Trading in the 9-to-5 for a Caribbean Villa

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on December 7, 2020 in Live Better

In 2010, Annelise Hagan accepted a position as science director for two marine parks in Belize. This job took her to Placencia, a narrow peninsula in the south of the country known for its palm tree-lined Caribbean beaches and spectacular diving. 

“Placencia has the perfect mix of locals, expats, and tourists,” says Annelise. “And it’s ideally located. You can get to coral reefs for snorkeling and diving in 30 to 60 minutes, and within the same timeframe you can reach inland jungles and waterfalls.” 

A marine biologist by training, Annelise quickly fell in love with the laidback vibe, year-round warm weather, and ecological diversity of the Caribbean resort destination, so much so that she couldn’t bear to leave. 

Having initially signed up for two years, Annelise ended up staying in the science director position for almost five. Ultimately, however, she decided to give up her nine-to-five job for a new role in Placencia: semi-retired guesthouse owner. 

Annelise traces the origins of her semi-retirement lifestyle to a dinner party she attended in 2011. The event was held at a three-story villa adjoining a canal on the northern edge of Placencia Village. 

Boasting a rooftop pool, the house is also only five minutes by boat from the open sea and within touching distance of the beach. Annelise was awe-struck. It was everything she imagined of her dream home. So she and her husband, Doyle, decided to purchase the building and turn it into an accommodation business. 

Annelise Hagan’s home and business sits on a canal in Placencia.

Today, Annelise, 42, enjoys a leisurely lifestyle running the guesthouse, called Suites at Three Iguanas. During low season, her days are largely her own. Morning yoga classes or a Zumba workout with friends. Peaceful walks along Placencia’s white-sand bay. Strolling into town to enjoy a smoothie at a beachside café. 

During the busy season, Annelise prefers to stay close to the guesthouse to ensure the guests are getting everything they need. Even then, she’ll sometimes just round up some of the guests and take them on an impromptu excursion, such as a boat trip to enjoy a barbecue lunch on the beach or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters. 

Annelise and Doyle aren’t the only ones in Placencia who have found they can earn by renting out their property. 

“It’s very popular here,” says Annelise. “So many people rent out parts of their house for extra income. But to do this, you need to do it right and be licensed through the Belize tourism board.” Obtaining Gold Standard certification through the board is also a requirement for accepting guests since Belize reopened to tourists. 

The rooftop pool of Annelise’s villa overlooks Placencia Lagoon.

Annelise says that while they are unexpected costs to living in such a glorious location, the guesthouse business is profitable. “When you’re living by the ocean, upkeep and maintenance on a house are huge. This way, the income from the business takes care of all the fees and the house basically pays for itself while putting a little extra in my pocket.” 

Although Annelise now derives her income from her dream home, she stills retains her passion for marine life. To satisfy the scientist and environmentalist within, she spends time volunteering to collect underwater trash. Her goal, she says, is to keep the world’s second-largest barrier reef clean so that she and her guests can continue to explore this wonder of the natural world.

By Bel Woodhouse