10 Best Islands for Retirement
Lush, stunning scenery will lure you to this rural and laid-back Hawaiian island, crowned the “Garden Isle.” You’ll stay for the top-notch seniors lifestyle, away from the hustle and bustle of busy Oahu, plus the gorgeous year-round weather, bountiful local produce, a population engaged in a healthy, active lifestyle, and a life expectancy of around 85. Trail hikes, succulent tropical forests, and sunset cruises await you when you settle into the island oasis.
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
If patrician pursuits and preppy style are more your tune, consider this New England gem, long a playground for celebrities and politicians, who flock here for the classic architecture, great food, and wholesome outdoorsy life. Choose from seven charming villages spread across the island, from buzzy Edgartown and Oak Bluffs to more rural Tilmark and West Chisbury. Expect tranquil winters shared with the 16,000 year-round residents, and high-octane summers—the island’s population swells to around 100,000 during the warm months.
Catalina Island, California
This West Coast hideaway, located just a half-hour ferry ride from Los Angeles, ticks all the iconic Californian vacation boxes—palm trees, white sand beaches, a laid-back lifestyle—which also makes it a perfect place to put down roots for retirement. Catalina is a haven for nature-loving retirees: pedestrian-only streets, superb wildlife viewing, and 90 percent of the island devoted to a conservancy. There are only two towns and real estate is pricey, so start planning your move early.
Key West, Florida
The Sunshine State is a firm favorite with retirees for good reason: year-round balmy weather, great facilities, and established communities of seniors make it an obvious choice. But for those wanting a little extra island flavor in their retirement, Key West offers a buffet of charms, from white-sand beaches to a growing culinary scene and plenty of gracious homes. The southern-most town in Florida is also known for its cultural diversity and inclusiveness, and of course its associations with Papa Hemingway, whose former home is now a famous museum.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
If getting away from it all—and stepping back in time—is on your retirement wish list, this Great Lakes treasure might be just the ticket. With only 500 year-round residents, tranquility is assured. The small-town feel extends to Main Street, lined with general stores, old-school inns, and restaurants serving delicious, seafood-oriented comfort food. Horse buggies take visitors on carriage rides through the town, too. More contemporary diversions are also available in the form of bicycling, water sports, and golf.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
For more adventurous retirees, this Central American beauty spot offers an affordable way to live large in a stunning tropical environment. There’s a tight-knit community of locals and ex-pats, the currency is pegged to the U.S. Dollar, and English is the national language, all of which makes a transition from the U.S. a breeze. Divers will thrill to the proximity of the famous Blue Hole, one of the world’s great marine wonders.
Sea Island, Georgia
This tiny private island off the southeastern coast of Georgia has been luring well-heeled visitors since the 1920s. Aspiring retirees can choose from a host of top-notch planned communities, each of which offer amenities like pools, golf clubs, restaurants, and even maid service. In addition, the island has five miles of private beach, four luxury resort experiences, and three championship golf courses, among other seasonal draws like hunting and fishing.
Gasparilla Island, Florida
This sleepy, unspoiled barrier island off Florida’s Gulf Coast offers a relaxed but stylish lifestyle that revolves around sun, sand, and meandering around the main town of Boca Grande on bicycles or in golf carts. The island is just seven miles long, and there are no high-rises, chain stores, or billboards, just sweet cafes, bookstores, and an air of genteel bonhomie—which might explain why Boca Grande has been a discreet bolt-hole for certain well-heeled visitors (with names like Dupont, Steinbrenner, and Vanderbilt) since the 1920s.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
There’s a good reason Mexico’s Caribbean coast has become a magnet for Americans of a certain age: with a refreshingly low cost of living, excellent medical care, and a perpetually sunny climate, retiring here makes a world of sense. This idyllic spot, whose name means “Island of Women,” is located just a ferry ride from Cancun but offers a peaceful, low-rise respite from that city’s buzz. Expats can spend every day swimming, snorkeling, or fishing along some of the best beaches in the region, then hit one of the excellent restaurants in town, all at a fraction of the cost of the U.S.
San Juan Islands, Washington
If clean, green living is high on your list of priorities, there are few stateside retirement spots as ideal as the San Juan Islands. Thanks to a temperate, greenhouse-like climate, the main islands in this glacially carved chain—San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas—enjoy mild winters and perfect summers, along with a vibrant locavore food scene (aided by abundant farmlands) and some of the cleanest air around.