Scoring a country on its climate is difficult, because everyone has their own ideas on what sort of weather they enjoy most. In the 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index, the countries that claim the best climate in the world all offer a variety of options to retirees—from hot beach areas to moderate, spring-like temperatures year-round.
In looking for the countries with the best climate 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 sweaters when retiring overseas.
This year we have a very hotly contested three-way tie for fourth place. Find out below, which countries scored the best in the climate category and what country ultimately took the top spot for the best climate for 2019.
(Mexico, Peru, and Portugal are all tied for fourth place in the Annual Global Retirement Index 2019 Climate Category with a score of 88.)
#4 Peru (tie)
With a mixture of desert, high mountains, jungle, and everything in between, retirees are almost guaranteed to find a climate to suit their taste in Peru.
“Almost every climate zone in the world can be found somewhere in Peru,” says Steve LePoidevin, IL Peru Correspondent. “Here in the northern coastal city of Trujillo, the year-round temperature averages almost 70 degrees with virtually no rainfall. In the popular southern city of Arequipa, residents enjoy similar temperatures and over 300 days of sunshine a year, but the nights are cool because of the high altitude at 7,600 feet.”
The Andes Mountains, the cold Humboldt Current, and the 1,500-mile arid dessert coastline each do their part in creating the multifaceted weather that the country enjoys. Peru can roughly be divided into three climatic areas—the Pacific Coast, the Andean highlands, and the Eastern lowlands. Within each of these general zones, there are often several microclimates that provide even more variations.
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 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.
For a more detailed look at the climate in Peru, check out: Peru Weather and Climate
#4 Portugal (tie)
“Portugal has a warm, moist, temperate, forest, climate,” says Tricia Pimental, IL Portugal Correspondent. “It has wet winters and dry summers with the average temperature of 71.6 F.
“You can drive this compact country from north to south in about five and a half hours. A road trip from west to east, from Lisbon to the Spanish border, takes less than half that time. While there’s not a great variation in climate, conditions are influenced by factors like elevation and proximity to the coastline.”
Summer in Lisbon brings comfortable temperatures in the low to mid-80s F with occasional highs in the mid-90s F. Come September, you’ll find breezy days, rain and temperatures in the 70s F, with a slight chill near the ocean.
Porto, the second largest metropolitan area in Portugal after Lisbon, is located on the north coast. Summers in the area are pleasantly warm. A day at the famous windsurfing beach of Esposende, just north of Porto, will be in the high 70s F to mid-80’s F with brilliant blue skies and moderate humidity and rain is a rarity.
In fall, temperatures cool to the high 50s F and mid-60s F, with periodic showers. You’ll need to take out your overcoat come December when temperatures drop to high 30s F to mid-40’s F, and the rainy season (until April) really gets underway.
In the south, with temperatures ranging from 68 F to 82 F, the sparkling beaches of the Algarve region are favorite vacation spots for not only the Portuguese, but visitors from Spain, Italy, France, the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany. There, the summers are particularly dry and sunny with 12 hours of sunshine each day and it’s the largest expat area in Portugal due to its resort-like feel most of the year.
For a more detailed look at the climate in Portugal, check out: Portugal Weather and Climate
#4 Mexico (tie)
Because of Mexico’s varied topography, the country has one of the world’s most diverse climate systems.
Mexico’s climate varies from arid to tropical, with a defined split. The Tropic of Cancer divides the country in two so one part is temperate and the other, tropical.
Land to the north has cooler temperatures during the winter months while more southerly regions see temperatures remain constant year-round. Also, there is more variation in the north with summers being hotter and winters colder.
That doesn’t mean the climate is the same in all southern or northern areas. There can be differences in temperatures, even in areas relatively close together, due to elevation—the higher the elevation, the cooler the average temperatures. The closer you are to sea level, the hotter that region is on average, and often more humid. In beach areas, high temperatures and humidity are tempered by delightful sea breezes.
“Perfect!” says Don Murray, IL Riviera Maya Correspondent. “That is the one word that I would use to describe Mexico’s climate. And it´s perfect because Mexico is such a huge country that nearly every climate is available.
“Generally, however, the entire country is warm and mild with small amounts of snow falling only on the highest peaks. Just a light sweater will add some comfort on the few chilly evenings.”
For a more detailed look at the climate in Mexico, check out: Mexico Weather and Climate
The second most biodiverse country in the world, Colombia takes third place in the 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index Climate category, scoring 90.
Located in the north of South America, it has a coastline on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, borders the Darien jungle to its west, and the Amazon to its east. Sitting just slightly north of the equator, it has an equal 12 hours of daylight and darkness with very little variation during the year.
“From warm, tropical beach weather, to more temperate spring-like temperatures, Colombia has what you are looking for,” says Nancy Kiernan, IL Colombia Correspondent.
“Whichever climate you choose, the weather remains the same all year long. So, January looks and feels the same as June or October. I live in the beautiful city of Medellín where the weather has perfect spring-like temperatures. My ‘winter coat’ is a jean jacket.”
You will find that 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.
For a more detailed look at the climate in Mexico, check out: Colombia Weather and Climate
#2 Costa Rica
Costa Rica claims second place scoring 91 points. The third smallest country in Central America offers an extensive array of different climates—so much so, no matter what climate retirees choose, they are guaranteed to find it here.
“With a dozen microclimates, there is someplace for everyone to fit personal weather preferences,” says Kathleen Evans, IL Coastal Costa Rica Correspondent.
“Many people love the temperate “eternal spring” climate of San Jose, the capital, and all the surrounding Central Valley. Or the dry, hot beaches of Guanacaste, or the lush, green landscape of the jungles in the south. Personally, having grown up in the brutal Chicago winters, I love living in flip-flops in Tamarindo with my coat collecting dust.”
While, Texas native John Michael Arthur, IL Central Valley Correspondent, lives in the Central Valley—home to about two-thirds of Costa Rica’s population.
“The thing I love about Costa Rica’s climate is that while it is generally temperate—who can complain about temperatures in the 70 Fs and 80 Fs—you can easily fine tune your favorite, preferred temperature simply by adjusting your altitude,” he says. “Yes, it’s warmer on the beaches and cooler on the higher mountains, but you can easily find several degrees of variation even in the same town just by going up, down or even around a hillside.”
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.
For a more detailed look at the climate in Costa Rica, check out: Costa Rica Weather and Climate
Ecuador is consistently a front-runner in the Climate category of International Living’s Global Annual Retirement Index and takes the top spot again this year, scoring 95 out of 100.
“Quite simply, some of the best weather on the planet can be found in Ecuador,” says Jim Santos, IL Coastal Ecuador Correspondent. “The unique combination of its position on the equator, the cooling sea breezes from the Humboldt Current, the Andes mountain range, and the Amazon basin have conspired to create a variety of climates.
“There are beaches that are warm year-round but rarely muggy (and are too close to the equator to ever have hurricanes or tropical storms), and places in the hills where you do not need a heating or cooling system. Lush, green hills and fertile valleys are the norm in Ecuador.”
Ecuador has four distinct geographical areas— the La Costa (Pacific coastal plains), the Sierra (mountains), the Oriente (eastern rainforests), and the Galapagos Islands. And because Ecuador lies directly on the equator, the entire country enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial daylight 365 days a year.
Ecuador gives retirees options, the power to select whatever climate they want—just like Donna Stiteler, IL Cuenca Correspondent.
“I’m a Florida girl who spent over 40 years living within blocks of the Gulf Coast who traded sweaty summers—which now last close to seven months with temperatures climbing to 100 F—for mountain views in Cuenca with year-round average highs in the mid-70s.
“The weather here makes walking during the day possible. I can exercise anytime during the day, not worry about humidity frizzing my hair, or have those high $350 air conditioning bills. I brag that I don’t need central air for hot or cold. If it’s cold, I light the fireplace. If it’s hot, I open the windows. All that, with an Andes view and sunsets over the mountains.”
For a more detailed look at the climate in Ecuador, check out: Ecuador Weather and Climate