For me the desire to retire in Tonga started when my retirement nest egg was nearly totally whipped out by some poorly executed real estate ventures. My fault, just got a bit greedy and now I am paying the price.
Simply stated: I needed a cheap place to retire!
My criteria: 1. Mild to warm year round climate. 2. Friendly locals. 3. Inexpensive cost of living. 4. Access to medical/dental. 5. Near the ocean. 6. Not overly crowded or developed. 7. A place that friends and relatives would want to visit yet too far for drop ins. 8. A place that I could continue my hobbies of sailing, surfing, gardening, snorkeling, and others. 9. Hopefully, a place that I could live and not be a major drain on the environment, really want to live "off the grid".
Searched for many months and found "My Paradise" and Tonga is it's name.
I'm in San Diego too. Most of my life I wanted to end up in Tonga for the same reasons. Off the Grid especially off the Wall St./TSA/DHS grid. I too have lost money, but in the Lehman scandal. And with the housing market I'm retiring on about $200,000 less than I thought I'd have. I can't make heads or tails of their lease hold unless it's like the UK then I get it. You sound like you've researched this. Is this possible on a tight budget? In the states I have enough to last 20 years. Wonder how long that can be stretched in Tonga. Can I ask, do you have a pention or just savings? Safe to say from your research, could someone live 35ish years there... in savings only, on $400,000?