By Keith Kennedy
Hopping on a bike in 95-degree weather for a ride into town had initially struck me as the semi-adventurous thing to do during my first day in Placencia, Belize.
I’m in decent shape, in an “approaching middle age” sort of way, and the half-dirt, half-paved three-mile ride to town from my hotel had seemed to be an easy challenge. What a great way, I thought, to quickly get a taste of the little peninsula of Placencia, a mecca for activities including world renowned scuba diving, trophy fishing, wildlife viewing, and good, old-fashioned beach bumming.
Not long into my ride, my bravado was broken as I took to the rutty dirt road. As I attempted to speed to town, I managed to hit just about every rock in the road for a body jarring experience. Also, with each passing vehicle, I inhaled the ensuing cloud of road dust, which also clung to my sweat-soaked face and body.
After what seemed like an eternity, I rolled meekly into the village, a ramshackle, yet charming port town one would expect to find only in Central America. Within an hour or so of exploring, it was time to head back. Not looking forward to the return trip, I sauntered back on the bike and proceeded to grind my way back to the hotel. Shortly into the ride, I passed a local villager, an older gentleman slowly pedaling along, who, upon seeing my obvious displeasure, gestured for me to ride alongside. I did, and he said, “Slow down, son, let the road take you, and not the other way around.”
Yielding to his road wisdom, I did just that, slowing down and focusing on enjoying the ride, and not just getting to the finish. Part cycling lore, and part life lesson, I began to find the road much more manageable, even comfortable to be on, with not a rock to be found by my front tire.
And therein lay the secret of Placencia, with this lesson from the old man on the bike. Quite simply, enjoy the ride. With the bounty of activities and experiences to enjoy in Placencia, there is no better place to enjoy the ride than the Inn at Roberts Grove. Owners and native New Yorkers Lisa and Bob Frackman first laid eyes on the beautiful Placencia Peninsula back in 1994, when they decided to purchase some beach property for a winter getaway cottage. Thirteen years later, that getaway cottage has become the Inn at Roberts Grove, a beautiful luxury resort situated on 22 acres of lush beachfront property.
Even with 52 villas and condos on the beach, along with two private islands, the Inn retains the feel of a cozy beachfront home, with plush couches and lounge chairs in the main house and inviting tropical décor throughout. The property has maximum frontage on the Caribbean Sea, with three beachside pools and a lovely “in the sea” gazebo, complete with hammocks and lounge chairs to laze away the day.
The Inn also has the most complete activities center on the Peninsula, where they’ve got just about every watersport imaginable covered.
That’s because Placencia is well known for having some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world, as the coast of Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. Many specialty dive opportunities exist as well, including the annual influx of whale sharks, 50-foot behemoths that come to the reef each year to feed on tasty red snapper fish roe.
Speaking of fish, Placencia is also a fisherman’s paradise, with access to both trophy fish such as bonefish, tarpon, permit and snook, as well as deep water monsters like blue and black marlin. Wayne, my fly fishing guide from the hotel, was uncanny in his ability to find fish, especially the extremely skittish bonefish. A local who knew the waters as if he’d been a fish himself, Wayne exhibited an extraordinary amount of patience with my errant fly casting, which more than once landed my fly tightly wrapped in a tree.
If diving or fishing are not your thing, sailing and kayaking might be, and they’ve got that as well. You can also take one of many excursions available to guests. A must-do is an overnight visit to Robert’s Island, a little piece of heaven 10 miles offshore, where you can live the carefree life of Robinson Crusoe during the day and sleep peacefully in your own air-conditioned cottage at night. And no trip to Placencia is compete without a cruise up the Monkey River, aptly named for the howler monkeys which you’ll surely see, and most definitely hear, as their roar can be heard for miles.
The options for adventure, and relaxation, really do appear to be limitless in Placencia. All you need to do now is come down and enjoy the ride. And while you’re at it, stop by a bar known as “Old Man Park” for a Belikin, the local beer. The old man on the bike owns it, and since I never did take him up on his offer for a free one, maybe you can!