When it comes to retirement places in the Philippines, one has many options: major urban cities, larger rural cities, beach resorts, mountain lodges. Each has its own unique and attractive characteristics. The main benefit of retirement at a beach resort is: (i) exciting beach activities, (ii) ongoing “vacation” atmosphere, (iii) great entertainment and nightlife, (iv) continuous flow of foreign travelers , (v) numerous hotels and related resort facilities, (vi) great accessibility to the airport, and (vi) small towns. In this category of retreat locations, the most popular are (i) Boracay Island, (ii) Mactan Island, (iii) Panglao Island, (iv) Subic Bay, (v) and Puerto Galera.
This is the most famous of all the spa areas in the Philippines. There are many 5-star resorts on this island and numerous foreign-owned bars and restaurants. The sand is one of the best in the world and the nightlife is paramount. However, it is crowded and overdeveloped like Waikiki and Miami Beach. It has a small permanent population of around 15,000 but a large daily population of tourists from around the world. It attracts travelers of all stripes: international sophisticates, escaping Manila hipsters, water enthusiasts, backpackers, and late-night partiers. The downside to Boracay is that housing costs tend to be high, more like housing costs in Manila. However, for a retiree looking for beach resort action, the island of Boracay is the place to be.
This island is right next to Cebu City, across a bridge and actually where Cebu’s domestic and international airports are located. Like Boracay, Mactan also has sandy beaches, but it doesn’t come close to the quality of Boracay’s. It is also packed with exclusive 5-star hotels and resorts. However, while Boracay is more remote, accessibility is excellent and Mactan Island due to its proximity to Cebu. Additionally, there is a casino on Mactan Island for those who enjoy adding gambling to their retirement lifestyle.
Living on Mactan Island offers that resort vibe, due to all the resort hotels, but it is close to great medical facilities and upscale shopping centers across the bridge in Cebu City. Housing costs are lower in Mactan than in Boracay.
This island is located across a short bridge from the much larger island of Bohol, which is approximately 1/12 hours by speedboat ferry from Cebu City, or a short trip to the airport from the national airport of Zebu. Panglao Island has a population of around 60,000 and is generally associated with Alona Beach, a strip of resorts and dive centers on the southern side of the island. Diving is what attracts tourists and retirees to Panglao Island.
There are many resorts and the cost of living is substantially lower than on Mactan Island. The downside, of course, is that the island is more remote and requires a boat or plane trip to reach Cebu City’s commercial and medical facilities.
This area has quickly become a favorite retirement area, especially for retired US military personnel and Koreans. Until 1992, Subic Bay was the base of the huge US Navy 7th Fleet, these days it is in the process of being remodeled into a duty-free foreign trade zone and a modern tourist destination. A new modern superhighway was completed in 2008 which has reduced travel time from Manila by one hour. This provides excellent access to all that Manila has to offer, but allows for retirement in a smaller resort-oriented community with all it has to offer. The population now exceeds 200,000 people. The presence of Koreans is largely due to the construction in 2006 in Subic Bay of a large Korean shipbuilding plant. Housing costs have risen sharply in 2008 and 2009, but are significantly below Manila’s costs. There are many retired military personnel who live in this place.
Puerto Galera, located just a few hours drive south of Manila, has a small population of around 30,000 and is one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines. Divers especially visit there in droves. Diving is king in Puerto Galera, with drinking very close. The beaches are numerous, but they lack the authentic white-sand resort flair. The area is known for its excellent diving and great nightlife. Wells, music and all kinds of nightlife are everywhere in Puerto Galera. The cost of living and housing is on the lower end in Puerto Galera, compared to the other beach resort retreat areas.