In this report, I will share the Top 10 Beaches to Retire Early in SE Asia in 2023.
The best beach for you might be different from the best beach for me. So, in addition to telling you each of the top 10 beaches, I am going to tell you what I love about each beach, and why.
Knowing my reasoning can be very useful to you. A beach that I don’t rank as high for a given reason, might be the same reason that beach should be in first place for you.
Plus, not all of you are focused only on SE Asia. So, in the end, I will give you a link to my Youtube playlist that compares all the best places in the entire world. There is no need to take notes, I will give you a link to all of this in writing at the end.
And, not all of you are focused only on beaches. So, I will also post the top 10 small towns, the top 10 big cities, and the top 10 cool mountain cities in SE Asia for 2023. So make sure to subscribe and ring the bell so you will know when those videos come out.
Now for the top 10 beaches to retire early in SE Asia in 2023. I will not share any beach with you unless my feet have already been in the sand. I left the USA in 2007. I have lived in 67 countries in those 15 years. I don’t buy round-trip tickets. I keep moving forward. I have no empty bed to fly back to. Here are the top 10 beaches, in reverse order, starting with number 10.
Top 10 Beaches to Retire Early in SE Asia in 2023
10-Nha Trang, Vietnam: Nha Trang is a beautiful city right on the beach, with great restaurants, nightlife, hospitals, temples, handicraft markets, museums, art galleries, mud baths, waterfalls, sailing, and wave runners. Nha Trang is my favorite place overall to live in Vietnam. I love Vietnamese culture and food. There is a large local community here interested in taking care of their bodies–Yoga, beach exercise, beach running, fishing, swimming, biking, and hiking. I ran on the beach evermore and swam in the afternoon. I loved the $2 street food I found around Vietnam and there are vegetarian restaurants often right next door to the temples. If the two of us were to move to Nha Trang Beach, we would budget in the range of about $900 to $1200 per month which would include a furnished 1 bedroom apartment 4 blocks from the beach. The negative with Vietnam is that they recently have become restrictive with their visa policy requiring many expats to make monthly trips to the Cambodian border to avoid visa hassles. Many expats prefer Da Nang, Da Lat, or Phu Quoc, Vietnam, so visit those areas before making a final decision if you decide Vietnam is right for you.
9-Panglao, Philippines: Panglao Island is mainly a tourist island on the southern tip of the larger island called Bohol in the Philippines. You just cross a short free bridge from Tagbilaran City on Bohol Island to get to the beautiful beaches of Panglao. But you would probably live on the other side of the bridge where your cost of living would be lower and you would have greater access to shopping and more local-style restaurants with affordable prices. You would be only a scooter ride away from some of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. Some of our favorite snorkeling experiences in the Philippines were in this area of the Philippines. Plus, Bohol is a fairly large island full of beautiful rice paddies, mountains, chocolate hills, waterfalls, and the famous tarsier primates in the Philippines. There is a fairly decent hospital in Bohol but you may need to travel to Cebu or Manila for specialized treatment. Cebu is just one island away by ferry. My Panglao Philippines Retire Cheap Report, includes my retirement desirability scores and cost of living metrics, metrics, but if we were to move to that area today, the two of us would be able to live comfortably there in the range of $900 to $1200 per month including a furnished 1 bedroom apartment. We could stay in the Philippines with tourist visa extensions and would only be required to leave the country every 3 years for a day or two in order to restart the tourist visa extension process.
8-Penang, Malaysia: Penang Malaysia is famous for being one of the best food island capitals of the world. The island beaches of Penang are not as beautiful as other parts of Malaysia such as Semporna or the Perhentian islands, but the food, the sights, the sounds, and the street art scene in its colonial-era city center, make Georgetown Penang one of the most desirable and memorable destinations in SE Asia for cultural lovers. My Penang Malaysia Retire Cheap Report, includes my retirement desirability scores and cost of living metrics, but if we were to move to that area today, the two of us would be able to live comfortably there in the range of $1000 to $1300 per month including a furnished 1 bedroom apartment. Penang is a blending of Indian, Chinese, and Malay cultures so it offers a rich experience of food and temples nicely compacted on an island with great public transportation so you won’t need a car if you decide to move here. The beaches are just a short bus ride north of the city center. The number one attraction here is finding the best Mama’s restaurant in town for a $2 USD meal. Once you taste the amazing local foods, you will have a hard time convincing yourself to pay $8 to $10 USD in tourist restaurants.
7-Jomtien Beach, Thailand: Jomtien is one of the most affordable cities on the beach in Thailand. The Jomtien beach is a long and wide beach and there are a multitude of furnished condominium apartments within a few blocks of the beach that can be rented long term in the range of $200 to $350 per month. These apartments often include gyms, swimming pools, and covered parking spots. There are 3-night markets along the beach, each with many family-owned food carts offering delicious meals in the range of about 50 to 100 baht ($1.50 to $3.00 USD). You can grab a 10 Baht bus ($0.27 USD) into nearby Pattaya Thailand where there are 6 and 7-story modern malls with almost everything you would see in the most beautiful malls anywhere in the world along with a branch of one of the best hospitals in Bangkok. Pattaya also has the craziest nightlife you have ever seen in your life including Go Go Bars, electronic dance night clubs, and choreographed ladyboy cabarets. So you are just 10 minutes from the crazy but you can sleep at night in Jomtien without all the nightclub noise. You can take a ferry to Koh Lan for about $0.80 USD and visit 4 of the most beautiful beaches in this part of Thailand. My Jomtien Thailand Retire Cheap Report, includes my retirement desirability scores and cost of living metrics, but if we were to move to that area today, the two of us could live comfortably in the range of $800 to $1200 per month including a furnished 1 bedroom apartment. You could get a retirement visa at age 50 by showing a pension of around $1800 USD per month or avoid proving your pension by placing about $23,000 USD in a Thai bank.
6-Koh Phangan, Thailand: Koh Phangan Thailand is home to some of the most beautiful and less-developed white sand beaches in Thailand. Koh Phangan is most famous for its monthly full moon party where thousands of people gather to drink and dance under a full moon. But it is also a hippy heaven for those interested in Yoga, meditation, spiritualism, arts, music, drum circles, and vegan culinary treats. The hippies and backpackers seem to inhabit mostly the northwestern part of the island and its beaches. Older more traditional western retired expats are mostly around the city center in a few sports bars and smaller live music bars. Koh Phangan seems to have the highest ratio of foreigners to locals of anywhere I have seen in Thailand. There are several food courts in the city center with meals ranging from about 60 Baht to 100 Baht ($1.60 to $2.75). The Saturday Night Walking Street near the pier is where everyone, both locals and foreigners, goes to see and be seen, eat from locals’ food carts, and shop for everything including clothing and jewelry. My Koh Phangan Thailand Retire Cheap Report includes my retirement desirability scores and cost of living metrics, but if we were to move to that area today, the two of us could live comfortably in the range of $800 to $1200 per month including a furnished 1 bedroom apartment.
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Top 5 Beaches in SE Asia for 2023
5-San Juan, La Union, Philippines: San Juan has a surfer hippie vibe to it (along with small to medium size waves) that we haven’t seen that much of around the Philippines. That combination sets it apart in the running for this reason. But it depends upon what you are looking for. You will find not only surfers and hippies here but also young professionals with discretionary income that come here on long weekends to blow off steam. Many drive up here but others jump on one of the luxury buses that leave Manila every hour or two. San Juan doesn’t seem to have as many retired ex-pats from other countries as you will see in places like Metro Makati, Dumaguete, Angeles City, or Subic Bay. So if you like being mostly around locals instead of being surrounded by other ex-pats, this would be a nice choice for you especially if you have a bit of the hippy vibe in you. There are a few small medical clinics and hospitals in La Union and a few better ones about 1.5 hours away in Baguio. They will be able to take care of many of your more common medical needs. But for some problems they may refer you to one of the top specialists or hospitals in the Metro Manila area which is about 5 hours away depending on traffic. We already discussed the visa situation earlier when we discussed Panglao. My San Juan Philippines Retire Cheap Report includes my retirement desirability scores and cost of living metrics, but if we were to move to this area today, the two of us could live comfortably in the range of $1100 to $1/400 per month including a furnished 1 bedroom apartment. The reason San Juan stands out as different from most beach areas of the Philippines is that it has a noticeably more western-style beach “feeling” to it with corresponding food and nightlife than almost anywhere in the Philippines. For that reason, San Juan La Union is easily in the top 3 places in the Philippines for hippie surfer types. But it doesn’t have the white sand beaches like you see in other parts of the Philippines. So, it may not be as desirable as other beaches in the Philippines. More on that when we talk about the next beach.
4-Puerto Galera, Philippines: Puerto Galera has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the Philippines. Most of the beaches in the Philippines that are this nice are a long ways from hospitals, malls, and modern infrastructure But Puerto Galera is only a 1-hour ferry ride from the big island of Luzon. That means you will be able to enjoy a small-town life with white sand beaches and amazing beautiful watersports but still have quick and inexpensive access to Metro Manila where there are great hospitals, malls, and every kind of product that you will find in the largest city in the Philippines. My Puerto Galera Philippines Retire Cheap Report includes my retirement desirability scores and cost of living metrics, but if we were to move to this area today, the two of us could live comfortably in the range of $1100 to $1400 per month including a furnished 1 bedroom apartment. After reviewing my scores on livability factors for Puerto Galera you might think I would rank Puerto Galera as having medium retirement desirability. But I am ranking it as high desirability. I just really enjoyed my time there. In fact, I would rank only Baguio in the Philippines as a better place to retire in the Philippines but it is too far from a beach to be listed here. Both Qiang and I ranked Puerto Galera as our second favorite place to retire in the Philippines. If you are thinking of living on or near the beach in the Philippines you should also consider Siquijor Island, Camiguin Island, and El Nido before making a final decision.
Top 3 Beaches in SE Asia for 2023
3-Bali, Indonesia: Ubud is a beautiful traditional village in the mountains of Bali where many people love to stay and eat in many of the healthy international food restaurants. The beautiful beaches on the Island of Bali are almost too numerous to list. But the closest beautiful beach to Ubud is Keramas Beach. Bali is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. It was, of course, beautiful; the landscape, the beaches, the people. The joys of this relatively small island are spread out everywhere. So you will need to have a vehicle or rent a scooter like most people. Make sure to ride your scooter to Utuwala on the southern tip of Bali to see the fisherman boats, the local fish market, and children dressed in their school uniforms. Also, take the ferry over to Lembongan for the weekend and visit the famous cliff beaches and umbrella graveyards. Finally, bring your camera with you when you visit the terraced rice fields when they are in full green before harvest. The cost of living in Bali would range from about $1000 USD per month to about $2800 USD per month depending on whether you integrated into the local culture or lived in an ex-pat bubble.
2-Phuket, Thailand: Phuket is the largest Island in Thailand. But, people come to Phuket for the beach. My favorites are Kata Beach and Surin Beach … though you can’t go wrong with Kamala Beach if you are a surfer, or Patong Beach if you are a party animal. However, if you are a cultural explorer, your exploration of Phuket should include a day or two in Old Town Phuket. You will need a car or scooter to live here. The beach communities of Kata and Surin, my favorites, just don’t have everything you will need. You will need to make trips to Patong or Phuket to get supplies and vary your entertainment. Grab car is way overpriced here, the taxis are outrageous, and the public transportation is lacking greatly. Luckily, you can buy a cheap used scooter here for about $500 USD. This transportation solution is not as desirable as riding the 10-Baht bus as we saw in Jomtien and Pattaya. But the physical beauty of the water and the sand is more beautiful in Phucket, so it ranks higher on my “best beach” list. If you love Thai food you will love the quality and pricing here. Just stay away from the tourist restaurants which are on or within a block of the beach. Go back a block or two and see where the locals are eating for $2 to $3 per meal. If you want to eat western food here, expect to pay $8 to $15 USD per meal. My Phuket Thailand Retire Cheap Report includes my retirement desirability scores and cost of living metrics, but if we were to move to this area today, the two of us could live comfortably in the range of $1000 to $1400 per month including a furnished 1 bedroom apartment.
Number 1 Beach Retire Early in SE Asia
1-Koh Samui, Thailand: Koh Samui is my number one rated beach place in SE Asia for 2023. It is true that the most touristy areas are crowded and crazy expensive. But Samui also has a smaller island feel to it in many other parts of the island. Plus, it has some of the most dreamy white sand beaches and light blue water. Further, it has many amazing restaurant choices for both international and local Thai food. It has multiple smaller communities spread all over the island, each with stores and restaurants with most of what you would need, so you wouldn’t be spending as much time driving around the island on your scooter to get things. Most communities have a public market of some kind where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, plus food courts with multiple food carts with reasonably priced delicious foods. So you don’t have to eat in the expensive tourist-style restaurants in Koh Samui if you are on a tight budget. On our apartment tour, we saw choices for apartments that would satisfy tighter budgets. There are also a few reasonably rated hospitals on the island so you may not need to go to larger cities in Thailand for health care. But if you do need to go to Bangkok, there is an airport on Koh Samui with daily flights to Bangkok, one of the best medical tourism places in the world. My Koh Samui Thailand Retire Cheap Report includes my retirement desirability scores and cost of living metrics, but if we were to move to this area today, the two of us could live comfortably in the range of $1000 to $1400 per month including a furnished 1 bedroom apartment.
I promised to give you some links. Here is the link to my Youtube Playlist comparing all the top places to retire in the entire world. To learn about my new Retire Overseas Course which shares the 7 lessons people must know to escape the rat race and live happily overseas. Come to VagabondBuddha.com and click the “Courses” Tab.
Thanks for reviewing our report Top 10 Beaches to Retire Early in SE Asia in 2023. This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the Youtube channel for Vagabond Buddha.com. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?