The Best Of Belize
Clear turquoise waters lapping gently against soft white sand. Palm trees rustling in the warm breeze. Yellow and orange fishing boats bobbing on the horizon. Birdsong and island tunes all around…
Ambergris Caye, Belize, is unadulterated, unpretentious Caribbean…the sea, sand, and sunshine of the Caymans or the Virgin Islands without the price tag.
San Pedro town, a former fishing village, is the center of activity and home to a growing expatriate community of North Americans and Europeans catered to now by dozens of restaurants, shops, art galleries, and community organizations. You could settle in here quickly and easily, as the language (like everywhere in Belize) is English.
The real estate market, for both buying and renting, is developed, meaning you have many options at all price points. You can buy a condo for as little as US$100,000 or invest up to US$1 million or more, and you can rent for as little as US$600 to US$700 per month.
Life on Ambergris is relaxed and friendly, carefree and sunny. Adopt this island as your home, and you’d enjoy most all services and comforts you’re used to, and you’d never want for like-minded company.
That’s one face of Belize. Back on the mainland, life is very different.
Mainland Belize can be broken down into four zones: Belize City; the northern coast around Corozal; the southern coast around Placencia; and the interior Cayo.
Forget Belize City. This isn’t a place you’d want to live. The city has a reputation for being poor, dirty, and unsafe for a reason. It is poor, dirty, and unsafe. In Belize City last week for our Live and Invest in Belize Conference, I found it wholly unchanged from all my preceding visits. Seeing it for the first time, especially certain neighborhoods south of the river, the first word to come to your mind might be: appalling.
But Belize City is not representative of Belize.
Following the highway from Belize City south (this is one of but three highways in the entire country!) you come to Dangriga, Hopkins, Placencia and then, way down south, Punta Gorda. This is perhaps the most culturally diverse part of the country, home to the Garifuna, black Carib Indians known for their pounding and sensual song and dance. It’s really something to see, alone worth a visit to this region.
Following the coast north from Belize City brings you to Corozal, where life couldn’t be more laid-back. This is a part of the world where you can still arrange a home of your own directly on the beach with nary a neighbor around…if that’s what you’re in the market for.
The fourth face of Belize is my favorite. Inland, in the rain forest, is the Cayo District, a land of mountains and Mayan ruins, rivers and waterfalls. This is Belize’s frontier, a land where a man (or a woman) comes to stake a claim and make his own way. The wide-open spaces of Cayo appeal to the adventuresome and the independent. Living here, you’d enjoy lots of elbow room, far-reaching vistas, and a clean slate. You could start over and rebuild your life entirely.
You’d have a higher level of support than you might expect. I was surprised and delighted during my most recent visit to Cayo to find more shops and services than existed when I was in this part of the world last. I found my favorite haunts, including Eva’s, the café and expat meeting spot in the heart of San Ignacio, Cayo’s main town. Today, though, Eva’s is hardly the only place for an expat to connect with his fellows.
Alas, development is coming to Cayo. I acknowledge this with melancholy exuberance. Cayo is one of my favorite places on earth. Now it’s easier than ever to spend time here more comfortably than ever. I’m happy for this unsung region of this largely misunderstood country to begin to get a little recognition. At the same time, I can’t help but want to keep Cayo secret.
Belize’s Cayo District is one of the top choices worldwide for getting back to basics and going off-the-grid. The good news, as we discussed with attendees at last week’s Live and Invest in Belize Conference, is that going off-the-grid today does not have to be as challenging nor the lifestyle as rugged as it was even 10 years ago. Today, here amidst Cayo’s rain forest and rivers, you can live off-the-grid in style and good company.