The Most Romantic Places in the World to Retire in 2020 - IL

Love the feel of soft powdery sand in between your toes and warm sun on your back, but want more than just a brief fling with it? Your perfect full-time or part-time retirement could be found in some of the most stunningly beautiful locations the world has to offer.

Proving that romance can be eternal and not just for Valentine’s Day, we explore retirement destinations around the world that are perfect for the romantics at heart.

So, if you are looking for a retirement that comes with walks on the beach, romantic sunsets, and feels like your own private paradise, read on.

The Riviera Maya, Mexico


Spanning 80 miles along the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, nature has provided a stretch of perfect, palm-infused, sugary sand, bathed by the translucent, warm, turquoise-green waters of the Caribbean Sea. Many couples have found and nurtured romance along these shores. But beyond the obvious attraction of the beach, the Riviera Maya offers a Caribbean lifestyle that begs to be shared with your lover.

IL Mexico Correspondent Don Murray says “The Riviera Maya is the perfect romantic location. All you provide is your partner…or just maybe you’ll find your partner here.”

Walking hand in hand, along a moonlit, Caribbean beach or greeting the arriving day with powdery white sand between your toes are experiences not just for honeymooners. If you, and the love of your life, lived along Mexico’s famed Riviera Maya, falling asleep to the gentle sound of the surf, kissing the shore, could be a nightly occurrence.

The Riviera Maya is a coastal region that begins at Cancun on the north and reaches south, through Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Akumal, and Tulum. Access, to and from is easy, via Cancun’s modern International Airport and the direct flight takes just under two hours from Florida or Texas.

The area’s tropical weather, with average temps in the mid-80s F, and humidity that ranges from moderate to high, demands that clothing be light, airy and minimal. During summer months, swimsuits and flip-flops are normal attire for nearly all functions.

When it’s time for an evening out, it’s hard to beat the Riviera Maya. Cancun, alone, has over 750 restaurants and dozens of night clubs and entertainment venues. Here you can enjoy a romantic Italian dinner at La Dolce Vita in the centro area of Cancun. Or for a totally unexpected and romantic adventure, check out The Black Hole. Total darkness envelopes you and white gloves, attached to unseen humans, drift through the darkness delivering plate after plate of surprises. Playa del Carmen’s famed 5th Avenue provides romantic bistros and boutique hotels as well as ample jewelry stores, just in case jewels are in order.

A life along the Riviera Maya offers all the conveniences in one of the world’s most romantic settings while permitting access to the treasures of the Maya world throughout the Yucatan. Explore hidden cenotes (water-filled caves) or climb ancient pyramids.

The Pedasi Region, Panama

The Pedasi Region, Panama

A five-hour drive from Panama City, Panama’s sultry capital, is Pedasi, a gem of a village in Azuero. Banana trees, sugar cane, and countless varieties of palms line the flat horizon, a stark contrast from the capital’s soaring skyline of chrome and glass.

IL Panama Editor Jessica Ramesch says “For my money, this is the most romantic region of Panama. With a long list of “pros,” I confess, this is one of my favorite parts of Panama. Who wouldn’t want to live life in a land of eternal warmth and sunshine?”

There are no high-rises here in Pedasi. Instead, you’ll see cottages with clay tile roofs, and even the odd casa quincha—cute little homes built using local clay. Most houses have their “living rooms” on open terraces. Life here is lived in the fresh ocean air and the English-speaking community here is also one of the most welcoming, with residents who are generous with their time, offering help and advice to newcomers.

Just outside the village, in the greater Pedasi region, you’ll find a string of beaches. On some, local fishermen bring in their catch of the day, for less than $2 a pound, they’ll sell you red snapper, black grouper, amberjack, fresh from the sea. Other beaches offer opportunities to swim and splash. For the more adventurous, there’s spearfishing or paddleboarding. Here the Pacific is warm and welcoming.

Venao is a popular surf beach, here the waters are crystal clear, and sand a soft, smooth bronze. A handful of lodges and hostels line the coast with no huge resorts or loud bars in sight. Outside of the odd festival or surf competition, it’s a quiet, uncrowded place. Evening meals can be enjoyed on the beach. The soft ocean breeze and the sound of the waves make for the perfect ambiance…better than any big-city restaurant.

Costa Ballena, Costa Rica

Costa Ballena, Costa Rica

There is no question about it; Costa Rica is a paradise for romance. Opportunities abound for candlelight dinners or tropical cocktails on the beach.

Costa Ballena in particular, is an up-and-coming area that makes for a perfect romantic retirement haven. Stretching 22 miles of seashore in Costa Rica’s south Pacific, it is made up of three towns: Dominical, and Ojochal, with Uvita between them. Each pueblo has a slightly different feel, but what they share in common is a magnificent coastline with all but deserted beaches. A new, wide highway easily connects the area, with the ocean at your fingertips to one side and the verdant jungle mountains rising quickly on the other.

The Marino Ballena National Park calls the area home, as do hundreds of whales that can be seen easily from the beach. Whale watching on the beach—how idyllic is that? Punta Uvita is commonly called “the whale tail,” because this naturally occurring sandbar is shaped just like a whale’s hinder parts.

The Nauyaca Waterfalls is one of the country’s most arresting cascades. Made of two large cataracts, the lower falls have a large swimming hole, and the upper falls offer an impressive cliff as the perfect picnic spot.

To top it all off, the hidden jewel of Ojochal dishes up some of the finest international restaurants anywhere along the Pacific coast.

IL contributor John Michael Arthur says, “If you’re looking for amenities on every corner, you might look elsewhere. But for those folks looking for a romantic connection with Costa Rica at its best, you can do no better.”

Aveiro, Portugal


Known as the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro draws visitors on day trips from Porto, just 45 miles to the north. But, in fact, the city offers travelers a lot more than can be enjoyed in a single day.

Brightly-colored boats cruise a network of canals as seagulls sail effortlessly overhead. The gondola-like transports, moliceiros, were historically used to carry seaweed—moliço, from which they take their name—salt, and fresh fish from the Ria de Aveiro lagoon.

Today these crafts carry different cargo: tourists. As in Venice, Italy, this is one of the favorite pastimes of visitors to this second most populous city in central Portugal.

A cruise of just under an hour takes you through Aveiro’s maritime past, its ornately tiled historic architecture, and its bustling fish market. Cruises leave from the central Rossio area every half-hour from midmorning until dusk and cost less than $10. You may have time to sample the 15th-century Aveiro City Museum’s intricate splendor while you wait.

Tourism, coupled with the presence of a university, are a plus to the potential visitor to here: You can get along quite nicely speaking only English.

“Strolling in Aveiro is an adventure, when you can enjoy the classic black-and-white Portuguese pavement, calçadas, designed with maritime motifs echoing the city’s location and history,” says Tricia Pimental, IL Portugal Correspondent. “Streets like Ria de Aveiro are famed for shops selling local specialties and their Art Nouveau architecture. One example is the lovely blue building located on Rua Dr. Barbosa de Magalhães. This is where you can visit Casa de Chá, a café with outdoor garden, and a modest but interesting Art Nouveau museum upstairs.”

While here, one regional goodie to sample is ovos moles, a sweet pastry made from eggs yolks and sugar, wrapped in rice paper. Or sample the artisanal ice cream from Gelados de Portugal. They offer unusual flavors like requeijão (Portugal’s version of ricotta cheese), and pumpkin jelly.

Madrid, Spain


Spain’s sophisticated capital offers first-world infrastructure, thriving creative life, and sunshine at a modest price. Located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, at an altitude of 2,000 feet, Madrid’s climate is warm and dry. In fact, it’s the driest capital in Europe.

Madrileños love to socialize. Sidewalk cafes, terrazas, and parks are always crowded and convivial. Meeting friends in bars and coffee shops for conversation and camaraderie is a sacrosanct ritual.

Madrid operates on a different time zone—stores open at 10 a.m. Lunch is at 2 p.m. Dinner is at 9 p.m., 10 p.m., or even 11 p.m., and then you may go dancing. The last metro is at 1:30 a.m., and it is always packed. If you miss it, you can take a taxi or just stay up until it opens again at 6 am.

You can easily get away without speaking Spanish if you want to. Spaniards 30 and under studied English in school and speak it very well. Spaniards over 30 are in the process of learning and are eager to practice.

“Madrid may be a bit more expensive than other places in Spain, but she still offers a lot of bang for the buck,” says Marsha Scarbrough, IL Spain Correspondent. “Wine and beer are about $2 per glass. A generous gin and tonic will be about $7 to $9. Three-course menu del dia lunches run from $8 to $16 including wine or beer.”

Madrid is a major transportation hub, for the rest of Spain, for Europe, for the world. The primary international airport in Spain, Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport, is 12 kilometers from Madrid’s city center. Madrid’s metro delivers passengers right into the terminal. Spain’s efficient trains can be accessed from two main stations, Atocha and Chamartin.

Lecce, Italy


Lecce is extravagant, even flamboyant. It is the cultural capital of Puglia, with so many monuments, churches, palaces, and museums that it has been given the nickname, “The Florence of the South.”

With the airport in Brindisi just over a half-hour away, Lecce, the grand dame of Puglia, is a dazzling city all dolled up in baroque embellishments. The buildings of the city are built in local limestone, lathered with joyous ornate carvings and adornments done with such exuberance that it gives the city a sense of gaiety.

Located in the sunny Salento zone of southern Puglia— the Adriatic coast is a mere seven miles from the city—Lecce serves up an exotic blend of Greek, Byzantine, and European elements, all soaked in sunshine and topped with genuine hospitality.

The streets are generously sprinkled with eateries and wine bars, while shopping streets Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Palmieri are fun to roam. The Roman amphitheater, the cathedral, and the medieval castle are just a few of the things to see here. Four elegant theaters presents a wide variety of operas, shows, and symphonic music.

Museums by the dozen provide cultural and historical displays, and associations offer classes from Italian language, cooking, and even wine making or craft beer. Lecce has plentiful restaurants serving locally grown produce and fresh seafood, prepared in ways that burst with flavor. Puglia is known among Italians for its quality cuisine and wines, as well as olive oil.

“Dining out is a pleasure because Puglia does amazing things with the area’s produce; it’s especially appreciated by vegetarians and fish lovers—but don’t worry, you meat eaters will be happy, too,” says Valerie Fortney Schneider. “A couple can enjoy a trattoria dinner out with fish and wine for $56 or go to a more rustic down-home place like La Rusticana where a simple four-course meal with drinks costs just $17.42. Enjoy a pizza and beer for around $11 per person. A gelato is more than a simple ice cream here, it’s a sensory experience. Enjoy two flavors on your cone for $2.25, and a frothy cappuccino for $1.35.”

Prague, Czech Republic


Prague is 100% authentic. The city was essentially undamaged by World War II and, thus, the streets are crammed with buildings that span the entirety of the architectural movements in Europe over the last thousand years. The Prague Castle complex, standing sentinel on a hill overlooking the city, is the largest in the world. As such, UNESCO has named Prague’s entire Old Town as a World Heritage site.

And yet, Prague isn’t just some kind of architectural Disneyland. It is an increasingly modern city, with all the creature comforts of Anytown USA. It’s home to a diverse food scene, a high standard of living, high-quality healthcare, an expansive arts culture, parks big and small, and endless opportunities for walking and exploring. And, best of it, Prague offers an affordable lifestyle.

Prague has always lured outsiders. For millennia it was a center of trade in Central Europe, a center for the arts, and a center of religion. Today, it attracts expats because the lifestyle is so agreeable.

“The Czech Republic is the undisputed beer capital of the world,” says Jeff Opdyke, IL Editor. “Czechs drink more beer per capita than anyone—and by a country mile. (The Germans, widely thought of as beer-consuming giants, don’t even crack the top three). That means the beer here is immensely good and uniquely varied… sour beers, fruit beers, dark beers. In restaurants you’ll pay just over $1 or $2 for some excellent brews that play well with food.”Here, the art scene is robust—opera, theater, dance, concerts. Mozart was a huge fan of the city, and first performed his Don Giovanni opera here.

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