Northern Belize—Where Wholesome Heartland Meets Tropical Caribbean
Our Belize Correspondent Con Murphy wrote a great Overseas Living Letter issue on Northern Belize lately, and I got swept away in his description of the towns in this region. It’s the closest I’ve gotten to touring a new region in quite some time—and I’d like to share it with you here today…
A Tour Of Northern Belize
By Con Murphy
Northern Belize’s population is tiny, with a little over 100,000 in the districts of Corozal and Orange Walk combined.
1. Corozal District And Town
Corozal is both the name of a district and a town in Northern Belize. Nestled on the Bay of Chetumal, Corozal Town is only a 9-mile hop from the Mexican city of Chetumal, the state capital of Quintana Roo.
It’s a lovely, laid-back, inexpensive place and home to the biggest population of expats in this part of the country, yet with 13,000 people, it has a small-village feel. In fact, Forbes listed Corozal third in a report of the 20 best places to retire in 2020.
It offers all the services, amenities, and community activities of a much larger town. The weather here is better than in the south, too: It gets 57 inches of rain per year—half that of Toledo, the most southern district of Belize.
Corozal is the recommended basecamp for anyone exploring Northern Belize. It lies 84 miles north of Belize City and 68 miles from the international airport.
Many start their Belize adventure at Tony’s Inn & Beach Resort, which you pass as you drive into Corozal from the direction of Belize City. It’s one of the original expat hangouts and a great place to meet people and get local advice. There are plenty of other places to stay while exploring the area, too, like Scotty’s, Jamrock, Tortuga’s, Mars Caribbean Gardens (for great Belizean food), and Corozal Blues.
Once you get your bearings in Corozal, head out of town to see what else is nearby…
2. Consejo Village
Consejo Village lives 7 miles northeast of Corozal and 2 miles from Chetumal. It’s popular among expats for restaurants like Smugglers Den, an upmarket restaurant that does American and Caribbean cuisines, and Buccaneers Palapa Restaurant, which serves local food at reasonable prices.
Consejo Shores is a successful and thriving residential development close to Consejo Village. It boasts 1.25 miles of oceanfront, a nine-hole golf course, and over 120 established homes. Many expat friends living here believe it’s the best location in Belize.
3. Mayan Seaside
Another expat development in this area is Mayan Seaside—a popular but quiet development. The main activities here are water volleyball on Thursdays and drinking beers on the dock.
The most northeasterly village in Belize is the small traditional fishing village of Sarteneja. Picturesque, quiet, and peaceful, this is a village I’d happily live in myself. With a population of about 2,000 and local bars, restaurants, guest houses, and rentals, it’s a microcosm of happy living.
In Sarteneja you can still have handcrafted, tropical hardwood boats built by craftsmen who have been in the businesses for generations. Some of these vessels are items of great beauty and where else in the world could you get a solid hand-crafted mahogany yacht built for a reasonable price?
These are small Belizean villages on opposite sides of Laguna Seca, which empties into the Corozal Bay. A few expats live closeby these small, quiet villages, enjoying the spectacular beauty and nature of the area.
You’ll see lots of crocodiles, manatees, agouti, tapir, woodpeckers, toucans, and countless other jungle birds in the area…
5. Cerros Sands
North of Copper Bank, boasting over 3 miles of oceanfront and with canals and other infrastructure in place, Cerros Sands is an expat development worth considering.
6. Orchid Bay
A little beyond Chunux Village on the ocean is the masterfully designed development of Orchid Bay. It consists of an attractive 115-acre development of high-quality housing, Tradewinds Bar and Restaurant, and custom high-end homes. It will benefit greatly from the new road paving program in progress. I know many happy residents of Orchid Bay, and they seem to always be having a good time.
7. Progresso Village and Lagoon
Progresso Village and Lagoon is a sleepy village on the site of one of the most important ancient Maya trading routes. It’s a beautiful place to live in harmony with nature but won’t provide exciting nightlife.
8. Orange Walk
West of Corozal is a plethora of small villages and sleepy hamlets and, in places, a surprisingly good road system, which extends through rural Orange Walk to facilitate the sugar cane farming. These villages are home to many happy individual expats and couples…
Orange Walk, also known as “Suga City,” is the main town in the Orange Walk District and is about 30 miles south of Corozal. A pleasant small town on the New River, Orange Walk is in the center of sugar cane farming country.
With a population of 14,000, it bustles on weekends and holidays. With fertile land and 59 inches of rain per year, Orange Walk district is a great location for the aspiring hobby farmer or rancher. Beautiful river and lake front properties are available in Orange Walk if you love quiet union with nature.
Belizeans travel from all over to Orange Walk to shop at the second-hand stores full of American goods, sample contraband beer from over the border, and to have a nice time. Orange Walk is famous for Orange Walk Tacos—people I know will drive the 50 miles from Belize City just to get some tacos or get them delivered on the chicken bus…
9. Shipyard and Blue Creek
The Mennonite communities of Shipyard and Blue Creek in the Orange Walk District and Little Belize in Corozal District come as a shock after driving through the local villages that precede them… You don’t expect to be overtaken by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed 6-year-old driving a horse and trap while you’re driving a pickup as fast as the unpaved road will allow.
There are many Christian fundamentalist communities in Belize. They exist independently from the rest of the country, with different rules of observance and conduct. Mennonites started coming to Belize from Canada and other places after 1958 and these days do most of the farming, wood working, metal working, and lumbering in Belize.
Most of these communities look like they have been dropped from a movie about 1900s Pennsylvania, with people wearing traditional garb and living in American-style farmhouses with barns. Some Mennonite communities, like Spanish Lookout in Cayo, are fully modern whereas others, like the Shipyard Mennonites, don’t use machinery in their daily lives or for personal transport.
10. Crooked Tree
The most southerly village I’ll tell you about here is 20 miles south of Orange Walk and is Belize’s only inhabited inland island. The rustic village is nestled right in the middle of Crooked Tree Lagoon, a fabulous nature reserve managed by the Audubon Society. Accessible only by boat until the early 1990s, you’ll find laid-back locals, mostly of Creole and Spanish descent, who fish, hunt, and offer guided tours of the nature reserve to make a living.
Crooked Tree is named after the wild cashew trees that abound on the island. The annual cashew fest is good village fun offering everything cashew (seeds, butter, and wine), local game meats, carnival rides, and a party after sundown. The lagoon is spectacular, and bird watchers come from across the globe to catch glimpses of jabiru storks and the dozens of other rare migratory bird species that stop there during the season. Crooked Tree Lodge is the best rated lodge on the island, offering a quiet family atmosphere and some of the best food in northern Belize.
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Among our top havens, Belize is one of the best right now—still offering affordable opportunities in one of the safest havens in the Americas.
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Editor, Live and Invest Overseas Confidential