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Give Me 10 Minutes I’ll Tell You the Top 3 Cities to Live in the Latin Tropics

When it comes to choosing a tropical destination to call home, it’s important to know that they aren’t all created equal. It’s also important to know that just because one person or one publication loves a certain country or city, that doesn’t mean that everyone will or that YOU will.

That being said, there are a few places that stand out heads above the rest in terms of lifestyle, atmosphere, and quality of life. 

Bridget Shirvell

Bridget Shirvell

We ranked cities all across Latin America in areas such as cost of living, quality of life, and potential for real estate appreciation. And we’re dying to tell you more about the three cities that blew all the others out of the water in those and other categories.

And, while not every single person on the planet would be happy in one of these three destinations, they’re hands down the top places where most people would be happy living in the tropics.

Here they are!



1. Nosara, Costa Rica

There is no place on earth quite as remarkable as Costa Rica, with its unparalleled natural beauty, friendly population, and laid-back lifestyle. Its residents are among the happiest people on the planet, and there are some obvious reasons for that.

There’s also no place in Costa Rica quite as fantastic as Nosara. It was initially established as a planned community by a North American developer. It got started on the right track and has continued to follow that original plan.

Today, it’s a tropical paradise with a first world design. There are banks, grocery stores, medical clinics, and fitness centers. Yet, due to zoning regulations, there aren’t any high-rise condos to block your view of the pristine coastline and magnificent sunsets.

The town also has numerous conservation and beautification initiatives, so it’s one of the cleanest cities you’ll find in the tropics. There’s regular trash collection, clean water, and reliable utilities.

It’s a health conscious town, and most residents regularly enjoy activities such as surfing, yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, soccer, tennis, and other sports. There are organic grocers, smoothie stands, and other healthy consumer options. There’s also plenty of nature to help rejuvenate your mind and body.

Great for Singles, Even Better for Families

Not only is Nosara a great place to live, it’s also the perfect place to raise a family abroad. There’s a large established expat community and a lot of English speakers, which makes for an easy transition. There are several bilingual schools, as well as plenty of organized sports and activities for children to enjoy.

Nosara is also an incredibly safe town. Crime is low, and there’s not much of a party scene or drug culture like you might find in other tropical beach towns. Everyone looks out for each other, and there’s a great sense of community.

While not the cheapest city to live or buy property in the tropics, Nosara offers tremendous bang for your buck. And even though it’s already a well-established town, there’s still room for appreciation and growth. As investors, we hope to be a part of where Nosara is headed.

Eric Hunt

Eric Hunt

2. Cuenca, Ecuador

You’ve probably heard a lot about Ecuador, and more specifically Cuenca, being a great place to live or retire because it’s cheap. Well, we think that’s a horrible reason on which to base such an important decision.

Yes, Ecuador enjoys a lower cost of living than many of its Latin neighbors, but there are so many better reasons to love this country and city. Here they are.

First of all, the climate is ideal. The temperature most days is in the high 60s to low 70s. It gets cooler at night, sometimes dropping into the high 40s. You only need one wardrobe for the whole year, plus a sweater or light jacket for evenings.

There’s a rainy season that runs from January to May. The rest of the year, all you’ll see is an occasional afternoon shower, perfect for a nap or some time with a good book.

Small Town Atmosphere, Big City Amenities

Also, for a fairly large city (roughly 330,000 people), it has a quaint small town feel. The colonial architecture is stunning, the people are friendly, and the carts of local farmers and craft vendors make walking the city streets a pleasant experience.

Yet despite Cuenca’s charming ambiance, there’s no shortage of big city amenities. There are internet cafes, boutiques, entertainment options, and any professional service you can think of.

What’s probably most notable about Cuenca is the incredibly diverse culture, both native and foreign. Cuenca is home to several large universities, and the zeal for learning and experiencing new things radiates through the city. There are numerous museums, free concerts, and local artists that further establish Cuenca as an important cultural hub.

Though not dirt cheap like many areas in Ecuador, Cuenca is a very affordable place to live. It has a large, growing expat community and numerous expat-friendly businesses. Health care is good. Education is emphasized. It’s a great fit for expats of pretty much any demographic.



3. Boquete, Panama

Panama, and especially Boquete, has been the darling of the international retirement scene for a while now. Not only does it have natural beauty, a great climate, and first world amenities, it also offers some of the best retirement benefits of any country in the world.

Retirees of any age can save on everything from healthcare to transportation to entertainment to utilities. And with tons of visa options, obtaining residency in Panama is about as simple a process as is possible in Latin America.

But enough about the boring stuff, what’s truly amazing about Boquete is the scenery and all the incredible opportunities to experience nature in the surrounding areas. Boquete has been dubbed both the “Land of Eternal Springtime” and the “Valley of Flowers,” and it easily lives up to both of those monikers.

At 3,900 feet above sea level, it enjoys a moderate climate with warm days and cool nights. Its location offers sweeping vistas of the surrounding valleys. And its fertile soil makes it the perfect place to grow fresh fruits and vegetables year round, as well as a variety of flowers. Its orchid fair held each March is an international event.

The Pace of Life Is Slow, but You Don’t Have to Be

The surrounding mountains offer opportunities for hiking, bird watching, white water rafting, zip lining through the cloud forests, or exploring local organic coffee farms. After a day packed with activity, the nearby Caldera hot springs are a great place to relax and rejuvenate.

Thanks to a longstanding expat presence, Boquete has most amenities you’d expect to find in an established first world city. English is widely spoken. Phone and internet service are top-notch.

Boquete is a more expensive mountain option than Cuenca, yet still affordable by North American standards. Its expat population is still growing steadily, thanks to much media hype in recent years. That’s likely to continue for years to come.

boca chica panama

Panama Travel

What About the Other 54?

These are the three tropical destinations we feel will appeal to the largest number of people. However, there are still 54 other amazing places you need to know about. It is possible you might love the sound of one of those even more than the three we just described. Download our free eBook and find out!

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4 thoughts on “Give Me 10 Minutes I’ll Tell You the Top 3 Cities to Live in the Latin Tropics

  1. 1

    Hi, I am interested in Nosara Costa Rica. Please send me more info. Thank you,

  2. 2

    In all objectivity, I think you should mention that life on the coast of Costa Rica is very hot and often quite humid as well. So, be prepared for serious a/c bills. I knew Nosara back in the 1980’s, and I lament its growth, but c’est la vie.

    As for Cuenca, I think you overstate its climate. It’s been more accurately described as “perpectual autumn.” Also, Ecuaor is often cloudy. It’s a real point to consider.

    Finally, regarding Boquete, you should mention the long and very wet rainy season, with all that implies.

    • 3

      where do you recommend Jim? I am curious as I am looking to move to better climate and lower cost of living.

  3. 4

    I agree with Jim. Most expats are not only interested in how far their dollar will stretch, but climate is of huge importance. People escaping the brutal winter months or someone like me who suffers from asthma and don’t do well in a humid environment, would appreciate to know the truth about the weather conditions year round. Thank you for all your interesting articles.

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