Mexico’s Riviera Maya is the Grand Prize Winner for most popular vacation destination on the Caribbean. The same motivations that cause more than five million vacationers from across the globe to flock to this area annually, are also attracting a growing expat population eager to turn their best beach vacation into a full-time retirement lifestyle.
We got as far as the town square in the small village of San Vicente on Ecuador’s northern coast when our car ran out of gas. I pulled to the side of the rutted, muddy road among a huge crush of writhing, smiling people as sultry Latin rhythms shook the windows of the car.
“You know Mr. Murray, you are in the gayest hotel in the gayest city in Mexico.” That was the greeting I got from the hotel clerk in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s at times like these I realize how being part of International Living can take you to the most interesting and unusual places! And that’s how I ended up in Puerto Vallarta…I was here on an exploratory trip to find out what this well-known vacation destination, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, offered as a retirement location.
Cozumel is a perfect blend of laidback island life with tons of activities to enjoy. Here you can have as relaxed or active a retirement as you want. You can park yourself on a perfect stretch of white-sand beach for the day, listening to the waves as you read the latest best-seller, or don a snorkel to explore the world’s second-largest reef system, just offshore. Clear waters make it easy to see (and photograph) sea turtles, rays, and colorful clown fish. You can even make arrangements to swim with giant whale sharks.
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.
A few years ago, my wife Diane and I packed our lives into six suitcases, Diane tucked our beloved Chihuahua, Carmine, under her arm and we set off to build a new life in a small coastal village on Ecuador’s northern coast, a country we had never visited.
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.
The modern vacation mecca has everything needed for a great life, according to the couple. They haven’t felt the need to learn much Spanish, as many of the locals speak English in this tourism oriented area. They say they also don’t need a car. A continuous stream of buses runs along all main routes, offering clean, convenient, and inexpensive access to all areas of the city. Major chain stores such as Costco, Walmart, and Sam’s Club have outlets in Cancún, so shopping is easy and familiar. These days, there are also tons of major brand restaurant chains, along with some great local eateries.
Sipping wine sitting on the deck of his 36-foot cabin cruiser, Fish Trap, John Pasnau takes a slow deep breath of clean, salt air and reflects on his new life. He and his wife, Valerie, are getting ready to cast off for a short cruise to watch another Caribbean sunset along the Riviera Maya. "Retiring to Mexico almost a year ago was probably the best decision I've ever made...except for asking Valerie to marry me," he says.
We came to Cancun after beginning our expat retirement adventures in Ecuador. Our retirement plans were in serious trouble in the U.S. I had suffered my second heart attack in 2009…and soon after I lost a good job and the health insurance that came with it. I was unemployed, uninsured, and the medical expenses were stacking up. So, we decided to take a chance and live overseas, a decision that first brought us to the small fishing and farming community of San Vicente on Ecuador’s coast, just a short distance from the equator. We spent two great years there, but with my heart issues, we decided it would be wise to live closer to top-notch emergency medical care.