Angie Mclean has been traveling all over looking for a place to call home once her kids have grown up. First she visited American expat favorite, Cuenca, in Ecuador. Nice, she said, but she didn’t fall in love. Costa Rica? Too played out. Thailand? Her dream, but too far from the kids. Mexico? Nope. And Panama, it turns out, wasn’t her place either. Then one morning following some sleep-induced Web browsing, and apparently ticket buying at a steal, when she woke up, there was an email reading “Congratulations, you’re going to Belize.”
In recent years, the Central American country — and more specifically Ambergris Caye, a tiny sliver of Caribbean island — has been growing in popularity. Retirees, investors, vacationers and digital nomads have been coming in droves, drawn not just by the country’s natural beauty — it boasts a barrier reef second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia — but by the low cost of land and ample investment opportunities. English is also the official language. That being said, the local population of Belize is incredibly diverse, made up of people of Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya, English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese, and South Asian descent.
“If you’re looking at Belize, we’re kind of like the Bahamas or Cayman Islands 30 years ago, Ambergris Caye at least,” said Dustin Rennie, a real estate agent with RE/MAX in Belize. “It’s been crazy, when I first started coming down here, nobody knew where Belize was. Now all of the sudden it’s on the world’s radar. We are finally just getting international brands here, and when you have brands like Hilton and Marriott starting to come in here, their marketing dollars are really fueling a lot of our tourism and a lot of our growth. So I think we are at a tipping point.”
Within 10 minutes of arriving in Ambergris Caye, Mclean knew she had found her place.
“Everything about it was just in sync,” she said. “It has the perfect amount of fruit stands where you can go and get a smoothie, the perfect amount of partying where it’s not loud or raves all night but people have a good time sitting around listening to some live music, the weather is nice, the people sort of mind their own business, it’s not too American where you are shuffled around in a Planet Hollywood setting. It’s the perfect amount of island, it’s safe, it’s clean, the locals are friendly. I just fell in love with everything about it.”
Mclean purchased side-by-side plots in a development called Mahogany Bay, where she plans to build two homes, one will be a long-term rental and the other will be her second home until she retires and moves there full time. Land in Mahogany Bay, which is owned by Hilton, starts at $150,000. She also purchased an off-grid plot at Secret Beach, plus another plot where she is building a property she plans to use as an Airbnb on the neighboring island, Caye Caulker.