The Beauty of Doing Nothing in Placencia
I was told that Placencia was a sleepy, little beach town. It’s true. At least for now it is, since it’s low season. The sidewalk – there is only one sidewalk in this whole town – is often empty, with locals passing through every now and then, and the occasional tourist hiding beneath a wide-brimmed hat to escape from the heat. There's not a lot going on in this town. At first, I worried that I would be bored here. Then I quickly realized that not only was this just what I needed coming off of a three-day sailing trip, but it was also another opportunity to truly recharge before making the journey home. I woke up at 5:34am today. 5:34am. What even is my life? The room that I’m staying at faces the front of the guesthouse, which means I can hear the ocean and feel a cool breeze at night. It also faces the sun as it rises, so by the time the sun is peeking over the palm trees, I’m awake.
I grabbed my copy of Eat, Pray, Love and read for an hour in the hammock that is conveniently situated on the front porch outside of my room. The book was left by another guest, and even though I’ve already read it (and seen the movie), that was more than ten years ago. It seemed totally appropriate to lose myself in its pages again as another way to sate my wanderlust.
At 6:30am, I found my way to Brewed Awakenings, a local coffee shop. I chatted with the owners (they’re originally from Oregon and have lived in Placencia for the past six years) as I looked over the menu. I still don’t drink a lot of coffee, so I got a fruit smoothie and a slice of rum cake. I tucked myself into a side table and kept reading.
By the time I finished my smoothie, the sun was out in full force and the heat was simmering. It’s been over 90 degrees the past few days, but with the humidity, it feels more like 105 degrees. The only respite is the ocean (no complaints there) or my room, with both fans on speed three.
At 11am, I had a massage booked at Secret Garden. I debated whether to book the massage or not, because it’s not as though I really needed a massage or had to spend the money, but the reviews sounded so good that I couldn’t resist. I booked a 90-minute combination massage that included a Swedish massage, hot stone massage, facial, and foot massage for $90USD.
It was worth every penny. A massage of that quality – Lee was amazing! – would have cost over $150 in the States.
The spa was located in a treehouse, and when I opened my eyes at the end of my massage, I immediately felt like I was in the jungle surrounded by trees and wild birds. Mainly because I was. Lee was such an intriguing woman to talk to; she is originally from Chicago, then had the desire to travel the world. She lived in Japan for six years where she studied as a massage therapist. Then her travels took her to Placencia, twenty-one years ago. She bought the plot of land that the massage spa sits on for $11,000USD at the time. She has since expanded it to include a yoga studio and a restaurant. The land is now worth nearly $1.1M, which isn’t a surprise to me considering the many Sotheby’s Luxury Real Estate signs all over the town (You can buy an island for $300,000! Any takers?).
Placencia is a hot market, but the locals, including Lee, are doing their best to conserve their town against condominiums and cruise ships. Lee was telling me how cruise ships will begin making port at a nearby island starting in November. The locals protested for months against the cruise ship, and while they’ve reached a middle ground for now, it’s difficult to know that international business often gets its way eventually.
As I walked down the steps, I saw a girl my age debating if she should sign up for a massage or not. “Do it. The 90-minute combo massage. Seriously the best massage I’ve ever had.” As I snapped a few photos of the property, I watched as she jotted her name down on the white board.
Then, of course I had to stop for gelato. I’ve gotten gelato at this little Italian shop everyday since I’ve arrived in Placencia. The owners are Italian and brought over all their equipment from Italy to make gelato. Here. In Placencia. In Belize. Italian gelato in Belize. It is delicious. It is so good. Except I’m such a creature of habit that I won’t stray from the dark chocolate and peanut butter flavors, although I’m sure the rest of the flavors are just as amazing…
At this point I was sweating through my dress and out of drinking water. I could smell the lavender oils radiating off of my body from the massage. But I had one more stop to make -- a dive shop. I've gotten four dives in since I've been in Belize, and while nothing could top my last dive with reef sharks, I still really want to squeeze in two final dives. With the 24 hour no-fly rule after diving, tomorrow is my last day to get some dives in.
I found Sunny Side Tours dive shop off the main road, quite a bit towards the back of the canal. There are two other dive shops here that are quite larger and have a big presence, but I really try to look for locally owned dive shops that have small groups and ensure safety. I met Warren, the owner, and Harry, one of the dive masters. As Harry fit me for my fins and BCD, Warren and I launched into a conversation about whale shark diving.
I had originally planned to come to Placencia for whale shark diving because the prime season to see the whale sharks is April – June, during the full moon. Snappers lay eggs around this time and the whale sharks migrate to the waters off of the coast of Placencia to feed on the eggs. Warren said, however, that the past two years haven’t been good seasons for whale shark diving. He said he doesn’t think the whales are being hunted, but rather that they’ve changed their behavior to avoid divers that have swarmed the area over the past few years. Therefore, instead of feeding on the eggs at 80 feet, whale sharks are going deeper, closer to 100 feet or more, putting them out of reach of the divers. Warren said the dive shop owners and local council are going to be meeting soon to determine how to proceed, since Placencia is known around the world as a whale shark hot spot. He said they may consider getting rid of whale shark dives all together for one year to see if the whale sharks come back around. Or they may increase the price of whale shark diving, or limit the size of the diving groups.
I rounded off my day beachside, with my book and a plate of fresh, shrimp tacos. Today, I think, was one of my favorite days of my whole trip. I basically did nothing. And it was beautiful. I read a book. Ate gelato. Got a massage. And laid by the beach. I am totally content with Placencia being a sleepy, little beach town.