• Joshua Crowe, CONTRIBUTOR
  • Hi, I am Josh Crowe the owner and founder of Sunpath Financial, a retirement specialist firm in Newport Beach. I hope you find our website and services useful!
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February 12, 2018 views: 30,239

It’s time to start enjoying your retirement

If you’re on a fixed income and looking to stretchhhh your dollar vacationing AROUND the GLOBE to put yourself on the map,
this is a MUST read. We’re going to share the top 3 destinations, where to stay, what to do there, and the cost, for those of you
in retirement on a shoestring budget. Let’s get started!

#1 Mexico – Playa del Carmen

Located in Mexico on the Caribbean Sea, and just south of Cancun, lies a beautiful coastal resort town – Playa Del Carmen. World renown for its scenery, activities, restaurants and nightlife, is a vacation for all ages. At a current conversion of 1 US dollar to 18 Mexican Pesos, your dollar is sure to stretch.

Most activities revolve around Playa del Carmen’s renowned beach, just minutes from the main thoroughfare, La Quinta Agenda. The marina is a short drive, or mild walk, where you can charter a fishing boat and explore the Caribbean Sea.

Just a few miles south, you’ll find the popular Xcaret eco-park showcasing the Mayan Riviera’s animals and marine life. If you’re looking to spice things up, check out Coralina Daylight Club or the Blue Parrot, where a good time dancing and partying is guaranteed. But read on, because there
are some “must do” activities you can’t miss out on.

Must do activities:

Playa del Carmen Beach – Free

This beautiful slice of Caribbean Sea is where most vacationers spend their downtime. Because the majority of hotels are stationed on the beach, you’ll have access to the beachfront, lounge chairs and sometimes water sports equipment from the hotel you’re staying. Tired of sunbathing and lounging? Take a walk to La Quinta Avenida, the Main Street running parallel and just behind the beach, where you’ll find a plethora of shopping, restaurants, and bars. Grab some food, a drink, and spend hours shopping for souvenirs, trinkets, and mementos.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling – $69 to $119 per person

With access to vibrant coral reefs and tropical islands, you’re sure to swim with enormous whale sharks, sea turtles, and dozens of tropical fish. Playa del Carmen is home to some of the best diving spots in the Western Hemisphere, especially just offshore near Isla Cozumel. You can rent equipment from one of the many companies that have setup shop in Playa and enjoy one of the best snorkeling/scuba experiences you’ll have. You can’t visit Playa del Carmen and not scuba dive or snorkel. Many scuba and snorkeling companies will offer free transportation if it’s too far to walk.

Rio Secreto – $109 per person

Rio Secreto means “Secret River” in spanish, and it’s definitely one of Quintana Rob’s best kept secrets. Here you can swim through an underground river and climb through a collection of caves. You’ll experience hundreds of feet of caramel and mocha colored stalactites and stalagmites that make their way from the ceiling and floor through the piercing turquoise water. You’ll also learn a great deal about Mayan history, their traveling to this region, how they hunted, cooked, and what they political and religious life was like. Many visitors feel Rio Secreto adventure was the highlight of their trip.

Xcaret – $99 to $119 per person

Xcaret is a combination of Disneyland and SeaWorld wrapped into one. It’s a large outdoor “eco-park” filled with an aviary, a turtle sanctuary, a dolphin aquarium, and a beach for swimming, diving, or snorkeling. You can a variety of excursions from dolphin interactions, stingray encounters, swimming with sharks, snuba tours and speedboat rides. The park is filled with attractions, things to explore and activities to enjoy.

Golf – $30 to $99 per person

What’s a vacation without golf? Golf courses are known to be scenic, but nothing beats golfing on in a tropical paradise. The most popular courses are Golf Club Playacar, the Grand Coral Golf Riviera Maya, and El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Club. Shoot for twilight to find yourself an affordable round of golf.

3D Museum of Wonders – $30 per person

The first 3d illusion art museum brings a twist to artwork that’s definitely picture worthy. From the appearance of hang gliding, to rock climbing, surfing, horseback riding to eating an enormous wedding cake with your loved one passing as the topper, you’ll have dozens of memories to share with your kids and grandkids.

The best time to visit Playa del Carmen is between April and May, when there are fewer people along the shore. Day temperatures vary between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

How much will the trip cost?

The cost varies depending on where you’re flying out from and when, how long you’ll stay, where you’ll stay, your participation in paid activity, where you eat, and how much you spend on souvenirs, but let’s get you a ball park figure so you can start saving for your trip pronto.

Trip duration and hotel cost: We’ll shooting for a full 7 days and 7 nights. To really take advantage of all Playa del Carmen has to offer, you need a nice hotel on the beach. The average cost is roughly $85 per night for centrally located place on the beach. At that price, the hotel cost for the week will roughly be $700 which includes taxes and fees.


the cost of plane tickets vary on location and time of year. If you plan to fly during our recommended time, between April and May, the average cost is $300 round trip per person. So the total cost for two would be roughly $600.


Mexican food is affordable, as long as you steer away from the high end restaurants, you can easily spend less than $30 per person per day. Given you’ll have a couple $75-$100 dinners, you’ll spend about $500 for the week.


Try to spend as much time as the beach as you can, you’re on vacation (and a budget) for crying out loud. Although paid activities can be expensive, but you should aim to do at least three. Choose one of the parks, go snorkeling/scuba diving, golf and hit the museum. Each is a day event, so you’ll be plenty of busy. The total cost for two people to participate in all 4, $460.


There are a million gizmos, gadgets, and bottles of booze to choose from. You’ll definitely want to bring some back for the friends and family. The average couple spends about $200 here.

*Car rental

As long as you follow our advice for staying in a hotel down-town by the beach, we don’t recommend a car. Most of your time will be spent at the beach which is walking distance, or participating in activities with companies that offer complimentary pickups. It’ll save you a LOT of money. If you need a ride, Uber or take a taxi. Remember to negotiate price with taxi drivers before getting in the car.

Total trip cost: $2460 – now that’s CHEAP!

#2 Thailand – Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Krabi

Of all the tropical, jungle-set destinations to visit around the globe, few compare to Thailand. But there’s more to behold in Thailand than the scenery. Atop the the list of reasons to visit Thailand is the food. If you’ve never had Thai food in Thailand, you’ve never had Thai food, and believe it or not, this world class food is found at street-level and served hot off the cart. The people of Thailand are some of the nicest and friendliest. They’re always happy and smiling, extremely polite, and ready to help. Many speak English, and will help you translate if you can’t speak Thai.

For this trip, we have you traveling into Chiang Mai to experience one of Thailand’s greatest jungles to visit with elephants and Tigers! Then it’s down to the the Country’s capital, Bangkok. Bangkok is Thailand’s most densely populated city, and filled with history, culture, architecture, and night life you cannot miss. Finally, Phuket to visit some of the most beautiful beaches and islands the world has to offer including famous Maya Bay, on Phi Phi island which gained it’s popularity from Leonardo Decaprio’s movie ‘The Beach’.

Must do activities:

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai (Full-day pass $31 per person)

One of the most rememberable experiences you’ll have in Thailand is visiting Elephant Nature Parks. The sanctuaries are home to dozens of asian elephants who are free to roam the countryside. You’ll spend the day with these beautiful and loving creatures, walking with them, hand feeding them, and bathing with them. You can’t visit Thailand and not spend a day with the elephants.

Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai (Giant Tigers $22, Big Cat Tiger $21, Medium Tiger $18 each is per person)

Where else in the world can you take a photo lying next to a 700 lb. tiger. Tiger Kingdom is home to several dozen tigers that range in size and age from babies weighing just a few pounds, to the adults weighing 700 pounds. There are no words to describe the respect of power you have when sitting next to these majestic creatures, but it’s a must do.

Wat Arun – The Temple of Dawn, Bangkok (free)

Wat Arun is located on the West Bank of the Chao Phraya River, on the opposing side of the Grand Palace. You have to see this temple, as it’s the most unique when compared to all the other temples in Bangkok. The template sits right on the river bank, and is covered from top to bottom in minute pieces of colorful glass and Chinese porcelain. And for the athletic, you can climb this 210 foot landmark to gain view of the best sites of Bangkok’s skyline. Despite being named the Temple of Dawn, it’s best to visit as dusk or night when lit up as it gives of beams of golden light over the Chao Phraya River.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok (free)

The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and once the home to the Thai King, the royal court and the administrative seat of government. It is the most glorified and world-renowned landmark in the capital. This is a huge palace, really well know for it’s diverse array of Buddhist sculptures and temples that flow through the vicinity, but a must see for those attempting to understand Thais.

Soi Cowboy (free)

The word Soi means “street” in Thai, one that was ironically named by a real American Cowboy. Before visiting Soi Cowboy, you have to realize that Bangkok is a sex-oriented city by nature, and Soi Cowboy is basically the center of the city’s Red Light District. It’s a little different than Amsterdam’s Red Light District, but less intrusive. Enjoy a walk around, grab some drinks and begin to understand the heart and should of Bangkok.

Maya beach, Phi Phi Island, Krabi – ($34 per person)

You’ll be staying in Krabi, which is located on Thailand’s southern west coast, east of Phuket. Krabi is similar to Phuket, with less tourist, better transportation, and all around it’s more affordable. It offers hundreds of islands right off it’s coast, but none more iconic than Phi Phi islands, specifically Ko Phi Phi Lee, home to Maya bay, which earned it’s fame from Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie ‘The Beach’. The area recedes into a cove-like beach with piercing turquoise water, and 100-foot vertical mountains, covered in green shrubs, shooting into the sky.

PhraNang Cave Beach (Sunset Cruise $80 per person)

A bit overcrowded, but well worth it. We choose this place for it’s snorkeling, where you’ll see hundreds of difference species of exotic fish. Beyond the boat, you’ll have the chance to lay back on the beautiful white sand and peer out into the crystal clear water as the problems surrounding your life melt away. Do keep an eye on your belongings, though, as the cheeky little monkey’s are known for tearing through them in search of food.

How much will the trip cost?

Many travelers will tell you they spend more on airfare than food and lodging. Thailand is home to some of the World’s best accomodations for as little as $30 per night. Think that’s cheap, the average person spends less than $10 USD per day to eat – meals average $1-$2.

Trip duration and hotel cost: We’ll shooting for a full 10 days with 2 full days of travel to get to and from Thailand. The average cost to stay in Chiang Mai is $50 per night for two adults, is this is a nice accommodation, while the average to stay in Bangkok and Krabi is $80. We suggest spending 3 nights in Chiang Mai, 3 night in Bangkok, and 4 nights in Krabi bring your rough total after tax and fees to $850, and that’s for 2 adults.


Like they say, the biggest cost is by far the airfare. From LAX to Chiang Mai, the cost will average $850, but can go as low as $500 if you fly China Eastern with 3 stops. We’ll stick with the average, bring the total cost to fly to roughly $1700 for two adults.


The most affordable part in a trip to Thailand is definitely found in the food. Some Many tourist spend $10 per day for all three meals. It’s easy to find a full plate of food for $1-$2. We’ll shoot for $20 per day per person with a few nice $75 dinners bringing the total for two adults to $625.


Between a full-day with elephants, a half-day with Tigers, a visit to the Way Arun and The Grand Palace, a night drinking on Soi Cowboy, and two tropical days trips to the most beautiful islands in Thailand, you’re looking at a total of $225 (including moderate drinks) per person, or $450.


There’s a million souvenirs to pick from, but be sure to clear some luggage room as many people buy more than they can take home. A good $200 between two people will definitely send you home with more than you came with, and make for a couple dozen gifts for friends, kids, and grandkids.

Total Trip cost: $3,825 – For the vacation of a lifetime

#3 South Africa – Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, Cape Town

A land that offers as much variety geographically as the people and culture, South Africa is one of the greatest vacation destinations on the planet. From the large city life in Johannesburg and Durban, to the beautiful rocky-coastal living in Cape Town, to the dry hot desert of the Kalahari, this land is extremely diverse.

When the average person hears Africa they instantly think Wild Life and Safari, and they’d be right. If you’re a lover of the great outdoors and animal wild life, you won’t be let down. In addition to a phenomenal currency conversion of 1 USD to 14 South African Rand, the roots of affordability really stem from visiting off-season.

The unpredictable climate these days create weather quality that is sometimes better than peak season. May and September make for the best, and although it’ll be raining on the coast, inland is dry, so the bush is less thick and you can see more animals.

This trip extends itself to three areas in South Africa and starting with the city of Johannesburg which is located North East of the country, then Kruger National Park located on at the furtherest north-eastern end of South Africa and bordering the country of Mozambique for some of the greatest animal sitings the world has to offer, and ending with a flight into the furtherest south-west point to one of the most beautiful costal cities known as Cape Town.

Must do activities:

Exploration of Johannesburg ($60 per person)

Spend the first few days exploring the city life and culture of South Africa. Start with the Apartheid museum and stretch the time to understand and learn the history of these beautiful people. Spend the next day aboard the Gautrain to get the best sightseeing tour in town. Spend your last day relaxing and exploring at your own merit with the thought of wild life safari’s coming your way over the next few days.

Kruger National Park (rental car $70 per person, Safari $109 per person)

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and one of the most incredible national parks in the world. It’s one of the few places you’ll have a good chance of seeing “the big-5”. For those of you who don’t know, the big-5 is a group of large game animals that include the Lion, Leopard, African buffalo, Black Rhinoceros, and the African elephant. These 5 are the most sought after for safari-goers. But safari’s aren’t cheap, so skip the flight to Kruger National Park and rent a one-way car. Book your hotels on the outside of the park to cut down on cost. There are several safari companies and packages to choose from, go with a full-day trip

Cape Town (cable car $20 per person)

Cape Town is a coastal city that has it all. From beaches, to mountains, harbors and gardens, there’s so much to do here. As always, start your first day exploring the city and your surrounds as you acclimate to your new environment. The next day, book a cable car for Table Mountain for a 360-degree of all Cape Town – a breath taking site that’ll never leave your heart. At the top you can buy souvenirs, dine in a restaurant all while enjoying gorgeous mountaintop views.

Spend an abundant of time at the beach, lounging while soaking in the rays. There are plenty of restaurants and bars on the sand. Have a drink, meet new and friends. You’ll also get a touch of wild life as groups of penguins are commonly spotted on the coast just yards from you.

We also recommended spending a day at one of their several museums. The cost is low, but you can easily spend half a day on a guided tour learning things about the indigenous people and their culture from the beginning of human civilization to present day.

How much will the trip cost?

The biggest differentiator in terms of cost will be seasonal based. If you go off-season, you’ll experience 40% discounts on nearly everything including hotel, food, and activities. You want to visit May – September, their dry season where the weather is still nice, and it’s great for seeing animals as they congregate around sparse waterholes and rivers.

Trip duration and hotel cost: We’ll shooting for a full 10 days with 2 full days of travel to get to and from Africa. Hotels in Johannesburg average $90/night, if you stay 3 nights, you’ll spend roughly $350 with tax and fees. Hotels outside of Kruger National Park range $75. You’ll definitely want to stay in extra night in Kruger. 4 nights will run you roughly $350 including tax and fees. Lastly, Cape Town hotels do average higher than the first two at $125 per night. You’ll stay 3 nights here and spend $425 including tax and fees. By the way, these are fairly nice hotels, many 5 out of 5 stars with dozens of great user reviews.


One of the biggest cost in visiting Africa is definitely the airfare. At this time we’re sitting in October, so we’re 8 months out on the trip, and as most would know plane tickets become more costly as you get closer to the deadline. That said, the average round-trip is $855 per person, totaling $1700 for a couple.


Some of the best food around the globe, no doubt – the cost, low. Because the dollar holds it’s weight in gold, you’re money will is sure to go further than it would at home. We estimate you’ll spend $50 per day per person. Toss in a few nice dinners averaging $75-$100, and you’ll spend roughly $1500 an eat like a king.


Between museums, cable-carts, car rentals, taxis, safaris, and high train rides, you’ll looking at a total of $1500 – cheap for memories that’ll leave an impression on your heart for the rest of your life.


There are a million gizmos, gadgets, and bottles of booze to choose from. You’ll definitely want to bring some back for the friends and family. The average couple spends about $200 here.

Total Trip cost: $6,000

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