Extensive advertising and "word of mouth" have made San Pedro the country's most visited vacation destination. The crystal clear water and island atmosphere all play a crucial part in attracting visitors. But probably our most precious assets are the people who reside and make the tourist feel welcome. Without a doubt, this week's personality does exactly that, not only with tourists but locals alike. An afternoon chat is always a pleasant diversion with this San Pedro resident - Mr. Woody Canaday.
The fact that Woody was raised in "Mickey Mouse Land" (Anaheim, California) might be one of the reasons that he is one of the most joyful people you will ever meet. He chose to pursue a career in finance and became a Certified Public Accountant, enjoying his own practice for over twenty-eight years. In August of 1947, he married Helen Boynton and together they raised two children, Carol and Philip.
At the age of thirty-five, Woody started looking for a suitable place to retire, which he planned to do by the time he turned fifty. He spent fifteen years of vacations traveling the entire Caribbean, Central and South America looking for the perfect retirement place, but to no avail. It wasn't until he was fifty that a friend told him about Belize. In 1977, Woody came to Belize for the first time to check it out. While in the country he took the plane from Belize City to San Pedro (only one daily flight at that time). After spending some time on the island, Woody was convinced. The friendliness of the people, the country's British Commonwealth laws, the water and island attitude were all critical factors convincing him that this was the perfect place for him. He returned to Belize City and called Helen to inform her that he had found their future home. She made arrangements to travel to Belize where Woody met her at the International Airport.
After they settled in their new home on Ambergris Caye, Woody entered into a condominium development project with a group of investors in the Punta Zul Area. Because of various reasons, this project was never completed. At that time, Fido's Hotel was the hottest spot in town and when this establishment came up for sale, he immediately took advantage of the opportunity. The Canadays invested a lot in the renovation of the hotel and bar. With a big smile on his face Woody commented, "There were not many tourists at the time so I would offer the few that visited a free room as long as they drank at the bar. This proved more profitable since room rates at the time were only BZ$12."
It was during this same time, Woody decided to move to the southern part of the island to a one room thatch-roof cabaña. There was no electricity or water then, but the peace and tranquility of its surroundings were even greater assets. After five years of looking over the daily operations of Fido's, he was more than willing to give it up and live a "Robinson Crusoe" lifestyle in his little cabaña far from the village. But his hideout would soon be discovered by the numerous friends he had made in the village and shortly after, his place became the preferred hangout for the local fishermen. As the village developed and expanded, Woody's place was no longer a very far distance away.
The tourism industry had just started to flourish in San Pedro so the Canaday's next project was to build a four room hotel on their lot, which they named Corona del Mar. Business was good for them and in April of 1999, they expanded the hotel to include four suites and four penthouse rooms, all with refrigerator, TV and telephone. All bookings at Corona del Mar include a complete breakfast and free rum bar for their guests. Woody and Helen still share the same thatch roof cabaña of many years ago, except now it consists of two bathrooms, one bedroom, a kitchen, living room, bar and also serves as the reception area for the hotel. In addition, "Woody's Wharf" was built immediately in front of the hotel where boat slips can be rented.
Woody's cabaña has become "Grand Central Station" where a steady stream of visitors and friends drop by daily to greet him. Their encounter finds him on the same old sofa he has had since 1962, which he brought from the US.
In speaking about the twenty-three years he has spent in San Pedro, Woody said, "I have never been happier in my life. My health is great because there is no pressure and no problems. It is a great place to live. Everyday I look out of my window and I see the beauty in which I live. Even if someone offered me a million dollars, I would not trade my place with anyone."
Although it took Woody fifteen years to find a place to retire, it was worth the wait; he has found peace, happiness and a multitude of friends. He has made a living in La Isla Bonita and has shared his profits and happiness with the island. Woody has not only become an esteemed businessman, but a "retired" friend of "Our Community."