San Carlos, Mexico

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San Carlos, Mexico: Everything You Need To Know

Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.


Sunny day Mexico
Adobe Stock/jerdad

San Carlos is a beautiful beach town on the Sea of Cortez in the northern Mexico state of Sonora. If you want to enjoy white sandy beaches, warm ocean waters, hiking, and plenty of areas to scuba dive and snorkel, San Carlos is the perfect place.

Located about 20 minutes from the city of Guaymas, this is a vibrant beach town with a warm, mild climate and all of the modern amenities that expats are accustomed to in their home countries.

The fishing town is a popular destination for expats seeking a comfortable life with plenty of natural beauty, delectable cuisine, and friendly locals.

Cost Of Living In San Carlos, Mexico

Seeking a lower cost of living than in the United States or Canada is very natural. And, San Carlos is an ideal place.

The cost of living in San Carlos is affordable, with rent ranging from US$600 to US$1,000, depending on your exact location and how big your apartment is.

A three-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost about US$850 and a three-bedroom apartment outside of the city center averages at about US$650.

For example, a single person can live on US$870 to US$1,000 a month to cover all costs of living in San Carlos.

Besides housing costs, you will have the cost of basic amenities in San Carlos.

Some basic costs for life in San Carlos include utilities, which run about US$74 for a 85-square-foot apartment. This includes electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage. Internet costs about US$24 per month in San Carlos.

If you want to go out in San Carlos, you’ll find dining and entertaining prices are much cheaper than in areas north of the border. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs just under US$6 and a meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant will run you about US$30.

For beverages, a bottle of water averages about 50 cents, a soda is 80 cents, a cappuccino is US$1.33, and a domestic beer is usually around US$1.38.

San Carlos is an active town, and there are many outdoor and athletic activities to choose from, including golf, hiking, and water sports at the beach. Many activities are free, including hiking trails and beaches. For entertainment costs, the average price of a movie ticket is US$4.

For shopping in San Carlos, you will also find reasonable prices, although they may not be as budget-friendly as the overall cost of living. A pair of name-brand jeans costs an average of US$42, a summer dress costs US$37, and a pair of Nike running shoes costs about US$79.

When investing in real estate in San Carlos, you will find beautiful properties for affordable prices and values that continue to rise. However, unlike more trendy parts of Mexico like Puerto Vallarta, San Carlos still has affordable housing.

Located only four hours from the U.S. border, the beautiful beachfront city is an excellent choice for real estate. A two-bedroom home costs about US$200,000 to US$300,000, on average. A three-bedroom, two-bathroom home can start at about US$400,000, depending on the exact location and amenities.

You do not need to be a citizen to buy real estate in Mexico. Foreigners can buy property in Mexico, with some restricted zones within 31 miles of beaches or 62 miles from international borders.

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Beachfront City

Things To Do In San Carlos, Mexico

rightly colored block letters for spelling out San Carlos welcomes visitors to San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Alamy/Deborah Howe

San Carlos, Mexico, is a picturesque beachfront town on the Sea of Cortez. You can savor the white sandy beaches, and enjoy a variety of water sports such as kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

As a result, this beachfront city offers plenty of fresh, tasty local restaurants in San Carlos. And, if you like warm weather and beautiful nature scenes, you will love San Carlos. Here are just a few of the best places to visit in San Carlos:

Club De Playa Marinaterra

Whether you want to kayak, enjoy a private beach, paddleboard, or eat, Club de Playa Marinaterra has it all. The resort has a pool, beach access, lounge chairs, beach volleyball, paddle boards, kayaks, and pedal boats you can rent to explore the crystal-clear waters. When you need a break, the resort has dining options with fresh local fare.

Caracol Beach

Caracol Beach is a peaceful place to unwind and let your cares melt away. The beach has palm trees, clean water, and picturesque panoramic views of mountains and sea. The calm, clear waters are perfect for snorkeling. This off-the-beaten-path beach is the perfect place to enjoy a walk, go snorkeling, or just relax and take in the natural beauty of San Carlos.

Cerro Tetakawi

You’ll find the best views of San Carlos from atop Cerro Tetakawi. This scenic mountain challenges hikers to make the two-hour trek to the top for the most rewarding 360-degree views of the rugged natural coastline. You can also stop earlier in the hike for beautiful views and a less challenging climb. Bring water and wear sunscreen for this rigorous hike that is well worth the incredible views.

Canyon Nacapule

For unforgettable hiking, Canyon Nacapule, located on the edge of the Sonoran Desert, is a must in San Carlos. The scenic hiking trails skirt both desert and tropical flora and fauna, offering unique natural views and a cross-section of ecosystems.

The canyon is part of the Sierra El Aguaje, a semi-tropical ecosystem that is an oasis in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. There are 285 species of plants and a variety of animals, including endangered species such as the long-nosed bat and the chichimoco squirrel. Visitors can enjoy ziplining to experience aerial views of the rich natural scenery.

Playa Piedras Pintas

Another beautiful beach in San Carlos is Playa Piedras Pintas. This local favorite has remarkable horizon views to watch the sunrise or sunset, as well as crystal clear water that’s perfect for scuba diving or snorkeling.

The beach is also a scenic, flat place to hike and enjoy the serenity of the ocean air and wide-open views.

Dining

There are many dining options in San Carlos, Mexico, with fresh seafood, Mexican cuisine, some American eateries, and lively local bars. Whether you want to taste the catch of the day or savor fresh tacos on an open patio overlooking the beach, San Carlos has it all.

Restaurants range from upscale to pop-up taco stands, which serve favorites like carne asada, birrea, and mariscos.

English-Speaking Community

Retirement Information

Entrance to luxurious Yacht Club, San Carlos, Mexico
Adobe Stock/William

San Carlos, Mexico, is a welcoming retirement destination with warm, mild weather, gorgeous beaches, tasty cuisine, and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. The cost of living in San Carlos is relatively affordable, especially compared to the countries north of the border, and the area has a strong infrastructure and great health care.

A sizable expat community lives in San Carlos, with Americans and Canadians moving to the beach town for an affordable, active lifestyle that’s inspired by stunning natural views. You can get around San Carlos by only speaking English, as there are many English-speaking expats and tourism-oriented destinations with bilingual staff.

Another reason to retire in San Carlos is accessible health care. Hospitals in Merida have doctors that speak English. You can also drive just 20 minutes to the bigger city of Guaymas if you need more hospitals or specialists.

The Mexican health care system is affordable and offers private and public options. Health care costs are on average 50% to 70% cheaper in Mexico than in the United States and expats report a high level of satisfaction with their doctors in Mexico.

Safety In San Carlos

Wall and lookout of Baluarte de San Carlos Bastion at night, Campeche, Mexico
Alamy/Mittelhaeuser Photography

San Carlos is overall a safe area of Mexico, with many expats and friendly locals. A large English-speaking community is based here and you have many ways to get engaged with the community. As with all places, it’s important to take basic travel precautions and check any U.S. travel advisories before heading to San Carlos.

Moving To Mexico

Visas And Residence Information

San Carlos, Mexico
Adobe Stock/Michael DeFreitas/Danita Delimont

The first step to moving to San Carlos, Mexico, is to apply for a visa. You can visit Mexico for up to 180 days (or 6 months) by filling out the required visitor’s visa information form online or when you enter Mexico.

Moving to Mexico is straightforward for expats. That is to say, you have two main options for a visa to live in Mexico: a residente temporal (temporary resident) or a residente permanente (permanent resident) visa.

Begin your visa application online and then make an appointment to appear in person at a Mexican consulate in your home country to complete the visa process.

The temporary residence visa allows you to live in Mexico for up to four years and is renewable. There are different types of temporary visas, including work and retirement visas, depending on your work status, and you will need to prove you have enough money to live in Mexico for the length of your visa.

You can apply for a permanent visa after holding a temporary visa but you do not need a temporary visa to apply for a permanent one.

To apply for a permanent resident visa, you will need to prove you have enough funds to live or retire in Mexico, have close family connections in Mexico, or have four consecutive years of temporary residency.

To apply for a permanent resident visa, you will need to go to a Mexican consulate in your home country.

In short, some documents that you’ll need for your visa interview include:

  • Your original passport and a photocopy of the page with your photograph and personal data,
  • One recent passport-sized color photo,
  • An original and one photocopy of another valid ID (driver’s license, ID card),
  • A completed and signed visa application form (available online),
  • The confirmation page of your consular appointment, which you can schedule online.

The current fee for all visa applications in Mexico is US$51.

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Weather In San Carlos

Weather Max Temperatures Mexico
Graph by Weather & Climate

The climate in Mexico is tropical with a rainy and dry season and little temperature fluctuation from season to season.

The weather in San Carlos is generally pleasant and warm, with mild winters and hot, humid summers.

For instance, if you want to escape cold, snowy winters, San Carlos is the perfect location.

As a result, the best time to visit San Carlos for mild, warm weather is from early December to early March.

Most importantly, the temperature in San Carlos varies between 66°F and 97°F. The hottest months in San Carlos are July and August, with an average high temperature of 97°F and low temperatures in the mid-50s.

San Carlos gets a lot of rain during the wet season, which occurs from the end of May through the end of October, with a greater than 44% chance of rain on any given day. The month with the most rainfall is September, with an average of 22 days of rain.

The coolest—but by no means cold—month in San Carlos is January, which has an average temperature of 75°F and an average low of 53°F. The dry season in San Carlos lasts almost seven months, from Oct. 27 through May 25.

March is the driest month. As a result, the average of precipitation is only of five days during that month.

The humidity in San Carlos is often high, with the muggiest season running from April 9 to Jan. 3. The most humid month in San Carlos is August, with 31 days that are rated as muggy.

San Carlos, Mexico - FAQs

Is San Carlos Worth Visiting?

San Carlos is a picturesque town worth visiting for its beautiful beaches, warm, clear water for snorkeling and scuba diving, delicious cuisine, and scenic outdoor activities. San Carlos is located along the Sea of Cortez in the northern state of Sonora in Mexico.

What Is San Carlos Known For?

San Carlos is known for its striking beaches, lively expat life, delicious cuisine, scenic hiking, and plentiful water sports, including snorkeling and scuba diving.

Is San Carlos A Good Place To Retire?

San Carlos is a great place to retire that offers a warm climate, affordable real estate prices, beautiful beaches, and remarkable hiking.

Why Should Americans Move To San Carlos?

Americans should move to San Carlos for its vibrant expat life, pristine beaches, hiking trails, delicious cuisine, and calm, clear waters to enjoy water sports. The cost of living in San Carlos is considerably less than north of the border.

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