I watched her expressions as she dipped a toe in the ocean for the first time in her life. As an aunt I may not get to see their first steps or hear their first words, but this was one first that I was there for – and I soaked in every delicious moment of it.
Placencia isn’t exactly off the tourist trail, but it’s the ‘less touristed’ trail for sure. As everyone heads to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, Allie and I went south to Placencia, a peninsula where they have 16 miles of sandy beach to relax on. As we turned onto the road to the peninsula Allie’s eyes were focused on the horizon, as this would be the first time she would see the ocean. And strangely, we were both excited about it.
Staying Beachside in Belize
Upon arriving at Chabil Mar resort located directly on the beach, Allie was ecstatic…well, as ecstatic as Allie will ever get with me. “I don’t know why my parents go to Mexico when they could come here,” she exclaimed. As we walked around the 2 pool areas, outdoor bars, and the beach chairs lined up on the white sand, I think we were both pretty excited to be out of the humid buggy jungle and onto the beach. This was the nicest place Allie had probably stayed in her life so far, and it was really rewarding to see her expression of excitement.
The first thing we did was put on our swimming suits and wade into the warm turquoise water. As I watched her, I was transported back to the first time in my life I swam in, and subsequently gulped, salt water in the Gulf of Mexico. The first taste of salty seawater is something we never forget. It’s exciting and sort of gross at the same time. I felt like 17 again for a while as we swam out to the shelter on the pier and jumped off into the waves. We came back ashore, toweled off and celebrated this ‘first’ with Happy Hour drinks. One of the things I love to do with my nieces is expose them to ‘adult life’ on the Niece Project trips – so that means drinks if they want them. Even though they are 17 or 18 years old, most countries allow teenagers to drink with adults. We ordered beachy drinks and proceeded to Snapchat and Instagram our new Chabil Mar diggs all over the internet as we lay in our beach chairs. Allie felt mature, I felt young. Now this was the life.
We took one day to simply be beach bums and work on our tans. We lounged on the beach and Allie taught me how to eat sunflower seeds, something I had never mastered before. And I taught her how to paddle board and tried to teach her not to rip herself apart on every picture of herself that she looked at. It hurts me to think how critical young women are of themselves when they have no reason to be. Yet most of the time I think my lecturing in the teenage self-esteem department fell on deaf ears.
Besides soaking up the sun, stand up paddle boarding, and napping in hammocks around Chabil Mar, there was plenty of other things to do in and around Placencia. After a day of sitting still on the beach, it didn’t take us long to get back out exploring.
Placencia town is a sleepy laid-back beach town where the biggest excitement is the repair made to the main road running through the town. A sidewalk runs near the beach that is meant to be a little boardwalk with souvenir shops, colorful bars, and apartments. We hopped on the bikes provided by Chabil Mar resort and rode into town to explore, shop, and get pedicures. Plus, since we had a kitchen in our condo, we made a plan to have our breakfasts in the condo and then eat out in town during the evening.
Where to Eat in Placencia
This is an area where a lot of expats live and thanks to that there are many great restaurants in Placencia town.
We asked locals where to eat and soon we had a big list of places to try. Omar’ s Creole Grub was recommended heavily as great local seafood without frills. It was just a simple little open-air dining area, completely casual; a different feel from some of the more touristy places in the town. You simply pick a seafood from their board of fresh catches and choose a sauce – no menu necessary. I asked for their freshest fish (caught that afternoon) and chose the Creole sauce. After ordering I saw a guy emerge from the kitchen, hop on a bike, and peddle off. Within 5 minutes he was back with a bag from the grocery store and the needed ingredients for our dinner. I love small towns and just-in-time cooking.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but go up the stairs and experience the adorable shabby chic Mojo’s Café. It reminded me of restaurants in Saigon, the kind that look questionable from the outside and then you go in and find a hidden paradise that feels so secret only people-in-the-know are privileged to see.
Each dinner I would discover more new things about Allie. It was sort of liker reading a sentence one day at a time and then at the end you realize you had a chapter. We gushed about our love of sad, depressing movies that we didn’t know we had in common. “I always think it’s better when people die at the end,” she said, as I nodded enthusiastically in total agreement. We talked about the funerals of our grandparents and the things that make us cry. I adored these conversations, as I was able to delve a little deeper into Allie and she into me. It was hard to figure out my limits when we talked – I never knew when I was going to hit that line of annoyance where she turns off and is done talking with adults. “I don’t know! I’m so done with this conversation,” she would say with a whine and then turn away. But after a week of traveling with her I did learn that it was the evenings when Allie came alive and was ready to engage; much like her aunt.
Also on the advice of locals and expats we tried and loved Dolce Vita Italian restaurant (with it’s Italian expat chef and homemade pasta!). And finally, don’t forget to try a seaweed shake in Placencia – don’t cringe – they are delicious!
Like the snorkeling and turquoise waters of Silk Cayes, our time in Plancencia town was perfect.
It was our Aunt/Niece time to explore, not only the area, but each other’s personalities. As Allie stared out the plane window while we were taxing for takeoff she wistfully said, “When we arrived I remember thinking that the trees looked so different and foreign, and now they seem normal.” This was the first time I had heard her talk about her impressions of Belize and her first big international trip. I liked hearing little nuggets like this. I asked her if she would ever come back to Belize and she replied with a smile, “Yes, to the resort.”
We took off on our flight back to the US bringing this Niece Project 4.0 to an end. When we arrived home within about 15 minutes her best friend, Maddie, was over at her house and her life was back to normal. Even though I got very little information regarding her thoughts on the whole trip or thoughts on anything for that matter – she was already organizing a picture viewing of the trip tonight with her family. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.
Follow my Travels.
How to Recreate My Travel to Placencia Belize:
Placencia Belize Hotel: Chabil Mar is a great option for staying on the beach offering condo lodging that can be both all inclusive or a-la-carte. It has easy access into Placencia town with free bikes and a shuttle that runs regularly.
Things to Do: Snorkeling or Diving with Splash Diving Center
Adventure Life can help you recreate this trip and more! See their customizable tours and travel to Belize!
Want to learn more about the Niece Project, or start your own? Learn more…Niece Project
I was a guest of Adventure Life during my time in Belize. However, all opinions expressed here are my own.
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