We’ve been in Corozal, Belize, for 10 days so far, and we’ve had some wonderful experiences.
The first thing that struck us was everyone speaks English. I’d lived in Mexico nearly five months and I couldn’t believe my ears when someone said to us, “You can speak English now.” I think I said, “Gracias.”
We are renting a house a couple of miles from the border at Chetumal, Mexico, in Corozal. We are here for the month of January. The house is named, “The Happy House.” It is at a peaceful lagoon.
This is not the Belize most people think of – with white sandy beaches on Caribbean islands. This is mainland Belize. We knew this coming here – we wanted to come here. While Corozal Bay is salt water, you cannot see the ocean from land. Many people have asked us about the beaches and the reef. This map will give you a better idea of where Corozal is located. And this map is a wider view – it will show you the traditional Belize beaches for which the country is famous. (We will visit the islands next month.)
The Happy House has three bedrooms, hammocks and kayaks, satellite TV and internet, a washing machine and stove with oven, a large coffee maker, wonderful decks, and swimming pool with an amazing view of the lagoon.
Check out the grounds:
We have not seen any crocodiles yet, but we have seen an incredible number of tropical and migratory birds, along with a ton of fish, and the largest iguana we’ve ever seen in the wild.
The house is supposed to have hot water, but that has been intermittent until a problem is worked out. I don’t miss it as long as the days are hot. Also, the well water here smells like sulfur, but I’ve gotten used to it. We use bottled water for drinking and cooking and washing vegetables.
We are paying $800 for the month of January, which is considered high season. Tough for me to stomach $26 a day after spending just $11 a day in Mexico, but, there are a lot of positive points.
All in all, this place is like a palace for me after living in a very small room in Tulum for nearly five months. I would recommend it to people who don’t need all the bells and whistles, such as a dishwasher, clothes dryer, lightning-fast internet, etc. I am glad my spouse found this peaceful and happy place to start his early retirement.
The property managers also retired early. They are wonderful people, and we are grateful for their kindness. They’ve gone out of their way to make us feel welcome. They shared their knowledge of the area with us, showed us how to chop coconuts and sugar cane with a machete, and they have been very generous with gifts. They gave us a cut of peccory, which is wild pig (I don’t eat meat but hubby said it was good). They also gave us eggs, herbs, jimaca, bananas and custard apples from their amazing organic and off-the-grid farm. International Living Magazine featured them in an article, which you can read here.
We spend most of our days at The Happy House, on the grounds, in the pool and lagoon. To get to town when we need supplies or to meet people, we take shared taxi vans. In Mexico, they are called “colectivos”, but I have not heard that word in English here.
The shared taxi vans are all old Toyota minivans. The rides basically work the same way here as in Mexico. Stand on the side of the road and wave them down. Taxi vans have green license plates. It costs us two Belizean dollars ($1 USD) to get to town, and two dollars to return to the small development where we are staying.
There are also regular taxi cars (not vans) that go beyond the main road, if you need to get to a side street. These also have green license plates. These cost more, and I haven’t used one yet. So far, a few of our new friends have given us rides to various points around the region, such as two different organic farms.
Many of the side roads I’ve seen off the main highway are bumpy and unpaved, so cars and trucks go slow. That’s actually a good thing, because then you can appreciate random sites that come up out of nowhere, such as, oh, I don’t know… cow symmetry under God’s great sky.
Groceries and prices
The grocery stores in town are mostly owned by people of Chinese descent. The stores are called “China stores” by the locals. We get the staples at these grocery stores, like milk and canned goods, and then for fresh fruit and vegetables we go to a farmers market or friends have been kind to stock us up with some goods. Just today, a friend gave us a big ole pile of corn on the cob. Apparently, it’s not common this time of year, and we had a man ask us where we got it because he wanted a big order for his restaurant!
Overall, the cost of food is like anywhere else – it depends on what you want to eat, and if it’s in season. But, prices are noticeably more expensive than Mexico, and we’re not on the islands yet. There is a store in town that has mostly ‘American’ brands, and that store is very expensive compared to the China stores, which carry a mixture of Mexican and Belizean brands. (Some items appear to be bootleg, but that’s an entirely different blog entry.)
I don’t drink, but my spouse does, and he can’t get over the beer price and size here. The Belikins are only 9 point something ounces. With the bottle deposit, they usually run around $1.50 USD in stores.
There is another brand of beer here, Presidente, but that is not sold in as many places as Belikin. Interestingly enough, the distributor was out of beer for several days and our friends down the road couldn’t get a case.
Imported Colombian coffee and diet coke are not things that are in every store around town, either, so if you happen to come to Corozal and are picky about good coffee, you’ve been warned.
There are some places to get fried chicken for $3 USD and vegetable fried rice for about the same price. The portions are immense. I ate fried rice for three days.
This ‘meal deal’ came from a store called “Ban’s” just north of town on the highway to the border. Friends recommended it. If you just go into the store, you’d never think to order chicken and fried rice – my husband says there are no obvious signs announcing it’s available.
Some Corozal Sites
It’s easy to walk around the entire town. Corozal is not very big. We have found the people to be friendly, and happy to try to assist us with directions or finding a specific store.
Corozal seems to be somewhat of a melting pot. There are Mennonites here, as well as Asian people, some Mayans and people of Mexican heritage, and people of Caribbean descent. Then there also are the gringo expats,and other nationalities here visiting, or living.
A few other sites around town include a few churches in town, including a Catholic church across from the town square. The town square still has holiday decorations. It seems to be a spot for kids on lunch break from school, and town elders to catch up on news.
There is a park along the waterfront. Someone told me it’s relatively new, and appreciated. These pictures look drab because it was cloudy. It really does look prettier in the sunshine.
A few of the gringo hangouts are along the bay, including Scotty’s Crocodile Cove and the Blue Iguana. We’ve stopped at both of those spots. Another one is Jam Rock – we haven’t been yet, but we’ll get there.
We also tried a more local place for lunch today – Jo-Mel-In. I had grilled fish and stew beans and tortillas, with salad, cole slaw and veggies for $15 Belizean dollars ($7.50 USD). It was tasty and I ate my whole plate.
Walking around town, we see a lot of poverty. If people have work, they go by bus or bicycles or shared taxi vans. Not everyone has cars here.
Just want to note the sugar cane crop. It’s massive here, and often there will be fires in the cane. The plant has razor-sharp leaves and before it can be harvested, farmers burn holes in an area so they have room to work. It creates what the locals call “black snow” sometimes falling from the sky outside of the town proper. A piece of the ash is pictured below.
On a few different occasions, we’ve seen people addicted to something laying on the road or sidewalk. Just like anywhere else. We’ve also seen disabled people, and people in wheelchairs.
These are not wheelchairs like you see in the states. These are like custom built tricycles, with hand pedals in the front. The wheels and chain are metal, but the seating is all wood. At one point, we saw a motorcycle driver go up behind the man pictured below and to push contraption along – giving the disabled man some small measure of help to get down the road.
My spouse whipped out his wallet and handed me a bill and I dashed across the street to give the man a tiny bit of money. He had a kind, sad face. He couldn’t talk, but made a noise I think meant thank you. Later, as we were leaving town, I saw him outside a store eating a banana. If you look closely, you can see the hand crank.
Side note on Orange Walk
Worth noting is a day trip we took to Orange Walk. It’s a city a bit further inland and it is larger than Corozal. It’s about an hour away. We walked a little bit through the square and checked out some stores. We had lunch at a good place called Cocina Sabor. If you’re ever in Orange Walk, try it out – it was good food. I had shrimp fajitas and everyone ordered something different, and everyone enjoyed what they ordered. Our neighbors and new friends were kind to offer us a ride out there.
Take a chance
I certainly only know a little bit about Corozal and its people, but I know enough to say I like it here a lot, and I’m so glad we took a chance and came here. Taking chances in new places is part of what wanderlust is all about. And we will be traveling a lot more in the future.
I thank God for the chance to do this. I try to treasure every day. And I would have missed all of this fun if I’d been worried about the next deadline in the news business.