Friday, February 20, 2015

The Best Tropical Island for Your Retirement

The Best Tropical Island for Your Retirement
By Ann Kuffner

The sea and beach views are hard to beat. The island's surrounded by a fringe of coral reefs, so the water inside the nearby reef is that irresistible aquamarine color.
The beaches on this island tell a variety of geological stories. Some are composed of soft, golden sand, with wide, welcoming shores. Others are awe-inspiringly rugged, demanding respect, as wild waves lash the shoreline, breaking on outcrops of sharp, black, iron rock. Then there are the shallow mangrove flats, calm and clear, where fledgling sealife is born and nurtured.
In parts of the island, steep, verdant hills roll down into the sea. The mountainous terrain is diverse and appealing—the hills lush and green, adorned with leafy oak, gumbo limbo, sea grape trees and numerous species of palms... Vivid hued hibiscus, bougainvillea, heliconia, and ginger grow prolifically.
Some visitors are so taken with this idyllic scene that they impulsively walk away from their existing life to move to this enchanting island—it's a common story here.
No one could tell me exactly how large the expat community is. But there are many expats and they are an engaged, tight-knit group. At least 10 that I've met so far own and operate businesses. Some are retirement age and just want to stay busy and connected. But other expats are younger and want to make a living. More than a few say that the business climate is friendly towards expats...
They get together often. Some just hang out with friends at a favorite haunt, like the popular coffee house we visited. Others enjoy water activities daily, get out on their boats, go to the gym, play golf, or take yoga classes.
There are several distinct, popular towns where expats live and congregate. Some are tourist spots, since cruise ships regularly dock here. But others are low-key and off the beaten track. So you'll find a variety of lifestyle options. Some expats have realized their dream by building, or renting a house on a hill, with a glorious, expansive ocean view. Others prefer to live on a remote caye—coming and going from town once a week by boat for their supplies.
It's possible to live here on a budget of under $2,000 a month, especially if you own your home... One couple I met who own their own home spend less than $1,500 a month. Spend $3,000 a month per couple (including rent) and you'll live very well.
Despite being a tropical island, you'll have no problem finding specialty items that can be hard to get on some other islands. The stores are stocked with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, a wide variety of meats and fish, as well as gourmet items and health foods.
There's an impressive number of good restaurants, and options. You can order a full chicken dinner, with two sides, to go, at the high-end grocery store for $5. Or you can indulge in chicken tangine dinner, at a romantic garden restaurant, for $20. I found found high quality coffee (beans and ground), wine, delicious local and international chocolates, as well as some gluten-free products and specialty gourmet foods.
There are some surprisingly affordable real estate offerings here, too. You can buy a lot with a sea-view for around $60,000. And there are homes, off-beach but with a beach view, starting at $200,000.
Prefer to rent? There are homes with a glorious view renting for $1,200 a month. But you'll find other rentals for $600 close to the water.
This appealing island has been largely ignored since the 2008 real estate crash. But we've been watching it with interest...and have named it the best island paradise to live on in the world today.