The world is filled with so many beautiful places that are amazing to visit, and many of these same places also plant in our minds the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could live here permanently.
What is your idea of a perfect retirement destination?
For me, it has to be warm, filled with friendly people and lots of great opportunities to enjoy nature.
I have long aspired to eventually spend my later years among new friends enjoying a relaxing, sun-filled uncomplicated life in an island community.
"When you need a change, island life sounds pretty good," says Jennifer Stevens, International Living magazine's executive editor. "And it really can be. Especially because -- in the right places -- island living can cost less than you’d spend to stay home.
"When you lower your cost of living by taking your life to a good-value place in the sun, all of a sudden, you can afford to breath, to relax, to create a lifestyle for yourself that prioritizes what’s important to you."
International Living has a report showcasing islands found in a variety of places on the globe where you can stretch your retirement dollars without sacrificing your desired lifestyle. These are destinations ideal for retirees and ex-pats who seek privacy, peace and a simpler way of life.
Check out this list of nine great islands for your perfect retirement:
The tiny island nation of Malta covers just 122 square miles and offers something for everyone -- from ancient walled cities and scenic coastal trails to countryside farmhouses and charming restaurants.
Malta is also home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Malta is an archipelago of three islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino) with more than 155 miles of coastline. It's warm here all year.
The English-speaking population -- a legacy of British colonization -- makes it easy for North Americans. For centuries, Malta has been a sought-after destination, and the capital city Valletta is an especially desirable location with rolling hills reminiscent of San Francisco.
Your money can go surprisingly far here, with couples living comfortably on $2,600 per month.
Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, located in an autonomous region of Spain -- just off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Mallorca owns a rich cultural history, and highlights include 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 that serve as reminders of its importance as an outpost of the sprawling Roman empire.
The whole coastline of this 1,405-square-mile island is ringed with marinas, harbors and natural rock-lined coves. It's the perfect place to weigh anchor in the western Mediterranean. The climate is mild year-round. Couples can do well on $2,500 a month, depending on your lifestyle.
The island of Penang, off the coast of Malaysia, has been a favorite spot for expats for decades.
A couple can live luxuriously for between $1,500 and $2,500 a month, with all the comforts and conveniences of home.
Penang's international airport (with many low-cost Asian airlines operating) makes it easy to explore even more of Southeast Asia.
George Town is Penang's largest city. It's a foodie hot spot and home to eclectic architecture, a vibrant art scene and perhaps the best street food in the world. Plus, as a former outpost of the British empire, Penang has a largely English-speaking population.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Belize's largest island, Ambergris Caye, is surrounded by blue waters. This Central American island in the Caribbean features wonderful water sports opportunities and a lively nightlife.
Ambergris and the dozens of nearby cayes (tiny islands) are incredibly rustic, which means they still have a laidback feel. San Pedro is the major population hub on Ambergris.
Moving to Belize is easy because it's the only country in Central America with English as its main language. Plus, 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.
Not idyllic in terms of weather. You'll obviously find warmer, sunnier and more sandy destinations in other parts of the world.
But Ireland is no less a magical place to consider for your retirement.
An emerald beauty on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the island of Ireland is a delightfully friendly and welcoming place to live. It could rain at any time, but the Irish weather is not something to endure, it's to be embraced. This climate has shaped the land and its people. It's the reason fields are such a rich green and why the hillsides blaze purple with heather.
The English-speaking populace coupled with a warm and embracing culture makes Ireland an easy place to fit in. This also gives you a convenient jumping-off point from which to explore the rest of Europe.
On a budget of around $2,800 a month, a retired couple could live quite comfortably.
Roatan is located 35 miles from the northern coast of Honduras and is one of the country's beautiful Bay Islands.
Although, Honduras is Spanish-speaking, Roatan is largely English-speaking thanks to a long colonial relationship with the United Kingdom.
A mountainous interior is covered with jungle. The coast features white-sand beaches and rocky coves, that are dotted with colorful fishing villages. Roatan is a well-known diving destination and one of the Caribbean's best retirement locales. The Mesoamerican Reef just offshore is the setting for much of the world-class diving that makes the island famous.
The numbers: A couple could live well in Roatan on $2,000 to $2,500 a month.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
This little island is one of our favorite Mexican destinations. We have been a few times during our visits to Cancun. The clear waters of the Caribbean Sea are fantastic for snorkeling, and white-sand beaches ring the island, which is about eight miles from Cancun (an easy ferry ride).
This relaxed island is a world away from its more tourist-developed neighbor; golf carts are preferred to cars as the way to get around the island.
Read about our time on Isla Mujeres: Tripping Around Paradise on Isla Mujeres
The island enjoys a warm tropical climate (low to mid-80s for most of the year), which means there is plenty to do on Isla Mujeres. Water activities top the list; you can snorkel, dive, sail, fish or simply enjoy some beach time.
The cost of living is far lower than a similar lifestyle would cost back in the U.S. A couple can live a nice life on Isla Mujeres for $2,500 to $3,000 a month.
Isla Colon, Panama
The gorgeous tropical archipelago of Bocas del Toro is one of the best-kept secrets in the Caribbean. 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. The main island is Isla Colon.
Bocas Del Toro is a perfect place to test drive the dream Caribbean lifestyle. The expat community is welcoming and well organized. A couple can live here on as little as $1,400 a month, renting a simple and cozy, island-style home.
The main center is Bocas Town -- a seaside town of brightly painted buildings – located 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 activities.
Crete, the biggest island in Greece, offers the best of Greek island living. The island has more than 630,000 residents and is lively all year, largely because of its 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 a good health-care system.
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.
This article is provided in collaboration with International Living.
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