The 11 Best Islands in the World to Retire To—

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You don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy the romance of island living in retirement. A new report from the editors at details 11 great-value, picturesque islands across the globe known for their friendliness and warmth, and which also provide the infrastructure and comforts of home.

"If you choose the right island, you can actually live well for less than the cost of staying in the U.S."

“Folks often dream of retiring to an island—usually it’s a search for romance, fun, and an escape from the pressures of modern life,” says Jennifer Stevens, International Living’s Executive Editor.

“But for many, it remains a fantasy as they assume it’s too expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. If you choose the right island, you can actually live well for less than the cost of staying in the U.S.”

#1 Malta

At only 122 square miles, the tiny island nation of Malta has something for everyone—from ancient walled cities and breath-taking coastal trails to countryside farmhouses and charming restaurants.
Home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the islands—with over 155 miles of coastline—benefit from warm weather year-round.

Here, the English-speaking population—a legacy of British colonization—makes it easy for new arrivals to fit in.

For centuries, Malta has been a sought-after destination and Valletta, Malta’s capital city—the European Capital of Culture 2018—is an especially desirable location with rolling hills reminiscent of San Francisco.

Dollars can go surprisingly far here, with couples living comfortably on $2,600 per month.

#2 Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, the autonomous Spanish region just off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. You’ll find evidence of its long history in the Gothic cathedral of the capital city, Palma, and the hilltop castles in the mountainous countryside, as well as Arab structures built before the Reconquest. You’ll also find Roman ruins—clues to its importance as an outpost of that empire.

The whole coastline of this 1,405-square-mile island is ringed with marinas, harbors, and natural rock-lined coves offering privacy. It’s the perfect place to weigh anchor in the western Mediterranean—and the year-round mild climate helps there too.

Here, a couple can live well from $2,500 a month, depending on lifestyle.

#3 Penang, Malaysia

The island of Penang, off the coast of Malaysia, has been a firm favorite among savvy expats for decades.

A couple can live well on a monthly budget of between $1,500 and $2,500 a month. It’s a luxury life on an affordable budget with all the comforts and conveniences of home.

Penang’s international airport, which lots of low-cost Asian airlines operate from, makes exploring farther afield in Southeast Asia easy.

Known as a foodie haven, Penang’s largest city, George Town, is home to eclectic architecture, a vibrant art scene, and what many call the best street food in the world. Plus, as a former outpost of the British empire, Penang has a largely English-speaking populace.

#4 Ambergris Caye, Belize

Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye, is surrounded by stunning turquoise seascapes. This Caribbean island is a center for ocean sports during the day and for socializing at night.
Ambergris and the small nearby islands are not overly developed, which means they’ve maintained a laidback vibe. San Pedro is the major population hub on Ambergris.

Moving to Belize is easy. It’s the only country in Central America with English as its main language. The U.S. dollar is accepted, credit cards are widely used, and well-known U.S. brands are available too.

A couple can enjoy a comfortable retirement in Ambergris Caye, including rent, for between $2,700 and $2,900 per month. If you own your own home on the island, then expats report it’s possible for a couple to live quite comfortably on less than $2,000 a month.

#5 Ireland

A land full of poetry and song on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the island of Ireland is extremely alluring. It’s a first world, modern country where people still make the time to talk.

It could rain at any time, but the Irish weather is not something to endure, it’s to be embraced. This Atlantic climate has shaped the land and its people. It’s the reason fields are emerald-green and hillsides blaze purple with heather.

The English-speaking populace coupled with a welcoming culture, makes the Emerald Isle an easy place to fit in. It’s straightforward to get to and it makes for a convenient jumping-off point from which to explore Europe.

On a budget of around $2,800 a month, a retired couple could live quite comfortably in the Land of a Thousand Welcomes.

#6 Roatan, Honduras

The most populated of the Bay Islands, Roatán, is 35 miles from the northern coast of Honduras.
Although, Honduras is Spanish-speaking, Roatán is largely English-speaking thanks to a long colonial relationship with the United Kingdom.

A mountainous interior covered with jungle gives way to white-sand beaches and rocky coves, interspersed with colorful fishing villages. The island is most famous as a diving destination and retirement haven in the western Caribbean. The Mesoamerican Reef just offshore provides the world-class scuba and snorkeling Roatán is best known for.

It’s the affordable Caribbean. A couple could live well here on $2,000 to $2,500 a month.

#7 Isla Mujures, Mexico

Clear, azure waters and white-sand beaches are never far away in Isla Mujeres, about eight miles from Cancún in Mexico.

This relaxed island is a world away from its more tourist-developed neighbor—golf carts are preferred to cars as the main mode of transport.

The island enjoys a warm tropical climate (low to mid-80s F for most of the year), which means there is plenty to do on Isla Mujeres. Naturally, water activities top the list as the nearby reef offers amazing opportunities.

And the cost of living is far lower than a similar lifestyle would cost back in the States. A couple can live a nice life on Isla Mujeres for $2,500 to $3,000 a month, including rent.

#8 Isla Colon, Panama

One of the best-kept secrets in the Caribbean may well be Panama’s tropical archipelago. Close to the border with Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro is a group of nine main islands and a few hundred smaller cayos and islets, dotting calm turquoise waters.

Bocas Del Toro is also a perfect place to test drive the dream Caribbean lifestyle. The expat community is welcoming, it’s organized, and it gives back. A couple can live here on as little as $1,400 a month, renting a simple, cozy, island-style home.

The main center is Bocas Town—a seaside town of brightly painted buildings with many on stilts over the water on the large island of Isla Colon. Here, the water is the main focus—fishing, water sports, and whale watching are just some of the popular pastimes for locals.

#9 Bali

Bali is the rock star of the 18,307 islands that make up Indonesia. The mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of paradise, but it’s more than just a place. There is a spiritual energy surrounding the island.

Floating in aquamarine waters, Bali’s interior is filled with intense green rice paddies and lush jungle—a place expats enjoy life’s little luxuries at a fraction of the cost of home, and where spas are part of the lifestyle.

Bali is only eight degrees south of the equator, so you can count on most days being between 78 to 90 F with 75% humidity. The mountainous regions get some slightly cooler temperatures and the monsoon season is from October to April. But even the rainy season has plenty of sunny days.

A couple can live well in most towns in Bali for $1,900.

#10 Koh Samui, Thailand

Although only 13 miles wide and over 15 miles long, Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island after Phuket. It lies off the eastern coast in the Gulf of Thailand, around 400 miles south of Bangkok.

Expats come to this lush, tropical island for its white-sand beaches and laidback lifestyle.
Samui, one of an archipelago of 80 smaller islands, has a warm and mostly crystal-clear sea, with lots of opportunities for kayaking, sailing, and boating. It is also fast becoming a golfer’s paradise.

The island makes a great destination for anyone looking for a dream retirement by the sea. Expats live well here on a budget of $2,000 to $2,500 a month.

#11 Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Known for top-class beaches, excellent weather, and great golf, the Dominican Republic— just three-and-a-half hours from New York—is a front runner for affordable Caribbean living.

The little beach town of Las Terrenas in the northeast, on the Samana Penninsula, offers some of the most pristine beaches in the D.R.

French and Italian vacationers have been coming here for decades to enjoy the island’s 19 miles of public beaches.

A couple can live in this tropical paradise for around $2,000 a month, although most choose to spend closer to $3,000 a month.

The report can be found here: The 11 Best Islands in the World to Retire On

Editor's Note: Members of the media have permission to republish the article linked above once credit is given to
Further information, as well as interviews with expert authors for radio, TV or print, is available on request. Photos are also available.

For information about content republishing, source material or to book an interview with one of our experts, contact PR Managing Editor, Marita Kelly, +001 667 312 3532,

Twitter: @inliving —

About International Living

Since 1979, has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. has more than 200 correspondents traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.

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