It’s snowing in my old neighborhood in New York today, and friends there are starting to dream of a little time away in a tropical climate. They’re not alone.
November is the start of the snowbird season in Mexico and other southern warm-weather countries. From now until March, a steady stream of visitors migrate down from the U.S. and Canada to escape the snow and cold. Some come for just a few weeks; others stay for the entire season.
Here are my top five picks for snowbird escapes in Mexico. In these areas you’re virtually guaranteed warm weather, and you’ll easily find short-term rentals for the winter season.
Puerto Vallarta. In July, AARP named this Pacific Coast resort its top pick worldwide for U.S. retirees. Why AARP loves it: Vallarta’s sunny winters, its large expat community, and its excellent access to the U.S. (numerous airlines offer direct flights from the U.S., including Continental, American and Alaska Airlines).
Snowbirds love Vallarta for these same reasons. Add in one of the largest and most beautiful bays in the world, Banderas Bay; top-flight restaurants and shopping; a wealth of outdoor activities; apartment rentals and hotels at every price point; and a historic downtown that is aptly named the “Romantic Zone.”
Yucatán Gulf Coast. If Vallarta is the yin, then the Yucatán Gulf Coast is the yang. Just a short drive from Mérida, with its international airport, on the Yucatán Peninsula, this coast is dotted with small, laid-back beach towns.
Except for Progreso (population about 50,000), most of these are tiny fishing towns, with sandy roads leading down to the beach. You won’t find movie theaters, elegant restaurants or cafés, shopping malls, or even much in the way of supermarkets.
What you will find, though, are calm, clean beaches; fresh seafood straight from the dock; plenty of modestly-priced rentals (both condos and beach houses); a casual, family atmosphere; and away-from-it all relaxation. Those hammocks you find swinging on the porches of beach houses here? They’re not just for decoration…
Playa del Carmen. Once just a fishing village and where you caught the Cozumel ferry, Playa today is all grown up. It has high-end shops (and even a Liverpool department store); loads of restaurants; activities galore, including every type of water sport imaginable; beautiful beaches; and a bohemian vibe.
Playa skews young—or at least young at heart. If you stroll trendy Fifth Avenue, it may seem that there’s no one in town older than 30.
But look closer and you’ll see families with children, grandparents and others mingled among the surfer dudes and dudettes. The full-time expat community here is international, so don’t be surprised if you hear Italian and French as well as English.
There are plenty of condo rentals here for stays as short as a week. For lower prices, look farther from the beach.
Manzanillo. About five hours south of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Manzanillo is a big port town with a big-hearted Southern California feel. The city has two five-mile-long bays, so there’s ample beachfront.
Manzanillo bills itself as the Swordfish Capital of the World, which tells you something about the fishing here. But there’s also swimming, snorkeling and just hanging out. Stretches of the beachfront are lined with condo buildings, where you can get seasonal apartment rentals, or buy your own—you can find near-beach condos costing as little as the low $70,000s.
Mazatlán. This Pacific Coast city, which was Mexico’s premier beach resort until about 60 years ago, is making a comeback. The city has long been popular among snowbirds, many of them Canadian, who come back year after year. As many as 9,000 expats live here and it’s also a cruise ship stop, so plenty of locals speak some English.
Mazatlán has a long malecón (seaside boardwalk) for strolling and jogging, and the views are magnificent. If you’re a fishing fan, you’ll know that Mazatlán is a world-class destination. And, if you come later in the snowbird season, consider staying for Carnaval: Mazatlán has one of the best Carnaval parades in Mexico.
Mazatlán is arguably Mexico’s most affordable major resort. You can find good apartment rentals here for about $500 a month.
So if November’s wintry weather makes your spirits sink, take heart. The sun still shines in Mexico.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about Mexico and other countries in our daily postcard e-letter. Simply sign up for IL’s free daily postcards and we’ll send you a free special report – Why Millions of Americans Are Moving to Mexico.