Living on an island conjures up images of white sandy beaches, sparkling blue water and no rush hour traffic.
We all dream of one day retiring to a tropical paradise, buying a second home in a quaint beach town where it’s summer all year round, or relocating our lives to an island in the sun. But it can be more than just a dream…your tropical island or beach life can be a reality.
There are tropical destinations around the world where you can be by the beach, enjoy perfect weather, sip cocktails while swinging in your hammock, and generally lead a laid-back and stress-free lifestyle.
Below, we’ve detailed three great islands to live, where English is widely spoken.
Ambergris Caye, Offers A Laid-back Lifestyle
Belize is the only country in Central America with English as its main language, and that goes for its islands, too.
More tourists and expats flock to Ambergris than any other region of Belize. Beyond its natural beauty and outdoor activities, this island offers Belize’s most sophisticated lifestyle. Combining a casual beach life with upscale amenities, it’s no wonder Ambergris has become so popular.
Ambergris and the small nearby islands are not overly developed, which means they’ve maintained a laidback vibe. San Pedro is the main population center on Ambergris, a town of roughly 18,000 part- and full-time residents.
A growing number of retired expats on the Caye are becoming focused on their health. They spend time biking, beach walking or running, swimming, or meeting friends at a local fitness center to work out or take a yoga class.
Many residents have boats in their backyards or moored on the lagoon. Tour-guide operators also offer diving trips to the barrier reef or the Blue Hole, or snorkeling in Hol Chan.
Ron Belvalle and his wife Annette moved to Ambergris Caye two years ago.
“While we both love the azure waters and sandy beaches of the Caribbean, as a diver I was itching to experience the second-largest barrier reef system in the world,” Ron says.
“The deal was sealed when Annette realized that she could do her corporate job remotely overseas. I, on the other hand, could apply for Social Security—supplementing my income by doing freelance work online. Living in Belize would also allow us to delay taking my pension and her Social Security, helping us stretch our income even further and allowing us to grow our investment portfolio.
The kick-back and low-key pace of life is what draws people to this island. A simple lifestyle, stunning views and affordable are all waiting for you on English-speaking Ambergris Caye.
Roatán: Relaxed Atmosphere and Stunning Views
The Caribbean Bay Island of Roatán, 30 miles off the coast of Honduras, ticks a lot of boxes—white-sand beaches, turquoise, see-to-the-bottom Caribbean waters, warm weather, cooling sea breezes, and a laidback island vibe.
The west side of the island, including communities like West End and West Bay, is the most developed and most frequented by tourists. The farther you go east, there’s less development. Here you have mostly seaside villages. Expat communities tend to be small, with homes on the hillside overlooking the water, or on a stretch of virtually private beach. It is quieter and isolated out east, with the nearest sizable settlement a 30- to 45-minute drive away.
Although, Honduras is Spanish-speaking, English is widely spoken on Roatán, (thanks to its historical link to England—it was once a British colony) making the island a top choice.
“A big bonus for the island of Roatán is it’s English speaking,” says Jason Holland, IL’s Roving Latin America Correspondent. “That—along with an active and welcoming expat community—makes it easy to get around, make friends, and transition to new island life.”
Ann Winters and her husband Ron, moved to Roatán from The Florida Keys. Here, they have found a new lease of life.
“The one word that always comes to mind when asked how I like living here is ‘contentment,’” says Ann. “I have never felt so content anywhere.”
“I love that there is no sense of urgency about the little things here, and once you can adapt to that mañana attitude, it’s very freeing, because there really is ‘always tomorrow,’” says Ann. “Life here has taught me patience and given me a clear sense of humanity.”
Penang: A Large and Active Expat Community
The cost of living is low, the locals are friendly and it is the country’s number one tourist destination, filled with bars, restaurants and historic mansions.
It’s a small island with a tropical year-round climate. There are breathtaking jungle trails leading up to Penang Hill, where wildlife such as butterflies and monkeys are common.
White sandy beaches are plentiful and with 18 official public holidays, there are copious amounts of cultural events taking place throughout the year.
Penang has many modern amenities such as shopping malls and movie theaters. There is also a large and active expat community.
The island is famous for its medical tourism. The cost of visiting a hospital and having a minor procedure in Penang is one tenth of what you would pay in the U.S. Penang is a medical center of excellence and a trip to the doctor can cost as little as $15.
Its capital, George Town, is a walkable, vibrant city, with cool cafés and great street food. It is also a UNESCO-listed historic site–the city has numerous temples, museums and art galleries.
People have a good quality of life in Malaysia and the government is committed to I.T., a stable exchange rate and great infrastructure. Life is easy in Penang.
Since moving to Penang, from Portland, Oregon, Ed and Sally Wilkerson have enjoyed a lavish lifestyle on a modest budget. They live in a 1,300-square-foot apartment with sea and harbor views, and a balcony that can easily hold 30 people.
“We entertain quite a bit,” Sally says. “This balcony and the apartment are made for entertaining, and we love having friends over. We get quite a few visitors from the States, and although people thought we were crazy when we left, they don’t when they visit.”
Bonus: English Speaking Malta Has Lots to Offer
A cityscape of cream-colored buildings and a marina bursting with masts will greet you in Malta. It has the Mediterranean Sea, a warm climate and two official languages: Maltese and English.
Warm summers and mild winters attract visitors and foreign residents to its shores…but it has so much more to offer.
For travelers with a love of culture, history and excellent weather, this island is full of charm and identity. For a prospective resident, Malta offers a tranquil way of life, year-round Mediterranean sunshine and the opportunity to benefit from a considerable reduction in your tax.
Malta also offers the benefit of not having to learn another language. Everybody speaks English on the island due to its numerous rulers over the years. Thanks to its long history of cultural exchange, Malta features a mix of traditions in its food, art, literature, music and architecture, so there is something for everyone.
Made up of five islands, Malta and Gozo are the only two with substantial populations. Warm and welcoming, the Maltese are clearly proud of their country and have a regard for traditional Mediterranean values, food, family and relationships.
The capital city of Valletta offers concerts, films, open-air exhibitions, fine dining and more. Built by the Knights in the late 16th century, it has mostly a baroque and neo-classical style with its buildings of creamy limestone.
It is impossible to get lost in Valletta and you can walk from end to end in about 20 minutes. If an active nightlife is what you are looking for, St. Julians and Paceville, about half an hour away, is the prime location for nightclubs, bars, students and tourists.
Inland is beautifully preserved city of Mdina. “The Silent City” is complete with soaring facades, romantic windowed balconies and narrow cobblestone lanes.
Get Your Free Report on the World’s Best Places to Retire:
Learn more about the best places in the world to retire in our daily postcard e-letter.
Simply enter your email address below to sign up for our free daily postcards and we’ll also send you a FREE report on The World’s Top 10 Retirement Havens, plus access to over 10 more free reports. Our gift to you, on our favorite destinations.
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.
Most Popular Products
Costa Rica 101