When it comes to retirement locations in the Philippines, one has many options – major urban cities, larger rural cities, beach resorts, mountain retreats. Each has its own unique and attractive features. The major advantage of retirement in a beach resort is are (i) exciting beach activities, (ii) ongoing “vacation” atmosphere, (iii) great entertainment and night life, (iv) continuous influx of foreign travelers, (v) numerous upscale hotels and related resort facilities, (vi) great airport accessibility, and (vi) yet small populations. In this category of retirement spots, 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 beach resort areas in the Philippines. There are many 5 star resorts on this island and numerous bars and restaurants owned by foreigners. The sand is some of the best in the whole world, and the night life is supreme. 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 sorts – international sophisticates, Manila urbanites getting away, serious water enthusiasts, backpackers, and late night party animals. The downside of Boracay is that housing costs tend to run on the high side, more like the costs of housing in Manila. However, for a retiree looking for beach resort action, Boracay Island is the place to be.
This island is just adjacent to Cebu City, across a bridge, and in fact where the Cebu international and domestic airports are located. Like Boracay, Mactan too has sandy beaches, but not near the quality of those at Boracay. It also is packed with upscale 5 star hotels and resorts. Yet, whereas 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 the addition of gambling to their retirement lifestyle.
Lliving on Mactan Island provides that resort atmosphere, due to all the resort hotels, yet it is close to great medical facilities and upscale shopping malls across the bridge in Cebu City. Housing costs are lower on Mactan than on Boracay.
This island is across a short bridge from the much larger island of Bohol, which is approximately a 1/12 hour fast-boat ferry ride from Cebu City, or a short airport ride from the Cebu domestic airport. Panglao Island has a population of around 60,000 and is generally associated with Alona Beach, a strip of resorts and dive centres on the southern side of the island. Diving is what draws tourists and retirees to Panglao Island.
There are many resorts and the cost of living is substantially less than on Mactan Island. On the down side of course is that the island is more remote and requires a boat or air trip to get to the medical and shopping facilities of Cebu City.
This area has rapidly become a favorite retirement area, especially for retired US military personnel and for Koreans. Until 1992, Subic Bay was the base for the huge 7th Fleet of the US Navy. These days it is in the process of being remolded into a tax free foreign trade zone and a modern tourist destination. A modern new superhighway was completed in 2008 which has cut the travel time from Manila by an hour. This provides great access to all that Manila has to offer, yet permits retirement in a smaller resort oriented community with all that has to offer. The population is now in excess of 200,000. 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 considerably in 2008 and 2009, yet they are significantly below Manila costs. There are lots of retired military people living in this location.
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 at Puerto Galera, with drinking close second. Beaches are numerous, but they lack the real resort style white-sand. The area is known for its great diving and its great night life. Watering holes, music and all kinds of nightlife are everywhere in Puerto Galera. Cost of living and housing is on the low end in Puerto Galera, as compared to the other beach resort retirement areas.