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The 34 Best Places to Retire in Mexico: The Ultimate Guide

With over 1.5 million retirees, ex-pats, and digital nomads, Mexico is the most popular destination for Americans and Canadians who want to live abroad. The country offers a low cost of living, excellent climate, world-class cuisine, affordable healthcare, easy visas, friendly locals, and a high quality of life. This guide outlines 34 of the best places to retire in Mexico.

This guide is broken down into 4 sections including the best places to retire near the beach, the cheapest places to retire, the safest places to retire, and the best retirement communities. For each destination, I’ll outline the cost of living and some benefits and drawbacks.

At this point, I have been living in Mexico for about 3 years. I have spent most of that time in Tijuana, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta. I have also traveled extensively throughout the country and have spoken with dozens of fellow expats and retirees. In this guide, I’ll share my thoughts and experience about living in Mexico.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

The cost of living in Mexico is low compared to the U.S. or Canada. It is still possible to live on $1000 per month in many cities. $1500-$2000 per month is a more comfortable budget that opens up more opportunities. For a couple, a good budget is $2500 per month. If you’re a retiree, it may be possible to live comfortably with just your social security.

The visa situation is relatively easy as well. Most retirees can easily qualify for a temporary resident visa. This visa allows you to stay for up to 1 year. It can be extended annually for 4 years. After that, you can apply for permanent residency. Some retirees can apply for a permanent resident visa directly. This allows for indefinite stays. Mexico also offers an easy tourist visa called an FMM visitor’s permit that allows you to stay for up to 180 days. This can work well for snowbirds. Mexico is a great choice for those who want to retire to a foreign country.

Table of Contents

The Best Places to Retire in Mexico by the Beach
1. Puerto Vallarta
2. La Paz
3. Playa del Carmen
4. Mazatlán
5. Sayulita
6. Zihuatanejo
7. Cancún
8. Puerto Escondido
9. Tulum
10. Puerto Morelos
11. Tijuana
Cheapest Places to Retire in Mexico
12. Oaxaca City
13. San Cristobal de las Casas
14. Manzanillo
15. Huatulco
16. Durango
17. Hermosillo
18. Morelia
Safest Places to Retire in Mexico
19. Mérida
20. Querétaro
21. Mexico City
22. Ensenada
23. Valladolid
24. Loreto
25. Puebla
The Best Places to Retire in Mexico: Mountain Towns, Colonial Towns, and Retirement Communities
26. San Miguel de Allende
27. Lake Chapala (Ajijic and Chapala)
28. Guanajuato
29. Guadalajara
30. San Luis Potosí
31. Cuernavaca
32. Tepoztlán
33. Álamos
34. Monterrey
Considerations when choosing the best place to retire in Mexico

The Best Places to Retire in Mexico by the Beach

1. Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • State- Jalisco
  • Population- 400,000 with around 40,000 expats and retirees.
  • Region- Pacific coast
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of living- Around $1000-$1500 per month

Until the early 1960s, Puerto Vallarta was just a small fishing village on the Pacific. In 1963, John Huston filmed the romance movie, “The Night of the Iguana” in a small town just south of Puerto Vallarta. During filming, actor Richard Burton was photographed with actress Elizabeth Taylor, who was married to another man.

The photos and drama that followed exposed Americans to the beauty of Puerto Vallarta. Shortly after, the Mexican government started investing heavily in the region’s transportation infrastructure to make it easier for tourists to visit. Starting in the early 1970s, tourists began arriving in large numbers and hotels and beach resorts began popping up.

Today, Puerto Vallarta is one of the most developed resort cities in Mexico. The urban area stretches 30 miles along Bahía de Banderas. In recent years, the area has become quite popular among expats, retirees, and snowbirds who want to take advantage of the extensive tourism infrastructure and enjoy the region’s incredible natural beauty and warm climate. As many as 40,000 expats and retirees call Puerto Vallarta home. There is a strong expat community here.

Puerto Vallarta offers a wide range of activities and amenities for expats. You can enjoy the beautiful pacific ocean and go sailing, fishing, swimming, boating, surfing, and other water sports. You can walk along the boardwalk and enjoy the city’s many bars, restaurants, shops, and cafes. If you’re a golfer, you can play at any of the area’s nine golf courses. For outdoor activities, you can go hiking or mountain biking in the nearby Sierra Madre mountains. If you enjoy nightlife, you can visit the many bars and clubs. You can also take advantage of the tourist infrastructure by visiting the many hotels and resorts. You’ll also find plenty of convenient shopping options including Walmart, Costco, and several malls.

One major benefit to living in Puerto Vallarta is safety. The city is consistently ranked as one of the safest cities in Mexico. Many Mexicans and expats choose to raise their families here for this reason. The area also has excellent private schools.

The nearby international airport makes flying home to the U.S. or Canada convenient and affordable. Puerto Vallarta is also a top medical tourism destination. The region offers several highly rated medical facilities that offer cutting-edge treatments. There are also many English-speaking doctors.

Puerto Vallarta is also known as the gay beach capital of Mexico. There are gay-owned bars and restaurants as well as gay-friendly beaches and neighborhoods. This makes it a great choice for LGBT expats and retirees.

The climate in Puerto Vallarta is tropical and humid for most of the year. There is a wet season between June and September. The dry season runs between December and May.

2. La Paz

  • State- Baja California Sur
  • Population- 290,000 in the metro area with 6,000 expats
  • Region- Baja California Peninsula, on the Sea of Cortez
  • Climate- Desert
  • Cost of Living- $1000-$1500 per month

La Paz is the capital and largest city in the state of Baja California Sur. The city sits on the eastern side of the Baja California Peninsula on the Sea of Cortez, 126 miles north of the popular resort cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Tourism makes up a large part of the city’s economy. La Paz is a safe city that offers a comfortable and laid-back lifestyle by the beach.

Around 6,000 expats and retirees live in La Paz. The expat population swells during the winter as snowbirds arrive from the cold American and Canadian cities to spend a few months in the sun before returning home in the spring.

The Baja Peninsula is one of the safest regions in Mexico, with the exception of the border zone. The crime rates are low. The touristy areas and beaches are regularly patrolled by police. Petty theft is the most common form of crime.

La Paz is a top destination for expats who enjoy spending time on the water. You can go sailing, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking in the crystal clear waters of the Sea of Cortez year-round. There are dozens of small islands and hidden beaches to explore within 50 miles of the city.

One of the most popular beaches is Balandra Beach. This is often considered to be one of the best beaches in all of Mexico. Nearby Tecolote Beach gives it a run for its money. Water temperatures remain comfortable in the 70s to mid-80s throughout the year. Fishing and whale watching are also popular seasonal activities in the area.

Along the waterfront in the city is a 3.1-mile long malecon (boardwalk). This offers a safe and scenic way to cross the city. The malecon is lined with bars, restaurants, and shops. La Paz has excellent seafood. Fresh lobster, clams, shrimp, scallops, and fish are all popular dishes here.

There is an international airport with direct flights to several U.S. and Mexican cities. This makes it easy to fly home to visit friends and family. There is also a bus service to Tijuana, where you can cross into the U.S. on foot. In addition, a ferry service operates between La Paz and the cities of Mazatlán and Los Mochis on the mainland.

One potential drawback to living in La Paz is that the city is fairly expensive. The Baja California Peninsula, in general, is one of the most expensive parts of Mexico because everything has to be shipped or driven long distance from the mainland.

Another potential drawback is the climate. La Paz is a desert environment. It gets unbearably hot during the summer. There is very little rainfall throughout the year.

3. Playa del Carmen

  • State- Quintana Roo
  • Population- 150,000 with around 10,000 expats
  • Region- Yucatán Peninsula
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of living- Around $1800-$2500 per month

Playa del Carmen is a beautiful beach town located on the Maya Riviera on the Caribbean Sea. It was originally a small fishing village until the city started a passenger ferry service to the nearby island of Cozumel.

The island was popularized by a 1954 Jacques Cousteau documentary about the Great Maya Reef. Tourists came to the region for the world-class scuba diving and snorkeling on Cozumel Island and Playa del Carmen began to grow.

Today, Playa del Carmen is one of the fastest-growing cities in Mexico. It offers a nice mix of relaxed beach town vibes, resort town luxuries, and small city conveniences.

Playa del Carmen is also an incredibly popular expat destination. As many as 10,000 foreigners live here. The city is popular among digital nomads, families, and retirees alike.

One drawback to living in Playa del Carmen is that it is an extremely expensive city. It’s located on the Maya Riviera, which is probably the most touristy part of Mexico. Playa del Carmen is popular among backpackers.

Expect to spend around $1000-$1200 per month to rent a 2 bedroom apartment near the city center. It is possible to buy a condo here for around $250,000.

Playa del Carmen offers a wide range of activities and amenities for expats. You can go scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, boating, and fishing in the beautiful Caribbean Sea. You can go for a stroll along La Quinta Avenida, a pedestrian street near the beach. Here, you’ll find restaurants, shops, bars, and cafes. There are also luxury shopping malls, high-end condos, and coworking spaces for digital nomads. The city is highly developed.

One great benefit to living in Playa del Carmen is the day trip and weekend trip opportunities. For example, from Playa del Carmen you can easily visit Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel, Merida, Valladolid, Isla Holbox, Lake Bacalar. You can explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba, Uxmal, and more. You could explore various cenotes of the Yucatan. Transportation in the region is reliable and affordable.

As far as the climate goes, the weather is warm and tropical year-round. The rainy season lasts from June until October. One potential drawback is that there is a risk of hurricanes. The season lasts from June-November. You should have an exit plan in case a big storm comes.

Traveling back home to visit from Playa del Carmen is pretty easy as well. You can fly in and out of Cancun International Airport, which lies just 34 miles north of the city. It’s easy to access by bus or car. Flights to the U.S and Canada are frequent.

4. Mazatlán

La Reina de los Mares mermaid statue in Mazatlan, Mexico
La Reina de los Mares statue
  • State- Sinaloa
  • Population- around 500,000
  • Region- Pacific coast
  • Climate- Tropical savanna
  • Cost of Living- $1000-$1500 per month

Mazatlán is a resort city located on Mexico’s beautiful Pacific coast. It is located directly across the Sea of Cortez from the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.

The city was founded by the Spanish in 1531 and developed into a small fishing village. In the 19th century, a large group of German immigrants came to Mazatlán and found success developing the city into a commercial seaport. They also founded the Pacifico brewing company.

Even though Mazatlán is a resort city, it feels a bit more authentic than other resort destinations like the Riviera Maya and Los Cabos. Mazatlán has a historic and walkable colonial center that has undergone an impressive revival over the past decade. In fact, the city center was named a Heritage of the Nation site. A few notable buildings include the Angela Peralta Theater, Corvera Building, and the old Hotel Iturbide. Most date back to the 1800s.

The area offers a range of neighborhoods to choose from. You can find laid-back retirement communities, expat neighborhoods, party neighborhoods, and touristy areas. Prices in this Mazatlan are increasing. Rent for a 2 bedroom in a decent area costs around $500-$800 per month.

Another nice feature of Mazatlán is that it doesn’t feel as crowded as other resort cities. Within the city limits, there are miles of beautiful beaches to explore. It’s pretty easy to find a secluded spot if you don’t like crowds. You can also participate in all of your favorite watersports including swimming, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, sailing, Scuba diving, and more.

There is also a spacious 8.5 km long malecón (boardwalk) along the Pacific coast. The boardwalk spans most of the length of the city. Here, you’ll see beautiful views of cliffs, beaches, and a historic lighthouse. You can also find street food stands, restaurants, bars, and shops. Mazatlán is also home to Mexico’s largest aquarium.

Mazatlán hosts one of the biggest and most important Carnivals in Mexico. During late February and early March, up to 600,000 people gather for a parade, parties, and music. This event offers a great opportunity to listen to the famous music genre, Banda Sinaloense, which is popular throughout Mexico.

Because Mazatlán is a resort city, it offers all of the amenities that expats and retirees desire. There are golf courses, large resorts, fine restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and more.

Mazatlán offers excellent medical infrastructure. It is a medical tourism destination for Americans and Canadians. You’ll find excellent dentists, surgeons, and specialists at the area’s hospitals and clinics.

Because Mazatlán is such a major tourist destination, there are many direct flights to the U.S. and Canada from the city’s international airport. There is also a ferry service to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula. You can drive to Mazatlán from the U.S. border in Arizona in around 13 hours.

Mazatlan is located in one of Mexico’s more dangerous states, Sinaloa. This region is dangerous due to cartel activity. The city of Mazatlan is safe. You will need to exercise caution while traveling outside of the city at night.

The climate in Mazatlán is warm and fairly dry. The average daily high ranges from the upper 70s to the lower 90s throughout the year.

5. Sayulita

Sayulita beach, Mexico
The beach in Sayulita
  • State- Nayarit
  • Population- 2300
  • Region- Pacific coast
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of Living- $1000-$1500 per month

Sayulita is a small surf town located in Banderas Bay, about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s beautiful Pacific coast. The city was a tiny fishing and agricultural village until the Varas-Vallarta highway was built in the 60s. Sayulita was soon discovered by surfers and other tourists. Since then, the city has developed into a tourist and expat destination. It is also designated a Pueblo Magico.

This small beach town is the perfect choice for expats who are looking for a slow-paced lifestyle. The city tends to attract American retirees as well as outdoorsy types. Particularly surfers. There is also a community of artists, hippies, and yogis.

Sayulita offers a kind of funky beach town vibe. The area offers world-class surfing as well as, paddleboarding, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, and more. Fishing is also popular here. You can catch dorado, mahi-mahi, tuna, wahoo, marlin, and many other delicious varieties. The climate is warm and tropical year-round.

Due to the small size of the town, you can walk pretty much anywhere you need to go in Sayulita including grocery stores, restaurants, shops, and the beach. Biking is another popular mode of transportation. Some retirees also use a golf cart to get around. You don’t need a car here. There is a low rate of crime so it’s safe to walk around at all hours.

The expat population of Sayulita swells during the winter when snowbirds arrive from the cold American and Canadian cities to spend a few months in the sun before returning home in the spring. During the off-season, the city is much quieter and less active but there are still plenty of things to do. After all, the ocean isn’t going anywhere.

The real estate market here is pretty hot. In recent years, several large condo developments have gone up around the city. Some expats choose to buy their own house or condo.

Rent in Sayulita is fairly high compared to the rest of Mexico due to a low supply of housing and high demand. Prices increase during the busy season. If you’re on a tight budget, Sayulita probably isn’t the best choice. It would be possible to get by on $1000 per month here but a higher budget would be more comfortable.

One benefit to living in Sayulita is that it is located just an hour away from the big city of Puerto Vallarta. If you need something that isn’t available in the small town of Sayulita, you can easily make the trip to the big city. For example, maybe you want to make a trip to Wal-Mart or Costco. Maybe you need to visit a hospital. Puerto Vallarta has all of that. Flights in and out of Puerto Vallarta are also frequent and inexpensive because it’s such a large tourist destination.

6. Zihuatanejo (Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo)

  • State- Guerrero
  • Population- Around 100,000
  • Region- Southern Mexico on the Pacific coast
  • Cost of living- Around $800-$1000 per month
  • Climate- Tropical

Zihuatanejo is a small resort city located on the Pacific coast in the state of Guerrero. The city has a population of around 100,000. During the 1970s this area was selected for development for tourism. Before then, the Zihuatanejo was just a small fishing village. This area is a bit of a hidden gem for retirees.

There are actually two separate cities here. Zihuatanejo is a traditional Mexican beach town. The nearby city of Ixtapa is a modern resort area. The cities sit just 8 km apart.

During the 2010s, Zihuatanejo declined in popularity due to cartel activity in nearby Acapulco and other parts of the state of Guerrero. The city itself is a safe place to live. The entire state has become much safer over the past few years.

The cost of living here is affordable. Apartments in the city center near the beach rent for $400-$600 per month. You can find lower rent outside of the city.

This area is a great choice for those who are into sport fishing. My dad took me on a fishing trip here when I was 12 years old. I caught an 8 foot sailfish just off the coast from Zihuatanejo. After returning to land, we took some fish fillets to a restaurant near the port and had them cooked up for lunch. This is still one of my best travel memories.

Zihuatanejo is also a great choice for beach lovers. The city sits in a beautiful bay. The water stays warm year-round. It’s the perfect place for swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking. There are also some nice surf spots nearby. There are two golf courses in Ixtapa.

The climate in Zihuatanejo is warm and tropical. The average daily high is in the upper 80s year-round.

7. Cancún

The beach in Cancun
  • State- Quintana Roo
  • Population- Around 915,000
  • Region- Yucatan Peninsula
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of Living- $1500-$2000 per month

Cancún is a resort city that sits on the Caribbean Sea on the northeast corner of the Yucatan Peninsula, on the north end of the Riviera Maya. It is known for its incredible white sand beaches, massive resorts, and high-end nightlife. The origin and meaning of the name Cancún are unknown.

Interestingly, Cancún is a planned city. Until 1974, there was nothing but a small fishing village and a coconut plantation in the area. The city was selected by FONATUR (Fondo Nacional de Turismo) for its tourism potential. FONATUR is a Mexican government agency that is dedicated to developing tourism in the country.

The Mexican government funded the first hotels and began developing the region in hopes that other developers and investors would follow. The gamble paid off and Cancún became one of Mexico’s two largest resort destinations. Tourists and expats come from all over the world to enjoy the white sand beaches, extravagant resorts, beautiful jungles, and tropical weather.

The city of Cancún is divided into two distinct areas. Zona Hoteleria is a long narrow strip of sand in the shape of the number 7. Here, you’ll find large resorts, high-end restaurants, nightclubs, boutique shops, and white sand beaches. This part of the city is actually built on an island that is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier reef. You can get to the Zona Hoteleria by regular city bus or you can drive. The island is connected to the mainland with a bridge.

The second area, El Centro, sits on the mainland. It is basically a big sprawling city. The waterfront area is currently under development.

Most expats and retirees live on the mainland in the city. This part of the city is much more affordable than the touristy hotel zone.

Cancún is one of Mexico’s most developed cities. The city offers excellent infrastructure that is on par with pretty much any first-world city. The roads are smooth. The electric grid and internet are reliable. There is an efficient public transportation system. The city is very livable.

Cancún has a large and active expat community. There are several expat Facebook groups that you can join. They host regular meetups and events at bars and clubs around town. English is also widely spoken in Cancún because the city sees so many foreign tourists. Pretty much everyone working in tourism speaks English. You could easily get by without speaking any Spanish here.

The city offers phenomenal dining and shopping options. There are over 750 restaurants to try. As far as shopping goes, you’ll find small boutique shops, shopping malls, and international department stores. There is also Wal-Mart and Costco here.

Probably the best thing about Cancún is the beaches. The white sand beaches are perfect. You can enjoy swimming in the warm Caribbean waters year-round. There is also excellent diving and snorkeling on the nearby Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. You can also go sailing, boating, fishing, and more. There are also a few world-class golf courses that overlook the sea. Cancun is a paradise for beach lovers.

Healthcare infrastructure is excellent here as well. The city is a major medical tourism destination. Cancun has 7 major hospitals that offer any treatment you could possibly need. Quality of care is high. Prices are reasonable as well. You can buy your prescriptions for a fraction of the price that they would cost in the U.S. Reasonably priced health insurance is available for retirees as well.

One major benefit of retiring in Cancún is the frequency and affordability of flights. Cancún international airport sits about 19 miles south of the city. Here, you can catch direct flights all over the U.S, Canada, and Europe. You can also catch domestic flights all over Mexico if you want to explore more of the country.

Cancun is also an excellent base for exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. You can easily catch a bus to the Riviera Maya, Merida, Valladolid, Chichen Itza, various cenotes, and more.

There are a few drawbacks to living in Cancún. First, it’s one of the more expensive places to live in Mexico. Tourism has made Cancún a wealthy city. To retire here comfortably, you’ll probably spend around $1500-$2000 per month. Rent in Cancun costs around $600-$1000 for a 2 bedroom apartment in a normal area. If you want to live in the hotel zone, you’ll spend much more. If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll want to avoid this region.

Cancun is also a big bustling city. If you’re looking for a laid-back beach town lifestyle, Cancún isn’t it.

The climate in Cancún is tropical with distinct wet and dry seasons. The average temperature is around 80 degrees. Cancún does have a hurricane season between May and December. Large destructive storms are rare but do hit the area occasionally.

8. Puerto Escondido

  • State- Oaxaca
  • Population- 45,000
  • Region- Southern Mexico on the Pacific Coast
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of living- $800-$1200 per month

Puerto Escondido is a small beach town located on the Pacific Coast in the state of Oaxaca. Before the 1930s, there was no town here. Just a small port. Today, the town is the biggest tourist destination on the Oaxaca coast.

Puerto Escondido became famous among surfers due to the large waves that break here. The break is known as the “Mexican Pipeline.” Every year, a surfing competition is held on the famous Zicatela Beach.

In recent years, Puerto Escondido has become popular among backpackers, families, and expats. The area tends to draw a younger crowd. Many digital nomads are choosing to move to Puerto Escondido due to the low cost of living. It’s possible to rent an apartment here for less than $500 per month. Frugal retirees can get by on less than $800 per month there.

The biggest draw here is the beaches. A number of other beautiful beaches exist in the area including Playa Carrizalillo, Playa Zicatela, Playa Bacocho, Playa Marinero, and Playa Manzanillo. Scuba diving, fishing, swimming, and snorkeling are all popular activities here. It’s also a great place to learn how to surf.

Puerto Escondido is a great retirement destination for animal lovers. The nearby lagoon offers excellent birdwatching. Sea turtles also nest on the region’s beaches. You can also view the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence at Laguna de Manialtepec.

Puerto Escondido has an airport with connections to Oaxaca City, Mexico City, and Monterrey. There is also regular bus service between Oaxaca city and Puerto Escondido. The ride takes around 7 hours.

One complaint about Puerto Escondido is that internet speeds aren’t great. This seems to be improving. If you need a fast internet connection, Puerto Escondido may not be your best choice.

Puerto Excondido has a tropical climate. The weather stays in the 80s for much of the year.

9. Tulum

Tulum Ruins
Tulum Ruins
  • State- Quintana Roo
  • Population- Around 20,000
  • Region- the Yucatán Peninsula on the Riviera Maya
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of living- $2000-$2500 per month

Tulum is a small beach town located on the southern end of the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean Sea, about 2 hours south of Cancun. Up until the early 1990s, Tulum was just a small village. Over the past 25 years, the city has grown tremendously. In fact, Tulum is one of the fastest-growing cities in all of Mexico.

The city is located near the famous archaeological ruins of Tulum. This site was one of the last places inhabited by the Maya before the Spanish occupied Mexico. The Tulum ruins is one of the best-preserved Maya sites. It is the main tourist attraction in the city. Tulum is a Pueblo Magico.

Tulum is a highly developed and very touristy city. Most people speak English so you wouldn’t have to learn Spanish to live here if you didn’t want to. The infrastructure is excellent. The city is also one of the safest in Mexico.

Tulum is divided into two main sections. The downtown area is filled with small hotels, hostels, bars, restaurants, boutique shops, cafes, small markets, and souvenir shops. There are also lots of street food stands in this area. This is the older and less expensive part of the city.

About 2km outside of the downtown area, near the beach is the ‘hotel zone.’ This is the touristy part of town that you’ll see on postcards. Here, you’ll find dozens of resorts, boutique hotels, cabanas, restaurants, beach bars and clubs, and a couple of public beaches. This is the newer, higher-end part of town. There are also some larger apartment and condo developments going up in this part of town.

Tulum is a great choice for environmentally friendly and hippy types of expats. There aren’t many large resorts, high-rise condos, or big malls like you would find in Cancun or Playa del Carmen. The vibe is a bit more laid back. You’ll find quiet and chilled-out bars instead of big clubs. There is a focus on sustainability here rather than development.

Tulum is also a party city. It is popular among backpackers. You’ll find plenty of lively beach clubs and bars.

Tulum is an excellent choice for beach-loving expats. The turquoise Caribbean water is warm and perfect. You can go swimming, fishing, diving, and snorkeling, or just relax in a hammock on the beach. The Caribbean lifestyle is hard to beat.

One nice thing about Tulum is its compact size. The town is small enough that you can get where you need to go on foot. Cycling is another popular way to get around. If you don’t want to pedal or walk, you can ride a scooter or small motorcycle around town. You don’t need to drive or take a bus to get around.

Tulum is also conveniently located near a number of interesting Mexican cities and attractions. For example, you can take a bus to Playa del Carmen or Cancun to the North. You can easily visit a number of archaeological sites including Chichen Itza, Coba, and Uxmal. There are a number of cenotes nearby. You could even take a bus to Belize.

The climate in Tulum is warm and tropical. One drawback to living in Tulum is that it is incredibly touristy. It’s also one of the most expensive cities in Mexico.

10. Puerto Morelos

  • State- Quintana Roo
  • Population- Around 27,000
  • Region- Yucatán Peninsula
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of living- Around $1000-$1500 per month

If you’re looking to live somewhere a bit more laid back than Playa del Carmen or Cancun, consider Puerto Morelos. This fishing village sits about halfway between the two cities, on the Riviera Maya. It is kind of a hidden gem among ex-pats.

Puerto Morelos is divided into two sections. One section is a small beach town area right on the sea. The other section is the main part of town that sits along the main highway. The beach town area is newer and more expensive. The town is cheaper and still near the beach.

There are several benefits to living here over other popular Riviera Maya cities. First, it’s safer. Crime is low in this small beach town. There is also much less traffic. The town is quieter as well. Puerto Morelos is not a major tourist destination. If you want to party, you can easily travel to Cancun or Playa del Carmen in less than an hour.

11. Tijuana

The arch in downtown Tijuana
El Arco
  • State- Baja California
  • Population- 1.9 million
  • Region- Northwestern Mexico on the Pacific coast
  • Climate- Semi-arid
  • Cost of living- $900-$1500 per month

Tijuana is a border town located just south of San Diego, California on the Pacific coast of the state of Baja California Norte. It is the largest city on the Baja California Peninsula and the 5th largest city in Mexico. Tijuana is considered a major center of Mexican culture, politics, and education in Mexico. It is also one of the fastest-growing cities in the country with a population of just under 2 million.

The main advantage of retiring in Tijuana is that you can take advantage of the benefits of living in both Mexico and the United States at the same time. This is possible because you can easily cross back and forth between the two countries. Tijuana sits right on the border and San Diego sits about 15 miles to the north. You can walk or drive across the border in minutes with a SENTRI pass. You can cross between the two countries every day if you like.

Many expats choose to work in the US and live in Tijuana. The benefit of this is that you earn a high Southern California wage while living in the much less expensive city of Tijuana. The average rent for an apartment in San Diego is around $2000 per month. In Tijuana, you can get a nice apartment for less than $600. Food, transportation, and entertainment are significantly cheaper in Tijuana as well. The minimum wage in San Diego is $15 per hour while the minimum wage in Tijuana is just over $6. This unique cross-border lifestyle allows you to save more or work less. It is possible to live comfortably on $900-$1200 per month.

I lived in Tijuana for over a year and cut my living expenses by about 2/3 during that time. For more info, check out my guide to living in Tijuana or check out my eBook about living in Tijuana.

Tijuana is an excellent choice for foodie expats. The city offers some incredible dining options. The main tourist street, Avenida Revolucion is lined with bars and restaurants. The most famous restaurant here is Caesars, where the Caesar salad was invented. The business district, Zona Rio, offers more upscale and trendy dining options.

Another unique feature of Tijuana is the dining plazas or food courts. In these small plazas, food trucks and pop-up restaurants serve all up trendy and interesting meals. Of course, there are plenty of street food stands scattered throughout the city as well. In my opinion, Tijuana has the best street tacos in all of Mexico.

A street taco stand in Mexico serving tacos al pastor
A street taco stand

Tijuana is also famous for its wild nightlife. Along Avenida Revolucion, you’ll find dozens of bars and clubs that cater to tourists. In the infamous Zona Norte red light district, there are dive bars and strip clubs. Plaza Fiesta is a large outdoor mall filled with over a dozen small bars, breweries, and clubs. Tijuana also has an excellent craft beer scene. For more info, check out my guide to the best craft breweries in Tijuana.

There are three main areas where expats live in Tijuana. Playas de Tijuana is probably the most popular. This laid-back neighborhood is located on the beach. Zona Rio is the city’s business district. Here, you’ll find some nice high-rise condo and apartment buildings. Zona Centro is the downtown area. If you’re on a tight budget, there are more affordable parts of the city away from the tourist area.

The border at Playas de Tijuana
Playas de Tijuana

Unfortunately, Tijuana has earned the reputation of being a dangerous border town. It’s not a safe city. In fact, Tijuana has earned the title of ‘the most violent city in the world’ with 134 homicides per 100,000 residents according to this article from Border Report. In 2021, there were just shy of 2000 homicides in Tijuana.

This is a shocking statistic but the truth is that the vast majority of these murders were people involved in organized crime. Specifically, the drug trade. Expats and retirees are not targeted. The violence also happens in working-class neighborhoods, not touristy areas.

Still, while living here, you do need to take some extra precautions. Avoid walking around in unfamiliar or deserted areas after dark. Try not to carry cash or valuables and avoid dressing flashy. Muggings, robberies, and pickpocketings happen here. While living in Tijuana, I experienced two crimes. I was in a bar during an armed robbery and I was pickpocketed in Tijuana.

For more info on safety, check out my guide: Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Scams and Crime.

Cheapest Places to Retire in Mexico

12. Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City, Mexico
  • State- Oaxaca
  • Population- Around 255,000
  • Region- Southern Mexico
  • Climate- Warm subtropical highland
  • Cost of living- $500-$1000 per month

Oaxaca City (Oaxaca de Juárez) is the capital and largest city in the south-central Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is located in a valley at the foothills of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountains. This historic region was inhabited by Zapotec and Mixtec people for thousands of years before the Spanish arrived in 1521 and founded the city.

Today, Oaxaca City is famous for its colonial-era buildings, nearby archeological sites, Mixtec-Zapotec culture, and incredible cuisine. A few important sites include the large Plaza de la Constitución, Oaxaca Cathedral, Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Monte Albán archeological site, Mitla Ruins, Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo, and Oaxaca Botanical Gardens. Oaxaca City along with the nearby archeological site of Monte Albán were designated as UNESCO world heritage sites in 1987.

If you’re on a tight budget, Oaxaca is one of the best places to retire in Mexico. An individual could retire here for just $500-$800 per month. It’s pretty easy to find an apartment in the $200-$400 range, including most utilities. It is possible to rent a small room outside of the city center for as little as $100 per month. A street food meal costs just a dollar or two. The city is fairly compact and walkable so your transportation cost will be minimal. Prices are low because Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s poorer states.

One of the best parts of living in Oaxaca is the food. It’s world-class. A few popular dishes to try include tlayudas (Mexican pizza), memelas, tamales, and entomadas. Oaxaca is also famous for its moles. Oaxaca cheese is phenomenal as well. The city also has some of the best and most affordable street food in Mexico. You’ll see carts on almost every corner selling tacos, gorditas, quesadillas, and other quick eats. If you’re a foodie, Oaxaca is probably the best place to retire in Mexico.

As far as beverages go, Oaxaca is famous for its mezcal. In the area surrounding the city, you’ll find a number of mezcal distilleries where you can take a tour and try some samples before buying. If you prefer non-alcoholic drinks, Oaxaca is famous for its hot chocolate. You’ll find cafes and chocolate shops all over the city.

Oaxaca also has a number of large outdoor markets where you can buy fresh fruits and veggies, street food, and other various goods at incredibly reasonable prices. Shopping locally is a great way to save money. These markets are also great places for people watching and experiencing the local culture. A few of the best markets in Oaxaca include Mercado Benito Juarez, El Pochote, and Mercado 20 de Noviembre.

The city also contains a vibrant culture due to the large indigenous population. There are 16 different indigenous groups living in the region. Each has its own culture, cuisine, and language. You’ll hear music playing everywhere, see traditional artwork, and see people in traditional dress.

There is always a festival to attend or holiday to celebrate as well. A few important events include Holy Week in the spring, Día de los Muertos in November, Night of the Radishes in December, and Guelaguetza in July. There is always some kind of party, festival, or event going on.

Oaxaca is also an excellent destination for outdoorsy expats. The city lies in a valley surrounded by the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountains. You can go hiking, biking, and camping nearby. There are also a number of beautiful mountain towns to visit including the famous San Jose del Pacifico and the small village of Benito Juarez. Another unique mountain attraction is the petrified waterfalls, Hierve el Agua.

Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico
Hierve el Agua

Nearby, you can find a number of other attractions including the Mitla Ruins, Monte Alban archeological site, and Tule Tree. A visit to the town of Mitla also makes for a nice day trip.

Mitla Ruins
Mitla Ruins

Located in a valley at an altitude of 5102 feet (1555 m), Oaxaca offers a warm and relatively dry climate. Average high temperatures range from 80-90° throughout the year. Average low temperatures range from around 50-60°.

As far as accessibility goes, Oaxaca has a well-connected airport. This gives you easy access from anywhere in North America. It is also well connected to other Mexican cities by long-distance bus. For example, you can travel to Mexico City in about 7 hours or the Oaxaca Coast in about 10 hours.

One drawback to living in Oaxaca is that the access to medical care isn’t great. This is the case because Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s poorer regions.

13. San Cristobal de las Casas

Catedral de San Cristóbal Mártir in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
Catedral de San Cristóbal Mártir
  • State- Chiapas
  • Population- 185,000
  • Region- Southern Mexico
  • Climate- Subtropical highland
  • Cost of living- $600-$1000 per month

San Cristobal de las Casas is a colorful Spanish colonial Mexican city located in the highlands of the state of Chiapas. The city sits at an elevation of 2,200 m (7,200 ft) in a valley surrounded by rolling hills. In recent years, San Cristobal has become a major tourist, retiree, and expat destination.

The city is known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture built in the Baroque, Neoclassical, and Moorish styles. While walking around town, you’ll see red tile roofs, balconies decorated with hanging flower pots, pastel-colored buildings, wrought iron fences, and cobblestone streets. Much of the original Spanish layout still remains. A few notable buildings include San Cristobal Cathedral, Templo de Quechula, the Temple of Santo Domingo, and the Convent of Santo Domingo.

San Cristobal de las Casas is also considered the cultural capital of the state of Chiapas. It was designated as a ‘Pueblo Magico’ in 2003. The culture is influenced by the large indigenous population. Many Tzotzil and Tzeltal people live in the city and surrounding area. These people are known for making textiles, ceramics, wrought iron, and jewelry. Indigenous people from the surrounding area regularly travel to San Cristobal to sell their handicrafts at the local markets. Amber and jade are important materials in the region. The city even hosts an annual Amber Expo.

San Cristobal de las Casas has a large expat population with a well-developed expat community. The city is particularly popular among younger expats, families, digital nomads, and hippy types. You’ll meet people from all over the U.S, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K, and even South America. It’s a surprisingly international town. Tourism is big here as well. Particularly among backpackers.

The cost of living in San Cristobal de las Casas is low. You can easily find an apartment in the $200-$300 range. If you shop in the local markets, food is inexpensive. There are also large supermarket chains, such as Chedraui. The city is small and pedestrian-friendly so your transportation cost will be minimal. A single person could easily retire on $600-$800 per month here.

There are dozens of restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs to explore in San Cristobal de las Casas. You can find food from all over the world in the many expat owned restaurants. Cheap eats and street food are commonly available as well. You can get a decent Mexican meal for just a few dollars. The most popular dish in Chiapas is tamales. Cured meats are popular here as well.

At the various bars and clubs, you can enjoy a Mezcal and listen to a wide variety of music. The atmosphere is usually pretty laid back.

Cafe culture is big here as well. For just a dollar or two, you can enjoy some amazing coffee made from locally grown beans. There are dozens of small coffee shops located throughout the city center. Most of them serve fresh pastries as well.

The city is also famous for its cacao, which grows in the region. Hot chocolate is a local favorite. Check out the Kakaw Museum to learn more bout chocolate and to taste some free samples.

A number of festivals and events take place throughout the year. A few of the most important ones include the Feria de la Primavera y la Paz during holy week, The Festival Cervantino Barroco, and The Cervantes International Baroque Festival. Fireworks are a common way to celebrate the various religious holidays and festivals.

One drawback to living in San Cristobal de las Casas is that the city is incredibly touristy. The city center looks like Disney designed a Mexican town. It’s incredibly gentrified. Of course, there are still plenty of authentic neighborhoods outside of the city center.

One benefit of the tourism is that English is widely spoken. You wouldn’t have to learn Spanish to live here if you didn’t want to. The city is also very clean and well maintained.

It’s also important to note that medical infrastructure isn’t great here. This is the case because Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico. If you need to see a specialist, you’ll have to travel an hour away to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital.

Another drawback to living in San Cristobal de las Casas is that the city does not have an international airport. This makes it a hassle to fly home and visit friends and family. The nearest international airport is in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. There are shuttles and minibusses to the airport.

Chiapas has a reputation as being a dangerous state. There are a number of reasons for this. There is tension between the people of Chiapas and the Mexican government. Chiapas was the center of the Zapatista movement. Poverty is also an issue. San Cristobal is a safe city. It’s best to avoid traveling outside of the city center at night.

The climate in San Cristobal de las Casas is excellent. Temperatures are mild due to the high elevation. Throughout the year, the average high temperature ranges from around 67-75°F.

14. Manzanillo

The beach in Manzanillo, Mexico
  • State- Colima
  • Population- Around 160,000
  • Region- Southern Mexico on the Pacific coast
  • Cost of living- Around $800-$1000 per month
  • Climate- Tropical

Manzanillo is a port city located in a bay on the Pacific coast in the small state of Colima. The city is a popular tourist destination for both Mexicans and foreigners. Manzanillo also contains one of Mexico’s busiest and most important ports.

There are several beautiful beaches in the city. The water is warm and calm. Manzanillo is also an excellent choice for those who enjoy fishing. The city is known as ‘the sailfish capital of the world.’. There are several large fishing competitions hosted here each year.

The cost of living here is reasonable. It is possible to rent a decent one bedroom apartment within walking distance to the beach for $400-$500 per month. You could easily retire here for less than $1000 per month.

Manzanillo is a nice mid-sized city. It is small and compact enough to get around on foot or by bicycle. It’s large enough to have all of the amenities you need to live comfortably including supermarkets, bars, restaurants, and more. There are also a couple of good hospitals here.

Manzanillo also has an international airport with direct connections to several American cities including San Francisco and Houston. It is also well connected to the rest of Mexico. The weather here is tropical. It’s warm and humid year-round.

15. Huatulco

  • State- Oaxaca
  • Population- 50,000 with around 1,000 expats and retirees
  • Region- Southern Mexico on the Pacific coast
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of living- around $700-$1000 per month

Huatulco is located on the Pacific coast at the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains in the state of Oaxaca. It is actually a small region rather than an individual city. The Huatulco region covers about 50,000 acres. 90% of that area is protected for ecological conservation purposes while the other 10% is dedicated to tourism and residential purposes.

Interestingly, Huatulco is a planned community. Starting in the early 1980s, FONATUR (Fondo Nacional de Turismo) chose Huatulco for its tourism potential. FONATUR is a Mexican government agency that is dedicated to developing tourism in the country.

The agency acquired the land, moved many of the residents to a nearby town, and developed the area’s infrastructure. New roads, a highway, pedestrian walkways, a water treatment facility, and a small international airport were built. Before all of this development, Huatulco was just a small fishing village.

This unique area stretches across 26 kilometers of coastline with 9 bays and 36 white sand beaches. Oftentimes you’ll have the beach to yourself.

Huatulco offers a great range of water activities. Boating, fishing, sailing, snorkeling, and diving are all popular here. There are several fishing tournaments held here throughout the year. There are also plenty of beaches to explore and relax on.

A number of small towns are located along the Bahias de Huatulco area. The largest town is called La Crucecita. Here, you’ll find restaurants, bars, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other businesses. There are also a couple of hospitals. Nearby Tangolunda is where the upscale resorts and housing are located. Santa Cruz is a small town with a beach and the area’s main marina.

Nearby Parque Nacional Huatulco is a protected area that contains over 6,000 hectares of jungle and 5,500 hectares of marine environment. Here, you can go bird watching and hiking. You can go scuba diving in the protected marine area. Outdoorsy expats will love exploring this area.

The Huatulco area is famous for its fresh seafood and Oaxacan cuisine. Coffee is also grown in the region. You can tour some of the plantations. The climate here is also excellent with around 330 days of sunshine per year.

This area is a good choice for environmentally conscious retirees. Huatulco was awarded the Green Globe International Certification for being a sustainable tourism area. Much of the area’s energy comes from renewable sources.

There is a small but active expat population. The area is popular among snowbirds from the U.S. and Canada. The expat population increases during the winter months.

One drawback to living here is that it’s not that easy to get to as other big resort cities like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. Even though there is an international airport, there aren’t many flights. Most flights going into Huatulco are domestic. When you fly in, you may have a layover in Mexico City. Driving in from Acapulco or Oaxaca city is also a bit of a hassle because there are so many speed bumps. If you need to visit your home country often, living here may not be the best choice.

16. Durango

  • State- Durango
  • Population- 654,000
  • Region- Northern Mexico
  • Climate- Semi-arid
  • Cost of living- $600-$900 per month

Durango is the capital and largest city in the northern Mexican state with the same name. The city sits in the Valley of Guadiana in the beautiful Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. Sitting at an elevation of 6201 feet (1890 meters), Durango is surrounded by beautiful deserts, mountains, and valleys.

Durango was founded in 1563 by the Spanish and became an important silver and iron mining town. In recent times, the city has been a popular filming location for both Hollywood and Mexican movies. Westerns are commonly filmed here because the area surrounding the city offers a wide variety of landscapes that have a real ‘old west’ look to them. Durango is also an incredibly clean and safe city.

The historic center of Durango features some of Northern Mexico’s oldest colonial buildings and monuments. While wandering through town, you’ll see beautiful Baroque, Churrigueresque, and Neoclassical architecture and cobblestone streets.

The most prominent landmark is the Cathedral Basilica of Durango which faces the city’s main square or Plaza de Armas. Underneath the cathedral is an old mining tunnel, which functions as a museum today. Durango is particularly beautiful in the evening when many buildings light up.

Expats who enjoy a good view will love Durango. For a birds-eye view of the city, you can ride the Teleférico (cable car) to the top of a hill in the city. Valle de Nombre de Dios is a region just to the southeast of Durango where you can hike and view the Cascada el Saltito waterfall. Around 40 minutes to the Southwest of Durango, you’ll find El Tecúan Ecological Park. Here, you can camp, hike, and view desert wildlife.

The city also contains a surprising number of interesting museums. A few of the best ones include the Ganot-Peschard Museum of Archeology, the Regional Museum of Durango, the Francisco Villa Museum, and the Durango Folk Culture Museum.

Durango is not an expat, retiree, or tourist destination. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to deal with tourist prices. The city has a lower cost of living than most others on this list. You can rent a centrally located one-bedroom apartment for $250-$300. It’s possible to live on less than $700 per month if you’re frugal. The town also feels authentic because everything is designed to cater to regular Mexican people, not tourists.

The drawback to this is that English is not widely spoken. You’ll want to speak some Spanish or take lessons if you plan to live here. Also, there isn’t much of an expat community here if you care about that kind of thing.

The weather in Durango is excellent due to the high elevation. Winters are mild with an average daily high of around 69° F during the coldest months. In the summer, the average highs are in the upper 80s.

17. Hermosillo

La Campana Hill, Hermosillo, Mexico
La Campana Hill, Hermosillo
  • State- Sonora
  • Population- around 884,000 in the metro area
  • Region- Northern Mexico
  • Climate- Hot desert
  • Cost of living- $700-$1000 per month

Hermosillo is the capital and largest city in the northwestern state of Sonora. The city sits on a plane in the Sonora desert, making it one of the hottest major cities in Mexico. Hermosillo was founded by the Spanish in 1700. In recent years, industrialization has caused the city’s size to grow quickly.

Recently, Mexico’s Strategic Communications Cabinet ranked Hermosillo as one of the best cities to live in Mexico. The city has a strong and diversified economy, good education opportunities, and a well-functioning government. In addition, Hermosillo is a safe city with a low cost of living.

Hermosillo has a small expat population. Mostly made up of retirees. Expats living in Hermosillo can enjoy a slow-moving and comfortable lifestyle with good security. Hermosillo would be a good choice for retirees on a tight budget. It would be easy to live on less than $1000 per month here. Decent apartments are available for $200-$400 per month.

Hermosillo sits about 67 miles (108 km) from the Sea of Cortez. The closest beach town is Bahía Kino. Here, you can swim, scuba dive, snorkel, boat, and fish in the warm waters year-round. Another popular seaside town is San Carlos. This small town offers great camping, hiking, horseback riding, and climbing as well as watersports.

Tourist attractions are pretty limited in the city There is a nice central plaza and cathedral as well as a couple of museums. As far as the cuisine goes, Hermosillo is known for its excellent meats. Carne Asada is a popular dish here.

One benefit of living in Hermosillo is that it is located relatively close to the U.S. You can make the 170 mile drive to the Arizona border in around 3 hours. The city also has an international airport that offers a direct flight to Phoneix as well as a number of domestic flights. There is also an extensive public bus system.

One drawback to living in Hermosillo is the hot summers. The rest of the year is pleasant with temperatures in the 70s to lower 90s. There is very little rainfall throughout the year.

18. Morelia

  • State- Michoacán
  • Population- around 700,000 in the metro area
  • Region- Central Mexico
  • Climate- Subtropical highland
  • Cost of living- $800-$1000

Morelia is the capital and largest city in the state of Michoacán. It is located in central Mexico in the Guayangareo Valley at an elevation of 6300 feet (1,920 m). The Spanish gained control of the area in the 1520s and founded the city in 1541. Humans have been living in this valley as far back as the 7th century.

Known for its well-preserved 16th century colonial architecture and layout, Morelia was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. While wandering around the central historic district, you’ll see Neoclassical, Herreresque, Renessaucne, and Baroque styles of architecture. Most buildings are built out of beautiful pink Cantera stone. A few notable structures include the Morelia Aqueduct, the Cathedral of Morelia, and the Plaza de Armas.

The city is also known for its music. The oldest music conservatory in Mexico is located in Moralia. There are also a couple of music festivals held here throughout the year including Festival Internacional de Música de Morelia and the International Summer Opera Festival of Morelia.

Moralia also offers a number of interesting museums. A few of the best include Orquidario of Morelia, Museo Regional Michoacano, Museo de Arte Colonial, and Casa Museum José María Morelos y Pavón.

Morelia is not frequented by expats or tourists but there is a small expat population. You will want to know some Spanish if you want to live here. Morelia is a fairly popular destination for Mexican domestic tourists. You can find all of the conveniences and amenities you’re used to in this large city of around 700,000.

Morelia has an international airport with several direct flights to the U.S. as well as a number of Mexican cities. You can easily travel to Mexico City from Morelia in just 3-4 hours depending on traffic.

The climate here is mild year-round thanks to the high elevation. There is a rainy season during the summer.

Safest Places to Retire in Mexico

19. Mérida

Merida, Mexico
  • State- Yucatán
  • Population- 900,000 in the city proper with around 4,000 expats
  • Region- Yucatán Peninsula
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of living- $800-$1200 per month

Mérida is a large colonial city located about 22 miles inland off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It is the capital of the state of Yucatán and the largest city on the Yucatán Peninsula with a metro population of around 1 million people. It is also the cultural and financial center of the Yucatán Peninsula.

The nice thing about Mérida is that it offers big city conveniences with a smaller town feel. There are museums, universities, large corporations, large shopping centers, and a major international airport. While strolling down the tree-lined streets, you feel like you’re in a much smaller town.

Mayan history and culture are everywhere in Mérida. In fact, the city has the largest population of indigenous people of any big city in Mexico with over 60% of the residents being of Mayan descent. You’ll notice this in the cuisine, accent, artwork, music, way of dress, and architecture of the city.

Merida also has a large central historic district. There, you’ll find many historic buildings including beautiful colonial homes as well as a large park called Parque de las Américas. The central plaza, Plaza Grande, is the heart of the city.

The food in Merida is different from what most people consider standard Mexican cuisine. Food in Merida has Mayan, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, European, and Mexican influence. Tropical ingredients like fresh fruits are also common in the Yucatan cuisine.

Mérida has a small expat population of around 4,000. This is big enough for there to be an active expat community but small enough that you’ll still want to learn Spanish to live here.

A major draw to Merida for expats and retirees is the safety. Merida is often considered to be the safest city in Mexico. According to this article, Merida is the second safest city in the Americas, after Quebec City. According to this article from the Yucatan Times, Merida is as safe as Europe. The city also has several excellent hospitals.

The cost of living in Merida is also pretty low. It is possible to rent a two-bedroom home in the safe and comfortable northern neighborhoods of the city for $500-$800 per month. Prices are slightly higher if you want to live in the city center. You can find lower prices on the outskirts of the city.

The international airport makes it affordable and easy to fly to the US and Canada as well as other destinations in Mexico. Merida is located about 2 hours from Cancun. From there, you can catch direct flights to more international destinations. The city is also connected to Mexico’s excellent long distance bus network.

Mérida is also conveniently located just a half an hour away from the beautiful Caribbean coast where you can enjoy the white sand beaches and explore some small coastal towns. Merida is not a beach town but the beach is nearby.

In addition, there are a number of day trips or weekend trips you can make from Merida if you want to explore more of the country. For example, you could easily visit the Maya Riviera, Valladolid, or Campeche as well as Chichen Itza and several cenotes.

The climate of Merida is tropical. It is hot and humid most days. The dry season runs from November- May. Hurricanes and tropical storms hit the area occasionally.

Another Option: Progreso

Progreso is the closest beach town to Merida. It is located about 40 minutes north of central Merida on the Gulf of Mexico. You can also travel between Merida and Progreso by public bus in around 50 minutes.

This area is a great low cost alternative to living on the Riviera Maya. The beach is quiet and beautiful. Real estate prices are still fairly reasonable here as well. Many retirees choose to buy homes here. You’re also near the large city of Merida if you need anything that’s not available in town.

20. Querétaro

The Queretaro Aqueduct
The Queretaro Aqueduct
  • State- Querétaro
  • Population- Around 1 million in the metro area
  • Region- Central Mexico
  • Climate- Semi-arid
  • Cost of living- around $900-$1200 per month

Querétaro is the capital and largest city in the small Mexican state with the same name. It sits 132 miles Northwest of Mexico City in the region of Bajío in Central Mexico.

The city features a beautiful colonial center full of well-preserved Baroque-style buildings, cobblestone streets, and many plazas. The Spanish conqueror’s original street plan has been mostly maintained. In 1996, the historic city center of Querétaro was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. The main feature of the city is the massive aqueduct of Querétaro. This 1280 meter long structure was built between 1726-1738 to bring water into the city.

The economy in Querétaro is strong and growing. The city is a major center for business and industry. Particularly IT and manufacturing. Querétaro has the second highest GDP per capita of any large city in Mexico at $20,000. There is a lot of money here. Querétaro is also the fastest growing city in all of Mexico.

Even though the economy is strong, the cost of living in Queretaro is still reasonable. It is possible to rent a 2 bedroom home near the city center for $500-$600 per month. I imagine prices will increase quickly as the city grows.

Querétaro is a major education center in Mexico. A number of important universities are located within the city and in the surrounding region. There is a large student population in Querétaro.

The quality of life in Querétaro is high. The city has a small-town feel, even though it has a population of over 1 million. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, etc. to explore. It’s easy to get around on foot or by Uber. The climate is pleasant as well. The average daily high ranges from around 70-85° F throughout the year.

Querétaro is also a great choice for sports-loving expats. The city has two college American football teams, a basketball team, and a Mexican league soccer team. The city also features one of the largest and most modern stadiums in all of Mexico, Estadio Corregidora.

The state of Querétaro has the second largest wine region in Mexico after the Baja California region. Wine-loving retirees will enjoy touring the vineyards and drinking local wine.

Another benefit of retiring in Querétaro is safety. The city consistently ranks as one of the safest in Mexico. You can wander around the city center at all hours and nobody will bother you. Many expats and Mexicans have chosen to move to Queretaro for this reason. Of course, this is a large city. Crime does exist and there are unsafe areas.

In addition, Querétaro is well located in the center of Mexico. This makes it convenient to explore other cities. For example, you can easily hop on a bus to Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Leon, San Luis Potosi, or Guadalajara and arrive within around 5 hours. There are also a couple of beautiful Pueblos Magicos nearby including Bernal and Tequisquiapan.

Queretaro has an international airport that offers direct flights to the US as well as many cities in Mexico. There are also several quality hospitals in the city.

21. Mexico City

Torre Latinoamericana, Mexico City
Torre Latinoamericana, Mexico City
  • State- Mexico City
  • Population- 8.8 million in the city proper with over 20 million in the metro area
  • Region- Central Mexico
  • Climate- Mild
  • Cost of living- $1000-$2000 per month

Mexico City (CDMX) is the country’s capital city as well as the most important cultural center and financial center. It is the largest city in Mexico, the largest city in North America, and the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world with an urban population of 21 million. The city is highly developed with a strong economy.

This historic city was originally founded by the Aztecs in 1325 as Tenochtitlan, making it the oldest capital city in the Americas. In 1521, the Spanish sieged the city and most of it was destroyed. The city was rebuilt and re-established as Ciudad de México. Mexico City was the main political center of the Spanish Empire until Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1824.

Today, Mexico City is a popular destination for city-loving expats and retirees. There are dozens of trendy neighborhoods to live in including Roma, Condesa, Polanco, Zona Rosa, Centro Historico, Coyoacan, Juarez, and more. You’ll find hundreds of cafes, shops, parks, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Every neighborhood has its own personality and style. You’ll want to spend some time exploring the city before deciding where you want to live.

Mexico City is also a great choice for art and history lovers. There are over 150 museums to visit. A few of the main ones include Museo de Antropología e Historia, Museo de Bellas Artes, Museo Frida Kahlo, Museo Soumaya, Museo Nacional de Historia, and many more.

Museo de Bellas Artes, Mexico City
Museo de Bellas Artes

The city is also filled with beautiful architecture and historic sites. A few spots to visit include the ruins of Templo Mayor, Zocalo,Monumento a los Heroes de la Independencia, Chapultepec Castle, Palacio Nacional, and more.

One of the best things about living in Mexico City is the food. There are thousands of restaurants that serve up incredible food from every region of Mexico. You’ll also find international cuisine from every corner of the world. Prices are reasonable as well. Mexico City is also one of the world’s top street food destinations. For just a few dollars, you can eat world-class cuisine including tacos, gorditas, tamales, quesadillas, and more. Fine dining options are available as well.

Maybe my favorite part of Mexico City is the iconic Chapultepec Park. This historic park dates back to Aztec times when it was used as a retreat for emperors. You can go for a stroll or bike ride by the lake, eat at one of the many food stands, or visit one of the park’s attractions. A few points of interest in the park include Chapultepec Zoo, Chapultepec Castle, Museo Nacional de Historia, Monumento a los Niños Héroes and more.

Chapultepec Park, Mexico City
Chapultepec Park

Mexico City has incredible transportation infrastructure. The metro can take you almost anywhere in the city for just 5 Mexican pesos ($0.25). The system is safe and reliable. Mexico City International Airport offers frequent flights all over the Americas and beyond, making it easy to travel home to visit friends and family. There are also connections to Europe. Domestic flights between Mexico City and other parts of the country are also frequent and affordable. There is also an excellent network of long-distance buses.

The climate in Mexico City is considered subtropical. It is mild and warm year-round. December through March is the dry season. Between June and September, rain is common.

Mexico City is surprisingly affordable for being such a large and metropolitan city. An individual expat or retiree could get by on $1000-$1500 per month. I spent a month in Mexico City for less than $600.

Mexico city is also one of the safest big cities in Mexico. There are dangerous neighborhoods but the city proper is largely safe.

The biggest potential drawback to living here is the size of the city. It is absolutely massive and sprawling. If you’re not a city person, you may not like it.

Another Option: Live in the Mexico City Area

If you want to live near Mexico City but not in it, you could move to one of the surrounding towns, cities, or suburbs. There are several excellent places to retire located within an hour and a half of central Mexico City. A couple of examples include Cuernavaca and Tepoztlán

Living in one of these areas can offer a nice compromise. You live close enough to Mexico City for the occasional day trip, shopping trip, or to catch a flight but far enough that you don’t have to deal with the annoyances of big city life on a day-to-day basis.

22. Ensenada

  • State- Baja California
  • Population- 522,000
  • Region- Pacific coast of Baja California Peninsula
  • Climate- Semi-arid
  • Cost of living- $800-$1200 per month

Ensenada is a mid-sized city located on the Pacific coast of the state of Baja California. It is the third largest city on the Baja Peninsula. The city sites in the Bahía de Todos Santos just 67 miles south of the U.S. Mexico border.

The maritime industry makes up a major part of Ensenada’s economy. The Port of Ensenada is one of Mexico’s most important commercial and tourism ports. In recent years, it has become a popular cruise ship destination.

Ensenada is also becoming a major science and education center in Mexico and Latin America. The city has several major research institutes and is said to have the largest concentration of scientists in all of Latin America. It’s sometimes called ‘the City of Science’.

Probably the biggest benefit of retiring in Ensenada is that you can easily travel to the U.S. whenever you want. This makes Ensenada one of the best places for Americans to retire in Mexico. The city is located just 67 miles (108 km) south of the border or 78 miles south of San Diego. The drive from Ensenada to the border takes around 2 hours. It’s a bit too far to commute daily but close enough for the occasional day trip for a doctor’s appointment or a shopping trip in the U.S. This is also convenient if you have family and friends in Southern California. Check out my guide to traveling to Ensenada for more info.

There is frequent bus service to the border or you can easily drive yourself. A well-maintained toll road connects Ensenada to Tijuana. There is also a free highway. The closest international airports are Tijuana and San Diego. Ensenada is also a very safe city.

Ocean loving expats will love Ensenada. There is excellent sport fishing in the region. You can catch tuna, Dorado, rockfish, and more right off the coast. I used to go fishing here with my dad a couple of times per year.

Ensenada and the surrounding region also offer world-class surfing. A few famous surf spots include San Miguel Beach, Stacks, Tres Emes, and California Trailer Park. The nearby Todos Santos Island offers big wave surfing. Sailing and whale watching are also popular activities here.

The city of Ensenada doesn’t really have a beach of its own. The port takes up most of the waterfront area. There are a number of beautiful beaches located to the north and south of the city where you can go swimming and sunbathing. You can also travel to nearby Rosarito or Playas de Tijuana to visit the beach. If you prefer land activities, you’ll find good hiking in the area surrounding Ensenada.

Ensenada is also an excellent choice for wine loving retirees. Just 12 miles northeast of Ensenada, you’ll find Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s primary wine region. 90% of Mexican wine is produced here. This is basically Mexico’s version of Napa. You can enjoy wine tasting and tours year-round. During the wine harvest season, Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe host a 2 week long food and wine festival called Fiestas de la Vendimia.

Ensenada is also an excellent food city. Seafood is particularly popular here. Ensenada is famous for its fish tacos, which were invented in the city. Ceviche is another popular dish. You can also find lobster, clams, fresh fish, and more. The Mediterranean climate allows for the growth of olives. Olive oil has become an important ingredient in Ensenada cuisine. The cuisine is healthy and tasty.

The city also hosts a number of interesting events throughout the year. Most famously, Ensenada is the starting point of the world-famous Baja 1000 and Baja 500 off-road races. Ensenada also hosts one of the world’s largest sailing events, the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race. During mid-February, Ensenada hosts a large Carnival event with parades, parties, and fireworks. The city fills up during these events.

Ensenada has a mild, semi-arid climate. Throughout the year, the average daily high temperature ranges from the upper 60s to the upper 70s. There is little rain throughout the year. Most rain falls during the winter.

23. Valladolid

A cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula
A cenote in Yucatan
  • State- Yucatán
  • Population- Around 50,000
  • Region- Yucatán Peninsula
  • Climate- Tropical
  • Cost of Living- $1200-$1800 per month

Valladolid is a beautiful colonial town that is located in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula around 150 km west of Cancun. The city was designated a Pueblo Magico in 2012.

The city center features charming colonial architecture. One of the most notable buildings is the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena, which was built in the 1550s.

One of the main streets is called Calzada de los Frailes. Here, you’ll find beautiful pastel-colored buildings, shops, cafes, and restaurants. The central plaza, Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosado, is a beautiful place to take a stroll. Valladolid is a small town. You can easily walk around the central area.

Valladolid is known as one of the safest cities in Mexico. You can wander around town at all hours of the day or night. The cost of living is reasonable here. It’s possible to retire on around $1200 per month.

A major benefit of living in Valladolid is the central location in the Yucatan Peninsula. Valladolid is 150 km from Cancun, 160 km from Merida, 40 km from Chichen Itza. There are also beautiful cenotes located nearby including Cenote Zaci and Cenote Ik Kil. These are great places to hike, swim, and explore. You can also catch a bus to Playa del Carmen or Tulum.

Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza

Valladolid does not have an airport. When you want to fly home to visit friends and family, you’ll have to travel to Cancun. The trip from Valladolid to Cancun takes just over 2 hours.

24. Loreto

  • State- Baja California Sur
  • Population- 21,000
  • Region- Baja Peninsula
  • Climate- Tropical desert
  • Cost of Living- $1500-$2000 per month

Loreto is a small beach town located on the Gulf of California on the Baja Peninsula. The town sits about 700 miles south of the U.S. border. This small resort town was designated as a Pueblo Magico due to its charm and historical significance. Loreto was the first Spanish Colonial settlement on the Baja Peninsula.

These days, Loreto is popular among American and Canadian tourists. It is a resort town. Loreto is also a popular destination for snowbirds who move south for the winter.

The cost of living here is fairly high. Baja California, in general, is expensive. It is possible to retire here on around $1500 per month.

A major benefit of living in Loreto is safety. It is one of the safest cities in the country. You can walk around at all hours without worry. Loreto is also an extremely clean town. Locals and expats have a lot of pride in their city.

Loreto is an excellent choice for ocean-loving retirees. From December-March, you can enjoy whale watching on the Loreto Bay. There is also some excellent diving and kayaking in the area. Of course, you can also enjoy a relaxing day on the beach.

Fishermen will also love living in Loreto. Just off the coast, you can catch Dorado, Marlin, Yellow Tail, and Sailfish. Seaside restaurants will cook up your fresh catch.

The city of Loreto is a pleasant place to walk around. It has a charming colonial feel. Some points of interest include San Javier Mision and Jesuit Missions of Loreto Museum (Museo de las Misiones de Baja California). There is also some good hiking in the area. A popular hike is called La Giganta.

Loreto has an international airport with a direct connection to Los Angeles as well as several domestic destinations. Many retirees choose to drive to Loreto. A temporary import permit is not required to drive in Baja.

25. Puebla

  • State- Puebla
  • Population- 3,250,000 in the metro area
  • Region- Eastern central Mexico
  • Climate- Subtropical highland
  • Cost of living- $700-$1000 per month

Puebla is the capital and largest city in the state of the same name. It is also the fourth largest city in Mexico. The city sits at an elevation of 7005 ft (2,135 m) in a large valley surrounded by volcanoes. From the city, you can often see the snow-capped peaks of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. Puebla lies just 62 miles east of Mexico City. With light traffic, the trip takes just over 2 hours.

While wandering through Puebla, you’ll see spectacular architecture in Renaissance, Baroque, and classical styles. Narrow cobblestone streets wind their way through the city center. Buildings are painted in beautiful pastel colors. The historic Spanish colonial city center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

A few notable buildings include Puebla Cathedral, the Church and Friary of San Francisco, and the Church of Santo Domingo. The city also has a large central plaza called the Zócalo. Puebla is a pleasant place to live and explore.

Throughout the year, a number of festivals and events take place in Puebla. One of the biggest is Cinco de Mayo. During this time, the city puts on a parade, concerts, and a reenactment of the battle where Mexico defeated the invading French army. Dia de los Muertos is also a major holiday here.

Puebla is also an excellent food city. In fact, the most popular mole, mole poblano, is named after the city of Puebla. Chiles en nogada is another famous dish that was invented here. Cemita is a sandwich, similar to a torta, that is also popular in Puebla.

There are a number of museums to visit. A few of the top ones include Amparo Museum, Museo de la Revolución, The International Museum of Baroque, and The Museum of Talavera. The city also has some excellent art galleries including Galería de Arte Contemporáneo y Diseño, Museo de Arte, and the Museum Workshop of Erasto Cortés Juárez.

Puebla is also an excellent choice for religious retirees. Nicknamed “The City of Angels,” Puebla supposedly has 365 places of worship.

Puebla’s economy is mostly based on industry. The main industrial areas are located just outside of the city. Some agriculture also takes place in the areas surrounding the city.

The cost of living in Puebla is reasonable. It is possible to rent a 2 bedroom apartment in the city center for around$500 per month. An individual retiree could live comfortably here on less than $1000 per month.

Several of Mexico’s most well-known and prestigious universities are located in Puebla. Students come from all over the country to study here. If you’re an expat looking to finish your degree or study abroad, Puebla could be an excellent destination. There are also dozens of excellent language schools located here if you want to take Spanish classes.

Due to the high elevation, the climate in Puebla is mild and pleasant year-round. The rainy season lasts from May-October.

Puebla is easy to get around thanks to its extensive rapid transit bus system. There are three lines that can take you pretty much anywhere you need to go. Puebla also has an international airport that offers direct flights to the U.S. as well as many Mexican Cities.

The Best Places to Retire in Mexico: Mountain Towns, Colonial Towns, and Retirement Communities

26. San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
  • State- Guanajuato
  • Population- 140,000 with around 10,000 expats.
  • Region- Central Mexico
  • Climate- Mild
  • Cost of living- around $1000-$1500 per month

San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful colonial town located in the highlands of central Mexico in the state of Guanajuato. This historic city was founded by the Spanish around 500 years ago and was important in both the Chichimeca War as well as the Mexican silver trade.

Today, the city is known for its Baroque and Neoclassical architecture, cobblestone streets, pastel colored buildings. Part of the city’s center is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll find a large arts community with galleries, art schools, and artwork displayed around the city.

San Miguel also offers a wide range of cultural events and festivals, excellent restaurants, scenic plazas, and much more. Each year, the city hosts a film festival, writer’s festival, and music festival. The surrounding area is also naturally beautiful. You’ll find some excellent hiking just outside of the city.

At an altitude of 6200 feet, the city offers a comfortable high desert climate with warm days and cool nights. It feels like springtime year-round. The city is also very centrally located in the country just 3 hours from Mexico City and about a 10 hour drive from the Texas border. It lies about equidistant from the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

San Miguel de Allende is one of Mexico’s main expat hubs. In fact, it is estimated that there are around 10,000-20,000 foreign residents living in and around San Miguel de Allende. This represents around 10% of the city’s population.

About half of these expats come from the United States. You’ll meet a mix of retirees, digital nomads, as well as artists. Because the expat population is so high, English is widely spoken here. You wouldn’t need to learn Spanish if you didn’t want to.

One drawback to living in San Miguel de Allende is that there is no international airport. If you want to fly home to visit friends and family. You’ll have to travel to either Querétaro (53 miles away), León (75 miles away), or Mexico City (170 miles away).

Another drawback to living in San Miguel de Allende is that the city is incredibly touristy. It’s also one of the most expensive cities on this list. The large foreign population has really driven prices up in recent years.

27. Lake Chapala (Ajijic and Chapala)

Lake Chapala, Mexico
  • State- Jalisco
  • Population- 50,000 in the largest town of Chapala. 10,000-15,000 expats live around the lake.
  • Region- West central Mexico, near Guadalajara
  • Climate– Mild
  • Cost of living- $1200-$2500 per month

Lake Chapala is the largest freshwater lake in Mexico. Along the shores, you’ll find a number of small cities and communities that have grown incredibly popular among expats and retirees over the past 40 years.

Lake Chapala is home to the world’s largest concentration of American and Canadian expats. It is estimated that 10,000-15,000 foreigners live in the communities surrounding the lake. This area is particularly popular among retirees and older expats. It’s a great choice for those who want to spend their golden years abroad.

Two of the most popular towns for expats include Chapala and Ajijic. They are both located on the north shore of the lake about 6 miles apart from one another. Both offer highly developed expat communities. The area also has a strong real estate market if you wish to buy your own home.

Chapala is the largest town on the lake with a population of about 50,000. In this small city, you’ll find cobblestone streets lined with bars, shops, restaurants, and cafes, all overlooking the lake. There is also a nice waterfront area and a boardwalk. Nearby, you’ll find a country club with a golf course. It is possible to live in Chapala for around $1200 per month.

Ajijic is a smaller community of about 11,000. The city hosts a large outdoor market once per week on Wednesday. Nearby Ajijic there is a smaller community called San Antonio. Here, you’ll find upscale housing and a gated community. Ajijic is more expensive than Chapala. Expect to spend around $1500-$2500 per month to retire here.

If you’re looking for a more local feel, you may consider living in the town of Jocotepec, on the western edge of the lake. Here, you’ll find a beautiful waterfront area and boardwalk. Rent prices are lower here. You could live on less than $1000 here.

The region offers a range of outdoor and sporting activities including golf, tennis, hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. If you’re into water activities, you can go boating, fishing, or swimming in the lake. Cultural activities including theater and concerts are common as well.

Because the expat population here is so high, you can easily surround yourself with like-minded people with a similar background and live a lifestyle very similar to back home. You don’t even have to bother learning Spanish if you don’t want to. Almost all of the signage is in English. This makes the Lake Chapala region a great choice for those who have never lived abroad before.

The lake itself lies just 28 miles southeast of Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara. It sits at 5000 feet (1524 meters) above sea level. The lake measures about 50 miles (80km) long from East to West and about 8 miles (12km) wide from North to South.

Unfortunately, Lake Chapala is pretty polluted. It’s not the best place for swimming. The views are nice though. Due to the altitude, the weather here is mild year-round.

Maybe the biggest benefit of living on Lake Chapala is the fact that the massive metropolis of Guadalajara lies just 45 minutes away by car. If you need something that you can’t get in your small lakeside community, chances are you can find it in the 5 million population city.

Being close to Guadalajara also makes it easy to travel back home to visit friends and family. Flights to the US and Canada are frequent and affordable. There are also plenty of modern hospitals in Guadalajara if you need regular medical treatment.

28. Guanajuato

Guanajuato, Mexico
  • State- Guanajuato
  • Population- 184,000
  • Region- Central Mexico
  • Climate- Warm and temperate
  • Cost of living- around $1000-$1500 per month

Guanajuato is a beautiful colonial town located in a narrow valley up in the highlands of central Mexico in the Bajío region. The city was established in 1548 after the Spanish discovered gold and silver deposits in the area. Thousands of migrants traveled to the city to strike it rich. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, mining made Guanajuato one of the wealthiest and most important cities in colonial Mexico.

This wealth is evident in the city’s architecture. Guanajuato is famous for its spectacular Spanish-colonial buildings. The city center as well as the nearby mines were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

While wandering through the city, you’ll see some of the world’s best examples of Baroque and Churrigueresque architecture in the form of churches, mansions, plazas, and government buildings. Most historic structures are built with beautiful green or pink sandstone.

A few noteable structures include Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, Alhóndiga de Granaditas, La Compañía Church, and Juárez Theater. The hillside residential houses are painted in beautiful pastel colors. There are a number of small plazas and parks located throughout the city center including Plaza de la Paz, Jardín de la Unión, and San Roque plaza and church. The historic city center is a beautiful place to wander around. Guanajuato is one of Mexico’s most aesthetically pleasing cities. It’s inspiring.

The city has a unique layout. Because Guanajuato sits in such a narrow valley, the streets are incredibly narrow and winding. Many streets are pedestrian-only because they are so narrow that cars cannot pass. Most of the major thoroughfares run partially underground through large tunnels. Long sets of stairs run up the sides of the valleys. The city is very walkable. You will want to wear good shoes that can handle stairs and cobbled streets.

Guanajuato has a small but growing expat community. It is estimated that around 300-500 expats live in the city year-round. The expat population swells during the winter when snowbirds arrive. Most expats come from the U.S. and Canada but you’ll meet Europeans, Australians, and East Asians as well. The city tends to attract younger expats and artsy types. Guanajuato has a large art scene.

The cost of living in the area is fairly low. Most expats could get by on $1000- $1500 per month pretty easily. You can find centrally located apartments starting in the $400-$600 range.

You will want to speak some Spanish to live here comfortably. English is not widely spoken in Guanajuato.

With the University of Guanajuato located nearby, the city also has a large student population of around 10,000. In addition, Guanajuato is a popular tourist destination. The most well-known attraction is the mummies of Guanajuato. The architecture and mines also draw many tourists. Guanajuato is also popular among Mexican domestic tourists. This region was the site of the first battle in the Mexican War for Independence.

The city also offers a number of cultural activities. The most famous is the International Cervantes Festival (Festival Cervantino). This cultural festival celebrates art including film, music, theater, dance, opera, and more. The city also has several museums and an excellent orchestra. The city is rich in culture.

Sitting at an elevation of 2,000 m (6,600 ft), Guanajuato has a mild climate with lots of sunshine. There is a short rainy season between July and August.

The closest airport is León-El Bajío international airport, which is located about 30 minutes away. From there, you can catch direct flights to several American cities including Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles as well as various cities in Mexico. Guanajuato is also centrally located within Mexico, which makes it easy to explore the country.

29. Guadalajara

Guadalajara, Mexico
  • State- Jalisco
  • Population- Around 5 million in the metro area
  • Region- Western central Mexico
  • Climate- Humid subtropical climate
  • Cost of living- $800-$1500 per month

Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico as well as the second most densely populated. The city is a major center for business, finance, technology, education, and tourism. It is one of the most developed, productive, and important cities in all of Latin America.

Guadalajara is also one of Mexico’s most important cultural centers. The city is famous for being the home of mariachi music and tequila as well as many influential writers, directors, and artists.

Guadalajara is a popular destination for city-loving expats and retirees. There are over 2300 neighborhoods to explore. You’ll find thousands of bars, cafes, restaurants, boutique shops, malls, markets, and clubs to visit. There isn’t really an expat neighborhood. Instead, expats tend to scatter throughout the city. A few popular neighborhoods include Chapalita, Americana, Vallarta, Centro Historico, Granja, Zapopan, Providencia, and Tlaquepaque.

The city center is filled with beautiful colonial architecture and historic sites to visit including cathedrals, galleries, theaters, and libraries. The Instituto Cultural de Cabañas (Hospicio Cabañas) and the murals inside were designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997. A few more sites to visit include Guadalajara Cathedral, Teatro Degollado, The Government Palace, La Luz del Mundo, and Basilica of Zapopan.

There are a number of festivals that take place throughout the year in Guadalajara. A few important events include The International Meeting of Mariachi and Charrería, Guadalajara International Book Fair, The festivities of October, and The Guadalajara International Film Festival. The city also has two professional soccer teams.

Guadalajara is also an excellent food city. You’ll find a wide variety of local dishes including tamales, pozole, menudo, tacos, enchiladas, etc. Probably the most famous dish from Guadalajara is birria. Another popular dish is called carne en su jugo.

One of the best features of Guadalajara is the parks, forests, and green spaces. A few of the best ones to visit include Bosque Los Colomos, Jardín Botánico, and Parque Mirador,. These are great places to go to relax or catch a breath of fresh air. The city also has the best zoo in Mexico (Zoológico Guadalajara) as well as a phenomenal aquarium (Acuario Michin Guadalajara).

La Barranca de Huentitán is a national park that sits just north of Guadalajara. Here, you can view a canyon and several waterfalls. Bosque la Primavera is a beautiful park that sits just west of the city. Here, you can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, and relaxing in hot springs.

For being such a large city, Guadalajara is a surprisingly affordable place to retire. You can rent a home in a nice neighborhood near the city center for around $600 per month.

Another nice thing about living in Guadalajara is the transportation system. The city’s light rail system includes three lines that can take you all over the city. Guadalajara also has one of the busiest airports in Latin America offering regular flights all over North America and beyond. The city also has a number of highly ranked hospitals.

If you want to get out of the city and hit the beach, you can catch a long-distance bus to Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo. The ride takes just 5-6 hours. Beautiful Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico, sits just about an hour away. Here, you’ll find the popular retirement community and Pueblo Magico of Ajijic.

The climate in Guadalajara is one of the best in Mexico. The city sits at a relatively high altitude of 1,566 m or 5,138 ft with a nearly tropical climate. The city has hot and wet summers and warm winters.

The main drawback to living in Guadalajara is that the air quality can get bad at times. During the wet part of the year, it can get pretty humid and buggy as well. Those who aren’t fans of big cities probably won’t like Guadalajara either. It’s a massive and sprawling city.

30. San Luis Potosí

  • State- San Luis Potosí
  • Population- Around 800,000 in the city proper with 1.2 million in the metro area.
  • Region- Central Mexico
  • Climate- Temperate
  • Cost of living- $800-$1200 per month

San Luis Potosí is the capital and largest city in the state with the same name. The city is located in the mountains of the Bajío region of central Mexico at an elevation of 6,115 feet (1864 meters).

The city was founded in 1592, 40 years after gold and silver were discovered in the nearby mountains. San Luis Potosi is named after King Louis IX of France. The city center contains a mix of buildings with different architectural styles. It is listed as a UNESCO heritage site.

San Luis Potosí is an industrial city. It is not frequented by tourists. There is a small but growing population of expats and retirees. San Luis Potosi offers a low cost of living. It is possible to rent an apartment in the city center for $500-$600 per month. A frugal expat could live on less than $1000 per month here.

The biggest draw here is the natural beauty. San Luis Potosi is surrounded by mountains, parks, and beautiful green spaces. Foreigners are attracted to the fresh air, mountainous environment, and excellent spring-like weather.

One of the more spectacular places to visit nearby is Huasteca Potosina. This beautiful region sits about 2 hours from San Luis Potosi. Here, you’ll find a beautiful mountainous landscape with rivers and waterfalls. This is also a very biodiverse region. It’s a great place for hiking, repelling, and rafting.

Another benefit of living in San Luis Potosi is the central location within Mexico. You can easily catch a bus to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Leon, and Queretaro. San Luis Potosi is also conveniently located between Mexico’s three largest cities, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. All of these cities sit less than 5 hours away.

San Luis Potosi also has an international airport with connections to Houston and many Mexican cities.

31. Cuernavaca

  • State- Morelos
  • Population- 366,000
  • Region- Central Mexico
  • Climate- Temperate
  • Cost of living- $800-$1200 per month

This beautiful city is located 90 minutes south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos. The city is known for its beauty and warm weather. The word Cuernavaca comes from the Nahuatl language for “close to the trees.” The city is surrounded by greenery. The city is nicknamed ‘the city of eternal spring’ due to its year-round springlike weather.

Cuernavaca is a popular vacation destination for people from Mexico City. Many wealthy Chilangos own a vacation home here. The city is also a popular wedding destination. There is a large foreign population of expats, retirees, and students living in Cuernavaca. This is a popular place for foreigners to study Spanish.

This is a fairly large city with a population of around 366,000. Cuernavaca has been a popular destination for centuries. Conquistador Hernan Cortés had a palace in Cuernavaca. Today, it’s a popular tourist destination. Many Aztec emperors had their summer homes here.

32. Tepoztlán

  • State- Morelos
  • Population- 15,000 with 40,000 in the metro area
  • Region- Central Mexico
  • Climate- Temperate
  • Cost of living- $1200-$1500 per month

This town of around 15,000 is located about 90 minutes south of Mexico City and 30 minutes east of Cuernavaca. Tepoztlán sits in a valley surrounded by mountains. The surrounding area is excellent for hiking. One of the most popular hikes leads you up to the historic El Tepozteco temple. This hike takes around an hour. Tepoztlán is also known for its ice cream. It is made from natural ingredients and comes in over 100 unique flavors.

Tepoztlán is a popular vacation destination for people from Mexico City. It also has a small but growing expat community. Tepoztlán is a great place to learn Spanish. The area offers a comfortable temperate climate.

Tepoztlán has been designated as a Pueblo Magico. From the town, you can easily travel to the bigger city of Cuernavaca for shopping or restaurants or to Mexico City for international flights and hospitals.

33. Álamos

  • State- Sonora
  • Population- 25,000
  • Region- Northern Mexico
  • Climate- Semi-arid
  • Cost of living- around $1000-$1500 per month

Álamos is a small colonial town of about 25,000. It is situated in a beautiful valley, surrounded by spectacular mountains and countryside. Álamos is a great choice for expats who want to live in a smaller town in the mountains rather than a resort or urban area.

The city was founded in the late 1600s after silver was discovered in the nearby mountains. This brought great wealth to the city, which was used to build dozens of colonial mansions as well as the Plaza de Armas, and a few cathedrals. Many were built in stunning Andalusian style. Due to its colonial architecture, Álamos was designated a Pueblo Magico by the Mexican government.

The town has a small but active expat community that is mostly made up of artists, musicians, and writers. Most expats come from the U.S. and Canada but you’ll meet a few Europeans as well. English is widely spoken so you wouldn’t have to learn Spanish if you didn’t want to. Many expats choose to rent or buy a historic colonial home to live in. The real estate market here is hot. It is possible to buy a small home here for just over $100,000.

Being such a small town, Álamos is very easily walkable. You don’t need a car to live here. The city is rather hilly so you will get some exercise while wandering around. Crime here is also low so it’s safe enough to walk around day and night.

Throughout the year, Álamos hosts a number of art and culture festivals. The most famous one being the Festival of Dr. Alfonso Ortiz Tirado. A film festival is also held here every March.

Álamos and the surrounding area have also been used as filming locations for several television shows and soap operas. Several hunting lodges operate here offering dove hunting. Birdwatching is popular in the Sierra de Álamos Ecological Reserve. Of Course, there are also plenty of bars, restaurants, markets, cafes, and shops to explore in the city.

The climate in Álamos is semi-arid and hot. The city sits in the southern end of the state of Sonora in the Sonora desert. During the summer months, average daytime temperatures range from 95-100 degrees. The winter months are warm and pleasant. There is a wet season from July to October when the weather is hot and humid.

Álamos does not have an international airport. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Los Mochis or Ciudad Obregon then take a bus or drive.

34. Monterrey

Monterrey, Mexico
  • State- Nuevo León
  • Population- 4.7 million in the metro area
  • Region- Northeastern Mexico
  • Climate- Semi-arid. Hot in the summer and mild in the winter
  • Cost of living- $1200-$1800 per month

Monterrey is the third largest city in Mexico and the second most productive. The city sits at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental, in Northeastern Mexico. It is the capital of the state of Nuevo León.

The economy of Monterrey is strong. The city is a major center for industry and business. Many large Mexican companies are headquartered in Monterrey. Dozens of international companies have major operations here as well. The GDP per capita is $46,600 which is one of the highest in Mexico. There is a lot of money here.

Monterrey is often considered one of the most livable cities in Mexico. It is a highly developed city with some of the country’s best infrastructure including drinkable tap water, a metro system, a large international airport, a number of fine universities, and several highly ranked hospitals.

Some people consider Monterrey to be one of the most Americanized cities in Mexico. Quality of life is high. One of the most developed and livable areas is the suburb San Pedro Garza García, which sits to the southwest of the city center.

Monterrey is an excellent choice for expats and retirees who prefer a mountainous environment. The city sits in a valley surrounded by mountains at an elevation of 540 m or 1,770 ft. The name Monterrey means ‘King Mountain’.

There are endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, mountain climbing, camping, waterfall repelling, bungee jumping, cave exploring and more. A few nearby mountains to explore include Cerro de la Silla, Cerro de las Mitras, Cerro de Topo and Topo Chico, and Cerro de la Loma Larga. The city itself is filled with green areas. A river runs through the center of the city.

Monterrey is also a good choice for sports lovers. The city has two Mexican League soccer teams, two basketball teams, and a Mexican League baseball team.

Carnivores will also love Monterrey for its high-quality meat. The most traditional dish is Cabrito which is goat cooked over hot embers. Carne Asada is another popular dish. The city also offers a wide range of restaurants. You can get all of your favorite international foods here.

One advantage to living in Monterrey is that it’s only 3 hours from Texas by road. If you need to go to the U.S. for whatever reason, you can just hop on a bus or drive across the border. Of course, being such a large city, flights are frequent and affordable as well. It’s easy to go home to visit friends and family.

There are several drawbacks to living in Monterrey. The main issue is the cost. Because the city is wealthier and more developed than most of Mexico, prices are higher. If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to avoid living here. A single retiree or expat should expect to spend around $1200-$1800 per month here.

Due to the large amount of industrial activity, the air quality is also bad at times. Additionally, safety can be an issue. In the early 2000s, Monterrey was one of the safest cities in Mexico. Today, cartels are fighting a war for control over the city.

Final Thoughts

Mexico is incredibly popular among expats, retirees, and digital nomads. Over 1 million foreigners have decided to call Mexico home, with good reason. It’s a great choice for international living.

The country is incredibly varied. You can live by the beach, in the mountains, in the desert, or in the jungle. There are massive metropolitan cities and tiny traditional villages. Mexico has an incredible history and offers tons of culture, including one of the world’s best cuisines. It’s also an affordable place to live.

There are dozens of beautiful and comfortable cities, towns, and villages where you could create an amazing retirement for yourself. Hopefully, this guide helps you choose the best one for your personality, style, budget, and needs.

Are you living in Mexico or thinking about moving? Which city did you choose? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments below!

If you’re still on the fence about retiring in Mexico, check out my guide to the pros and cons of living in Mexico to help you decide.

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Freddy

Friday 6th of May 2022

Great report

wheretheroadforks

Friday 6th of May 2022

Thanks for reading

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