Retire in paradise: 5 countries where you can live the dream

Getty Images

If you'd like to stretch your retirement dollars and live on the beach, pack up and head to Costa Rica.

That's according to International Living's Annual Global Retirement Index, a ranking of top locales for retirees who'd prefer to spend their golden years abroad.

Nine million U.S. citizens live overseas, according to the State Department.

The magazine ranked 24 retirement destinations around the world on a dozen criteria, including cost of living, climate, health care and entertainment.

Here are the top five contenders in reverse order:

Malaysia
The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Rustam Azmi | Getty Images

Retired couples can live comfortably in Kuala Lumpur on $1,500 a month, according to International Living. This Southeast Asian country scored top marks in the entertainment, health care and healthy lifestyle categories.

Ecuador
Cuicocha lake, Cotacachi, Equador
John Elk III | Getty Images

This South American nation offers shoreline and mountain vistas – and it received top grades in the benefits and discounts category, as well as climate.

Panama
Aerial view of the Bridge of the Americas at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal with Panama City in the background.
LisaStrachan | Getty Images

Panama received the highest ratings for "benefits and discounts" and "visas and residence." Outside of Panama City, expatriates can live on $1,500 a month or less, saving money on utilities due to the mild climate.

Mexico
The promenade in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
CampPhoto | Getty Images

Mexico received a 90 out of 100 in the health-care category. The average doctor visit can run about $30 to $43, while a trip to the dentist costs about $28, according to International Living.

Costa Rica
A young woman hikes along a hanging bridge near Arenal Volcano National Park in Costa Rica.
Jeff Diener | Getty Images

Taking first place as the ideal locale for retirees, Costa Rica scored top marks in health care and healthy lifestyle. You can also live well on the cheap: $500 a month will get you a furnished two-bedroom home, International Living found.