Ecuador tops this year's Global Retirement Index. To rank our winners this year, we analyzed 37 critical data points, and Ecuador won for the third year in a row. Flowers bloom everywhere, and not one but four rushing rivers bubble over rocks to feed the lush vegetation. In Ecuador, nature is ever present. And you can enjoy it fully in the city of Cuenca. The colonial churches, grand mansions, shady parks and fountain-anchored plazas have earned Cuenca worldwide recognition for its beauty. A mild climate makes for comfortable living year round. Average daily temperatures reach into the 70s, and the nights are cool and fresh. And Ecuador is one of the most affordable countries in the world. You can rent a furnished, two-bed apartment in a historic center for $220 month, or buy a large condo for $66,000. You can live well for $600 a month and like royalty for double that. For retirees, colonial Cuenca is Ecuador's most attractive city. The third-largest in the country, it offers the relaxed pace of a smaller town with the first-class amenities and the health care of a bigger one. But Cuenca is not the only option in Ecuador. This is a country with something for everyone: beaches, rural highlands and colonial cities. "No matter where you choose to live in Ecuador, there is no better place on earth to discover the simple abundance of health, tranquillity, adventure and beauty," said expat Patricia Farmer. "We chose Bahia de Caraquez on the coast. … There are plenty of amenities, including a hospital, restaurants and frequent expat get-togethers." Farmer and her husband, Ron, arrived at their new beachfront home in February. "We knew no one. And yet we immediately felt at home," she said. "Living in Southern California, we were spoiled by the warm climate and beautiful beaches. Retirement would — or should — have given us time to enjoy all that more fully. And yet we had no realistic chance of retiring anywhere near a beach in California. "Looking back now, we're glad we needed to look elsewhere to fulfill our retirement dreams." Because Ecuador's official currency is the U.S. dollar, you have no problems determining the cost of goods or services. And health care in Ecuador is cheap. An appointment with a doctor averages $25 (without insurance). Cheap insurance is available even for people older than 65. Ecuador's senior-citizen discount program is intended to help its own citizens, but the country's constitution guarantees foreign residents the same rights and benefits as citizens. Among them are 50 percent off public and private transportation within the country.