Isaac Bay, St. Croix (easternmost point in the U.S.)

My family visited the American territory of St. Croix this summer. It was lovely. On recent summer trips we’ve gone to The Bahamas and Belize. We loved Belize so much that we went back two years in a row. My enchantment of Belize is well understood by my friends.

In fact, in having lunch with a friend after we returned from our trip to St. Croix he asked, “Does it feel like you cheated on Belize?”

Nailed it. That’s exactly what it felt like. Especially considering how much we liked St. Croix. Because the truth is–this trip got us thinking about where we want to land one day after we get our kids through high school. Until this year we were completely sold on moving to Belize. But now, we’re having second thoughts.

Here’s a list of the best things about each place:

So let’s break it down.

Food Surprisingly, there wasn’t much seafood in St. Croix. Not that we found in the couple weeks we were there, I mean. I like seafood. And in Belize it’s abundant. Still, not a major deal I guess. The food in St. Croix was very good with funky and gourmet food sprinkled throughout, and the best beach restaurants anywhere (try Rhythms at Rainbow Beach.)

People The people in both places were great. Also, we were ethnic minorities in both places, and I’m pretty comfortable with that. Although Belize was far more diverse with its influence of cultures from all over the Caribbean and Central America. Oh, and China. The Chinese ran all the grocery stores in Belize. Plus, because Belize used to be British Honduras, there are more Europeans there. I actually felt more comfortable in Belize than in St. Croix in terms of fitting into local culture.

Wildlife Monkeys, manatees, jaguars, toucans, and tapirs–Belize wins wildlife hands down. Although St. Croix gets points for mongoose.

Manatee in Belize.

Beaches The beaches in St. Croix are some of the nicest I’ve ever seen. The Bahamas are the most beautiful in terms of sand and water, but St. Croix is a close second. And everywhere you go on the island there’s a different “kind” of beach. Some have rocks, some have sand, some have mountains pressing up against them–but they are all stunning. Beaches in Belize are spartan by comparison. Sure, there are the palms and sand, but because of the reef, the water doesn’t move as much and the result is that seagrass tends to grow close to shore. I’ve had friends visit Belize and be disappointed with the beaches. I get it. However, once you get past the seagrass, the water in Belize is as clear as anywhere. And the reef is Belize BLOWS AWAY anything in St. Croix. Way more color. Way more wildlife. Also way more boats with tourists who are discovering this amazing country.

Buck Island, St. Croix

Topography/Ecosystems St. Croix has mountains, desert, and rainforest. Belize does too, it’s just more spread out. In St. Croix you can experience all of this in an hour’s drive. In Belize it takes way longer and ferries, planes, or busses are involved. Oh, and fun fact–both Belize and St. Croix are virtually at the same latitude (18th parallel north). Not quite the equator, but closer than here. #warm

Lamanai Temple, Belize

Infrastructure St. Croix is far more advanced. Internet’s better. Roads are better. You get AT&T just like you do in the States. Belize is … let’s just say more rustic. But this is the price you pay for not being a US territory. As far as medical services are concerned, in Belize you have Cuban doctors rotating in and out serving different communities–and the services are free (pay what you can). Plus they have hospitals in Belize City to handle bigger emergencies. St. Croix has a couple hospitals too, but routine medical services are not free. American doctors move there and set up practices. Because … paradise. And American doctors charge American fees. Both places are only 3.5 hours to Charlotte, so anything big could be handled in the states.

Cost of Living Now let’s talk money. First of all it’s ridiculous how much it costs to fly to either place. A thousand dollars for a 3.5 hour flight. Seriously. Ridiculous. Beyond that, St. Croix is priced a lot like the US. Belize is about half of that for everything (including real estate). In fact the exchange rate in Belize is 2/1 to the US dollar.

Me and a friend, Caye Caulker, Belize

Food As far as fresh food is concerned, Belize wins. From what I could tell most produce in St. Croix (except mangoes) was brought in from other places (and just about all the seafood was from the US). In Belize the fruit is fresh, abundant, and amazing. The vegetables, meh. And of course all the seafood in Belize is as fresh as it gets. Except shrimp. Reefs and shrimp nets aren’t good bedfellows.

U.S. Influence Note how “Not America” and “America” are on each list? This is big. Perhaps the most important thing.

On the one hand I love Belize because it is NOT the United States. And the people there are proud of that. There are no strip malls in Belize, no fast food, no Walmarts. Hell, they only have one traffic signal in the whole country. And unlike in The Bahamas where they’re in close enough proximity to the US to be heavily influenced (and that shows in the people who appear to see you only as a walking dollar sign), in Belize the people “go slow” and talk to one another and treat each other like human beings. St. Croix people were nice too, but they didn’t go as slow as in Belize and I attribute this to it being a US territory. St. Croix is almost too American for my taste. They have McDonald’s, Subway, and KFC for crying out loud. I reckon board members like having stores in paradise for tax purposes.

Don’t get me wrong, Crucians are very proud. And they have a long, badass history of independence. But because it’s an American territory, America is prominent.

And that’s not a bad thing when it comes to living in one of these two places. I mean, we could move to St. Croix tomorrow without skipping a beat. In Belize there are a bunch of government hoops we’d have to jump through. Plus, you can’t just “work” in Belize. Jobs go to Belizeans (a great law, if you ask me.) Mostly they want retirees in Belize. And for us retirement is like a fairytale. No, we’d need to earn so we’d have to rely in the internet. The internet in Belize is terrible. Sure, it’ll get better over time, but in places like St. Croix where it’s already great there’s no waiting. I could be working via the internet tomorrow in St. Croix, and be close enough to the beach to escape it as necessary.

Conclusion I suppose I had some purpose in writing this post. And I think that purpose is determining where me and my wife might end up in a few years. If we had to choose today, I’d select St. Croix. It’s just easier because it’s America. But man, Belize constantly calls to me.

At least we have a few years to decide. And no, I don’t think we’ll add any other places to the list. We want to be in the Caribbean and I can’t imagine any other locations being so perfect.

Here are more photos of both places.

Boring random beach in St. Croix

Boring random island in Belize

Unsightly beach in St. Croix

God awful lagoon in Belize

Stressed out dude on an overcrowded beach St. Croix

***

Jim

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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