Finding Your Own Sweet Home – in Guatemala

Everything that happens on Guatemala’s Rio Dulce happens because of the water. Rio Dulce translates as “Sweet River”…and life here is truly sweet. Mammoth lily pads blanket the lagoon.

Wooden paddles from canoes slap the surface of the water. Birds are everywhere. There are more shades of green than you can count. Life moves in slow motion.

Casey Brooks has found a new home in this watery haven.

Before moving to Guatemala, Casey—a native of Montana—was in Florida for a few years, working construction on new homes and renovating others. When the real estate market began to crumble, he decided it was time to set sail. “I left the States to cruise Central America and bought a piece of property in the Rio Dulce where I decided to stay,” says Casey.

For the past six years he has lived along the waterfront. The tiny community of Cayo Quemado is the closest town. It is home to about 80 Guatemalan families and an ever-growing number of expats. The increasingly popular tourist destination of Livingston is located about six miles downriver from Casey’s property.

Although many people come to the Rio Dulce area to retire, Casey is still working.

“Opportunity is everywhere,” he says. “Guatemala is open for business. Government leases with easy terms and no restrictions are readily available for securing property. I pay an annual lease payment—similar to real estate taxes in the U.S.—of $550 for 328 feet of waterfront property,” he explains.

Casey has taken advantage of the abundant opportunities to continue his construction business: Rio Dulce Waterfront.

“Land is very affordable here,” he says. “Lots large enough to build a home along the river run about $7,000. If you want property on higher ground you can find large parcels for between $30,000 and $40,000. I know a guy who bought an entire peninsula for $50,000.”

Casey builds wooden homes with metal or thatched roofs that are in harmony with the natural environs of the region. “I can build a 1,500-square-foot, custom home with a dock for around $60,000,” he says.

He also stores and refits cruising sailboats for their owners. “I have a crew of four Guatemalans to help me with all this stuff,” says Casey. “My dock is a mini-marina and this work brings in a monthly income. I don’t just store boats; I take on boats that have work to be done on them while the owners are gone for the summer season. The cruising season down here is November to May, when it is cold in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.”

The Rio Dulce area is filled with pioneering types. “The area isn’t for everyone, but—if you love the water and a boating lifestyle—this place is full of opportunity,” says Casey. “The area is still relatively undiscovered and reminds me of Costa Rica in the early 1980s.”

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