Travel up the river and drop anchor just beyond the commercial docks past a series of white floating buoys in about 8 to 10 feet of water. Anchoring beyond the buoys will put you out of the way of any ships or commercial vessels. Do not tie up to the commercial docks or you’ll be charged for docking as if you were a commercial ship. You can dinghy in past the commercial seawall to a small wooden dock with a roof and tie up for clearance. At this point you may very well be met by Elvis. OK, not that Elvis. But this Elvis has been working here at Big Creek for many years. He operates all of the heavy equipment at the port, but most importantly to the cruisers, he is a cab driver and his cab is almost always available. If he is unloading or loading a ship you might have to wait a bit.
Your first stop needs to be Immigration, and that is where the cab will come in handy. It is at least a couple of miles away and hard to find, so sharing a ride with fellow cruisers can save some money. As of Dec. 1, 2005, the fare was $25 (Belize) round trip with $1 (U.S.) equal to 2 Belize dollars.
Our immigration charges were $25 (Belize) for two passports. After returning to the port, the next stop is customs, which is right outside the front gate for the port. Paperwork is quick and easy, and if it is not a holiday or overtime hours there is no charge. Next you’ll need to go to Health and Agriculture, which has offices directly across the street from customs. Their process is also quick and easy and their charge is also $25 (Belize). After that, the Health and Agriculture inspector and Customs inspector will come to your boat for an inspection. They are looking for the usual things plus contaminated fruits, vegetables and meats that might be harmful to the agriculture and poultry in Belize. Small amounts for personal consumption are OK. You will need to ferry them back and forth in your dinghy. Remember that this port is primarily to receive large ships.
Eco-tourism is the word we hear over and over again and the Europeans have definitely discovered the area. Most small hotels and guesthouses are full of what are affectionately known as “backpackers” — young folks who travel the country visiting out-of-the-way places with all of their belongings in their backpacks.
The other delicacy in Placencia is Tisiana’s Italian homemade gelato ice cream at Tuttifrutti. Tisiana is truly Italian and the recipe has been in her family for generations. The flavors sometimes change, but never the quality. She also serves fantastic shakes and sundaes made with flavors of your choosing. If you hang around long enough you will notice some people coming back several times a day.
There are many restaurants in town serving all types of food. With names like the Purple Space Monkey, the Pickled Parrot, Yoli’s and De’tach, the atmosphere and cuisine is quite diverse. We always ask around town where the locals tend to eat and get a pretty good idea who has the best menu and prices. You can dine right on the beach or find a place with Caribbean flavor. Some of the restaurants now offer Internet service with your meals and one is free if you are eating there. Placencia even has a Wendy’s (not the fast food chain), which serves a great breakfast and lunch and dinner with a down island flavor. Fresh seafood and local dishes are found on most menus, as well as some more familiar items.
In June the tourism center sponsors a Lobster Fest that is now in its eighth year, and well-known to cruisers that come to the western Caribbean on a regular basis. Seafood and entertainment are the order of the day and the celebration goes on for the entire weekend.
A new festival held for the first time this year is the Jambalaya Carnival Parade. Street vendors, music, dancing, entertainment and, of course, the parade made this first year such a success that planning is already in the works for next year.
Each Halloween a big celebration is put on for all of the local children; everyone is welcome. It is designed to give the kids a fun evening and all proceeds go toward the local humane society. This is a major source of their funding. The adults seem to have as much fun as the children.
The Annual Mistletoe Ball is held each December. Everyone dresses in their most formal wear and celebrates the beginnings of the Christmas season. Music and dancing along with contests make this a favorite for the folks all around the village as well as all visitors.
We have found this a wonderful place to stop and relax and highly recommend it to cruisers coming this way. We also know in doing that we take the chance on spoiling a great location but we felt the need to share Placencia with all of you. If you see a very pretty traditional ketch with red stripes and a white hull in the anchorage, stop by and see if it is Sea Trek. I suspect we will be here again and again.