For my father, retirement meant a condo on a St. Thomas, USVI golf course and traveling to bucket-list destinations including Hong Kong and Dubai. For my in-laws, it’s a second home -- a lake house -- in Saint Genevieve, Missouri, and frequent getaways, including their most recent Big Texas road trip.
I’ve recently decided my retirement ought to involve some land and the construction of an earthen house: something between CalEarth’s SuperAdobe structures (like the candy-colored domes that dot this village on the island of Hormuz, Iran) and artist Anna Lee’s Ukiah, California cob home.
Whether your retirement plans involve traveling domestically or abroad, budgeting for a second home, or moving abroad, our writers share the best tips and retirement destinations. Let the daydreaming, or honest-to-goodness research, begin!
Want To Retire Abroad?
According to International Living Magazine’s Annual Global Retirement Index, the best places to retire abroad in 2021 range from Vietnam to Panama and even include a few European destinations. Here they are, from 10 to 1, plus inspiration from each place that could help you plan a fact-finding vacation before your (very) big move.
From writer Wendy Lee’s picks for the 10 best things to see and do in Hanoi to Heather Markel’s experience getting custom-made clothes in Vietnam, get a taste of what it would be like to retire in a strikingly beautiful country where the economy is growing rapidly and you’d enjoy a relatively low cost of living compared to most places in the U.S.
Is the Mediterranean calling? Your response could be starting fresh on the island of Malta, north of Libya and south of Sicily. Consider Erika Ebsworth-Goold’s “12 Fantastic And Fascinating Things To Do In Malta” and Jo-Anne Bowen’s “Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Magnificent Malta.”
History. Culture. Food. Wine. Is it any surprise France makes this list? Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker who’s lived in France since 2005, will have you packing your bags -- and maybe the whole house -- for your big move to retirement in Paris, the Riviera, or elsewhere in the country he now calls home. Read all his France coverage here.
In April 2020, Melissa Klurman introduced us to the Desaru Coast: Malaysia’s best-kept secret. As she highlights in her reflections on time spent there, Malaysia could be the retirement destination for you, especially if you’re pining for tropical climes and the feeling of arriving at “a secret beach thousands of miles from any city.”
My husband, who spent part of his childhood in Europe, can wax poetic about the coast of Spain. But what about the coast of Portugal? Neither of us has been -- yet -- but the best things to see and do in Portugal after 50 and how Portugal stole writers’ Sue Reddel and Diana Laskarasis’s hearts deserve your retirement-planning consideration.
Just a four-hour flight from some U.S. cities, Colombia invites retirees to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean and the Pacific, plus other natural wonders like the Cano Cristales river’s liquid rainbow. For insight on planning a trip to Colombia, consider Alison Browne’s picks for seven bucket-list Colombian experiences.
Having spent time in Mexico since I was an elementary schooler, I can easily imagine building my earthen retirement home in this special country, and I’ve definitely been inspired by TravelAwaits writer Louisa Rogers, who lives between Eureka, California, and Guanajuato, Mexico. Not sure where to start? Consider Jill Dutton’s advice for the best stops during a beautiful Baja road trip from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz (West Coast), Elaine Master’s eight fantastic experiences on Isla Mujeres for nature lovers (Caribbean), and Emese Fromm’s “Beyond Chichen Itza: Maya Ruins In The Yucatan Worth Visiting.”
This tiny isthmus may not be the first place you think of when you consider heading south, but it’s International Living’s penultimate international retirement pick for good reason. For a firsthand account of time spent in Panama, consider Donna Janke’s “Why I Can’t Wait To Go Back To The Thousand Polleras Parade In Las Tablas, Panama” and her take on what to expect at Carnaval in Panama here.
The Best Place To Retire Internationally
Costa Rica, International Living’s pick for Best Place To Retire Internationally definitely deserves its own entry. Consider these eight reasons Costa Rica is the best place to retire internationally (with input from expats Chris Atkins and Ellen Zoe Golden, who call Costa Rica home), and see our full coverage of the best places to retire internationally in 2021 here.
Retiring In The U.S.
Maybe you want to relocate in the U.S. -- or you’ve been budgeting for a second home you can enjoy with family and friends in retirement. According to U.S. News and World Report, these are the top five best places to retire in 2021, plus tips for spending time in each to get a lay of the land.
5. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
If anyone can pique our interest in a Pennsylvania road trip -- or an all-out move! -- it’s writer Robin O’Neal Smith. Consider her picks for how to spend a weekend in beautiful Lancaster, PA, the seven best Amish bakeries near Lancaster, an Eastern Pennsylvania road trip: Philadelphia to Harrisburg, and 15 unique places in Pennsylvania perfect for mature travelers.
4. Naples, Florida
Gulf Coast Naples is far enough south to promise deliciously warm weather. It’s just a half-hour from Marco Island, where you can enjoy more beautiful beaches, bird watching, and outdoor activity according to Sandi Barrett’s nine reasons to visit Marco Island, Florida. Naples is also home to the stunning Naples Botanical Garden, Florida writer Melody Pittman’s top pick for eight beautiful gardens to visit in Florida.
3. Port St. Lucie, Florida
Like Naples, Port St. Lucie has a botanical garden and is close to other natural attractions (Indrio Savannahs Preserve -- recommended by Sara Broers in her picks for the nine best hikes in beautiful Florida), but this Sunshine State community is on the Atlantic coast.
2. Fort Myers, Florida
Gulf Coast Fort Myers is home to award-winning restaurants (including The Veranda, recommended by Melody Pittman as one of 11 unique Florida restaurants you must try) and puts residents close to fabulous Florida destinations including Sanibel and Pine Island, all while being affordable considering the median home price of under $250,000.
1. Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota tops U.S. News’s list, and we recommend you consider Melody Pittman’s “How To Spend A Perfect Day In Sarasota” for a slice of why. From the beach to the botanical gardens, art, and culture to shopping and eats, you’ll start to get a sense of whether this top pick is for you. Also, keep in mind that beautiful Siesta Key is nearby.
More Retirement Inspiration And Advice
If you want to retire abroad and Italy is more up your alley, Greg Robertson reports on how you could buy a home in the tiny town of Biccari for as little as $9,000.
Jill Dutton suggests seven reasons to retire in Gainesville, Georgia, where you can eat well, shop, and enjoy nature’s four seasons while living comfortably -- and close to so many other wonderful places in the United States.
Louisa Rogers, who’s mastered the art of living and traveling abroad, highlights eight opportunities to make extra income in retirement. And, whether you’re already retired or are putting in work to get there, Melanie Davis from our partner site, OOLA.com, suggests 14 ways to save money for your bucket list trip in 2021. Not sure where you’re going? See all our bucket list content here and our inspire content, too.