For the past few years, the tenderness of Placencia Village on Belize’s southernmost peninsula has been quietly reinventing itself with a raft of noteworthy boutique hotels and resorts, a revival of old artisan crafts by an influx of next-generation creatives, and a growing number of warm locales dishing up authentic Belizean bites. And yet, retaining all the loveliness of its fishing village undertones: 16 miles of barefoot-perfect beaches, colorful wooden homes on stilts, and found-no-where-else trinkets, like one of the world’s narrowest streets with a conch shell-based foundation.
We’re the only country in Central America without a Pacific coastline, but I promise you won’t miss it here.
Meandering the cement and coral sidewalk that cuts through the village is custom, before stopping into beachy boutiques with tongue-in-cheek names (like Sunova Beach on the Tipsy Strip) or grabbing a cone on the cusp of melting, which is the perfect vessel for arguably the best gelato you’ll ever taste. If Tutti Frutti owner Tiziana has her way, you’ll order her favorite—banana.
Simple yet homely art galleries are sprinkled along in between, while super-smart waterfront pockets like The Ellysian attract an ever-more cosmopolitan crowd. But nowhere has this gentle evolution been more apparent than with one of the first developments on the peninsula: the low-key Naia Resort and Spa, encompassing 19 acres of secluded beachfront and lush lagoon landscapes within the private 224-acre Cocoplum Community.
Not that Belize really houses crowded resorts, but you certainly won’t find any of the like on this half-mile wide peninsula at the southern tip of Belize. There are no high-rise hotels on the 16-mile long narrow peninsula, which houses several villages like Seine Bight and Placencia, alongside other settlements like the expat-friendly Maya Beach and Surfside Community. Instead, the strip of pedestrian-bump-dotted road gives way to palm-tree lined Caribbean beaches to the East and mangroves along its lagoon facing the mainland to the West.
Found just outside Seine Bight village, 35 residences, treetop villas, and cozy beach houses empty directly onto the beach. Each dwelling boasts its own character, like pops of vibrant Caribbean silhouette artwork, decadent white-trimmed verandas with private splash pools, and huge bathrooms with either a freestanding and deep-soaking tub or entirely outdoor garden shower. Empty, relaxed and full of charm, Naia Resort & Spa encapsulates a tropical Caribbean getaway, tucked away for families (and couples especially) to reunite, escape and exhale in Belize.
It’s one of—if not, is already—the ultimate spa-centric seaside luxury resort in Belize. Once you’re there, it’s obvious: besides the overflowing amenities, the Naia Spa stands as the heart of the property amongst palmetto islets, hovering wooden cabanas and floating lily pads dotting an enchanting freshwater lagoon.
Five individual treatment suites are fully stocked with Naia’s signature line of organic spa products for your choice of facial, massage, body treatment, or either of Naia’s two signature rituals. As such, the resort feels very exclusive. From the Primeval Salt Stone massage—where hand-carved salt stones are warmed for sweet stress relief—or locally harvested medicinal essential oils of ginger, ylang-ylang and orange are integrated into your massage, there’s but two words left to utter. Paradise: found.
Unhurried, ground yourself pre- and post-treatment at the lounge areas of the spa, or make good use of the spa’s client-exclusive pool. Oh, and the spa also includes a fitness center with a full service gym and yoga studio—flooded with natural light, thanks to unobstructed ceiling-to-floor glass windows.
Mangrove Cathedrals At Sunset
Active families and adventurous couples will find a lot (and I mean a lot) to love here. Opting for a slower experience, the lagoon tour opens into a natural gallery of mangroves and tiny cays abutting the ocean’s edge. Gazing at the wall of green just across the water, the ocean kayak glides easily across the bay into what feels like an otherworldly sanctuary.
Unfettered by the setting sun, the glassy beauty below mature mangrove cathedrals reflects tranquility off its surface—an absolute match for the peninsula’s own. The kayaking tour is anything but strenuous, which makes it perfect for curious sun chasers of all ages; our guide Emiliano led the way, casually pointing out the area’s rich biodiversity as it enveloped us in the 45-minutes slow paddle.
Dinner & A View
Perhaps your day was spent at the spa, meandering mangrove cathedrals, or even on the Caribbean Sea. Say, your expertise aligns closer with eating fish, rather than catching fish, take our recommendation for 1981—the signature restaurant at Naia. Although 1981’s original air-conditioned location on the second floor is temporarily closed during ongoing restrictions, the airy and relaxed Beach Bar and Grill serves up the same great menu showcasing seasonal ingredients. Dine poolside—which happens to be saltwater, by the way—on favorites like Seafood Cakes, Pineapple Coconut Shrimp, and Key Lime Cheesecake.
For whatever pull brings you to Placencia, escape the distraction of modern life on the peninsula, where seclusion and privacy are ensured at beachside enclaves like Naia Resort & Residencies. Wake to shorebreak over a natural stone-laid seawall, golden beaches, and even curious but wild agouti, breaking its fast on the eponymous, fresh Coco Plums on site.