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Belize: An Undiscovered Central American Paradise
Introduction to Belize
Ah, Belize. A request came up for me to answer the question: should I consider moving to Belize? and my first thought was my buddy Gabe, who had spent several weeks down there as part of a medical mission nearly a decade ago and has never stopped talking about the paradise he found there. If you're reading this now and don't see his stories further down the page, bookmark and come back in a few days because he will be sharing some of his favorite stories, which I'll publish here. In the mean time, I definitely want to dive into the advantages of possibly living in Belize, and even if you decide that's not the right move for you, there are still many incredible reasons to visit, whether for a few weeks on vacation or for an extended "mini-retirement." Belize is an amazing nation, and truly an "undiscovered treasure" in a time when that term is hyped up way too often with over developed tourist traps. From my research, from my friend's stories, and from the best information, stories, and blogs I can find, I hope you find this page on reasons to consider moving to Belize helpful, enjoyable, and eye opening.
Belize Photographs - All from Flickr Creative Commons and Copyright Belongs to Their Respected OwnersClick thumbnail to view full-size
Some Pros of Living in Belize
There are many positives of living in Belize, and that's part of the reason that this little Central American nation is becoming more and more popular with retirees from several different nations. While this section could be huge in and of itself, I'm going to keep it shorter and expand on more later. Some quick reasons to consider moving to Belize:
- The weather. It's tropical, there are beautiful Carribean-like beaches, and without the huge crowds that come with other areas like this.
- Low cost of living. Many retirees from the United States and Great Britain report living like royalty for as little as $450-500 a month in home currency. Considering food, rent, gas, or property taxes in those countries, that's a pretty stunning number.
- Laid back lifestyle. In many industrialized Western nations it often seems like everyone is a rush to get through life and into the grave. Not in Belize. People are often relaxed, and know how to take their time and actually enjoy life.
- English is the first language. Creole is also widely spoken, but since Belize was a British colony, English speakers will have no problems getting around.
- Kindness. Gabe talked over and over again about simply how nice everyone was while he was in Belize. You can't overlook something like that.
Reasons to Retire in Belize
There are several reasons why not only immigrating to Belize might seem like a great idea, but many individuals who are middle aged or older should even possibly look at the advantages of retiring in Belize. Part of the reason that Belize has looked very attractive to retirees in recent decades is that the government of this nation has gone out of its way to attract foreign expats who are ready to settle into the golden years of retirement. Taxes are only 1.75% for residents there, and if you only want to be semi-retired, then as long as your business is transacted outside of Belize (say, like as a freelance writer or consultant), then up to $2,000 a month (USD equivalent) is completely 100% tax free in Belize, up to a total of $15,000 a year. While there are some specific fees to be aware of, the total taxes end up being far lower than in most nations like the US or UK.
Other reasons include laid back life styles, beautiful scenery, and tropical weather. There is a rainy season to be aware of, but maybe that's just a good time to visit friends around other parts of the Hemisphere :) There are many reasons why Belize will continue to be extremely popular among retirees looking for the good life once they stop working.
Dive in the Blue Hole: from the Belize Barrier Reef
7 Minute Recorded Blue Hole Dive
Great Pictures of a Blue Hole Dive
Belize City Diving
One of the greatest attractions in all of Belize is of course going to be the Belize barrier reef and in particular, the "blue hole," which could very well be a one of a kind phenomena, completely unique in the world as we know it (and we have the world pretty thoroughly mapped at this point). Because of this, whether on vacation or looking at a more permanant stay, you will want to know about Belize City dive resorts, and other diving options in the area.
First of all, if you're thinking about the traditional luxury hotel with an automatic charter, you will have to temper your expectations. There are plenty of charters to go diving by the Belize barrier reef, and a couple hotels that have their own dive shops to provide this experience, but Belize is not as heavily developed as many tourist destinations, so the luxury "all in one package" isn't something you're likely to find here, although finding your way from beach hotel or "resort" to a barrier reef dive won't be any problem at all. Portofino Diving and Victoria House are names of hotel dive shops, while Scuba Diving Belize, Monkey Business Travel, and Adventures in Belize are 3 popular diving agents located right there in Belize City.
You can visit this Belize Dive Site to get a better idea of the many Belize City diving options available to locals and visitors alike. There are some areas that are specifically just for snorkeling, but if you want a really good look into the blue hole, you're going to have to go full SCUBA to get a good look at that modern marvel.
Places to See in Belize
The Bird Islands are very aptly named, and offer nature lovers views of frigates, egrets, herons, cormorants, and many other tropical birds who nest on these two shallow water islands by the thousands. The water around these islands is also emerald green because of heavy limestone deposits in the water. Santa Rita is a spectacular set of Mayan ruins that can rival most of the Mayan cities in the Yucatan Peninsula. These Mayan ruins also wrap around the modern town of Corozal, they are easily accessible and easy to visit. La Barra Cedar Beach is an easy to access area that serves as a fantastic site for swimming, beach picnics, and observing the type of nature often limited to virtually inaccessible nature preserves. These places just scratch the surface of the many sights worth seeing in Belize.
Belize: Melting Pot of Culture
Brief History of Belize
Belize was long the home of the Mayan Empire, which also expanded through Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula, but some historians believe now that some of the finest cities may have been in Belize. While the British were the Europeans to settle in the region, ironically it started as pirates and then loggers, because technically Belize was under Spanish sovereignty in name and title, if not in practice. Belize, as part of British Honduras, didn't even become an official colony until 1862, over 100 years after the first British settlers set up in the area.
In modern times, independence seemed a sketchy proposition because Guatemala repeatedly threatened to take Belize by force, and claimed the land as their own. Using diplomatic pressure by taking their case to the international stage, Belize eventually was able to declare full independence in 1981. It took Guatemala until 1991 to recognize Belize's independence, and while the two nations often have disputes, they remain diplomatic, keeping Belize (along with Costa Rica) as one of the safest and most stable regions in Central America.
Off the Beaten Path Adventures in Belize
Cave tubing is a very popular activity for adventure tourists in Belize. There are many private companies that offer these tours, and personally help to guide tubing tourists through the caves. The big caveat on this one is to always make sure the river is at normal levels. While deaths are extremely rare, they have happened usually because of tubing being attempted when the river was flooded. Under normal conditions, this is an activity that tens of thousands have enjoyed safely as a once in a lifetime experience.
The snorkeling and SCUBA diving has been covered en masse in this hub already, but some other off the beaten path adventures could mean touring and running through some of the Mayan ruins in northern Belize, jungle horse back riding, or even spending several days and nights in safari in the jungles with a knowledgeable local guide to show you the way. There are many possibilities in Belize for the adventurer in all of us.
My Friend Gabe's First Hand Belize Experience
I really can't wait to get some stories from Gabe, and his first hand experience from being in Belize when he was part of the Iowa National Guard. Until I can get the actual stories, and maybe an interview with him, I'll just have to give some snippets he's told me so far before. Keep in mind Gabe has an irreverent sense of humor, so no offense is ever meant with these statements, he just likes cracking observational humor along with the stories:
"Well unfortunately the local cigarettes are terrible, but they still beat a pack of Newports."
"The local beer is pretty awful, but you like the bars and company. But if you go to the island don't request Jimmy Buffett unless you want the bartender to suddenly double the price of your drinks."
"It's amazing who you meet. We were chilling with Cuban doctors, an Irish doctor, some British retirees - and they'd just mix with everyone from town. It was really cool, and a lot of fun."
"Hope you're not scared of flying. Depending where you fly in, the runway's only 800 yards long. Nothing like landing and the pilot having to slam a U-turn while breaking." (laughing loudly at the look on my face).
"It's paradise, man. I'd go back in a heartbeat. I'd bring my own cigarettes though. Also would have brought back an entire bag of Cuban cigars if I knew my bags weren't going to get checked at customs. Man, missed that opportunity." (laughs again)
Belize, in Conclusion
It's not hard to see why Belize continues to grow in popularity among tourists and retirees alike. This is a beautiful country that offers the same beautiful beaches, amazing Mayan ruins, and natural advantages of many other Central American or Caribbean nations, but they truly are undiscovered compared to these other places - and not in danger of becoming a tourist trap any time soon. There's a little bit of something for everyone, and a relaxed atmosphere helps visitors enjoy every minute of their break from the modern grind. Whether it's for a visit, or to move for a long term stay, Belize has a lot to offer people from all walks of life.
Belize Related Websites
- Belize Scuba Diving Snorkeling on Ambergris Caye, Caribbean
One of the best online Belize scuba and diving resources that I've found.
- Home - Official website of the Belize Tourism Board
Official Belize vacation planning and travel information for Belize hotels, Belize resorts, diving, fishing, Maya temples, Belize rainforest and vacation packages., The official travel guide to Belize, from the Belize Tourism Board with attractions,
- Article Archive: Living in Belize the Expat's Guide
Article archive: Facts, articles and information about life in Belize as an expatriate. Plan your retirement in Belize or an exciting new life and career.
- Retirement in Belize
Why Belize ranks highly as an overseas retirement hot spot for Britons considering living abroad, as well as Americans and even other retirees.
- Belize - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia