Partying by the Beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico


Scot and Vicki Lyall like to joke that “we went downtown to buy a bottle of liquor and bought a condo.”

It’s not far from the truth. The couple had been coming to the town of Playa del Carmen, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, for years for vacations. On one trip, they escaped the all-inclusive where they were staying to get that bottle, and they happened to stroll by a real estate office. They checked out some properties over the next few days. And when the opportunity came up to buy a two-bedroom condo in a beachfront building at a good price, they jumped at the chance.

There were many factors that convinced them that Playa del Carmen was worth the investment.

“We love the weather, the beach, the people,” says Vicki. “It’s very casual.”

That was 10 years ago. For three years the couple visited their condo whenever they could get away from their respective jobs (he’s a dentist and she’s a clinical psychologist) in Boston. The warm weather and cosmopolitan yet laidback vibe exerted a strong pull. The stretches got longer and longer, until seven years ago they moved down permanently.

“I was lucky enough to be able to retire at 56,” says Scot.

These days they enjoy all that this rapidly growing vacation destination and expat hotspot has to offer.

Their condo is just a couple of blocks from the north end of the famous Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), a miles-long pedestrian avenue chock-full of restaurants (from sushi to Argentine to Mexican), bars, boutiques, department stores, and more. It’s the beating heart of Playa del Carmen and one of their favorite spots for a night on the town. Of course, having the white-sand beach and warm Caribbean waters just outside your door is a big bonus; it’s perfect for watersports, late afternoon strolls, or just hanging out.

There are also plenty of parties and celebrations among their expat friends. That’s especially true “in season” from December to April, when North American snowbirds make their annual trek to Playa del Carmen. Low season is great, as well, says Scot, because the lack of crowds means you can walk into any restaurant and have your choice of table—and there are plenty of discounts available.

The Lyalls have seen a major cut in their cost of living since coming down, especially in basic living expenses and medical care.

“Overall, it’s 50% of what you would pay in the U.S. for the same standard of living,” says Scot. “Dentistry is every bit as good as the U.S. and the price is one-third of the U.S. And if you get sick and see a doctor, it’s $50 for a half-hour to hour appointment.”

Aside from getting a great deal on their condo, they also feel that the property’s ongoing expenses are low. Their HOA fees are $125 a month: That covers the meticulously landscaped grounds, 24-hour guard, a maid for the common areas, and a community pool. Their property taxes come to $140 a year.

The savings give them peace of mind and let them truly enjoy their retirement. They do what they want to do, when they want to do it.

“You come here and there’s so much energy,” says Scot. “I have three times more friends in Playa than I had in New England. It’s a very open and friendly community.”

One main reason the Lyalls moved here was to escape the harsh New England winters. In Playa, summer days reach the low 90s F and winter days the 80s F. Nighttime temperatures dip into the 70s F, making for very comfortable evenings out.

And while there are some really hot, sunbaked days during the summer, the couple finds that their location is ideal to beat the heat.

“We get a sea breeze and leave the windows open,” says Scot. “We have the beach right in front, and nothing behind but open space.”

Editor’s note: Scot and Vicki Lyall are leading lives full of good weather, good food, and good friends in Mexico, International Living‘s top retirement haven for 2017.

To learn more about Mexico, and what this retirement paradise can offer you, click here.

Editor’s Note: This article was taken from a past issue of International Living’s monthly magazine. Delivered straight to your door each month, we delve into the details you need to take action. We share our contacts. We lay out the pluses and minuses. And we keep you up-to-date on the latest developments with the best havens abroad, including…7 Great Retirement Towns You’ve Never Heard of…

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