Bargain-Priced Snowbird Escapes

It’s been years since I’ve had to suffer through a cold winter.

I spend the season in my ocean-view condo in Los Cabos. I much prefer the warm sun on my face and crunch of sand underfoot as I stroll on the beach…to a bitter chill and snow-sodden boots.

I’m not a snowbird, per se, as I spend spring and summer in my other home-bases in Portugal and Ireland. But I certainly understand the motivation.

Traditionally, snowbirds were North American retirees who flocked south in winter to warmer climes in places like Florida and Arizona, packing the golf courses, tennis courts, and restaurants during “season.”

But with low-cost travel, their range has expanded to places like Costa Rica, Belize, and Mexico. Northern Europeans have done the same for decades, patronizing beach resorts on Spain’s Mediterranean coast and the Algarve in Portugal in great numbers.

And thanks to good value real estate, like the listings below, you can own a second home in a warm overseas destination to stay in as long as you want…and even rent out for extra income when you’re not there.

Ambergris Caye, Belize
Listing Price: $90,000

Powdery white-sand beaches, and a waterfront lined with swaying palms and low-key beach bars, with boat docks jutting into azure Caribbean waters. No cars, just golf carts and bikes—water taxi if you’re traveling far. This has got to be one of the places Jimmy Buffet has in mind when writing his songs—and you’ll certainly here many of them covered by musicians in local watering holes when you’re here.

Ambergris Caye might just be the quintessential island paradise. It’s no wonder it’s a favored winter getaway for both tourists and seasonal residents fleeing chilly weather up north.

But Ambergris was first put on the map for the excellent scuba diving just offshore along a prime section of the Mesoamerican Reef—it’s the world’s second largest. Since tourism first started here in the 1970s, it has grown rapidly as far as population, visitor numbers, and development. Limited land (much of the island is protected) has pushed up real estate prices, but there are bargains to be had.

About 9 miles north of San Pedro, the main town, is a one-bedroom condo in a secluded waterfront resort with a virtually private beach and three pools. No need to join a tour—you can snorkel from the shore.

Torrevieja, Spain
Listing Price: €73,260 ($86,706)

For centuries, Torrevieja was a simple fishing village and center for salt production (collected from local lagoons). Today this city on Spain’s Costa Blanca is a favored destination for holidaymakers from the U.K., Scandinavia, Germany, and Ireland, many of whom own second homes here, as do many Spaniards. The unique microclimate means that winters are very mild and dry with lots of sunshine, perfect to enjoy the trio of beaches in town.

With the international airport in Alicante just 40 minutes away, it’s also easy to get to. And being a tourist town, you’ll find plenty to do, including waterfront restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. Simply strolling down the boardwalk on a pleasant late afternoon, people watching, can be a joy.

A two-bedroom apartment a few blocks from the main beach is available. On site, you have a community pool, sports court, playground, and garden area—very family friendly.

Huatulco, Mexico
Listing Price: $110,000

This resort area in the far southern Pacific coast features an amazing nine bays and 36 white- and golden-sand beaches. Although it was developed specifically for tourism by the Mexican government decades ago and does features plenty of all-inclusive resorts, it remains low-key and laidback. The area has received international recognition for its eco-friendly and sustainable development.

Some beaches are built up, near the main towns, some are quite remote and reachable only by boat thanks to the difficulty of building roads through the Sierra Madre del Sure mountains—plus there are vast protected areas.

Most tourism here, about 80%, is domestic. Although a sizeable contingent of foreigners come from December to April. Many are Canadian and arrive on seasonal direct flights into the small international airport.

In a quiet, residential neighborhood near the beach, and walking distance to restaurants, cafes, and shops, is the two-bedroom modern condo linked to above.

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