An Unbelievably Affordable Beach Life on Roatan

“Sometimes we just shake our heads in disbelief that we actually own a home right on the beach in one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen,” Paula Irvin says. “It’s absolutely amazing!”

Hummingbirds zip around the bright-red feeder hanging from the balcony. “They always come at this time—just as the sun begins to dip into the ocean and the other birds start calling to each other a goodnight song,” says Paula.

Paula and her husband Randy blissfully watch this evening routine while they sip Barena, their favorite local beer, and toast another peaceful day spent in paradise. It’s a stark difference from their home in Vancouver, Canada, where the brutal winters had them dreaming of another locale with warm waters calm enough for snorkeling adventures.

As retirement neared, they explored Costa Rica, Panama and then finally they stumbled upon Roatan, Honduras.

“We had never even heard of Roatan and were investigating Belize for a snorkeling holiday,” Paula explains. “Searching for diving and snorkeling at a reasonable cost, Roatan kept popping up. We became intrigued with what we found, and it was a lot less expensive than Belize, so we booked our flights.”

“We fell in love with Roatan on our very first trip,” says Randy. “We had seen some of Central America and this topped everything. We love the lush green jungle and the rolling hills through the whole center of the island, and the beaches are just gorgeous.

“To top it all off, the snorkeling here is the best we’ve ever done. The water is so calm and the reef is incredible. Every day we kayak out from our beach and go snorkel with the turtles and admire all the brightly colored schools of fish. Sometimes we even see some bigger creatures like stingrays and eels. We spend several hours in the water almost every single day. We can’t get enough of it.”

The couple actually started looking for property on the island quite by accident. “We were at a local restaurant and Paula asked the owner what the yellow vine was that was climbing up the wall. He misunderstood her and thought she was referring to the real estate sign behind it. He also sold real estate,” says Randy.

“We had been thinking about it so we went ahead and set up an appointment,” Randy continues. “That was the start of our search and we eventually bought a place for about $275,000 in the best of both worlds: our home is surrounded on three sides by lush plant life and it faces out to the open water for a glorious sunset every evening. Our beach is essentially private with only four homes on it and iron-shore rock on each end, which means few people ever walk through. It’s our little part of paradise.”

Now semi-retired, Randy worked for years in academia, and has opted to fully retire by July 2014. This slow transition has given the couple the chance to gradually settle into a new way of life, splitting their time between Canada and Honduras.

This year they spent three months in the Caribbean. “Every morning we would wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee while sitting on our balcony overlooking the bay,” Randy says. “Then spend some time kayaking and snorkeling, and we love sitting on the balcony watching the hummingbirds’ feeding frenzy just before dusk.”

Life on the island is healthy and the couple walk a lot. “Randy lost a huge amount of weight this year,” says Paula. “We also used the colectivos (little minibuses) and taxis. Taking taxis everywhere is surprisingly affordable! In general, the cost of living in Roatan is much lower than back home. The fact that it’s an island means that some things cost more because they have to be imported, and we’ve also found that home improvements have to be done more regularly than at home because of the salt air. But I guess that’s a small price we have to pay to live on the beach in paradise!”

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