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Best Islands for Retirement

Last update: 2023-12-08

Islands have long been a popular retirement destination, offering retirees a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy a more relaxed pace. With their stunning scenery, warm climates, and abundant activities, islands offer something for everyone.

If you're considering retiring to an island, there are a few factors to keep in mind when making your decision. These include the cost of living, the availability of healthcare, and the visa requirements. It's also important to consider your personal preferences, such as the size of the island, the climate, and the culture.

Here are some of the best islands for retirement, based on a variety of factors:


Malta is a small island nation in the Mediterranean Sea. It offers a great combination of affordability, quality healthcare, and a relaxed lifestyle. Malta is also a very English-speaking country, making it easy for retirees from the United States and other English-speaking countries to adjust.

Valletta skyline at night in Malta

Some key facts about retiring in Malta:

  • Affordable cost of living. Groceries, dining out, and housing in Malta are fairly inexpensive compared to other European countries. This makes it easy to live comfortably on a fixed income.
  • English spoken widely. Malta is a very bilingual country, with English being one of the two official languages. This makes daily life much easier for expats.
  • Mild Mediterranean climate. Malta enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year. The winters are mild and the summers are hot and dry.
  • Modern infrastructure and amenities. Malta offers all the comforts and conveniences retirees are used to at home, including modern hospitals, restaurants, shops, and more.
  • Low crime rate. Malta is a relatively safe country with low crime rates, especially compared to other European capitals. This gives retirees peace of mind.
  • Expat retiree community. There is an established community of foreign retirees living in Malta. It's easy to make friends and meet people in a similar life stage.
  • Great healthcare. Malta has excellent hospitals and clinics, with both public and private options. Healthcare is very affordable, especially compared to the U.S.
  • Convenient location. Situated in the central Mediterranean, Malta provides easy access to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Some potential downsides of retiring in Malta include the high population density, limited public transportation options outside the main city, and occasional water shortages in the summer months. However, overall Malta is a fantastic place to enjoy an affordable and comfortable island retirement.


Crete is the largest island in Greece. It offers retirees a chance to experience the rich culture and history of Greece, as well as its stunning beaches and Mediterranean climate. The cost of living in Crete is relatively low, and there is a good network of hospitals and clinics.

Agios Nikolaos at night. Crete, Greece. Agios Nikolaos is a picturesque town in the eastern part of the island Crete built on th

Here's an overview of some of Crete's key advantages for retirement:

  • Laidback, sunny Mediterranean lifestyle. Crete has a slow pace of life with plenty of cafes, good food, and chances to enjoy nature. You can fill your days relaxing by the sea.
  • Mild climate. Crete has hot, dry summers perfect for boating, swimming, and sunbathing. Winters are rainy and mild. The temperature rarely dips below 50°F.
  • Low cost of living. Goods, property, food, and healthcare are very reasonably priced in Crete. Fresh local produce is plentiful.
  • Scenic beauty. With mountains, gorges, lush valleys, and over 1000km of coastline, Crete's landscape is spectacularly diverse.
  • Established expat community. Crete has welcomed foreign retirees for decades. It's easy to meet others and get advice.
  • Opportunity to learn Greek. Immersing yourself in Greek language and culture is an enriching part of the island lifestyle.
  • Close to Athens. It's just a short, inexpensive flight to reach Greece's capital city.

Some potential challenges include the limited public transport outside of major towns, spotty internet/WiFi in rural areas, and healthcare that can be variable in quality. However, Crete remains a top choice for an idyllic Mediterranean retirement. The slow pace of life encourages you to sit back and savor the simple pleasures of island living.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas is a chain of islands in the Caribbean Sea. It is a popular retirement destination for Americans due to its proximity to the United States and its use of the US dollar. The Bahamas offers a relaxed lifestyle, beautiful beaches, and warm weather year-round.

Atlantis Paradise Island resort in Nassau, Bahamas.

Here are some of the pros of retiring to the Bahamas:

  • Tropical climate. With average temperatures in the 80s Fahrenheit, you can enjoy stunning weather all year long. Cooling trade winds keep the climate comfortable.
  • Tax advantages. The Bahamas has no income tax, capital gains tax, or wealth/inheritance taxes. This is a major plus for retirees living on investments.
  • Island pace of life. Expect a laidback atmosphere where you're encouraged to slow down and enjoy island time. Days fill naturally with golf, boating, beachcombing and other relaxations.
  • Cuisine focused on seafood and tropical fruits. Fresh conch, grouper, lobster and more star in delicious local dishes flavored with herbs, spices and lime. Tropical fruits like mango, pineapple and guava thrive.
  • Accessible healthcare. Doctors' clinics and modern hospitals are available across the islands. Many accept U.S. Medicare and insurance. Air ambulance can provide emergency transport to the U.S.
  • Established expat community. Retirees have lived in the Bahamas for decades. New residents can easily integrate and meet others.
  • Great real estate opportunities. From high-end homes to condos, there are options across various budget levels. And your money goes further compared to properties in the U.S.

Some downsides to consider include the risk of hurricanes, less developed infrastructure on some islands, and high cost of electricity and imported food/goods. But overall, the Bahamas offers the classic Caribbean retreat so many retirees dream of.

The U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are another popular retirement destination for Americans. They are a U.S. territory, so there are no visa requirements for U.S. citizens. The U.S. Virgin Islands offer retirees a chance to enjoy the Caribbean lifestyle without having to leave the United States.

St. John, US Virgin Islands at Trunk Bay.

Benefits of living in the U.S.V.I. include:

  • Access to U.S. healthcare system. The islands use the U.S. dollar, and residents can use Medicare and Veterans’ benefits. There are hospitals on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
  • No language barriers. English is spoken universally across the islands, which makes the transition very easy.
  • Established retiree community. Retirees have been moving to the U.S.V.I. for over 40 years. It’s easy to meet others and get involved.
  • Activities for healthy living. There are miles of hiking trails, opportunities for sailing, kayaking, yoga classes, and other ways to stay active.
  • Beautiful beaches. With warm turquoise waters and swaying palm trees, the beaches are ideal for swimming, snorkeling and relaxing.
  • Tropical climate. The average temperature is 80°F year-round. Cooling trade winds keep the climate pleasant.
  • Opportunity to avoid paying U.S. income taxes. The U.S.V.I. offers significant tax incentives to retirees who become residents.

Potential downsides are that the cost of living can be high, hurricanes are a threat, and some infrastructure is aging. However, the convenience of enjoying an island lifestyle without leaving U.S. soil makes the U.S.V.I. a top choice for American retirees.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is another U.S. territory in the Caribbean. It offers retirees the benefits of living in the United States, such as access to Social Security and Medicare, as well as the Caribbean lifestyle. Puerto Rico is also a relatively affordable place to live.

El Condado Lagoon, Dos Hermanos Bridge and skyline, El Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Reasons to consider retiring to Puerto Rico:

  • Tropical weather. Puerto Rico enjoys warm temperatures year-round, typically ranging from the mid 70s to high 80s Fahrenheit. Beach weather is the norm.
  • Tax perks. Puerto Rico offers major tax breaks through its Individual Investors Act. Retirement income from sources like pensions or 401(k)s can be exempt from local taxes.
  • Low cost of living. Housing, groceries, dining and other costs are lower in Puerto Rico than most parts of the U.S. It’s easy to stretch your retirement dollars.
  • U.S. currency and postal service. Using the U.S. dollar and mailing system provides convenience and savings.
  • Comprehensive healthcare. Doctors and hospitals accept Medicare, and many doctors speak English. There are also local health insurance options.
  • Expat community. Puerto Rico has welcomed retirees since the 1950s. New residents can tap into an established network.
  • Opportunity to learn Spanish. Spanish is the predominant language, which lets you immerse yourself in Latino culture.

Some downsides are the risk of hurricanes, lack of public transport, and areas with high crime. But overall, Puerto Rico provides an affordable Caribbean home base without leaving U.S. soil or benefits behind.

In addition to these islands, there are many other great places to retire around the world. Some other popular retirement islands include:

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize, located just offshore from the Belize Barrier Reef. It’s a popular retirement spot thanks to its stunning beaches, Caribbean lifestyle, and friendly local community.

View of beautifully lit overwater bungalow at sunset in Belize

Pros of retirement living on Ambergris Caye include:

  • Relaxed pace of life. Days are spent enjoying the sea, chatting with neighbors, browsing local shops and dining on fresh seafood. Stress seems to melt away.
  • Low costs. Real estate, dining, groceries and other expenses are very affordable compared to the U.S. Retirees can live well on under $2,000 a month.
  • English speaking. English is the primary language in Belize, though Spanish is also common. This makes life and healthcare access easier.
  • Established expat community. Retirees have lived on Ambergris Caye for over 30 years. Newcomers can quickly meet others and get involved.
  • Outstanding diving and snorkeling. The world’s second largest barrier reef is just offshore. You’ll find amazing marine life perfect for underwater adventures.
  • Home base to explore inland. It’s easy to take trips to Belize’s jungles, Mayan ruins, and other parts of the mainland.

Cons could include damage from major storms, salt air corrosion for exposed metals, and internet that can be slow. But if you’re seeking an affordable tropical lifestyle by the sea, Ambergris Caye has huge appeal.

Ko Samui, Thailand

Ko Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand known for its palm-fringed beaches, tropical jungles, and relaxed atmosphere. It’s becoming an increasingly popular retirement destination for foreign retirees looking for an exotic, affordable place to live.

Ko Tao, Ko Samui, Thailand

Reasons to consider Ko Samui for retirement:

  • Very low cost of living. A comfortable lifestyle costs just $1,000-$2,000 per month. Retirees can afford housekeepers, frequent dining out and entertainment.
  • Beautiful beaches and nature. With clear waters, coral reefs and coconut palms, Samui has incredible natural scenery to enjoy daily.
  • Laidback lifestyle. Days revolve around local markets, Buddhist temples, massage and yoga classes, and afternoons relaxing by the sea.
  • International dining options. Samui has outstanding and very affordable Thai cuisine, along with restaurants serving just about every major world cuisine.
  • Top-notch healthcare. The hospitals attract excellent doctors from around the world. Care meets Western standards but at far lower costs.
  • Developed island infrastructure. Samui has modern roads, utilities, amenities and conveniences for an easy transition.

Some downsides are the language barrier, visa requirements, humidity and threat of typhoons. But overall Ko Samui provides a chance to enjoy paradise in Thailand for much less than you’d pay at home.

Roatán, Honduras

Roatán is a Caribbean island off the coast of Honduras. It's known for its coral reefs, diving sites, and sandy beaches. Roatán has become very popular for retirees seeking an affordable and laidback island lifestyle.

Wooden houses on the coast of Roatan, Honduras, Central America

Benefits of retiring to Roatán include:

  • Low cost of living. A couple can comfortably retire on less than $2,000 per month. Good healthcare is also quite affordable on the island.
  • English widely spoken. English is the most common language, which makes adapting easy. Other expats are easy to befriend.
  • Beautiful beaches. Scattered around the island are over 60 stunning beaches, many secluded and undiscovered. You'll never get tired of beachcombing.
  • Underwater beauty. Just offshore is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Diving and snorkeling sites surround the island.
  • Outdoorsy lifestyle. Roatán offers amazing hiking, kayaking, fishing, sailing, and other ways to stay active in a tropical paradise.
  • Expat incentives. Retirees can import belongings duty-free. Residency is relatively easy for retirees to gain.

Potential challenges include limited infrastructure" the rainy season, spotty internet, and lack of cultural offerings. But if you crave a back-to-basics retirement focused on natural beauty, Roatán is tough to beat.

Colón Island, Panama

Colón Island is located just off the Caribbean coast of Panama near the entrance to the Panama Canal. It provides a unique opportunity to retire in Panama geared towards yachting, fishing, and enjoying island life.

Waterfront of Bocas Town on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro province, Panama capture during a glorious sunset from Carenero Island.

Reasons Colón Island is great for retirement:

  • Relaxed, peaceful setting. With fewer than 10,000 residents, the island has a getaway feel. Days are centered around fishing, boating, swimming, and sunsets on your balcony.
  • Affordable living. Costs for housing, groceries, and utilities are low. Domestic help is also very affordable if desired.
  • Modern healthcare. The new Johns Hopkins Medicine affiliated hospital in Panama City is under an hour ferry ride away.
  • Outdoor recreation. With Panama’s best sport fishing, beautiful dive spots, and sailing through the islands, outdoor lovers will never be bored.
  • Real estate incentives. Investing a minimum in property entitles you to tax exemptions and residence visas.
  • Shopping and amenities. Colón Island has a grocery store, international shops, restaurants, an 18-hole golf course and other conveniences.

Potential downsides include mosquitos, humidity, occasional internet outages, and a small expat community. But if you’re looking for an island focused on water sports and relaxation, Colón deserves consideration.

Bali, Indonesia

The island of Bali in Indonesia has become a popular retirement spot thanks to its low cost of living, rich culture, and amazingly friendly residents. Ubud is the cultural heart, while beach towns like Seminyak cater to a more relaxed expat scene.

sunset over traditional fishing boats on Bali, Indonesia

Reasons Bali stands out for retirement living:

  • Incredibly low costs. A villa with a private pool can be rented for under $1,000 per month. You can dine out daily and get regular massages and still save money.
  • Balinese culture. Immerse yourself in Hindu ceremonies, intricate stone carvings, traditional dance, religious festivals and more. The culture is vibrant.
  • Luxurious amenities. Five-star resorts, restaurants, medical care and shopping mean you still get top-notch amenities at developing world prices.
  • Slower pace of life. The Balinese philosophy emphasizes a gentle, relaxed lifestyle. It's easy to ditch the stress and hurry of western life.
  • Tropical weather. Temperatures average 80-90 degrees year-round. Cool mountain breezes make the heat pleasant.
  • Friendly locals. Balinese people are incredibly warm, gentle and welcoming to newcomers. Fitting in and making local friends is easy.

Cons may include isolation for some, cultural adjustments, visa issues and developing infrastructure. But Bali offers a one-of-a-kind tropical retirement experience you can't find anywhere else.

Caye Caulker, Belize

The island of Caye Caulker off the coast of Belize is a popular low-cost retirement destination for those seeking a barefoot, Caribbean lifestyle. The island's motto is “Go Slow”.

Caye Caulker, Belize

Reasons Caye Caulker attracts retirees:

  • Cheap beachfront living. A simple home just steps from the sea can cost well under $200,000. Cost of living is about 30% lower than the mainland.
  • Idyllic tropical weather. Temperatures on Caye Caulker range from 75-90 degrees year-round, with cooling trade winds.
  • Purely relaxed vibe. Days are centered around reading in a hammock, chatting with locals, enjoying sea breezes and watching the sunset.
  • Clear turquoise waters. The snorkeling and diving around the island is outstanding. Offshore reefs protect from waves.
  • Thriving expat community. Retirees have lived here since the 1970s. The small community is very welcoming.
  • English speaking population. English is the first language, so there are no language barriers to worry about.

Downsides can include damage from major storms, lack of amenities, and poor-quality produce. But if you crave simple beach living for rock-bottom prices, Caye Caulker can't be beat.

Cozumel, Mexico

The island of Cozumel just off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has been drawing retirees since the late 1960s with its Caribbean vibe and affordability. It's a top choice for an accessible, uncomplicated retirement.

The fortress at the north marina , Puerto Abrigo in Cozumel, Mexico, Caribbean.

Why retire to Cozumel?

  • Comfortable all-year climate. With average temperatures between 75-86 degrees Fahrenheit, you can enjoy outdoor living year-round.
  • Low cost of living. A retiree couple can live a high-quality life in Cozumel on a budget of $1,500 to $2,000 per month, including rent and healthcare.
  • Beautiful scenery. Cozumel boasts crystal clear waters, stunning beaches, and colorful coral reefs, making it a paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts.
  • Friendly community. The locals in Cozumel are known for their warmth and hospitality towards retirees and expatriates, creating a welcoming environment for new residents.
  • Safety and security. Cozumel is considered one of the safest places to live in Mexico, with low crime rates and a stable political climate.
  • Overall, Cozumel offers a unique retirement experience with its combination of Caribbean charm, affordability, and welcoming community. It's definitely worth considering for those seeking an accessible and enjoyable retirement destination.


Cozumel, Mexico is a top choice for retirees due to its comfortable climate, low cost of living, beautiful scenery, friendly community, and safety. Retirees can enjoy an accessible and uncomplicated retirement in this Caribbean paradise while maintaining a high quality of life within their budget.

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