The lush, tropical destinations in the Caribbean and Central America draw thousands of visitors each year. Some of those visitors fall in love with these picture postcard gorgeous countries and decide to live there full-time or at least part of the year when the weather in their home country becomes unbearable.
Most people believe that a Caribbean retirement is only for the very wealthy. That’s simply not true if you know where to look. The places you’ll read about here are beautiful locations, offering a high standard of living, and a cost of living that’s a fraction of what you would spend in a similar location in the States or Canada.
If your overseas living, retirement, or snowbird dream includes powdery white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and watching the sunset over a turquoise sea, you have plenty of options to consider among the welcoming countries that make up the Caribbean and Central American nations.
Panama, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and even Mexico (which is technically located in North America) are some of our favorite countries in this part of the world that should be on your radar.
You can choose from:
culturally rich historic towns such as Cartagena, Colombia and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
bustling waterfront cities like Panama City, Panama
laid-back beach towns like San Pedro, Belize,
cute little Latin American or Spanish-influenced communities,
unspoiled beaches in the Azuero Peninsula, Panama or Las Terranes, Dominican Republic
and tourist towns like Cancun and Tulum, Mexico
Just picture yourself enjoying perfect weather every day, taking daily strolls along the beach, feasting on fresh seafood and tropical fruits, and whiling away the hours reading a great book in a hammock. No more shoveling snow, driving in bad conditions, waiting for a short growing season to plant a garden, or hibernating while you wait for the weather to change. In the Caribbean and Central America, you can have the perfect tropical dream life.
Belize is a small country, but it has an amazing range of property options on offer… stunning Caribbean islands, beaches on the mainland in Corozal, Toledo, and Stann Creek districts, nature-rich riverfront homes, and farms, jungles, and cooler mountain properties, too.
Aside from figuring out where in this country you want tobuyproperty, you should also understand the buying procedures inBelize… and the potential pitfalls.
Today I am introducing you to the property purchase process inBelize.
Private Developments Vs. Local Living
Some people want the familiarity, convenience, and community of a residential subdivision like Carmelita Gardens in the Cayo district. Others find the idea of living ina planned community claustrophobic.
I’m of mixed opinion. To have rules forced upon me at home when I’m not breaking any law goes against my feeling that my home is my castle. However, there are few zoning laws inBelize. Who’s to say that my neighbor won’t open a nightclub or mechanics garage in their yard tomorrow?
Buying propertyina planned expat community nearly always costs more than buying in the local community, and it usually has annual HOA feesattached. It also provides …
Likely you’ve never heard of Santos. Almost certainly you’ve never heard of her sister city across the estuary, Guarujá. But every Brazilian has.
These cities lie about one hour southeast of the city of São Paulo. Each is situated on a large coastal island, and though each boasts lovely beaches, they are quite different in most other respects. For now, we’ll get to know Santos.
One Of The Best Cities In Brazil—But Don’t Take My Word For It
Santos is a bustling city of about 420,000. It is, in fact, generally conceded to be the busiest port in all of South America, servicing both container and cruise ships.
But Santos isn’t the grimy blue-collar town you might imagine. Around 2010, with the discovery of oil and gas reserves offshore, there was a sudden inrush of white-collar jobs. Also, many of the locals are well-paid professionals who actually work in the city of São Paulo, but who make the commute daily because they prefer to live in Santos.
Santos, in fact, regularly appears on lists of the top cities in Brazil in which to live. In 2016, Santos ranked #6 among the best cities in Brazil as determined by the United Nations, considering factors such as average level of education, life expectancy, and income. Santos was rated in 2021 as the best city in all of Brazil for those 60 and over. In a country where people are given to complaining about the government and services, everyone here speaks highly and proudly of Santos, of its superior services, safety, and high quality of life.
Santos is attractive as well. Nature has blessed her. Here, as in so many cities in southeastern Brazil, morros, those tree-covered cones of granite, so quintessentially Brazilian, nestle along the coastline. Broad beaches are washed by the South Atlantic. The unbroken gardens running along the beach are considered by Guinness to be the largest in the world.
I really like the way Santos organizes its beaches—and I’ve seen plenty here, up and down Brazil’s extensive coastline. The beaches are Brazilian, and yet organized—two words not typically used in conjunction. There are bike lanes, and the calçadão (broad beach sidewalk) for pedestrians. Permanent kiosks serve up seafood and icy-cold beers.
On the weekends, locals and daytrippers throng stalls and pushcarts, which offer everything from handicrafts to churros (wickedly delicious tubes of deep-fried pastry stuffed with chocolate or caramel cream). The beaches are broad, in many stretches a full two city blocks from the calçadão to the water’s edge. You stand surrounded by clutches of beach umbrellas of every color, and the sounds of laughter, volleyball, beach soccer, and, of course, the crash of the waves. Close to the kiosks, the smell of the sea gives way to that of churrasco, Brazilian-style barbecue. Ahhhh…
Paradise? Well, if I’m picky, the sand here has clay in it. It’s grayish in spots and isn’t as sugary soft as over in Guarujá, which we’ll visit soon enough. But there are certainly worse places to hang your hat!
If you tire of the beaches, Santos boasts an aquarium and a number of museums, including ones dedicated to coffee, the navy, fishing, soccer, and one specifically to Pelé, widely regarded as the greatest soccer player of all time, who played most of his career right here. There are botanical gardens and an orchid park housing a small zoo. You can tour the historic district (Santos dates all the way back to 1546) by streetcar. And there are good restaurants everywhere, offering seafood of course, but really almost any type of cuisine you might want.
Santos has generally fine weather, too. While there are four seasons, even in winter (June to August), daily highs often reach 70°F, and lows rarely fall below 55°F. The intermittent gusts from the south are invigorating. Summers are hot, but not oppressively so, and these days most homes have air conditioning.
Brazil, Only Better
I find myself liking the people here as well. They take pride in their city, and despite the continuing economic crisis in Brazil, the city provides a high level of services, and it is quite evident that the city is well managed, from garbage pickups to bus service to hospitals. You have to give credit to the paulistas for this.
Brazilians universally, if sometimes begrudgingly, acknowledge São Paulo to be the most organized and industrious of all the Brazilian states, and I would have to concur. It doesn’t hurt that Santos is one of the state’s—indeed, the country’s—wealthier cities.
While Santos forges ahead through the economic downturn, there are many apartments currently on the market. Many are second homes or investment properties, and their owners want to unload them. It’s not quite the buyer’s market you’ll find over in Guarujá, but there are definitely deals available.
Getting The Lay Of The Land Around Santos
Santos is located on a large island which it shares with the city of São Vicente—which was the first permanent Portuguese settlement in what would become Brazil.
The most attractive areas lie on the south side of the island, where the beaches are strung along an arc facing the bay and the South Atlantic.
While there are many nice areas here in which to rent or buy, the most desirable bairros (city districts) in my view are Boqueirão, which is centrally located, and Ponta da Praia, to the east, where the estuary empties into the sea. Another bairro to consider is Gonzaga, which includes the central shopping district; it’s convenient to everything, if perhaps a bit noisy. I would avoid the western end of Santos, adjacent São Vicente, as there are two favelas nearby.
Although the beach is undeniably attractive, I suggest also looking at properties one to two blocks inland, for a couple of reasons. The first is that in Santos, buses run along the beach avenue, so unless you get a unit facing away from the beach, you’ll have to contend with traffic noise and also dust if you are on one of the lower floors. And marisia, the salt air, slowly corrodes appliances.
By moving just a couple of blocks away from the beach, you’ll not only avoid these problems, but find cheaper rents, and also lower prices in pharmacies, markets, and restaurants. It’s the same in beach communities everywhere.
It’s a fairly straightforward matter to rent a furnished unit here for 90 days on what is termed a por temporada (for the season) lease. Standard long-term contracts in Brazil are for 30 months, but it is common these days to add a clause which allows the renter out after 12 months with no penalties. Traditionally, property owners have asked for a fiador, or co-signer, for long-term leases, but now most will accept a deposit held in escrow. Surprisingly, many owners actually prefer to rent to foreigners.
Santos has a lot to offer, so it’s not surprising that it’s a bit pricey—by Brazilian standards. But for those with dollars, pounds, or euros, Santos offers the most elusive of beasts: a truly desirable beachside location, at very reasonable prices.
Mexico has become a tourism powerhouse. It totals to over 32 million arrivals, making Mexico the ninth most-visited country in the world… and the second in North America after the Unites States.
The rise in Mexico’s international popularity is due to the efforts of FONATUR (Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo), the Mexican government’s tourism investment arm. Think of it as a national fund for tourism development.
FONATUR was created in 1974 to invest in (and incentivize the development of) new infrastructure, hotels, and other tourism-related businesses in designated regions throughout country. These projects are known as Integrally Planned Resort Centers.
First, the agency identifies an intrinsically desirable area in which to create a tourism zone. Then it develops a master-planned community, which includes a residential section for permanent residents complete with schools, hospitals, and markets; a tourist area with hotels, shopping centers, and golf courses; and, in many cases, protected …
Earn A 30% Fixed Return Backed By US$1-Billion Government Fund: An Infinity-Sum Opportunity
In game theory, “zero-sum” is a concept where for someone to win, someone else must lose.
I’ve known sociopaths in business who are only satisfied with a deal if they can screw everyone else out of their share.
These greedy characters are zero-sum operators.
Sometimes I come across an opportunity that’s the opposite of a zero-sum deal.
The opposite of a zero-sum deal is an infinity-sum deal.
These are opportunities where everyone wins. The community wins. The ordinary person wins. The government wins. And you win.
And it’s truly a pleasure to do business this way.
Today, I want to alert you to a developer in Panama who is guaranteeing a 30% ROI in just two years, completely turn-key. You don’t have the hassle of having to renovate, rent, or sell anything. You collect your 30% in two years (or sooner), and you can reinvest your profits again if you like.
The project takes advantage of a US$1-billion government fund set up specifically to support this opportunity.
This deal is designed to provide desperately needed resources to ordinary folks. It builds communities and …
One of the questions I hear most frequently is why I chose to live in Mazatlán, rather than better-known Puerto Vallarta. In fact, even here at Live and Invest Overseas, Puerto Vallarta tends to get more coverage and higher ratings.
So why choose Mazatlán Let’s compare the two.
In Some Ways, Both Destinations Are Similar…
Both Puerto Vallarta (PV) and Mazatlán enjoy choice spots on Mexico’s Pacific coast, with good access to the United States and Canada.
Both cities are long-time tourism destinations, which has both positive and negative consequences. For example, the touristy Romantic Zone in Puerto Vallarta is about …
I’m delighted to be speaking to you today as the new editor of this Overseas Property Alert. Lynn Mulvihill is diversifying her role with Live And Invest Overseas… creating an opportunity for me to join the conversation.
I hope I can fill Lynn’s shoes adequately and that my insights and recommendations for global property markets based on decades of living and working in the real estate industry around the world will be enlightening and even entertaining for you.
And, of course, profitable.
Before we go further, maybe I should take a minute to give you some idea who’ll be behind these dispatches going forward…
I’m Irish. Studied business and law in University College Dublin before embarking on an eclectic career in real estate that has taken me from Ireland across Europe and then on to the Americas.
I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, and, boy, have I made a few mistakes along the way…
I’ve served as a director of real estate, oil and gas, and offshore corporate services companies… and I’ve built, scouted, bought, and sold all manner of properties…
And I’ve made and lost a few fortunes along the way…
The good news for you is that, after decades of property investing experience across the globe, I’ve learned from every misstep.
Now I want to share my hard-won wisdom.
I love the thrill of chasing a deal, I know the industry from both sides, and I’ve come to be able to spot the cowboy operators and grifters from across the street.
I’m back in my home county of Limerick, Ireland, these days… but my scouting boots are by the door.
I’ll be on the road more than not.
As we like to say here at Live And Invest Overseas, the world is alive with opportunity for fun… and, most important to our purposes here, profit.
Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be bringing you the choicest hand-picked deals from the best developers operating in the markets most poised for growth across the globe…
And important, I’ll be bringing you personally negotiated exclusive pricing, terms, and inventory.
We’re living through historic times.
A turning-point era.
Offering enormous potential for those of us paying attention.
Let’s begin our conversation in Panama… a market that we at Live And Invest Overseas have been heralding for more than two decades… that, in fact, we were the first to recommend…
And that offers more opportunity right now than ever.
Read on below…
Panama has long been recognized as one of the best—and easiest—options in the world for …
If you’ve been researching the topic of retiring or buying a property abroad, you’ve probably seen a lot about beaches, sun, sand, and warm-weather locations.
But I routinely hear from readers who don’t like hot weather or humidity and have no desire to live near the beach. Just this week, I heard from two people asking for more articles on destinations with cooler climates.
The term “eternal spring-like weather” is frequently abused by those who write about overseas living… and I have been among the offenders.
The problem is that “spring-like” is different for everyone. Springtime in Alabama is quite different from that of Ontario, for example. I’ve met lots of people who found Cuenca, Ecuador, too cold, while others were too hot in Medellín, Colombia, yet both places are said to have “spring-like” weather.
To me—and in today’s essay—“spring-like” weather is that which stays in the lower-to mid-70s℉ year-round. Here are three of my favorite locations that fit that definition.
El Retiro: Colonial Living In The Cool Colombian Mountains
When I first saw El Retiro, I fell in love immediately. The network of narrow streets, its wealth of colonial architecture, and the bustling and energetic town square make for an inviting setting. What’s more, the town is surrounded by mountains that provide a beautiful backdrop to its colonial ambiance.
El Retiro is a small colonial city in the Colombian highlands, a short commute southeast of Medellín. It’s also a pleasant, 30-minute drive southwest from the José María Córdova International Airport. Founded in 1790, the current population of El Retiro is around 21,000 people.
I first discovered El Retiro on a trip from the airport to my home in Medellín, when the driver suggested a short excursion. He knew El Retiro well because his family often leaves Medellín to visit on weekends and enjoy the small-town ambiance and cool weather.
The colonial center is anchored by a stately white church that overlooks the town plaza. Called Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario, it was named after a painting of the same name. This plaza is the social hub of the town’s historic center… always bustling and full of life.
El Retiro is somewhat sleepy during the week, but its cafés and restaurants come to life on the weekends as people from Medellín—many of whom have second homes in the area—come to enjoy its charms. The constant flow of visitors and the number of new projects going up in the area bode well for anyone considering buying here.
Another good sign is that the government is investing in parks, recreation, and infrastructure, in response to the town’s popularity. Renovation of the riverside park with picnic tables, a new bus stop on the plaza, investment in street lighting, sidewalks, and a new entertainment plaza are all examples of projects completed in recent years.
El Retiro is perched at an altitude of around 2,175 meters. The average high temperature is 73°F with a seasonal variation of one or two degrees. Overnight lows average 55°F, easily qualifying as comfortable, “spring-like” weather.
Here are a couple of examples of the kind of properties you can find in El Retiro…
– In the center of El Retiro, you will find nicely finished apartments, less than two years old, with up to 100 square meters of living space, three bedrooms, and three bathrooms. These properties offer spacious living and are perfectly located for car-free living in the heart of town, with shops, cafés, and the central plaza all within a short walk. They would also work well as rentals, accommodating weekenders visiting the cool mountains from Medellín. You can pay as little as US$100,000 for these apartments.
For those who prefer country living outside of town…
– You will find numerous country homes in the tranquil hills outside of El Retiro with expansive views of the surrounding lush mountains. The main house usually comprises around 200 square meters of living space with up to three bedrooms, often each with its own bathroom. Sometimes a guest or caretaker’s house comes with the property, usually with around 80 square meters of living area, two to three bedrooms, and a single bathroom. These properties sometimes go for less than US$200,000.
Puebla: A Cool Highland City In Colonial Mexico
This is my favorite city in Mexico. It’s not well-known on the retire-overseas circuit… and that’s probably why it’s my favorite.
Puebla is one of the most impressive Spanish-colonial environments you’ll find in the Americas because it’s a real, living city… not one that caters primarily to tourism or expats. Its population is around 3.25 million, yet in many ways it manages to feel like a small community.
Among international travelers, Puebla is known for its famous Talavera pottery and its mole poblano… a rich, dark sauce made from toasted ground chili peppers, spices, chocolate, and up to 25 other ingredients.
Puebla’s zócalo (town square) is one of the best in Mexico, an entire city block lined with sidewalk cafés and shops hidden behind the classic portales (arches) common to the zócalos of many colonial cities.
The sheer size of Puebla’s historic center—and its pristine state of preservation—make it a rarity in Spanish America and led to Puebla’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. There are over 1,000 colonial buildings downtown, the cathedral is magnificent, and you’ll find 70-plus beautiful churches in the historic center alone.
There are few American retirees in Puebla. In fact, if it weren’t for family connections, I may not have made it here myself. This lack of a large North American or Canadian expat community will be a positive for some and a negative for others… but it does create the feeling that you’re in traditional, old Mexico.
As for the climate, Puebla sits at an altitude of about 2,135 meters and enjoys a subtropical highland climate. The average high temperature is 77°F, with a seasonal variation of about ±5°F. Overnight lows average 49°, passing as optimum temperatures for most of us.
The property prices here are surprisingly low, even near the zócalo and cathedral. This is partly because homes are priced in pesos—unlike the better-known tourist and expat haunts—giving dollar holders a tremendous advantage at today’s exchange rates.
– Interesting property purchases in Puebla can be found in genuine 16th-century casas antiguas, certified historic monuments located in Puebla’s Historic Center. Some of these have been completely restored and divided into condos. These condos have about 200 square meters of living space on two levels, including three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and covered parking for one vehicle. The asking price hovers around US$150,000.
– Pay a little extra and enjoy the perks of having a balcony, laundry area, and parking for two cars. These slightly more expensive properties often have common areas, including elevators, roof gardens with views of the surrounding mountains and historic center, multiple-use salons, storage spaces, and even hot tubs.
Arequipa: A Sparkling Colonial City In The Peruvian Highlands
Arequipa is Peru’s second-largest city and one of its biggest tourist destinations. Due to its beautifully restored historic center, Arequipa was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Known as the Ciudad Blanca, or “white city,” many of Arequipa’s buildings are constructed using sillar, a white stone made from volcanic rock found in the area. The effect of all of this white architecture is a sense of brilliance in the strong Andean sun.
Arequipa has a strong Moorish influence, resulting in a fascinating blend of architectural styles throughout the city. Construction quality is good here compared to what I’ve seen in other colonial cities due to the use of sillar for older buildings, which better withstands earthquakes.
Arequipa has its own airport but it’s pretty small, so for most trips you’ll need to connect through Lima to get here.
As for the spring-like rating, Arequipa sits at an altitude of around 2,300 meters. This gives the city a gorgeous climate, with an average daily high temperature of 75°F. The average low is around 50°F, with almost no seasonal variation.
For a real estate buy, I like most areas in the historic center… although I’d avoid the blocks immediately around the main square due to the heavy tourist traffic. There are also several pleasant residential areas outside of the historic center, such as the Cayma district.
– Apartments with three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, maybe a study, a family room, a spacious kitchen, and a single garage space are available in the historic center. These buildings are conveniently located close to colleges, universities, and commercial centers. The asking price for one of these city center apartments is around US$150,000.
– You will also find modern houses built in the old Peruvian style, with charming stone arches and counters with tropical-hardwood finishing. A two-level home with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an area of around 220 square meters… plus a little bit if there is a carport and maybe even an interior courtyard would have an asking price of less than US$200,000.
A second home by the beach is enticing to many people… but certainly not to everyone. If you’d rather have cool weather—without the need for heating or air conditioning—then these three options are worth your attention.
Latin America Correspondent
Letters To The Editor
For countries with an investment-for-residency visa, is it a one-time investment?
If a periodic re-investment is required, will a home purchase satisfy the requirements? If you leave after, say, five years, is the investment returned?
Good questions. Investor visas take numerous different forms, depending on the country.
Generally speaking, you do have to maintain a qualifying investment to keep the investor’s visa. In the case of homeownership, this means that you still own the property or own another one of sufficient value to qualify. If you’re holding a certificate of deposit, you’ll need to show that you still have one of the proper value.
That said, in some countries, after holding the visa for a specified period, you may be eligible for some form of permanent residency, which does not require periodic re-qualification.
I am currently single and would like to live on the coast somewhere in Mexico. I would prefer to buy a beachfront condo rather than rent. I hear from Mexican friends that if the seller knows you are an American, the price will go up.
Should I try to buy through a Mexican friend and then somehow transfer the title?
I appreciate your advice,
It’s true that you may be a victim of “gringo pricing” as an American or Canadian buyer. But the truth is that it’s actually rich-people pricing… that is, a wealthy Mexican would most likely get the same price as you would.
You definitely do not want to have a friend buy the property and then transfer it to you. There would be a significant transaction cost in doing this—including the setup of a trust—it would probably cost you more than it would save… plus, it’s risky.
One trick that I’ve used is to have a friend (or a native speaker) establish the price for you, after which you’d take over and sign the actual documents. That may get you a better price, and there’s no risk or extra cost.
In Brazil I once gave a hotel receptionist the equivalent of US$20 to respond to about a dozen real estate ads in the paper. I figured that when they heard my accent, the price might go up. I don’t know if I got the best prices… but at least I know it wasn’t my accent that did me in.
This one was directed to contributor John Clites.
Your article on Domingos Martins mentioned its German roots and heritage but did not mention if German is still spoken there.
Can one get by there speaking German, or is Portuguese an absolute necessity?
You would really need basic Portuguese to manage in Domingos Martins. Although there are efforts to expand the number of speakers, only a minority of residents speak German… which in Domingos Martins is an old Pomeranian dialect, not modern German.