Mention the word “Caribbean” and most people think of places like Aruba, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and other tourist-rich dollops of sand. The region conjures well-deserved images of crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches. And there’s no question: If you like sun and sand, these islands are great for a vacation. But move there? Most folks assume it’s just too expensive and don’t give it another thought.
Imagine waking up each morning to the sound of gentle waves lapping up the shore of a white-sand beach. The warm Caribbean waters are clear, in shades of turquoise and azure. Down the road is a community with shops, restaurants, and, most importantly, lively beach bars. This is what it is like to live on the tropical island of Roatán.
Our days begin the way we want them to. No meetings, no business clothes, no agendas. Our way. We finally are able to set the tone for our lives. It’s been a long time coming.
Many people toy with the idea of living in another country but think it’s too expensive or just too complicated to figure out. Pick the right place, however, and moving overseas can be more affordable and easier than you probably imagine.
It’s another leisurely morning in paradise for Helen Murphy, as she strolls through the garden of her tropical-island home. She repots her plants and reorganizes her purple orchids. She has all the time in the world to spend, as she plants new seeds in her nursery and takes photos of the latest blooms to post online later.
So you’ve decided to retire to a Caribbean island paradise. You can already see yourself, toes in the sand, sipping a mojito by the turquoise-blue sea. Behind you, children laugh as they cartwheel down the beach, and by the waterfront fishermen chat as they haul in the catch of the day…but where are you?
What makes a particular spot a “perfect" retirement haven? Usually the answer depends on who you ask. Admittedly, one person’s heaven on earth could be the last place in the world another would choose to live. But there are a few special places on the planet—undeniable favorites with travelers, expats and retirees—that are so extraordinary, they are often described as being “heavenly” or “like paradise.”
On the western end of the pristine, laidback Caribbean island of Roatán, there’s a growing community of contented, beach-loving expats. The beach here is perfectly protected from the island’s prevailing southeastern breezes. This leaves the turquoise waters calm and still, perfect for a refreshing swim or snorkel. For many residents, a people-watching stroll on the white sands with a cold beer in hand is a daily routine.
Many factors come into play when considering a retirement abroad. Cost of living, prices of rents and real estate, and healthcare options are main concerns. But quality of life for retirees moving abroad also depends in large part on being able to fit in quickly, learn the ropes, and mix well with the locals in their adapted communities. Language, culture, and community support from locals and other expats all can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the expat retiree experience.
In this article, we outline the best five tropical island paradises for retirees. These places meet all the criteria needed to make them perfect retirement havens. As well as looking the part, all five of these islands—spread throughout the world—are becoming easier to get to as more and more flights open up to and from North America. Many tropical getaways have been consumed by commercialism, leaving them beyond every reasonable budget. But the islands on our list remain affordable, as attested by our expat experts on the ground. On some, it’s possible to live for as little as $1,500 a month including rent.