It’s a dream for a lot of us, but it’s really not that hard to achieve. Besides the beauty and laid back life style we crave, you want to look for affordability, accessibility and of course health care. You also should make sure retirees are welcome—that helps too.
Try it, You Might Like It
It’s a good idea to rent on an island before you decide to move there for good. What seems to be the perfect vacation spot may not pan out as a permanent home. Renting for 6 months to a year will give you an idea of what life is really like there. Are groceries readily available and affordable? How’s the health care? Is the weather pleasant all year long? Are ex-pats welcomed by the locals? These are all questions that may require a longer visit to answer.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
This island seems to pop up on most every list of possibilities. Some folks claim Panama is the new Costa Rica: the new hip place to visit or settle. Located on the Caribbean side and in the north east corner of Panama, the islands are very convenient to Costa Rica as well. It is hot and humid in Panama, which you probably already expect since you are considering retiring to the tropics but be warned: Panama is extremely hot and humid. They claim they have no hurricanes, which is a plus, and the government in Panama has various visa options welcoming retirees. Add in the easy access to North and South America, along with that canal that cuts right through the country and this makes Bocas del Toro one of the top picks.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
The cost of living is lower in Mexico and the weather on the Yucatan peninsula is mighty inviting. You are just a short ferry ride from Cancun, which allows easy access to an international airport along with internationally acclaimed nightlife as well. Mexico is becoming a big-time retirement spot with the Baja peninsula really drawing them in, but if it’s the island life for you and you prefer a golf cart to a car, then Isla Mujeres is the place.
This island is 35 miles long and about 5 miles wide and located about 40 miles off the northern coast of Honduras in the Caribbean—it also boasts a lot of golf cart transportation. It has hillside views and property, even beachfront property that is still relatively affordable. The health care system gets good points, with several medical facilities on the island along with many more and more affordable medications offered over-the-counter than we are used to at home. There are plenty of rentals available to test drive island living as this is a vacation mecca with plenty of return visitors. Grocery staples from the U.S are plentiful, and just as in Mexico, Belize, and Panama, though products need to be imported which drives up the price, the standard of living is lower keeping prices in check.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Ambergris, Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award for Best Island in 2013 and 2014, is situated conveniently close to the U.S. with direct flights available to Houston, Miami, Dallas and many other U.S. cities. The island has a very temperate climate with temperatures seldom exceeding the mid-80s. There is quite an ex-pat community, with rents and properties for sale being very affordable. Not only can you buy your property but you can do it without an interpreter as English is the national language. There is a new 24-hour clinic near the airstrip, but the best health care is a plane ride away in either Belize City or the U.S.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Wherever you decide to retire it is always a good idea to try life there for a bit before making the permanent move. All these islands have numerous options for short or long term rentals to stay in before making the move. To me, that’s just one more reason to take even more vacations to the islands. It’s all just part of my retirement planning.