How to choose your Caribbean Island.

A brief glance at the map reveals dozens of enticing dots, each filled with possibilities for a beachy new life. So how do you choose? Before you go flip flop shopping, it’s wise to understand that each island has it’s own spirit, complete with unique customs, mix of languages, topography, set of neighbors, available jobs, shopping, entertainment and so on.

St. John, USVI A twisty Turpentine Tree viewed through the arch of a stone block wall
St. John, USVI Turpentine Tree
© Chari Eaton 2009

Sure we’ve all seen the HGTV International House Hunter series and dreamed of planting our personal flag in Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic. If you are a risk taker this could be your best move, however, take into account that a home in another country cannot provide you with the protections Americans are accustomed to. An unstable government or political climate could depreciate or even be the end of your investment. Each country has it’s own set of laws and you are wise to research them thoroughly before investing your hard earned money. For instance, unless you are a “belonger” buying property in the British Virgin Islands, can be difficult and time consuming. Additionally, non-belongers must pay a 12% stamp duty on the whole purchase price on top of  numerous other legal and government fees while suffering nerve racking months of waiting to discover if  the government will approve their application. Alternately, beach front property in Costa Rica is sold under the laws governing concessions. Only Costa Ricans can own beach front property and then only for 20 years before having to reapply. Americans can have a minority ownership (49%) which they would have to share with a Costa Rican (51%). Not an attractive investment for the American buyer!
Similar difficulties await American buyers in other countries which is why most Americans find it easier on both wallet and mind to purchase their tropical home in America’s paradise, on one of the four US Virgin Islands; St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island. So where to set up your blender? Here’s a brief USVI primer.


Considered the artsy island, St. John boasts 5000 acres of pristine National Parks deeded by Lawrence Rockefeller in 1956. Dozens of spectacular beaches and wonderful snorkeling draw tourists from all over the world year round.  While all that wonderful nature is to be truly enjoyed, it also makes for a smaller and more expensive real estate market. Most St. John residents tend to take the car ferry (approximately $50 round trip) to St. Thomas every couple of weeks to stock up on essentials and then fill in with fresh produce etc. at St. John’s smaller markets. There is no hospital on St. John and medical emergencies often require a trip to St. Thomas as well. Like St. Thomas, St. John is ideally situated for cruisers as the it enjoys close proximity to the BVI’s providing a multitude of day trip possibilities. The main opportunities for employment include positions with the National Park Service, tourist industry, the medical clinic, and retail sales.
For more information about choosing an island to call home contact:
Julie Eaton-Bryan
See Margaritaville cont.