Reading guide books and looking at photos don’t do the beauty of Puerto Morelos justice. This is a charming, friendly, and beautifully scenic beach town lying midway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Frank and Dale Reams took their first vacation to the quaint fishing village of Puerto Morelos on Mexico’s Caribbean coast in 1998 and knew, instantly, that they belonged there. “We fell in love with this area and after several more vacations, we decided that Puerto Morelos would become our retirement home when the time came,” says Frank.
After nearly 10 years of marriage, my husband and I decided it was time for a change. We’d lived in a Minneapolis high-rise apartment with spectacular views of the Mississippi River and downtown for seven years, and while we loved our apartment, we didn’t love the weather (for six months of the year anyway). And I didn’t love my high-stress job or the fact that our cost of living seemed to be getting higher.
I live a block away from a gorgeous, 200-year-old park in the colonial city of Querétaro in the colonial highlands of Mexico. My apartment is located in the city’s centro historico, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the site of some of the most beautiful Spanish colonial architecture to be found anywhere, including a recently restored aqueduct from the early 1700s, made of pink quarry stone. The street plan in the center is basically the same as it was 400 years ago.
I’m enjoying a cappuccino at a sidewalk cafe. The tree providing shade is a century old, the church across the way much older. The neighborhood is historic, with restored buildings lining narrow streets for a dozen blocks in any direction. I’m in Merida, Mexico, the third-largest Spanish colonial district in the world, after Havana and Mexico City, surrounded by centuries-old colonial homes, churches, and grand buildings.
The sun glistens down the six-mile stretch of white-sand beach. This is the heart of my hometown of La Misión, on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.Sitting just 90 minutes south of San Diego, La Misión is a beautiful and quaint village (it has a population of just under 1,000) that has yet to be discovered by the masses of tourists who visit the better-known destinations of Rosarito and Ensenada.
After living here in Cancún over a year, I’ve come to the conclusion that Cancún is not so much a traditional Mexican city as it is an international city with strong Mexican overtones. Though it retains its Mexican flavor, the influx of tourists and the city’s young age have seen it develop into a vibrant, modern, and sophisticated city with a lively nightlife.
Kate Barron isn’t one to sit still. So far, she has lived in Italy, Thailand, and Africa. Now, her home is in Mérida, the sultry and beautiful capital city of Mexico’s Yucatán state, about three hours west of Cancún. And she’s found opportunities to earn throughout her travels. In Thailand she studied yoga, which she now teaches for a living, and in Italy, she taught communication skills to executives of multinational corporations and UN agencies.
With several feet of snow on the ground not uncommon during winters in their native Calgary, Canada, Warren Schoff and Rhoda Parent were looking for an escape south of the border. “In 2002, we visited Playa del Carmen and fell in love with Mexico. We kept coming back twice a year. In 2009 we started scouting properties on the Yucátan Peninsula. We liked the lower cost of living and the inexpensive, more personalized healthcare. And there’s a party every weekend,” says Rhoda, who adds they wanted to have an adventure while they were still young enough to enjoy it.
Brittney Borjeson first went to Sayulita on Mexico’s Pacific coast to learn how to surf. That was back in 2012, and as soon as the plane touched down, she felt like she had come home. “I was hooked from my first wave. I remember thinking, I could give everything up for this,” Brittney recalls. Coming from New York, with its hectic pace, Brittney found the slower pace of Sayulita to be a complete contrast.
When workaholics looking to retire in Mexico wonder aloud how they’ll avoid boredom, I don’t know what they’re talking about. Recently, out of curiosity, I checked my local events calendar here in Guanajuato. And just as I’d suspected, there were interesting activities for every single night of the week. And many nights offered more than one option.
Just south of resort and tourist-packed Cancún, Mexico, lies the small town of Puerto Morelos. Although there are a few small resorts and hotels, it’s still a working fishing village, albeit with a sizable expat population. Anthony Chalas had never even heard of Puerto Morelos until he was online with his brother Nick a few years ago. He was helping plan the annual vacation he took with his family. Someplace affordable. Someplace warm and with a nice beach.
“At the end of a long day, Daisy and I love to visit one of our favorite restaurants,” says Jim Silver of his new life on the Caribbean island of Isla Mujeres, just eight miles offshore from Cancún. “Obviously, living on an island means great seafood, but that’s not all you’ll find.”
For Kim Nowak, having two homes on opposite ends of North America is completely normal. “I’m a snowbird and it’s the perfect lifestyle for me,” she says. “I’ve been doing it so long that I can’t imagine my life in any other way.”
I’m never making chiles rellenos again. Note: I didn’t say I’d never eat chiles rellenos again, because I will. I love them. But they’re messy to make. And ever since I realized that I can buy home-cooked ones in my local market in Mexico for just 10 pesos apiece—that’s about 63 cents—and take them home to eat, my kitchen stays clean.
Swimming with endangered green sea turtles in Akumal, strolling the cobblestone shopping district in Playa del Carmen, exploring cenotes or ancient Maya ruins or just lazing in a hammock…this is my life today. But it’s a far cry from where my husband Don and I were back in 2008. In the wake of the financial collapse and the deep recession that followed, our comfortable existence was completely upended. At an age when we expected we could begin to slow down, we found ourselves starting over in a very inhospitable economy. Add to that Don’s second heart attack and the loss of his health insurance when his job disappeared, and you have a recipe for real desperation.
If you’re looking for a life filled with stunning beaches, rich culture, excellent food, and a laidback lifestyle, we have the ideal place for you—and you don’t have to look far. Within close proximity to the U.S., visits from loved ones or popping back home is simple and affordable from Mexico. You can even drive here.
It wasn’t until Tina Frewer suffered a serious health issue that she discovered how good the medical care was in Mérida, a city of nearly one million people on the western side of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. After receiving excellent care at Star Médica, one of two top-rated hospitals in Mérida, and attention from the area’s top specialists, Tina was inspired. Why not help medical tourists who come to Mexico for low-cost, high-quality surgeries and dental care navigate the city and the system? As a patient advocate/medical tourism concierge, Tina now connects expat patients with doctors and healthcare facilities through her business, HealthItinerary.
We enjoy the beach when we have time,” says Joseph Ader of his new life on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. “I love what I do. And I love the climate here. It’s very similar to Florida, which is one of the biggest producers of ﬁsh for food and the hobby trade. That’s one of the reasons it’s such a good business here.” As a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, Joseph helped his grandmother with her tropical ﬁsh aquariums, not realizing he was setting himself up for his future career.
You’ll enjoy some of Mexico’s ﬁnest quality of living for a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S. or Canada. All told, a couple can comfortably call this paradise home for around $2,500 to $3,000 a month. Simple meals in local restaurants will run you $5 or less. One of my favorites, ﬁsh tacos, can be had for $1.50 each in the no-frills beach restaurants. And in stores, you can expect to pay prices similar to those in the U.S. for imported foods, but fresh produce is a bargain…try a pound of tomatoes for 65 cents or two pounds of fresh fruit like mango for $1. There are big savings on property taxes and healthcare, too. And where else can you enjoy life in a two-bedroom condo a stone’s-throw from the beach, in a premier beach town, for under $700 a month rent?
Sinking my toes into the warm white sand, I lean back in a plastic chair warped by the sun to give it a reclining effect. Homemade tortilla chips heaped on the plate in front of me are perfect for dipping into the ceviche of fresh ﬁsh caught just off the coast. And the $2 chelada, a lager beer on the rocks—Pacíﬁco is my favorite—with a liberal dose of lime juice and salt on the rim, hits the spot.
One of my absolute favorite destinations in the world is Guanajuato, a city in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands. It’s a place where every interest is catered for: Every time I return I throw myself into the wealth of cultural activities it offers: concerts, exhibitions, theater, food festivals, book fairs… Even Guanajuato’s street scene is lively. Walk down to the Jardin (Garden) area any given night, and you’ll see strolling locals and expats, bustling outdoor cafes, student troubadours, and mariachi groups making music, and more.
We were sitting in a rustic beach bar in the small town of Puerto Morelos on Mexican’s Mayan Riviera sampling what the bartender promised was the best margarita in town. The temperature was about 85 F and the ever-present sea breeze was wafting in from the Caribbean. Shore birds were circling overhead in a cloudless blue sky.
With more than a million expats estimated to live there, Mexico is far and away the most popular destination for North Americans looking to move abroad. But—with so many places to choose from—where in Mexico should you move? It’s a very large country, after all. Much depends, of course, on what you’re looking for.
During our months of preparation, we set about determining the criteria we needed to choose a location. The criteria we chose for ourselves initially were: a good health care system at a much lower cost; a stable government; not wanting a car, a walkable location with a good transportation system; good infrastructure; a Spanish-speaking country because Mike already spoke some but wanted to become proficient; a warm climate year round; and, of course, a lower cost of living.
The thought of my hot shower every morning—as I cross the Spanish style courtyard on my way to the bathroom—is a delight. It has to be a quick one though, because my housemates need their hot water too. Then, I hear the church bells begin to ring in the tower of the old colonial church in front of our house…it’s time to go. I grab my backpack and head for the door. I like to walk to work. The others share a taxi, which affords them an extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning.
Margit Gantt wanted to find a more fulfilling lifestyle than the one she had in California. She was looking for great weather every day.
Sandra Ward was introduced to the idea of living in Mexico early. The love of the country followed her for 45 years…into retirement. Sandra’s journey to Mexico began in 1952, when she was just a girl.
In our part of coastal Mexico, there is a cadre of people who migrate annually from the Northern U.S. or Canada. Like us they enjoy the warm months in the north, and the warm winter months in Mexico. We sometimes call our lifestyle, “the endless summer.” I rarely have to wear long pants and own more pairs of sandals than shoes. During our time in Mexico, we rent out the small mother-in-law apartment attached to our main two-bedroom house…
With a number of language schools and private teaching opportunities around every corner, Oaxaca is an exciting city to be in for someone in my profession. English teachers are spoiled for choice here. Many locals are eager to learn English and I’ve often been approached in the street with teaching requests. My dentist even offered to trade English classes for her children in exchange for dental work!
Erin and Philip Whitley were getting itchy feet. “How do we want to reinvent ourselves?” Erin recalls. Mexico didn’t figure in their plans at that time. But one day a friend mentioned San Miguel de Allende—the scenic artists’ colony and expat haven in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands. “We made some connections here in San Miguel,” says Erin, “and everything just lined up for us.”
Life in Europe may be less luxurious than the U.S. by the standard measures we Americans often use—the houses smaller, the cars more compact, the utilities pricey—but it often feels richer in quality, more textured, more civilized. It’s easy to glean pleasure from the simple moments there.
In this video, Mexico editor Glynna Prentice speaks to an expat couple in Mexico, each of whom moved abroad as a single person. They talk about how being single affected (or not) their decision to become an expat and where to move. This (now) couple, moved to Mexico on their own and met one another there. They both offer advice on moving overseas as a single person.
If you want to live with world-class natural beauty without the world-class price tag, come to Mexico’s Baja California Sur. And be sure to bring a camera. This is a desert land of sharp, clear lines. The mountain peaks in the distance gleam a delicate mauve.
Five years into my expat life, I look forward to downsizing. In fact, I recently bought a small, manageable, lock-and-leave property in Guanajuato, in the Colonial Highlands. It’s a far cry from what I thought I wanted when I first moved to Mexico… Then, I’d wanted a good-sized house, instead of an apartment as I’d had in the U.S.
I’m in an SUV in La Paz, in Mexico’s Baja California Sur. The sun is hot and we’ve rolled down the windows as we drive through town. We go at a leisurely pace, stopping at street corners to obey the four-way stop signs; La Paz is too low-key to need many stop lights.
This isn’t five days a week; it’s closer to seven with 12- to 14-hour days. The stress has mounted, your health has suffered, and forget a personal life. You think constantly of retirement, but it is five years in the future. Sound familiar? Fifteen months ago, that was my life…and it was certainly not my own.
In this video, IL’s Mexico editor Glynna Prentice talks about the cost of living in Lake Chapala, Mexico. Lake Chapala, located in central Mexico, is an affordable expat haven that is one of the easiest places to retire abroad, thanks to thousands of English-speaking expats and US-style amenities. It’s a part of the world where it’s easy to afford a cook, a maid, and a gardener.
Someone asked me recently what city in Mexico has the best climate. Questions like this are subjective, so at the time I said, “It depends.” It depends, of course, on your own tastes and temperament. But the question made me think about climate a bit… and some places do stand out. So here are my picks for the best climate in Mexico.
I spent a month in Guanajuato, in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands, this past spring. I loved it so much that I plan to spend a lot more time in the Highlands this next year. (In fact, I just bought a house here.) There’s so much to like about this region… Guanajuato—like much of the Colonial Highlands—has four seasons, so I look forward to getting out fall and winter clothes.