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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Brothers Khalil and Abasi Chapman—and friend Rocky Leming—first landed in Costa Rica in 2005. At the time they worked in the restaurant and bar industry in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and heard rumors of the impressive surf down in Costa Rica. They headed south for a vacation somewhere on the Caribbean Coast…but ended up finding a new home. Today they run The Lazy Mon beach bar and restaurant in Puerto Viejo and draw huge crowds…
Most expats who consider moving to Belize dream of living near the Caribbean Sea on a beach. Fortunately for them, Belize offers several beach lifestyle options. Right now, the three most popular beach areas expats settle are Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Placencia Peninsula. Here’s a quick peek at each of these popular beach retreats… Ambergris Caye is the island that I’ve called home for the past six years—and I’m not the only one who has discovered its charms.
Of all the places I’ve visited in Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula is the one that feels most like the frontier. It’s a somewhat isolated region, with mile after mile of untouched coastline along the blue Pacific, craggy hills, vast cattle farms in the interior, and mazes of what are often dirt roads running through forests and fields. It’s also one of the world’s Blue Zones, where researchers have found that locals live longer on average due to a combination of diet, climate, and lifestyle.
This west-coast destination in Mexico hit the headlines in 1963. John Huston filmed part of Night of the Iguana in Vallarta. The world’s press descended on the town to follow the romance between Richard Burton, a star in the movie, and Elizabeth Taylor. Many viewers simply wanted the real skinny on the famous Hollywood stars. But others were grabbed by Vallarta’s colonial architecture and sun-drenched beaches. Tourists and expats started to flock to this little fishing village. Today, around 50,000 North Americans live in Vallarta…
You’ve probably heard a lot about the stunning, tiny Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye (pronounced “Key”), Belize. But if you’re looking for a quieter, even more laid-back slice of the Caribbean, you’ll want to check out Ambergris Caye’s little sister, Caye Caulker. The motto of this island is “Go Slow”… Spend any time with the easy-going locals and expats who live here, and you’ll discover it’s a motto they take very seriously.
Seductive and sensuous, an amalgam of cultures, Andalusia gets under your skin. Maybe that’s why so many of Spain’s signature sounds and images come from this vast, southern region of the country: castanets, gypsies, flamenco dancers, bull fighters, strumming guitars…This is romantic Spain…the one the tourists flock to.
Do you ever wish you could find a cool little beach town before it gets discovered and invest in land while the prices are still low? You aren’t alone. Global investors are constantly searching the planet for that kind of opportunity. But you know what? They missed a spot. It’s a little town of 1,000 full-time residents, and it’s called Barra del Chuy, in Uruguay.
Every morning, when I wake up and hear the birds singing outside my window, and watch the sunbeams that stream into our bedroom, I thank my lucky stars for being able to live a more laid-back life on the little Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. When my husband and I left California behind, I promised myself that we’d make time to socialize in Belize. Our busy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area didn’t leave much time for socializing…and we were dreaming of a more simplistic lifestyle
Think of the best of the Caribbean—clear, blue skies…long, white, sandy beaches…warm, gentle waters lapping at the shore…a soft breeze swaying the palm trees overhead—and Belize is where you’ll find it. It’s the sort of place you need to bring your camera to—you only have to point and click in any direction to capture the sort of picture-perfect scenery usually only seen in glossy travel brochures.
Steve Doane is a guy’s guy. A retired member of the NYPD, this keen surfer has an athletic physique and likes his rock ‘n’ roll. So when he describes his new life in Panama as “like falling into a Walt Disney movie,” there are no raised eyebrows. Rather, there are nodding heads. “What I mean is everything’s so intense…the sights and sounds,” he says.
Belize has about 200 islands off its coast. Most of these are in fact small cayes scattered throughout the shallow waters, used as hideaways by 17th-century pirates after they plundered Spanish gold. But Belize’s two main islands are Ambergris Caye and its little sister, Caye Caulker. Ambergris Caye and the islands that surround it are […]
There are people who plan carefully for the future—folks who weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of major decisions, then make life changes in careful, graduated steps… My wife Ann and I are not those people. When we announced to family and friends that we were selling our home and moving to the beach town of Salinas, Ecuador, they were—to put it mildly—shocked.
A great view usually translates into a premium price tag. But you can afford a home with stunning vistas if know the right place to look. For example, I know of one Pacific coast town where a beachfront condo with Californian-style ocean views and a similar lifestyle will only set you back $119,000. You’d need at least three times that to get close to the beach in California.
Carl Segerstrale has always had a passion for surfing. “I remember doodling surf logos in notebooks and imagined making a living in the surf industry,” he says. “Even as I began a career teaching middle school English the fantasy lingered.” Seven years ago he traded in the familiar surroundings of San Francisco, California for the unexplored Pacific coast of Nicaragua—a surfer’s dream place to live.
“Meet me at the sunset!” My friend called to me over his shoulder as he peddled his ancient bicycle past me on the little dirt road. Sounding more like the last line of a classic film than a concrete plan to meet up, I smiled at how poetic my life felt since moving to the tiny Mexican town of Sayulita. Even the name is beautiful.
Three days a week, I take an early morning walk to a park near the beach, not far from my apartment. I sit in the cool morning air and listen to the birds rustle and sing in the trees above the park bench. I like to arrive a little early, before my first client of the day arrives to meet me. This is Latin America, so even though our appointment is at 7.00 a.m., she usually doesn’t arrive until about 7.10 a.m. She is a single mother, working full time and studying for her undergraduate degree. I admire her resolve to make a better life for herself and her children. And, I get to be a part of that.
Hi, I’m Dan Prescher. Want a great example of how to move your family AND career to a tropical paradise? Look no further than Jason Holland, who lives and works in one of the most beautiful spots in Costa Rica with his wife and two young children. Jason made his move abroad in the middle of a job crisis, a world economic downturn AND the arrival of his second child…
Like many, I have said that someday I would like to write a book. The idea remained just that for years. There was never enough time to squeeze anything else into an already hectic schedule, making it easy to keep on postponing. As
soon as I made way for a new freer lifestyle, I decided to see if I could be a writer.
In December 2012, I was sitting in my beautiful waterfront apartment in Malta, a small, hidden gem of an island in the Mediterranean, drinking coffee while soaking up the stunning views. The turquoise waters were glistening from the warm, morning sun, pleasure boats everywhere. That view was also my office view.
International Living has just released its Annual Global Retirement Index for 2014. This Index ranks the top 24 retirement havens in the world across 8 important categories. This year, Panama has come out on top as winner of the Index and gains the title of being the best country in the world for retirement.
Outside the window of the condo I was renting, two huge pelicans sat nodding in the sun. Or so it seemed. Because in an instant, and in perfect synchronicity, they leapt from their perch, pulled in their wings, and dove headfirst to the emerald water below. No small feat since we were 20 floors up. Hmm, I wondered, what’s for dinner? Because, as the pelicans know, these waters are rich with a choice of seafood or every kind.
The first time John Morgan set foot on Little Corn Island, he was under its spell. “The moment my feet sunk into the soft, coral sand where the captain beached the water taxi, I had an overwhelming feeling of being home.” John came from Charlottesville, Virginia, where he was working as a freelance photographer and field technical advisor for Fuji Film. When he discovered Little Corn, it was the beginning of a 15-year love affair with the island that saw John try his hand at running a dive shop before finally establishing the Tranquilo Café, which he owns and operates today.
While my wife and I were on our daily walk the other day, 400 feet from the deserted Bejuco beach, we were stopped short by a white-faced capuchin monkey who raced gracefully across the bridge, then launched himself into a tree on the other side of the water. His family trailed close behind. Looking around me, I can’t help but think how lucky we are to have so much nature in our everyday lives.
Alfredo and Yvonne Villoria were just another fast-paced, career-minded couple in Los Angeles. But money-making wasn’t enough. “We felt that something was missing,” says Yvonne. “In 1976, we decided that 1980 was the cut-off year. In 1980, we would leave the United States. All we were doing was chasing the dollar. We wanted more. We thought there had to be more to life than just working and owning things.
Crucita is about 40 minutes north of Manta, Ecuador’s largest coastal city. But while Manta is big and busy and full of shopping and social opportunities, Crucita is the opposite. It’s a little fishing village with a produce market, a fish market, but no supermarket… You can get eggs, bread, beer, toilet paper, soap and other necessities of life at some of the local mom-and-pop shops, but for anything more exotic than that, you’ll need to go to Manta or the closer town of Portoviejo.
I’m typing this from the comfort of a lawn chair on the patio of my house in Quito. It’s early December and even though Quito is moving into winter, today is warm and sunny. Quito, Ecuador’s capital (a UNESCO World Heritage site), sits on the spine of the Andes nestled between two mountain ranges and several ice-capped volcanoes. The climate is mild, with high temperatures in the 70s and lows of around 50.
At 50 years old, Eugene Upham was too young for retirement. But he was too old for second chances—or so people said. Then Eugene had a heart attack. Though he survived, the part of him that listened to those voices didn’t. As Eugene was recovering, New Jersey was blanketed in several feet of snow. And, as his wife Lynne says, “We knew we had to reevaluate our life.”
First-World cities with every modern convenience, beachfront hideaways, medieval towns, tropical islands, temperate mountain valleys… You can chose your favorite climate, your preferred lifestyle…the place you feel most at home…because the world’s best retirement havens have it all… and for pennies on the dollar, too.
It’s no coincidence that commercials for vacations, resorts, or cruises in North America prominently feature the white sands, clear-blue waters, and laid-back vibe of Caribbean beaches. It is paradise and close to home. Maybe that’s why it’s been a premier vacation destination for decades. But thanks to affordable real estate available throughout the region, you’re not limited to the all-inclusives—it is possible to enjoy the Caribbean lifestyle year-round from your own home.
You might not “get” Coronado, Panama’s fastest growing beach town, immediately. There’s no main square or plaza, and at a glance it looks rambling and unremarkable. But trundle down its mansion-lined lanes, and you’ll find there are many hidden gems.
Despite interest from investors and well-heeled vacation home owners, you can still find good-value real estate. Prices start at $150,000 for simple digs, going up to multi-millions for the luxury palaces favored by wealthy vacation home owners. So it may not be dirt cheap. But with ocean-view homes starting at the low $200,000s, prices are a quarter of what you’d pay for similar property on the southern California coast, for example.
Low cost of living…stunning natural beauty…warm, friendly people…and the best retiree discount in the world. There are so many good reasons to live in Panama that it’s easy to see why Americans are choosing this country as their retirement haven. It’s a country that has something for everyone. Want to live by a white-sand beach, gazing out at miles of clear-blue Pacific Ocean or Caribbean Sea? You can here. More of a quiet mountain town kind of guy or gal? You’re in luck. Panama has a range of little mountain towns to choose from.
“Don’t worry, you won’t have a problem finding a place to stay,” said my friend as we drove into General Villamil Playas (commonly just called “Playas”), the closest beach town to Guayaquil. “The hotels here never fill up.” He should know. He owns a condo in Playas and drives there easily in just over an hour from his home in Guayaquil to spend weekends and holidays at this beach town on Ecuador’s southern coast, named by some as the “sunniest beach” in the country.
Home to 420,000 people, Florianopolis is often referred to by its residents as “the other Brazil.” For one thing, there is the evident prosperity, from brand-name jeans to the latest-model cars. The streets and sidewalks are clean. Unemployment is low, as is the crime rate. There are parks and pedestrian plazas. And the city is large enough to offer most services that you might need, without the problems of a bigger metropolis.
If there were ever two towns that complement one another perfectly, they would be Montañita and Olòn on the coast of Ecuador. About an hour north along the coast from Salinas—one of Ecuador’s best-known and most popular beach destinations—these two beach towns each offer a very different vibe. Montañita is named for the “little hill” that sits at its north end and separates its picture-perfect golden-sand beach from Olòn’s picture-perfect golden-sand beach. It’s less than a five-minute drive from one to the other, and a taxi ride will cost you just $2.
“Sometimes we just shake our heads in disbelief that we actually own a home right on the beach in one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen,” Paula Irvin says. “It’s absolutely amazing!” Hummingbirds zip around the bright-red feeder hanging from the balcony. “They always come at this time—just as the sun begins to dip into the ocean and the other birds start calling to each other a goodnight song,” says Paula. Paula and her husband Randy blissfully watch this evening routine…
“We chose Guanacaste [the name of the province] because of the proximity to the beach, the warm water, and the weather,” says Becky, who, thanks to a Costa Rican mother, was familiar with a lot of the country. “You don’t get as much rainfall as other areas of Costa Rica. And the weather is very predictable. From December to April there is no rain, and the rest of the year it mostly rains in the afternoon. You can do things outdoors year-round.”
When you move overseas, most things cost less. Health care is cheaper, beachfront property is cheaper and flights are cheaper when you qualify for a retiree program. You can even enjoy a symphony performance for far less than in the U.S., and have a better quality of life for less. Here is a list of five items that are cheaper overseas.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I were married in Costa Rica 14 years ago and have been back for business and pleasure almost every year since. We also lived in Panama in 2006 and, like Costa Rica, have returned nearly every year for International Living events, editorial trips, and vacations. So it is inevitable that…
“Thailand is one of the world’s most popular locales for good living abroad,” says InternationalLiving.com writer Heather Van Deest, who has lived there with her family for the past eight years. “For pennies on the dollar expats gain a year-round tropical climate and access to modern comforts and conveniences, including affordable, high-quality medical care.”