I tried the Stuffed Jacks. It’s two of the flour tortillas, stuffed with beans, cheese, onions, tomatoes, spices, and chicken, then fried.
The pastry is shockingly light for fried dough. It’s tasty, filling and, once again, the second-order did well – this one, though, I recommend putting in the freezer immediately and then cooking in the oven.
It’s a great place to stop, to eat now, or to take away for later.
Placencia Village // +5015233150
Acquired by Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola to join their cadre of family hideaway resorts, the Turtle Inn in Placencia remains one of the favorites of locals and tourists for fine dining.
Come for the first time to lunch. Expect USD prices and request “the locals pricing” if you’re visiting for an extended period.
Menu items are as diverse as Turtle Inn fish tacos to smoked chicken salad or Mediterranean quinoa salad with healthy and more traditional items available. Specialties like the Cuban Burger (prep time 20 minutes) a “grilled burger bun filled with ground chuck, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles served with sliced zucchini sticks” were worth the wait.
The watermelon salad, the precise mix of watermelon cubes, mint, feta cheese, arugula, and tomato served with a citrus vinaigrette, was the most refreshing start to the meal.
The views are spectacular. The resort contains 25 individual bungalows to maximize guest privacy (Nicholas Cage has been spotted, and the Coppolas’ daughter, Sofia, has a bungalow named for her) strategically located along the white sand beach to capture the Caribbean sea breezes.
And there’s a private island just eight miles out you can rent as well.
The service is top shelf, which leads to the diverse wine collection Mr. Coppola has assembled.
When you go again, perhaps for the evening meal when they’re supplying a special Dutch – Indonesian inspired set menu with seven proteins on a lazy susan for the four of us to share. Two types of rice – white (no coconut this time) and saffron-infused yellow rice. And at least three sauces. You don’t realize how filling it is until you’re stuffed and the food is far from gone.
Paired with the red wine “Eleanor,” created by the Coppolas and named for Mrs. Coppola, the gentlemen of the group declared it “delightful.”
Day or night, you’ll find great food, soothing seaside ambiance, and wonderful company at Turtle Inn. For fine dining in Placencia, try the Turtle.
One elderly lady hit me up the first day for a $3 banana cake and never let me pass her without buying another piece.
While one little boy didn’t capture me with a coconut product (I can’t eat it), he hit me up repeatedly with other items, ranging from popcorn to fudge. He definitely is not focused on my diet.
One gentleman drove produce around in his car.
Pro Tip: If you see the locals rushing out to catch somebody, follow.
From him, I purchased potatoes and carrots and even a watermelon. Although 75 cents a pound sounded high ($8), it was tasty! The first cabana I stayed in didn’t have a microwave, so I learned how to light a gas oven and made the potatoes the way this gentleman recommended, and it was delicious!
The funniest vendor I heard, I think, was actually a duo. One gentleman, on a bike with a large object projecting in front of the handlebars, shouted “Peets …” and the other man, running alongside said “Za!” so for a good 15 minutes, we heard “Peets” “Za!” …. “Peets” “Za!”… it was fun just watching them. And the pizza was great, too.
At your own accommodations
Most locals will tell you to pick up staples at “the Chinese Grocery,” which is Ming’s, with locations at the tip of the village as well as midway and then Top Value on the north end. They have several American options but be prepared for sticker shock. A small jar of Jif peanut butter, for example, was priced at $14.95. A can of Arizona Iced Tea (labeled as 99 cents), cost $3. This is the best place for you to find salad dressing you can’t make yourself.
So you can get many different foods from home, but you’ll be paying for the transportation costs.
Remember, the Belize dollar is set at 50% of the American dollar, but the prices may still surprise you. Essentially, even though BZD is half of USD, you’ll be paying full US prices for American products plus transport fees. And the price of gas when I was there was $11 a liter. That’s over $40 a gallon for gasoline.
For produce, the stand down the road from Ming’s ln the opposite side of the road and the vendors that come through during the week will likely give you better prices and choices.
Eggs are an interesting issue. At the produce stand, they’re not always available, deliveries arrive on Tuesday and Friday at this writing. I paid $7 for a dozen on my first visit.
At Ming’s, you may be able to get eggs (they, too, don’t always have them available), for 3/$1.
Both places will give you a plastic bag for your eggs. You may never appreciate the egg carton as much as you do when you decide to get a dozen (or more) eggs and put them in a plastic bag, knocking against each other depending on your mode of transportation. Mine was a bicycle basket that day. You may want to get a couple of extra just to replace the casualties.
If the produce stand does offer an egg carton, be sure to take it back so some other innocent newcomer can use it. This form of recycling is highly recommended in the village. There isn’t a lot of materialism because there’s not a lot available. But what they have is reused and recycled often.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen something I didn’t recognize at a produce stand.
It happened with a small, grey-brown round fruit the vendor identified as sapodillo. I’d never heard of it, even by any of its names, which include zopota, chikoo, sawo, and sofeda.
Most of all, if you have the great good fortune to spend any time here, I hope you’ll try a different Placencia restaurant every day, and experience foods unusual from where you lived before. The friendly people and laid-back attitude make this a great place to relax for a week, a month, or a lifetime.
Which of these Placencia Restaurants do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
Gail Clifford, MD, a physician for more than 25 years, has traveled to five continents and all 50 United States. An avid traveler, she happily goes on new adventures, especially on birthdays. Multi-generational travel remains a treasured pastime. She divides her time between Ireland and the U.S. You can find her on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.