We all dream of one day retiring to a tropical paradise, buying a second home in a quaint beach town where it's summer all year round, or relocating our lives to an island in the sun. But it can be more than just a dream…your tropical island or beach life can be a reality.
If you like the idea of getting away from it all on an island surrounded by crystal-clear waters, where the pace of life is slow and the lifestyle affordable…or would like to be near a beach that has all the amenities you could wish for…or perhaps you’d like a tropical climate where you can throw away your winter clothes and live year-round in a sunny paradise. Whatever your dream looks like, there are plenty of destinations that can match it.
In countries like Belize, Uruguay, Panama and the Dominican Republic you can live an affordable lifestyle. In these tropical paradises, your dollar will go further and you can live a better life for a lot less that you might imagine.
Find out more about tropical destinations around the world—where you can be by the beach, enjoy perfect weather, sip cocktails while swinging in your hammock, and generally lead a laid-back and stress-free lifestyle. Sign up for IL’s free daily postcards in the box below and we’ll also send you a FREE REPORT: The World’s Best Island, Beach and Tropical Retirement Destinations. (We value your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.)
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You’ll enjoy some of Mexico’s ﬁnest quality of living for a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S. or Canada. All told, a couple can comfortably call this paradise home for around $2,500 to $3,000 a month. Simple meals in local restaurants will run you $5 or less. One of my favorites, ﬁsh tacos, can be had for $1.50 each in the no-frills beach restaurants. And in stores, you can expect to pay prices similar to those in the U.S. for imported foods, but fresh produce is a bargain…try a pound of tomatoes for 65 cents or two pounds of fresh fruit like mango for $1. There are big savings on property taxes and healthcare, too. And where else can you enjoy life in a two-bedroom condo a stone’s-throw from the beach, in a premier beach town, for under $700 a month rent?
I stayed in a jungle paradise recently. Every morning I woke up to the sound of toucans and howler monkeys hanging out in the tropical hardwoods around my simple cabin. If you’ve never heard them, toucans have a sort of high-pitched call that’s a cross between a whistle and a laugh. Howlers…well, they issue a guttural roar much too loud than should be coming from such a small monkey.
Thailand is one of the world’s most popular locales for good living abroad. And there are lots of reasons why. For pennies on the dollar you get a year-round tropical climate and access to modern comforts and conveniences, including affordable, high quality medical care.
On the far southern tip of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is the tiny town of Montezuma. After hearing it described as a “must-see” from friends and fellow travelers for years, I decided to check out this gem on the Pacific. And I have to say…I think all the Montezuma fans have a point.
Narrowing down the best beaches in Mexico is no easy task. With nearly 6,000 miles of coastline, Mexico is home to many gorgeous beaches. But if you ask Mexicophiles which are the best beaches in Mexico, opinions will differ. Beauty, ambience, affordability, and wave quality are all taken into consideration when deciding which beaches in Mexico can be called the best. It all depends what you’re looking for… Here are four very personal choices, in no particular order, and why they make the grade.
The English-speaking island of Belize has a lot going for it. For a tiny country, it packs a big wallop when it comes to charm and scenery. For the would-be expat—especially if you’re looking for real value—there are many areas deserving of your attention. Places where you can live the laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle of your dreams.
“We could be at the office,” my friend shouts from across the water. It’s 8.30 a.m. on a Tuesday and here we are out surfing on a glorious Costa Rican morning. The sun is shining and the turquoise blue water sparkles as it catches the rays of the morning sun. This is my paradise and also my home. In fact, I only have a 220-yard walk back to the house after my morning session.
Lance and Mary Miller spend their time doing things they want to do…for the ﬁrst time in their lives. Sometimes that’s something as simple as enjoying coffee and fresh-baked coffee cake and cookies on their porch with friends. They can afford everything they need to live a comfortable retirement. And when they want it, the beach is just down the road. “We came to Costa Rica with the attitude that it’s an adventure. It’s fun! We want to be part of the community. We always knew we wanted to retire overseas. We did a lot of research, and Costa Rica kept coming up,” says Mary, 60.
It’s 10 a.m. in the morning and I’m strolling a nearly-deserted beach. A few people walk their dogs along the boardwalk, or paseo marítimo, while joggers pass them at a steady, even pace. I’m wearing only a light sweater over my sleeveless top, and within an hour I’ll shed it, as temperatures rise to a pleasant mid-70s F. By afternoon, sunbathers will dot this long beach, a few hardy souls even swimming the still-chilly waters of the Guadalquivir River. More will enjoy al fresco meals at the many water-side restaurants, their faces tilting toward the sun as they enjoy freshly-caught seafood and the region’s crisp white wines.
Before moving to Belize, Polly Alford lived a cushy life in southeastern England. She had a lucrative job with an IBM partner company, drove a convertible Volvo, owned a comfortable home, and vacationed several times a year. But she wasn’t content…Whenever Polly returned home from an exotic diving vacation, she wondered what it would be like to live a different lifestyle…in an exotic location…where she could indulge her favorite passion, scuba diving. So in October 2003 she gave in to that yearning.
In November 2011, Patrick Snyder made his ﬁrst trip to Belize, to visit his brother. Planning to spend a month, he stayed for seven. He then returned home, took care of his personal affairs, packed his belongings, and returned to Belize in 2012. “I like the peace and quiet in Punta Gorda, and the slow pace of life. I enjoy being right on the bay. People here are friendly. I live simply and it’s been easy to make new friends. At this point in my life, I could not ask for more.”
With its great windsurfing and stunning beaches, the town of Cabarete, on the Dominican Republic’s north coast, draws thousands of visitors each year. Its sand, sun, and surf were what first enticed expat Peter Orr to this part of the Caribbean. And today they bring a regular stream of customers to his business—a beachside hotel. “While working in Barbados in the early 80s, I got to experience the Caribbean lifestyle and windsurfing. I formed a dream of buying a little hotel on a Caribbean island when I was done working for someone else,” says Peter. More than 20 years later, Peter did exactly that.
The glittering, cerulean Mediterranean. Not a bad view every morning as you enjoy coffee and croissants from your terrace. Life is good. Sunny days. Freshcaught seafood. Crashing waves your lullaby every night…or for those drowsy, afternoon, after-lunch siestas. And salt-scented breezes keeping things cool.
Though Panama boasts two coasts and hundreds of islands, there’s a region on the Pacific that really stands out in terms of climate. Known as the Arco Seco, or Dry Arc, the Coronado region gets more sunshine than nearly any other place in the country.
Costa Rica can feel like a dream at times…especially the mornings that I wake up to the deep aroma of fresh-roasted coffee, harvested just a few miles from my house…or the days when my weekly errands are put on hold for a stroll on a white-sand beach. Finding adventure is easy here. My boyfriend, Pablo, and I have climbed a volcano in the morning only to be at the beach by afternoon. We’ve dined on world-class seafood prepared by European-trained chefs, but our favorite are meals with the locals where the stars are black beans broiled over an open fire and ripe plantains fried until they’re caramelized.
When Steve, 58, and Kathy Wade, 61, from Myrtle Beach, first visited Belize’s Placencia peninsula almost 12 years ago they were smitten with the friendly locals, tropical vibe, unspoiled beaches, and blue Caribbean, so they decided to make the move. They made the right choice. Over the years, development and more tourists and expats have come to the area. And services have improved to keep pace. You can get high-speed internet everywhere. The road was completely paved four years ago and real estate has boomed with new developments being put in up and down the peninsula.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Texas. I like the people, their independent attitude, and friendliness. But when I left for the Marines in the late ’60s, I never planned on returning. Not because of the task at hand—I was just ready to experience what the world had to offer. My eventual return was strictly out of commitment to responsibilities and an available career. When I reached 60, in a moment of clarity, I became acutely aware of how fast time was passing.
The town of Las Tablas on Panama’s Pacific Coast, is renowned for everything from colorful Carnival celebrations to artisanal textiles, pottery, and leatherwork. And beaches. Life in this sunny region of Panama is good , say the expats who, in increasing numbers, have begun to settle there. “Las Tablas is graced with more sunny days and less humidity than any other part of the country,” says InternationalLiving.com Panama editor Jessica Ramesch. “And the cost of living is the lowest in Panama. Here, a couple can easily live on $1,000 a month, including rent.”
Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic is a special hidden place where miles of beach weave their way around verdant elevated points. The sands are tan in places, white in other. The turquoise waters break in white explosions offshore where they meet reef. French and Italian pioneers came to this charming little place before the rest of the outside world had found it. They came in search of adventure…the perfect beach…and friendly local neighbors to share it with.
On a quiet stretch of Costa Rica’s Central Pacific you’ll find a low-key beach community. It’s been a fishing village for decades—the fishermen still go out every morning. It’s called Esterillos and if you’re looking for laidback life with a rural feel, it could be your perfect spot.
For too many of us, daily life means paying mounting bills, commuting to work, staying there far longer than is healthy, and worrying about…well…everything. It’s what folks call the rat race. The futile grind. It’s stressful, it’s bad for your health, and it feels like it will never end. But freeing yourself from it is easier than you think. In this issue of International Living we hear from expats who have already escaped and taken advantage of low costs overseas to free themselves. They are living in beautiful locations around the world, enjoying lives that are a far cry from their experiences back in the States.
From bustling beach towns to small ﬁshing communities, stunning stretches of sand to lush rainforests teeming with life, Costa Rica’s Central Paciﬁc coast has a huge variety of lifestyle choices to offer expats. And thankfully, it has the real estate to match. The name of the game in the Central Paciﬁc is good value. Beachfront and walk to-the-beach properties are bargain-priced compared to anything you’d ﬁnd in popular resort areas of the U.S. And there truly is something for everybody, whether you’re into the vibrant atmosphere of a resort or the peace of a ﬁshing village.
Lorelei Kusin has seen four Panamanian presidents come and go during her 14 years in Panama. But she lives on an island in Bocas del Toro province, and in this part of the Caribbean, time seems to stand still.
“Congestion, noise, and frenetic energy.” That’s how Maureen LoBue describes her former life in San Diego. Her new life in Panama couldn’t be more different. Here, her days consist of salsa dancing, swimming, and plenty of happy hours. “I rent a three-bedroom house with three porches and a huge yard—in the beach town of San Carlos—for just $800 a month,” says Maureen. Panama City is just over an hour away. She goes often, adding that a bus to the vast Albrook Mall and National Bus Terminal is just $2.50. And she’s about 10 minutes by car from a hub town bustling with supermarkets, shops, a clinic, and more.
Jennifer Blackstone’s newfound tropical lifestyle is a far cry from her childhood in Wisconsin. In fact, it’s a life she didn’t think she could ever have. “Several things fell into place and conspired to get me to Panama,” says Jennifer, who fell in love with the tropics several years ago. “I visited Costa Rica and I loved the tropical feel…the colorful ﬂowers and the warm ocean,” she says. “But the thought of living there…it was a fantasy.
For years I dreamed of leaving the stressful rat race of working life behind and ﬁnding my own Eden where I could retire in peace. And in 2014 I ﬁnally did just that. I discovered a highly affordable, fun, and stress- free retirement in the seaside Spanish town of Altea. When I told people I was going to abandon my career as a forensic psychologist in California and leave the San Luis Obispo area to move to Spain, I got one of two reactions: They either thought I was nuts or they were envious.
Sinking my toes into the warm white sand, I lean back in a plastic chair warped by the sun to give it a reclining effect. Homemade tortilla chips heaped on the plate in front of me are perfect for dipping into the ceviche of fresh ﬁsh caught just off the coast. And the $2 chelada, a lager beer on the rocks—Pacíﬁco is my favorite—with a liberal dose of lime juice and salt on the rim, hits the spot.
The Dominican Republic, with its pristine tropical beaches, attracts more vacationers than any other Caribbean island. Most stay at all-inclusive resorts, where you can eat from the buffet and let the staff pamper you. But maybe you’re after a more authentic Caribbean experience…a chance to sample this region’s many delights away from the tourist throngs. If so, Las Terrenas is the perfect place for you. Famous for its 11 miles of world-class beaches, Las Terrenas is on the north shore of the lush and mountainous Samaná Peninsula.
It’s ideal weather in Belize right now for lounging in a beach hammock, under a palm tree, as the emerald green and turquoise shaded waves gently lap up on the warm, golden sand beach… What could be better than sipping a frosty refreshment while gazing out at a tranquil seascape?
It’s almost lunchtime, which means it’s time for the work to end and play to begin. The beach awaits and the dive boat will be heading out soon, leaving just enough time to shut down the laptop and mosey into town. Such is a typical day in Roatan, Honduras, for expat Rika Purdy. Originally from Vancouver, Rika worked as a paralegal for years, obeying the clock, and working to make other people rich. But she came to realize there were new opportunities for earning online which could release her.
I live in paradise—there’s no disputing it. My home on the island of Roatan is surrounded by gorgeous, lush jungle and faces out to the sea. The palm trees and flowers that fill my yard draw hummingbirds who zig and zag their way among the colorful blossoms.
The vibe of Langkawi, also known as the Jewel of Kedah, is one of a laidback island. If it’s beaches and wildlife that you’re after, Langkawi is probably the Malaysian Island to head to—and Malaysia does have a few to choose from.
You wake up each morning for your daily walk on the beach. It’s flat, a long curve that runs for two-and-a-half miles, ending on either end in tree-covered cliffs. Your condo is just two blocks or so away. You’re renting, trying out the community before you commit to buying a property. It’s a one-bedroom condo in a gated complex, a nice mix of friendly expats and locals who congregate in the pool. You pay $500 a month during “low” season December through February and $700 the rest of the year. It’s fully furnished. A similar unit to this one with two bedrooms—in another part of the community—is listed for sale at $62,000.
Being a small country, it’s easy to get around Panama. That means most parts of the country are within easy reach of our home in the Chiriqui Province. Recently, my husband Gary and I jumped in the car and took to the road to check out the beach town of Pedasi.
Exactly one year ago, I was sitting on my couch in snowy Cleveland. At that time, I hadn’t left Northern Ohio for more than three weeks at a time. I was spending my time watching International House Hunter shows and researching on every travel blog and forum I could…trying to find out if living in Central America was a realistic dream for my husband, Dave, and I.
Just north of Tulum on Mexico’s Riviera Maya is the small beach community of Akumal. The beach curves gently around a small cove, which is home to endangered sea turtles who munch on the abundant sea grass.
The Brodeurs chose Las Tablas so they could live well, without sacrificing the good things in life. They go to the local expat hangout, Ponchalo’s, several times a week. The cost averages $20 total, including beverages. “Recently we had a to-die-for filet mignon for $6 at a place around the corner,” says Armand.
On the Nicoya Peninsula, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, is the community of Nosara. Known for its consistent waves, yoga studios, and somewhat remote location, this collection of beaches (Guiones, Pelada, Nosara, and Ostional) has virtually no shoreline development thanks to a large wildlife refuge designed to protect nesting sea turtles. As a result there are no large resorts or condo or hotel towers looming over the sand. And most expats live in homes in the forest just inland from the water. Nosara is popular with retirees, young couples, and families…just about anyone seeking a laid-back life on the beach.
Just south of Cancún, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, sits the small fishing village of Puerto Morelos. While still a working-class traditional Mexican town, Puerto Morelos has also drawn retirees in increasing numbers who come to live full-time or part-time as “snowbirds” escaping the cold North American winters.
Ryan Gast couldn’t be happier. “At 30 years old, I found a way to semi-retire,” he says. “I’m healthier, happier, and surfing better than ever. I make enough to live here. I live a simpler lifestyle. I work. I surf. I go home. And that’s exactly what I wanted. I love being around like-minded people. I’m where I’m supposed to be.” A typical day sees him sitting in front of his small surf shop. Friends riding by on bikes shout greetings…customers pop by regularly to ask about renting a board or taking surfing lessons…the vibe of this little community has a soothing effect.