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The Best Islands to Live in East Asia

When most people hear the word Asia, they immediately think of East Asia. This region has a distinct culture, being home to ancient civilizations as well as global metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Macau.  

East Asia is made up of China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan. It has a population of 1.7 billion, making up 38% of the continental Asian population. Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Macau are some of the world’s most prosperous economies.  

This makes East Asia a very promising option for those who want to relocate and find great business opportunities. While this means that it’s a bit more expensive than Southeast Asia, it’s still relatively cheaper to live and play in than most places in the United States or Europe.  

Amidst the megacities and skyscrapers that this region is best known for, there are several getaways where you can find peace and tranquility. The region of East Asia promises you the best of both worlds – island life and metropolitan city living side by side. Here are some of the best islands to live on in East Asia that we could find: 


Taiwan is an island nation that’s just slightly larger than the state of Maryland but it has been hailed as expats’ favorite place to live for three years in a row in a survey of over 12,000 ex-pats by InterNations. Taiwan consistently ranks higher than any other place for quality of life and friendliness. The country has also been commended for having excellent low-cost healthcare.  

Companies who relocate their people to Taiwan usually offer housing, education programs and countless other benefits that allow ex-pats a comfortable life. Visitors who come to Taiwan can enjoy beaches, forest parks, mountain ranges, and one of the most dramatic, beautiful coastlines in the world. The country is also known for its incredible shopping, night markets and delicious food! 

Living in Taiwan will also save you some serious cash. The cost of living in Taiwan is, on average, 18.13% lower than in the United States. Rent in Taiwan is, on average, 65.40% lower than in United States. 

Lamma Island, Hong Kong 

Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps. The entire island promises you action-packed, busy city life. However, several outlying islands offer experiences that are the complete opposite. One such island is Lamma, which is just 20 minutes away by ferry.  

Lamma Island is the perfect place to get away from it all. The island is only 13.55 square kilometers with a population of 5,000, and there are no cars on the island. You have to explore everything on foot. The island boasts gorgeous trails, secret beaches and rare peace away from the Hong Kong crowd. 

The main village of Yung Shue Wan is home to many great bars, cafes and shops. Some of Hong Kong’s best seafood restaurants are also here, including Rainbow Seafood Restaurant which even offers a ferry to and from Central.  

This quiet, laid back and friendly island is a perfect place to call home. This island town is also more affordable to live in than Hong Kong Island which is notorious for its housing prices. The lack of space and large number of residents, make the Hong Kong housing market extremely competitive with very high average rent prices.  

The minimum rent in Hong Kong is 1,900 USD for a 1-bedroom apartment away from the city center or 2,550 – 3,850 USD for a bigger place closer to the city center. In Lamma Island, you can rent an apartment for an average of 1,500 USD. 

Hainan, China 

Hawaii is one of the most relaxing places in the US. The breathtaking nature, warm culture and tropical weather make Hawaii a popular destination for both vacation and retirement. However, it’s also very expensive to live here.  

Fortunately, there are alternatives if you’re willing to travel. Hainan Island is known as the Hawaii of China. This small, beautiful island is off the southern China coast of Guangdong province. It boasts tropical weather and clean air, which draws in local and foreign tourists alike.  

The island is gorgeous, with tropical coastal areas, well-preserved rainforests, geothermal hot springs and rich ethnic customs. The capital city of Sanya is also home to several high-end beach resorts which draw in millions of Chinese tourists.  

Hainan is also the biggest free trade zone in the country. The open business environment here makes it one of the best places to live in China, from an economic perspective. Here, you can Do Life Right and enjoy nature while also doing better business.  

Sanya is included in the top 28% of the least expensive cities in the world. The average cost of living here for one person is 683 USD without rent. This makes it very popular with retirees, ex-pats and anyone searching for a better quality of life for less.  

Okinawa, Japan 

Okinawa is a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures, and an excellent place for foreigners to live. The US has kept their presence on the island since the end of World War II, with as many as 50,000 Americans living here at any time. The community integrates the residents and ex-pats together through various everyday activities.  

Hundreds of children in Okinawa grow up bilingual, practice traditions from two distinct cultures and develop an awareness of diversity from a young age. This makes it a part of Japan that foreigners can easily move to and adapt to.  

The province of Okinawa is a far cry from the fast-paced, neon-lit mainland Japan. It’s rural and subtropical with a slower pace of life, unpolluted air and healthy, sustainable living. There are white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and coral reefs that make Okinawa a picturesque paradise. For those who love to snorkel and dive, there’s also an amazing underwater world to explore.  

Okinawa is a great place to choose to live in for those who wish to live in Japan. As it’s also one of the poorest regions in the country, the cost of living here is far less than anywhere else in mainland Japan. 

The average monthly expenses per person would be 910 USD for groceries, transportation, restaurants and leisure. The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center is 678 USD per month and utilities cost 206 USD per month. This makes it 30.44% less expensive than New York City.  

Jeju Island, South Korea

South Korea is no longer overshadowed by China and Japan as an ex-pat destination. Many visitors choose South Korea for vacation, short-term trips, and gap years. It’s becoming increasingly common for people to stay as long-term resident. 

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Korea is Jeju Island. It’s a vacation spot off the southern coast with weather and flora that are almost tropical.  

Jeju Island has an international airport and many upscale resorts and hotels. There are unique and world-renowned tourist destinations such as the kinky amusement park Love Land and the weekly Shining Light Flea Market.  It’s a great place to live, especially if you work in the hospitality or travel industry.  

We hope these destinations inspire you to add some spice and adventure to your daily routine. If you’re looking for a good place to start, you can prepare by getting rid of those shoes. You won’t need them on the island. Check out our flip flop recommendations and reviews to buy a new pair to take with you on your island adventures. 

The average cost of living in Jeju is 1,000 USD, close to the world average. You can expect to pay 68.4% less on rent than you would in the US, yet spend 35.2% more on groceries. Overall, you still save money from living in Jeju as it’s 10% cheaper to live here than in the US. 

It’s time to Do Life Right! 

What are you waiting for? We hope these destinations inspire the spirit of adventure in you. If you want to add some spice to your routine, say goodbye to the city and hello to the island, let’s go!  

Don’t forget to pack appropriately. You won’t need those stuffy business suits or constricting dress shoes. A comfy and stylish pair of flip flops will do.  

Check out our flip flop reviews and recommendations here on Flip Flop Daily to find your perfect pair to take along on your island adventures.