You’re considering a move to Mexico but don’t know where to begin, because let’s face it, Mexico is a large country with many expat living options. Well, a good beginning is to know the most popular town and city choices for expats in Mexico. You know, the places that have already attracted the millions of expats that live in Mexico.
Part of your decision on where to live in Mexico could be based on employment opportunities. If you intend to work in Mexico (considering you have a legal work permit, of course), you will want to consider moving to a place with a good flow of tourism since that is how many coastal cities survive economically.
If, however, you are looking to retire, then any of these places will likely be sufficient. At this point, it will all come down to personal preferences. While we can’t make up your mind for you or even suggest a “good” or “safer” place to live, what we can do is offer up the most common expat cities and towns around the country.
When it comes to preferred places to live in Mexico by expats, these places make the most common choice list.
Cancún is one of Mexico’s top resort towns. What was once a fishing village in 1974 has turned into a global beach destination and thriving city with a large expat community, particularly in the Cancun Hotel Zone.
Playa del Carmen is about 45 minutes south of Cancún and is a chic place to be with its numerous vacationing Europeans and North Americans. It is also home to a sizable number of resident expats and is the heart of what tourism promotes as Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Cozumel and Isla Mujeres offer small island life off the coast of Playa del Carmen and Cancun respectively. Each offers charms of their own with Cozumel is particularly popular with divers and the larger of the two islands.
Isla Mujeres is small with very little traffic, but has beautiful calm beaches on one side and a rugged, dramatic coastline on the other.
Tulum is not the small village it once was, now having grown into a sizable town. While part of Riviera Maya, it distinguishes itself as being a yoga center and a place where folks vacation to simply relax.
Puerto Peñasco is a seaside resort that’s most convenient to the United States by car. Also known as Rocky Point, it has been a playground for the western United States and Canada for nearly a century.
Puerto Peñasco enjoys warm, calm waters all year, broad, sandy beaches, lots of housing options, and low property prices.
Mazatlán has rebounded from the 70s and 80s when it was mostly forgotten as a resort. Today, its 20 miles of beaches and boardwalks are once again as busy as when John Wayne and Gary Cooper were in town. The historic center has been renovated and is a fine example of Spanish-colonial America, with plenty of world-class restaurants, sidewalk cafés and a beachfront promenade.
Puerto Vallarta has been one of Mexico’s most popular resorts since the 1960s, although its rich colonial history goes back hundreds of years. Unlike many resort areas, PV has a number of coastal sections with beaches interspersed among them.
Mexico’s Colonial Heartland
San Miguel de Allende is a remarkably beautiful and sociable colonial town, many of which believe it to be the finest example of colonial living abroad. It was a quiet artisan’s hide-away in the 60’s and 70’s, but since the mid 90’s its popularity has rocketed and is today one of the most sought-after colonial cities to live in. Its magnificent historic center is mostly level and full of delights for visitors and residents. The quantity of first-class restaurants and fine shopping venues per block is probably unmatched anywhere else in Mexico.
Guanajuato is another colonial gem, but it’s a gem that’s less polished and more natural than San Miguel de Allende. Instead of San Miguel’s thousands of expats, Guanajuato’s expat community numbers remain significant lower. It’s still a large town with everything you need, wrapped up in beautiful architecture, with more Mexico and less expat influence.
Álamos is a smaller town with a state of restoration and preservation in its historic center beyond anything anywhere. Of the dozens of Latin American cities that bill themselves as a bohemian town home to artists, writers, musicians and poets, Álamos is the only one where you’ll actually seen a large percentage of artists, writers, musicians, and poets. For a small-town alternative to cities like San Miguel, Guanajuato and Oaxaca, Álamos is certainly one of the best.
Guadalajara and Chapala and Ajijic has an enormous expatriate scene that has been established for decades. The lakeside villages of Chapala and Ajijic are where most of expats live. It’s an easy 40-minute drive to Guadalajara, which offers all of the amenities you would expect from Mexico’s second-largest city.
Mexico City remains a strong favorite with some expats and retirees who have gotten to know the city and fell in love. They thoroughly enjoy the vibrancy, the vast size and complexity and contrasts of this incredible historical center that has been a major inhabited settlement of civilization for nearly 600 years. Besides the colossal selection of amenities, Mexico City is also home to many of the world’s finest museums, parks, restaurants, markets and shops.
Queretaro, which is north of Mexico City, is a thriving colonial city within an easy drive of the capital. The center is beautiful and pristine. Many people who leave Mexico City find a home in Queretaro. Sicnce it’s an ideal place if you want to be away from the capital but close to it.
Cuernavaca was an escape pod for capital dwellers back in colonial times, however today, the road to Cuernavaca from Mexico City becomes grid-lock on holiday weekends. It is a beautiful city with a lot going for it such as it’s closeness to Mexico City, its ideal climate and colonial feel, making it a popular choice for foreign residents and retirees.
Tepoztlan is a vibrant mountain town and is one of the most unique places in Mexico’s colonial highlands. Foreign residents living in Tepoztlan love the natural beauty, peace, tranquility and sanguine atmosphere. Most people who visit the town remark on its peacefulness. It’s close to Cuernavaca and Mexico City and is one of the true hidden-gems of Mexico’s colonial heritage.
Oaxaca remains a popular place for foreigners, especially those seeking out an authentic Mexican experience in one of the most culturally-rich regions of Mexico.
Morelia and Patzcuaro have been tucked away for years but they have become popular with a new generation of foreign visitors as well as foreign residents and retirees. Direct flights from the USA as well as a fast road between Morelia and Mexico City makes the area very accessible. Morelia and Patzcuaro are well worth exploring if you love mountains, lakes, forests and the true fusion of indigenous and colonial Mexico.
Puebla is another beautiful city, and within easy reach of the capital by road. If you live in the heart of the old city, you will enjoy the charm and splendor of Puebla because the built-up outskirts contradict the true heart and soul of this historical town.
Merida is a relatively new choice for foreign expats and retirees. It’s one of Mexico’s most remarkable and culturally-rich provincial cities and, notwithstanding the hot summers, will continue to draw certain types of people with its excellent infrastructure and modern amenities.
Campeche is a picture-postcard colonial city on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Relatively unknown, this city has huge potential. Real estate investment has already begun in the form of foreign projects creating high-end housing and condo communities along stretches of beautiful coastline.
Veracruz is an industrial port city on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Although it may not strike you as a place for expat living or retirement, the city has certain charms of its own which are particularly attractive to people who know Mexico well and enjoy a fusion of Mexican and Caribbean culture.
Los Cabos and Baja California Sur are some of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and one of the biggest destinations for foreign residents and retirees expats. The fabulous climate and access to a whole host of amenities including excellent medical facilities and some of the world’s top rated golf courses, well developed local infrastructure and easy access via an international airport, are just some of the reasons people choose Los Cabos .
La Paz and Todos Santos are also popular locations for living and retirement. La Paz offers a laid-back, relaxed pace with plenty of water sports and eco-activities. Todos Santos is the bohemian arts-center in Baja California Sur and is ideally suited to people who want a town away from the more commercialized feel of Los Cabos. Further north is Loreto, which is well known for its mostly retiree planned residential communities.
Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are two contrasting cities which sit side-by-side, situated on the shores of Mexico’s Pacific Coast, about 200 km (120 miles) north of Acapulco. Most foreign residents and retirees will choose the village feel of Zihuatanejo instead of the modern vacation city of Ixtapa.
San Felipe in Baja California has been a favorite stopping point for travelers exploring the Mexican peninsula for years. Today, San Felipe is a retirement boom-town with massive investments in new infrastructure, services, amenities and high quality retirement homes. The town is just a two-hour drive south of the US border and, facing the Gulf of California, offers wonderful climate and attractive waterside living.
Acapulco continues to attract a certain type of foreign resident, such as those who know Mexico well and enjoy the old world charms of Mexico. Some head to the old town of Acapulco on the south side where, in the 1950s and 1960s the rich and famous had homes.
Puerto Escondido is definitely a niche location for foreign residents and retirees. This Pacific coastal enclave attracts surfers and the bohemian-set looking for rustic, authentic and often remote Mexico. If you’re a surfer, an artist, a romanticist and ocean waves-lover at heart, this may be the ideal place for you.
Once you have chosen a town or city for residency, you will then need to decide on a lifestyle choice of which type of Mexican home you will want to live in. There are several vastly different types of living styles that will certainly influence your time here in Mexico. Again, it’s all about personal preference.