Ambergris Caye (pronounced key) is one of the most popular destination in the English speaking, Central American country of Belize. The second largest barrier reef in the world is located just mile from the shore of this Caribbean island, making it one of the best dive destinations in the world. The reef teems with tropical fish of every size, color, and description, along with exotic corals, sponges, and sea fans. Windsurfing, sea kayaking, catamaran sailing, jet skiing, parasailing, and kite boarding are among some of the water sports available on Ambergris Caye. The island and some of the resorts were featured on several TV series, such as Temptation Island, The Bachelor and Gene Simmons Family Jewels.
The mainland of Belize is only an hour away from Ambergris Caye by boat or 15 minutes by plane. Many world-renowned Mayan sites including Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, Caracol, El Pilar, Lamani, and Xunantunich can be found there. The world famous Mayan city of Tikal is just over the border in Guatemala. There are many enjoyable mainland adventures available in Belize including, cave tubing, river canoeing, caving, hiking, zip lining, and horse back riding.
“Like when I was a child—unsupervised–no danger.” says expat RE/MAX realtor, John Turley, referring to his kids riding their bikes to and from school. “It’s 100% the best place to raise a family.” We are on Ambergris Caye, a beautiful, tropical island just of the coast of Belize, Central America. Turley is explaining why Ambergris is becoming such a hot real estate market. In addition to being an English-speaking country, Belize has a stable dollar—ties to the U.S. Dollar at 2:1 for years—AND no capital gain tax.
Kyle Thomas, also an expat and the Coldwell Banker realtor, agrees with Turley, “Low violence, low crime…you can walk the beach at night.” According to Thomas the market had completely recouped by 2010. Most properties will yield about 15% growth per year. About 75% of transactions are in cash. Sales are usually at about 10 to 15% return.
I asked Thomas why I saw so many for sale signs as I drove my golf cart (the main form of transport here, along with boats) down the road to meet with him. He explained that many people would put property back on the market as soon as they bought, with no rush to sell, knowing that they would resale for at least a 10% gain eventually. He said that the best deals are in beachfront lots, running around $350 to 400 thousand USD for 100 foot frontage. Next best are condos. Some definite advantages to buying in Belize are very low property taxes (maybe $100 USD per year), high growth potential, no capital gain tax and no U.S. Tax if you keep the money in Belize.
A growing interest in tourism, fair home prices and generous retirement incentives for expats is helping the recovery in the Belize housing market, which in reality, did not suffer as much as the American and Canadian markets. Tourism now accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP, with attractions like the Mayan temples and pristine beaches bringing in overseas dollars. Retirees appreciate Belize’s low barriers to entry, tax incentives and business opportunities, which have resulted in being rated as the number two foreign retirement location by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
Several of the expats we met on the island are successful entrepreneurs. Kelly McDermott, whose family is from Texas, was raised on the island. Along with her husband, Mukul, and a friend she has the Phoenix Resort, three restaurants, Caliente, Blue Water Grill and Red Ginger, and a wine shop and wine distribution business. Kelly’s philosophy is, “Leave the world a little better than you found it.” She says that she wouldn’t live any place else. Chef Amy Knox’s Wild Mango restaurant is located on the beach in the center of San Pedro Town and has a very special Caribbean ambiance. To the south of town a young couple, Jo and Chris Beaumont, have started the successful Belize Chocolate Company out of their home. Their Kakaw brand chocolate is free trade and all ingredients are from Belize.
We visited many of the resorts with properties/condos for sale and found most to be very good buys. Some are:
Pelican Reef Villas
Las Terrazas Resort
Coco Beach Resort
The Phoenix (a great place to stay, but doesn’t have condos for sale presently)
For anyone considering becoming an expat or just making a great Caribbean investment, Ambergris Caye is a good place to look.
IF YOU GO
For more information:
Ambergris Caye, Belize, Central America
Both United and American Airways have flights from the U.S. to Belize, Central America.
By air one can travel from Belize City or Corozal (near the Mexican Border):
From Belize mainland or Chetumal, Mexico one may go by water taxi:
San Pedro Belize Express
San Pedro Water Taxi
While on the island, golf cart is the preferred means of transportation:
San Pedro Golf Cart Rental
Where to stay:
See resorts recommended above.
Palmilla Restaurant (Victoria House)
Admiral Nelson’s beach bar (Victoria House)
Blue Water Grill