Belize has long held a special place in my heart. I bought Colleen her engagement ring there. In fact, she was there to help pick it out during our first visit to this beautiful country. I have been back since to enjoy the food, people and idyllic places in Belize that are ripe for both relaxation and adventure sports.
Belize truly is a gem of the Caribbean, even if it's a place that might not immediately come to mind for a place to visit or retire.
However, the tiny Central American nation has a lot going for it. And much of that is wrapped up in its culture, charm and scenery. For the would-be expat -- especially one looking for real value -- you can choose to make your home close to either the islands, coastal villages or inland jungle regions. Check out five spots in Belize that make great retirement destinations (plus, two that don't).
Belize is a fairly short trip from the U.S. and predominantly English-speaking. It offers distinct and varied lifestyle options.
How about a tranquil, laid-back beach town such as Placencia, or a lively place on the island of Ambergris Caye or a quiet, off-the-grid life out in the wild west of the Cayo District (bordering Guatemala)?
Belize is known by vacation crowds as casual, warm, and welcoming. Signposts, menus, paperwork and conversations are in the official language of English. You'll find a loose mix of Caribbean charm, with just enough North American culture to make you feel comfortable right away.
"I think of Belize as a rustic paradise," says Laura Diffendal, Belize Correspondent for International Living. "It's a barefoot nirvana, where you can hitch a ride on a skiff with a local fisherman for a day, then walk into a restaurant and have them cook your catch for you.
"You can climb Maya ruins without a guardrail in sight, or swim with whale sharks in Caribbean waters. You can see and touch ancient Maya pottery deep in a cave system, hike through the rain forest, swim in waterfalls and jump off small cliffs into the sea without signing a waiver.
"Belize is in many ways a very easy place to settle. The mix of tropical beach atmosphere, established amenities, a readymade expat network and plenty of North American influence makes for a drama-free transition."
Sounds enticing, doesn't it?
Here are the five best places to live in Belize, according to International Living.
You might have heard of the Isla Bonita (beautiful island) of Ambergris Caye, especially if you're a diver snorkeler or fisherman. (Caye is pronounced as key, by the way.)
If white sands and turquoise waters are your idea of paradise, Ambergris Caye should be on your shortlist. An established expat community with many transplants from the U.S. and Canada is located on this island, which means there's an in-place support system and plenty of company to be found at the plentiful and lively beach bars overlooking those warm, clear waters. Although prices are slightly higher than in other areas of Belize, the cost of living is less than you might imagine.
A couple can enjoy a comfortable retirement in Ambergris Caye, including rent, for between $2,950 to $3,150 per month. Expats who own their own homes says it's possible for a couple to live quite comfortably on less than $2,000 a month.
Caye Caulker can be reached from its big sister Ambergris Caye via a 30-minute water taxi ride. While it is much smaller, with fewer than 2,000 residents compared with Ambergris' 20,000, Caye Calker is just as beautiful -- and the pace is much slower. The streets are composed of packed sand, and nobody has to dodge traffic here. A few golf carts provide transportation, but no cars or trucks are used. The cost of living on Caye Caulker is surprisingly affordable for a popular (though not super well-known) Caribbean island. Most people can live comfortably on this island for $1,500 to $2,000 a month, rent included.
This charming little seaside town is found at the tip of a peninsula off the coast of Belize's mainland, located about three hours south of Belize City. Placencia is fast becoming Belize's most desirable location because it sits on the gorgeous Caribbean Sea, as well as a freshwater lagoon. The town also is close to wildlife and owns a view of the gorgeous Maya mountain chain. There are still real estate bargains to be had -- and the relaxed lifestyle is unsurpassed -- but it's getting discovered and that means prices are likely to rise.
Living a modest lifestyle and avoiding imported goods help to keep the cost of living in Placencia down. A couple can live comfortably in Placencia for $2,500, rent included.
Corozal is located in northern Belize near the border with Mexico and is a good-value option for anybody looking for waterfront living at a great price. Coruzal is situated on the pretty Bay of Chetumal, and you'll find that prices for just about everything -- from real estate to groceries -- will be lower in Corozal than on the islands.
There is a pretty main square in Corozal and -- thanks to its proximity to Mexico -- this town feels a bit more Latin than some other parts of Belize.
A couple that lives in Corozal Town and owns their own home can live comfortably on just $1,500 a month. For a couple that rents, the budget increases to around $1,800 a month.
If you love the outdoors and exploring rivers and rainforests, you'll be interested in Cayo. The twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena are the heart of the region, and both of these places sport the feel of the Old West feel. Bargains can be found here, too -- not only on real estate but on the huge amount of produce and fresh cheeses grown and produced here by resident Mennonites.
A couple could live comfortably, including rent, in Cayo for just $1,730 a month.
So, there you have a great list of spots that are ideal places to live if you are thinking of a move to Belize. Here's a couple notes about two other destinations you might hear about.
Belize City is not a place to consider for a move, mainly because it lacks the fine Caribbean beaches and quaint beachside bars. A move to Belize inevitably requires spending some time in Belize City. That's because the international airport is located there, so it's a transit point. And Belize City is home to other services you might need, such as hospitals and shopping.
But other than for these relatively uninspiring reasons, you probably won't find much need to spend time in Belize City.
Belmopan is located in the Cayo district of Belize. While it also is a perfectly fine city -- and serves as the capital city and administrative hub of the country's government -- there's not a lot in Belmopan that will inspire you to want to move there, especially with so many other fine choices that give you the real flair that Belize is known for.
Thanks for reading,
Article content courtesy of InternationalLiving.com