The Story behind the Self-Sufficient Community of Carmelita Gardens


Moving overseas to set up an entirely new life is a big decision. Belize has long become a popular favorite due to its natural bounty, inviting culture, and affordably simple living. Mention the word “Caribbean” and most people think of places like Aruba, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and other tourist-rich dollops of sand. The region conjures well-deserved images of crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches, and Belize is no different. Not only is the environment stunning, but it provides a backdrop for historical monuments and friendly people who readily welcome visitors. And inland is no different, especially for those who have relocated particularly to Western Belize’s fresh air and fertile land. Belize has long had a commitment to conservation and eco-tourism, life in Cayo District is back to basics, simple and sweet; there’s undoubtedly a sense of community. Although, there’s Carmelita Gardens — the self-sufficient community focused on sustainable living.

Phil Hahn, founder of Carmelita Gardens shared with Live and Invest Overseas how his small, self-sufficient idea came about.

carmelita-gardens-sustainable-living-self-sufficient-belize-cayo sign

Belize’s natural resources is what initially attracted Phil Hahn, founder of Carmelita Gardens, to build a self-sufficient community in Cayo. The success of a self-sufficient community begins with having ample natural resources to allow for a community to run, in which Belize has. After all, sun and water is bountiful in Belize. Inspired by his father’s teachings since a child and armed with a background in architecture, construction and real estate, Phil had dived into his passion for developing a like-minded resilient community.

“Life in Cayo is back to basics, simple and sweet. You know your neighbors, they know you and you all look out for each other.”

Founder of Live and Invest Overseas, Kathleen Peddicord highlights Belize as a country with limited government, limited resources and limited budgets — which is a positive thing. Ultimately, the government leaves its residents well enough alone, “People are self-sufficient and self-reliant. The whole country is like a small town in the Midwest.”

How Carmelita Gardens Began

Essentially, the project began when Phil acquired a 100-acre parcel for future development in the Cayo District. Fast forward a few years later, Carmelita Gardens is found on the banks of the Belize River as a 98-acre self-sufficient community. The like-minded residents aim aim to evoke a simpler time when life’s pace was slower. By design, each artisan cottage is solar powered while harvesting rainwater and other eco-friendly wastewater systems. At its heart is community; with core values of sustainable resiliency and community stability, Carmelita Gardens marries first-class infrastructure and amenities with an artistic and down-to-earth village feel. Regardless of size and style, the houses are handcrafted using local, quality materials and methods. Each house — whether tiny or traditional — is designed for each owner’s lifestyle and budget.

Sustainable Living Benefits

One of the main benefits of sustainable living is that it is good for both the community and you. All in all, this allows for an overall healthier and happier life.

When asked if “Have you perceived any changes in the residents after they have moved to Carmelita Gardens?”

Phil: Oh, definitely! One of our residents, Tony, experienced it firsthand when he moved from the Bronx, NY to Carmelita Gardens. He likes to show people his old driver’s license with a photo of him looking stressed and gaunt, then comparing it to his healthy energetic glow now in his simple yet elegant cottage in Carmelita Gardens.


We have seen that type of transformation repeatedly—and more so recently. As the outside world appears to be falling apart at the seams. We simply and blissfully go about our independent day-to-day lives together.

Find the full interview at Live and Invest Overseas here. All photos © Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle. 

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