If the retirement lifestyle you're day dreaming about features a view of the Pacific Ocean and the sound of the crashing Pacific surf, the following countries, all boasting long and dramatically beautiful Pacific coastlines, should be on your search list: Nicaragua, Panama, and Mexico.
Which could be the best choice for you?
If cheap is your priority, focus on Nicaragua, where prices are not only low but also highly negotiable, as this market has been in crisis mode for the past several years. In Panama, the retiree on a budget shopping for a Pacific coastal retirement Shangri-la should consider the country's Azuero Peninsula, which boasts some of this country's most affordable stretches of Pacific coast. In Las Tablas, for example, a small colonial town on the east coast of the Azuero Peninsula, you could retire comfortably on a budget of $1,200 per month or less, including rent.
Life on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua or the Azuero coast of Panama would be affordable and comfortable, but I wouldn't describe it as luxury. If you're looking for a more fully appointed Pacific coast lifestyle, my top recommendation would be Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Puerto Vallarta is neither the cheapest retirement choice in the world nor the cheapest option within Mexico. You aren't likely to find it a bargain compared with the cost of living Stateside...unless you compare it (as you should) with the cost of living in top Pacific coast locales north of the Rio Grande. Puerto Vallarta could be called a bargain compared with the cost of living in Newport Beach, for example.
In Puerto Vallarta, though, a budget-friendly cost of living is not the point. This isn't developing-world living. This stretch of Mexico's Pacific coastline has already been developed to a high level. Life here can be not only comfortable, but also easy and fully appointed.
This is a place to come to enjoy a world-class Pacific coast lifestyle. Note that I didn't say world-class Pacific coast. You can find that many places, including Nicaragua and Panama. What you don't find those places is the lifestyle to support the views.
Generally speaking, the Pacific coasts of Nicaragua and even Panama are emerging regions, where, sure, someday, maybe, there will exist international-standard amenities. But I wouldn't bet on when that day might be, and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it.
In Puerto Vallarta, you aren't buying for someday. In Puerto Vallarta, you have the opportunity to buy a world-class lifestyle in a region with world-class beaches and ocean views that is supported, right now, by world-class golf courses, marinas, restaurants, and shopping. This is a lifestyle that is available only on a limited basis worldwide, a lifestyle that is truly (not metaphorically) comparable to the best you could enjoy in southern California...if you could afford it.
And my point is that, in Puerto Vallarta, this enviable lifestyle, some might even call it a lifestyle of the rich and famous, is not some property developer's vision or speculator's dream.
I was first in P.V. more than 15 years ago. Back then, developing this coast into a world-class destination was the talk of so many developers and speculators. I returned recently, a decade-and-a-half later, to find that this region is one place in the world where the developers and the speculators have actually succeeded in creating something.
The Pacific coast in and around Puerto Vallarta has been invested in, over decades, not only by developers and speculators, but also, importantly, by the Mexican government. The government has supported private investment in this region over time, and now it has refocused its attention here, specifically on the stretch of coast running for about 100 miles north from Nuevo Vallarta. As a result, this isn't a place to plan for a fully appointed retirement at the beach someday. This isn't a place to invest based on the pretty watercolor drawings of a savvy marketing group. This is one of the best places I can think of to embrace a fully appointed Pacific beach retirement lifestyle right now.
And the best part is that, here in P.V., not only can you plug into a fully developed retirement lifestyle...built, furnished, landscaped, and within minutes of the fairway or the yacht club if those pastimes interest you...but, unlike in southern California, you can also afford it.
No, probably not on a Social Security-only retirement income. But if your retirement budget is a bit bigger, and you've dreamt your whole life of retiring with a view of the crashing Pacific, I'd say this could be your number-one right-now choice.