If you’re planning your first trip to Belize, here’s a list of the top 10 activities you should consider.
1. Experience the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
To truly experience Belize you must see the reef. If you’re not a water person you don’t need to get into, or onto, the sea to appreciate the reef’s beauty. Just hop a local flight to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker. You’ll be enchanted with the stunning view of the Caribbean Sea beneath you, and the waves breaking on the barrier reef, to the east of the cayes.
2. Take a Boat Trip
Be sure to get out onto the Caribbean Sea, inside the reef. Take a water taxi, motorboat, catamaran, or sailboat trip. Or get into a kayak and paddle out to the reef. The shimmering, nuanced shades of aquamarine are utterly calming when viewed this way. The sea is teeming with vibrant fish, coral and rays… And the water temperature is perfect, so you’ll want to jump right in.
3. Snorkel or Dive at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve
If you are a snorkeler, or diver, visit the protected Hol Chan Marine Preserve, on the south side of Ambergris Caye. This is a perfect place to snorkel or dive. It’s a protected cut through the reef’s wall. Here you’ll get up close and personal with Belize’s delightful sea creatures.
4. Visit a Mayan Ruin
Remnants of the Mayan civilization are everywhere in Belize. There are many ruins to explore and each is unique. If you’re in the Cayo, visit Xunantunich, or Caracol. If you’re on the cayes or in town then take a day trip to Lamanai or Altun Ha.
5. Don’t Miss the Best Little Zoo in the World
The focus is on the indigenous creatures of Belize. You only need a few hours to view Belize’s quirky creatures. Come early or late in the day, at mealtime. That way you’ll see the elusive jaguars and other shy creatures.
6. Try Some Unusual Local Food
Most tourists enjoy the stewed chicken, rice and beans, ceviche, and lobster dishes. Try something more unusual like stewed gibnut…a boil up…or hudut, the Garifuna’s traditional coconut fish stew. Add a splash of Marie Sharps, or Hot Mama’s veggie based hot sauce, to give it a kick. If in season, try mango slices sold by street vendors with salt and spices, for a sweet/spicy snack…
- Looking for Culture, Comfort and Low-Cost Living? Try Guatemala
Posted on April 16, 2014 by Eoin Bassett
It’s largely thanks to these folks that Guatemala has such a rich and unique culture. And it’s this culture that entices many of the expats who have made their homes here. “I love how different it is, and I want it to stay that way, too,” says Jean Johnson who lives in the colonial city of Antigua. “It’s like traveling into some epic or bygone landscape,” says Portland-native John Kin, of traveling around the highlands.
We discovered our colonial highland home by accident. We were on a year’s sabbatical, exploring the popular expat haven of San Miguel de Allende, when a couple we knew invited us to join them on a day trip to the nearby town of Guanajuato. We climbed the steps from the underground parking lot to a view of lively plazas, colonial-style buildings in bright orange and turquoise, and plentiful pedestrian areas. After an hour’s stroll, we knew this was where we wanted to base ourselves in Mexico. After that first visit in 1999, we kept returning.
Two years ago Rob Hamm and Tracey Krause along with their two children relocated from Winnipeg to Cotacachi, Ecuador. Their goal as a family was to experience a new culture, travel, and learn a new language—which they’ve successfully done. But, there was a catch. Rob and Tracey are only in their 40s and still needed to earn an income to support their family. In preparing for their change in lifestyle, Rob took his interest in photography to the point where his photos could provide income. Several months before coming to Ecuador he began submitting photos…
- We Spent a Year Exploring Latin America to Find Our Ideal Retirement Haven
Posted on April 12, 2014 by Tricia Lyman
During our months of preparation, we set about determining the criteria we needed to choose a location. The criteria we chose for ourselves initially were: a good health care system at a much lower cost; a stable government; not wanting a car, a walkable location with a good transportation system; good infrastructure; a Spanish-speaking country because Mike already spoke some but wanted to become proficient; a warm climate year round; and, of course, a lower cost of living.
- When You’re Spoiled for Choices Overseas, How Do You Choose?
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Suzan Haskins
“We’re looking at retirement options,” she wrote, “and I’ve appreciated your insights, particularly on Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and Uruguay. I know that seems like a lot of countries, so I’m hoping you can help us narrow it down. We plan to take a trip to at least two of these this year; one country at a time. Which country would you suggest we visit first? And can you please suggest some travel itineraries?”
- Live in Chiang Mai, Thailand for $1,200 – or Less – a Month
Posted on April 9, 2014 by Heather Van Deest
There’s no shortage of natural beauty in northern Thailand. There are dozens of rivers like the Mae Ping, which originates in the forest-clad Daen Lao mountain range and flows down through the temple-laden city of Chiang Mai. Waterfalls gush into fertile valleys like Mae Sa, where you’ll find elephant camps, orchid farms, and miles of lush jungle. This is a peaceful—some might say serene—part of the country, where for very little money you can enjoy a high level of comfort. With just $1,200 a month a couple won’t want for much, and that includes rent.
- You Can Have It All in Costa Rica’s Central Valley
Posted on April 8, 2014 by Jason Holland
I live in the heart of Costa Rica’s most populated region, the Central Valley. In fact, I live in the Gran Area Metropolitana (GAM), the name given to the capital, San Jose, and surrounding suburbs. The Valley has about 70% of the country’s population. It’s a center of culture and commerce. And the GAM, which contains towns popular with expats like Escazu, Santana, and Heredia, is honestly a sprawling urban area with traffic and noise.
- Off-the-Beaten Track Homes in Costa Rica…From $80,000
Posted on April 6, 2014 by Jason Holland
Of all the places I’ve visited in Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula is the one that feels most like the frontier. It’s a somewhat isolated region, with mile after mile of untouched coastline along the blue Pacific, craggy hills, vast cattle farms in the interior, and mazes of what are often dirt roads running through forests and fields. It’s also one of the world’s Blue Zones, where researchers have found that locals live longer on average due to a combination of diet, climate, and lifestyle.
- I Thank My Lucky Stars That I Moved to Penang, Malaysia
Posted on April 4, 2014 by Keith Hockton
I’m a very lucky guy to be doing what I’m doing, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t remind myself of that. Sometimes I say it to my wife, too, but she already knows how lucky we are. My wife and I moved to the island of Penang in early 2010. A small island—15 miles long and 12 miles wide—on the west coast of Malaysia, Penang, which is connected to the mainland by a six-lane bridge, is just two hours’ drive south of Thailand.
If you’re in the process of planning your move abroad, I’m betting you’ve spent a fair amount of time daydreaming about your future experiences, too. But despite the advantages and excitement that a move abroad brings there was one stumbling block that nearly prevented us from taking the leap: fear of commitment. And we’re not the only ones who have faced this. From talking to other expats it would seem that many people experience a mental block when it comes to making a final decision on where to settle.
I’m writing this postcard from a veranda overlooking the Caribbean Sea on a nearly forgotten tropical island. The ocean is showing off several shades of blue and a slight breeze teases the palms. The piña colada at my side completes the picture. But as my family’s annual vacation draws to a close I’m actually a bit anxious to return home to Cotacachi, Ecuador.
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” or “perfect” country for health care—it depends on what you want/need. There will always be trade-offs, just like in the U.S. For example, if you want to live in the country or remote beach towns, you probably won’t find the health facilities you’d expect to find in a big city. But while health care is a major consideration in deciding if/where to move abroad, it’s not the only factor.
Why stare at cold gray skies and dirty snow when you could enjoy warm sea breezes? That was the question I asked myself back in 2008. So I decided to search for an ocean view. I conjured up a vision of an international community in a town with an Old World feel, a tropical setting with hills, trees, and water. I was sure I could find a place to rent somewhere south of the border.
As a busy carpenter and contractor in his native Canada, Steve Quinn relished his regular trips to Costa Rica to relax and unwind on the beach. After six years of short visits, he decided to make this beach lifestyle permanent. He took over a beach bar and restaurant in Tamarindo, a funky surf town on the country’s northern Pacific coast. He’s leasing the property for three years, with an option to buy, which is a great way to test the waters without committing to purchasing property right off the bat.
Brothers Khalil and Abasi Chapman—and friend Rocky Leming—first landed in Costa Rica in 2005. At the time they worked in the restaurant and bar industry in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and heard rumors of the impressive surf down in Costa Rica. They headed south for a vacation somewhere on the Caribbean Coast…but ended up finding a new home. Today they run The Lazy Mon beach bar and restaurant in Puerto Viejo and draw huge crowds…
Most expats who consider moving to Belize dream of living near the Caribbean Sea on a beach. Fortunately for them, Belize offers several beach lifestyle options. Right now, the three most popular beach areas expats settle are Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Placencia Peninsula. Here’s a quick peek at each of these popular beach retreats… Ambergris Caye is the island that I’ve called home for the past six years—and I’m not the only one who has discovered its charms.
Going abroad sometimes comes as a response to a personal shakeup: the end of a relationship, a financial loss, or the passing of a loved one. Getting out of Dodge, at least for a while, can provide the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective and explore your options.
When my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I told our family and friends in 2001 that we were selling the house, quitting the business, and moving abroad, we got some looks of sincere concern for our sanity. But I don’t think we were crazy for going overseas back then. Here are the six biggest and best reasons why we’re so happy with our move overseas: 1. Our nest egg is actually growing. That’s because our cost of living is so low compared to back in the States. We still work as writers, and thanks to that lower cost of living we usually have…
- Enjoy the California Lifestyle – for Less – in Coronado, Panama
Posted on March 20, 2014 by Jessica Ramesch
Are you dreaming of a California lifestyle…but think that you’re unable to afford it? If so, you’ll want to consider Coronado, Panama. Just an hour’s drive from the only First-World city in Central America, at first glance you might notice that Coronado isn’t the cheapest retirement choice in the world…or even in Panama. A couple would want a total of $2,000 to $3,000 a month to live comfortably within the Coronado gates (including rent). Monthly rentals can be found for $1,000 to $2,000, and homes sell for $175,000 to $300,000…
There’s a lot to love about Ecuador—the amazing biodiversity; great weather; the low cost of living. And in the larger cities like Cuenca, where I live, the excellent medical care and cultural amenities are an added bonus. I’ve been kept up to date on the miserable winter in the States through Skype conversations with my two children. Right now I’m looking out the window at blue skies and am looking forward to yet another day with temperatures in the 70s.
- How the Seymours Retired at 41 and 44 in Costa Rica
Posted on March 18, 2014 by Jason Holland
Opening a business, moving to a small town, changing careers, heading out on the road in an RV…they considered all these options. But once they started reading about retiring overseas, it seemed the way to go. And Costa Rica quickly rose to the top of their list of destinations because it’s an easy flight back to Dallas and there’s good infrastructure, healthcare, and Internet access. And the climate where they live in the Central Valley is perfect year-round.
I visited San Miguel de Allende recently while working on a video project, and I had a chance to catch up with an old friend from when my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I lived there back in 2007 and 2008. It pleased me to find him doing well and to hear that his two children were growing into handsome, intelligent young adults. Part of the reason for that, he told me, were the chances they’d had to travel.
- Retirees Wanted to Test-drive Life Overseas For a Month—All Expenses Paid
Posted on March 15, 2014 by Jennifer Stevens
We at International Living are sending one lucky winner (along with a friend or spouse) to Coronado, Panama for a full month in 2014—free. The prize includes round-trip flights from the U.S. or Canada to Panama City, furnished accommodation in the beach-resort town of Coronado, plus a living-expense stipend of $1,500.
Belize is well-known for its famous Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. For decades adventurous scuba divers and anglers have vacationed in Belize, in pursuit of their favorite marine sports. But this tiny country also has some fine beaches. But they aren’t always obvious to the first-time tourist. Fortunately, the majority of Belize’s beaches are public and accessible. The 60-foot strip of beachfront adjoining the Caribbean Sea is usually public property.
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