March 8 is International Women's Day! Here at Itz'ana, on Belize's Placencia peninsula, we're surrounded by many amazing women, and are always happy to celebrate them. For example, two former Miss Belize winners call Placencia home: Dalila Khron is a dentist that runs "The Tooth Fairy" dental office, and hairdresser and Z Touch Day Spa owner Ysela Zabaneh. But even women who haven't worn the Miss Belize sash are winners to us.
Along with Khron's Tooth Fairy dentistry and Zabaneh's spa, there are many other women-led businesses on the peninsula, too. Khadija Assales owns The Treasure Box, a popular jewelry store on Main Street, where she sells her gorgeous wearable art. Fusing the vibrant tails of invasive lionfish with precious metals, Assales's boutique combines her love for jewelry with marine conservation, and makes for a necessary stop to find that perfect Belize souvenir. "I decided to start a business in Placencia because I saw a lack of beautiful handmade jewelry in a good market," she says. "The best part of owning a business in Placencia is that it's actual heaven! Having the beautiful beach, clear blue waters just a stone throw away from the studio brings inspiration everyday and makes work feel more like play."
Just down the road, Toronto-born Erin Park has started a new life as the owner of Mojo Lounge. She'd originally come to Belize in 2008, starting a well-rated restaurant with her then-husband. They moved back to Canada to save money in the hope of purchasing a home here. Within a few months, though, their relationship ended, and Park got on the first plane back to where her heart really was: Belize. Knowing she didn't have the necessary funds to start a restaurant on her own, Park's loving group of friends here pooled their resources so she could sign a lease and open Mojo. Unfortunately, an electrical fire broke out soon after opening in 2013. But once again, Park's "Placencia family" came to the rescue. "It absolutely sealed the bond I will always have with the people in Placencia Village." Since opening in 2013, her community-backed restaurant and bar has been the hangout spot for locals and visitors alike, serving a delicious menu full of locally-sourced ingredients.
Another prominent female-run business is Barefoot Beach Bar, led by the Dial sisters Ellie, Cassie and Brice. "We grew up in Belize, so naturally that's where we run our business," says middle sister Cassie. "The best part of owning a business in Placencia is being a working, and positive part of a small tight knit community. Placencia is home—doesn't matter how long you're gone, when you come back everyone has a wave, a smile, a welcome home, it's all love." Cassie and her sisters have seen their popular bar and restaurant move locations several times in Placencia, but it's always been a hot spot for enjoying good music and good drinks.
And now, Itz'ana's bringing a new group of women owners to the peninsula. Cheryl Muise, proud owner of one of our solar cottages, hails from Canada. "I'm not a fan of our long cold winters. In the spring I emerge from every winter feeling very out of shape and sluggish," she says. "I'm about five years from retirement and wanted to invest in a property in the south." Muise chose Belize for its English-speaking, friendly locals, plus the unbeatable weather and Itz'ana's "outstanding" design. "I'm very excited about retirement," she adds, "and although I hate to wish my years away….I can't wait!"
Kristen Howell also purchased a solar cottage. She'd visited Belize multiple times for vacation, including here in Placencia. After attending a conference about investing in the country, though, she decided to buy a property too. "After looking at a number of properties, I fell in love with the one bedroom solar cottage on the water at Itz'ana. This community is perfect for me because of the beauty and security," says the retired UNC-Wilmington economics professor. "I'll rent it out but also visit several times a year—with my dog! I love to paddleboard and look forward to making new friends in Belize."
Another solar-cottage owner is Linda Ott. Her close friend Patty has spent the last decade running Bush Medicine Camp, a local organization which teaches children about the healing benefits of native plants. When Ott volunteered at the camp for the first time, she became enamored with the area. "I fell in love with Belize," she says, "with the children, the plants, the people, the culture, the pace of life, the beauty of the mountains and sea, and the awe of nature." She discovered Itz'ana's solar cottages on the water perfectly fit her lifestyle. "Just the right size for me! Being the holistic, feminist, spiritual nature-lover I am, the name Itz'ana—based on the Maya goddess of day and night—coupled with the property's mission to sustain the beauty of its natural surroundings and to nourish mind, body and soul, totally resonated with me." What is she most looking forward to? "So many things: life in a right-sized space on the water, breathtaking sunsets over the lagoon and mountains, sunrises, fantastic food, delicious drinks, and entertaining old and new friends" she says. Plus, she'll be trading in her car for a golf-cart, and "leaving the rat race of the US for a simpler life in a beautiful home with beautiful people from all walks of life. I hope to spend a lot of my time ‘being,' and not so much ‘doing.'
California-based Stephanie Domzlaski is the new owner of a two-bedroom lagoon villa. "I fell in love with the rustic beauty of Belize from the moment I stepped off the plane," she says. "The country is an invitation to exhale. Practically, the proximity to the United States, the use of the dollar and ease of communication makes traveling feel effortless. Itz'ana presented as the superior option for investment for the quality of the management team and their clear commitment to an organic, sustainable mindset. Honoring the natural beauty of Placencia, the Itz'ana experience is one of thoughtful and ecological-minded luxury. "I can't wait for...everything! The beautiful beach, dining options, incredible staff and definitely the outdoor adventures. I feel so fortunate to be able to call Itz'ana my home away from home."
Here's to the women of our community! We're so thankful to have you as part of our lives here at Itz'ana.
Want to join the Itz'ana family? Sign up here to learn more.