The World’s Best Beaches for Retirement

Check out the crashing waves and constant sunshine in these retirement havens.

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Your retirement years could include the sound of the sea lapping gently against the shore from your bedroom window and a view of the Pacific from your balcony. Constant sunshine and long walks along the sand whenever the inclination strikes you could even be an affordable retirement option if you pick the right place. Here are the world’s best beaches for retirement.

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1. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Puerto Vallarta is the place to go to enjoy a world-class Pacific coast lifestyle. This isn't developing-world living. This stretch of Mexico's Pacific coastline has been developed to a high level. Life here can be not only comfortable, but even luxurious. In Puerto Vallarta, you have the opportunity to enjoy an international-standard lifestyle including things like golf courses, marinas, restaurants, and shopping, in a region with beautiful beaches and ocean views. This is a place to come to enjoy a seaside lifestyle similar to that of southern California.

2. Las Tablas, Panama. If a controlled cost-of-living is a priority, consider Las Tablas, Panama. Las Tablas is a safe, friendly, charming colonial town on the Pacific coast of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula that boasts a laid-back lifestyle at a bargain-basement cost. You can enjoy life in this coastal town of cowboys and fishermen on a budget of as little as $1,200 per month, including rent. You could spend more, of course, especially if you travel often to Panama City. But if you'd be happy with a modest life, sticking close to home, and passing your days fishing and swimming, Las Tablas could have your name written all over it. Plus, seniors may qualify for Panama’s program of special benefits for retirees, more than a dozen options for establishing foreign residency, and important tax advantages. Panama is also easily accessible from the United States and uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, meaning retirees have no exchange rate worries.

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3. Ambergris Caye, Belize. Ann Kuffner and her husband moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Ambergris Caye five years ago. “Initially, we chose Ambergris Caye because of our love for the Caribbean Sea and the laid-back Caribbean lifestyle,” says Kuffner. “Even today, after five years here, we're still thrilled to be surrounded by so much beauty, color, and nature.” The couple visited Ambergris before their move and then returned home to process the idea before actually relocating there. On their first return trip to the island, a year later, they were greeted by people who remembered them from 12 months before. “Everywhere we went, on the beach, around town, people recognized us and reacted as though they were seeing long-lost friends,” says Kuffner. “I seemed to have more friends in San Pedro than in California, where I'd been living for so long.” The established expatriate community on Ambergris means you have friends and support from the start. The island also boasts a developed infrastructure of expatriate-targeted services, including a gourmet deli, wine shop, and fitness center with weekly aerobics and dance classes.

4. La Barra, Uruguay. La Barra is a top choice for oceanside living that’s also cosmopolitan and international. La Barra is a tidy town of neat white houses perched on a peninsula that stretches into the clear blue Atlantic. It’s a small, walkable city that boasts the comforts, amenities, services, distractions, and entertainments of much bigger ocean resort communities, minus the high-rises and tourist trappings. The beaches are among the best in Uruguay and the cost-of-living is low. You could live for a little less elsewhere in Uruguay, but in La Barra you’re buying a higher standard of living. Uruguay is also one of the world’s safest, most foreign-resident friendly, and most tax-advantaged places to live in retirement. Its geographic position near the bottom of the world means it’s not the most accessible overseas retirement choice. But that also means that Uruguay is far removed from the troubles so much of the rest of the world is struggling through right now.

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5. Penang, Malaysia. Anchored along the straights of Malacca in the Andaman Sea, Penang is located off the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia. It’s a tiny place, just 15 miles long and 9 miles wide. But the population of over 700,000 people means Penang doesn’t have the claustrophobic village feel that islands can have. Its historic city, Georgetown, is a British colonial charmer. It’s one of the best preserved old cities in all of Asia and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site whose winding streets are lined with old shop houses and guild halls. Just off this impressive city’s doorstep are palm-fringed sandy beaches and warm, clear waters. A couple could retire to Penang on a budget of as little as $1,200 per month, including rent. And this is one place in Asia where you could retire full-time if you wanted to. Malaysia’s My Second Home program makes it not only possible, but relatively easy for a foreigner to establish full-time residency. Penang is also a sophisticated seaside choice. It’s a place where you can enjoy developed cosmopolitan distractions punctuated by regular days at the beach or vice versa.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.