The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2022
If you’re considering retirement abroad, you need information, and you need lots of it. But more than that, you need guidance on how to interpret that information. That’s what we’re here for, and that’s why we’ve compiled the 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index: to help you with the exciting business of choosing where in the world will best suit your needs.
When it was first conceived, our Retirement Index was our special way of coping with an embarrassment of riches. At that stage, IL had already spent over a decade exploring all manner of dream locales. The result was a huge and exciting variety of choice and opportunity. Fast-forward to 2022.
More than three decades have gone by, during which our scouts have scoured every corner of the globe many times over. The result is a much bigger and ever-growing selection of outstanding destinations where you can live a healthier and happier life, spend a lot less money, and get a lot more.
But how do you choose?
The Retirement Index is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. It’s the best way we know of to sift through the wealth of opportunity the world offers, bring some order, and help you pinpoint the best destination for you.
Our index is informed by hundreds of opinions and real-life experiences—information—compiled by our trusted sources in the best retirement destinations across the globe. We think of it as a tool for you, our reader. A way for you to quickly compare and contrast your best options and begin to narrow down your choices.
We have our people out there pounding the pavement in attractive overseas communities we know you should consider. They’re reporting back to us with insights, and information about what’s really going on. They’re not beholden to relocation service providers or real estate agents or tourism boards or economic development organizations. They work for you.
In no way is our Global Retirement Index meant to be a scientific output. It’s designed to be a useful tool for people, constructed out of real-world, on-the-ground information interpreted through a lens of well-informed experience and opinion.
Our sources are living in the places where they’re gathering their intelligence. And we trust their judgment. If they say the healthcare is good, or that a meal for two in a nice restaurant costs $20, then we believe them.
Our intention with this index is that it be genuinely useful. We’re not looking for random input from random people around the world—you can get that with a simple internet search. Instead, we’re in the business of providing sound recommendations about a refreshingly limited number of options.
Beyond data—it offers, more importantly, information, opinions, perspective, and guidance.
What has their research revealed about the best retirement havens in 2022?
2. Costa Rica
BEST PLACES TO RETIRE, NUMBER ONE: PANAMÁ
Some say the only constant in life is change. But after more than 15 years in Panama, I’ve found that some of the best things in life remain the same. It’s no surprise to me that this tiny powerhouse has—once again—taken the number one spot in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index.
We’ve been here before…and with good reason.
That’s because, when it comes to overall benefits and value, Panama is very tough to beat. It’s what you get when myriad pros come together to create the perfect tropical storm. All any doubter has to do is make a list.
Start with Panama’s geographical position and climate. Just a three-hour flight from Miami, it’s perfectly positioned between North and South America, on a narrow isthmus between the Pacific and the Caribbean.
It’s warm and tropical, but completely outside the treacherous hurricane belt. Though it’s a high-humidity, high-rain destination…especially in the mountains and on its Caribbean coast…it’s also one of the region’s sunniest expat destinations. My days here are balmy and pleasant, characterized by ocean breezes and light, bright mornings.
The cornflower-blue skies and deep-green jungle foliage are the stuff of #nofilter posts. At this latitude, both the Pacific and Caribbean defy description, with countless hues from turquoise and pale jade to brilliant, sparkling sapphire. (And as one of only three carbon-negative countries in the world, Panama is serious about protecting this environment.)
The mild climate and incredible biodiversity are just the tip of the iceberg. Panama’s shape and strategic position also made it the obvious choice for its now world-famous canal. That in turn led to major infrastructure works and the development of the region’s busiest flight hub.
People who’ve never been here tend to assume it’s very Third World, but I have reliable power, water that I can drink straight from the tap, high-speed internet, and excellent cell phone service. For 35 cents, I can hop on Central America’s only metro line and zip downtown in 10 minutes.
The city center is framed by a gleaming skyline and the sparkling Panama Bay. Residents and tourists come here to work out, skate, ride bikes, have picnics, and so much more. A vast, verdant park and recreation area stretches from here to the romantic historic quarter known as Casco Viejo.
At the other end of the city is Tocumen International Airport, known as the “Hub of the Americas.” Today, Panama is one of the easiest retirement destinations you can travel to from the U.S. or Canada. There are direct flights to Panama from all over the U.S., as well as several cities in Canada and Europe.
Travel within the country is easy, too. I love exploring, and from my home in Panama City I have so many options it’s hard to keep track of them all. In just 20 minutes, I can drive to Veracruz for a boozy seafood lunch on the beach. Or I can hop a 30-minute ferry to Taboga Island, also known as the “Island of Flowers.”
The cool mountain towns of Cerro Azul, Sorá, and El Valle are a one- to two-hour drive from the city. The unspoiled Caribbean beaches of Portobelo are about two hours away by car. Or I can fly to my favorite Caribbean archipelago in an hour.
The most popular destination for expat retirees is the lush highland haven of Boquete. It’s almost as far as you can get from the city, about six hours by car. I usually fly, as it’s just an hour to the domestic airport in the city of David. From there, I can rent a car and be in Boquete… sipping award-winning coffee…just 40 minutes later.
My favorite spot right now is Coronado, a happening beach town just an hour’s drive from the capital. In fact, I like it so much I bought an apartment there, and am packing up to move as we speak. Coronado is home to one of Panama’s most active and welcoming expat communities. I’m not even there yet, and I’m already getting invites to potlucks and happy hours.
I also plan to join in on fitness activities like yoga and water aerobics, and who knows what else. There’s tennis, golf, pickleball…you name it, someone’s probably doing it.
No matter where you live in Panama, you’re likely to be no more than an hour away from excellent hospitals. In Coronado I’ll have access to the San Fernando facility. It’s a satellite of the San Fernando in Panama City—a JCI-accredited hospital affiliated with the Miami Children’s Hospital, Baptist Health International of Miami, and Tulane University Health Services Center and Hospital Clinic.
Panamanian doctors make me feel truly cared for. They don’t rush through appointments, and they’ll often give you their cell phone number, so you have direct access to them while you’re going through treatment or recovery. In fact, I’d say Panamanians in general are the best part of living in Panama. I have made so many wonderful friends here. People who are welcoming and fun and have a wide range of interests, so the conversation is always scintillating.
Panama may not be perfect—no country is—but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. As a single woman I feel safe and free to live my life here, whether I’m going out to dinner and Ubering home late at night or driving cross-country to visit friends. Perhaps that’s because this is truly a land of opportunity, home to thousands of hard-working, upwardly mobile locals and immigrants.
There have been a lot of ups and downs over the past couple years—in Panama and all over the world. But this country has a well-deserved reputation as Central America’s powerhouse. And here’s the thing about living in a powerhouse nation: Panama was perfectly poised to weather the financial and health-related storm, with excellent healthcare and a strong economy that was bound to bounce back.
So, these days it’s “back to business” here. The country is busy welcoming tourists, new residents, and new investment, too. And if you’re on your way down, rest assured that Panama is also ready to welcome you.
Retirement Index 2022 Final Scores
Cost Of Living