If you would like to retire and live in Mexico but you still want to live close to the States, definitely Baja, California, Mexico is a great option. The best place for you could be anywhere in Baja such as Tijuana, Playa de Rosarito, Ensenada, or San Felipe. Any of these four places is no more than 4 hours away from the border of Mexico and the US by car. If you go east, Monterrey will offer you the same opportunity. Those are the cities that are close to the States and your cost of living would be less because you would be paying in Mexican pesos. The southern part of Baja, such as Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, etc., are also very popular with North American expats.
One of the things that I see happening the most in these areas and in places such as Puerto Vallarta or any city in Mexico, is people splitting their time going back and forth to the States. They may live for 8 months in Mexico and spend 4 months back to the US, or like most Canadians do, they stay 6 months here and 6 months in Canada. Baja California South offers that ability. You have access to a beach and cheaper real estate than anywhere in the US or Canada and you also have access to a community that speaks English. You would not get lost in the entire country of Mexico. You would be living in a community that you are going to be involved with.
Rosarito Beach is a town on the ocean, 45-minutes away from San Diego, California by car. The weather in Rosarito is similar to the weather in San Diego, which has great weather. Rosarito City is a small town with less than 100,000 people that is 60% American. It is full of activities every week that Americans organize. They are very involved in the community. So Rosarito can be seen as a city that is populated by Americans but it is in Mexico. It is very similar to Ajijic because Ajijic is also predominantly lived in by Americans or expats, but it is in Mexico.
Another nice place to retire is Ensenada, which is located a little bit south of Rosarito. The only difference between Rosarito and Ensenada is that Ensenada is a much bigger town. Ensenada has a Costco, Wal-Mart, and other supermarket chains. It has three times the population in the city and it is more robust. The cruise ships are right there in Ensenada. There are lots of Americans there but because of the size of the city, proportionately, there are more Mexicans. It is a very calm city and it is definitely a place where you can go and relax. Ensenada, just like Rosarito Beach, is on the western side of Baja California, so it is on the Pacific.
San Felipe is also a good place to retire. It is in the municipality of Mexicali on the Sea of Cortez side. It is a similar town to Rosarito. It is small and maybe even a little smaller than Rosarito. San Felipe is also a little bit undeveloped but people like to go there because of how beautiful the water is. It has sand, which is not common in Baja California, which has a lot of rocky beaches. Also, the weather is more like a desert, so more people from Arizona tend to move there because the weather in San Felipe is more similar to what they are used to. San Felipe is still in Baja, California but it is on the eastern side.
Another good place to retire in Mexico is Monterrey, which is in the eastern part of Mexico, not completely on the Gulf of Mexico, but rather a little bit inland. It is about a 2-hour drive from Laredo, Texas. If you draw a straight line south of San Antonio, that is where Monterrey is located. It is one of the biggest cities in Mexico and also one of the best developed. It was classified as a better city than Guadalajara and Mexico City. You have everything in Monterrey that you could ask for in a metropolitan city. The quality of life there is fancier than a lot of other cities in Mexico, comparing in size and type of city. I have seen Americans living in Monterrey but not a lot of them. Americans on the Texas side who want to live in Mexico get quick access to Monterrey. There are no beaches there and there are no ecological attractions but it is a city in Mexico that has everything, so you would not feel like you are living in a town. Monterrey is in a valley so you could expect it to be hot, just like in San Antonio.
If you are going to pick a place in Mexico that doesn’t look like the States, Puerto Vallarta is the place to go. Puerto Vallarta is right on the Pacific Ocean. It has amazing weather 8 months out of the year. The other 4 months, which are June through September, are very humid and very hot. Puerto Vallarta is a city that is very developed. It still has the small town charm but it has grown so much both north and south that it has a lot of the amenities that people tend to look for now in a more developed city. It also has amazing quality restaurants and attractions because of tourism so there is a lot to do in Puerto Vallarta. If you try to go out every single night there and eat at new restaurants each time, you wouldn’t finish in 2 or 3 years!
There is a big expat community in Puerto Vallarta, too. You also have access to all kinds of real estate from cheap, at around $200,000, to expensive ones, which are in the millions. You can get a two-bedroom condo in a very nice area like in the marina and you would have a marina view, which you can also walk to and that would be inexpensive at around $200,000. You can also go as fancy as getting a property at the ocean front or on the beach for around $2 or $3 million. Puerto Vallarta has everything for everybody.
If living close to the US is not at the top of your list and you want to be isolated from the States, the best places to go to would be Ajijic and Playa Del Carmen. From the perspective of the weather, if you go to Ajijic, you wouldn’t need air-conditioning in any part of the year. It is very quiet in Ajijic and it has a lot of activities. It has a city that is very big, similar to Monterrey nearby, which is Guadalajara. You can get anything that you could ever want and need in Guadalajara. It is a very close-knit community of Americans, sort of an American enclave in the center of Mexico. Ajijic is a charming town to go and visit, relax, and just not worry about anything else. You can just enjoy your day. Ajijic is a colonial town so you could expect to see old buildings. It is one of the top expat places in Mexico. It would in the top five expat places in Mexico. Because there is a big expat community in Ajijic, you can absolutely get by without speaking Spanish. All the restaurants and other places around there would have people who speak English.
Playa del Carmen is in the southern part of Mexico, in the Yucatan, near Cancun. Playa del Carmen has been popular because it is the newer part of Cancun. Cancun and Playa del Carmen are about an hour’s drive apart. Cancun has everything you could ask for. It is not a big city like Guadalajara, but it has everything. Playa del Carmen is different from Cancun in a sense that it does not have the densely populated and tourist parts that Cancun has. So you still live in a beautiful resort town with white sand but you don’t have the tourists attacking you so much. There are lots of tourists in Playa del Carmen but not as much as in Cancun.
(Beach at San Filipe, Mexico, pictured.)