Relaxing in a lounge chair, on the expansive sandy beach of Caye Caulker’s eastern shore, a refreshing breeze tickles my skin, providing a reprieve from the mid-day heat. Frigate birds glide overhead, buoyed by a constant salty sea breeze. My gaze follows the avid kite surfers as they bounce along the sparkling sea, their colorful sails billowing as they acrobatically turn mid-air. I’ll never tire of this idyllic Caribbean scene.
Caye Caulker is a tranquil, charming, laidback little island. It still looks and feels genuinely Caribbean. It’s small, with only 2,000 residents. The roads are composed of packed sand. Residents navigate the island on bicycles, or on foot. ”Go Slow” signs greet you at regular intervals. The signs here are charming, quirky, and colorful. There are no flashing electric neon signs. You’ll see no cars or trucks…and few golf carts.
Strolling along the village’s main street, which runs tandem to the beach, is a delight. You’ll pass a series of inviting B&Bs, guesthouses, and small condo buildings, all painted in lively Caribbean colors such as orange, purple, powder blue, yellow, and lime green. Each establishment is infused with the owner’s personal touch. The same is true of the beach kiosks. Each small, quaint shack offers tours, treats, liquid refreshments, or local art work.
The very qualities that make Caye Caulker irresistible also make it elusive. Expats who fall in love with this island find few homes and condos for sale. The real estate market is thin since there are only 2,000 people on this island. Over the last few years the cost of beachfront properties on Caye Caulker has become nearly equivalent to similar properties on Ambergris Caye.
But, fortunately, there is a way to grab your piece of paradise on Caye Caulker at an affordable price.
Flying over Caye Caulker’s north island it’s easy to see that development is picking up. Recently I dropped by a real estate agent office to ask about development plans for the north island. I was told that the town board is planning, long-term, for a separate village on the north island. This will not happen overnight. But the government is starting to put infrastructure into place.
On the north island there is quite a bit of property available that’s well priced. You’ll find lots both on the sea, or one row from the sea, currently available for $50,000 to $100,000. You could buy one of these lots and build your dream home for $100 to $175 per square foot. So for under $200,000 you could build a home with a Caribbean Sea view on north Caye Caulker. There are also some sea view lots available on the main island, south of the airstrip, at a higher price.
Having watched neighboring Ambergris Caye’s northern island develop over the last ten years, it seems to me that Caye Caulker’s north island will travel along a similar development path. I can remember when the only way to get to north Ambergris Caye was on a rickety, hand-pulled barge… Now there is a bridge, a concrete road, and a series of large-scale resorts and lovely homes.
On north Caye Caulker, the electricity lines have already been installed from the split going a mile north. Water pipes are currently being placed. You no longer need a landline for phones and DSL in Belize. Now you can buy a 4G MiFi token from Smart, and a cellphone. Both work throughout Belize. And most residents continue to build cisterns to collect and store rainwater, rather than rely on piped water.
There is one notable difference. Unlike Ambergris Caye, there are no plans to build a bridge to connect the north and south islands of Caye Caulker. It’s unimaginable to ruin the gorgeous split with a bridge. So, for the immediate future, anyone who decides to buy, build and live on the north island will need a boat to travel back and forth to town. There is a private water taxi service that began to operate in October 2015. On request it will take you to the north island for $10. But with time the island’s water taxi service will expand, with increasing demand.
It seems to me that north Caye Caulker will follow a similar path to north Ambergris Caye. But, fortunately, the cost of property on the north island is a fraction of what you’d pay for similar property on north Ambergris Caye. This is a good time to snap up a lot, before prices start to rise. As more electric lines are installed, and more homes built, the cost of property on the north island will inevitably rise. It’s just a matter of time.
You could build in a few years, or resell the lot at a later date. It’s hard to imagine the value of an ocean-view lot on the north island of Caye Caulker dropping in the future. So if you are planning a Caribbean island retirement with a five-year time horizon, this is a good time to consider investing.
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