Make It

How this expat opened his own upscale resort in Belize

Tropical waterside house on lagoon side of Placencia in Belize, Central America.
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Tropical waterside house on lagoon side of Placencia in Belize, Central America.

David Diffendal is one of the many expats who came to the tropical peninsula of Placencia, Belize as a vacationer…but quickly recognized the business opportunities and quality of life on offer here…and stayed.

"When I visited Placencia in 2014, I saw that there was a wealth of upscale restaurants, activities, and excursions in the village," says David. "But within the village, the available lodging was still pretty rustic." After speaking to locals and business owners in the area, he realized that a boutique, upscale resort within walking distance of everything was a niche not being met.

Up until several years ago, Placencia was a small, remote fishing village on Belize's Caribbean coast. But after building the first paved road into the village in 2011, it's grown into a tourist hot spot with more tourists, expats, and businesses coming down every year. Even so, the peninsula is progressing at a slow pace and maintaining its authentic charm, which struck David as an opportunity to grow a rewarding business and enjoy all the lifestyle benefits of a Caribbean paradise.

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"There are no chain stores here," he says. "At most places, the owners are a big part of running the day-to-day business." David found his perfect piece of paradise on a half-acre, right on the Caribbean Sea. The property had three small cabanas on it and cost about a quarter what it would have on a U.S. coast. Although there was a lot of hard work renovating the cabanas so he could rent them out, he still made time to enjoy the amazing lifestyle he moved to tropics for.

"I start each day with a walk out to the beach with coffee. And I love to be able to swim during my 'lunch break.' In my old life, this meant a sandwich at my desk. On calm mornings, I may take the kayak or paddleboard out on the Caribbean, and I frequently see dolphins near our shore.

"And the amount of travel far exceeds the vacation time I used to get, where I was lucky to see one new place a year. In just the last six months I have hit Playa del Carmen and Tulúm [Mexico], Roatán, and Panama City, and extensive travel throughout Belize. You can find local bus lines where you can travel throughout Belize, for less than $30. And you can find great deals on round trip airline travel, like direct from Belize City to Panama City for $200."

Add to this that English is the official language, business laws are based on British laws with protections for investors, and the lower cost of living and you can enjoy a high quality of life for much less. "Once you learn how to shop for groceries and travel like a local, and enjoy local alcohol and foods, you can live at about 60% the cost of living in the U.S.," says David.

"I used to think I'd miss the seasons. But after several years of experiencing tropical weather all year long, with a simple, non-materialistic lifestyle, healthy living, and business opportunities that far exceed the coastal opportunities in the U.S., I'd never go back."

By Liz Brown, an American expat who has lived in Belize for the past three-and-a-half years.

This article was originally published on InternationalLiving.com.