What is retirement in Mexico like? Unfortunately, because of the size of Mexico and the huge variety in climate and culture, there is not a single answer to that question. The good thing is that you have many, many choices available each with their own benefits. Perhaps you’d enjoy retirement in a cosmopolitan city with all conveniences and services and thousands of other retirees from back home; or perhaps you’d be happier living in a quiet village with a small expat community. Mexico definitely offers both extremes and just about everything in between. A few things you will find in common regardless of where you chose to live in Mexico are year-round warm weather, friendly people, a low cost of living and relaxation.
Here are 8 great choices among Mexico’s leading real estate areas for retirement. Since they each have their own strengths, they are given here in order from north-west to south-east, divided into the Pacific area, the central interior, and the Yucatan Peninsula, along with their general location within that area. For each location there are a few general statistics about retirement and real estate, plus a description of retirement activities and benefits, and, to make sure you get the whole picture, we have included the disadvantages.
La Paz real estate – south end of Baja California
Number of American and Canadian retirees: 1000; 200 – 300 Europeans
Good health care: directly in La Paz. Outstanding hospitals include Soldier’s Hospital and the Hospital Salvatierra, just opened with 25 specialities and recognized as one of the most modern in Mexico.
Retirement friendly properties: 80% – 10% fully ready, another 70% able to be modified.
Average retirement property price: A wide range of properties available under $250,000. USD.
Proximity to international airport: International airport at the edge of town with regular flights to L.A. Limited to other parts. A comfortable, 3 hour shuttle service also operates to Los Cabos International airport.
Retirement activities available: Many water related activities including sailing and kayaking classes. Other activities include language classes, music, books and concerts.
What advantages does La Paz offer retirees? La Paz is a beautiful city, established 450 years ago. It has a six mile “malecon” (sea front promenade) where residents walk, bike, enjoy at all hours of the day. La Paz has beautiful beaches and is located on the Sea of Cortez which is considered the finest living sea on the planet. Residents are friendly and welcoming. A lovely place to spend an uncomplicated life.
The disadvantages? La Paz is in the desert. The flora and fauna are spectacular but in the months of July through October it is HOT! 80 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit and does not cool down a lot during the night. Better to visit the mainland during this period, or arrange the home for comfortable living.
Puerto Vallarta Real Estate – About half way down the Pacific Coast
Number of American and Canadian retirees: Number10,000 +
Good health care: Several large full service hospitals in town, with 15 minutes of most locations.
Retirement friendly properties: 80% – Many excellent condos
Average retirement property price: $300,000 USD
Proximity to international airport: Most retirees are within 15 minutes of the International airport.
Retirement activities available: 7 world class golf courses, 3 full service marinas, hundreds of restaurants, dozens of art galleries, shopping extraordinaire, bridge groups / classes, dancing classes, gardening, Spanish classes, yoga, fitness, wellness classes, dozens of charities, fund-raising events and mentor programs, strolling on the Malecon Boardwalk, buying groceries and fresh produce at the local markets, meeting hundreds of other retirees or just reading a book on a sandy beach under the shade of a palm tree.
What advantages does Puerto Vallarta offer retirees? Mexicans are incredibly friendly and embrace their elders. The weather is beautiful, the scenery picturesque. The healthcare is first-class. Domestic help is readily available and very inexpensive by U.S. standards. Puerto Vallarta is 2 to 4 hours by plane to most U.S. cities. It is safe here and there are NOT armed gangs driving through town shooting tourists, despite what CNN says.
The disadvantages? Hills and cobblestone roads can make walking difficult in some areas. Occasional language and cultural barriers. Rain and high humidity in the summer. It is almost a city now, not the charming little “pueblito” it used to be about 10 years ago. Most basics are still relatively inexpensive, but the “splurges” (top restaurants, golf courses, 5 star hotels, luxury condominiums) can have prices rivalling the U.S.
Lake Chapala Real Estate – 28 miles from Guadalajara, Mexico’s 2nd largest city
Number of American and Canadian retirees: 4000 permanent; 7000 during the snow bird season
Good health care: Several clinics and small hospitals in this community; many clinics, hospitals and treatment centers plus several large medical schools in Guadalajara, 30 – 60 minutes away
Retirement friendly properties: Approximately 400 in this area, including lots that can be built upon
Average retirement property price: $200,000 USD
Proximity to international airport: 30 minutes to Guadalajara International Airport.
retirement activities available: Many clubs in English, including bridge, sewing, cooking, ham radio, humane society, American Legion, Rotary, fishing, boating, and gardening; many charity organizations to help such as the Deaf School and various orphanages; acting groups with summer workshops. There are American fast food chains, as well as many fine restaurants, many relatively cheap. Nearby there are mountain towns, volcano sites and areas with Monarch butterflies (approx. 1 hour).
What advantages does Lake Chapala offer retirees?
Great climate year-round; no need to learn more than basic Spanish to function well, cheaper cost of living than many places in U.S. and Canada; a favorite Mexico retirement community with many expats with varied interests for activities and friendships. Shopping is easy locally as there are Walmart stores, Soriana, Sam’s, Office Depot and similar stores.
No beach directly in the area (but Puerto Vallarta & Mananzan are less than 4 hours by car, or 1 hour by plane.) The rainy season (July to October) can be beautiful, but you have to plan for sudden, large amounts of rain. Bus or car to U.S. border is about 15 hours.
Campeche real estate – along the Gulf coast, the western section of the Yucatan peninsula
Number of American and Canadian retirees: Only about 500 full time, 3000+ during the winter months.
Good health care: Modern hospitals and English speaking doctors are located in the city of Campeche. A new small, but very modern clinic is in Sabancuy, only 10 minutes from a beachfront area where excellent lots are available.
Retirement friendly properties: Most of the properties in Campeche are retirement friendly
Average retirement property price: Beachfront lots starting at $59,000 USD, homes starting under $100,000 USD.
Proximity to international airport: Less than 45 minutes to 2 international airports – Campeche and Ciudad del Carmen.
Retirement activities available: The colonial city of Campeche (capital of the state of the same name) is a world heritage site and loaded with retirement friendly activities, including pirate shows, theater, museums, fine dining, boardwalk, culture center, schools, many Mayan pyramids within an hour’s drive, cenotes, haciendas, eco-tours, fishing, nature reserves, shopping malls, expat groups, etc.
What advantages does Campeche offer retirees?
The Campeche area offers safety, culture and convenience. It is within close proximity to the cities of Campeche and Merida, meccas of cultural and tradition. The people are friendly. The cost of living is low and the standard of living is high. The weather is warm year round and it is located in a very low risk hurricane zone. Real estate value is unmatched. The beaches are beautiful white sand and the water is an amazing emerald green. The sunsets are breathtaking. The area offers the chance to live an involved, active lifestyle, making a difference in the lives of those in the area.
The disadvantages? Campeche does not yet offer the large shopping centers like the ones located in Merida and Cancun.
Merida Real Estate – North coast of the Yucatan Pensinsula
Number of American and Canadian retirees: 3000 – 4000
Good health care: Excellent health care is available right in Merida
Retirement friendly properties: 80%
Average retirement property price: $100,000 USD
Proximity to international airport: Merida has an international airport, and is only a few hours away from Cancun’s airport, adding a reasonable second option
Retirement activities available: Dancing, theater, symphony orchestra, cinema, shopping, English language library, cooking clubs, restaurants, bars, clubs, fishing, water sports, Mayan ruins, cenotes diving, antiquing, bird watching, and much more.
What advantages does Merida offer retirees?
Merida offers great prices, excellent location and safety, all contributing to a lifestyle which is convenient and comfortable. The beautiful colonial architecture, green city squares and parks make living in this city romantic for couples, and relaxing for just about everyone.
Merida is not directly on the beach, but it is only 30 minutes away. During the summer months, June to September, the temperatures get quite high, and the humidity can make it feel muggy at times. During this time people definitely enjoy a trip to the beach and air-conditioning.
Cancun Real Estate – Northeast tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Caribbean coast
Number of American and Canadian retirees: 10,000
Good health care: Hospiten, Galenia and Amerimed work with North American health insurance companies, and have English speaking doctors (who also trained in English) on staff.
Retirement friendly properties: over 80%
Average retirement property price: $250,000, with numerous less expensive properties available
Proximity to international airport: Between 5 and 25 minutes by vehicle for any part of Cancun.
Retirement activities available: Various social clubs such as Rotary Club International, International Women’s Club of Cancun, Red Cross International Volunteers, photography clubs that explore various attractions such a Mayan ruins, historical sites, ecological sites. There is a variety of intercultural exchange groups practice different languages, art, and literature. Scuba and snorkeling clubs, social dance clubs, cycling groups, yachting and boating groups and social dance clubs. Cancun has an excellent walking, jogging, and cycling path with an exercise area. Golf offers great discount for local residents (immigration documents excepted).
What advantages does Cancun offer retirees?
Retirees should choose Cancun for its broad appeal to numerous types of activities and more economical lifestyle. There are a variety of different neighborhoods and conveniences that are only found in a larger city population. Within some of these areas there still remains a tranquil feeling of the wonderful relaxed atmosphere of the Mexican Caribbean.
In some of the older buildings and street areas of Cancun, constructed 20 to 30 years ago, there is less accessibility with walk ways and elevators. This is being changed with every new building constructed with ISO International Standards of Operation for building codes in the new malls and plazas.
Playa del Carmen Real Estate – Caribbean coast, 40 miles south of Cancun
Number of American and Canadian retirees: approx. 4,000
Good health care: Hospiten is a brand new hospital in Playa del Carmen and there are several excellent options in Cancun, only 1 hour away
Retirement friendly properties: approx 40% or would so be ideally retirement friendly. Newer condos have elevators or wheel chair accessibility and are in a gated communities.
Average retirement property price: around $300-350,000 USD
Proximity to international airport: between 45 minutes and 1 hour (to Cancun International Airport)
Retirement activities available: diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, eco-tours (hiking, exploring), swimming, spa treatments, several gyms, fine dining, numerous world-class golf courses, etc.
What advantages does Playa del Carmen offer retirees?
The top reasons to retire here are to escape the cold weather of the north and to enjoy the stunning beaches of the Mexican Caribbean. Others include the low cost of living (property taxes, food, gas, health care, etc), the culture is very warm and friendly, many exciting things to do and see, amazing food, slow pace of life, high levels of safety. A large percentage of the locals speak English.
Coping with the heat in the summer months can be difficult, and sometimes expats feel isolated from family and friends (although in communities such as Playacar and Puerto Aventuras people feel this less with the strong presence of Americans and Canadians.) Banking service is less than what we’re used to, and it can be a little frustrating standing in line-ups. Many local banks have preferred customers options for foreigners.
Costa Maya Real Estate – Southern part of Caribbean Coast, almost at Belize
Number of American and Canadian retirees: Only a few hundred, but a close-knit community.
Good health care: A local clinic serves for minor illnesses. There are a few private hospitals in Chetumal, the nearest city, 1.5 hours drive away.
Retirement friendly properties: About 70% – 30% fully retirement friendly, another 40% good for adapting, or more active retirement
Average retirement property price: $200,000 USD
Proximity to international airport: Cancun – 5 hours drive away. The Chetumal airport is 1.5 hours away with connecting flights through Mexico City.
Retirement activities available: Scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing (deep sea and fly), visiting nearby Mayan ruins, visiting Bacalar lagoon (1 hour away), going shopping or to the movies in Chetumal (most films are in English with Spanish subtitles), sitting in a hammock and reading, kayaking, strolling along the Malecon (beachfront promenade) and watching the tourists enjoy themselves. There are always opportunities to integrate into the community and organize fund-raisers or help out with different events – people can be as active as they want.
What advantages does Costa Maya offer retirees?
Although it is small, the expat community here is great, serving as a support system, giving advice on where to go, what to do, which builder to use, etc. Costa Maya is away from the hustle and bustle of larger cities. It is very foreigner friendly.
It is great to be so quiet and off the beaten track, however, the main problem here for retirees is that the nearest medical services are in Chetumal, 1.5 hours drive away. Also, the medical facilities are far superior in Merida, Playa and Cancun than in Chetumal.
The final word …
So which of these eight locations is the best choice for you? You’ve seen the overview, and you probably have an idea of what would suit you the best. Pick one or two, do some research and start your plans for a relaxing, low-cost retirement in Mexico!
TOPMexicoRealEstate.com: Mexico’s Leading Network of Specialists for Finding and Purchasing Mexican Properties Safely
About the Author: Thomas Lloyd, Founder and President of TOPMexicoRealestate.com
Originally from Indiana, and a graduate of Purdue University in the Krannert School of Management, he holds a degree in management with a speciality in finances. Lloyd has several diplomas and certifications in Mexico Real Estate topics and is one of only a few professionals to hold Mexico’s new degree in real estate. This degree is accompanied by a Professional Identification Number, “cedula profesional,” which is issued for trained professionals such as those in the medical field, or in law. He has over 15 years of direct experience in Mexico’s business culture.