A new report from InternationalLiving.com points to 15 great-value, picturesque islands around the world. Each offers expats a chance to enjoy island living with lifestyle perks that range from diving to sailing to gourmet meals out—all in spots that don’t require deep pockets.
International Living’s report explores 15 hand-picked, good-value islands, scattered around the globe, where folks can find privacy, peace, a simpler way of life, and strong communities in beautiful surroundings. Below are nine of the best:
At only 122 square miles, the tiny island nation of Malta has something for everyone—from ancient walled cities and breath-taking coastal trails to countryside farmhouses and charming restaurants.
Home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the islands—with over 155 miles of coastline—benefit from warm weather year-round.
Here, the English-speaking population—a legacy of British colonization—makes it easy for new arrivals to fit in.
For centuries, Malta has been a sought-after destination and Valletta, Malta’s capital city—the European Capital of Culture 2018—is an especially desirable location with rolling hills reminiscent of San Francisco.
Dollars can go surprisingly far here, with couples living comfortably on $2,600 per month.
#2 Mallorca, Spain
Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, the autonomous Spanish region just off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. You’ll find evidence of its long history in the Gothic cathedral of the capital city, Palma, and the hilltop castles in the mountainous countryside, as well as Arab structures built before the Reconquest. You’ll also find Roman ruins—clues to its importance as an outpost of that empire.
The whole coastline of this 1,405-square-mile island is ringed with marinas, harbors, and natural rock-lined coves offering privacy. It’s the perfect place to weigh anchor in the western Mediterranean—and the year-round mild climate helps there too.
Here, a couple can live well from $2,500 a month, depending on lifestyle.
#3 Penang, Malaysia
The island of Penang, off the coast of Malaysia, has been a firm favorite among savvy expats for decades.
A couple can live well—even luxuriously—on a monthly budget of between $1,500 and $2,500 a month, with all the comforts and conveniences of home.
Penang’s international airport, from which lots of low-cost Asian airlines operate, makes exploring farther afield in Southeast Asia easy.
Known as a foodie haven, Penang’s largest city, George Town, is home to eclectic architecture, a vibrant art scene, and what many call the best street food in the world. Plus, as a former outpost of the British empire, Penang has a largely English-speaking populace.
#4 Ambergris Caye, Belize
Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye, is surrounded by stunning turquoise seascapes. This Caribbean island is a center for ocean sports during the day and for socializing at night.
Ambergris and the small nearby islands are not overly developed, which means they’ve maintained a laidback vibe. San Pedro is the major population hub on Ambergris.
Moving to Belize is easy. It’s the only country in Central America with English as its main language. The U.S. dollar is accepted, credit cards are widely used, and well-known U.S. brands are available too.
A couple can enjoy a comfortable retirement in Ambergris Caye, including rent, for between $2,700 and $2,900 per month. If you own your own home on the island, then expats report it’s possible for a couple to live quite comfortably on less than $2,000 a month.
A land full of poetry and song on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the island of Ireland is a first-world, modern country where people still make time to talk.
It could rain at any time, but the Irish weather is not something to endure, it’s to be embraced. This Atlantic climate has shaped the land and its people. It’s the reason fields are emerald-green and hillsides blaze purple with heather.
The English-speaking populace coupled with a welcoming culture makes the Emerald Isle an easy place to fit in. It’s straightforward to get to and it makes for a convenient jumping-off point from which to explore Europe.
On a budget of around $2,800 a month, a retired couple could live quite comfortably in the Land of a Thousand Welcomes.
#6 Roatan, Honduras
The most populated of the Bay Islands, Roatán, is 35 miles from the northern coast of Honduras.
Although Honduras is Spanish-speaking, Roatán is largely English-speaking thanks to a long colonial relationship with the United Kingdom.
A mountainous interior covered with jungle gives way to white-sand beaches and rocky coves, interspersed with colorful fishing villages. The island is most famous as a diving destination and retirement haven in the western Caribbean. The Mesoamerican Reef just offshore provides the world-class scuba and snorkeling Roatán is best known for.
It’s the affordable Caribbean. A couple could live well here on $2,000 to $2,500 a month.
#7 Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Clear, azure waters and white-sand beaches are never far away in Isla Mujeres, about eight miles from Cancún in Mexico.
This relaxed island is a world away from its more tourist-developed neighbor—golf carts are preferred to cars as the main mode of transport.
The island enjoys a warm tropical climate (low to mid-80s F for most of the year), which means there is plenty to do on Isla Mujeres, water activities topping the list—snorkel, dive, sail, fish, or simply enjoy the beach.
The cost of living is far lower than a similar lifestyle would cost back in the States. A couple can live a nice life on Isla Mujeres for $2,500 to $3,000 a month, including rent.
#8 Isla Colon, Panama
One of the best-kept secrets in the Caribbean may well be Panama’s tropical archipelago. Close to the border with Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro is a group of nine main islands and a few hundred smaller cayos and islets, dotting calm turquoise waters.
Bocas Del Toro is also a perfect place to test drive the dream Caribbean lifestyle. The expat community is welcoming, it’s organized, and it gives back. A couple can live here on as little as $1,400 a month, renting a simple, cozy, island-style home.
The main center is Bocas Town—a seaside town of brightly painted buildings with many on stilts over the water on the large island of Isla Colon. Here, the water is the main focus—fishing, water sports, and whale watching are just some of the popular pastimes for locals.
#9 Crete, Greece
Crete, the biggest island in Greece and the 88th largest in the world, is an ideal choice for anyone who wants to experience Greek island living. Geographically, it is about the size of Delaware in the U.S., and with a population of over 630,000, the island is active and lively all year round largely because of local industry and agriculture.
Crete makes an excellent retirement choice for many reasons. While it offers many of the attractions that go with island living, including world-class beaches, seaside tavernas, and a relaxed vibe, it also has an effective, functional medical infrastructure.
Getting adequate medical care on a tiny island can be a challenge, but in Crete, because of its size, you have access to good care.
The cost of living in Crete largely follows the cost of living in mainland Greece and because Crete is so big, you’ll have lots of housing options.
A couple can live here on as little as $1,800 a month.
The full InternationalLiving.com report can be found here: The 15 Best Islands in the World to Retire On.