Best Places to Retire to That You've Never Heard Of

Everyone retires to Florida, right?


Baby boomers' changing tastes and crushed property markets in traditional retirement spots such as Florida and Arizona, are redefining where older Americans want to spend their leisure years. A growing number want to get off the beaten track.

To help the more adventurous ones in their quest for a cheaper, more interesting and, perhaps, healthier retirement, we've compiled a list of five hot retirement spots that you've (probably) never heard of.

Ajijic, Mexico

It's not easy to pronounce (hint: Ah-hee-heek), but American retirees love this quaint Mexican village set between lush mountains and a sparkling lake.

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"It has a spring-like climate year round, it's not too far from Guadalajara, and it's pretty," says Margaret Wylde, CEO of retirement consulting firm ProMatura Group. Because there are many Americans already living there, the town offers most amenities you could find at home.

Retirees join one of the dozens of English-language clubs ranging from the booming Lake Chapala Society, with its English-language library, to the American Legion or the Lakeside Little Theater.

"They have everything that an American might need," says Daniel Prescher, editor of special projects at International Living magazine. "You can get a can of Campbell soup if you really need one."

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At the same time, Ajijic and neighboring San Miguel de Allende do not get flooded by drunk college students during spring break, and they also offer cheap medical services -- which local experts say rival U.S. standards.

The Mexico retirement boom is only likely to grow: the Mexican government recently launched a national initiative to attract more foreign retirees and is working with developers to build more senior communities.

Retirees like Ajijic, Mexico.

Marfa, Texas

You've probably never heard of Marfa, Texas and its neighboring town Alpine -- for good reason: Although they're close to Big Bend National Park, they're actually several hours away from most major airports.

Marfa, population 2,000, is a "funky little arts community," says Mary Lu Abbott, editor of the magazine Where to Retire. The scenic town became known after the minimalist artist Donald Judd bought a ranch there and set up the Chinati Foundation, a world-class art museum that draws fans from around the world.

"In the last few years, as more big-city folks are discovering it, it has become a foodie scene too, with everything from gourmet to the trendy street food from a mobile lunch truck," says Abbott.

She says tourists have been drawn to "Marfa mystery lights" -- unexplained lights that sometimes appear at the horizon after dark.

Although the city doesn't have many retirees, its culture and manageable size make it an ideal retirement spot. Abbott says more baby boomers have started to buy second homes there recently.

"It's a great place to live," says Joni Marginot, director of the Marfa Chamber of Commerce, noting that the city has plenty of art galleries, theater and recently held its third annual film festival. "We have a low crime rate, we don't have a lot of traffic, you can walk just about anywhere and the weather is beautiful."

The only down side is that the nearest hospital is about 30 minutes away in Alpine. Marfa's only medical facility is a clinic run by a physician's assistant.

Scenic Marfa, Texas

Cuenca, Ecuador

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