Let’s be honest: We all love the idea of living in a tropical place, don’t we? Snorkeling along white sand beaches or hiking through lush green rain forests, with nairy a goose bump raised on your damp, sun-kissed skin – aaah, that’s the dream.
As remote workers and digital nomads, we get the opportunity to make that dream our reality more than most. We can basically live and work from anywhere – at least in theory. But even we have a few limiting factors that might make some tropical destinations a better choice than others:
- WiFi – we need it
- Nomad community – we love it
- Safety – we want it
- Cost of living – we pay it
- Language – we must understand it, at least to some extent
- Health care – we depend on it, at least sometimes
- Nightlife – we crave it
To be clear: we’re talking about places to live longer-term than your “typical” digital nomad stint of a month or two. Especially in the next few years after COVID-19, traveling will probably remain more expensive than it was at the end of 2019 for a while yet, and one major consequence might be that you decide to not switch locations as often and maybe even “settle” down somewhere more permanently. While you may be able to live without one or all of the above factors for a couple of weeks or months, if you’re considering “slowmading” around the globe or even semi-settling down somewhere for, say, three months or more, life becomes infinitely easier if you can be comfortable with all of the above.
So let’s have a look at the best tropical places to live that manage to tick all or at least most of those boxes. We’ll start with A for Asia.
The Best Tropical Places to Live in Asia
Do we really need to talk about digital nomad hotspots like Canggu (Bali), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), or Koh Lanta (Thailand)? Don’t get us wrong, these digital nomad destinations are “old hats” for a reason; they offer most, if not all of our comfort factors, and if you’re just starting out as a traveling remote worker, you can’t go wrong in choosing these as your first tropical destinations. In fact, we’re sure you’ll love them (we always do). But they’re so obvious that they’re almost not worth including here in detail. Let’s focus on a few other, maybe not as immediately obvious tropical Asian locations instead.
We’ll include Bangkok, because you may not immediately associate “tropical” with Thailand’s mega-capitol. But just because the city itself isn’t known for turquoise waters and white sand beaches, doesn’t mean it isn’t a) tropical or b) a great longterm-stay option for digital nomads. Have a look at these stats:
- WiFi: 25 Mbps on average.
- Nomad community: The expat community (many of them remote workers) loves the “distinctly small-town feel to this major world city“, making Bangkok number 20 on the expat cities list.
- Language: Thai, but you can get around with English.
- Health care: Thai hospitals are actually fantastic; many have doctors who speak English and it’s comparatively cheap to get treated.
- Safety: Great, as long as you don’t count traffic safety.
- Cost of living: Super affordable, especially for a mega city; you can get by on 1,500 USD/month.
- Nightlife: Infamous. As we all know, the tough guys tumble. We’ll leave it at that.
Beyond that, Bangkok’s cultural heritage is breathtaking, with Buddhist temples (“wats”) and pagodas scattered across the city, and traditional Thai values still very much alive and thriving. If you enjoy city life, you really have everything here you could ever want and need to be happy for a long time.
George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Looking for something off the beaten digital nomad track? Penang is definitely a contender. This island located just a few kilometers off the coast of North Malaysia offers everything: beautiful beaches, jungle, and fabulous food. George Town is the cultural center of Penang, meaning you’ll find Chinese temples, Hindu temples, Mosques, and Catholic churches all on the same block. Typical island activities include hiking in the jungle and all kinds of water sports like sailing, wind and kite surfing.
It’s worth mentioning that the island, like Malaysia in general, has an Islamic government; but the structure is democratic in its nature. Beyond that, Penang, and especially George Town made our list for the following reasons:
- WiFi: 17 Mbps on average, but coworking spaces offer way faster internet speeds.
- Nomad community: There aren’t tooooo many digital nomads here – yet. Remote workers are still discovering this island for themselves, but considering all else it has to offer, we’ve got a good feeling about it…
- Language: Malay, but you can get around okay with English.
- Health care: Good.
- Safety: Super duper Malaysian safety levels; again, excepting traffic.
- Cost of living: Super affordable at approximately 1,100 USD/month minimum.
- Nightlife: Not Bangkok level, for sure, but pretty good all around.
The Top Caribbean Locations to Live for Digital Nomads
“Caribbean” is basically synonymous with “tropical”, so obviously we’re not leaving out the fabulous options for slowmads here. Though they’re not quite as numerous as you may expect, if we want to keep to our must-have features for tropical living spots. Most of the obvious Caribbean island beauties don’t automatically translate to longterm digital nomad stays, sadly including places like
- Roatan, Honduras
- Ambergris Caye or San Pedro, Belize
- Nassau, Bahamas
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
If you want all the creature comforts to make you comfortable during a longterm stay, these locations probably aren’t it, as beautiful as they may be. WiFi, good health care, and safety especially can just be a bit too tricky. So what are your options?
Of course, the Caribbean isn’t just about tropical islands. In fact, mainland locations offer some fantastic options that numerous Tribers have actually made their home for long periods of time. This includes Medellín in Colombia, which, like Canggu and Koh Lanta, is almost too obvious a digital nomad hotspot for both the long- and the short term to be elaborated on. So let’s focus on a location that a lot of veteran digital nomads love but may be overshadowed by its reputation as a touristy party town.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
If beaches and a hopping club scene are on your personal must-have list for a longterm location, then “Playa” is the place for you. Many of our Tribe members are actually riding out the coronavirus-induced lockdowns there, right now. That doesn’t mean that clubs and parties are all Playa has to offer; once you leave the two main tourist and party strips in the center of the city, you acutally get into calmer, dare we say picturesque, neighborhoods. While WiFi Tribe usually offers a couple of month-long chapters in Playa per year, it does also offer all the amenities for a longterm digital nomad stay.
- WiFi: Not the best average at 10 Mbps, but if you’re really hard up for speedy internet, the myriad of coworking spaces have got you more than covered.
- Nomad community: Thriving. More longterm nomads settling down here than you might expect.
- Language: You can get around with English – or easily brush up on your Spanish.
- Health care: Not outstanding, to be honest, but not shabby, either.
- Safety: Be smart and you should be safe.
- Cost of living: Super affordable; you can get by on 1,300 USD/month, although if you go out a lot you will end up spending quite a bit more.
- Nightlife: The thumping club scene and touristy restaurant prices might not be everyone’s jam, but Playa del Carmen definitely knows how to jam. Hard.
The key to understanding Playa’s popularity (despite its clubby nightlife, super touristy vibe, and inflated prices not being everyone’s cup of tea) is that it’s a great place to base yourself out of for trips all around the breathtaking Yucatán Peninsula.
2 Less Obvious Top Locations to Live for Digital Nomads
Low cost of living isn’t necessarily a top priority for all digital nomads, especially when considering longer-term locations to stay. So let’s think outside of that particular box and have a look at some awesome tropical options that may necessitate a bigger budget but tick all the other boxes.
Granted, the “adventure capital” of Down Under doesn’t immediately spring to mind in correlation with “remote work”, “digital nomad”, or “longterm”. But hear us out! If you love adventurous trips and exploring nature, especially ocean-based, you should at least consider Cairns in Queensland as a viable option for you. The place offers so much more than scuba diving, coral reefs, and tourists; gorgeous beaches, lush jungles, babbling waterfalls, whale watching, and surfing are just the beginning of all this location has to offer.
- WiFi: 14 Mbps on average.
- Nomad community: More short-term tourists than longterm expats or digital nomads, but if you’re looking for outdoor adventure buddies, you’re in the right place.
- Language: English.
- Health care: Aussie healthcare and hospitals are top notch, and quite affordable.
- Safety: Good. Even traffic safety is okay.
- Cost of living: You’ll need a bit more cash flow here than in the previously mentioned places, but 2,500 USD/month can do the trick.
- Nightlife: Just this once, let’s substitute “nightlife” for “outdoor adventures” and you won’t go wrong in Cairns.
Hawaii, United States
Hawaii is definitely off the beaten digital nomad path as well, but it could make a great place for a longterm tropical stay, if you can afford it. Consisting of eight major islands and another 130-ish smaller ones, Hawaii caters to all sorts of fancies; whether you enjoy big city life or prefer a more idyllic, peaceful setting, finding “your” place to spend several months or more will be easy.
- WiFi: Hawaii takes the cake on internet speeds, ranging for example from 41 Mbps in Hilo to 22 Mbps in Kauai on average speeds.
- Nomad community: You might have to dig a bit deeper to find longer-term digital nomad friends, but if you love diving or surfing, you’ll have a lot in common with other people living here, too.
- Language: English.
- Health care: It’s the US, so health care is top notch if you can afford it.
- Safety: Good.
- Cost of living: You should factor in a budget of at least 3,500 USD/month in Hilo, 4,200 USD/month in Honolulu, or up to 6,400 USD/months in Kauai.
- Nightlife: Honolulu is known for its hopping nightlife, so if easy-access to clubs and bars is a high priority for you, this is the Hawaiian city to consider. There is nightlife in other places all around the islands, but Honolulu offers the best.
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