Costa Rica may be a small country—it’s about the size of West Virginia—but it’s incredibly diverse as far as the landscape, climate, lifestyle, and “feel” you’ll experience in its different regions. You’ll find plenty of lush rainforests filled with capuchin monkeys and sloths, and jungle-covered mountains cascading down to the glittering Pacific.
Turns out one of the best places to find small-town America… is in Costa Rica. I’m talking about Atenas, a village of 5,000 in the Central Valley region in the interior of the country. Expats that have made their home here—mostly retirees—say the warm and friendly locals and a very welcoming expat community remind them of where they grew up.
The original plan was to try out retirement abroad—a short test drive. But after just a few months on Panama’s Pacific coast, Rex, 77, and Colleen Swanson, 68, were ready to stay for at least two years.
Even though Costa Rica is only about the size of West Virginia, it has a variety of climates and landscapes to suit every taste...and a choice of locations to suit every budget. One of the most popular areas of the country with expats is the Central Valley.
At the southeastern tip of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula is an up-and-coming beach community that has become a favored spot for surfers, beach-loving tourists, and entertainment-seeking expats.
In the western highlands of Panama, in the Chiriquí Province, is a little mountain town that has many smitten—Boquete. There’s a lot to like and many benefits that have made it a favored destination of retirees and other expats. Perhaps it’s the small town vibe that first draws you in.
Playa del Carmen lies about midway between the all-inclusive resort hub of Cancún and the up-and-coming, low-key, and still somewhat bohemian destination of Tulúm. It’s a happy medium between those two extremes and a favorite for those seeking to live an active retirement in an atmosphere that is sophisticated, yet laidback at the same time.
You look out from your terrace over a vast tropical garden. You're surrounded by heliconias and bromeliads in shades of vivid red, bright yellow, orange, and combinations in between, along with orchid blooms. Banana and mango trees are heavy with fruit. It provides the perfect backdrop to a life lived outdoors, thanks to a year-round temperate climate—mid-70s F during the day, cooling off into the 60s F at night.
The sky is blue with just a few clouds on the horizon, and the sun is high above me. But the constant sea breeze keeps things comfortable. This section of the Caribbean island of Roatán is all jungle-covered hills dotted with houses, sloping down to vivid turquoise water.
The Caribbean island of Roatan, about 40 miles off the coast of mainland Honduras, is well and truly on the expat radar. But that doesn't mean there aren't real estate bargains to be had. Prices here dropped during the housing crash of 2008 but have since leveled off. Plus, due to the devaluing of their dollar, Canadians, a major percentage of buyers on the island, haven't been buying in recent years...