Caribbean & Central America

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.

Get The Most From Your Overseas Rental Property

Plus: Make Sure You Don’t Retain A State Tax Burden Abroad

June 23, 2015
Medellín, Colombia

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

You’ve been hearing a lot about rental returns lately. Over the past few years, it’s where property investors have been putting most of their attention. And along with this investment shift (from capital gains to income), you’ve also heard a lot of claims about returns… claims that may sound exaggerated.

In fact, good returns are achievable in quite a few markets. But the truth is that they don’t come easily. To make a respectable rental return, you’ll need more than your checkbook and a desire for money.

I’m currently renting three rental properties, and, over the years, I’ve found a few critical factors that make the difference between good rental returns and weak or nonexistent returns.

First, however, let’s take a look at why you should even bother trying to operate a rental in a foreign country.
Benefits Of Managing A Rental Abroad

Here are a few items that I find to be key advantages.

Your property abroad is a hard asset. Less than 10% of the money that exists is physical currency. The rest of the money supply is really just a concept—an idea—with no intrinsic value. It can disappear or diminish in value, and you’ve got nothing to show for it. On the other hand, hard assets always have …

Cartagena: A World Heritage Site Now On The Currency Bargain List

Atardecer en Cartagena de Indias desde La Popa.
Plus: Seeking A Beach Property In Mazatlán

June 16, 2015
Medellín, Colombia

US$1=2,534 Colombian pesos

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

Cartagena is Colombia‘s most popular tourist destination. Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, it’s one of the world’s few remaining walled cities. It’s a unique Spanish-colonial environment, unlike any other in the Americas.

Potential expats, however, rarely think of Cartagena as an expat destination, and individual property investors often overlook its investment potential.

In both cases, they are misinformed… or uninformed.

Cartagena is in fact a very popular expat destination and has been for a long time.

It’s also been quite generous to investors over the years. And, with foreign investment dollars continuing to pour into Cartagena’s hotel, development, and tourism infrastructures, its prospects are as bright as ever.

What’s more, Cartagena is currently a bargain. This UNESCO World Heritage Site had gotten quite expensive over the years, but today it’s one of many markets that have become far more affordable thanks to the U.S. dollar’s current strength against the local currency.

Founded by the Spanish in 1533, Cartagena rapidly became a thriving seaport. In fact, it was …

Pick From Over 20 Miles Of Sandy Beaches In This Popular Getaway

playa pueblo bonito
Plus: Managing Crime Rates And The Language Barrier

May 5, 2015
Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico

US$1=C$1.23=15.83 Mexican pesos

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

As you can probably tell from my recent articles on Álamos and Mazatlán, I’m spending a good bit of time rediscovering Mexico. In some ways, it’s like becoming reacquainted with an old friend.

Mexico is, after all, a neighbor and culturally similar to the United States. Americans and Canadians can drive to Mexico, the food is among the best in Latin America, and prices are good in many Mexican markets right now.

When I first arrived in Mazatlán, I made up my mind pretty quickly that Mazatlán’s Centro Histórico was the place for me. Although there are expats and tourists in Centro, much of it still has a homey, Mexican, nontouristy feel.

But then I looked at a half-dozen or so seafront properties in Mazatlán’s beach neighborhoods… and now I’m not so sure.

The last apartment I looked at was right on the sand, had a straight-on view of the islands, and was in a luxury building that’s perfect for whale watching. Yes, most of the beach areas are more touristy than Centro Histórico. But, for that view, I could put up with quite a few souvenir shops and tourists in safari jackets.

Located on Mexico’s Pacific coast within driving distance of the western United States, the main attraction in Mazatlán is almost 20 miles of beautiful beaches bordering the deep blue Pacific. It’s true that the nicely restored historic center has gained markedly in …

Why This Coastal Pacific Market Offers Fresh Opportunities In 2015

centro colored houses
Plus: Looking For Projects That Are Close To Nature
April 28, 2015
Mazatlán, Sinaloa, MexicoUS$1=C$1.23=15.83 Mexican pesosDear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

Mazatlán, Mexico, opened its first tourist hotel and restaurant in 1850 and has been a major international tourist destination since the 1940s. It began to fall out of favor in the 1970s, as more travelers opted for its cousin Puerto Vallarta, some 270 miles to the south.

But Mazatlán has undergone a mostly unnoticed resurgence during the past few years and has gained popularity with tourists, travelers, and expats.

A big factor in this comeback is Mazatlán’s historic center, which has undergone a rebirth and now rivals the beach scene in popularity.

Prices for seafront properties are good in Mazatlán, by North American and most Latin American standards. And, recently, a market quirk involving the Canadian dollar has resulted in some properties trading at an additional 20% discount when compared to just two years ago.

Mazatlán is located on Mexico’s Pacific coast, one (long) day’s drive from the U.S. border. The main attraction here is almost 20 miles of beautiful beaches bordering the deep blue Pacific.

The beaches are lined with an excellent resort infrastructure, with loads of shopping, restaurants, and cafes, as well as the requisite banks and commercial establishments needed for full-time living.

Discover Authentic Spanish Colonials In Historic Mexico

alamos mountains

An Undiscovered Trove Of Authentic Spanish Colonials

I’ve just found a small treasure trove of authentic, historic properties from the Spanish colonial era. I’ve been traveling the Americas and looking at colonial homes since 1998, and I’ve never seen anything remotely like Álamos, Mexico.

I’ll put this into perspective. My first choice among the properties I saw here is a mansion that was built by a wealthy silver baron during the presidency of George Washington. It’s from a time when the first book was copyrighted in the United States, and just after New York gave up its claim to the Republic of Vermont for US$30,000.

This home is just one of many similar properties in town… and prices have dropped to the lowest levels in years.

Dramatic Silver Wealth Resulted In Magnificent Colonial Architecture

Álamos was founded in the late 1600s, after silver was discovered in the area. The huge wealth generated by the mines allowed the residents of Álamos to build dozens of colonial mansions and hundreds of colonial homes throughout the downtown.

The silver eventually ran out, and the silver barons and their crews moved on. Álamos began to decline after Mexican independence from Spain, and was invaded numerous times during the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s. When the city finally fell during the revolution, its population wasdecimated and most of these old mansions, hotels, and beautiful municipal buildings fell into …

Belize: 25% Off And 0% Financing In The Cayo District

belize river carmelita
Plus: The Dangers Of Tenants’ Rights Abroad

March 31, 2015
San Ignacio, Belize


Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

Our Cessna 208 Caravan lifted off the runway at San Pedro Town into the morning sky. Its single turboprop engine pulled our six passengers away from the sunny beaches of Ambergris Caye and out over the turquoise Caribbean. The pilot banked and headed west…

I’m in Belize this week with fellow writer Rob Carry to get to know a country that’s high on the list of retirement havens for North Americans thanks to its easy residency, friendly banking laws, magnificent beaches, and unparalleled snorkeling and diving.

But, today, we left the beaches behind to check out the other side of Belize—the Cayo District. (In Belize, a district is a geopolitical division, like a state or province.) Cayo is Belize’s heartland and is known for Mayan ruins, broad, lazy rivers, thick jungles, and large expanses of farmland.

For the active, Cayo offers canoeing, zip lining, cave tubing, and horseback riding, not to mention the exploration of several hidden waterfalls and …

Montserrat II In Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

dominican republic

Low Cost Of Entry And Double-Digit Yields On This White-Sand Coast—My Current Favorite Buy In The Caribbean

Plus: A Good Choice For Pacific Beachfront
March 17, 2015
Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

My first insight into the current opportunity for rental yield in the Dominican Republic coastal town of Las Terennas came when I tried to book a hotel for my visit a few weeks ago. I was traveling to the island during Carnaval but had confirmed with contacts on the ground that Carnaval isn’t anything near as big a deal in the D.R. as it is in Brazil or even Panama.

Still, I had to spend the weekend in capital city Santo Domingo because I couldn’t find an available room anywhere in Las Terrenas. Finding a place in Las Terrenas for the rest of the week was a challenge.

I was traveling during high season, but I’ve heard similar stories from others. Bottom line, the supply of rentals (both long- and short-term) hasn’t kept up with demand in this resort town on the country’s northeast coast.

Growing Interest In Euro-Influenced Las Terrenas

Las Terrenas is an established and popular destination among European expats, especially the French. You see the impact of this in …

Xalapa: Elegant, Non-Gringo Mexico Starting At US$38,000

This Xalapa house, for US$147,000, is a contemporary artist's dream

Plus: Awaiting The Collapse Of The Dollar

Since my first visit to Mexico’s Xalapa in 1998, it’s been one of my top choices in Latin America and my favorite in Mexico.

The city is an extremely rare blend in Mexico of modern conveniences: a rich, traditional, and educated Mexican culture and the energy and spark of a university town, without the cultural influence of American expats.

And you can own a property here in Xalapa starting at less than US$38,000.

Xalapa (pronounced hah-LAH-pah) is a fairly big city, with about a half-million residents in the town proper and more than 800,000 in its metro area. Also spelled Jalapa, it’s a town of rolling hills, with an elevation that runs between 4,300 and 4,800 feet (about 1,300 to 1,450 meters), depending on where you are in town.

The hills around town provide for some great views from the properties here. And the elevation provides for pleasant temperatures that average about 15 degrees cooler than the nearby Gulf Coast, some 35 miles away as the crow flies.

The average daytime high varies between 72 and 82 degrees, with January being the “coldest” month and May the warmest. Most rainfall occurs between May and October. June and September are the wettest months, while December through March are the driest. There is sufficient rainfall to keep the town and surrounding area green and lush. Morning fog is common in the winter.

Capital of the state of Veracruz, Xalapa is home to about two dozen universities, the most prominent of which is the Universidad de Veracruz. As anywhere, the large presence of intelligent young people gives the city a youthful, vibrant energy. You may well decide to buy a full- or part-time retirement home here, but don’t expect the feel of a retirement community. If you’d like to get a feel for what it looks like, have a look at this two-minute video of Xalapa put out by the city. …

Discover A Newly Emerging Market In Colonial Nicaragua

León's emerging real estate scene compliments its long-time colonial charm

Plus: Where To Invest In Paris Today | Canadian Pensions Abroad

Properties in Nicaragua trade in U.S. dollars

On my first trip to León, Nicaragua, I felt like I’d gone 50 years back in time since leaving Granada, just three hours down the highway. By 2004, Granada was already well discovered by expats, had a lively and mature real estate market, and was as pleasing a Spanish Colonial environment as you could find…much like it is today.

León, on the other hand, was a bit rough around the edges.

It had all the basics of a great colonial destination—things like beautiful churches, attractive plazas, and a bustling town square overlooked by a massive cathedral. What’s more, there were literally hundreds of large, Spanish-Colonial homes, few of which were restored.

But what it didn’t have was a real estate market. Nothing was for sale, as far as I could tell, and there was no real estate agency to be found. After a day of walking the streets on that first visit, I finally found an attorney who would serve as my real estate contact. As I left his office, he was calling his friends and relatives to see if anyone wanted to sell a colonial.

But that’s no longer true today. …

Colonial homes from US$37,000 in a top expat haven Plus: Finding casinos in Latin America

April 29, 2014

Granada, Nicaragua

Property in Nicaragua trades in U.S. dollars

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

Many of us dream of living in a Spanish colonial city…and of owning a Spanish colonial home, with its high ceilings, painted tiles, and a private center courtyard. If you count yourself among this growing number, then you’ll find no better place to buy than Granada, Nicaragua.

In Granada, you’ll not only find one of the best preserved Spanish colonial centers in the Americas, but you’ll also discover colonial-style properties starting at just US$37,000.

Founded in 1524, Granada claims to be the first European city founded in mainland America…so it’s a truly old colonial city rather than a semi-modern lookalike. It’s named after the ancient city of Granada, Spain, and shares some of that city’s Moorish architectural influence.

Granada sits at the north end of Lake Nicaragua, with beaches near town, and a group of small private islands just offshore. It lies just south of the well-known Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua’s largest volcanic crater lake. …