The World's 5 Best Beach Cities for Retirement

Perhaps your retirement dream is sand-fringed. There are many appealing beach retirement spots overseas, from the azure Caribbean to the crashing Pacific and the breathtaking Andaman Sea. Here are the five best beach cities for retirement:

1. Coronado Beach, Panama. Coronado, a fast-growing beachfront community about an hour outside Panama City, Panama, offers a high-quality beach lifestyle with all the amenities and services a retiree could want. Historically, this coastal town has been a top weekend getaway choice among residents of nearby Panama City. Over the past half-dozen years, Coronado has developed into a busy commercial center that makes for a turn-key retirement choice. It is evolving into a full-fledged retirement destination with an established population of full-time foreign residents supported by a developed infrastructure, including good medical facilities.

2. Sosua/Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Where the verdant green jungle hills slope into the crystal-blue waters off the north coast of the Dominican Republic rest the sand-fringed towns of Sosua and neighboring Cabarete. These are beachfront utopias. There are no high-rise towers, no big crowds and no worries. Life here is all about enjoying what mother nature has created in this world-class coastal spot.

The life on offer here is also increasingly appealing to retirees. Expat communities are established and expanding, and planned developments are under way to cater to them. Retirees settling here can choose luxury living in planned communities where houses sell for $400,000 to $800,000, but also have much more affordable options in coastal developments where homes are priced from $130,000 to $150,000.

3. Hoi An, Vietnam. Hoi An is a pretty town on the central coast of Vietnam with long, clean, sandy beaches and tranquil rivers. The beaches are the general appeal in this part of the world, but, in Hoi An, it's the town itself that is remarkable. Once one of the busiest international sea ports in Asia, Hoi An has been heavily influenced by traders who came here from Japan, China and the West. This was the location of the first Chinese settlement south of Vietnam's Red River delta in the far north, and many of the buildings, dating back 400 years and more, remain intact.

Entire streets in Hoi An are lined with ancient Chinese temples and houses, many still occupied by the descendants of the original settlers, giving visitors a tantalizing glimpse of a long ago time.

Hoi An is an emerging, rather than an established, retirement choice. About 600 Westerners have settled here to date. But unlike in many areas of Asia, the expat community in this town is very involved with the community and with each other. For example, Vietnamese people are taking classes in bread-making hosted for free by a Western luxury resort's head pastry chef and learning to play the piano. Another American who arrived here years ago runs a big used-book store, and, as more and more foreigners with families are settling in this historic coastal city, a new international school is opening.

One of the greatest appeals of this beach city for retirees is the cost of living. This is a place where you could retire comfortably on less than $1,000 per month.

4. Ambergris Caye, Belize. Ambergris Caye is an English-speaking Caribbean island with an intriguing past and a promising future. Formerly a pirate hideout and a Mestizo fishing village, Ambergris has more recently been the host to two seasons of "Temptation Island" and is now one of the fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees in the world.

Ambergris Caye offers a quintessential Caribbean lifestyle. Just offshore is the world's second-longest barrier reef and all the snorkeling, diving, fishing, boating and swimming a beach-loving retiree could hope for.

The cost of living on Ambergris Caye couldn't be described as super-cheap, but it can be a bargain compared with elsewhere in the Caribbean. And Belize (like Panama) makes establishing residency as a foreign retiree super easy.

5. Phuket, Thailand. Thailand's Phuket Island is an internationally famous beach destination and rightfully so. Beautiful sandy shores, separated by rocky headlands, grace the entire west coast of the island, the largest in Thailand. The surrounding Andaman Sea is warm, clear and inviting, one of Phuket's main attractions.

Onshore Phuket is a welcoming place that can quickly begin to feel like home, and more than 100,000 foreign residents have chosen to make lives here. Foreigners from across the globe have integrated into the local community, transforming Phuket into a multicultural, international retirement destination. Expats make up more than 21 percent of the total permanent population of Phuket Province.

One of the biggest appeals is the cost of living. Rent, especially, is a global bargain. You can find a comfortable rental for as little as $350 to $400 per month, and most rentals come fully furnished. All costs considered, including groceries, utilities, entertainment and your own motorbike for transportation, a retired couple could live here on a monthly budget of as little as $1,000.

For a very low cost, you can buy a big and interesting lifestyle. Everything you need is available on the island, including top-tier medical care and Thailand's second busiest international airport.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 28 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her newest book, "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas", published by Wiley & Sons, is the culmination of decades of personal experience living and investing around the world.