Coronado in Panama once had pristine beaches and not much else. Today the resort town is a haven for U.S. and Canadian retirees, with strip malls, fast-food joints and a lot of people speaking English.
“For all the world, it’s like you’re in a U.S. beach town,” says Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, a site and newsletter for people who want to work, invest or retire abroad.
That kind of retirement destination appeals to many who are looking for an established expatriate community where they may not have to learn another language, says Dan Prescher, a senior editor at International Living, another site for people interested in life abroad. Places like Coronado or Boquete in Panama, Puerto Vallarta or Ajijic in Mexico and Ambergris Caye island in Belize have been welcoming North American retirees for years.
If you’re looking for places before they become popular, however, you may need to be even more adventurous than the typical expat. Infrastructure that you take for granted — such as high-speed internet, paved roads, or easy access to quality health care — may not be abundantly available. When people retire abroad and then boomerang back home, unrealistic expectations are often the culprit, Prescher says.
“They leave with the expectation that the rest of the world is just like home but at half the cost,” Prescher says. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”