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Stretching south of Cancun along the Caribbean coast is the Riviera Maya, a popular playground attracting vacationers -- and a growing number of expats -- from all over the world. At the center of the Riviera Maya is Playa del Carmen (pop. 150,000), where the foreign residents tend to be as much from Europe (France, Italy, Ireland and Germany) as North America. Developments encompass low-rise condominium complexes and lots for sale -- both for construction of private homes, as well as in mixed-use commercial-residential areas. And then there are lesser-known enclaves, such as Puerto Aventura.
This is where Century 21's Riviera Maya Alliance can make things more convenient for potential buyers. "A Century 21 customer can expect the support of all brokers in our offices in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Cozumel," says Wosak. "We maintain fluent communications."
Two projects that stand out between Playa del Carmen and Tulum actually share the same acreage, adjacent to the greens of the Riviera Maya Golf Club's 36-hole course, designed by Robert Trent Jones II.
The Bahia Principe Golf Residences represent the most exclusive segment of a massive empire centered around four all-inclusive resorts. Million-dollar homes are being built along the fairways, but you don't have to play golf to appreciate the advantages: there are tennis courts, swimming pools and immaculate beaches, plus homeowners receive special consideration at the resorts' entertainment venues, not to mention discounts at their international restaurants. Residents who do not wish to build -- architecturally, clean lines are mandated -- can purchase apartments or semi-detached villas.
Tao Inspired Living, meanwhile, can only be classified as unique: it defines itself first and foremost as a community committed to a lifestyle of holistic wellness; its CEO is the former spiritual program coordinator of Canyon Ranch. Tao's condominiums, townhouses and residences cluster around a fitness, nutrition and meditation center perched above a cenote (naturally occurring Mayan cistern). Clearly, the philosophy seems to have struck a chord with quite a few prospective residents: at the currently planned rate of construction, future occupants buying now will have to wait until 2013 to move in.
Real Estate in Cozumel
The island of Cozumel is only a 50-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, but it seems a world away. Fewer than 80,000 people live on Mexico's showcase Caribbean island, and its mix of expats is very different from that of Cancun or the Riviera Maya: 90% American, with a sprinkling of Canadians and hardly any Europeans.
Fernando Heredia, of Coldwell Banker Casa Caribe, has been a real estate agent on Cozumel for more than two decades. "Property values have gone up 500% since 1988, when the foreign market began," he says. They have dropped a bit in the current financial crisis, he reports, while insisting that the draws of Cozumel remain: a laid-back environment with slow, controlled development; very little (and no violent) crime; a user-friendly international airport with an "airbridge" to Cancun that costs only $37 for residents; and "the clearest water in the Caribbean, along with Bonaire."
Remarkably, less than 2 blocks inland from Cozumel's main drag, and the busiest cruise port in the Caribbean, lie quiet, beautiful neighborhoods amid lush vegetation. Growth is strictly monitored, in order to protect the island's precious reefs. There are virtually no gated communities, and only a handful of modern condominium projects.
The Landmark is among the island's newest, and most prestigious, condominium buildings. Situated on the beach opposite the Dzul-Ha coral reef, yet less than 10 miles from downtown, residents have a choice of either jungle views or looking right down into the translucent waters of the Caribbean from their balconies. Constructed to withstand hurricane-force winds, apartments range from the low $200's to the high $300's.
According to Heredia, the best is yet to come. Mexico's tourism development agency, Fonatur, is building a marina, while a developer is planning to build a private airstrip nearby. Cozumel may eventually become the next Caribbean haven for the superwealthy.
Story and Cancun photos by Buzzy Gordon, other photos courtesy of the developers. Posted in February, 2012.
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