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10 Best Places to Retire in Central America

If you want to retire in Central America, but you didn’t set your mind on a particular country, then you’ll find our list of best places to retire in Central America very useful.

Central America is a portion of the North America bordered by Mexico on the north and Colombia on the southeast. On the west and east, the borders are the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. There are seven countries in Central America: Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Central America has been a rising expat and retirement destination for decades now, mostly due to the rich culture, natural beauties and low cost of living. The fact that you are from 3 to 6 hours of flight away from American soil just makes it all even better. Annual Global Retirement Index for 2017 issued by International Living magazine has seen 6 countries from Central America ranking in the 24 top retirement destinations in the world. The index was calculated based on the country’s climate, healthcare, cost of living and many other factors.

10 Best Places to Retire in Central America

Ruslan Guzov/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to healthcare in the Central America, you should note that you won’t receive the same quality medical care in all of the countries. For example, while Costa Rica and Panama offer high-quality health care, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala fail to do so. One thing is common for all the countries of Central America when it comes to healthcare. The rural areas are seriously understaffed, and the quality of medical care is very low. All countries offer private insurance options that don’t cost too much, so that may be the best option for you. World Economic Forum’s report from 2017 tells us that in terms of Health and Hygiene, Panama ranks the highest in Central America (78th overall). The lowest rank is reserved for Honduras (100th overall).

The safety situation mostly depends on the location you are. The bigger cities, especially the capitals, all have dangerous neighborhoods where the most of the criminal activity takes place. Also, the touristic attractions are considered dangerous, especially if you stand out as a foreigner. Petty thefts are the most common issue that foreign visitors to Central America experience. According to the World Economic Forum, Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America (ranked 65th in the world) while El Salvador is the least safe one (ranked 134th in the world). Costa Rica is the second safest country in Central America, so you should check out our list of 10 best places to retire in Costa Rica to get a better insight into the retirement options in this country.

For those of you wondering how did we manage to come up with our list of best places to retire in Central America, let us reveal the methodology. First, we took recommendations for the best retirement destinations and places to live in Central America from Expat Exchange, The Street and International Living among others. Then we ranked the places and assigned points based on the average rent cost (taken from Numbeo, Expatistan), hospital to population ratio (Google Maps) and cost of a flight to Miami, FL (Google Flights). We added extra points for the rank of the countries (where the place is located) on Annual Global Retirement Index list. After summing it all up in our IM Score, we got our final list. You should note that hospital to population ratio is there to tell you (in theory) how many people from the population are assigned to one hospital. Also, the bus, taxi, flight cost (whichever was available) to the nearest International Airport was included in the final flight to U.S. cost.

10. Antigua – Guatemala

IM Score: 21
Rent Cost: $555
Hospital to Population Ratio: 9,133
Flight to U.S. Cost: $469
Country Global Retirement Index: 22

We will begin with the only entry from Guatemala on our list of best places to retire in Central America. Antigua has a colonial history and is full of beautiful buildings and historic landmarks. This turned the city into a popular touristic destination making it one of the most visited in Guatemala. You’ll have everything you need to lead a comfortable life here, while also being around half an hour away from the capital. One of the perks of retiring here is that flight to U.S. cost is second lowest compared to other places.

10 Best Places to Retire in Central America

Pixabay/Public Domain

9. Leon – Nicaragua

IM Score: 23
Rent Cost: $250
Hospital to Population Ratio: 70,205
Flight to U.S. Cost: $533
Country Global Retirement Index: 8

Just like Antigua, Leon will amaze you with its architecture and historical heritage. It’s the second largest city in Nicaragua and also the second oldest. The city is believed to be safe and friendly while offering lots to experience. The benefit of living in Leon is that the Pacific Coast and beautiful beaches are just 20 minutes away.


8. Punta Gorda – Belize

IM Score: 24
Rent Cost: $250
Hospital to Population Ratio: 5,351
Flight to U.S. Cost: $649
Country Global Retirement Index: 15

In case you would want to live on the beach, then this entry on our list of best places to retire in Central America is one to consider. This is a small town that will offer you all the comfort and peace you need. There isn’t much to do besides enjoying the sea and eat delicious food. But what else do you need?


7. San Juan del Sur – Nicaragua

IM Score: 25
Rent Cost: $545
Hospital to Population Ratio: 2,596
Flight to U.S. Cost: $541
Country Global Retirement Index: 8

Described as a place to enjoy life and have fun, San Juan del Sur will offer you much for a reasonable price. Although it is expensive compared to other parts of Nicaragua, the city is still a lot more affordable than any place in the United States. There is live music on the every corner, lots of activities to get through the day and most importantly, a large group of expats to help you get integrated into the community with ease.

10 Best Places to Retire in Central America

Pixabay/Public Domain

6. Matagalpa – Nicaragua

IM Score: 26
Rent Cost: $300
Hospital to Population Ratio: 21,520
Flight to U.S. Cost: $531
Country Global Retirement Index: 8

Ok, this is the last place from Nicaragua on the list of  best places to retire in Central America, we promise. In case you are not the greatest fan of beaches, Matagalpa can be a great alternative. The city will offer you a range of natural attractions and enable you to enjoy its rivers, lakes, and forests. If you are an outdoor type, this is the place to be.


5. La Ceiba – Honduras

IM Score: 26
Rent Cost: $165
Hospital to Population Ratio: 20,414
Flight to U.S. Cost: $573
Country Global Retirement Index: 11

Called “the entertainment capital of Honduras,” La Ceiba, next on our list of  best places to retire in Central America is a place for those who intend to lead an active lifestyle even in their retirement days. Thanks to its beaches, active nightlife, and natural attractions, La Ceiba is the most popular touristic destination in the country. Expect to find lots of recreational centers, good restaurants, and large expat community.


4. Atenas – Costa Rica

IM Score: 28
Rent Cost: $850
Hospital to Population Ratio: 5,000
Flight to U.S. Cost: $335
Country Global Retirement Index: 4

There are many positive things to say about this entry on our list of best places to retire in Central America. First, you’ll get the “best climate in the world,” since the weather is pleasant and stable all year long. For a long time, the city has been a popular retirement destination, so there will be lots of people sharing your interests. Besides the opportunity to enjoy in beautiful landscapes and natural attractions, you’ll be close to the beach and close to the capital San Jose which offers cheap flights to the United States. The only downside is the biggest rent cost compared to other entries on the list of best places to retire in Central America.


3. Las Tablas – Panama

IM Score: 28
Rent Cost: $400
Hospital to Population Ratio: 2,236
Flight to U.S. Cost: $604
Country Global Retirement Index: 2

According to the International Living magazine, Panama, is the second best retirement destination in the world, so the city of Las Tablas that ranked 3rd on our list of best places to retire in Central America is worth looking into. Everything is cheap, you’ll be in a friendly community, and the beach will always be just around the corner.


2. Santa Fe – Panama

IM Score: 28
Rent Cost: $475
Hospital to Population Ratio: 1,500
Flight to U.S. Cost: $600
Country Global Retirement Index: 2

The second place on our list of best places to retire in Central America goes to Santa Fe that will give you an opportunity to experience more traditional side of Panama. The life isn’t fast here like in Panama City, and you can really make the most out of your retirement. Nature is beautiful and breathtaking, allowing you to experience outdoor sports or just admire the wildlife, parks, and gardens. If relaxation is what you are looking for, then look no further than Santa Fe.


1. Corozal – Belize

IM Score: 35
Rent Cost: $210
Hospital to Population Ratio: 3,426
Flight to U.S. Cost: $496
Country Global Retirement Index: 15

There are plenty of reasons why Corozal deserves to be on top of our best places to retire in Central America list. There is the low cost of living, of course, allowing you to rent a comfortable apartment for $200 and less. Also, other costs will be very friendly to your budget including the flight ticket to the United States. Corozal also represents the most popular expat and retirement destination in the entire country, offering beautiful beaches, entertainment, plenty of recreational activities and overall relaxed lifestyle. If you want to retire in a tropical paradise without spending too much, Corozal offers that and lot more.