Fellow reader Dianne R.—a full-time expat in Mexico—shared this note last week on our Overseas Living Club page…
“My husband and I have been living in Guadalajara, Mexico, for two years. We’re about 4.5 hours from Puerto Vallarta, and they are finishing up a new highway that will make the trip only 2.5 hours when we want beach time. It’s a great city with plenty to do and beautiful weather. Average temperature is about 80 degrees. It gets into the 90’s in May and June, but there is no humidity. We’re entering the rainy season now but it typically only rains at night so we have beautiful sunny days. Cost of living is wonderful and health care is amazing.”
Excitement is starting to build for our upcoming Live and Invest in Mexico Virtual Conference… and it’s fun seeing reports like this come in from expats already living the good life south of the border.
Indeed, Mexico is home to more American retiree expats than anywhere else in the world. The challenge here is finding the region of this country that suits you best. Mexico is big and diverse, offering every kind of lifestyle option you could imagine.
Will you be drawn to the cool highlands? The big and bustling capital city? Or, like Dianne, maybe Guadalajara is for you (a great city in itself from which you could easily travel out to the coast on weekends)…
Or, if you’re set on living at the beach, how do you decide between the country’s Pacific, the Gulf, or Caribbean coast?
To give you a taste of just how different your options in Mexico can be, I’ve chosen four of our top destinations below… four places where you could embrace a retirement adventure in the most accessible of all overseas retirement havens…
A buzzing metropolis, Mexico City is as diverse as the country itself. Within it, you can live nearly any lifestyle you’d like.
A world capital of culture and anthropology with a rich and fascinating history, an abundance of breath-taking architecture, and astounding gastronomy, this capital city is often overlooked in favor of coastal spots, but it really does deserve your attention.
However, it can be a chaotic place, so if you’re looking for a more laid-back destination, this one might not be for you. Salvador Dalí paid the city one of its most memorable compliments, as only Dalí could. He visited just one time, in 1938, swearing to never return. He said he couldn’t stand to be in a place more surreal than his paintings. Much has changed since Dalí’s visit, but the surrealism has perhaps only intensified. At once sophisticated and sprawling, otherworldly and familiar, cosmopolitan and provincial, it’s a city of delicious contradictions.
Long overlooked—and at times, even discouraged—as a travel or retirement spot, Mexico City has come on the radar in the last few years.
Today it stands proudly among major urban centers in the world. Few places on Earth can boast such an eclectic panorama of lifestyle, activities, landscape and cuisine—fewer still can make these claims and match Mexico City’s year-round temperate climate.
Plus, it’s affordable. One colleague who recently moved back after living in Spain for several years put it simply: “Se puede vivir como un rico sin serlo,” he said. You can live like a rich man without being one…
For the lover of culture, great food, art, architecture, and endless entertainment options, Mexico City awaits you. Trust me: It’s not going to get much better than this—especially not for the price.
The town of Tulum is separated from the beach by a wide swath of marsh and jungle that is mostly undeveloped. A good road runs from the town to the beach, then follows along the beach for several miles in two directions—one side connects to the picturesque Mayan ruins of Tulum and the other enters the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an. This Caribbean beach area is mixed rocky coast and white sand beach—beautiful and world-class. The expats that live here call it paradise—it’s truly a nature-lover’s playground.
By contrast, the town of Tulum has little aesthetic attraction. The town is split in half by four-lane Highway 307 that runs from Cancún down to Chetumal. The town is a few miles from the beach and its recent conversion from a local truck stop to an international tourist destination still shows. The highway through town is rough, although lateral service roads provide parking and access to the main tourist businesses. The side streets radiating both southeast and northwest from the highway are disappointing—poorly kept with weeds and rubble alongside mostly sub-standard houses and vacant lots. What gives?
Therein exist the investment and business opportunities…
Tulum is by no means a fully-polished diamond, but it’s well on its way. The Path of Progress is arriving in Tulum, rolling down from Cancún, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Akumal, into scruffy Tulum.
For years, Tulum has been popular with the backpack crowd, many of whom have settled-in and started tourist service business—small inns and bed and breakfasts, cafés, restaurants, and bars. But these days, things are getting more upscale.
Tulum may be a good choice for you if you enjoy hot, humid climates, and some of the prettiest beaches in the world. The additional marvels of nature all around this area, cenotes, lagoons, jungle, and Mayan ruins will be icing on your cake.
Or, if you’re interested in getting into an area at the start of its tourism, investment, and business boom, and your window for success is a few years, then I’d definitely encourage you to give Tulum a visit.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende has been a retirement favorite for foreigners as far back as the late 1960s. Nestled among low hills, the semidesert valley is mostly flat in the historic center, great for walking, and chock-full of delights for visitors and residents. And, if you’re looking for some cooler weather, this is another good option to consider. Thanks to its elevation (almost 2,000 meters), San Miguel has temperate weather throughout the year.
The quantity of first-class restaurants and fine shopping per block is astounding. The large hacienda-style houses have been divided into patio restaurants, coffee houses, upscale cantinas, and niche shops that the expats never seem to tire of visiting. San Miguel is a fully mature tourist destination approaching international service levels. The resident retiree benefits from all this infrastructure.
The historic center is a time-warp back to the 18th century. Spanish-colonial architecture dominates, including close to 50 public fountains and hundreds of private patio fountains. Most streets are cobblestoned, either round or flat stones that make walking in high heels a perilous adventure. On the other hand, as long as you’ve got the shoes for it, this is a city that begs to be explored on foot, with some 20 churches hidden among the crooked streets and everywhere balconies overflowing with bougainvillea.
For expats, San Miguel is a social town par excellence. Opportunities to meet other expats abound. Classes in two-to-three dozen subjects are available at all times, and the number of charitable organizations is reported to exceed 100. Volunteer work is an excellent means to make new friends among both expats and Mexicans.
Attracting artists, musicians, scholars, and bohemians for over half a century, San Miguel has a truly unique lifestyle and community to offer retiring expats.
Consistently ranking in the top 5 of our annual Overseas Retirement Index, Mazatlán is an easy favorite on the Pacific side of the country. A modern city of about half-a-million people, with amenities in spades… a walkable colonial center, beaches that you can walk to right from the city center, world-class dining and entertainment, and the longest boardwalk in the world.
Mazatlán is a popular expat choice for North Americans, but it’s also an authentic Mexican resort town that manages to feel homey and exotic at the same time… There are enough fellow expats here that you could choose to base your lifestyle around that foreigner community, or you could live in a Mexican setting, speaking mostly Spanish and immersing yourself in Mexico’s culture—it’s not common to find both options equally represented in the same city.
Perhaps most alluringly, Mazatlán is one of the few places in the world where you can walk for miles on an uncrowded beach within the city limits.
The Centro Histórico is the place to base yourself if you want more Mexico, less resort. The areas around Plazuela Machado and Olas Altas—Mazatlán’s longest beach—are populated by tourists and expats, but the rest of Centro Histórico is old-fashioned Mexico. To immerse yourself in Latin America, just walk two blocks north and two blocks east from Plazuela Machado, and you’re in the middle of a bustling downtown that is genuine Latin America, teeming with hundreds of small shops, banks, businesses, parks, and locals going about their daily business.
Mazatlán is also an understated foodie’s paradise. The shrimp capital of Mexico, it’s well provided with dining options from five-star to street vendor at a bargain. Plus, Sinaloa, the state where Mazatlán is located, is where the bulk of this country’s produce is grown.