Do you dream of fine sand and turquoise seas while combining professional opportunities with an idyllic quality of life? If so, you’re one of those people who want to move to an island. The choice of an island is not so simple when it comes to long-term travel. Many criteria come into play. From health care systems and business environment to the political stability of the destination. To make your search easier, we’ve put together a selection of the best islands for expats, just for you!
If you’re seriously considering expatriation to an island, stay with us! We’ve drawn on two reliable sources to select the best destinations:
- The islands.com ranking, which takes into account various criteria for your move, such as quality of life, economic opportunities and general well-being.
- The Forbes article suggests some very inexpensive islands that might encourage you to stop working!
1. Culebra, Puerto Rico, a haven of peace for expats in search of nature and simplicity
Culebra, a small island in Puerto Rico, is a true Caribbean gem. With pristine beaches such as Flamenco Beach, often ranked among the most beautiful in the world, and crystal-clear waters, the island is a paradise for those looking to get closer to nature. Diving, snorkeling and fishing are popular activities, allowing you to discover the richness of the local marine fauna.
Economically speaking, Culebra is a destination primarily focused on eco-tourism and outdoor activities. Although professional opportunities are more limited compared to larger destinations, the island offers an ideal setting for entrepreneurs and digital nomads, particularly in the fields of sustainable tourism, catering and accommodation.
One of the most attractive aspects of Culebra is its close-knit community. The island has a relatively small population, which fosters close relationships between locals and expats alike. What’s more, being a U.S. territory, Culebra offers a level of health services and infrastructure that may be more familiar to American expats.
2. Penang, Malaysia, a captivating blend of culture and business opportunities
Moving to Penang means choosing an island that’s a real melting pot. With its rich British colonial heritage, Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, Penang offers a unique cultural experience. The old town of George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a living testimony to this diversity, with its Buddhist temples, mosques and colonial churches. When it comes to gastronomy, Penang is often considered the culinary capital of Malaysia, offering a variety of dishes that reflect its cultural mix.
The island is a fast-growing technology hub, often dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Asia”. The IT, biotech and semiconductor manufacturing sectors are particularly strong, offering numerous opportunities for skilled professionals. What’s more, the cost of living is relatively low compared to other expatriate destinations, enabling a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank.
For those looking to settle down for the long term, Malaysia’s “My Second Home Program” offers an excellent opportunity. This program allows expats to live in Malaysia on a long-term basis with a multi-year visa, facilitating access to property and quality health services. It’s a particularly attractive option for retirees or entrepreneurs who want to enjoy all that Penang has to offer while benefiting from a more stable residency status.
3. Isla Colon, Panama, a balanced island life of nature and opportunity
Isla Colon, located in Panama’s Bocas del Toro archipelago, is a destination that captivates with its natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle. The island is a paradise for nature lovers, with its white sandy beaches, coral reefs and lush tropical forests. For water sports enthusiasts, it’s an ideal playground for diving, snorkeling, fishing and surfing.
The island offers a variety of opportunities, mainly in the tourism sector. Hotels, restaurants and adventure tourism companies are in constant demand for professionals and skilled workers. In addition to tourism, agriculture and fishing are also promising sectors, particularly with the cultivation of exotic produce and sustainable fishing.
One of the great advantages of living in Isla Colon is the well-established expat community. This eases the transition and provides a support network for those looking to integrate into their new lives. What’s more, the cost of living is relatively affordable, making it possible to take full advantage of what the island has to offer without worrying too much about expenses.
4. Crete, Greece, a perfect balance of tradition and modernity for expats
Crete, Greece’s largest island, is a land of contrasts, where tradition and modernity coexist harmoniously. With its idyllic beaches, majestic mountains and picturesque villages, the island offers an exceptional living environment. Outdoor enthusiasts will be delighted, whether hiking in the Samaria Gorge or exploring the many hidden coves.
What really sets Crete apart is its sense of community. Cretans are renowned for their hospitality, and it’s not uncommon for expats to be quickly integrated into local life. What’s more, the island has an excellent medical infrastructure, which can be a reassuring factor for those considering a long-term move.
Choosing Crete as an expatriation destination means opting for a life rich in cultural experiences, professional opportunities and authentic human interaction. It’s an island that offers not only a high quality of life, but also a chance to immerse yourself in a rich and diverse culture.
5. Cozumel, Mexico, a Caribbean oasis for expats seeking adventure and serenity
Cozumel, located off Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, is a destination that combines adventure and tranquility. The island is world-famous for its exceptional diving sites, particularly around the Palancar reef. For sea lovers, it’s a veritable paradise, offering not only diving but also sailing, fishing and other water sports.
Cozumel’s economy is heavily based on tourism, but unlike other tourist destinations, the island has managed to retain a peaceful, authentic atmosphere. Professional opportunities are abundant in the hotel industry, water sports and tourism-related services. For those looking for a change of direction, diving training and certification are also available.
One of Cozumel’s major assets is its dynamic and welcoming expat community. Numerous groups and associations facilitate integration and offer invaluable support in adapting to island life. In terms of health services, the island has several well-equipped clinics and hospitals, which is always a plus for expatriates.
6. Majorca, Spain, a Mediterranean destination combining luxury and simplicity for expats
Majorca, the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, is a destination that captivates with its diversity. With its golden beaches, rugged mountains and traditional villages, the island offers a varied and rewarding lifestyle. Water sports enthusiasts will be delighted, with a multitude of activities ranging from sailing to paddleboarding.
Majorca’s economy is dynamic and diversified. Tourism plays a central role, but the island is also a hub for the creative industries, particularly in the fields of design and fashion. Career opportunities are therefore varied, ranging from luxury hotels to business management and digital marketing.
What makes Majorca particularly attractive to expats is its excellent quality of life. The island boasts a mild Mediterranean climate, delicious cuisine and lively nightlife. What’s more, the island’s international community is well established, making it easy for newcomers to integrate.
When you choose Majorca, you’re opting for an island that offers not only an exceptional living environment, but also a multitude of professional opportunities in an international environment. It’s the ideal destination for those seeking to combine Mediterranean charm with a dynamic career.
Criteria for choosing the best island for expats
Expatriating to an island can be both an exciting and complex experience. The dream of heavenly beaches, a pleasant climate and a more relaxed lifestyle is often within reach, but it requires careful planning. Many factors come into play to ensure a successful transition and smooth integration into your new home.
- Assessing the cost of living: it’s crucial to understand the cost of living on the island of your choice. This includes not only accommodation, food and healthcare, but also hidden costs such as inter-island transport or local taxes.
- Professional opportunities: take a look at the island’s growing economic sectors. Is your area of expertise in demand? Are there opportunities for entrepreneurs or freelancers?
- Infrastructure and services: evaluate the quality of local infrastructure, including healthcare, schools and public services. A good infrastructure can greatly facilitate your adaptation to island life.
- Community and network: the presence of an expat community can be a major asset. It can help you integrate more quickly and provide you with a valuable support network.
- Climatic conditions: the climate can vary considerably from one island to another. Make sure the climate is right for you, if you’re planning a long-term stay.
- Regulations and visas: find out about visa and work permit requirements. Some islands, such as Malaysia, have special agreements that can facilitate the immigration process.
- Natural and environmental risks: some islands are more susceptible to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. It’s important to take these risks into account in your planning.
- Language and cultural barriers: mastery of the local language can be a considerable asset. However, you’ll need to use tools to make yourself understood. What’s more, understanding cultural customs and norms can help you integrate more easily.
- Access and mobility: check out the transport options available to get to the island and to get around once there. Some islands may be more accessible than others, which may influence your choice.
- Security and political stability: it’s essential to find out about the level of security on the island and the stability of the local government. This can have an impact on your quality of life and peace of mind.
By taking these different factors into account, you’ll be better prepared to make an informed choice and succeed in your expatriation to the best island.
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