On Caribbean Shores, But With Modest Prices

“The Beauty of Living Here Is the Freedom”

Name: Edward J. Hille
From: Naples, Florida
Living in: Roatán, Honduras

“No one should ever get a monkey. It’s a bad idea. Nothing good ever comes from a monkey.”

So says Edward J. Hille, a man who may just have the best job in the world. Known by most as Captain Ed, he is the proprietor of Roatán’s most notorious bar, the Hole in the Wall.

Are you interested in retiring abroad? Yes | Not Sure Yet

Accessible only by boat, the Hole in the Wall lives up to its name. It’s a shanty of a wooden building built on a craggy hill in the mangroves of Jonesville, on the far east side of Roatán, Honduras.

To reach the Hole in the Wall, you step off your boat onto a 30-square-foot palapa constructed of weather-grayed wooden planks. You can’t see the chewing gum and baling wire holding it together, but rest assured it’s there, and you’re not going to sink.

Captain Ed will be behind the “bar,” usually with his business partner, Ericka. Captain Ed is an intelligent, well-traveled free spirit. Disguised as a skinny, ponytail-wearing hippie, Ed spends his days serving drinks to the occasional patron. When traffic is light, he dips into a hammock on the east side of the palapa and buys bitcoin, gold, and silver, always keeping an eye on the stock market.

Roatán, Honduras
©iStock/dstephens

On other days, when the winds are low, the traffic slow, and the sun relentless, he and the bar crew (they also have a cook) load a boat with drinks and head off to the swimming hole up in the mangroves. Ed describes it as “one of the most beautiful places on earth. Crystal-clear water where you drift and watch the fish swim by on their way to do fish things.”

With no reason to consider leaving the island, the Hole in the Wall is open 365 days a year, usually from 10 a.m. until Captain Ed feels like closing. The menu (most items around $14) consists of “island bar food”—all kinds of fish, lobster, shrimp, and burgers.

One of the most beautiful places on earth.

A pirate at heart, Captain Ed frequently entertains himself with underwater metal detecting to find local booty Knowing where the currents and the storms collect in the waterways, he successfully finds the gold washed away from not-so-careful tourists.

To top off Ed’s pirate demeanor, Chewy (short for Chewbacca), his monkey, greets patrons while trying to steal anything from them that his hands can grasp. (Chewy is a Capuchin monkey, one of the smallest and smartest monkeys in the world, and native to Honduras. Ed grumbles about him, but it’s all in jest.) Having served numerous years as a sea captain, Ed transfers his sea-going attitude to life on land. “I like being captain because then I’m the boss. I do what I want, when I want. When you’re a captain, you are king— whatever you say goes.” When asked if he ever kicks anyone out of the Hole, he replies “Oh yeah. I’m good at that. The beauty of living here is the freedom. I don’t have to be tolerant. I don’t have to put up with stupid. Different is fine. Stupid and argumentative is not.” As I finish my drink and my interview, my eyes land upon a sticker on the front of the bar’s chest freezer. It reads “My life
is better than your vacation.” Yep, he’s right.—Veronica Martin

“We Wanted a Location That Was Affordable”

Names: John Snow & Lisa Trusello Snow
From: Temecula, California
Living in: Samana, Dominican Republic

Since moving to the Dominican Republic, my wife Lisa and I live a much simpler and quieter life. Back in Southern California, we existed in a non-stop, heavy-traffic environment. Here, we leave our little community and drive right into the countryside where it’s quiet and peaceful and we spend much more time outdoors. Plus, we see people every day here. In the U.S., it felt like we went from car to building to house to car.

We came here because we were looking for a warm-weather location outside the U.S. We considered Costa Rica, Belize, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Aruba. Basically, we wanted a location that was affordable and close to the east coast of the U.S., where we have a lot of family. Initially, we chose Cabarete, where many expats from Canada, the U.S., and Europe have settled. It has adequate medical services, plentiful grocery choices and restaurants, and many sporting activities. (It’s the kitesurfing, surfing, and windsurfing capital of the Dominican Republic.) We rented a large house that was too big for us, really, on the beach. It cost $2,500 a month and came fully furnished, including a jeep for our use.

Samana, Dominican Republic
©iStock/Vladone

When our lease was expiring, we started looking for somewhere different to live. We had visited the Samana Peninsula a couple of times, and were attracted to the area’s beauty. It’s less developed than the North Coast, with more farming and fishing, and less tourism.

A furnished penthouse for $1,200 a month.

Samana is in the middle of the peninsula and has most of the basic services. We came across an attractive resort community and decided to move in. It gave us the opportunity to explore the Peninsula as well as possibly acquire a boat, which has been on our wishlist.

Today, we live in a penthouse condo right on the bay, fully furnished with 24-hour security and all utilities included (except electricity), for $1,200 a month. This is an isolated luxury resort. It’s quiet here, but we like that.

The Dominican Republic is considered one of the least-expensive islands in the Caribbean. Judging on what we hear about the shocking inflation in the U.S. right now, it’s quite a difference. Fruit, dairy, eggs, and vegetables that are locally sourced are less than half the price we paid in California. Our monthly food and utilities amount to about $1,000 a month.

Also, the government subsidizes gasoline here. Even though we are on an island, U.S. gas prices are much higher. Admittedly, anything that has to come into the island from the U.S. and other countries is generally more expensive. But we can get many items on Amazon relatively reasonably. We ship to our U.S. freight forwarder in Miami, which is usually free on Amazon, and then we pay about $3.50 a pound for items to be delivered here.

We try to find a new place to explore every week. Whether it’s a deserted beach, a hiking trail, an interesting town, or a new café on the malecón, we strive to experience all we can here. We also like to share our knowledge with prospective expats, and have even published a book on the subject—Moving to the Dominican Republic – A Practical Guide. But we also find pleasure in the simple things. Lately we’ve been organizing a weekly clean-up of the tiny beach at the edge of our resort. And the rest of the time, there’s sailing, diving, and hiking, all of which we enjoy.

Ultimately, the best thing about our new life is a sense of living in the natural world. People here gather outside their homes, walk everywhere, and interact with each other. Life in the U.S. can feel like an endless cycle of getting in and out of the car—life here just fits us better.— John Snow

“I’ve Found a Lot More Opportunity Here”

Name: Mel Rhoden
From: Los Angeles, California
Living in: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica

Searching for a life that fit my needs, I found the perfect setting in March 2021, when I moved myself and business to Costa Rica.

Tired of the direction the U.S. was (and still is) headed in, I traveled around for a couple months, and eventually found myself on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. An energy fell over me and whispered, “This is it.” The healing powers of Costa Rica’s lush rainforests, stunning beaches, and refreshing waterfalls provided me with the medicine I needed to heal.

Even so, we all have bills to pay, and I’m no different. Happily, though, I’ve found a way to integrate my material responsibilities into a lifestyle that’s less stressful than the one I had in the U.S.

Hammocking is my new favorite thing to do.

I start each day with a combination of yoga, meditation, journaling, affirmations, and then head into the work day. Some days I teach yoga in the morning, and then I’ll work from home. Or sometimes I head into town to co-work with other entrepreneurs at a co-working space or coffee shop/restaurant.

Once the work day is done, my time is my own, and I spend it in simple, satisfying ways. I’ll meet up with friends for beach time, happy hour, or dinner and then head home just in time to watch the howler monkeys climb the trees and eat leaves. It’s like watching the Discovery Channel live and in-person. On weekends, I make it a point to get to the farmers’ market, brunch with friends, and hit the beach or pool.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
©iStock/Damocean

Since I’m relatively new to Costa Rica, I still have some admin to get through, but it’s in hand. I’m still in the process of getting my residency and have not entered the Caja (healthcare system) just yet. Right now, I am still paying travel insurance and spend about $60 a month on that.

I continue to work here. I have my own business I started in the States, in which I help guide mind, body, and soul. Mind, through yoga nidra—a guided meditation—body through yoga, and soul through soul contract readings. I serve clients via Zoom, and teach yoga in person. I am also a yoga retreat facilitator, where people can come to Costa Rica and escape for a week of yoga, healing, rest, relaxation, and time with like-minded people on similar journeys.

The satisfaction I gain from my work goes beyond the paycheck, it’s a big part of why I love living in Caribbean Costa Rica. Most of my clientele are from North America or other foreign countries. Here I have found a lot more opportunity, and I am living my purpose.

That integration with the local community helps in other ways, too. I rent my apartment. A one-bedroom can cost anywhere from $600 to $1,000 per month here, but if you network and talk to locals, it’s possible to find it for less than that. You may not get some of the comforts you’re used to, like hot water, consistent WiFi, or air conditioning, but I find that I don’t really miss them.

Adopting a low-impact, local-style approach to living leaves more room for the things I find important. Now that I live by the Caribbean, I go to the beach a lot more than I did before. I love the healing powers of the ocean, I spend more time with friends, and hammocking is my new favorite thing to do.”—Mel Rhoden

Related Articles

5 Best Caribbean Islands to Live On… and 2 to Avoid

Guide to The Caribbean Islands with Map

The World’s Best Places to Retire


Upcoming Conferences

Make 2023 Your Best Year Yet. Discover Panama with International Living

Panama has it all: beaches, mountains, a world-class capital city, top-notch, low-cost healthcare and the “World’s Best Retirement Program” that makes the already low cost of living even more affordable.

Join us for International Living’s Fast Track Panama Conference to see all that Panama offers. There’s no better place to be and no better way to make 2023 your best year.

Details Here


Panama 101

Portugal 101

Costa Rica 101