Altogether, Placencia has about 150 licensed tour guides and around two dozen licensed tour operators; Hopkins and Dangriga also have licensed tour guides and operators. Most of the guides, except some fishing guides, work on a contract basis for resorts or tour operators. These tour guides and operators offer dive and snorkel trips to Laughing Bird, the Belize Barrier Reef, and Turneffe and Glover's atolls; wildlife tours to Monkey River; birding tours to Red Bank and elsewhere; hiking trips to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Mayflower Bocawina National Park; and, excursions to Mayan ruins near Punta Gorda.
The larger resorts on the Placencia Peninsula, including Chabil Mar, Turtle Inn, and Robert's Grove, offer a variety of tours and trips, using tour guides they have come to trust. Likewise, in Hopkins the larger resorts such as Hamanasi offer both land and sea tours.
To book tours and trips, check with your hotel; in Placencia Village, several of the tour operators have small offices along Main Street. Also check with the Belize Tourism Industry Association's (BTIA) visitor information office; the staff in Placencia can advise you on tours. You'll probably pay a little less by booking in the village instead of at your hotel, but the savings may not be worth the effort.
Toadal Adventures Belize. Dave Vernon's Toadal Adventure provides top-notch multiday sea and river expedition kayak trips in southern Belize. Trips can be customized to your specific schedule and interests. Dave and Deb Vernon also operate a budget guesthouse, Deb & Dave's Last Resort, and a more upscale lodging, The North, in Placencia Village. Near Sidewalk, Placencia Village, Stann Creek. 523/3207; www.travelbelize.org/toadal-adventure-belize.
Boating, Sailing, and Water Sports
Snorkeling trips inside the reef, to Laughing Bird Caye and other snorkel spots, are popular tour options, as are half-day boat trips to Monkey River and boat excursions on the Placencia Lagoon to look for manatees. Most full-day trips include a picnic lunch. If you're going to an area with an admission or marine reserve fee often the fee is additional. Also available from Placencia are bareboat and crewed sailboat charters by charter operators such as The Moorings.
Destinations Belize. Owner Mary Toy, a former attorney in the United States, has been offering tours in the Placencia area since 1998. Destinations Belize is especially strong in arranging guided fishing trips, but it also offers land and sea tours of all kinds. In addition, Mary Toy can help with overall Belize trip planning, including booking hotels and transportation. Placencia Village, Stann Creek. 253/4018; 610/4718; www.destinationsbelize.com.
Joy Tours. Joy Tours offers a wide range of land and sea tours. Sea tours include whale shark trips, fishing, diving, kayaking, and snorkeling. Land tours include hiking in Cockscomb and other destinations near Placencia. Placencia Village, Stann Creek. 523/3325; www.belizewithjoy.com.
The Moorings. An international yacht charter company, the Moorings offers 5- to 14-night sailing charters from Placencia aboard a catamaran or monohull sailboat. Stops include a number of small cayes including Hatchett Caye. Prices in-season for a weekly bareboat charter for two ranges from BZ$5,000 to BZ$10,000, not including provisions. An all-inclusive skippered charter with a cook for a week in high season can cost from BZ$20,000 to BZ$38,000. The Moorings, Placencia Rd., Laru Beya Marina, Seine Bight Village, Stann Creek. 888/979--1198; 523/3351; www.moorings.com.
Scuba Diving and Snorkling
This far south, the reef is as much as 20 miles (33 km) offshore, necessitating boat rides of 45 minutes to nearly two hours to reach dive sites. Because this part of the reef has fewer cuts and channels, it's also more difficult to get out to the seaward side, where you'll find the best diving. As a result, most of the diving in this region is done from offshore cayes, which are surrounded by small reefs, usually with gently sloping drop-offs of about 80–100 feet. This isn't the place for spectacular wall dives—you're better off staying in the north or heading out to the atolls. Near Moho Caye, southeast of Placencia, you'll find brilliant red-and-yellow corals and sponges that rarely appear elsewhere in Belize.
Two marine reserves off Placencia are popular snorkeling and diving spots. Laughing Bird Caye, Belize's smallest marine reserve, about 13 miles (22 km) off Placencia, is a popular spot for snorkeling. Whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, gentle giants of the sea, appear off Placencia in the Gladden Spit area, part of the Gladden Spit and Silk Caves Marine Reserves 26 miles (43 km) east of Placencia, in late spring and early summer. You can snorkel or dive with them on day trips from Placencia. The best time to see whale sharks is three or four days before and after a full moon, March through June. Admission fee to each of these marine reserves is BZ$20; the admission typically is included in the dive or snorkel shop fee.
Diving costs a little more in Placencia than most other places in Belize, in part due to the distance to the reef and the atolls. Most of the larger resorts, like the Inn at Robert's Grove and Turtle Inn, have dive shops and also offer snorkel trips. Avadon Divers and the Splash Dive Center are considered two of the best dive shops in the region.
Ocean Motion. For snorkeling trips check with Ocean Motion, on the Sidewalk in the heart of Placencia Village. A full-day snorkeling trip to Laughing Bird Caye is BZ$150 per person (half-day, BZ$120), and a day trip to Frigate Caye is BZ$100. Rates include taxes, snorkel gear, and a lunch grilled on a caye, but not park fees, if any. Ocean Motion, Placencia Village, Stann Creek. 523/3363; www.oceanmotionplacencia.com.
Ranguana Caye. For an idyllic island getaway with good snorkeling from the shore, consider a day trip to Ranguana Caye. The trip, run by the people who manage the caye, includes kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling, as well as a beach barbecue. If you have time, grab a few cold ones at Billy's Beach Bar on the island (Drinks are extra.). The fee is BZ$250 per person. Placencia Municipal Pier, Placencia Village, Stann Creek. 674/7264; www.ranguanacaye.com.
Splash Dive Center. One of the best dive shops in southern Belize, Splash Dive Center offers many dive and snorkel trips that include visits to the inner and outer reefs and Glover's atoll. Opportunities to dive with whale sharks at Gladden Spit ire also available in late spring and early summer. Splash Dive Center, Placencia Village, Stann Creek. 523/3080; www.splashbelize.com.