The Best Place To Escape The World

Carmelita House

I first met Phil Hahn in 2010.

He had already founded one successful oceanfront development in Belize and was moving on to his next project… a 98-acre inland residential community in the Cayo District that he called Carmelita Gardens.

At the time, the project consisted of nothing more than a couple of roads plus a hole in the ground that would become the foundations of a cottage.

The hard work of developing the community and attracting prospective buyers hadn’t started yet.

Still, I liked Phil and the Cayo, so when he asked me if I wanted to help get the project off the ground, I said yes.

There were some ups and downs, to put things mildly…

But fast-forward to today, and Carmelita Gardens is thriving, with dozens of completed houses and a thriving community made up of happy young families and retirees from diverse backgrounds.

This week, Overseas Property Alert Director Lief Simon is touring Carmelita to bring us the latest updates from the scene ahead of the Live And Invest In Belize Conference, which kicks off tomorrow, Feb. 21.

If you’re not attending the conference in person, you can still take dvantage of everything it has to offer by attending virtually.

Click here for more information on the Virtual Pass.

Meantime, here’s an overview of this eclectic community…

Where Is Carmelita Gardens?

Carmelita Gardens is in Belize’s Cayo District, which ranked among the world’s top 10 places to retire in our 2024 Overseas Retirement Index.

This is a sprawling inland district, full of rivers and rain forests, as well as rustic small towns and villages.

It’s where to go to escape the world’s troubles. As Phil puts it, “The news from Belize today and every day is, ‘No worries, mon.’”

Here, the stresses and concerns of the rest of the world feel far away and unimportant.

This is especially true in Carmelita Gardens, found 7 miles past the bustling town of San Ignacio, the Cayo District’s nucleus, and 7 miles before the modern Mennonite town of Spanish Lookout.

It’s in the sweet spot, halfway between the social outlets of San Ignacio and the commercial and industrial conveniences of Spanish Lookout.

What’s The Main Appeal?

Carmelita Gardens is a paradise for nature lovers and those who enjoy the simple life.

Some residents spend their days in their gardens, either tending their plants themselves or hiring locals to help them, while others get up to more intense recreational activities…

On site, you can go horseback riding, trekking, and river tubing. Basketball, frisbee golf, and pickleball are popular, too. One of my favorite activities was swimming along Carmelita Gardens’ riverfront.

Just beyond the community, there’s even more to do. If you like history and archaeology, El Pilar, an ancient Maya city founded 800 years before Carmelita Gardens, is a few miles down the road.

The world-famous Actun Tunichil Muknal cave system, where you can hike through the jungle, swim into sacred caves, and trek underground, is 30 miles away.

But much of Carmelita’s appeal comes down to its back-to-basics, community-minded lifestyle. Potlucks and socials are popular, especially as the number of residents has grown over the last few years.

Phil worked hard to cultivate that community spirit. He says, “We have an eclectic bunch of owners who are totally different, but they come together to support each other and make Carmelita a real community.

“The pandemic changed how people view life, and Carmelita seems to offer the freedom and independence that they didn’t know they needed before.”

One resident, Donald Houser, says that he moved to Carmelita to simplify his life.

“My average day in Carmelita looks something like this: I ride my bike… I spend a couple hours talking with my neighbors… I sit on my front porch and watch fireflies at night… I never would’ve done that back in California.

“Since moving down here, my biggest worries have been what I’m going to have for dinner tonight or deciding which book to download on my Kindle, because I’m reading so much lately.”

Investing In Carmelita Gardens

Carmelita Gardens offers comfortable cottages, bungalows, and villas, as well as lots.

Prices have risen steadily since the community was founded. Early investors bought several lots and are now reselling them to finance the costs of their tropical dream homes.

Every house comes with its own solar power system and backup generator, making this community the perfect bolt hole in times of social, political, or economic turmoil.

Being off-grid, you can easily become self-sufficient. Power cuts and electricity price spikes won’t affect you there.

Rainwater harvesting systems and under-house cisterns to see you through the dry season come with every house, too.

Each lot has enough space for a private garden, but there’s also a large community garden if you aren’t interested in growing for yourself.

On top of this, Belize is investor-friendly. Right now, you can become eligible for a Temporary Residency Visa by investing $250,000.

This is a quick way to get the right to live and work in Belize. Work permits can be time-consuming to get through other methods.

Tax on rental income is low, at 3% of gross income. It rises to 9% if you rent to the more lucrative tourism market (still far less than what you would pay in tax on rentals in most other countries).

Belize continues to modernize and attract foreign investment. Prices will slowly increase, making it a solid long-term investment.


Con Murphy

Belize Insider