Living Abroad in Belize
Prime Living Locations
© Lan Sluder, from Living Abroad in Belize , 1st Edition.
Used by permission of Avalon Travel Publishing. All rights reserved.
Maps © Avalon Publishing Group, Inc.
Prime living locations—Northern Cayes, Northern Belize, Cayo District in Western Belize, and Southern Belize—are the best choices for living, retiring, and spending time in Belize. The following page explores the options in each of these regions of the country, including a closer look at what each area offers, the cost of living, price and availability of homes and land, and other practical matters.
Even if you're a world traveler with a bazillion frequent-flyer miles, chances are you'll be impressed by your first visit to the islands of Belize. Set in some of the clearest waters you can imagine, with underwater visibility up to 200 feet or more, scores of travel-poster islands dot the Caribbean along Belize's 190-mile-long barrier reef. The reef is an undersea rainforest of incredible diversity, with wildly colored corals and tropical fish, swooping manta rays, and watchful barracudas.
Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are by far the largest and most populated of Belize's cayes, and they attract 99 percent of visitors and expats to Belize's islands. Some other islands are just spits of coral and sand, here today and possibly gone tomorrow, after a tropical storm. Others are mangrove islands. Three—Turneffe, Lighthouse, and Glovers—are Pacific-style atolls, with some of the best diving in the entire Caribbean.
Northern Belize is the “Sugar Coast” of Belize, land of sugar cane and sweet places to live. Corozal and Orange Walk Districts are the two northernmost districts in Belize, and Corozal abuts Mexico. Corozal District is one of the undiscovered jewels of Belize. There's not a lot to do, but it's a great place to do it. The Sugar Coast—sugar cane is a main agricultural crop here, as it is in Orange Walk District just to the south—is a place to slow down, relax, and enjoy life. The climate is appealing, with less rain than almost anywhere else in Belize, and the fishing is excellent. The sunny disposition of residents—Mestizos, Creoles, Maya, Chinese, East Indians, and some North Americans—is infectious.
Northern Belize is a big yawn for most short-term visitors to Belize. But if you're a would-be expat looking for a place to plant yourself for a few months—or forever—you may find this area one of the most appealing parts of Belize. The low-key and friendly ambience, proximity to Mexico for shopping and medical care (the Mexican city of Chetumal has more than two-thirds the population of the entire country of Belize), and attractive housing values have brought hundreds of expats to this area, with more on the way.
Cayo District is the “Wild West” of Belize, but these days, it's attracting adventuresome retirees, ex-hippie farmers, old Belize hands who prefer hills to beaches, and students who want to try out college in Belize. Cayo District has a lot going for it: wide-open spaces, cheap land, few bugs, and friendly people. This might be the place to buy a few acres and grow oranges.
Cayo District, in Western Belize bordering Guatemala, is an exception to most of what you come to expect in Belize. In a country on the Caribbean coast, Cayo (ironically, the Spanish word for “island”) is landlocked, with rivers but no lagoons, and it borders on no sea or bay. Instead of low-lying, bug-infested tropical vistas, you'll find rolling hills, low mountains, and few mosquitoes or sandflies in Cayo. While Cayo has some lush broadleaf jungle, it also has piney woods and red clay that may remind you of north Alabama. It has both the hottest and the coldest weather in Belize. On summer days, temperatures can soar to over 100°F, or dip into the 40s on a winter's eve in the 3,000-foot elevations of the Mountain Pine Ridge. Because of the hilly terrain and the rivers, during the rainy season (June to November) the area is occasionally prone to flooding. Rivers can rise with amazing suddenness, creating danger for anyone on or near the fast-moving waters.
In Southern Belize the climate is truly tropical, with temperatures rarely falling below 60°, even in the winter. The rain often falls in buckets during the summer and fall, and that abundance of moisture breeds true rainforests, especially in the far south, with lush carpets of deep green. This is the only part of Belize where rice can be easily grown in the flooded fields.
Lovers of the sea will enjoy the great sailing, kayaking, diving, and snorkeling all along the southern coast. Anglers will find one of the world's best permit fisheries-and fishing for tarpon, snook, and bonefish is excellent here, too.
Southern Belize has the best beaches on the mainland and some of the most dramatic scenery in the country. The region comprises two districts, Stann Creek and Toledo, which together have a population of almost 50,000, predominantly Maya and Garifuna, and also many Creoles and Mestizos. Three areas of particular interest to those relocating, retiring, or visiting Belize for an extended period—or for those looking to buy property in Belize—are the Hopkins Village area, the Placencia Peninsula, and Punta Gorda. The main road through this region is the Southern Highway, almost all of which has been paved and upgraded. It is now the best road in Belize.