Travel | January 6, 2021 5:56 am

The Best Place to Retire in 2021 Will Bring You “A New Appreciation on Life”

Or "pura vida," as the locals of this beautiful, affordable and friendly country would say

Costa Rica
The best place to retire for Americans is rich in natural beauty
Samuel Charron / Unsplash

After last year — and admittedly, the first week of this 2021 — who’s ready to retire?

International Living just announced its 2021 Annual Global Retirement Index, showcasing an “ever-growing selection of outstanding destinations where you can live a healthier and happier life, spend a lot less money, and get a whole lot more.” Naturally, these places are all outside the United States.

The Retirement Index is not built from scientific data, but a mix of on-the-ground reporting, opinion and local expertise, according to the publication, which also notes the information and analysis they receive originates from people and writers who actually live in these international destinations.

It’s not all subjective; there’s math involved. Scores were given in a number of categories, including visa/residence, climate, health care, opportunity, housing and cost of living. “Governance” was an important attribute; the numbers here included how well contributors thought each country did coping with COVID-19.

Some takeaways from the report:

Costa Rica came in first, “a country so rich in natural beauty, the adjective is actually in its name (“rich coast”),” as noted by reporter Kathleen Evans, who also cites the country’s tropical climate, lower cost of living, friendly locals, affordable medical care and vast real estate options as highlights. You can live comfortably (two-bedroom home, entertainment, health care, amenities, etc.) here for as little as $2,000 per month. Plus, incredibly friendly people, an apparent lack of racism and a proclamation (“pura vida” or pure life) that permeates every part of the culture. “That is why so many people come to Costa Rica and find the best version of themselves — they embrace a new appreciation on life. It is just a bonus that it is in such a beautiful setting,” explains expat Nicole Rangel.

Costa Rica
A waterfall in Costa Rica (as taken by this article’s author)
Kirk Miller

Places you may want to avoid? Nicaragua and Bolivia, which received low scores in the Opportunity and Governance categories. As IL notes, “They’re still viable retirement locations, but because they’ve experienced political instability in recent years, proceed with caution.”

If there’s one retirement attribute that calls to you, the publication has an interactive table where you can see all 25 countries ranked by category. So cost of living (Vietnam, 99 out of 100), health care (Costa Rica, 97), climate and housing (Portugal, 88 and 87, respectively), visa/residence and benefits/discounts (Panama, 97 and 96), “fitting in” (Mexico, 94), development (France, 96), governance (Uruguay, 84) and opportunity (Vietnam again, at 83) are your individual winners.

Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal and Ecuador were the only countries to finish with overall scores above 80.