Have you always dreamed of whiling away your retirement years on an island somewhere but think it's an economically unfeasible pipe dream?
Think again, advise the editors at InternationalLiving.com, who have compiled a list of 11 "great value, picturesque islands across the globe" that are not only renowned for a welcoming atmosphere but also boast the type of creature comforts and public infrastructure to which Americans are accustomed.
"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," said Jennifer Stevens, International Living's executive editor. "But for many it remains a fantasy, as they assume it's too expensive."
But, she added, "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."
This island nation, situated in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunisia, may be — at 122 square miles — the smallest European Union member state in size, but it's packed with "something for everyone," according to InternationalLiving.com. The weather's warm year-round, and it's easy to communicate, thanks to locals' fluency in English (a legacy of one-time British rule). Although the euro is the coin of the realm in Malta, the dollar goes "surprisingly far," with couples living comfortably for $2,600 per month.
The largest island in Spain's autonomous Balearic Islands archipelago, Mallorca is a summer holiday hot spot. The island offers 1,405 miles of Mediterranean coastline dotted with marinas, harbors and beach coves. InternationalLiving.com reports that a couple could live well in sunny Mallorca for just $2,500 a month.
Malaysia might not leap to mind as an obvious place to move for most Americans, but InternationalLiving.com reports that the exotic and largely English-speaking island of Penang has been a magnet for those in the know for decades. Penang offers what the website calls a "luxury life on an affordable budget," with a couple's monthly expenses ranging from just $1,500 to $2,500.
Beloved by both watersports enthusiasts and nightlife devotees, the island of Ambergris Caye and its largest town, San Pedro, offer U.S. expats an English-speaking environment at Central American price points. The U.S. dollar and credit cards are widely accepted, reports InternationalLiving.com, and American brands of goods are readily available. Couples can retire in comfort for between $2,700 and $2,900 a month, including rent. Homeowners can spend even less: about $2,000 monthly.
OK, the Emerald Isle is not exactly in the same category as Ambergris Caye or Penang. For one, it's in chillier northern climes. (Ireland may be a little cloudy, but it rarely snows there, either.) It's also one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and it's an entire nation — actually, two: Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland. Locals obviously speak English and, despite their newfound prosperity, haven't lost the friendliness and family feeling for which they're renowned. InternationalLiving.com reports that a monthly budget of about $2,800 will buy a retired couple a comfortable retirement there.
Thirty-five miles off the cost of Honduras, Roatan — an English-speaking speck in Honduras' sea of Spanish speakers — epitomizes what InternationalLiving.com calls the "affordable Caribbean." A couple could live well in this tropical paradise on $2,000 to $2,500 a month, the website reports.
About 10 miles from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a world away from the hustle and bustle of its more tourism-developed neighbor. Clear, azure waters and white-sand beaches are never far away, and the cost of living is far lower than a similar lifestyle would cost back in the States. A couple can live well on Isla Mujeres for around $2,500 to $3,000 a month, including rent.
Isla Colon — along with the rest of the tropical Bocas del Toro Archipelago off the coast of northern Panama — is one of the best-kept secrets in the Caribbean region, says InternationalLiving.com. A couple can retire among a lively community of English-speaking expats for as little as $1,400 per month.
InternationalLiving.com calls Bali the "rock star of the 18,307 islands that make up Indonesia." Because the island is only 8 degrees south of the equator, temperatures hover most days between 78° and 90° Fahrenheit, with humidity of around 75 percent — but there is a monsoon season from October to April. A couple can "live well" in most Bali towns for $1,900 monthly.
Located off the coast of Thailand some 400 miles south of Bangkok, Koh Samui is the country's second-largest island after far more famous Phuket. Part of an archipelago comprising 80 islets, Koh Samui is increasingly popular among golfers. Expats live well on the island for about $2,000 to $2,500 per couple, per month, according to InternationalLiving.com.
InternationalLiving.com describes the Dominican Republic as the "front runner" for affordable Caribbean living. "The little beach town of Las Terrenas in the northeast, on the Samaná Peninsula, offers some of the most pristine beaches in the D.R.," writes the website. It's possible for a retiree couple to live in Las Terrenas for $2,000 per month, but InternationalLiving.com editors say most expats "choose" to spend closer to $3,000 — perhaps for better amenities.