Retiring In A Snorkeling Destination?

by AJ
(West Coast)

I have been following this great website for years and had a question for the group regarding snorkeling in retirement. I would imagine that some people who visit this website are retired (or have done similar research on the subject) and will be able to provide input.

I am an avid snorkeler and have snorkeled all over the world. Spouse and I will retire in a few years (no kids) and am debating on living on the mainland (west coast) and vacationing to snorkel or just living in a place where we can shore snorkel everyday like Hawaii or maybe St Thomas (taking the ferry to St. John on occasion).

Hawaii is considerably more expensive to live on than the mainland with housing costs and state income taxes. St. John is way too expensive for housing but St. Thomas may be a possibility. Most other islands in the Caribbean have very high taxes on U.S. citizens. I am not interested in Florida since there is minimal shore snorkeling.

Does anyone live in a location where they can snorkel everyday? What are the positives and negatives? Does it ever get boring snorkeling the same location every day? Do you get island fever and want to go back to the mainland? Is it worth the additional cost to live in the snorkeling location and snorkel everyday vs. living a lower cost lifestyle on the mainland and vacationing on occasion at a snorkeling destination?

I have always had this dream of retiring and snorkeling everyday but now that I have seriously looked into the logistics and costs, I am more on the fence.

Any help/advice would be appreciated.

Comments for Retiring In A Snorkeling Destination?

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 22, 2016
Retirement Snorkeling Destination
by: John

I live on Oahu and have had similar thoughts. The Big Island of Hawaii has far better snorkeling and is a lot more affordable. I guess a lot depends on your definition of affordable, and that's probably where we should start. Are you looking to rent or own and what's the respective range you'd accept?

Oct 22, 2016
Retirement Snorkeler
by: Jim in KY

Hi AJ,

We are avid life-long snorkelers and have retired recently. If we didn't have obligations with the family farm, we would be following the course you have chosen. Here a few tips.

We have snorkeled about 30 countries, mostly in the Caribbean and Central America, but also Hawaii. I agree with your assessment that Hawaii is prohibitively expensive, quite isolated also but not so much for west coasters. I'm assuming you've been earning inflated (compared to the Midwest or South) west coast incomes? If so, your cost of living may not be that much lower than Hawaii, particularly Molokai or the Big Island.

There are two places I'd love to live for superb shore snorkeling, each radically different: St. John and Roatan. You've mentioned the high cost of property on St. John, but I'm aware of some modest rustic properties on the East End that are in the $500K range, probably 2 bedrooms with no pools and not beachfront (usually high on the mountain with sea views).

If you want to stay in a US Territory, you should consider St. Croix instead of St. Thomas, where housing costs are MUCH lower than St. John. There's very good shore snorkeling along much of the north shore. Alternatively, you could look at the Spanish Virgin Islands, part of Puerto Rico: Culebra and Vieques (and a half dozen or so smaller cayes). We have extensively snorkeled Culebra and there are many shore snorkels. Housing prices there are certainly lower than the USVI, and you could also look at mainland Puerto Rico somewhere near Fajardo where there are some good shore snorkels and where the ferry to Culebra/Vieques is located. Sort of outlier but perhaps doable for west coast residents, American Samoa may be worth looking at.

Finally, Roatan might well be the best shore dive island in the western hemisphere, even better than Bonaire. There are many dozens of sites all around this fringing reef encircled 40 mile long island. From the amazing variety of sites to the overall health of the reef to the numbers and variety of fish, Roatan is hard to beat.

While many on the island speak Spanish, English is widely spoken due to its history as a British colony (part of British Honduras in the 19th century). There are also hundreds of American, Canadian and British ex-pats living there and I've been told that property and tax laws are favorable. You can find lots of affordable listings there and it is far less expensive to eat out, buy clothes and groceries than in the USVI.

There is a superb American-style super market mid-island (French Harbor) and quite a few attractions for tourists and residents. We have vacationed there three times and keep finding new snorkels. And if you don't mind getting on a boat from time to time, there are dozens more sites around Roatan, as well as the adjacent Utila, Guanaja, and Cayos Cochinos (a national park). Also Belize and the Riviera Maya are not far away.

Good luck with your search ask any more questions you might have.

Happy snorkeling😎✌🏼️!

Oct 22, 2016
Been There
by: Susan B

My husband and I went through the same dilemma two years ago. We spent several months on St. Thomas, then did the same thing on St. Croix. We wanted a location where we could just walk down to good snorkeling right from our residence. We love Hawaii and lived there in our youth but knew from experience that we could never afford to live close enough to the beach to do what we wanted. We also spent time on Culebra, Puerto Rico, Maya Riviera, and the Bahamas. We've made several trips to Bonaire, Aruba and Curacao which were wonderful but residency requirements are prohibitive.

My advice to you is that whatever location you decide upon, spend at least 3-4 months there renting and leading the lifestyle you plan on after retirement. We were sure we wanted to buy a condo on St. Thomas in Red Hook near the ferry to St. John. There is great snorkeling at Sapphire Beach and we could hop over to St. John whenever we wanted.

The reality for us was that after 3 months, we were done. It was great to snorkel everyday but it eventually became repetitive even with the five great sites right off our beach. We did St. John a couple of times a month but found that it was really crowded during season. Many times couldn't find parking at the beaches. The people we met were mainly tourists, there for a week or two. Driving was frightening and dangerous most of the time.

Our next foray was several months on St. Croix. This one was harder to leave as we met some wonderful people and still think about life there. We stayed at several different places around the island, but the north shore was idyllic. The downsides were the crime, the politics, and condition of places we were interested in buying. Also, snorkeling everyday seems wonderful but does get repetitive.

We ended up staying in Florida. We have a condo on the east coast by some decent snorkeling when the ocean and weather cooperate and we have a home on the west coast of Florida. If we really need a snorkeling fix - good hard and soft corals, lots of fish, we can run down to Looe Key or any of the other destinations in the Keys.

We found that although snorkeling is a big part of our lives, we needed more of a balance so now we snorkel when the conditions are good, sometimes everyday, sometimes a few times a month. Other considerations - good biking, gardening, access to other amenities - entertainment, shopping, food choices, etc., all needed to be given consideration.

Hope this helps.

Dec 02, 2016
Retiring In A Snorkeling Destination - Update
by: AJ -West Coast

Thank you all for your wonderful comments and insight. Especially, Jim and Susan. Your advice really got us thinking about not only the snorkeling but what else we are trying to get out of life and the standard of living we are willing to have.

For anyone who may be reading this years down the line, here is what we ultimately decided. Snorkeling is very important to us and we want to live in a location where we can snorkel everyday. However, we also realized that after decades of snorkel trips to third world countries, we really like the standard of living available in the US and/or US territories.

On Jim's advice, we looked a lot harder into Puerto Rico and liked what we saw from a tax standpoint and cost of living on Culebra and Vieques. Therefore, we are going to try and live in the USVI and Puerto Rico in the first few years of retirement. Taxes are very good in both places as they do not have a state income tax and USVI does not have sales tax. We are a little concerned about the standard of living for the price in these locations, especially Puerto Rico, but it still seems worth the risk to try. However, we are only going to rent in these locations until we are 100% sure that we would stay for the rest of our lives.

If these two locations turn out to be fun for a while but not a long term solution, similar to what Susan had described, then we have decided we will move to Hawaii, either Big Island or Maui. State taxes in Hawaii are very high, but property taxes are low which helps to make up for it. The other thing that will help to afford Hawaii is that we will not be paying state income tax for a few years while living in a US territory which will help our retirement savings go farther.

I think it will also be nice in Hawaii to have things like a Costco, higher quality vehicles, consistent home utilities such as electricity that does not go out very often, etc. Also, it is a very easy flight back to the west coast to visit family or flight from Honolulu to almost any island in the South Pacific, our favorite snorkel region anywhere in the world.

Therefore, I think we will be in a US territory for two to three years and have a great time. Then once we start to miss the conveniences of one of the 50 states, we will likely live in Hawaii for the rest of our life.

Thank you very much to everyone who posted as it really helped us a lot in making this decision and I hope this conversation will help someone in the future looking to retire in a snorkeling destination.

Click here to add your own comments

Ask your question or share a story! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Snorkeling Stories and Q&A.

Like

Follow






[?]Get Our RSS Feed
  • XML RSS
Read more about Galen & Nicole