Retirement Ready: Retiring to the Caribbean on the cheap

There are sun-kissed islands that boast turquoise-blue waters and powder-white beaches, but where it doesn’t cost a fortune to retire, at least for the winter

Roatán is a 50-square-mile island retreat off the coast of Honduras | Tourism Roatán

Roatán, Honduras

Roatán, just 50 square miles, is a green, hilly island off Honduras’ northern coast, fringed by a reef rich with sea life and garnished by white-sand beaches. The beaches here are quiet and pristine. No big-name resorts. No “spring break” strips. No highrise developments. Roatán is old-school Caribbean, though fitted out with modern conveniences.

English is widely spoken. That, along with an established expat community, makes it a relatively easy place to settle in. But relative to the rest of the Caribbean, Roatán offers excellent value with the monthly cost of living for a couple, including rent, estimated at from $2,000 to $2,500.

Ambergris Caye, Belize •English-speaking Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize at 25 miles long and a little over a mile wide. San Pedro is its only town. About 30 years ago, Ambergris became a hot spot for divers and fishermen, thanks to the Belize Barrier Reef, just a half-mile offshore.

Expats give up little living on Ambergris Caye. Power, water, cellphone coverag and Internet are reliable, and you can buy most necessities for daily living on the island.

Expats who live on the island report a cost of living, including rent, of $2,000 to $3,000 a month and properties can be purchased from around $175,000.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres is about eight miles offshore from Cancún in Mexico, but this laid-back island is a world away from the hustle and bustle of its more tourist-developed older sister.

A couple can live a very nice life on Isla Mujeres for around $2,500 a month, including rent. Rents range from $900 to $1,500 for apartments. Two-bedroom condos start in the $275,000 range and go way, way up. Groceries for a couple typically total around $600 a month.

Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic 

The Dominican Republic has great weather and world-class beaches, not to mention a low cost of living and a stable government.

This isn’t all-inclusive-resort territory, and thanks to strict planning laws, it should stay that way. The beach hotels here are small and family-run rather than giant resorts.

The beaches around Las Terrenas are some of the most pristine in the Dominican Republic. Everything included, a couple can live in this tropical haven for around $2,000 to $3,000 a month, including rent. Real estate in Las Terrenas remains affordable. Newer condos, close to shops and a 15-minute walk to the beach, start at $100,000.