As more and more retirees and young expats make their way to the Latin tropics, many cities are stepping up their game to meet the demands of this new demographic. And, as infrastructure and amenities continue to improve in many tropical cities, the cost of living is increasing at rapid rates in many locations.
Since a major consideration of making the move abroad is budget and lifestyle, it’s important that you know some of the most expensive cities in the Latin tropics and what they offer. Only then can you decide if they’re truly worth the sometimes high cost of living in paradise.
It’s important, though, to keep in mind that the cost of living in a particular area is often indicative of the level of services and amenities it offers. So, when evaluating tropical destinations and their associated costs, make sure you take the whole picture into consideration…not just the dollars and cents.
The Rising Cost of Paradise
Just as is the case with any other financial market, the increased demand for expat-friendly locations in the tropics has resulted in higher costs. Rising property values, infrastructure improvements, and the desire for more amenities “just like back home” have all combined to create larger price tags for life abroad.
Below are the four most expensive cities for expat living in all the countries we cover. The continued popularity of each of these destinations demonstrates the correlation between desirability and willingness to pay for the value-added features that each location contains.
San Jose, Costa Rica
Topping our list of the four most expensive cities in the Latin tropics is San Jose, Costa Rica. As the third most expensive city in the entire region (surpassed only by San Juan, Puerto Rico and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands), the continued popularity of this Central American destination has resulted in higher prices, including the cost of Costa Rica real estate.
A dynamic, modern, and stable infrastructure, readily accessible “western style” amenities, such as shopping malls, internet access, cable TV, and a close proximity to major North American cities all translate into value-added features for this highly coveted expat destination. However, these desirable features do come with a higher price tag that should be taken into consideration as part of your plan for relocation.
Panama City, Panama
Close behind San Jose, on the list of the four most expensive cities in the tropics, is Panama City, Panama. According to an annual survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, from 2014 to 2015 Panama City’s cost of living has climbed 41 positions among all international locations surveyed and four spots in Latin America alone.
The continued expansion of new commercial investment and the accompanying improvements in infrastructure have resulted in increased housing prices and a growing demand for American style homes. Since that demand is outpacing the inventory, it’s far from being a buyer’s market.
It may come as a surprise to many that Tegucigalpa, Honduras has become one of the most expensive cities in Latin America in which to live. The upswing in foreign investment since the early 2000s has brought with it the cost of improving the infrastructure of the city to meet the demands of the 21st century.
While not as popular as…say, the island of Roatan, Tegucigalpa still offers high level of amenities at a price point that is less than some of the more popular tropical destinations. It can be anticipated that as growth continues, prices will stay on the rise as well.
Last but not least on this list is Quito, Ecuador. This capital city’s popularity with expats and retirees has led to a steady increase in the cost of living. With this price hike comes a wide variety of housing options and many other big city amenities expats have come to expect.
Not everything costs more in Quito, though. Although it’s ranked as the 13th most expensive of Latin American cities, its prices for gas and public transportation are still far less than any of its neighbors.
The Bottom Line: Is It Worth It?
For potential expats, the cost to live in a particular city should certainly play a role in the decision-making process. However, it shouldn’t be the starring one. Other factors to consider include location, amenities, climate, and whether it offers the kind of lifestyle you’re seeking.
In the end, only you can decide whether these and other tropical destinations offer sufficient bang for your buck. If you have cities you’re considering, spend some time there to see if the expat experience they offer lives up to the price point they demand. Only then can you make the move knowing you’ll never regret the decision you made.
Roatan, Honduras has been a popular destination for quite some time for expats seeking to find that special place in the sun. With an ever-increasing number of cruise lines making this tropical island a port of call, as well as an increasing growth in the number of resorts, investing in this Caribbean gem promises a modern day version of “buried treasure” for those willing to make the journey.
The real estate market in Roatan remains quite reasonable, even with demand for residential space increasing. The 2008 worldwide collapse impacted prices, which have been slow to recover.
7 Facts That Expats Want to Share About Roatan
There are many factors that go into picking one tropical location to live or invest in over another. Here are seven facts that expats have discovered which make Roatan a worthy option place to consider.
Getting There Is Easy
One of the most attractive features about Roatan is its accessibility. In addition to the large number of international cruise lines that make regular stops at Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay part of their cruise itineraries, there are many regularly scheduled international flights from the U.S.
Living There Is Easier
Roatan is a destination that is made for expat living. The word “hurry” has no use; life is run on island time. In a real sense, Roatan is a prime example of an ancient observation: We do without doing and it all gets done.
Residency Is Easier Still
Obtaining a retiree residency on Roatan is very straightforward. All that’s required is showing that you receive income of at least $1,500 per month from a source outside of Honduras (such as a pension or Social Security) in order to qualify.
Size Does Matter – in All the Right Ways
Foreigners can actually own up to ¾ of an acre of land in their own name in Roatan. For larger parcels (such as those being purchased with an eye to development), setting up a Honduran corporation to hold the title, with the foreigner as administrator (and having all rights of Honduran citizenship), is a simple matter.
Wild or Mild – the Choice Is Yours
Roatan offers both the lively atmosphere of a tourist-driven community and a quiet Caribbean retreat. The West End Village, close to the Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport, is the prime spot for nightlife, good restaurants, and a large number of resort properties. The eastern part of the island, known as Helene, is a nature lover’s dream and a perfect spot for those seeking to commune with nature in a more serene environment.
Separate but Connected
Although Roatan is an island, it is still connected to the outside world. Modern amenities such as high-speed internet, cable, and cellular services make keeping in touch with friends and family an easy task. With a number of ambitious public works projects, residents on Roatan can expect that the infrastructure will only continue to improve.
A Real Potential for Finding Your Own Pot of Real Estate Gold
There is a wide variety of properties on Roatan that will appeal to the expat looking for a secluded tropical oasis, the retiree eager to start a new adventure, and even the innovator looking for investment potential. Below are some great examples of hidden gems that are waiting for you discover them.
One+ Acre Lot with Ocean Views If you’ve ever dreamed of building your own island escape, this 1.08 acre oceanfront property may be just what you are looking for. With water and electricity already on site, the location is ready for you to make your dreams into a reality. At $275,000, the potential of this lot is boundless; with enough space for a residence and garden, becoming a modern day “Robinson Crusoe” might be easier than you think.
Charming Lodge with Income Potential If the idea of owning and running your own lodge in a tropical paradise is the kind of challenge you are looking for, the Mariposa Lodge is a business opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. With seven individual suites, divided between three separate buildings and 20 acres of well-maintained grounds, the potential of a strong return on your investment of $450,000 is quite high.
An additional feature is the fact that financing is available, an option that is rare in the tropics. For twenty percent down, an intrepid entrepreneur can take five additional years to pay off the balance.
Luxury 3BD/4BA Condo in Lawson Rock For those seeking a modern condo lifestyle, with high-end furnishings surrounded by Roatan’s beauty, this $755,000, 3-bedroom, 4-bath jewel has everything that a discriminating buyer could want. Located in the exclusive Lawson Rock community, this unit has all the amenities one would expect to find in a quality residence.
The addition of a rooftop pool adds a dash of luxury that only enhances the tropical vibe of this island mecca. The large outdoor space makes this a perfect place for gatherings, celebrations, or just enjoying the laid-back living of Roatan.
Topridge Estates Lot in Sandy Bay It isn’t necessary to be rich to be able to afford your island dream. This lot at Top Ridge Estates, close to the West End, has electrical, water, and road access and comes in at a surprising price of $69,000.
With market prices still low, finding the ideal island getaway has never been easier. From lots waiting to be developed to luxury turnkey homes, the large inventory has something for everyone.
One Last Thing You Need to Know About Roatan
Perhaps the most important thing that you need to know if you are considering Roatan as an expat destination is that the best way to discover its potential is to visit it firsthand. Plan a trip and allow yourself to be seduced by the warmth of the Caribbean breezes, the relaxed pace of living, and the sense that this is a special place that could be your next port of call.
Thinking about investing in a second home? Retiring or going expat? Why not consider six spectacular places to live in Latin America?
Why Should You Choose a Place to Live in Latin America?
For all the same simple reasons full-time expats and retirees flock to this part of the world. Simpler life. Tropical climate. Azure waters and gorgeous beaches. Jungle and mountains of unparalleled biodiversity. And growing numbers of flights from around the world.
You must be thinking, “Aside from the obvious, what else lures real estate investors to Latin America?”
Why Do Investors Love Latin America?
These top emerging markets have healthy, growing economies. Construction and reconstruction are on the rise. Tourism, retirees, and expat numbers are steadily increasing. As a result, there are many fresh business opportunities. Generally speaking, there’s a robust need for rental properties.
Infrastructure improvements are a top priority. Internet access is typically a given. World-class hospitals and other modern medical facilities are available. Public transportation is solid.
New international airports are being built. Airline routes are growing. And visas and passports are easy to obtain.
Home prices are a real bargain. You can get a bigger house, a great location, and better views for so much less money compared to most other countries. You can find a modern two-story 3-bedroom/3-bath home with high-end finishes for $115,000.
The costs of living are low. In many places, a mere $2.50 will buy dinner at a local restaurant, and a couple can live really well on less than $2,000 per month.
Taxes, insurance, and utilities are low. And retiree incentives for expats are quite excellent.
So check out these six spectacular places to live in the Latin Tropics.
1. Ambergris Caye, Belize
“Best island in the world!” That’s what Trip Advisor readers said two years in a row. Ambergris Caye strikes a perfect balance between quaint and modern. High-rise buildings and traffic lights are non-existent. Locals, Latin immigrants, and expats from all over the globe traverse the island’s sandy roads barefoot or in a golf cart.
You’ll love exploring the diverse ecosystems around the island. From palm-lined beaches to mangroves, jungles, and reefs, you’ll never run out of things to do. Ambergris Caye is situated less than a mile from the second largest barrier reef in the world (Belize Barrier Reef). And one of the world’s top diving sites (Great Blue Hole). Scuba diving and snorkeling can’t get any better.
Can you imagine yourself sailing to the nearby cayes? Caye Caulker is a popular neighboring destination.
2. Roatán, Honduras
Lonely Planet termed Roatán “pitch perfect.” The well-developed tropical setting offers an active lifestyle in a tranquil setting. Picture thirty miles of Carribean paradise with its own international airport, Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport. Take your guests for a swim with the dolphins and sea turtles in Roatán’s warm Carribean waters.
Go sport fishing or kayaking. Explore shipwrecks, seawalls and Mayan artifacts. Scuba dive and snorkel in the nearby Belize Barrier Reef. And ferry to the mainland port of La Cieba in only an hour.
Take your land lover guests zip lining or ATV riding through the jungle.
3. Cuenca, Ecuador
Expats of all ages and from around the globe flock to Cuenca for its beautiful Andes mountain location. They’re lured there by Cuenca’s natural beauty, captivating colonial architecture, and 70-degree temperatures year-round.
Modern facilities and solid infrastructure make living here a charm. Among the breathtaking skylines, you’ll have the modern conveniences of pedestrian walkways, bike paths, underground parking facilities, and an excellent light-rail system.
State-of-the-art medical facilities combined with highly qualified medical professionals are added bonuses. And shopping malls, grocery and hardware stores, restaurants, and bars are plentiful in Cuenca.
4. Boca Chica, Panama
The Boca Chica economy is about to explode. Expansion at Enrique Malek International Airport (in David, Panama) will, for the first time, receive flights from major airlines around the world. A scenic 30-minute drive from the airport lands you in the serene little fishing village of Boca Chica. Picture rolling hills and secluded beaches. Sapphire waters and “emerald islands.” A so-called secret “tropical fantasy!”
How cool would it be to take a 10-minute boat ride to your home on Boca Chica Island? You’ll feel like you’re hours away from civilization. And you might even forget what day it is. But the truth is, it’s incredibly easy to get to.
There are no tourist traps on Boca Chica Island. Just unspoiled prehistoric nature. A place where locals and like-minded expats can still own a piece of heaven for a bargain.
5. Nosara, Costa Rica
Lonely Planet compared Nosara with Malibu and Oahu’s North Shore. Nosara’s surf-friendly beaches are some of the most beautiful in Costa Rica. Imagine dramatic rocky cliffs, tropical palm trees, and big expansive sand shores.
Internationally-recognized Nosara Yoga Institute made Nosara a popular travel destination with an enthusiastic health-conscious culture. Health food stores and organic markets are plentiful.
International schools with excellent academic and cultural programs make it ideal for raising a family.
6. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico:
San Miguel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This interior city emerged from agriculture and industry to tourism and expat commerce. Although it has no beaches or blue waters, visitors fall in love with San Miguel’s cobblestone streets, rich history, and diverse culture.
The preserved colonial and Spanish architecture is truly breathtaking. And the “eternal spring” climate, combined with moderate costs of living and walkability, seals the deal.
You’ll enjoy roaming the vibrant art community and eclectic shopping venues.
Need you look further than these six spectacular places to live in Latin America?
Latin America provides an ideal lifestyle and perfect conditions for second-home investors, retirees and expats. Property bargains, benefits and amenities make your transition easy.
Take a trip down to see for yourself.
One of the biggest considerations for expats seeking to buy their retirement or getaway home in Latin America is the taxes on real estate. Comparing property taxes of the most popular destinations for expats is an important step to deciding the best location for your tropical retreat.
Once the decision is made to become an expat, finding a home in paradise will involve some research. Looking at the unique qualities of each country and the properties available is a great way to begin your journey.
Comparing Property Taxes in Latin America Country by Country
Countries in Latin America have widely different approaches as to what real property should be taxed and when. Similarly, the calculations of property taxes can be confusing for expats trying to choose which location might be a good fit for their budget.
What follows is a brief overview, by country, of the tax structure for real property. This comparison will also include any taxes imposed at the time of sale or transfer of title as well as when payment of these assessments are due.
Belize has a fairly straightforward approach to property taxes. For residential property, the tax rate will be between 1% and 1.5% of the value as set by the Department of Natural Resources. These are payable each year by April 1st at any Lands Department office. When looking for your Belizean retreat, making this calculation is easy.
Residents in Belize City can take advantage of a 10% discount if taxes are paid by March 31st. There is a 25% discount on property taxes for Senior Citizens (over 65) that certainly is a great incentive for expat retirees.
Investors and developers of large plots of undeveloped land (parcels over 300 acres) are subject to a Speculation Tax. This tax is computed based on 5% of the undeveloped value of the property.
When a title is transferred, a transfer tax is collected as part of the buying process. There is no tax for values under $10,000; for values in excess of that amount, the tax is a flat 5%.
For all of the attention and growth that Costa Rica has experienced in the last decade, property taxes still remain as some of the lowest anywhere, including the U.S. The tax rate is 0.25% of the registered property valued as determined by the local governments or municipalities.
Some of the very large and high-end properties have been subject to a luxury tax based on such items as size, custom furnishings, and fixtures. These rates are still surprisingly low; in 2013 it was estimated that that this tax was in the range of 0.1% to .25% of property value.
Changes to the transfer tax of 1.5% may impact some buyers. While the percentage has stayed the same, the basis for the calculation (property value) cannot be less than the highest recorded fiscal value. Fortunately, this amount will usually be less than the market price of the parcel. With low tax rates, finding your home in the land of Pura Vida is still a great option.
Ecuador has some of the lowest property taxes in Latin America. The tax rates are progressive from 0.025% to 0.5% of the value as assessed by municipal officials.
These values are considerably lower than the purchase price – often by as much as 25% to 75%. As a result, it is rare to pay over $400 in annual taxes.
There are also deductions and discounts that can appeal to expats. Homeowners over the age of 65 only have to pay half the amount of the tax assessed.
Additionally, deductions for mortgages to purchase or improve the property are possible. Ranging between 20% and 40%, these must be requested and cannot exceed 50% of the value of the property. Ecuadorian real estate may provide some of the most affordable options in the region.
El Salvador is unique in that there is no property tax assessed for owning real estate. Although there is no annual assessment, when property is transferred, a transfer tax is triggered.
The tax, paid as part of the buying and selling process, equals 3% of the value over $28,571.43 of the purchase price. Non-residents also are subject to a 25% capital gains tax when selling property unless the sale occurs within three years of taking possession of the property.
The El Salvadoran government is considering a tax reform package that would include a tax on property that does not have any productive function except for private leisure or recreation. This “luxury tax” would be assessed at the rate of 1% of the value over $350,000 even if the property has not been developed.
Whether or not this tax will be enacted is uncertain. Regardless, the great majority of expats will not be impacted because of the high dollar threshold of the assessment. Low prices enhance the attractiveness of the selection of properties available.
Guatemala uses the cadastral value of real property to calculate the tax owed. The word “cadastral” refers to the extent, value of, or ownership of real property and is used widely throughout Central America.
Taxes are calculated in local currency (the Guatemalan quetzal) by local authorities. When converted to U.S. dollars, it becomes apparent that these are quite reasonable for the great majority of expat residents. Below is a chart showing the tax rates:
|TAX BASE, GTQ (US$)||TAX RATE|
|Up to 2 million (US$255,428)||0%|
|2 million – 20 million (US$2,554,278)||0.20%|
|20 million – 70 million (US$8,939,975)||0.60%|
|Over 70 million (US$8,939,975)||0.90%|
|Source: Global Property Guide|
As can be seen, there is no property tax owed on properties valued under $255,428. The taxes are due annually and are paid to local municipalities where the property is located. Searching for properties under this dollar amount may be easier than you might imagine.
Honduras has one of the few property tax laws that permit 12 monthly payments instead of just a single annual amount. The tax rate itself is based on value assessed by the municipality and can be calculated at $3.50 per every $1,000 of assessed value.
For example, a property value at $100,000 would have a yearly tax of $350.00. Spread out over twelve monthly payments, each installment would be for $29.16. Buying property in Honduras with the ability to spread out yearly taxes is an attractive prospect.
As a result of new tax reforms that went into effect on January 1, 2014, property transfers carried out by nonresidents are now subject to an increased 4% (previously 2%) withholding tax over the transfer value to be withheld by the acquiring party.
One important feature of the Honduras tax scheme is the incentive program for projects or plans that would increase tourism to Roatan. Under this program, property taxes may be given a 20 year exemption. This is a powerful incentive for investors looking for a location to develop and build.
Mexico was the first Latin American country to attract expats. The older expat enclaves, such as Puerto Vallarta, have demonstrated the potential for living and investing in Central and South America. Mexico still has a great selection of properties and lots to interest expat buyers.
Property taxes in Mexico vary from state to state. Each state’s tax department sets the assessed value and the tax rate can range from 0.05% to 1.2%, depending on the property location. Other variables such as whether the lot is improved, if there is poor access, and if it is only used seasonally also factor into the assessment.
The assessment itself is done at the time of sale or transfer and will remain the same until the property is sold again. The taxes are due at the beginning of the year although the tax amounts are not available until mid-January of the year they are due. Since tax bills are not sent out, it is up to the property owner to go to the tax office with a previous bill to obtain the current one.
Payments can be made in six installments during the first ten days of every second month; ( i.e. January, March, May, July, September, and November). Failure to pay the taxes when due can result in steep penalties; in some cases as high as 3% for every month the payment is past due.
Mexico also charges an acquisition tax on every transfer of real property regardless of whether it is through a sale, donation, trust, or other method. The rates can range from 2% to 3.3%, again varying by state and is owed as part of the transfer process.
Nicaragua has, perhaps, the easiest property tax scheme in Latin America. The tax is a flat 1% and are calculated at 80% of the cadastral value of the property (land, buildings, and permanent improvements) as assessed by the local office.
In the city of Managua, the calculation is slightly different. There the figure is based on 80% of the cadastral value LESS 40,000 Nicaraguan Cordobas (NIO); roughly equaling $1,624 in U.S. dollars.
Since there is no up-to-date national registry for property values, property taxes are less important than in other locations. With a lack of proper records, many small communities do not even collect the taxes which has led some to view paying them as a voluntary, rather than mandatory, act. Many of these smaller towns and villages have attractive and unique properties that are worth a look.
There is a 30% capital gains tax assessed on property sales. Again, this is based on the land value and not the sale price.
Panama is unique among the countries in the region in that the property taxes are national and are collected by the Ministry of Economics and Finance. The tax rate is a maximum 2.1% and is based on the assessed value – usually the declared value in the original sale documents. Expats are increasingly interested in the homes and lots available here and the possibilities that Panama offers new arrivals.
The calculation is based on the value of the land plus the declared value of any improvements made. If a transaction is made for an amount in excess of this amount, that will automatically increase the value of the property for tax purposes. Payments can be made in three installments: April 30th, August 31st, and December 31st.
Property taxes are graduated depending on the assessed value. Below is a chart showing this breakdown: Value of the property Property Tax Rate US$ 0.00 up to US$ 30K (exempted) 0% US$ 30K up to US$ 50K 1.75% US$ 50K up to US$ 75K 1.95% US$ 75K and above 2.10%
Condominiums, however, use a slightly different formula:
Property Tax Rate for Condos:
Value of the property Property Tax Rate US$ 0.00 up to US$ 30K (exempted) 0% US$ 30K up to US$ 100K 0.75% US$ 100K and above 1.0%
The 20 year exemption on property taxes that was so attractive to investors ended in 2009. That program has been replaced by a revised set of exemptions:
- 15 years Up to US$ 100,000.00
- 10 years From US$ 100,000.00 to US$ 250,000.00
- 5 years Above US$ 250,000.00
- Commercial Use/Non-residential improvements have 10 year exoneration regardless of the property value
Lastly, Panama does have a transfer that is the greater of a) 2% of the total sale price or; b) the declared value of the parcel plus the value of improvements plus 5% for each year the property was owned.
A Brief Note on U.S. Property Taxes – Paradise Is Cheaper!!
While the various property tax schemes throughout these tropical locations may seem confusing, there is one important element to keep in mind: U.S. property taxes are higher!!!
22 of the 50 states have median property taxes in excess of 1%. New Jersey is the highest at 1.89%. When combined with other property-related taxes and fees, the overall cost of property ownership far outstrips most of the Central and South American locations expats desire. In a very real sense, paradise is cheaper and living there is easier now than ever before.
If your fantasies drift toward exotic real estate purchases, you may have dreamed of owning your own tropical island. The reasons for wanting to own an island are as varied as these properties themselves.
For some folks it’s the status. For others it’s the opportunity to own a boutique resort or exclusive guest house with no pesky neighbors. Maybe you’ve thought about developing an island as an investment property, or perhaps it just seems like an ideal location to swing your retirement away in a hammock.
Whatever the motivation, we’re here to tell you owning an island is actually within the confines of feasibility. And if you’re looking to do it for a reasonable price without a huge amount of red tape, you should definitely consider buying an island in Honduras. Here are six good reasons why.
Buying an Island in Honduras Is Simpler Than You Think
Honduras has a stable government that is the second oldest democracy in Latin America and is modeled after the U.S. government. As such, they are very encouraging of foreign real estate investors. Foreigners have been permitted to purchase property there since 1991.
While technically non-citizens can only buy three-quarters of an acre, for about two grand, you can set up a corporation in Honduras, and as the Administrator, you can purchase any size property and set up a Honduran bank account.
Buying an island in Honduras is pretty easy, provided you work with local Honduran real estate agents and attorneys and follow a few basic steps:
- Verify the property history on the property registry, and make sure all tax payments are up-to-date and the title is clean.
- Notarize the preliminary deed to the property. (The notary fee is 3-5%.)
- Pay the 1.5% transfer tax and the 0.15% registration fee at a bank.
- Register the property at a property office. Then the official change of ownership will be filed with the Cadastre office, and you will receive a publicly registered document to that effect.
As the seller pays the agent’s fee in this case, the total charge to the buyer is between 4.65% and 6.65%. The entire process of buying an island in Honduras takes a little more than a month.
Sometimes sellers will finance the property for the new buyer, as Honduran bank financing is only available to legal residents (see below) and citizens. If you own property in the States, it may be possible to take out a second mortgage or line of credit against that and use the cash to buy in Honduras.
Honduras Is Still a Bargain
Honduras is still a little bit of a secret in the tropics, but it won’t be for long. The market is starting to rebound after the global economic downturn, and real estate prices won’t stay this low forever.
While it may be tempting to make super lowball offers on properties, it’s best to check on a listing’s history first. If the price has already been drastically reduced, it’s likely the owner won’t go much lower. And if they paid cash for the property, they won’t be upside down on a mortgage and desperate to sell.
Do your homework and partner with a good local agent, and you’ll be able to find something that fits with your wallet.
The overall cost of living in Honduras is about one-third to one-half of the rest of Central America. Property taxes and utility costs are very low, and there is no income tax on money earned outside the country. This allows most investors to either buy more property and maintenance help for their money or to get by on a smaller income.
If you are willing to live like a local (isn’t that why you’re there in the first place?), buying an island in Honduras is an incredible bargain.
You Have Lots of Choices
Buying an island in Honduras is like being Goldilocks. If this one is too big and that one is too small, you can still count on finding one that’s just right with the variety of properties available there. From tiny uninhabited atolls nestled in sapphire waters to fully developed luxury paradises, there is something for everyone. While there are always homes and parcels listed on the bigger Bay Islands, if you really want an entire island to yourself, it can be done.
The Residency Requirements Are Friendly There
As you would imagine in a country that makes it so easy for foreigners to buy property, residency requirements are quite straightforward and achievable too. While you don’t need to have a residency in Honduras to own property there, it’s generally recommended.
Establishing residency only takes about 3-6 months via the Honduran Embassy, after the usual fees and checks for identity, health, and criminal background. It can be done for a little over a thousand dollars, and you can get a visa in one of five categories:
- Residente Inversionista: if you intend to invest in Honduras
- Residente Rentista: if you are retired at a certain income level
- Residente Pensionada: if you are retired at a lower income level
- Working Residency: if you are employed by a Honduran business
- Family Residency: as a spouse or parent of a Honduran citizen
Residency categories and income qualifications change periodically for all Latin American countries, so check with the nearest embassy for the most up-to-date requirements.
You’ll Make Everyone at Home Jealous
Don’t underestimate this one. How cool is it to have your own retreat from the world with complete privacy and control over your entire environment? And buying an island in Honduras will likely cost you less than a nice pied a terre in Manhattan or a flat in Kensington.
You can feel like a kid again exploring the wilderness and living in a cabin with no electricity, or you can build the palace of your dreams. Either way people will hate you. Then they’ll suck up to you so they can say, “I’m going to spend the week visiting friends in Honduras. Did I mention they have their own island?”
Honduras Is Wide Open for Business Opportunities
Just like with the real estate market, this is a terrific time to set up business in Honduras. The tourism industry is burgeoning there, and opportunities abound for people to cater to it. Anything to do with leisure time there is sure to be a hit: snorkeling or scuba diving (Honduras, like Belize, is part of the Mesoamerican Reef), fishing, boating, riding, or golfing, to name a few.
If you want confirmation of how popular Honduras is becoming, just look at how much cruise ship activity has picked up there. Industry leader Carnival even developed their own beach on Roatan for passengers. These floating villages bring thousands of people to Honduras every time they dock, so there is an infinite supply of new customers for many types of businesses.
Whether you’re seeking a stunning retirement locale or a place to start a second, completely different career, buying an island in Honduras can make it possible. Put it on the radar for your next vacation, so you can fly down and see for yourself why it’s consistently on many top ten retirement destinations. You may like it so much you’ll regret having bought a return ticket.
Josh and Park have experienced many different colorful situations over the years while scouting out real estate investments. Join them today for a podcast recount as murder confessions, 300 lb. tunas, and 9mm Berettas all make appearances when they retell some of their stories from the road.
Maybe the greatest job in the world, Park and Josh reminisce about some of their most memorable days while exploring the far reaches of Central America in their search for the best real estate can offer.
In this episode, we discuss:
- How to get the right boat for scouting
- Why bodyguards make fun scouts
- Where you can reel in a 300 lb. tuna
And much more.
Listen to the show
You can listen to the show using the player above or grab it and listen on the go via one of the following options:
- Click here to download the mp3
- Click here to subscribe via iTunes
- Click here for the RSS feed (non iTunes)
- Click here for the show archive
The Show Notes
What makes a destination a great place to live? Is it the place with the most pleasant surroundings? The lowest cost of living? Or even the healthiest and happiest people?
In compiling my list of the best places to live in the world, I took into consideration all of those factors. Plus some others I’ll mention as we go. And the common denominator among all ten of my top destinations is that they’re all in Latin America.
Why? Because the countries just south of the U.S. border have so much to offer in terms of natural beauty, authentic culture, unrivaled quality of life, and a heck of a lot of bang for your buck.
That’s why these ten best places to live in the world are becoming home to an increasing number of North American expats each year. Because when it comes down to choosing a place to actually settle down and dive into the local culture and become a part of the expat community, you just can’t beat these ten destinations.
Panama consistently ranks among the top retirement destinations in the world, taking top billing again in 2014. And Boquete is its crown jewel, claiming more North American expats than anywhere else in the country, with the exception of the capital of Panama City.
Yet even with its status as a top expat hotspot, it still maintains a small-town feel, due in part to its quaint mountain setting and friendly locals. It’s also home to pretty much any type of business or service you could ever need, thanks to a long-standing expat presence.
Surrounding Boquete are cloud forests, coffee farms, rivers, and numerous other natural landscapes that offer a wealth of activities for the adventurous expat. The area enjoys spring-like temperatures all year, with frequent showers that produce almost daily rainbows.
The cost of living is low, although it’s slowly climbing as more and more expats settle in the area. With fantastic infrastructure and a lot of modern developments, it’s still a great value. Panama is also a favorite destination due to its attractive retirement program benefits for those who qualify.
Cuenca is another mountain town with a large expat community, and for good reason. It’s known for its rich culture, which includes its colonial architecture and a lively art and music scene.
Ecuador also boasts one of the lowest costs of living in the Americas. You can plan to spend less on everything from fresh produce to a renovated condo in the bustling downtown area.
Cuenca is home to a number of universities, making it a hub for international students. It’s also a great, safe place for families with its excellent education and health care options.
There are also plenty of great restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and all of the other creature comforts you’d expect to find in a metropolitan city. Yet it enjoys the same slow pace of life you’ll find throughout Latin America. It’s the best of both worlds.
Though it’s recognized for the terra cotta roofs and blue church domes that dots its city skyline, the area around Cuenca is equally breathtaking. It sits at the convergence of four rivers and is surrounded by mountains, offering plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure.
Nosara, Costa Rica
Nosara is the perfect example of what happens when a city is founded with a plan and the residents remain committed to that vision for decades running. Once used for grazing cattle, the land in and around Nosara has been developed very intentionally, and the results are really remarkable.
No high rise condos block your view of the beautiful sunsets on Nosara’s pristine beaches. Numerous conservation efforts and organizations work to maintain the area’s natural surroundings.
Nosara is known for its surfing, yoga, and healthy lifestyle options. It’s also a great place for families. It’s safe and has several really good schools.
And Costa Rica’s laid-back lifestyle easily adds to the reasons Nosara is one of the best places to live in the world. The locals are incredibly welcoming, greeting residents and visitors alike with the phrase “pura vida” (pure life) that’s become a motto of sorts for the country.
Nosara has a good-sized expat community, as well as the established infrastructure and development you’d expect from such a world-class destination.
The largest of the Bay Islands, Roatan is a great choice if island living is what you’re after. With plenty of development and consumer options, as well as an airport with direct flights from the U.S., there’s little need to ever leave the island.
There you can enjoy every imaginable aquatic adventure. From sailing to sport fishing to kayaking through the mangroves, it’s all possible in Roatan. Just off the coast you’ll also find access to the world’s second largest reef system, which makes for some incredible snorkeling and scuba diving.
Because it hasn’t quite yet reached the popularity of some of its Latin island counterparts, Roatan is still a bit more affordable. However with its growing tourism industry, including frequent visits from cruise ship passengers, Roatan’s appeal is being discovered by more and more would-be expats each year.
Despite its growing population Roatan still offers some off-the-beaten path areas that offer plenty of solitude, including a few villages that still don’t have electricity.
Boca Chica, Panama
Another Panama destination has made the list, thanks to its attractive retirement benefits and amazing investment opportunities. Boca Chica is an island destination that’s still relatively unknown but has the potential for tremendous growth in the coming years.
Located in the Gulf of Chiriqui, it consists of a mainland city and an archipelago of over 50 islands, many of which are completely uninhabited. Residents of Boca Chica can spend their days exploring otherworldly islands covered in rainforests, mangroves, and even white sand beaches.
And because of its convenient location, those same adventurous expats can then take a quick shower and drive 45 minutes to enjoy a first-rate steak dinner in a world-class restaurant in the nearby city of David.
It’s this strategic location, combined with a whole host of ongoing infrastructure improvements, that makes Boca Chica real estate such a great investment.
An airport expansion that’s now bringing in direct international flights is among one of the biggest value-adds the area has seen. Folks can now fly in to David from anywhere in the world and find themselves in Boca Chica in under an hour.
Granada is another colonial city that’s absolutely brimming with culture and charm. Horse-drawn carriages still dot the cobblestone streets. If it weren’t for the freshly-painted tropical colors on the historic buildings, you might think you’d stepped back in time.
Well, that and the modern amenities available in the city, a stark contrast from the wilderness that occupies most of the rest of the country. In what’s a mostly underdeveloped country, Granada offers things like reliable utilities, four-star restaurants, and state-of-the-art fitness centers.
It’s located on Lake Nicaragua, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. It’s also surrounded by several volcanoes, so plenty of opportunities for exploration abound.
Granada is a town that fought its way back from near demise due to bankruptcy and other issues, but you’d never know it today. Instead, modern-day Granada is abuzz with construction projects and up-and-coming developments.
Granada real estate is extremely affordable, as is the cost of living in the country. It’s home to a number of expats, many of whom are involved in humanitarian efforts in the surrounding impoverished areas.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
If you want to feel like you’re on vacation 24/7 then look no further than the island of Ambergris Caye. Due to its status as a tourist mecca, it’s ripe with all kinds of activities and attractions.
There are surf shops and scuba schools, beach-side restaurants and bars, and plenty of flip flops and floral shirts. In fact, most of the island’s inhabitants are foreigners, particularly those who operate enterprises geared towards other expats and visitors.
The large expat community isn’t the only thing that makes Ambergris Caye feel familiar. Because Belize was originally a British colony, it’s the only Central American nation whose residents rely on the British legal system and speak English as their official language.
Among the biggest perks of the island are that it’s an ocean lover’s dream. Thanks to its proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world, it’s the perfect place to enjoy scuba diving, sailing, and sport fishing. You can also explore the more than 450 other islands that lie off the coast.
If you’re looking for a place that’s a little less popular among expats and tourists, then you should definitely check out Antigua. It’s a well-preserved colonial city nestled in between some amazing mountains and volcanoes, which make for an impressive skyline.
Because it’s not as highly sought after as some of the other destinations on the list, the cost of living in Antigua is probably a little less than in some of its Latin competitors. Real estate is a great bargain, as are essentials like fresh fruits and veggies and utilities.
With the low cost of living, it’s also possible to splurge on luxuries such as domestic help, which at only $2 or $3 per hour is something many expats are thrilled to find that they can afford when they relocate to the tropics.
In addition to the mountainscapes, Antigua is also decorated with beautiful flora and fauna, as well as the cobblestone streets and other charming touches you’d expect in an ancient destination.
Equipped with just the right amount of infrastructure, Antigua is also known for its Spanish language schools.
If you like Belize but aren’t crazy about the gringo-saturated island culture then the mainland city of Placencia is another place worth the title of best places to live in the world. If the islands are like living on a resort, then Placencia is like relaxing on a postcard.
The beaches are wider, whiter, and less crowded than in places like Ambergris Caye. There are still plenty of activities to enjoy, but there are also more places to spread out or even find a secluded spot all to yourself.
There’s also a more authentic Caribbean vibe on the mainland, which many expats prefer. It has an even more laid-back atmosphere (if that’s possible), with not even so much as a paved road anywhere in town.
As opposed to the expat-run businesses on the island, the locals are very involved in commerce in Placencia. They even offer guided diving and fishing excursions to visiting foreigners.
Plus, since Placencia is on the mainland, it’s also close to a number of activities suited for the land lover, like jungle exploration and archaeological sites.
Lake Chapala, Mexico
Understandably Mexico is home to more U.S. expats than any other country. And, other than the border town of Tijuana, the majority of those live in the Lake Chapala area. So suffice it to say that 40,000 U.S. expats would agree that this city is one of the best places to live in the world.
Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, Chapala was once planned as a luxury resort town. It serves as a weekend getaway for locals from Guadalajara and has attracted expats for decades, including Tennessee Williams who chose it as the site from which to write A Streetcar Named Desire.
In addition to the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains, Lake Chapala offers an ideal climate year-round. It’s also famous for its mariachi music.
Which of the best places to live in the world is right for you?
So if stunning scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure are your thing, there’s a place on this list that’s right for you. If sustainable living and a relaxed vibe are what you’re into, there’s a destination where you can find those as well.
I’ve done the hard part by laying out the ten best places to live in the world. Now all you have to do is narrow it down.
A “bucket list” is a collection of places to see and things to do before you die. There are so many once-in-a-lifetime activities to engage in and places to visit throughout Central America that could, literally, fill many bucket lists. Yet there are some that are truly must-see locations and unique adventures that make the Central America Bucket List one that everyone should try and check off.
The Central America Bucket List – a blend of history, culture, nature, wildlife, and adventure
If you’ve ever wanted to explore ancient ruins, immerse yourself in a totally different culture, stand in awe of a natural piece of beauty, get up close and personal with creatures of the jungle or try something new like zip-lining or deep-sea fishing, you have already created your ownCentral American Bucket list.
The places and activities that are listed below are not in any particular order of importance or priority. All should be seen and experienced regardless and truly appreciated for the wonders that they are; they may even inspire you to create your own list as well.
Mayan Ruins – Tulum, Mexico and Tikal, Guatemala
The Mayan Civilization has long held a fascination for many people. Viewing the towering pyramids and intricate ruins can make memories that last a lifetime. Two of the best known locations that embody this vanished culture are the ruins in Tikal, Guatemala and Tulum, Mexico. Separated by only 600 kilometers, these two iconic locations symbolized the height and power of the Mayan culture.
Visiting the imposing Temple of the Jaguar in Tikal or the majestic and well preserved “City of the Sun” in Tulum, Mexico can be an awe-inspiring reminder of how important enjoying each day is and that nothing is eternal. With nearby airport access to both sites, such in the Mayan Riveria, the Central American Bucket List items are ones that everyone should see and experience.
The Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica
Of all the volcanoes throughout Central America, none is more majestic than Volcan Arenal in Costa Rica. Still active (although quiet of late), this imposing and beautiful mountain towers over the surrounding region, including Lake Arenal, at a height of 5,437 feet and is easily accessible from nearby San Jose.
This is the biggest lake in Central America and the 19th largest in the world. Easily reached from Managua, this fresh water wonder boasts something that most fresh-water bodies of water lack: sharks. The bull sharks of Lake Nicaragua can grow up to 11 feet in length; encountering one of these predators certainly falls under the category of “Well, there’s something you don’t see every day”.
Whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River, Costa Rica
Ranked as one of the top ten whitewater rafting locations in the world, the Pacuare River can provide the kind of adrenalin-filled adventure that should be a part of everyone’s bucket list. Combining the stunning beauty of the area with the heart-stopping class III and IV rapids, this river adventure is truly a ride for the ages.
Meet a Mayan Shaman
With all of the recent attention paid to the Mayan Calendar and the mysticism surrounding it, the opportunity to meet and interact with a genuine Mayan Shaman could be a life-changing experience. Practitioners of this ancient spiritual craft can be found in Belize, Honduras and Guatemala and are more than ready to share their wisdom and provide a unique insight in the Mayan World.
Tour the Panama Canal
Since its completion in 1914, the Panama Canal has been the major waterway between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, fulfilling the dream envisioned for centuries. Modern tours through the Canal provide a special opportunity to view this engineering marvel and follow in the footsteps of explorers from the mists of history who had searched for this passage.
The Galapagos Archipelago
Darwin’s visit to this group of islands, part of modern-day Ecuador, and filled with a vast collection of unique and endemic species, led him to develop his theory of evolution and natural selection. Following Darwin’s path will permit visitors the chance to discover penguins, giant tortoises, and many other creatures that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Whale watching in Costa Rica
The humpback whales migrate along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica from between August and October every year. Being able to see these leviathans of the deep in their element is a magical and moving sight and should be a part of every bucket list.
Ambergris Caye – home to the second largest coral reef system in the world
The coral reef along Ambergris Caye, Belize, is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Being much more accessible than the great “Down Under” this unique and fragile ecosystem is worthy of a special place on the list.
Have a toucan on your arm – the Peace Garden at La Paz, Costa Rica
Everyone has seen these colorful, comical birds but have you ever had one on your arm? At the Peace Garden, La Paz, Costa Rica, getting up close and personal with these multi-colored creatures is easier than you might imagine and certainly something that is not an everyday occurrence.
Rainforest adventures – zip-lining, hiking, waterfalls, and animals
Central America has wonderful opportunities to visit rainforests throughout the region. Zip-lining, hiking to secluded waterfalls, horseback rides through the jungle and seeing exotic birds, monkeys, sloths, and many other creatures in their natural state makes this a true bucket list item to be experienced and treasured.
Monteverde Cloud Forest – home of the Resplendent Quetzal
Perhaps the best know cloud forest in the world, the Monteverde Cloud Forest has a charming and rare resident–the Resplendent Quetzal. Discovering this regal bird in the stunning backdrop of a cloud forest is a special treat that should be included in any bucket list. Stand on the Continental Divide with one foot on the Caribbean side and the other on the Pacific-something that can’t be done any place else.
Deep sea fishing
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a blue marlin on the end of your line, fighting you every step of the way? Deep Sea Fishing in Costa can fulfill this “bucket list” wish; tuna, wahoo, sailfish and, or course, the mighty Marlin are all there waiting for the right angler and the right moment–a moment that can be yours.
A sea turtle haven – Tortugero, Costa Rica
For the nature lover, visiting the spawning and hatching ground for sea turtles can be a special item on a bucket list. Tortugero, on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica is the place where green, leatherback, and the rare hawkbill turtles can be seen nesting and hatching in the cycle of life. The National Park is also home to jaguars, tapirs, macaws, and monkeys.
The haunted island of San Lucas, Costa Rica
If paranormal investigation is part of your bucket list, the former prison island of San Lucas, Costa Rica will fulfill this desire. Long known as a haunted location, San Lucas has been featured on television and on numerous sites about ghost hunting. Bring your recorders and cameras and see if you can capture the spirits said to still remain there.
The Central America Bucket List – getting there is easy
Central America is readily accessible from the U.S. and Europe. Regularly scheduled flights to and from major jumping off points such as San Jose, Costa Rica, Panama City, Panama, Managua, Nicaragua, and Guayaquil, Ecuador–to name but a few–make getting to those bucket list locations convenient and affordable.
There are many tours and travel packages that are available that can be tailored to meet every desire and wallet size. Exploring and experiencing the wonders of Central America has never been easier.
The Central America Bucket List – living there is easy as well
As you explore, check off, and add items on your particular “Central America bucket list” you may discover that the best way to do and see everything is to actually live in Central America. With so many options available–from lots, homes, apartments, condos, and even commercial properties–living in Central America can be a desirable alternative to traveling and can place you in the heart of the experiences and adventures of a lifetime.
The best Central America hikes are certainly not your average walk in the park. For those who seek the “road less traveled” Central America is the place to visit and explore. Lush jungles, hidden waterfalls, breathtaking mountain vistas and untapped natural beauty make this part of the world a veritable hiker’s dream.
Best Central America Hikes – Many Choices from Mild to Wild
You don’t have to be a hard-core experienced trekker to enjoy the wonders of hiking in Central America. There are many options throughout the region ranging from downhill jungle paths to rugged volcano trails and everything in between. The only hard part might be having to make a choice between the wonderful and diverse locations of the best Central America hikes.
Cusuco National Park, Honduras
If hiking along lush jungle paths, seeking out hidden waterfalls, and discovering exotic animals in their natural state sounds like your kind of adventure, then Cusuco National Park in Honduras is certainly the place for you. The primal force of Pulhapanzak Waterfall with its 140 foot drop, the mystery of the Taulabe Caves, and rich biodiversity of the jungle itself make this one of the best Central America hikes.
Chimborazo Circuit, Ecuador
On the other end of the hiking spectrum is Chimborazo Circuit in Ecuador. This multi-day experience along the “avenue of the volcanoes” is home to several peaks above 16,400 feet including mighty Chimborazo whose 20,564 height makes it the farthest point from the Earth’s surface at the Earth’s center.
Camping in tents, exploring glaciers and local villages, and become immersed in the culture and lifestyle of the Andean highlands are just some of the reasons that make this one of the best Central America hikes.
The Quetzal Trail, Panama
Panama’s foremost day hiking trail is the Quetzal Trail. Winding through the Volcán Barú National Park along the northeastern side of the volcano, this jungle path is home to its namesake, the stunning Resplendent Quetzal.
The trail is mostly a downhill trek through unspoiled primary jungle from Cerra Punta to the village of Boquete. Travelers can actually have their luggage sent ahead from Cerra Punta to their next lodging in Boquete which is just another feature making this one of the best Central America hikes.
Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
If true biodiversity is what you are looking for in a hiking experience, the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica is the perfect destination.
From empty beaches along the Pacific Ocean, lush coastal forests filled with exotic jungle life such as monkeys, sloths, and the elusive jaguar with flocks of scarlet macaws in the trees, Corcovado may be one of the most unique and special hiking locations on Earth. With a ranger station that welcomes campers, Corcovado is clearly one of the best Central America hikes.
Maribos Volcanic Range, Nicaragua
Imagine hiking 21 volcanoes in seven days! The Maribos Volcanic range near Leon, Nicaragua can provide just that kind of adventure. With trails that can vary in difficulty depending on your preference and skill level, the Maribos Range, including the daunting Momotombo Volcano is just the kind of challenge hikers love to embrace, making another of the best Central America hikes.
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
For sheer beauty, the Arenal Volcano and the surrounding area in Costa Rica is nearly impossible to beat. With a huge reservoir, a 2900-hectare national park, numerous accessible trails running through cloud and rain forests that surround it, hiking Arenal is definitely a must-do as part of the best Central America hikes.
Lake Atitlan Volcanoes, Guatemala
The three volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan in Guatemala provide a variety of hiking adventures in one of the most picturesque locations in the world.
The tallest of the three, Atitlan (11,601 ft.) offers an 8 hour trek to a summit that provides a stunning view of the Pacific Coast; San Pedro (9,906 ft.) will allow those who make the 4 hour climb a chance to view and discover plants and animals rarely seen elsewhere; Toliman (10,358 ft.) has a forest area near the summit for camping. Having three different hiking choices in one location is unique among the best Central America hikes.
Monteverde/St. Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
No list of the best Central America hikes would be complete without including the Monteverde/St. Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. Filled with numerous trails that are well maintained and easy to navigate, Monteverde offers unparalleled natural beauty, a chance to see flora and fauna that are both unusual and rare including the Resplendent Quetzal. Lodging choices nearby complete a near perfect picture of nature hiking at its finest.
Guanacaste National Park, Belize
This 50 acre preserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise and another of the best Central America hikes. Located in the center of Belize, just 2 miles from the capital city of Belmopan, the small size and easy access makes it convenient for casual nature hikes as well as the opportunity to enjoy both the natural features, in terms of exotic plants and animals, and the cultural aspects of life in Belize today along with its Mayan past.
Pico Bonito Park, Honduras
Meaning ‘beautiful peak”, Pico Bonito is definitely a hike for those with expedition experience and a love of adventure. The over 300 species of birds, jaguars, pumas, and the every present howler monkeys make this journey one that is not easily forgotten and clearly, one of the best Central America hikes.
Pirre Mountain, Panama
The hike to the summit of Pirre Mountain, Panama follows a challenging jungle trail in one of the country’s most remote regions. Monkeys, sloths, exotic birds, and a great collection of trees and flowers make this difficult trek more than worth the effort and certainly worthy of being considered one of the best Central American hikes.
Get Close to the Best Central America Hikes
With some many choices for hiking adventures throughout Central America, the best way to experience them all is to find your own “base camp” to allow you to visit and explore on your schedule. Finding places to live, short term, long term, or even purchase is easier than you might imagine and just a mouse-click away. Let your trek start now!
This week I talked to Phil Flanagan, world traveler and overland expert. Phil sourced and converted a European van to travel the world for less than $18,000 USD. He then proceeded to drive across Europe, Asia, North America, then South America for the ensuing 5-6 years.
In this episode Phil teaches you how to do it too, where to find a car, and his minimalistic approach to maximum travel experience. Phil and partner Angie were able to to travel this way for $50 a day, including food for both of them, maintenance, gas, and everything else.
In this episode, we discuss:
- How to build your own overland vehicle for only $18,000 USD
- Learn what vans make the best choices
- What to consider before you buy your overland vehicle
- How to avoid the “extortion highway” in Honduras
- The incredible rewards just waiting for you on the road
And much more.
Listen to the show
You can listen to the show using the player above or grab it and listen on the go via one of the following options:
- Click here to download the mp3
- Click here to subscribe via iTunes
- Click here for the RSS feed (non iTunes)
- Click here for the show archive
The Show Notes
Phil Flanagan has his own travel site that you can see here
You may think that owning island property in the Latin tropics isn’t possible within the budget you’ve set for your expat home abroad.
Prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
It’s true that, due to its high demand, island property may tend to run a little on the pricey side. (After all, there is only a finite amount of it available.) But, depending on the level of development and the number of amenities you’re seeking, it’s entirely possible to find remote real estate to fit any budget.
In fact, check out these 10 places you can own an island, or at least a nice-sized chunk of one, for $500,000 or less.
Alligator Caye, Belize: $99,000
Just reduced from $169,000, this property includes 10.7 acres on the southern end of Alligator Caye. It’s off the coast of Belize, slightly north of the town of Dangriga. The Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world, lies just a few hundred yards in front of the property.
It can be reached by boat in 30 minutes from Dangriga or just 45 minutes from Belize City. A lagoon on the back of the island, to which the property has access, offers sheltered boat mooring.
This completely undeveloped island is a blank canvas in a popular area near the country’s largest tourist attraction, the reef. The area has been designated as a World Heritage Site due to its ecological importance. It’s also a great spot for fishing.
Boca Chica, Panama: $199,000 – $449,000
Video of a Glass House for Sale on Boca Chica Island
Boca Chica Island is a gem of a destination located just off Panama’s Pacific Coast in the Gulf of Chiriqui. Surrounded by over 50 mostly uninhabited islands, as well as some of the world’s best sport fishing, it’s currently one of the hottest places in the country to buy property. And it’s our only island project.
This is due largely in part to the newly expanded international airport in David, a number of other large infrastructure projects, and some really incredible scenery. It’s a beautiful place to call home, and it’s an even better place to invest in real estate.
There aren’t a ton of lots still available in the island’s Adventure Colony development, but what’s left is still a great bargain. You can get three acres full of old growth coconut trees, with a level spot that’s already been cleared for a home site, for only $199,000. It sits at the corner of a sandy beach and offers access to a private dock, as well as its own fresh water well.
Also on the island is a contemporary home with three bedrooms and two baths that comes complete with a fully modern kitchen, a solar power system, premium finishes, custom furniture, and air conditioning throughout. Its private dock is right in front of the home, which sits on .75 acres.
It also has a freshwater spring, a large storage bodega, and mature fruit trees. There’s even a caretaker who can continue to provide service to the property if you so choose. All this can be yours for only $449,000.
South Saddle Caye, Belize: $300,000
Located off the southern tip of larger Saddle Caye, this island property offers a whopping 2.3 acres, making it a steal of a deal. The island has tons of coral along its southern and eastern shore lines.
On the eastern side, there’s a steep drop-off to over 50 feet, making it great for snorkeling. The western side has a shallow entrance that slopes quite gradually and is perfect for swimming in the beautiful water that’s characteristic of the area.
The western shore also has a great sandy area that would make a great beach after a bit of much-needed clearing. There are large black mangroves in many spots across the island, indicating a solid footing for building.
Secret Island, Belize: $350,000
Located just seven miles off the coast of Belize, Secret Island is a Caribbean getaway that offers loads of potential. At 2.5 acres, it offers plenty of room to build a few houses. There’s also a great beach and a deep cove to allow for a dock.
You would likely need to sand fill the island, in order to have a solid base for construction. Since it’s close to the mainland (roughly a 20-minute boat ride), the transport of building materials would be relatively simple.
The island’s landscape is remarkable with red and black mangroves surrounding it. The water is shallow, only knee deep at 30 yards out in some places. The island offers views of the mainland, as well as several other islands that are within a mile away, and the entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Granada, Nicaragua: $350,000
This small island is located in Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America. At just under a quarter of an acre, it has just enough space to hold a large three-bedroom, four-bath home and gardens with mature coconut trees.
The home has several terraces and a system for heating water from the fresh water well. There’s also a caretaker already on staff. The home is just five minutes from the nearest dock and 45 minutes from the capital of Managua.
Turneffe Point Caye, Belize: $350,000
With a whole acre to develop as you choose, this island on the north tip of Turneffe Atoll is a real bargain. It’s protected by the Belize Barrier Reef, which lies just 500 yards away. As a result, the water around the island is calm, even on the windiest of Caribbean days.
For access, the island is 28 miles away from Belize City, making it the perfect secluded destination. In addition to exploring the reef, it’s also a great spot to enjoy flats fishing.
Isla Paloma, Panama: $400,000
This .25 acre island is located in the peaceful Isla Paloma off Panama’s Caribbean coast, near Bocas del Toro. It has a white sand beach and too many varieties of fruit trees to name. It’s surrounded by a shallow lagoon and mangroves that help protect the island from erosion.
There’s little tide fluctuation and no history of hurricanes in this area. The island enjoys a mild tropical climate (averaging around 80 degrees). It’s also fully self-powered with its own water source, allowing for the possibility of year-round living or use as an income property.
The home itself has two bedrooms and one bath, plus a loft space. It’s fully furnished and includes all kitchen equipment, electronics, linens, and decor. Outside there’s a beautiful garden, party shack, and swim dock for entertaining.
The boathouse has five boat slips (two covered) and includes a 26′ panga style boat with an 85 hp Yamaha engine. There are also water sport toys and equipment, such as skiis, snorkel gear, ropes, life jackets, and a canoe. The separate workshop also comes with all the hand and power tools you’ll need to keep up the property.
Supplies can be obtained from the local town of Loma Partida, which has groceries, hardware stores, restaurants, and some activities. The nearest regional airport is 25 minutes away.
Roatan, Honduras: $469,000
Located on the popular island of Roatan, this property includes a well-constructed two-bedroom home, plus a separate apartment, that’s the perfect place to launch your very own sport fishing or aquatic excursion company. In fact, the current owners have already laid all the groundwork for a successful tourism operation.
The home includes high end finishes and an updated kitchen with modern appliances. There are two more bedrooms in the lower level apartment that has its own private entrance and patio.
As if this weren’t enough, the home also includes a tricked out boathouse, complete with a full kitchen and barbecue area, four private docks, and plenty of areas for lounging. There are two boat lifts, an overhead deck, and tons of storage.
If a tourism business is in your plans, the owners have their successful charter business for sale. Other income options include rental of one of several boat slips or of the downstairs apartment. The possibilities with this property are literally endless.
Isle of Navarro, Panama: $500,000
This island is located out from Dolphin Bay near beautiful Bocas del Toro. In addition to the generous nine acres of dry island, there’s also a 2800 square foot house that’s built out over the water in the popular style of the area. There’s also a separate residence that can be used for guests or a caretaker.
The island is covered in lush vegetation, which includes pineapple plants, coconut palms, orchids, and banana and papaya trees. It also comes with a 26′ boat with 40 hp motor as well as two generators for power.
Among its other amenities include the island’s proximity (only five minutes by boat) from Bocas del Toro, the country’s top tourist destination.
Pink Pearl Island, Nicaragua: $500,000
One of the Pearl Cays, this two acre island is only three miles off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Although it could also work as a private personal retreat, the property is currently being used as a tourist business, making it the perfect turnkey property for the entrepreneurial expat.
The options are endless, as the area is great for both sport fishing and scuba diving. It’s a beautiful piece of property with turquoise waters and white sand beaches. It’s protected by the surrounding reefs and other islands and covered in lush flora and fauna.
Structures on the island include three cabanas, each with two double beds and a private bath, an eight-person bunk house with shower room, and a circular main house with a downstairs kitchen and living area and an upstairs master suite with a balcony that offers 360 degree views of the island. There’s also a restaurant/bar with bamboo tables and chairs and a workers’ cabin with kitchen and bedroom space.
The island is easily accessible by boat, but you can also charter a helicopter from Managua or the nearby Bluefields or Corn Islands. There’s a pier on the front of the island, and the purchase includes a 25′, 150 hp speedboat, “The Black Pearl.”
Other features include a heart-shaped swimming pool and a small bamboo beach shower. The property is powered by a 5500-watt generator and is wired for cable and phone service.
So, don’t give upon your dream of owning an island just yet. Check out our island real estate listings to see what’s available, or ask us how we can help.
If the country’s crime rate is the thing that’s keeping Honduras real estate off the list of properties you’re considering abroad, then I have some good news for you.
It’s not that the Honduras crime rate is lower than what you’ve heard. (If anything the situation is probably way worse.) But fortunately, the problem areas are all a considerable distance from where you’ll find the most desirable Honduras real estate.
So just how bad is crime in Honduras?
I’m not going to sugarcoat or gloss over the statistics. Honduras has a very real crime problem. In fact, it has the highest rate of intentional homicide in the entire world, at 82 out of every 100,000 people. That number is even drastically higher than neighboring El Salvador which, as the second highest homicide rate, only experiences 66 homicides per 100,000 deaths.
There are a number of factors that contribute to these high rates of crime and murder.
For starters, the country is extremely poor. Its education system is only so-so, and it experiences a high rate of unemployment. Gangs are common, particularly among youth, and the apprehension and conviction rates of offenders is low.
One of the largest contributors to the country’s crime problem is its role as a major drug route to the U.S. The illegal drug trade in Honduras is prevalent and has gained steam in recent years following the 2009 coup d’état of then president Manuel Zelaya, at which point the U.S. suspended anti-drug support.
What are the areas to avoid?
Despite the crime problems that do exist, potential expats and visitors to Honduras will be happy to know that these conditions are not homogenous throughout the country as a whole. In fact, there’s a stark difference between mainland Honduras and the Caribbean islands, which are the areas most frequented by travelers.
That’s not to say that crime can’t happen anywhere. It can, and it does. No place in the world is exempt. But in general, there are two major areas to steer clear of when traveling in the country or shopping for Honduras real estate.
San Pedro Sula
With the highest murder rate on earth, as of 2014, San Pedro Sula is the country’s second largest city. Located near the country’s Caribbean coast, its homicides recently topped that of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, another city that’s plagued with crime related to drug and gang activity.
It’s home to Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport, so visitors flying into the country’s mainland are advised to use caution when traveling. Busloads of tourists have been known to fall victim to robberies, sometimes by armed hijackers.
Francisco Morazan Department
Home to Tegucigalpa, the nation’s capital, this department (similar to a U.S. county) is another place to avoid in Honduras. Located in the central part of the nation, it’s considered to be the most violent department overall.
Thankfully the area, which is quite mountainous, has little to offer tourists. Some of the highest peaks house cloud forests, such as Cerro Uyuca or La Tigra National Park. The northern portion of the department is home to the Jicaque people.
Now for the good news
It doesn’t sound much like I’m trying to convince you to consider making a home in Honduras, does it? In fact, if anything, I’ve probably only confirmed your reservations about the Central American nation and its increasing crime problem. But here’s the good news.
A completely different world awaits you out on the Caribbean islands of Honduras.
There you’ll find pristine beaches, a stunning tropical landscape with exotic flora and fauna, the world’s second largest reef system, a well-developed tourist infrastructure, a vibrant expat community, and almost any modern convenience you can think of, and virtually no violent crime to speak of.
Are the Bay Islands, including Roatan, crime-free?
Like I said, there’s no place on earth that’s a complete paradise, free of any crime. However, the difference between the crime rates on Honduras’ mainland and its Caribbean islands, such as the increasingly-popular Roatan, is extremely refreshing. Here are a few key reasons for the contrast.
- Access to the islands is limited. People who visit Roatan and the other islands can only arrive through a limited number of controlled access points: the airport, the cruise docks, or the ferry from the mainland (whose passengers must pass through a metal detector). However, it should be noted that Roatan can also be reached fairly easily from the mainland by small, private watercraft.
- Numerous steps have been taken to prevent crime on Roatan and the other islands. Police stops on Roatan are common, as the island only has one main road. There’s also a naval base on the island of Guanaja, which the U.S. constructed to help combat drug trafficking. Two more are also under construction on the mainland’s Caribbean coast.
- A special police force exists specifically to protect the safety of tourists. They’re mostly on foot, but as a result of their presence most tourist areas tend to be safe, even after dark.
- Private guards can be hired for reasonable prices. Most people who own expensive homes, especially if they’re remote or only used seasonally, hire guards to watch their property while they’re away.
- A little common sense goes a long way. Any crime that does occur in Honduras’ more heavily touristed areas typically involves minor crimes like pickpocketing or petty theft. Much of this can be avoided by walking in well-lit areas, keeping valuables out of sight, sticking together with a group, relying on native guides who know the area, and avoiding remote beaches or slums at night.
Roatan and the other islands do have their occasional issues, but they’re few and far between. For example, home invasions by armed intruders have occurred in some remote homes. Travelers on the unpaved road from Punta Gorda have fallen victim to robbers. Paya Bay, on the eastern side of the island has seen its share of thefts as well.
In general, the island’s western end is much more developed and, consequently, safer than the more isolated eastern end. Coxen Hole, the island’s largest city, has a low-lying area called “the swamp” that’s littered with slums and is unsafe at night.
Why you’ll never have to worry about leaving the islands for the mainland
So, it sounds like the islands are about as safe as you can get for a developing nation. But, how can you be sure you’ll never find yourself having to travel to the mainland where the more serious crime problem exists? Here’s your answer.
Roatan is accessible by direct flight from the U.S.
Roatan’s Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport is nice, modern, and receives direct flights from the U.S. (as well as a number of other nations) via several major airlines such as American, Continental, Delta, Taca, and Iberia. Because of its close Caribbean location, you can even be there in a few short hours from cities like Miami or Houston.
There are also regional flights from the mainland, as well as a ferry. But, with such readily available air access from abroad, you likely won’t ever need to use either.
Once you arrive you probably won’t ever have to leave
When visiting or even living on Roatan or one of the other Bay Islands, you’ll likely find everything you need in the way of consumer goods and services. On Roatan, the cities of Coxen Hole and French Harbour, the two main commercial towns, have all the basic establishments you could expect.
There are supermarkets, banks, hardware stores, and more. There are public and private hospitals and even a decompression chamber for divers. Among the franchises represented on the islands are Subway, Ace Hardware, Wendy’s, and Applebee’s.
If you can’t find what you need on the islands, there are also a number of shipping centers where you can have goods shipped over from the U.S.
There are also options for those seeking a bit of solitude amidst all of this tourist development. Though it has plenty of modern amenities and conveniences, there are parts of Roatan that are still relatively untouched. You can find quaint little fishing villages and even miles-long stretches of deserted beaches. There are even a few villages that still don’t have electricity.
And I can guarantee you certainly won’t WANT to leave
For starters there are the spectacular scenic views and abundance of nature that are sure to hold your attention. Roatan’s varied topography includes sandy white beaches, jungle-covered mountains, and shadowy mangroves. And it’s all surrounded by the second largest reef system in the world.
Due to the prevalent reefs, many of which stretch almost to the shore, Roatan is a world-class diving and snorkeling destination. Around it lie some of the most species-rich waters in the entire Caribbean, much of which are protected by the Honduran government. There you can swim through caverns and canyons or just hang out closer to the surface and still enjoy incredible visibility in the clear waters.
You’ll also find tropical forests full of fruit trees, ferns, orchids, and palms. The islands are home to 12 species of mammal, including white-tailed deer. You can also find 40 species of reptiles, including lizards, frogs, and endangered sea turtles, but only one species of poisonous snake. Add to that around 120 species of birds, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, ibis, pelicans, and the yellow-nape parrot, and Roatan is a nature lover’s paradise.
The temps hover around 80 degrees, with constant trade winds that make it feel slightly cooler. The rainfall totals are manageable, with most falling between December and February, and what the islands do get helps keep everything lush and green.
There’s even plenty to entertain the adrenaline junkie
I talked about the diving, but that’s by far not the only reason people come to live or play on Roatan. Adventure loving expats can also go kayaking or even sailing. The sport fishing is top notch, with anglers reeling in tuna, marlin, and tarpon. The more laid-back fisherman can even go fly fishing in the mangroves and sand flats.
On land, there are dozens of places to go hiking or exploring. Tour companies offer zip-line canopy tours, horseback riding, and other guided tours of the island. There are also mangrove tours and glass-bottom boats. You can swim with dolphins, dive with whale sharks, or hop aboard a submarine that dives to depths of 2,000 feet.
For more easy-going family-friendly outings, there are botanical gardens, a hydroponics farm, and an iguana farm. You can also travel to Punta Gorda to spend time with the Garifuna people, an indigenous tribe of Afro-Caribbean descent. And don’t forget about one of the most popular hobbies of all…relaxing on the beach.
Honduras real estate that’s currently available
Here are a few examples of what you can get if you don’t shy away from Honduras real estate and the magnificent Bay Islands just because of the horrible (but true) things you’ve heard about the crime problem on the mainland:
- For $184,000, you can buy a 3 bedroom home in the development of Green Bamboo in West End. It comes fully furnished and includes outdoor living space, a pool, and a short walk to the beach.
- Your $219,000 gets you a 3 bedroom, 3 bath home overlooking Anthony’s Key, complete with furnishings, numerous upgrades, and even an SUV for traveling around the island. This gated oceanfront property has been recently renovated, with 2 tiled decks, an alarm system, and beautiful landscaping.
- With $579,000 you can own two homes on 1.8 acres of seaside property inside the Sandy bay marine reserve. It boasts panoramic ocean views, 130 feet of beachfront, and a short drive to all the popular tourist hotspots.
Aren’t you glad you didn’t dismiss Honduras real estate too hastily?
Does all of this sound starkly different than the mainland I described earlier in the article? It should. Because it is.
Mainland Honduras is a poverty-stricken, crime-laden third-world nation. Its Bay Islands are a well-developed tourist mecca with all the modern conveniences and a refreshingly laid-back Caribbean beach town vibe.
Don’t let the former steer you away from the latter. Learn more about Roatan and the surrounding islands, or I’m afraid you might be sorry you missed out on a great opportunity.
Map of Roatan, Honduras
Roatan, Honduras Fast Facts
- Population: 50,000
- Typical temperature: From 80 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit
- Nearest airport with U.S. flights: Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport
- Nearest U.S. consulate: Tegucigalpa, Honduras