Santos: Brazil’s Bustling Island City With Gardens Galore

Aerial view of Santos city, county seat of Baixada Santista, on the coast of Sao Paulo state, Brazil

A Tale of Two Cities, Part 1: Santos

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.

Aerial view of Santos city, buildings on the waterfront avenue, county seat of Baixada Santista, on the coast of Sao Paulo state, Brazil.
Adobe Stock/Cifotart

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.

Sabaneta, Colombia: The Perfect Small Town Living

Outdoor cafe in main square in small town Sabaneta, Medellin, Colombia

Take Two Steps Back In Time From Medellín

Sabaneta lies at the southern end of the Aburrá Valley and is 1 of 10 municipalities in the Medellín metropolitan area. It’s also the smallest municipality in all of Colombia, with an area of just 5.8 square miles (15 square kilometers).

Sabaneta is a medium-sized town… but its friendliness and closeness convey the feeling of a village.

Like the whole Medellín area, Sabaneta enjoys arguably the world’s best weather. Average high temperatures are in the upper-70s to low-80s, with lows in the 60s, all year (that’s 27˚C and 17˚C). No heat, no air conditioning, and no screens on the windows, thanks to the 5,200-foot (1,585-meter) altitude.

Sabaneta is about as unlike Medellín as you can get in the realm of Colombian cities. The pace here is slow and laid-back. As opposed to Medellín’s modern, energetic feel, Sabaneta feels like small-town Latin America… and like a community. There are a number of high-rises sprouting up around town—and even within town—but mostly you’ll find clean streets, friendly …

Guarujá, Brazil: A Laid-Back Beach Town With Relaxed Property Prices

A wide view of the beach of Guaruja in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo.

A Tale Of Two Cities, Part 2: Guarujá

Just across the estuary from Santos lies Guarujá. Though only four minutes from Santos by balsa (ferry), Guarujá is quite different in many respects.

Whereas Santos bustles, Guarujá is more of a laid-back beach town. In fact, a quick search online of the top things to do in Guarujá will present a list of beaches, more beaches, and still more beaches. Oh, and the Acqua Mundo aquarium, with its sharks and penguins.

Guarujá is full of vacationing paulistanos (residents of São Paulo city) during the summer months (December to February), and again during the July holidays. Throughout the …

Portugal’s Algarve Versus Spain’s Costa Del Sol—Finding The Best Value

The Algarve to the left and Costa del Sol to the right

When it comes to sun, sea, and sand, southern Europe offers two attractive options on its warm, southern coastline—Portugal’s Algarve and Spain’s Costa del Sol. Each share a similar history of Roman and Moorish patrimony, excellent fresh seafood, and sunny idyllic climates. Owning property and living in either of these locations is a dream for almost anyone.

The property markets of the two regions differ in both value and affordability, with the Algarve being a better choice for those who want to live in the sunshine.

Let’s take a look.

Costa Del Sol

Malaga from the skies in Costa del Sol, Spain
Adobe Stock/LucVi

Costa del Sol is located on the southern coastal area of Spain’s Andalucía region. It’s bordered by the busy towns of Nerja and Marbella, with Málaga as its centerpiece. As an American expat living in Portugal’s Algarve for three years now, I have an easy two-hour drive to Spain’s Costa del Sol. The scenery is stunning, with mountains rising dramatically out of the sea.

Costa del Sol became a tourist haven early on and, unfortunately, tourists, expats, and property developers flooded the region. Builders erected hundreds of thousands of …

Puerto Vallarta vs. Mazatlán: Comparing The Best Of Mexico

Puerto Vallarta to the left and Mazatlan to the right

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 …

3 Popular Seaside Towns In Mexico Within Driving Distance Of U.S.

Malecon Avenue in the coastal city of Mazatlan in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico

The most valuable convenience you can hope for when purchasing a home abroad is the ability to load up your car and drive to it… it’s one of Mexico’s biggest advantages.

Today we’re going to look at three popular spots on the Sea of Cortez, all within a day’s drive of the U.S. border: Puerto Peñasco, San Carlos, and Mazatlán.

The Sea of Cortez––also known as the Gulf of California––is the body of water that separates Baja California from the Mexican mainland. It starts at the mouth of the Colorado River. The sea is …

5 Things You Need To Know About Your Overseas Real Estate Agent

Real estate agent broker with bungalow house in background

“Imagine yourself sitting on this veranda each afternoon,” said my real estate agent, “watching the sun sink into the horizon straight out there. The orientation of this unit couldn’t be better.”

I glanced down at my compass—something I always carry when looking at real estate—and saw we were facing south. That doesn’t bode well for sunsets in the southern hemisphere.

When buying real estate overseas, your primary interface with the market will be the real estate agent. And, while the certification requirements and rules of conduct are fairly rigid in North America, you’ll find a mixed bag overseas.

So it’s best to go into your real estate search with the proper expectations. Here are five ways that I’ve found …

Tips On How To Buy Property Overseas

Hosteria Andaluza, Ecuador

A number of years ago, I bought a terrific property in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, from a friend. It was a good-sized parcel of land with a simple home and a guest cottage… and over 150 feet of river frontage. With a bounty of tropical fruits, coffee plants, and surrounded by beautiful mountains, it was a real paradise.

After a couple of years and much Spanish study, I got around to actually reading the title. What I discovered was that I hadn’t actually bought the property outright, but rather I’d bought shares of an inheritance from four descendants of the original owner. And to make matters worse, I wasn’t completely sure if I’d accounted for all the descendants…

One of the trickiest aspects of property investing overseas is verifying that you’ve got a clean title. In North America, this is something we take for granted. But overseas, ownership laws vary from one country to the next and can even vary between regions of the same country.

So before my next property purchase, I decided to get smart about titles in …

8 Best Beachfront Property Buys for 2022

morocca beachfront property

We all dream of living on a sun-soaked white sandy beach.

Blue waters, easy living, cares far away…

Most of us can only aspire to a couple weeks’ vacation time. But is it really that far-fetched to dream about living a beach life year-round?

Maybe not…

But American beach houses are expensive. The average price of houses in the Hamptons rose 46% to over US$2 million dollars in 2020.

Realtor.com lists Bal Harbor in Miami as averaging US$1.5 million for homes.

These prices aren’t for huge prime beachfront properties. They are for homes with no ocean frontage and not much more than a glimpse of the water.

Even if I could afford to buy there I wouldn’t want to. They don’t seem like interesting places to live.

Is It Crazy To Dream About Beach Living?

You might be surprised how realistic your dream of beachfront bliss actually is.

You don’t need to be Jeff Bezos to live on a great beach. There are surprising deals in amazing places, if you know where to look.

For US$50,000 you can own your own cottage right next to a stunning beach.

For about US$100,000 you can have a really nice condo or your own private villa on the beach.

This isn’t some crazy aspiration.

High-quality homes, low costs of living, real beach adventures, culture, and refined living is all available.

Read on for my eight favorite up-and-coming beach home options from around the world…

1. Northern Cyprus

northern cyprus

Northern Cyprus is the best-value European beach buy in 2022.

It offers a Mediterranean climate, friendly colonial villages where English is widely spoken, high-quality tourism infrastructure, including casinos and clubs, and miles of unspoilt sandy beaches…

Not to mention undervalued real estate opportunities.

This development in Iskele, on the northeastern coast, has excellent pre-construction opportunities starting at US$57,000.

This is a pre-construction 46-square-meter (492-square-foot) studio condo with a spacious 12-square-meter (130-square-foot) balcony for just US$57,000.

There is a turn-key management company in place offering a projected 11%+ ROI.

Go here for more information.

2. Brazil


Beachfront splendor starts off-plan at only US$49,000 in Canoa Quebrada, in Brazil’s northeastern Ceará state… 

Stunning beaches, low home prices, and a low cost of living makes Brazil the best overall beach buy recommendation for 2022.

My Brazil picks are in a development just steps away from a seemingly endless white-sand beach…

With off-plan bungalows available for less than US$50,000 it’ll be hard to find prices like this again.

This location is buoyed by a tourism boom and a rapidly expanding middle class.


These beach homes come with a pool, yard, and direct private access to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

A 1-bed, 1-bath bungalow of 44 square meters (470 square feet) goes for a cash price of US$49,000, or, with developer financing, US$59,000.

Full-service property rental and management is available with a projected ROI of more than 10%…

By investing a little more, you can secure a villa, which offers more than double the square meterage. 


You can get your own villa for an exclusive cash price of US$87,000 or with developer financing for US$99,000.

The villas have 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a private pool, and are 100 square meters (1,076 square feet).

Full-service property rental and management is available.

Delivery is 20 months after signing the contract.

Your villa is close to a popular tourist destination; great restaurants; supermarkets and shops; tourist activities such as dune buggy rides, kite surfing, diving, paragliding, ATV tours, and boat trips; fishing; and several of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches.

Once built, the rental projection is 10%+.

3. Montenegro


Europe’s secret riviera is a haven for billionaires but comes with some very reasonable waterfront prices.

Boasting blue Adriatic waters, amazing beaches, and lush mountain interiors, Montenegro has it all…

My Montenegro Property Pick

Starting at just US$91,000, with views of the Adriatic Sea, this exclusive deal is just 8 minutes from the luxurious Porto Montenegro.

Furniture packages are available for less than US$11,000, meaning you can own here for US$102,000 plus closing costs.

Property ownership in Montenegro comes with residency rights, which will become even more appealing if Montenegro joins the EU in 2025.

This project has a 10.25% projected ROI.

4. Morocco

AdobeStock/ Tilio & Paolo

 The newest entrant to my list of dream beach deals is Morocco.

Perched at the top of the African continent, Morocco has coasts on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Morocco has been slowly undergoing a transformation… It now has my attention for its cheap property prices, low cost of living, and growing tourism and manufacturing offerings.

Beachfront prices are some of the lowest available in the Mediterranean. There are vast, empty, white-sand beaches and near year-round sunny weather.

My Moroccan Beach Property Pick

This beachfront property is in Souiria, along the Atlantic Coast. For just US$77,000, you get a 160-square-meter (1,722-square-foot) house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 3 half-bathrooms, and an extra shower. The price is extremely low per square meter, and with this property you could enter the long-term rental market.

The property has a 180-degree beach view and is located 150 meters (490 feet) from a beach of fine golden sand and 500 meters (1,640 feet) from a small fishing port, making it a mecca for seafood lovers. In the village you also find market stalls, grocery stores, butchers, pharmacies, restaurants, and bakeries.

5. Portugal

Portuguese village in the south Luz, Lagos region. Algarve, Portugal.
Alamy/Serhiy Stakhnyk

With great weather, a low cost of living, first-class health care, and an interesting culture, Portugal is a top all-around lifestyle pick. This country also boasts some of the best beaches in Europe.

It’s been a strong recommendation for several years, and beachfront property prices have matured. In comparison to the rest of the property picks in this list, this one seems expensive…

But I can tell you now, there is no other project like this in the region.

In North America, retirement villages have existed for some time now. But in Southern Europe, this concept is still in the early stages…

In Portugal, independent living communities are rare. If you do find them, they tend to be in remote locations that are far from amenities. They also tend to be small, not designed for aging populations when mobility and accessibility becomes a challenge.

This development in Praia da Luz takes independent living to another level. The community was created mainly (but not only) for the pre-retiree and retirees who want access to on-site amenities but also be close to everything the town has to offer. This has been specially designed to allow residents to age in the community and provide proper accommodations no matter the age.

My Portugal Property Pick

Prices start at 275,000 euros (about US$312k) for a 1-bed apartment, including a large terrace and garden along with additional storage space and a garage. Developer financing is available, and you can choose between a garden- or sea-view apartment.

This will be the region’s first residential luxury condominium.

The development offers a vibrant community atmosphere, with shops and seafront cafés and restaurants on its doorstep. It’s easy to access, just one hour away from Faro Airport.

For more information on this unique development, go here.

6. Mexico

Houses by the sea in Mexico

Mexico has been the foreign beach destination of choice for North Americans for decades.

The Mexican peso has taken a beating during the pandemic, which gets us some solid beach deals in this country.

 Move Over Tulum—My Mexican Beach Buy

This eco-development is nestled in the jungle and has spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It features walking paths, a seasonal waterfall, and natural botanical gardens.

An amazing almost private beach is 1 mile down the road.

One-bed condos start at US$165,000. Smaller pre-construction studios start at just US$89,000.

You won’t find better prices for quality real estate in desirable locations in Mexico.

To find out more about the hottest Puerto Vallarta deals, get in touch with our trusted realtors here.

7. Panama’s Caribbean Coast

The beach El Rompio on Azuero Peninsula, Panama.
Adobe Stock/Marek

If you’ve ever regretted not investing in an area before developers got wind of it, now could be your chance…

The Caribbean coast of Panama has long been overlooked but is beginning to attract attention from long-term developers and big-name buyers.

This could be a long-term capital appreciation play for a savvy investor.

You can find undeveloped waterfront parcels here for a fraction of the cost of other beach destinations.

It will be years before the Path of Progress reaches this area, but basic infrastructure is already in place in some spots… and development is inevitable.

Watch this space for more coverage Panama’s Caribbean Coast over the coming year…

8. Philippines 


The Philippines offers some of the best beach value in Asia.

With a very low cost of living, spectacular beaches, ideal weather, and plenty of opportunity for adventure, the Philippines has a lot to offer.

Philippines Beach Property Pick

Available is a 210-square-meter (2,260-square-foot) beachfront house at Jawili Beach in Tangalan in Aklan Province, on the market for US$99,000. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a garage, and a mini garden, and it comes furnished. It’s just 5 minutes to the closest market.

There’s no denying that the political situation in the Philippines is tense… I’ll explore the realities of this in a future OPA issue.

New Year’s Resolutions

Beachfront living isn’t just the remit of multi-millionaires. There are fabulous low-cost options in vibrant cultural havens that would love to welcome you into their community.

To our continued overseas property adventure….

4 Top Countries For Low Risk, Dollar-Based Property Buys

Colorful houses in Cuenca, Ecuador

My big “currency awakening” came in Uruguay.

I first visited Uruguay in 2004 and fell in love with its First World environment, honest culture, and super infrastructure. And, at an exchange rate of 34 pesos per U.S. dollar, life there was an amazing bargain.

In fact, I finished my first article on Uruguay with the words “…and best of all, it’s cheaper than Ecuador.”

A couple of years later I moved to Uruguay full-time, and by then the exchange rate was only 25 pesos per U.S. dollar. This drove my cost of living up by 36% in dollar terms. The cost of living was no longer “cheaper than Ecuador,” but it still wasn’t bad.

But by 2008, the dollar had weakened so that I was getting less than 20 pesos per U.S. dollar… and in 2011, it was …