Climate…It’s often considered the “Goldilocks” category in our Global Retirement Index. What’s too hot or cold for one person can be just right for another. For some folks, the perfect climate is hot and humid; others want spring year-round.
In looking for the countries with the best climate for our 2018 Global Retirement Index we assessed not only the hard data—temperatures, rainfall and humidity—but we also assessed the comfort level of each destination’s climate by talking to the expats and our own correspondents on the ground in each country
From sunny beaches to humid rainforests, we’ve looked at every type of region that each country has to offer, to better inform you whether you should pack your shorts or snow boots when retiring overseas.
This year we have a very hotly contested four-way tie for third place. Find out below, which countries scored the best in the climate category and what country ultimately took top spot for best climate for 2018.
“From the year-round blue sky and sunshine of the tropical northern coast, to the humid hot Amazon rainforest, to the cold weather of the Andes, there is a climate to suit everyone’s taste in Peru,” says IL Peru Correspondent Steve LePoidevin
Of the 32 world climates that exist around the world, Peru has an astounding 30. It’s impossible to describe an average temperature or overall climate. But, it can be divided into three or four basic regions; the northern and southern coast, the Andean highlands, and the eastern lowlands or rainforest.
The 1,500-mile desert coastline varies from arid to semi-arid. The only part of the coast that enjoys much seasonal precipitation is the far north around Tumbes, near the Ecuador border. Here, a humid, tropical climate provides year-round average temperatures in the low to mid 80s F with most rain showers occurring in the summer months of January to March.
Huanchaco, a traditional fishing village that is becoming more popular for its surfing and tourism, enjoys a mild climate year-round, with temperatures reaching the high 70s F or low 80s F in the summer months.
For Lima and points south, winters are generally cool and foggy with temperatures ranging from the low 50s F to high 60s F. But, it is not difficult to escape the grey winter months. Drive an hour or two inland away from the coast and blue skies appear. The picturesque southern city of Arequipa, located in the foothills of the Andes, is less than two hours from the Pacific but enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year.
The most diverse climate is found in the Andes highlands. The climate is almost the exact opposite of the coastal regions.
Year-round daytime highs are fairly consistent with temperatures reaching the high 60s F or low 70s F. May to August is generally dry but as winter approaches, cloud cover and rainfall increases. The peak of the rainy season is January to March. Sitting at an altitude of over 11,000 feet, the bustling city of Cusco exemplifies this mountain climate
The Peruvian Amazon rainforest covers 60% of the country. Year-round temperatures average in the low 80s F and humidity hovers around 75%. There is no dry season but certainly more rainfall occurs during the winter months. The rainy summer arrives in November and ends in May, with March and April being the wettest months.
Iquitos, the “capital of the Peruvian Amazon” with its vibrant art and culture, and unique location, it is becoming a popular spot for expats and tourists alike. Many consider it the next big tourism center for the country.
Panama’s climate is surprisingly mild. Research Panama and nearly every source will tell you the average temperature is 88 F—but there’s more to it than that.
In mountain towns like Boquete, Volcan, Cerro Punta, Santa Fe, Sora, and El Valle, temperatures tend to be 10 to 15 degrees lower. Days are often sunny and cool. At night, you’ll never need more than a cardigan or light jacket.
Panama is considered one of the rainiest places in the region. The country’s Caribbean coast gets a formidable 130 inches of rain a year. Boquete comes close at around 100 inches and still, it’s one of the most popular retirement destinations on the planet. But most of Panama’s popular beach towns are on the Pacific, where “dry arc” regions get 39 to 70 inches a year.
Along Panama’s sinuous Pacific coast, nearly every morning of the year is sunny. December through April is the dry or summer season, characterized by strong breezes and virtually no rain, particularly from January through March.
The rest of the year is what’s known as the wet or “green season.” Precipitation on the Pacific Coast is light from May to August.
IL Panama Correspondent Jessica Ramesch says, “We tend to get one to two hours of light rain in the afternoons. And though August through November can bring stormy weather and heavy showers, you still see the sun most days.”
Add to that the fact that Panama is completely outside the hurricane belt, and it’s easy to see why beach communities like Coronado and Pedasi are so popular with expats from North America and beyond.
While Costa Rica is a small country, often compared to the size of the state of West Virginia, you will find a surprising number of different climates and microclimates. It’s truly possible to find a climate in Costa Rica to suit just about anyone.
John Michael Arthur, IL Costa Rica Central Valley Correspondent says, “The weather is absolutely perfect in Costa Rica. I can say that with assurance because, with 12 microclimates within the country, no matter what your definition of “perfect” weather is, you can find it here.”
Costa Rica’s ever-popular Central Valley is commonly referenced as having one of the most comfortable climates on earth. For those who don’t like the cold, but also don’t like it too hot, you’ll be pleased to learn in most of the region there is never a need for heat or air conditioning. Elevations between 3,000 and 5,000 feet help keep daytime temperatures in the 70’s F or low 80’s F throughout the year, and dip into the 60’s F for cozy sleeping conditions. Rainy season in the Central Valley typically spans from April to October, however it’s far less intense than the rainy season those on the coast or much further south experience.
If the beach, sunshine, and hot temperatures are more your thing, Costa Rica’s hottest, driest region is Guanacaste which spans the country’s northern Pacific coast and bumps right up to the Nicaraguan border. Temperatures in this region rarely fall below 85 F and the sun shines nearly every day of the year. While the region does experience a rainy season, the bulk of the rainfall comes during the months of September and October—the rest is typically intermittent showers from April to September. The farther south you go along the Pacific coast, the longer and more intense the rainy season becomes. The Southern Zone on the Pacific side stretching down to the Panamanian border is known for higher humidity but also the unique combination of beach and mountain landscape offers higher elevation in that area and thus lower temperatures the higher up you go.
Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is known for a similar, tropical beach climate to the Pacific side, but doesn’t reach the high temperatures found in the Guanacaste area.
With the variety of microclimates available in Costa Rica, it’s important to do location-specific research and consider the possible differences regardless of the relatively short distance from one place to another.
As the second most biodiverse country in world you can find whatever climate you desire in Colombia—warm and tropical weather on the Caribbean coast, eternal spring in the lower Andes mountains, and even cooler in the upper mountains.
IL Colombia Correspondent Nancy Kiernan says, “For me, the city of Medellín is perfect. Every day is the same with daytime highs in the upper 70s F to low 80s F. Jeans, short sleeved shirts and sandals are appropriate every day of the year.”
Heather Raheb from Tampa, Florida echoes that sentiment. “One of the top reasons we moved to Medellín was the weather. In Florida, it is hot and humid at last half the year. Here even in July it really is spring weather, I love it.”
You will find a spring-like climate in many of the cities and towns such as Pereira, Bucaramanga, and Armenia which are scattered throughout the mountains. But if your idea of perfection is 90 F with hot sun and humidity, Colombia has you covered as well.
The Caribbean coastal cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta let you spend every day at the beach in shorts, flip-flops, and bathing suits. Warm evening breezes cool things down to the mid-70s F.
Lisa Anderson from Seattle, Washington lives in Santa Marta. She says, “Being able to go the beach every day is a dream for me.” Mike McMurdo spends every Sunday with his family. “We love the beach, and there are miles and miles of beaches in the greater Santa Marta area.
Bolivia is the rare kind of place, where each city that you visit will make you feel as though you’re in an entirely different country. Some of this is due to the variance in geography and culture throughout the nation, but much of it is due to the unique climate in each place.
This landlocked nation sits south of the equator and takes up approximately the same amount of space as Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado combined. Thanks to its large size and central location, you can enjoy snowy-peaked mountains, arid deserts, and steamy Amazon rainforest all within this one country.
Cochabamba sits at 8,400 feet in the Andes and, despite its location, is reminiscent of southern California. Sparkly new condo buildings front palm-lined sidewalks and yards overflow with bougainvillea. The city enjoys mild temperatures year-round with daytime highs in the mid-70s F, even throughout the winter months of May through August (keep in mind the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere). Those sunny skies and warm temperatures are ideal for growing flowers and its earned Cochabamba the nickname of “The Garden City.”
IL Correspondent, Wendy DeChambeau says, “Because of Bolivia’s proximity to the equator, the country maintains a mild climate year-round, though it’s still far enough south to have slight seasonal changes. I’ve found every highland city I visited to be comfortably warm, yet not too hot.”
To the south, yet still in the Andes, the cities of Sucre and Tarija experience a little more seasonal variance. The warmer summer months October to March often reach into the 80s F while the cooler months can only reach low 70s F during the day. However, you’ll have more rainfall in both of these locations including some impressive thunderstorms at times. The altitude, temperature, and rainfall in Tarija come together to create an ideal environment for vineyards making for an enjoyable wine culture.
If you like warmth and humidity, the rapidly growing city of Santa Cruz can deliver. This town sits at the gateway to the Amazon and is home to a tropical climate. Temperatures can reach up to 90 F and rain is frequent. Both of these factors help create lush verdant surroundings which is home to many birds and other small animals.
Ecuador is blessed with some of the best weather on the planet…which is why it took the top spot in the Climate category of the 2018 Global Retirement Index. Most people think that since the country straddles the equator (that’s how it got its name), it must be unbearably hot. But that is not exactly true.
On the coast, the cold-water Humboldt Current drives Ecuador’s climate. This river in the ocean keeps the sea breezes cool and moderates the coastal weather. As a result, it rarely gets any hotter than 90 F or any colder than 70 F on most parts of the coast. You do however, find variation in rainfall; while the southern beaches of Salinas and Playa enjoy as much as 350 rain-free days per year, you can also find lush tropical rainforest along the central and northern shores. A great feature of being on the equator and the west coast of South America is that Ecuador has never been hit by a hurricane or tropical storm.
IL Coastal Ecuador Correspondent, Jim Santos says, “A wonderful benefit of this varied and moderate climate is the bounty of fruits and vegetables you can enjoy. Imagine fresh strawberries, all year round, for $1 a pound or less.”
In the Andes, it is the altitude that provides the spring-like weather. Since temperatures do not vary much during the year, rather than summer or winter, Ecuadorians tend to think in terms of dry or wet seasons—especially since the days are 12-hours long all year round.
As you explore this beautiful region, you can really pick the altitude that gives you the climate you prefer. In the highlands of Quito and Cuenca (around 8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level), you can expect daytime temperatures somewhere between 50 F and 70 F, with cooler nights. As the elevation goes down the average temperature rises, but even places like Vilcabamba, at 5,000 feet in the southern valleys, rarely have days hotter than the upper 70’s F, or nights cooler than the 50’s F.
There are also many small towns in the 3,500 to 5,000-foot range that enjoy even smaller changes in temperature with the seasons. The tiny village of Piñas, known for its tropical orchids and hummingbirds, has an average yearly daytime high of 79 F and lows of 73 F. Similarly, their nighttime lows range only between 59 F and 64 F.