Retire To Puerto Vallarta And The Riviera Nayarit

Like The Best Of Southern California (At Prices Even The Not Rich Or Famous Can Afford)

Leaving the Puerto Vallarta airport our most recent visit to this part of the world, we knew right away that we were back in North America. Alongside the highway, we saw Wal-Mart, Home Depot, a mega-grocery store, Domino’s Pizza…

“Can we go to Wal-Mart?!” asked young Jackson enthusiastically from the back seat.

Jack’s experience of places like Wal-Mart to this point in his life has been limited to our annual Christmas visits to Baltimore, where my family lives. To him, Wal-Mart is a special treat, along with Toys “R” Us and Best Buy. The truth is, places like these are a special treat for me, too.

We’ve been living for more than 14 years in parts of the world that don’t have big-footprint shopping. I feel a little ashamed to admit it, but I miss it.

Because places like Wal-Mart make life easier. It’s easy to shop in a Wal-Mart (because there’s so much choice, all under one roof), and it’s easy to buy there (because the prices are so low).

Many things about being an expat aren’t easy. We embrace the challenges, savor our way of life, and encourage our kids to do the same. But, now and then, I admit it: I enjoy an hour or two in a Wal-Mart as much as the next mom.

In this Puerto Vallarta region of Mexico, though, the expat life can be easier than it is elsewhere, and not only because there are three Wal-Marts here.

In and around P.V., you’re still south of the Rio Grande, but, everywhere you go, you’re reminded that you’re in North, not Central America. The roadways are wide and well-paved, the waiters speak English…

This is coastal resort Mexico, meaning it’s a part of this country that has been packaged for easy. A lot of money, from both the Mexican government and private investors, has gone into making this now world-famous stretch of the Mexican Pacific accessible and expat-friendly.

You know Puerto Vallarta. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made sure of that. It’s as beautiful as you imagine, the sand as white, the swaying palms as sultry, the indigo sea as inviting.

And, if you’re shopping for something nice, on the beach, it’s typically expensive.

But north of Puerto Vallarta is a further stretch of white sand, swaying palms, and indigo sea, another 100 miles of it, that, a few years ago, was officially dubbed the Riviera Nayarit. The Mexican powers gave the region a name and then made a plan for packaging it for development.

Mexico has a long track record at this. I’d say they’re better at it than any other country.

In fact, development in this region is already well under way. In addition to the world-class coastline and the high level of services and shopping, this area boasts seven golf courses and three marinas. A new international airport is planned to make access more direct (right now, the drive from the P.V. airport is about 45 minutes).

The competition for the product this region of Mexico offers is in Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, all of which boast beautiful Pacific coastal stretches of their own, as I pointed out the other day.

Those countries have beautiful Pacific Ocean coastlines…but they don’t have the infrastructure to support a fully appointed Pacific Ocean lifestyle, the kind of lifestyle that’s become synonymous with the Pacific coast of southern California. Puerto Vallarta does.

No, Puerto Vallarta isn’t Malibu. But every time I return to this part of Mexico, I have the same thought: I could imagine settling in this place. Life here could be comfortable and convenient. You could find expat company when you wanted it. You could fill your days in many interesting and diverse ways. You could have the best of both worlds–a glorious Pacific coast backdrop…plus fully developed, real-world infrastructure. I don’t know of any other stretch of Pacific coast south of the Rio Grande where that’s the reality.

And the best part, of course, is that, while P.V. and the Riviera Nayarit that stretches north from it don’t qualify as budget destinations, they’re dramatically more affordable than comparable coastal regions in California. This is one case when the metaphor so often used by developers and others, comparing stretches of the Pacific coast in different countries to the best of the southern California coast, isn’t just marketing hype.

Kathleen Peddicord