aerial view of a beach down a cliff full of people in lagos portugal

Finding the right place to retire is a bit like college hunting: you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, but you’ll know it when you see it. And like college, retirement is a chance to shake off what you don’t enjoy, and dig deeply into what you love. It’s also the perfect time to finally read all those books that have been stacking up on your nightstand (or, better yet, start a new stack).

Now, just where are you going to do all that? Although you likely have a few ideas, take a moment and consider that the about-to-retire you might need a push to look beyond what seems logical. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of potential locales — small towns across the globe, from the US to Mexico and the Caribbean, to Europe —  that may be quite perfect for your next life chapter. Some will feel like a reminder; others a complete surprise, but all are worth a look.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

cliffs surrounded by water in carmel by the sea california
Image by Kellen Riggin via Unsplash

Though it occupies a hillside that slopes downward to the Pacific Ocean, Carmel-by-the-Sea looks more like an English village than a California beach town: fairytale cottages with half-timbered walls, stacked-stone fireplaces, and steep rooflines are surrounded by lush gardens planted with blooming roses and hydrangeas. Along the roadway that curves by the ocean, more contemporary structures look out over the rocky coastline; above it all stands the 18th-century sandstone Carmel Mission. Beyond a welcoming climate and easy access to shops and restaurants, the region is filled with diversions including golf at Pebble Beach and hiking at Point Lobos. Even better? Although the town is a popular tourist destination, home rentals require more than 30 consecutive days, thus turnover is low (no in and out weekly renters) and neighborhoods remain quiet.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

It’s easy to see why thousands of retirees from all over the world flock to this former fishing community located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. The landscape — mountains, desert, ocean — is about as beautiful as it gets, the region is served by a large international airport, and an influx of American retailers and restaurants make settling in stress free. Housing choices abound as well and include amenity-rich gated communities — think golf, harbors, racquet sports, beach clubs, and concierge services — and sprawling compounds set right on the beach. Retiring in Mexico requires a temporary resident visa and a net income minimum requirement.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

marine life under water in grand cayman
Image by Conner Baker via Unsplash

Grand Cayman has long been a hot spot for celebrities and sports figures who come for the gorgeous beaches, exclusive resorts, and fabulous restaurants. But the island is a great pick for retirement, too, thanks to its strong infrastructure, diverse neighborhoods, and access to well-stocked grocery stores, pharmacies, dry cleaners, and other necessities. Housing is equally varied and ranges from spacious luxury condominiums lining Seven Mile Beach to opulent mansions within gated communities offering access to both the beach and deep-water canals. Healthcare is easily accessible, too: there are three hospitals on Grand Cayman.

Kassiopi, Greece

a seaport with boats rocks and home  in kassiopi greece
Image by Nguyen Minh via Unsplash

As Greek isles go, the hook-shaped island of Corfu is a bit of an outlier. Unlike Mykonos, Santorini, and the other islands in the Cyclades chain, which are located in the Aegean Sea, Corfu floats in the Ionian Sea, across from Italy. The island sees a bit more rain than the other Greek isles, as well, making for a lush landscape versus desert. It’s also home to Kassiopi — population about 1,000— a former fishing village set around a pretty, horseshoe-shaped harbor. Though the town of Corfu, with its nightlife, restaurants, and shopping are easily accessible by boat or car, quiet Kassiopi has retained its low-key charm. It’s also less than an hour from the island’s airport, which offers flights not just to Athens, but throughout Europe.

Lagos, Portugal                                                                       

a small motor boat with people sailing through water in lagos portugal
Image by Olga Guryanova via Unsplash

For retirees, Portugal’s hassle-free residency requirements and a low cost of living may be the initial draw, but the country’s gorgeous landscape, atmospheric cities, and easy access to the rest of Europe is more than enough reason to stay. Even better, purchasing real estate costing €500,000 or more makes you eligible for a “golden visa,” which fast tracks residency. Located in southern Portugal’s coastal Algarve region, Lagos is still a bit under the radar, but not for long: the walkable, atmospheric downtown embodies everything we love about small European towns — think winding cobblestone streets, farmers markets, and outdoor cafes — paired with the beachy bliss we all crave.

Neuilly-Sur Seine, France

If you’re looking for the charm of a traditional French village, but don’t want to give up easy access to Paris, consider Neuilly-Sur Seine, a posh enclave just 15 minutes by Metro from the heart of the French capital. This small enclave is home to celebrities, corporate CEOs, and politicians. Green spaces abound, including the 19th-century Parc de la Folie Saint-James and the Bois de Boulogne, which separates the town from the far western neighborhoods of Paris. Residences range from elegant apartments housed within gracious Art Deco or Haussmann-designed buildings (some of which have views of the Eiffel Tower) to spacious townhomes and sprawling mansions.

Savannah, Georgia

aerial view of boats on a body of water in savannah georgia
Image by Tyler Edic via Unsplash

Retire in balmy Savannah and you’ll have it all at your fingertips: low-key beaches on nearby Tybee Island; marshes and rivers to explore on a boat or kayak; and a gorgeous historic district filled with museums, historic sites, terrific restaurants, and 22 lush garden squares. Housing options abound as well and include elegant historic townhouses, sprawling homes on amenity-rich island communities, and beach retreats with views of the ocean and tidal creeks. Though Savannah is steeped in tradition — it is, after all, Georgia’s second-oldest city — Savannah College of Art & Design’s 19,000 or so students and faculty keep things fresh. It makes sense financially, too: Georgia doesn’t tax social security income.

Sotogrande, Spain

Rafael Nadal, Hugh Grant, and Mariah Carey are just a few of the celebrities who own homes in Sotogrande, an ultra-exclusive community on the Mediterranean coast of Cadiz, Spain. Whether you choose to purchase a condominium villa or mansion, you’ll have access to some of the best golf courses in Spain, a polo field, a deep-water marina for more than 1,000 vessels, and, of course, a stunning stretch of Mediterranean beach. Within the town, there are restaurants and nightclubs, luxury boutiques, beach bars, and, on Sundays, a local artisan market. The community is also close to Natural Park of Los Alcornocales, where hiking trails lead through the mountains and karst formations through deep ravines and into lush rainforests.

Featured image by Cassia Tofano via Unsplash