Your Money, Your Future
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Your Money, Your Future

The 11 best islands in the world for retirement

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, 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."

For a sample of prices for rent, restaurants, groceries and other daily items on these islands, try the calculators on Numbeo or Expatistan. Price data may not be available for some areas.

1. Malta

Marina market with traditional "luzzu"fishing boats in Malta.
Zoltan Gabor | Getty Images

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 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.

2. Mallorca, Spain

Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Sean Gallup | Getty Images

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. reports that a couple could live well in sunny Mallorca for just $2,500 a month.

3. Penang, Malaysia

Paper lanterns during the Chinese new year holidays in Penang Island, George Town, Malaysia.
Getty Images

Malaysia might not leap to mind as an obvious place to move for most Americans, but 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.

4. Ambergris Caye, Belize

Panoramic Images | Panoramic Images | Getty Images

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, 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.

5. Ireland

Ballyvooney Cove, along Ireland's Copper Coast UNESCO Global Geopark.
Andrea Pistolesi | The Image Bank | Getty Images

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. reports that a monthly budget of about $2,800 will buy a retired couple a comfortable retirement there.

6. Roatan, Honduras

Roatan, Honduras.
Sorincolac | Getty Images

Thirty-five miles off the cost of Honduras, Roatan — an English-speaking speck in Honduras' sea of Spanish speakers — epitomizes what calls the "affordable Caribbean." A couple could live well in this tropical paradise on $2,000 to $2,500 a month, the website reports.

7. Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Flags brighten up a local street on Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Katrin Ten Eikelder / EyeEm | EyeEm | Getty Images

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.

8. Isla Colon, Panama

Ferry boat in Bocas del Toro, Isla Colon, Panama.
Christian Heeb | AWL Images | Getty Images

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 A couple can retire among a lively community of English-speaking expats for as little as $1,400 per month.

9. Bali

Blue lagoon at Nusa Penida near Bali in Indonesia.
Yarygin | iStock | Getty Images 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.

10. Koh Samui, Thailand

Traditional fishing boat on the beach, Thailand.
Casper1774Studio | iStock | Getty Images

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

11. Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Boats on sand against cloudy sky, Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic.
Noelia Magnusson Photography | Moment | Getty Images 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 editors say most expats "choose" to spend closer to $3,000 — perhaps for better amenities.

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