Architecturally, structures differ from Hawaii (where the hot buy is a historic plantation cottage) and the Caribbean islands (where utilitarian condominiums remain popular and affordable) to Mexico (where stucco-walled villas are all the rage). Purchasing land is an expensive option. Prices tend to be lower in less-developed areas. Buying a home in any tropical location is pricey, but it involves less hassle than construction. Developments throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii are becoming more popular with those who like the look of new, homogenous, gated communities. Resort developments attract the pamper-me set.
What It Costs:
Basic Hawaiian condominiums away from the water begin at around $250,000; oceanfront condos sometimes cost upward of $1 million. Single-family dwellings away from the water begin at $200,000 for small fixer-uppers and reach $20 million for top-shape real estate. Americans get a lot of bang for their buck in Mexico, where the dollar performs well against the peso and labor is less expensive. Condos range from $120,000 (Acapulco) to $400,000 (Cabo San Lucas or Cancun). In Baja's Todos Santos, oceanfront lots average $200,000, while property in Akumal, a resort community on the east coast, sells for closer to $300,000.
The cost of Caribbean apartments and condominiums varies island to island. In the Dominican Republic, they start at around $75,000. In more developed, or more exclusive, islands (say, Turks and Caicos), they begin at $200,000. Nice homes begin at $300,000 (for the Bahamas) and climb into the multimillion-dollar range, some topping $15 million.
Your Next-door Neighbors:
In Hawaii, you'll be in good company―perhaps Glenn Frey (of Eagles fame), Bette Midler, or a less famous surfer, quilter, masseuse, waiter, or painter.
Join the growing list of Hollywood celebrities who've headed south of the border and built dream homes. Their new Mexican neighbors range from politicians and teachers to those who keep the tourist trade alive.
The Caribbean's quirky cast of characters includes genial locals and those lucky enough to relocate here: doctors, writers, designers, singers, hotel managers, golfers. You might bump into Mick Jagger in Mustique, or reggae master Bankie Banx in Anguilla.
How You'd Spend Your Free Time:
People move to the tropics to soak up the sun, wade in the water, play golf, and sip frozen drinks. Whether you're snorkeling in the Caribbean, celebrating fiestas with fresh-picked limes for your margaritas in Mexico, or enjoying authentic Hawaiian luaus, you'll have no shortage of activities.