Caribbean Island Living on $1500 a Month

Harbor on the Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is popular with yacht owners and watersports fans. |©iStock/ppart

A professional mariner for more than 50 years, Pete Sanchez spent his life globetrotting as captain on private yachts, running crew boats to offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, visiting dozens of exotic locations and managing a series of marinas in Saudi Arabia.

But there was no doubt where he wanted to retire.

"I have spent nearly my entire adult life on or near the water, except the years I spent as a marine in Vietnam. I think I have done almost everything relating to boats and marinas in my career. I have seen more ports than I can count and have multiple passports filled with stamps. But when I found Isla Mujeres, there was something about it that just hooked me through the heart."

Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) is a tiny island about eight miles off the coast of Cancun, accessible by frequent ferry service. About 4.5 miles long and a half mile wide, it is far from deserted and supports some 25,000 full-time residents.

Ferries regularly shuttle boatloads of tourists from the mainland, most making day trips. Ample restaurants, resorts, apartments, hotels, and crowded beaches absorb the large number of smiling faces, with countless tourist shops providing the normal island sundries. Golf carts and motor scooters are the primary forms of transportation on the island, competing with a large fleet of taxis for every inch of roadway and parking.

Isla has a prominent sport fishing operation as well as an active SCUBA diving presence. From around June 1 through September 15, whale sharks migrate through the area, which provides for some spectacular diving and photo opportunities. The island also offers a nice marina which Pete built and once managed for its owners.

"For more than 10 years, I worked out of Galveston. And each year, I would make several trips to Isla and Cozumel, for the yacht owners who loved fishing and diving. I loved Isla! It was just the right size, and everyone was so friendly. Back in 1999, my mother and I partnered to buy a small piece of land on the island."

Vietnam veteran Pete Sanchez found his ideal retirement spot on Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Vietnam veteran Pete Sanchez found his ideal retirement spot on Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

Despite his exposure to many exotic locations, Pete knew he wanted to eventually retire on Isla Mujeres and decided to build a nice property that would provide a place for his retirement as well as generating some income.

"I was working in Saudi Arabia at the time, making good money and figured I had better get busy building something on the Isla property."

Pete connected with friends on the island, sending construction plans and regular chunks of money to begin to build a four-unit hacienda. Each unit is an air-conditioned mini-suite with a bedroom, bathroom, small kitchen, and living room. The beautiful landscaping is highlighted by tall palm trees and an inviting pool.

"I designed it myself. Construction began in 2013 and it took about 10 years to get it done, mostly because I was building out-of-pocket, as I could," Pete says. "Much of the work was done while I was away, supervising by sending photographs and notes back and forth from Saudi and wherever else I happened to be. I'm happy with the way it turned out. Although my mom has passed, I think she'd like it too."

Pete says the tranquility and the beautiful sunsets and sunrises over the Caribbean never get old. He particularly loves the people, the full-time residents, many of whom Pete is long-time friends with.

Pete has just begun to accept a few guests to his property and alternately refers to it as Nauti Pete's or Casa B's, in honor of his late mother. For now, while Pete is sorting out his marketing plan and internet presence, you can check out Pete’s rental property on Rates vary significantly and seasonally, ranging from about $75 per night to about $250 per night, which is comparable to other similar properties on the island.

"Cost of living on an island is always a bit more than living on the mainland," says Pete. "But it's worth it. One is likely to spend about $1,500 to $2,000 per month, all in, for the essentials. Many live on less and many spend more.

"These days, there's plenty to keep me busy right here on the property. But when I have some free time, I wander down to the marina or visit with other business owners I know. I also have a girlfriend who helps with managing the property. I'm plenty busy but I never turn down an invitation to go fishing."