Most of us harbor a dream of escaping to the Caribbean, but how realistic is it? Depending on where you choose, very. While a two-week break in the Bahamas might leave a hole in your bank account, there's no shortage of long-term living solutions that will barely ding your wallet.
If you want to live out the rest of your days on a balmy island paradise, these are the 20 cheapest places to live in the Caribbean.
20. Corozal, Belize
As International Living writes, Corozal is a great low-cost option if you're looking for a waterfront property. Located on the northern tip of Belize near the border with Mexico, it's a pretty little town that's made all the more attractive by its extremely low cost of living.
19. Placencia, Belize
Placencia used to be a sleepy fishing village. These days, it's one of the hottest eco-destinations in the Caribbean. If you like deep-sea fishing, diving, trekking rain forests, or kayaking, you're going to love it. The village itself is calm and relaxed, with a bohemian vibe and oodles of charm. In recent years, its low living costs, affordable properties, and gorgeous tranquility have attracted an ever-growing number of ex-pats.
18. Sousa, Dominican Republic
Small, friendly, and relaxed, Sousa in the Dominican Republic has become an increasingly popular destination for ex-pats in the last few years. Thanks to its location on the north coast of the island, it's a great place for water sports. The nightlife is a little risque, the traffic can be nightmarish, and you'll need to speak Spanish if you want to get by. But if you're ok with that, you'll find it a friendly spot with plenty of modern conveniences and a very affordable cost of living.
17. Luperon, Dominican Republic
Luperon is one of the Dominican Republic's most popular destinations for ex-pats, and for good reason. As expatexchange.com notes, the town is primarily an agricultural center and fishing port, with just a little tourism thrown in for good measure. As it lacks the huge resorts and high rises of some of the island's more tourist-centric destinations, the vibe is distinctly low-key and authentic. The cost of living also marks it out for attention. If you want to live well on a shoestring budget, it's well worth considering.
16. Montego Bay, Jamaica
Jamaica's second city of Montego Bay is a popular destination for tourists looking to enjoy Jamaica's legendary beach culture. It's equally attractive with ex-pats hoping to combine sun, sea, and sand with a low cost of living. According to Nomad Nation, the average rental price in Montego Bay is just $498 per month. Factoring in other day-to-day costs like transportation, groceries, healthcare, and utilities, you can expect to get by on as little as $1322 per month.
15. Maunabo Municipio, Puerto Rico
Maunabo Municipio has a population of around 11,023 and a strong ex-pat community. It's a popular destination for retirees, largely as a result of its low cost of living. The average home value here is a tiny $89,400, while rental property can be had for as little as $375. It's not necessarily the most commercially developed of places, and unemployment is high as a result. However, for retirees and digital nomads looking to enjoy the sights and attractions of Puerto Rico on a shoestring budget, it's ideal.
14. Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Ocho Rios is the kind of place where you can live like a king for less than $1000 per month. Rent is a very attractive $512 per month, while goods and services are similarly budget-friendly. Tucked away on the north coast of the island, the town's easy-going vibes and laid-back lifestyle are just as attractive as its living costs.
13. Port Antonio, Jamaica
With its gorgeous Georgian buildings, its charming villas, and its bustling port, Port Antonia has a lot to recommend it. A popular tourist hangout, it's also home to an ever-growing ex-pat community. In fairness, you might not want to stick around some of its less salubrious neighborhoods for long. But even if we discount those, you'll still have plenty of cheap, attractive options to choose between. Rent should cost you less than $300 per month, while an overall budget of around $900 per month should leave you comfortable.
12. San Pedro de Coche, Puerto Rico
If you want to live in the kind of place where a single-family home can be had for as little as $90,900, you might want to cast your gaze in the direction of San Pedro de Coche. As the main town of the Villalba Municipio region of Puerto Rico, the town is rich in history, culture, and charm. It's also heaven for the budget-conscious, with the average cost of goods and services a tiny fraction of what they'd be in the States.
11. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Regardless of where you live in the world, your biggest monthly expense is likely to be housing. The same is true in Punta Cana. But don't let that put you off. Whereas the median rental price in the US is over $900, here, it's less than $400. If you really want to push the boat out and get a deluxe property with all the bells and whistles, you can expect to get by on around $931.
As with most parts of the Dominican Republic, living costs in Punta Cana are astonishingly low. Stable food items like chicken, beans, corn, rice, eggs, and potatoes can be snapped up from local markets for around half the price of what they'd be in the US. Transportation and entertainment are similarly budget-friendly.
10. Magas Arriba, Puerto Rico
Magas Arriba is a small suburb of Ponce in the Guayanilla region of Puerto Rico. A popular destination with retirees, it's an outstandingly affordable place to live. Just $76,600 will get you a very comfortable single-family home. Renters can expect a good-sized apartment for around $331. Due to its rural nature, it's not got an awful lot going on. However, if you're willing to sacrifice a vibrant nightlife for a reduced cost of living, it's well worth considering.
9. Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Despite being just 8 miles away from the tourist hotspot of Cancun, Isla Mujeres oozes serenity. Lapped by clear, azure waters and boasting miles of pristine sands, it's the kind of island getaway we all dream of escaping to. Better still, its cost of living won't leave a giant dent in your wallet. If you want to live the high life, $36,000 a year should get you all the comfort and conveniences you could need. If you're prepared to swap a lavish three-bedroom house for something a little more low key, expect to get by on even less.
8. San Pedro, Belize
San Pedro is the biggest and, indeed, only town on the Belize island of Ambergris Caye. Until recently, it was a sleepy little fishing village. The only tourists it ever saw were intrepid adventurers looking to take advantage of the deep sea fishing and scuba diving opportunities afforded by the town's magnificent shoreline. Over the past few years, San Pedro has enjoyed rapid growth.
Golf carts have been replaced by cars as the primary transportation method and the population has swelled to over 15,000. Regular commercial flights have opened it up to tourists, and the infrastructure has improved dramatically. The only thing that still remains of the old days is the supremely low living costs. If you want to live a comfortable life, expect to get by on as little as $2000 per month.
7. Negril, Jamaica
With its gorgeous lagoons and its sugar-white beaches, Negril is a hot destination for tourists and ex-pats. Located on the western tip of the island, the town has developed rapidly over the past couple of decades. Fortunately, it's managed to hang on to its gloriously laid back charm.... and its equally glorious low cost of living. Most ex-pats choose to live in the Long Bay area of the town, which is less busy than the neighboring Bloody Bay and a fraction more affordable. Expect to get by on as little as $800 per month, which includes $350 for rental costs.
6. Roatán, Honduras
Roatán is one of the cheapest places to live in the Caribbean. Little wonder. For less than $175,000, you can snap up a two-bedroom beachside property in one of its most desirable neighborhoods. Better yet, the low cost of living is balanced by excellent infrastructure and great healthcare - a new power plant is in the pipeline and a brand new hospital with a 24-hour emergency room and specialist care unit has recently opened.
The vibe is gorgeously laid back, the beaches are pristine, and so far, it's managed to stay mercifully free of large scale resorts and high rises. If you want to enjoy an authentic Caribbean experience without breaking the bank, it's ideal.
5. Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic
When you imagine the perfect Caribbean getaway, there's a good chance you're picturing somewhere exactly like Las Terrenas on the island of Hispaniola. Reportedly described by Columbus as "the fairest land under heaven,” Hispaniola boasts world-class beaches, stunning weather, a stable government, and an easy 3 and a half hour traveling time from New York.
The whole island is a delight, but its star attraction is the town of Las Terrenas. Blessed with fine beaches, a small-town feel, and an attractively low cost of living, Las Terrenas has everything you need for a comfortable, budget-friendly lifestyle. A one-bedroom apartment can be found for a little as $99,000, leaving most couples with plenty to spare from a budget of $2000 per month.
That said, if you want to benefit from the low property prices, you'll need to make your move soon. Over the past 20 years or so, Las Terrenas has transformed from a sleepy little fishing village into a chic, contemporary haven for ex-pats. With more and more people catching onto its attractions, it won't be long before that $99,000 home value gets an extra 0 on its end.
4. Isla Colón, Panama
If Forbes says Isla Colón is one of the 5 cheapest dream islands in the Caribbean, we're inclined to believe them. If you need more proof, then consider the fact that just $1,400 per month will take care of all your housing, transportation, grocery, health care, and Pina Colada needs. The main town on the island (and the chief hub for ex-pats) is Bocos Town, a delightfully ramshackle seaside town packed with charm, brightly colored buildings, and laid back appeal.
3. Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
If you've got champagne tastes but a beer budget, you might want to consider the coastal town of Puerto Plata. A monthly budget of $1000 is more than adequate to enjoy the high life. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center can be had for as little as $185 per month, while a three-bedroom apartment will set you back around $371. If you're happy to move slightly outside the center, expect to see a 50% reduction in costs.
2. Kingston, Jamaica
According to expatistan.com, the cost of living in Kingston, Jamaica is 40% cheaper than Chigaco, 31% cheaper than Philadelphia, and 45% cheaper than Washington D.C. In other words, it's cheap. Whether we're taking entertainment, food, utilities, housing, or anything else you can stick a price tag on, nothing is going to break the bank. On the flip side, not all of Kingston's neighborhoods are exactly desirable. But providing you steer clear of the known trouble spots, you can enjoy a decent lifestyle on an exceedingly low budget.
1. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
A one-bedroom apartment in Santo Domingo will set you back just $355.89 per month. If you want to upgrade to a three-bedroom apartment, expect to pay $716.85 if you stick to the city center, or $388.34 if you move to the outskirts. Factoring in the low cost of utilities, groceries, transportation, and entertainment, a monthly budget of just $1200 will be more than enough to keep you in a cushy lifestyle.
You can also read:
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn