Five Places To Live In Belize And Two To Avoid
The English-speaking country of Belize has a lot going for it. For a tiny country, it packs a big wallop when it comes to charm and scenery.
For the would-be expat—especially one looking for real value—various options are available, from islands to inland jungle. A newly updated report from the editors at International Living identifies five locations within Belize that make great retirement destinations—and two that don’t.
The Central American country of Belize—close to the U.S. and predominantly English-speaking—offers distinct and varied lifestyle options for expats. From a tranquil, laidback beach-town existence in Placencia; to a lively, Jimmy Buffet-style party life on the island of Ambergris Caye; to a quiet, off-the-grid life out in the wild west of the Cayo District, which borders Guatemala.
Vacationers find in Belize a place that’s unapologetically casual, warm, and welcoming. Signposts, menus, paperwork, and conversations are all in English, as this is the official language. There’s a loose mix of Caribbean charm, with just enough North American culture to make visitors 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.
“All that is as enjoyable for visitors as it is for residents. 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.”
International Living’s newly updated report focuses on five locales that can make excellent retirement escapes—and two that are less desirable.
In no particular order, here are the five best places to live in Belize.
Anybody who is a diver or fisherman or loves to snorkel, has probably heard of the Isla Bonita (beautiful island) of Ambergris Caye. (In this case, “caye” is pronounced as “key,” by the way.) If white sands and turquoise waters are your idea of paradise, Ambergris should be on your short list. An established expat community with many transplants from the U.S. and Canada exists on this island, which means there’s plenty of company to be found at the plentiful and lively beach bars overlooking those warm gin-clear waters. Although things are slightly more expensive than in other areas in Belize, the cost of living is less than most folks 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 your own homes report it’s possible for a couple to live quite comfortably on less than $2,000 a month.
It takes only 30 minutes by water taxi to reach Caye Caulker from its big sister Ambergris Caye. While it is much smaller, with less than 2,000 residents compared to Ambergris’ 20,000, it’s just as beautiful on this island and the pace is much slower. The streets are still composed of packed sand, and nobody has to dodge traffic here. A few golf carts provide transportation, but no cars or trucks. The cost of living on Caye Caulker is surprisingly affordable for a popular (though not super well-known) Caribbean island. Most expats 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 mainland Belize about three hours south of Belize City. Placencia is fast becoming Belize’s most desirable location as it fronts the gorgeous Caribbean Sea to the east and a resplendent freshwater lagoon, full of wildlife and with a view of the gorgeous Maya mountain chain, to the west. There are still real estate bargains to be had here—and the relaxed lifestyle is unsurpassed—but it’s getting discovered and that means prices are likely to rise. So now’s the time to check it out, as this seaside town won’t stay untouched for long.
Living a modest lifestyle and avoiding imported goods help to keep the cost of living in Placencia down. A couple can still live comfortably here for $2,500, rent included.
Corozal—in northern Belize near the border with Mexico—is a good-value, lower-cost option for anybody looking for waterfront living. Not technically on the Caribbean, but instead on the pretty Bay of Chetumal, you’ll find that prices for just about everything—from real estate to local grocery items—will be less 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 $1,500 a month. For a couple that rents, the budget increases to around $1,800 a month.
The Cayo district. For anybody who loves lazy rivers, vast rolling hills, fertile farmland and rainforests where gardening skills can be put to the test, Cayo should be on the radar. The heart of this area are the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, both of which enjoy a rather “Old West” feel…but in a tropical frontiersman kind of way. 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 local Mennonites.
A couple could live comfortably, including rent, in Cayo for $1,730 a month.
Those picks aside, there are a couple of places in Belize that aren’t worth much attention from a “where to live” point of view…
Belize City is not a place potential expats should consider if thinking about a move to Belize. 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 here, so it’s a transit point. And Belize City is home to other services you may need, such as hospitals, attorneys, and some shopping.
But other than for these relatively uninspiring reasons, you probably won’t find any need to spend time in Belize City. Belize is a splendid country and there are many far more attractive places, like the ones mentioned above.
Belmopan, located in the Cayo district of Belize, is the second place potential expats can cross off their list.s While it, too, is a perfectly fine city—and is the capital city and administrative hub of the country’s government—there’s not a lot in Belmopan to write home about.