Sunday, April 24, 2011
Belize is an affordable Caribbean paradise
Sunlight sparkles and shimmers on the ocean. The warm tropical water laps gently against the sandy beach. Your hammock sways in the shade of lofty coconut palms, silhouetted against the summer-blue sky. You chat with a passing neighbor...take a dip in the sea...and wonder why you didn't move here earlier.
It's not surprising that Belize is a top choice for retirees and second-home buyers. It's English-speaking...with lush landscapes and beautiful beaches...easy to get to...and it's very affordable. And one location is fast becoming Belize's new hot spot...where right now, you can build your own beach home for $158,000.
The Garden of Eden
One of the world's leading travel guides called Belize, "The Garden of Eden."When you see it, you'll understand why. Belize boasts:
--Mile after mile of savannah, majestic mountains, hidden caves, tumbling rivers, and rainforest...home to jaguars, macaws, tapirs and monkeys
-- Mayan sites, many of which you'll have to yourself, and a rich history of conquistadors, pirates and buccaneers
-- Warm Caribbean waters, so crystal-clear you can see the shifting sands of the sea floor 150 feet below
-- Sandy atolls and islands, and the world's second-largest barrier reef... with a Technicolor rainbow of tropical fish, manatees and turtles
It's not just a haven for wildlife. Belize welcomes foreign residents. It's the only country I know where the country's tourist board administers the retiree program...
Belize encourages offshore business, including asset-protection trusts, too. There are no local income taxes, and no currency exchange controls.
Best of all, Belize is English-speaking. No need for hours of language classes, struggling to make yourself understood, or searching through dictionaries. You can start making friends as soon as you step off the plane...
Belize's Newest Hot Spot
One of Belize's best-kept secrets hit the headlines last year, when the AARP ranked Corozal as a top retirement hot spot. They cited Corozal's laid-back, affordable lifestyle:"with year-round outdoor play (boating, hiking, swimming, diving)... only 20 minutes from the malls and cineplexes of Chetumal..."
Less than 90 miles north from the international airport in Belize City, Corozal sits on the shores of Corozal Bay. The turquoise waters of the bay invite you to swim, or spend a few hours boating or fishing (the bay is good for tarpon, bonefish and permit). The town itself is peaceful, set around a central park with a historic Clock Tower and plenty of shade trees.
With a population of less than 11,000, Corozal feels like a quaint seaside town, with small local restaurants and stores. But it's only a half-hour from the Mexican city of Chetumal, where you'll find big-city conveniences.
Large chain retailers offer familiar North American brands. A duty-free zone with more than 300 stores stocks bargain-priced goods (electronics, clothing, perfume, alcohol). A modern movie theater complex shows first-run movies in English with Spanish sub-titles. More than a dozen clinics and hospitals (public and private) provide inexpensive medical care. Chetumal's restaurants, bars, casinos and clubs create an active nightlife scene.
Corozal is still a sleepy town, though. There's not much in the way of real estate development, although 300-400 expats now live here. The premier community in the area is Orchid Bay.
Corozal's Premier Waterfront Community
Six years back, owners at Orchid Bay were buying a master plan and a vision. The developer promised a beach club and restaurant...private beaches and a boat dock...and little beachfront casitas. But six years back, all buyers could see was heavy machinery cutting in roads and utilities...
Today, however, it's a different story. The beach club, restaurant and bar opened last year. You can enjoy tasty meals and snacks...or shoot the breeze with friends and neighbors over a local Belikin beer. The first beach and the dock are complete, and a second beach is underway. Eight homes are under construction. And those little beachfront casitas, well, all 24 are finished. The first owners have already moved in. The community WiFi is up and running...and the first of two swimming pools is under construction.
The entire casita phase sold like hot cakes. They make great lock'n'leave homes. But one owner needs to sell. Her casita is back on the market for $210,000.
The casita interiors use locally-sourced and crafted hardwood
Alternatively, if you want to build your own home, lot pricing starts at $44,000. Good quality build costs are $100 per square foot...or up to $125 for high quality finishes. There is no minimum home size. The team at Orchid Bay will build you a 998 square foot home for $114,000. That's $158,000 for your home and lot if you decide to build...incredibly affordable for a Caribbean home...
Dipping Your Toes in the Water
Now, I can describe Belize, Corozal, and even Orchid Bay all day long. But nothing beats seeing it yourself...dipping a toe in the water...and seeing if it feels right for you. An Orchid Bay chill weekend gives you the opportunity to explore Corozal...visit Mayan ruins... enjoy a seafood barbeque on the beach...meet expats who have already made the move...and ask all the questions you need to ask about the buying process, and Belize's residency program.
Plus, you'll get an up-close look at Orchid Bay's many property options...with those home sites from $44,000...and that resale casita, too.
Of course, you'll have plenty of time to relax on the beach, and enjoy the clear Caribbean Sea...or kick back in a hammock with an ice-cool drink. The trip costs $399, including meals and accommodation. The next chill weekend runs May 13th-15th (other dates are also available). You can find out more by inquiring here.
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