An irresistibly clear, aquamarine sea…rugged terrain covered by lush jungle canopy…vibrantly colored tropical flowers… What’s not to like about this romantic Caribbean island?
These days most people have heard of Belize. They’ve seen the TV ads and online videos of its gorgeous offshore islands, lush inland jungles, and ancient Mayan archaeological ruins. But when someone starts to plan their first trip to Belize they often ask, “Where is it?”
"I really like the people of Belize," says Ginny Ophof, who started visiting Belize after her mother moved to the Cayo District in 1977. "They have innate wisdom and empathy. They are tolerant and calm. Americans are better educated. But there's a lot they can learn from Belizeans." In 2007, Ginny moved to the Cayo, determined to spend quality time with her aging mom, who had just turned 85.
I’ve lived on Ambergris Caye in Belize for nearly nine years, but have never tired of watching the Caribbean’s powerful waves crash on the offshore barrier reef, creating a continuous fanfare of exploding sea spray. After their tumultuous encounter with the reef line, the waves flow serenely towards the shoreline and eventually roll onto the soft sand beach.
Sitting at the rooftop Luna Bar at sunset, you are treated to a vision of dusky rays reflecting off the iconic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel church, casting soft rose tones on the Spanish colonial buildings and the cobblestone streets below.
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.
Wandering down the narrow, enchanting cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende, the peal of church bells directs me towards the town’s center of activity, the Jardin Principal (Main Garden).
The seafront widens into an expansive, soft-sand beach lined with lime green, yellow, orange, and plum-colored kiosks. They tempt you with margaritas, beers, and sweet treats. Occasionally a golf cart drives by, but most people get around on bicycles, or on foot.
"Sitting on my sofa, I can look out to the Caribbean Sea and watch the water crash over the barrier reef," says Rose Alacantra. "The view from my condo connects me with nature. It helps frame my day-to-day attitude."
With its relaxed Caribbean lifestyle and spectacular beauty, Belize’s Placencia Peninsula has proven irresistible to a growing number of expats. This popular retirement and tourism destination boasts 17 miles of golden-sand beaches on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.