Retire in Central America

Retire in Central America
photo credit: KkleinRN

Central American Life

From our home in South Florida, it is relatively easy to travel to and retire in Central America. Certainly, being a snowbird in Central America continues to be a draw for people throughout the United States and Canada due to rich cultural experiences, temperate climates, friendly and inviting locals, and beautiful natural landscapes. Additionally, a couple could retire on less than $2,000 per month and live a rewarding lifestyle.

Central American Locations

  • Belize
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • El Salvador
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Mexico (Although normally considered part of North America, the UN classifies Mexico as being in Central America for statistical and reporting purposes. Additionally, Mexico shares many similarities with the other countries on this list)

North American retirees (and expats) enjoy easy travel to Mexico and Central America, therefore offering an opportunity to live in exciting countries while remaining close to home. As a result, snowbirds will find most things they can get in the southern United States and more. Whether you’re looking for beaches, outdoor adventure, culture, or ancient ruins, you’ll find it when you retire in Central America.

Learn the Culture

The area from the Yucatan Peninsula through Panama is about the size of Texas, but its history and tapestry of cultures has created a diverse society that appeals to many snowbirds. Mayan, Spanish, and African influences can be found throughout the region. For example, in Guatemala – the area’s indigenous heartland – more than 20 Mayan languages are spoken. Additionally, colonial plazas and afternoon siestas are both around thanks to the Spanish. And finally, the Caribbean coast is rich with colors and sounds harking back to African roots.

Visit the Beaches

Surfing the Pacific swells off Costa Rica, Scuba diving off the coast of Utila, or enjoying the tranquility of Isla Holbox – your ideal beach lifestyle is available. Although my preference is a quiet, laid back, small town beach vibe, those searching for high-energy party beaches will find them from Cabo and Cancun to  Bocas and Panama City.

Brush up on your Spanish

With the exception of Belize, where English is the official language, Latin American Spanish is the language of choice throughout Mexico and Central America. Learning a few basic Spanish phrases will go a long way toward enriching your snowbird experience and making your retire in Central America dream more fulfilling. As a result, the locals will appreciate your interest in their language and culture, and cultural experiences will present themselves that may have been missed if you only spoke English.

Quick Tips

  • Laundry service is cheap for those who snowbird in Central America, so pack half of what you think you need. Since locals rarely wear shorts unless they are at the beach, be sure to bring along light-weight pants or skirts and tops with short sleeves.
  • Once you’re outside of the cities, it’s not uncommon for good lodging options to not manage email or websites in ways your used to. But don’t be frustrated. Even if you have just a basic understanding of Spanish, call ahead.
  • It’s usually okay to bargain in markets or at street stalls, but ask around if you’re unsure.
  • Personal space may be different than what you’re used to in North America, so don’t be surprised if locals have fewer boundaries about personal space.

If You Like…

Snorkeling: Isla Holbox, Mexico; Utila, Honduras; Belize; Bocas del Toro, Panama; Manzanillo, Costa Rica

Hiking: Volcán Mombacho, Nicaragua; Parque Internacional La Amistad, Panama; Parque Nacional Cusuco, Honduras; Volcán Tajumulco, Guatemala; Parque Nacional Chirripó, Costa Rica; Juayúa, El Salvador

Wildlife: Península de Osa, Costa Rica; Refugio de Vida Silvestre Los Guatuzos, Nicaragua; Isal Bastimentos, Panama; Moskitia, Honduras; Monterrico, Guatemala; Playa El Cuco, El Salvador

Scuba Diving: Parque Nacional Coiba, Panama; Roatán, Honduras; The Blue Hole, Belize; Isla Cozumel, Mexico; Isla del Caño, Costa Rica

Off the Beaten Path: Pearl Keys, Nicaragua; Bahía de Jiquilisco, El Salvador; The Darién, Panama; Mal País, Costa Rica; La Campa, Honduras; Tilapita, Guatamala

Colonial Cities: Antigua, Guatemala; Granada, Nicaragua; Suchitoto, El Salvador; Casco Viejo, Panama; Comayagua, Honduras

Surfing: Dominical, Costa Rica; Santa Catalina, Panama; Pavones, Costa Rica; Playa Hermosa, Nicaragua; Las Flores, El Salvador

Ruins: Tikal, Guatemala; Chichén Itzá, Mexico; Copán, Honduras; Tulum, Mexico; Caracol, Belize; Tazumal, El Savador

Volcanoes: Volcán Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica; Volcán Masaya, Nicaragua; Volcán Arenal, Costa Rica; Pacaya, Guatemala; Volcán Barú, Panama

Beaches: Kuna Yala, Panama; Playa Grande, Las Baulas, Costa Rica; West Bay, Roatan, Honduras; Little Corn Island, Nicaragua; Hopkins, Belize; Playa El Tunco, El Salvador

Healthcare for Those Who Retire in Central America

If you’re looking to snowbird in Central America, there are no required vaccinations needed (assuming you’re not coming from a yellow-fever-infected country in Africa or South America). However, it is recommended that you are vaccinated for typhoid, rabies, and Hepatitis A and B. But don’t let this scare you away… these are the same CDC recommendations made for those making an extended visit to England.

Hospitals in urban areas throughout Central America feature state-of-the-art technology and well-trained staff. Consequently, you’ll find service on par with the United States and Canada at a much lower price. For minor illnesses or injuries, healthcare facilities in rural area are adequate, but you’ll want to travel to major cities for more serious medical treatment.

Additional sources of information on health issues can be found in the World Health Organization’s International Travel and Health site, or at Red Planet’s MDtravelhealth channel.

Other Options

If retiring in Central America isn’t for you, but you enjoy the thought of being a snowbird in an international location, take a look at our Retire in the Caribbean summary or Curaçao Travel Guide. Maybe you’ll find some location ideas that better appeal to your lifestyle and interests.

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