Affordable Islands to Retire

The longed-for (or, perhaps, dreaded) day of retirement draws ever nearer. While the idea of getting out of the nine-to-five routine may be very appealing, there are other considerations looming on the horizon.

These considerations may include: how will I make ends meet, can I possibly maintain the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed, will I have enough to travel or will I worry about having enough money to put gas in the car?

Wouldn't it be great if you could just escape to a desert island? Or any island for that matter? A little piece of paradise where you can live the life of your dreams at a fraction of what it would cost you to stay on in your suburban home or small apartment.

Imagine moving abroad and living your golden years relaxing, golfing, lying on the beach, walking, eating, being creative, and enjoying nature and idyllic weather with friendly locals and with no financial worries. Sounds like an unattainable dream? The truth is, that with just a little planning, and not that much cash, you can find your retirement dream island.

Let’s take a look at the top 11 island destinations where your retirement dollars will actually go quite far and allow you to transform your fantasy into a daily reality.


Port Vila Harbor, Efate, Vanuatu
David Kirkland, Getty Images

Vanuatu is an island nation located in the middle of the South Pacific; it is an archipelago consisting of close to 82 small sized islands, 65 of which are inhabited.

It lies 600 miles (960 km) to the west of Fiji and 250 miles (402 km) to the northeast of New Caledonia and is about ​three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia.

You just need about $3,000 a month to maintain a pretty decent lifestyle, and property is relatively cheap. For example, a four-bedroom beachfront house 45 minutes from Port Vila is listed at $198,000.


Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Caribbean, Antilles, Lesser Antilles, Grenadines, Bequia
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Bequia is a small island located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island chain in the Caribbean, measuring seven square miles (18 km​2) with a population of approximately 4,300. Renting a three-bedroom apartment will cost around $500 to $700 a month.

The general cost of living is reasonable with the average take-home salary (after tax) of around $380. So being able to afford an apartment at that price means you’re living way above the norm, even on limited retirement income.



Ayia Napa Cyprus
Nick Holt/Latitude Stock/Getty Images

Cyprus is multilayered, with a compelling culture, lifestyle, and landscape. Experiencing Cyprus’ contrasting Greek and Turkish communities is increasingly easy, with seven access points linking the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides.

The landscape and overall mild climate mean an outdoor life is ​the default. Living in Larnaca, one of Cyprus’ beachfront cities, can cost you up to $2,500 a month, including rent, running a car and eating out a few times a month. A visa can be secured by proving a $7,500 annual income for retirees. The best part: English is an official language.

Roatán, Honduras

Honduras, Bay Islands, Roatan
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Off the east coast of Honduras, Roatán is the largest and most developed of the country’s Bay Islands, which offers retirees an incredible opportunity for a new idyllic life.

About 35 miles (56 km) long and only five miles (eight km) wide, Roatán offers hillside views and affordable beachfront property. There are plenty of rental options, with a fully fitted two-bedroom apartment in popular areas running from $600 to $1,000 per month. Typical utilities run $200 per month, and the average couple spends about $600 per month on groceries.

For a retired couple that owns a home in Roatán, a typical monthly budget hovers around $1,000. For a retired couple renting on the island, a typical monthly budget is closer to $1,800.


Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Fabian Jurado's Photography/Moment/Getty Images

With a lower cost of living than many parts of the US and a reasonable climate, Isla Mujeres, the “Island of Women,” is just the place to abandon the mainland hustle.

Located just eight miles (13 km) across the Bahia de Mujeres from Cancun, it is only five miles (eight km) long and half a mile (0.8 km) at its widest point. The downtown area is just four by six blocks. The average temperature is 80 F (15 C) with 60 percent humidity, and the hottest months are June through September.

Rental for a three-bedroom apartment outside of the center can run around $620 per month.


Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize
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Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye is a perfect retirement haven with fewer than 20,000 residents. The temperature seldom rises above mid-80’s F (26 C) during the day, or below the 70 F (21 C) at night.

It’s possible to live on Ambergris for under $2,000 a month, considerably less than most other Caribbean islands, although it’s easier if you own your own home. Rent varies on how close you live to the beach. Away from the beach, rentals can be found for less than $750 a month. 


Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
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Penang is a lush, mountainous island which lies on the Spice Route, just off Malaysia’s west coast, a two-hour drive from the border of Thailand.

Penang offers one-third to one-fifth the cost of living in the States. A couple can easily live on just over $1,500 a month whereas a budget of $4,000 or more will have you living in absolute luxury.


Koh Samui, Gulf of Thailand

Koh Samui
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In Koh Samui, a tropical island situated about 400 miles (640 km) south of Bangkok, you can live extremely well on around $2,000 a month.

You can find fully-furnished apartments to rent for as little as $170 per month, fill your motorbike’s gas tank for about $4 and enjoy dinner at an outdoor café for less than $10.

To buy a home in Koh Samui, you can find deals like a brand-new, fully furnished one-bedroom apartment with a terrace, beach access, a gym, high-speed internet, concierge service and more for just $92,000.


Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro, Panama
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Bocas del Toro, among the most beautiful islands in the world, is one of Panama’s 10 provinces. There are no direct international flights, so to get there you have to fly to Panama City and then take a domestic one-hour flight. A couple can live here for as little as $1,200 a month including rent. Budget about $350 a month for groceries for two.



Azure Window natural arch in Malta
Christian Kober/Robert Harding World Imagery/Getty Images

Mediterranean weather, a strong healthcare system, sound infrastructure, and stable economy, all make Malta a great place to retire. The rental price for a typical three-bedroom apartment outside the center is around $770.

There you have it: 11 great retirement destinations. Prices quoted are very general and could change depending on local conditions, as well as where and how you decide to live.

The point is that with fairly limited funds, a couple can actually plan their international move and achieve a wonderful retirement. All you have to do is make the decision, and book the travel to get there.