Where to Settle in Belize
The most popular landing spots for expats in Belize are Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker; the Placencia peninsula; the Corozal district; and the Cayo Region. Some expats are now gravitating as far south as the Toledo District, although you’ll find fewer First World amenities there.
Ambergris Caye is the most popular island. Expats who live on the island enjoy the shifting shades of the aquamarine sea every day while walking the beach, riding a bike into town, or bopping around on a golf cart—the main form of transportation on the island.
San Pedro is the island’s bustling main town, where every Sunday afternoon local bars and restaurants have beach BBQs, with plenty of tasty food, social interaction, and live music.
Expats who live on the caye (island) have their pick of diverse restaurants, cafés, shops, and even a quality wine-tasting bar. Most expats join in the various volunteer and church organizations.
Caye Caulker provides a slower paced, less expensive alternative to Ambergris Caye. It’s only a 20-minute boat ride from one to the other. This island is much smaller, less populated, and with fewer extra-curricular activities. But it’s a lovely spot for those who seek peace and quiet near the Caribbean Sea.
Corozal is a favorite coastal spot for expats who are living on a social security budget. A big advantage is that Chetumal, Mexico, is right across the border, with its SAM’s Club, shopping malls, hospitals, and movie theaters. The cost of living in the Corozal area is low and there’s an active expat community.
Placencia is the mainland equivalent to Ambergris Caye, but much more tranquil. It’s the most popular beach area in the country, and yet, the Placencia Peninsula is not that crowded. With miles of quiet, sandy beaches, one can wander for hours – walking by the attractive expat homes right on the beach. There are far fewer condo complexes in Placencia than on the populated cayes—the vibe is laidback and Caribbean. Placencia Village, on the far south of the peninsula, is a colorful, lively town with an expanding selection of quality bars, cafés, gourmet bistros, and craft stores.
The Cayo – just two hours from the coast—is a great place for hiking, canoeing, exploring caves, viewing exotic wildlife, horseback riding, and visiting ancient Maya ruins. This region is abundant with rushing rivers, lush rainforest, and tumbling waterfalls. Although the main town of San Ignacio is busy, the surrounding country is open and property prices are very affordable. Beyond San Ignacio, expats are settling in quaint small villages such as Cristo Rey and Bullet Tree.
Expats who move to the Cayo typically purchase a piece of property to live off-grid, or for a small farm—these expats are self-sufficient types. There’s an active expat network and community in the Cayo, and it’s possible to live here on a social security budget.
The Toledo District
The Toledo District is often referred to as Belize’s “Forgotten District.” Few expats live in Punta Gorda – the capital and largest town of the Toledo District—but the number of expats moving there is increasing. It’s probably the most authentic part of Belize—tourism has not yet seriously altered the locals’ traditions and lifestyle.
Here the hills of rainforest roll down to touch the sea… Howler monkeys can be head barking in the tree tops from your room at the B&B… This wild, beautiful region is still off the beaten track…
For this reason, Punta Gorda doesn’t yet offer the amenities expats take for granted in the other expat hot spots—but the cost of living, and of property, is extremely affordable.
Still not convinced that Belize is right for you? Here are nine great reasons why it is a perfect retirement destination:
The cost of living in Belize is two thirds of what you would spend in Bermuda or the Bahamas, the highly popular resort areas of the Caribbean. A U.S. couple can live well for $2,000 a month, including rent, in Corozal, the Cayo, and Toledo Districts.
For a Caribbean destination, real estate prices are still reasonable. You can buy a three-bedroom home with a half-acre yard, on the bay of Corozal, for $250,000.
Belize offers retirees many benefits through the Qualified Retirement Persons Program (QRP). Among the benefits are the ability to bring personal goods to Belize tax-free—including a vehicle, boat, and plane—and paying no tax on any foreign-earned income. It also only requires you to spend one month of the year in Belize.
It takes only two hours to fly to Belize from the U.S., with regular flights from Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Miami.
Because of Belize’s tropical climate, the temperature rarely drops below 70 F, so there’s never a need to worry about heating costs or shoveling snow.
There’s no need to learn a new language either: Belize is the only official English-speaking country in Central America.
Personal taxes are practically non-existent in Belize. As well not paying income tax on foreign-derived income, there is also no capital gains tax, and no inheritance tax.
Belize is one of the world’s most beautiful, ecologically diverse countries. From the world’s second largest barrier reef, over 200 offshore cayes, and the famous Blue Hole, to exotic jungles, rivers, and magnificent Maya ruins, Belize offers expats a multitude of ways to enjoy its spectacular outdoor environment.
Belize is famous for its relaxed, Caribbean atmosphere and its laidback, “no shirt, no shoes, no problem” lifestyle.