Casa Blanca By the Sea Hotel: A “Great Buy” or a “Black Eye” in Consejo?

Casa Blanca Hotel view from the sea
Casa Blanca By the Sea in Consejo.

Imagine bringing your boat up to this pier on the Northern tip of Consejo looking to experience Northern Belize.

The Casa Blanca Hotel looks like a jewel, inviting you for a night stay or two, for a few cocktails and some great Belizean food. You can’t wait!

But then you realize that the cast iron gates are chained. You can’t get in. The place is empty and you’ll need to find other parts of Northern Belize to whet your whistle.

Casa Blanca by the Sea is for sale.

The location that hosted local conferences, and tourists for a number of years is now empty due to the owners’ unforeseen circumstances.

It’s weird to read the reviews on tripadvisor.com. It’s also confusing that the same listing invites you to check out possible stay dates.

But that’s what happens when you close rather abruptly and the owners want to put it into the hands of someone who can take it on.

I know what you’re thinking. “I bet I can make a go of it as the owner of Casa Blanca!”

I thought the same thing when a local real estate agent showed us the place during our recent trip to Northern Belize.

Karen Wilkinson of Corozal Belize Properties in Consejo Shores told us the sad story of how the Hotel came onto the market. She showed us the rooms, the land, the bar and the kitchen.

You could still envision a bustling business within its walls.

Enjoy this pictorial of our tour and decide for yourself if Casa Blanca is worth a look.

THE ROOMS: COMFORTABLE AND INVITING

Mayan Door Carving
Each door of the dozen or so hotel rooms invites you in with a Mayan carving on it. No detail is spared to make this an inviting hotel.
two levels of rooms
The rooms look over the sea from the top or bottom levels. The sea breezes hit you smack dab in the face as you scan the horizon from your balcony.
room interiror
The rooms are fully and smartly furnished, complete with ceiling fans and some with air conditioning.
The featured suites boast comfortable wicker furniture and large window access to the Caribbean Sea.

THE GROUNDS ARE CHARMING AND SPEAK TO OPPORTUNITY!

Palapa dining
A full palapa has seaside dining written all over it and has weathered the storms wonderfully. A small palapa sits at the end of the sturdy pier and entice those who want a more private dining experience on the Sea.
Parking
The cobble stone courtyard area is perfect for parking and a late night stroll.
Land to the West
Vacant land to the west of the Hotel could be used for lawn games such as futbol or volleyball or could be used for future development of private cabanas?
Seawall palapas
Shade palapas serve as nice shade spots along the sea wall, offering a great view of Chetumal about 2 miles across the Bay.

ADJACENT HOME IS A BONUS!

Adjacent Home
A two-bedroom home sits empty across the street from Casa Blanca and was used for the Hotel manager. A full workshop also is on the land and provides a perk for the absentee owner to offer to his on-site management.
The adjacent home comes fully furnished with plenty of space.
Bedroom
The master bedroom in the adjacent home is quite cozy and would make a perfect place for the on-site manager and his family to call home.

DINING, SERVING AND ENTERTAINING AREAS

Although the kitchen, bar and indoor dining area on the ground floor of the Casa Blanca Hotel were too dark (no electricity at present) to take decent photos, make sure your tour of Casa Blanca includes some time in these areas.

The kitchen is large, well laid out and boasts all of the stainless steel appliances needed by any full-service restaurant. All are included in the price of the Hotel.

The bar is rustic and expertly made from local exotic hardwoods, while the dining area is fully furnished with complementary wood tables and chairs.

An office area also serves the owner and/or manager a comfortable air conditioned area to attend to daily administrative tasks.

THE VERDICT: “BLACK EYE” OR “GREAT BUY”?

As you see from the pictorial above, Casa Blanca features everything a thriving Hotel and Restaurant needs, such as great sea views, perfect sea breezes, a nice design and an infrastructure that could be sustainable with a bit of tender loving care.

According to local real estate sites, the reduced listing price for Casa Blanca is $799,999 USD at the time of this writing.

From our visit, we assessed that the price seemed like a bargain based on the quality of the construction, the layout and location.

Of course, any possible investor should get a hold of the financials of the business when it was in operation and thoroughly investigate the future tourism potential  of the area.

Bottom Line: Although at first site, we determined that it has potential for the right investor, it was above our budget.

The longer Casa Blanca sits vacant, however, the work required to get it back into operational condition will increase.

The assessment of whether it is a “Black Eye” for the area, or a “Great Buy” for the right business person should be left up to the person who does extensive due diligence.

Have you viewed Casa Blanca? If so, give us your opinion below.

Do you have information that will help inform future investors, please add to the discussion below.

Did you ever stay at Casa Blanca? Tell us about your experience below!

Here are a few links to start your research:

Do’s and Don’ts for Investigating Real Estate in Northern Belize

If you haven’t bought land or an existing home in Belize yet, you’re in luck. Just learn from my mistakes and successes and you’re well on your way to finding the perfect real estate that fits your needs.

Here are some tips, outlining do’s and don’ts of a successful real estate investigation. Most of these tips are common sense and make sense for real estate searches in any locale, whether if be local or abroad.

But searching for the perfect area for your Belize retirement can be a daunting task, especially when you don’t really know the place, the people or best practices in Belize. How do you learn enough to make real progress, without feeling like you are being “taken”?

Read on and implement as many of these “do’s and don’ts” as possible into your search. You’ll be glad you did.

This article is written with a few assumptions about you in mind:

  1. You are excited about your choice of a warm-weather climate for your retirement
  2. You are anxious to find “the place”, but you want to be smart about it. Let’s face it, this is the rest of your life we are talking about here.
  3. Your pool of retirement savings has probably taken a hit in recent years, so funds for retirement may not be as “unlimited” as you wished.
  4. You’ve discussed your “plans” enough to know what you are looking for, but you also are flexible enough to alter your plan if the right possibility presents itself.
  5. You are familiar enough with Belize to know it might be a good fit whether you read about it or have visited in the past. 

1. Do: Let Your Search “Breathe”

Timing is everything. Time is on your side. Time will tell.

Time is so precious to those of us from the United States. We only have so much of it and the culture we live in presses us to “make the most of it”.

This pressure is so real, that many of us skimp on planning and go directly into the implementation phase of any project. The goal is “to be done” for many of us, rather than to plan carefully and allow enough time to execute the plan.

That’s not easy for a “doer” like Donald Trump or for my wife, Linda.

She can be impulsive to get things done. It’s funny to see a Belizean who has so much drive. Maybe it’s that impulsive nature that allowed me into her life so quickly after we met. At times, however, I think she has a hard time being married to a plodder and thinker. The yin and the yang, I guess.

As we travelled through Northern Belize on our most recent trip, we looked over many possible pieces of property. I was content to take in an area that I hadn’t visited before to look at land or homes that met the criteria of our written plan.

But I also would allow myself to wander off the plan in search of that place we hadn’t thought of … one that could expand on our original plan.

Linda, on the other hand, was anxious to find that area that was perfect for our Bed ‘n Breakfast idea.

We visited many areas along the coast, from the Belize/Mexican border all the way down the eastern coast — Consejo, Corozal, the Cerros Penninsula and much more. We’ll outline each of these areas in future posts.

But the more locations that we visited, the more frustrated Linda became that we couldn’t find that perfect gem for our Bed ‘n Breakfast. We stumbled on a few possible places, but you’ll need to read further to see what we chose to do.

Bottom line: Have a plan and allow yourself the time to let the plan breathe.

By breathe, I mean giving it room to expand if it needs to. Give it time to be the subject of long walks and talks with your spouse. Give it time to work itself out based on a wealth of  experiences, not just one.

You’ll be amazed at how much you learn and how much your plan is refined by giving it enough time to do so.

2. Do: Your Research & Homework

Don’t worry, there won’t be any written exams or pop quizes.

I first visited Belize back in 2005. I had thought about going there even before I met Linda.

Being from Orange Walk, she still has family there, so I had the best of both worlds. I could enjoy the touristy areas while also seeing the parts of Belize where the locals choose to live.

I took mental notes during that first trip and knew some of the places that I could eliminate for a future retirement location right away.  But I enjoyed the vibe of entire country.

Linda’s home town of Orange Walk was so interesting with plenty of shopping, the best street tacos, the New River and the major north-south highway that runs from the northern Mexican border all the way down to Belize City.

I even got to take in the town square by the market and saw the area where Linda accepted her crown as Miss Orange Walk in 1981. To see her face as she reminisced was an enjoyable education in itself.

The island of Ambergris Caye is touristy, but a good time. I experienced the Costa Maya Festival, a cultural gathering of all Central American countries in San Pedro.

The’s no better way to learn that you have no reggae dance moves! I’ve also learned that it’s not something you acquire by osmosis.  Darn.

Canoeing with the “Crocodile Dundee of Belize”

But one of the highlights of that first trip to Belize was the 15-mile canoe trip I took with Linda’s brother, Quidi. He is referred to a the “Crocodile Dundee of Belize”.

Quidi loves Belize and was proud of his race horse “Blood Money”.

We launched from the coast just outside of Copper Bank and canoed across the bay to a 5-acre parcel of virgin coast land owned by an Orange Walk pharmacist.

What a unique way to learn about the miles and miles of open coastal land in Northern Belize. The coconut trees were abundant, the baraccudas could clearly be seen beneath the canoe and silver fish glistened as they jumped in unison over the bay.

We stayed up all night by the campfire, watching for wild animals, talking Belize politics and drinking coconut water and Belikin beer.

They slowed their Kriol dialect enough so even I could understand, and I learned quite a bit about what third-world countries think of the U.S.  I threw in my two cents and tried to help them understand the U.S. perspective, unsuccessfully.

That night helped me to fall in love with Northern Belize despite our political differences.

Subsequent trips to Belize over the years have taken me to Caye Cauker, the Placencia Penninsula, the foothills of Benque Viejo del Carmen, the caves in Mountain Pine Ridge and the farmlands of Spanish Lookout.

The farmland of Valley of Peace, just east of Spanish Lookout was the definition of “roughing it” for me. The bushman are skilled with their machete and could clear land with it with ease. But time was always taken for long talks, cooking on the makeshift barrel grill and enjoying the solitude.

Although each area has it’s own charm, Northern Belize was the area I wanted to explore more. You can read more about Linda’s preference of the Corozal/Chetumal area here.

I would never have adopted such a strong preference if I hadn’t visited Belize on numerous occasions and experienced so much of it. This education was priceless and continues to this day.

I still have yet to live in Belize for an extended time period. Two weeks at a time doesn’t really give you the confidence that you could live their full time.

I believe my love affair with Belize is deep enough at this point that I’ll have no problem living there. But my education continues and my next homework assignment will be to live there for months rather than weeks.

What’s your next homework assignment?

3. Don’t: Be Afraid to Get Varying Opinions

No matter what your reasons for exploring Belize as your retirement haven, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and seek other perspectives along the way.

Let’s face it. That’s probably why you stumbled onto this blog post, right?

More and more, the web is where we get much of our knowledge today. And a lot of this knowledge is biased, coming from a perspective that you may or may not hold.

And when searching for opinions regarding Northern Belize real estate, most aren’t shy. But who should you listen to?

Here are some of the sources we heard from over the years regarding our desire to move overseas:

OUTSIDER SOURCES:

  • Blogs from those who live in or have lived in Belize
  • Social media and online forums
  • Those who have vacationed in Belize
  • The vacation and hospitality industry outside Belize
  • Family and friends outside of Belize
  • Travel websites

INSIDER SOURCES:

  • Locals who live in the area you are investigating
  • Expats who live in the area you are investigating
  • Belizean Business owners and Expat business people
  • Belizean real estate agents (careful, this is a loose term in Belize)
  • Local government, police, banking and tourism officials
  • Land Development Sales Teams and owners
  • Local builders and utility workers
  • Local Media

You could list more, but you get the idea. The real question: which ones are trustworthy?

In my investigation, I’ve researched and sought out opinions from both inside and outside sources. We are compiling an exhaustive list of them for your possible use. You’ll see it on this website in the future.

Note that while information on from outside sources can be accurate and valuable, it’s usually inside sources that give you quality information.

And that’s why you should make numerous trips to Belize to gather first-hand information and opinions.

Filter All Opinions 

Make sure to wear your “perspective filter” when speaking with everyone in Belize. For example here are some seemingly conflicting statements and their sources that I heard during my most recent trip:

Whom would you believe?

  • A banking official told me that it’s only a matter of time before the Consejo Road will be upgraded so it’s not so slippery during the rainy season.
  • But a local resident told me that plans for upgrading Consejo Road first surfaced over 15 years ago and no action has been taken on the plan at this point.

You can view an actual post here from ambergriscayes.com forum that may show the extreme when it comes to the weather in Corozal, but it shows the possibilities of which you should be aware.

Bottom line: Sift all information through your “perspective filter” and ask the same questions of multiple sources to see both sides of any issue.

So, our goal to build a Bed ‘n Breakfast is tempered by the statements above. I’m not sure if we will buy near Consejo or not at this point, but I know I’ll find out the real truth about the conflicts above before making a decision.

Best case scenario: The road is upgraded so folks can safely get to Consejo area during the rainy season. This would be great for a Bed ‘n Breakfast.

Worst case scenario: No road upgrade would keep tourism at it’s current level (or slight increase) in the Northern part of Belize. Then I would need to decide if the current level is enough to support a year-round Bed ‘n Breakfast.

My goal is not to opine on the feasibility of a Bed ‘n Breakfast business in Belize within this post. If that’s your dream too, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My goal is to impress upon you the need to dig for information from reputable sources, and in most cases, that is done by visiting to get “insider” information.

4. Don’t: Let Your Desires Rule Your Actions

One thing is for sure. Northern Belize is riddled with many home developments, (most owned by Expats), that have sold many of it’s lots to future Expats from Europe, U.S., Canada and other areas.

Many of the subdivision have only a few lots available so “time is of the essence” according to the sales personnel that we met.

But you also see many empty lots that have never been built on. And you see many empty lots that are for re-sale by the original buyer.

Sure, there are good reasons for this phenomenon. Some bought as an investment with no plans to build. They just want to re-sell at a profit. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But some of the stories we heard were a bit different. Many future Expats bought years ago with starry-eyed dreams of building a retirement haven. But at times, circumstances change, dreams change and the land is no longer needed.

Even others had built on the land, moved into their new retirement home, and they found that Belize was not what they envisioned. Their home is empty, for sale and they need to get their money back to invest in their new dream.

It would be safe to assume that some of these situations came about because Expats found the reality to be different from their dream.

And it’s not hard to imagine that many of these situations could have been avoided if decisions hadn’t been made in haste, out of an impulsive purchase mentality.

The good news is that many of these properties are for sale for you to consider. Some are available at bargain prices!

This parcel of land is humorously named “CASA BEIRUT” by the local expats in Consejo because of the concrete structure on it that looks like it’s been through a few wars. We were told by a local realtor that the owner might take $90,000 USD for the land, but you’d have to demolish the structure for approximately $5,000. Is this a great spot for the next Bed ‘n Breakfast in Belize? And why has it been sitting unoccupied for so long?

I belong to a few groups on Facebook that cater to those looking to move to Belize. It’s valuable to join them to get a feel of what’s available and to understand the reasons Expats have for considering Belize.

But it’s more valuable for reading the stories of those who have succeeded and others who have given up their dreams and why.  Some of the stories outline impulsive decisions based on unrealistic dreams.

Bottom Line: My hope is that you plan, do your homework and be self-aware enough to know the possible pitfalls that could lead you into making an impulsive decision.

5. Do: Pull the Trigger When You’re Ready

Most of this post has been an encouragement to plan, take your time and avoid impulsive purchase.

But now that you have been as careful and thorough as possible in your search, and you’ve narrowed down a perfect location, it’s time to act. This is the part that Linda would love!

Let’s face it. The current climate in the U.S. and other developed countries has made those looking to retire in Belize want to speed up their move overseas.

Belize is English-speaking, is in a tropical climate and boasts a favorable 2:1 dollar exchange, so many are setting their sights on this tiny country that’s about the size of Massachusetts.

In fact, International Living Magazine has continually ranked Belize within the top retirement places taking into account things like real estate prices, cost of living, health care, climate an other criteria.

So when you find the land or home that meet your criteria, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger and purchase the land. Belize real estate purchasing laws are quite advantageous.

No matter where you are at in your search, let us know what stage you are in and send us your thoughts below. We appreciate any feedback you have for us.

 

A Corozal Seafood Restaurant Worth Locating!

Inside the Restaurant It not so easy to spot, but this great little seafood restaurant, owned by Beizeans, is well worth finding.  We found time to eat here twice during our recent trip, and that’s saying something for Linda, who is very discriminating when it comes to food.

Art Higgins, an expat who showed us homes and lots for sale in the Mayan Seaside development gave us the nudge to go.

It’s called Marisqueria Pisces Restaurant. And you won’t find it until you’ve meandered through the North end of Corozal on Consejo Road in the Altamira area.

Once you pass the cemetery on your right, look for a little white sign on the left side. Don’t be afraid. It may look like a dirt road dead end, but it leads to seafood nirvana!

About 1/2 mile down on your left, you can’t miss it, planted among spanish-style residences. They’re open Wednesday thru Monday from 11 a.m. – Midnight. Today we got there early before the lunch crowd.

Marisqueria Pisces Restaruant sign
Just look for the powder blue and cream building and come with an appetite!

The six of us started with our usual conch ceviche. We tried it just about every place we ate, but the chips and big chucks of conch made this ceviche stand out. It didn’t last long. And washing it down with Belikin or Lighthouse beer was a great start.

The real treat came when our server told us they had whole red snapper today. she even brought them out for us to see so we could order the size we wanted. We all chose the mid-sized one at $25 BZ so as not to feel like total pigs.

Dinner is Served.
The fresh fried snapper came out to a round of oohs and aahs. Nothing like the smell of a perfectly done red snapper.

Perfect plates of fried whole red snapper made their way to the table complete with black beans, salad and an assortment of pepper sauce and cups of freshly cut habeñero peppers.

After a short warning to the group from Linda to refrain from talking while eating so bones could easily be found, everyone dug in for what would be our first and best meal of the day. The silence confirmed it.

The before picture
The red snapper dwarfed the plate, while the rice, beans and salad made for nice complements to a great meal.

It didn’t take long to create a facsimile of the Bonefish Grill logo with each of the red snappers. Even the one who had never had whole fish before managed to clean off her bones like a pro. Garfield would have been proud!

Lunch was finished with another beer for dessert, while others opted for Piña Coladas. The small bar at the front of the restaurant would be full after dinner tonight.

The bar
The bar sits empty right now, but something tells me the stool wouldn’t be empty tonight. The mural of the Caribbean Sea would draw them in for sure.

The Marisqueria Pisces Restaurant is now a go-to place for us when in the Corozal area. It epitomizes the charm of Belizean local food and was a highlight of our trip. Thanks for the tip, Art.

Take in the Sounds and Imagery of a Perfect Sunrise over Corozal Bay