If you’re nearing retirement, you have some big decisions to make. One of the most important ones is where you will spend your post-working days. There are several factors to consider when making this decision: what kind of relaxing you want to do, how close you want to be to family, and what you want your daily life to be like.
Of course, it’s everyone’s dream to retire onto an island like Aruba. Imagine sitting out in the sun, drinking a tropical drink, and watching the waves come in off the shore every day. However, is that even feasible, or is it just a dream? What are the realities of retirement on the “happy island” of Aruba?
As it turns out, if you have the funding, Aruba is a fantastic place to retire. You’ll be able to fulfill your beachside dream and have access to great food, culture, and healthcare. The moving and retirement process isn’t very hard, and there are lovely places to live all over the island.
Consider this your guide to retiring in Aruba. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of living on the island, the cost of living and buying a house on the island, and the process of retiring in Aruba as a United States citizen. Finally, we’ll give mini-reviews of the best places to live and whether or not Aruba is a great place to retire.
11 Pros and Cons of Retiring in Aruba
As with any place to retire, there are positives and negatives to retiring in Aruba. Because of the location and quality of life on the island, there are more pros than cons. However, the weight of the negative aspects could outweigh the positives, depending on your situation.
Pro: Weather and Climate
The most apparent positive to living in Aruba in retirement is the island itself. The beaches and towns alike only receive approximately 18 inches of rainfall a year and maintain a steady temperature of around 80℉. Island breezes make it the perfect summer weather all year round. Aruba is also far south of the hurricane zone.
Pro: Beaches and Ocean
The beaches in Aruba are some of the best in the world, and they live up to that title. Miles of glorious sand and surf with crystal clear water adorn the sides of the island. Wherever you are, you don’t have to go far for ocean views and lovely beaches.
Pro: Activities and Culture
Of course, there’s more than just the beach and the ocean views to keep you busy in Aruba. Whether you’re in the capital city of Oranjestad or the more rural hills, you won’t be far from things to do. Swimming, scuba diving, golfing and seeing local shows are very popular in resort towns on the island.
Pro: Excellent Health Care
While you’ll need your health insurance to be able to retire to Aruba, you’ll be able to take advantage of the top-notch hospital should you need it. Although there’s only one hospital, you’re never too far from it! For regular checkups or emergencies, the hospital in Oranjestad is accessible and of excellent quality.
Pro: A Safe Island
Aruba is one of the most well-developed islands in the Caribbean and has a remarkably low crime rate. The crimes reported are mostly small thefts and are much lower than most cities in America. Houses in Aruba almost always have a home security system, but it’s rarely necessary.
Pro: Clean Water
In contrast to the many Caribbean and Bahamian islands, Aruba’s water comes out of the tap ready to drink. You won’t need to rely on bottled water or boil water before drinking it. Clean water will save you money, energy, and the excess use of plastics. It’s an easily overlooked benefit that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Pro: English Speaking
Aruba’s primary languages are Dutch (the island is a colony of the Netherlands) and Papiamento, the native language. However, because of the heavy tourism industry, almost everyone on the island speaks English. You can learn other languages, but you don’t have to if you speak English!
Pro: High Quality of Life
All of these pros add up to a fantastic quality of life for island dwellers. Idyllic beach life isn’t just a dream of tourists on vacation–year-round islanders are some of the happiest people on earth. Aruba’s nickname is “one happy island,” and it lives up to it, increasing the quality of life for everyone who lives there.
Con: High Cost of Living
Aruba doesn’t produce much (other than their famed aloe plants). Therefore, every modern necessity on the island is imported. The price for everyday shopping items, groceries, and clothing is exceptionally high. While real estate prices are about the same as the average American home, the cost of living is higher.
Con: Tourist Season
There’s a reason Aruba is as famous as it is and a reason you’re considering retiring there. However, the beautiful beaches and oceans, activities, and restaurants are fodder for tourists. While you can’t complain (tourism provides almost all of the island’s economic benefits), a constant stream of tourists can make things more of a hassle.
Con: Far From Loved Ones
What might be the most challenging downside to overcome is the distance from your loved ones on the mainland. It’s not always feasible to make the journey across the ocean, and you’ll miss out on the day-to-day life at home. Retiring on an island will distance you from friends and family, but it also provides the perfect opportunity for visitors!
Is Aruba a Good Place to Retire?
With all of these pros and cons taken into account, there is proof that Aruba is a great place to retire. The high quality of life, tons of available activities, and beautiful beaches make it an ideal place to live out your golden years. With perfect weather and a safe environment, Aruba is one of the best islands for retirement.
However, Aruba might not be an ideal place for everyone to retire. While it’s perfect for those who love the beach and have the funds to live there successfully, Aruba might be hard for retirees who don’t have as much money or prefer living close to loved ones. Although its weather is lovely, ex-pats might miss the four seasons.
To give a simple answer to a complicated question, retiring in Aruba is perfect for those for whom it’s meant. The draw of the island is its independence and beauty, and this may pull in many people. Others might prefer a domestic retirement and choose to stay on the continent near their friends and family.
How to Retire in Aruba
If you’ve decided that Aruba is your ideal retirement place, it’s time to look into the practicals of retirement on the island. Unfortunately, you can’t just show up in Aruba and expect to be able to live there. Although the patriation process is relatively simple for retirees, it still will take some time and investment to make your island dreams come true.
No matter where you’re from, retiring to a different country can be an enormous challenge. You not only have to prepare for a new life overseas, but you also have to wrap up the strings of your life at home. Once you’ve sold your house, had your retirement party, and said goodbye to friends and family, you’ll be able to leave for Aruba.
Aruba has a special residential permit for retirees or pensioners. Retirees are listed as anyone above 21 years of age who has legally retired and receives passive income. Pensioners, on the other hand, are over 55 years old with a proven source of income. Either one of these groups can take advantage of the relaxed residential requirements.
However, you have several steps to take before applying for a residence permit on the island. Most residential permits last for one year and are renewed after that, so you’ll have a chance to change your mind if you decide that island life isn’t for you. After a year, the permit can become permanent.
Can U.S. Citizens Retire in Aruba?
United States citizens are more than welcome to retire in Aruba. Because of our friendly terms with the Netherlands, the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services of Aruba, or DINA, has made the process easier for American retirees to move. However, there is still a legal process to complete.
To retire in Aruba, the most important thing you will need to do is provide proof of stable income and buy a house in Aruba. The entire process is expedited for those moving to Aruba for retirement, so you won’t have as much to do as a regular expatriate. Here is a list of what you will need to start the process:
- Petition forms from the DINA
- Valid identification and passport
- A police record of behavior
- A valid birth certificate
- Medical certificates proving your general physical and mental health
- Proof of income above $56,000 annually
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of accident insurance
- Proof of house ownership in Aruba
- A deposit to complete all of the forms and applications
Many of these items are easy to come by, or you already have. If you haven’t retired fully in the United States, make sure to do that first, so the proof of passive income will be more straightforward for you. It’s best to get as many of these documents together as possible before filling out the DINA application.
How Much Does a House In Aruba Cost?
Non-residents are allowed and even encouraged to buy property in Aruba. Because you need property to retire to the island, buying a house is one of the first things you’ll need to do before retiring. There’s a large variety of homes, condos, and villas available all over the island with varying prices.
The real estate market in Aruba is not too different from the market in America–there are just fewer options. You can purchase timeshares, condos, villas, or land in Aruba, ranging from $100,000 to several million dollars. Of course, location is still vital, and the closer to the beach you are, the more expensive the houses will be.
When buying property in Aruba, you can do one of two things: buy the land and house outright or purchase a long lease from the Aruban government. Long leases are generally for about sixty years and are paid with a yearly fee (instead of a mortgage).
Many retirees choose a long lease, so they don’t have to buy the deed to the land itself. However, as inheritance taxes are relatively low (2-6% for immediate family members), buying land can be beneficial if you want to leave an Aruban legacy to your family. Island banks are often willing to loan to American citizens looking to retire in Aruba.
When buying a house in Aruba, you’ll have to pay extra taxes. In addition to the 2% notary fee, there is a transfer tax of 3-6%, depending on the price of the home. The annual property tax is 0.4%, generally at $0.08 per square foot. These taxes are necessary for the transfer of Aruban property to an American citizen.
Expat Taxes in Aruba
Once you retire to Aruba, you’ll become an expatriate or ex-pat. You will have to pay taxes on your American income, whether that’s Social Security, a different pension, or another form of payment. The United States has a tax treaty with the Netherlands, which extends to Aruba. Therefore, you won’t have to pay an entirely double tax on your American income.
Taxes in Aruba vary based on worldwide income. Depending on your Aruban tax bracket, you could be taxed anywhere from 7% to 59%. This money doesn’t include property tax, however. Owning land in Aruba will also result in taxation, which varies depending on the property’s value. A long lease has a different tax bracket.
How to Move to Aruba
Once you’ve purchased a property in Aruba and fully retired in the United States, you’re ready to move to the island! It’s a complicated process to move, let alone across the ocean to an island. However, if you’ve already secured your home and residency permit, you’ve done most of the work.
First of all, you’ll have to take care of all your affairs at home. Make sure that you’ve sold or rented your property, unplugged from your local community, and pared down on your belongings (where you’re going, you won’t need those winter clothes anymore!). You want to start retirement with a clean slate.
You’ve already purchased your retirement home, so you don’t need to worry about real estate. Ideally, your new home will come with some furnishings, or you’ll be able to buy them on the island. It’s not worth flying your kitchen table across the ocean–the customs and expenses are a huge hassle.
If you’ve made it on the plane and have your visa and retirement pension settled, all that’s left to do is settle in and enjoy island life. It’ll take some time to adjust to the time zone, unpack, and get your bearings. However, it won’t be long before you feel like you’ve lived in the sunshine and sandy beaches forever.
Living in Aruba as an Expat
Living in Aruba as an ex-pat is a fantastic experience. Many people go for a visit and decide to stay for the rest of their lives. Because people from all over the world move to Aruba, it’s a very diverse island. As an ex-pat, you’ll be able to experience all of the cultures, cuisines, and languages on the island.
The clash of cultures results in some unique and fantastic fusion food. From fancy restaurants to local holes in the wall, there are tons of opportunities to try new food in Aruba. It’s not all beach bars and Italian restaurants–those are for the tourists. Of course, you can’t live there without trying the native food.
The best way to find out about living on the island as an expatriate is to experience it yourself. Once you’re there for longer than a vacation week, you’ll realize how many hidden gems the island has to offer. Soon you’ll be the island expert and be able to identify your favorite spots.
Cost of Living on Aruba
While the quality of life in Aruba is very high, the cost of living is also very high. Most of this cost comes from the expense of importing everything into the island. Food, clothes, and everyday necessities are expensive. Grocery shopping is one of the most significant expenses for island residents.
However, there are some advantages to being a local on the island. Tourist prices are higher–if you tell shop owners you’re a local (or even better, pay in the Dutch florin instead of U.S. dollars), you will probably be able to score a lower price. As you live there, you’ll learn when things are more on sale as well.
Many of the utilities involved in living on the island are not as expensive. There is only one electric and water company, and one internet and cell service company. Both of these aren’t too pricey. Garbage collection is government-funded and picked up once a week. If you live in a retirement community, these will probably be covered for you.
Long-term residents of Aruba find that they can save money by not eating out and only buying necessities. However, if your income is enough to retire to Aruba, you likely won’t need to worry too much about the cost of living. You’ll have plenty of time to try everything on the island and decide your favorite.
What are the Best Places to Retire in Aruba?
Before you buy your house, you might be wondering what the best place in Aruba is. The short answer is, anywhere on the island is impressive. You can’t escape from natural beauty and exciting opportunities. However, there are specific spots that might speak to your personal retirement needs.
Over 55 Communities in Aruba
While there aren’t many over 55 communities throughout Aruba, there are plenty of unique gated communities. Because of the special requirements for pensioners and retirees, most regular gated communities function as 55+ communities. Some younger people or families live in them, but they are mostly made up of fellow retirees.
One of the most beautiful beaches on the island is Eagle Beach. On the resort side of the island, Eagle Beach is busy with tourists every year. However, there are also pockets of residential neighborhoods for year-round islanders. These communities are quieter and don’t have as many tourists.
Eagle Beach has been voted one of the most beautiful beaches globally–it has soft white sand and beautiful clear waters. If you’re planning on having lots of time in the sand or family and friends visit you on the island, the Eagle Beach neighborhood is ideal for you.
Palm Beach is the second famous beach on the island. If you are moving to Aruba to spend time in the water, Palm Beach is the strip for you. You’ll be able to participate in all the water activities, including scuba diving and beach bars, if you live near Palm Beach. This area of the island is the most active neighborhood.
Some of the attractions near the Palm Beach area (other than the beach) include the historic Dutch Windmill, the Butterfly Farm, and the Bubali Bird Sanctuary. The bird sanctuary is an incredibly fantastic nature reserve. If you want access to the beach and the other natural parts of the island, Palm Beach is an ideal place to retire.
Tierra del Sol
If you want to live a little farther from the beach but still in a fantastic community, Tierra del Sol is an amazing option. Tierra del Sol is one of the largest resorts on the island but isn’t by the beach. It’s nestled amongst the hills and holes of the Tierra del Sol golf course, one of the premier golf courses on the island.
Although Tierra del Sol is a resort, it’s also the area surrounding the resort. There are plenty of private homes and condos to choose from in this area. While it’s one of the more expensive spots on the island, Tierra del Sol is great for golf lovers.
Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba and the largest city. This area is the most urban on the entire island but still within a few miles of the beach. In addition to the malls and shopping strips, there are several historical museums and tours in the cities. Specialty restaurants are also in Oranjestad.
However, it’s not just city life for people who decide to retire in Oranjestad. The city is right on the ocean, so it has its share of beaches and waterfront views. You can get the best of both worlds by buying property in Oranjestad for an active retirement community.
Of the eight regions of Aruba, Noord is one of the nicest and the most affordable. Palm Beach is in Noord, but there are several other places to buy. At the very tip of Aruba, Noord is a lush peninsula with several gated communities and neighborhoods.
If you want the bustle of Palm Beach without the expensive real estate, you can find another small neighborhood in Noord. Property prices are lower the farther away you get from the beach, but every part of the island is beautiful (and no part of the island is very far away at all).
Aruba is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. With perfect weather year-round, beautiful beaches, and endless opportunities for activities, Aruba is an amazing place to spend your post-working years. The pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to living on the “one happy island.”