From beach towns to big cities and everything in between, these are the best places to live in Mexico for retirees.
As life in the United States gets more expensive with each passing year, many Americans are searching for a new place to call home that offers a low cost of living.
Mexico isn’t immune to inflation, but compared to the US, countries in Latin America including Mexico have a lower cost of living.
Moving to a country with a lower cost of living is increasingly of interest to retirees–many of whom live on a fixed income from Social Security.
But, Mexico has so much more to offer retirees than just a low cost of living including great weather, incredible natural beauty, rich history and the chance to immerse oneself in the fascinating Mexican culture.
Perhaps it’s been a lifelong dream of yours to live in a foreign country. Mexico is the ideal place to make your dream of living abroad a reality.
After reading this post, you will know:
- Best beach towns to live in Mexico for retirees
- How retirees can move to Mexico legally
- Safest cities to live in Mexico (low crime rates)
- Where to find low cost of living in Mexico
- Best places to live in Mexico for retirees
Permanent Residency in Mexico For Retirees
For decades, North Americans have moved to Mexico to spend their retirement years.
The country has a long history of welcoming people from the United States and Canada as evidenced by well-established expat communities from Baja California Sur to the Riviera Maya.
One reason that Mexico is such a popular place in Latin America among retirees is the generous 180-day “tourist visa.”
In the past, passport holders from the United States, Canada and a long list of other countries were able to stay in Mexico for up to six months.
Unlike other countries that require you to leave for a set amount of time after your visa expires, Mexico technically only requires that you exit the country for a day before granting visitors another 180-day stay.
For years, many “perpetual tourists” lived in Mexico on the tourist visa just making border runs every six months for a new passport stamp.
In November 2021, the Mexican government cracked down on perpetual tourists–only granting short stays or denying entry entirely. People weren’t able to return to the lives they’d built for themselves in Mexico.
While it does seem like now things are back to “normal” (the 180-day stay once again seems standard procedure), the 2021 crackdown was a wakeup call for expats living in Mexico on the tourist visa.
Even Americans who own property in Mexico were turned away if they didn’t have legal status.
If you’re planning a move to Mexico, I encourage you to take the proper steps to live there legally. Check out this post about the 2023 Mexico residency requirements to learn about qualifying for a temporary resident visa or permanent resident visa.
- Want to apply for residency in Mexico but don’t know where to start? The Mexico Residency Roadmap is a step-by-step guide that has helped hundreds of people move to Mexico legally!
Best Places to Live in Mexico for Retirees
As you’re reading through this list of the best places to live in Mexico for retirees, here’s something important to consider.
If you haven’t done so yet, take a few minutes to think about what it is that you want in a place to live in Mexico (bonus points if you write it out with pen and paper).
Mexico is a large country, and while this list of best places will help you start to narrow things down, it’s a good idea to write out what it is exactly you need in your future home in Mexico.
- Are you looking for a resort town or do you hate the idea of living in a popular tourist area?
- Do you need to live close to an international airport with direct flights to a certain city?
- How do you define “warm weather”?
- What activities are you planning to do in the local community?
- Do you have specific medical care needs that require regular visits to a specialist?
Questions like these should get you started, but please spend some time thinking about your must-haves in Mexico. Skipping this step is one of the biggest mistakes expats moving to Mexico make.
Just because somewhere is considered one of the best places to live in Mexico for retirees doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right place for you.
Only you can know that.
#1 Puerto Vallarta
A Mexican beach resort town in the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta’s population is estimated to be around 300,000. Its beautiful beaches burst onto the international tourism scene in the 1960s and ’70s.
There’s a lot to love about Puerto Vallarta including an international airport with direct flights to and from major cities in the United States and top of the line medical care. Some of the best hospitals in Mexico are in Puerto Vallarta.
In the surrounding area, there’s no shortage of things to do near Puerto Vallarta. San Sebastian, San Pancho & Sayulita are all nearby beach towns while Guadalajara (one of the biggest cities in Mexico) is only a few hours away.
Puerto Vallarta is a great place to live for retirees interested in wellness. The local community and expat community in Puerto Vallarta offer yoga, biohacking and mental health events.
If you like the amenities of Puerto Vallarta but don’t necessarily want to live there, check out nearby Bucerias & all the things to do there!
Is Puerto Vallarta the most expensive place to live in Mexico?
Stephanie Kempker, an American who called the city home for three and a half years, shared her thoughts about living in Puerto Vallarta.
“I want to acknowledge that Puerto Vallarta is one of the more expensive places to live in Mexico, but compared to other places around the world, it’s quite inexpensive for oceanside living,” Steph said.
During high season, Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination for spring breakers and other international travelers looking to escape cold winters in their home countries. This influx of tourists can cause prices to rise seasonally.
If you’re looking for beautiful beaches & low cost living, keep scrolling to #7 on this list of best places to live in Mexico for retirees.
#2 San Miguel de Allende
A popular tourist destination, San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful city in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. Its population numbers around 174,000 inhabitants.
San Miguel has a rich history as it was greatly important during Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain. With its colonial architecture, San Miguel is one of the most picturesque towns in all of Mexico.
If you can’t stand humidity, San Miguel is just the ticket.
Its high desert climate means warm days and cool nights for the majority of the year. When I visited San Miguel in January, I had to use a space heater and was grateful for the flannel sheets on the bed in my Airbnb.
One of the most well-established expat communities in Mexico, San Miguel is home to between 20,000 and 25,000.
Due to its popularity with foreigners and international tourists, it doesn’t offer the same low cost of living as other cities on this list–however, if you’re willing to live outside the city center, you can still find a lower cost of living.
#3 Mexico City
Situated in the Valle de México, Ciudad de México is the sixth largest metropolitan area in the world, with more than 21 million inhabitants. Founded by the Mexica, it is one of the oldest capital cities in the Americas.
Mexico City really has it all: world-class restaurants, fabulous shopping, lively nightlife, over 150 museums, parks, cultural events…If you want to retire somewhere that there are lots of things to do, you can’t find a more happening place than CDMX.
Mexico City has an active expat community with foreigners from all over the world. It’s also home to transplants from across Mexico. With so many newbies wanting to find their place, it’s an easy place to make friends.
Travel writer Jenny Hart lives in Mexico City, and here’s what she has to say about it:
“Even though it’s this gigantic city, all of the neighborhoods, the colonias, have this kind of small town community vibe,” Jenny said. “So it’s really easy to find your favorite neighborhood places to get to know the people that live near you and plant roots and establish a sense of community.”
Originally from New York, Jenny raves about the foodie scene in Mexico City. CDMX serves up everything from street food to fine dining at much more affordable prices than people from the United are used to paying.
To give you an idea, the cost of living in Mexico City is 62% cheaper than New York City, according to Expatistan.
Another pro of living in Mexico City is the temperate climate. The temperature doesn’t change by more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit any given time of the year.
What are the downsides of living in Mexico City?
The downsides of living in Mexico City can be said of pretty much every big city on this list.
Living in a large urban area means dealing with what I like to call “city problems”: noise, litter, poor air quality, traffic & petty theft.
Many people don’t fully realize just how big Mexico City is. Once you understand just how massive CDMX is, you have context for issues like traffic and crime rates.
If you’re considering living in Mexico City, I encourage you to spend a month or two there before making any type of long term commitment so you can be sure than none of these “city problems” are deal breakers for you.
#4 Playa del Carmen
A resort town in the Yucatan Peninsula’s Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is a popular tourist destination. This once small fishing village is now home to more than 300,000 inhabitants.
Frequently referred to as simply “Playa,” this city is one of the fastest growing communities in Latin America. Digital nomads and retirees move to Playa del Carmen for the beautiful beaches, warm climate and laid back lifestyle.
Playa del Carmen is the perfect place to base yourself for exploring archaeological sites in the Yucatan. The Tulum ruins are just 40 minutes south.
The center of activity in the downtown area of Playa del Carmen is Quinta Avenida. This bustling pedestrian thoroughfare is lined with restaurants, shops and nightclubs.
One factor making Playa del Carmen one of the best places to live in Mexico for retirees is its proximity to the Cancun International Airport which has direct flights to many U.S. cities as well as other international destinations.
The journey time between Cancun International Airport and Playa del Carmen is around one hour. Shuttle and bus services are available.
#5 Lake Chapala
Another of Mexico’s well-established expat communities, the towns around Lake Chapala are a great option if you want to live around other North Americans and be able to get by mostly speaking English.
Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake, and when you visit, you’ll find one of the largest concentrations of U.S. expats not just in Mexico but in the entire world.
There are a number of towns along the coast of Lake Chapala with Ajijic being one of the most popular among foreigners.
Situated at approximately the same altitude as Denver, Lake Chapala has a pleasant climate year round. In January, you can expect temperatures in the low-70s (Fahrenheit). In May, temperatures get up to the mid-80s (Fahrenheit).
The communities around Lake Chapala are largely self-sufficient, but if you’re craving the city, Guadalajara is only 45 minutes away by car. Guadalajara has an international airport with direct flights to and from a number of cities in the United States.
Do I need to speak Spanish to live in Mexico?
Maybe you want to live somewhere like the towns around Lake Chapala because you think living among other English speakers and being part of a big expat community will mean you’ll never have to speak Spanish.
But, no matter where you live in Mexico, there will always be situations and interactions that require at least a small understanding of the language.
I know how intimidating learning another language can feel (trust me, I’ve been there).
If you’re just starting out, don’t get bogged down by the idea of having to learn everything. Even a few basic phrases will make your life in Mexico much easier.
- Learning Spanish is the best thing you can do for a successful move to Mexico. Check out this post with my top tips for learning Spanish as an adult!
#6 Cabo San Lucas
The most popular tourist destination in Baja California Sur, Cabos San Lucas is also one of the best places to live in Mexico for retirees.
A resort city on the southernmost tip of the Baja California Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas is home to just over 200,000 inhabitants.
Cabo San Lucas (or simply, Cabo) is known for its beautiful beaches, live music nightlife scene and water-based activities.
Many people move to Cabo for the warm climate which is pleasant in the winter months but downright sweltering in summer.
The warm weather is perfect for practicing water sports like sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding and scuba diving. Additionally, Cabo San Lucas is home to some of the best golf courses in Mexico including Grand Solmar at Rancho del Lucas and Quivira Golf Club.
Jim Carmin, who belongs to the Move to Mexico Membership, is a military veteran and passionate scuba diver. He said the diving community is very close knit and just one of the many ways to get plugged into the large expat community in Cabo San Lucas.
Because of its popularity with foreigners, Cabo has a reputation as one of the most expensive places to live in Mexico. However, it still offers a lower cost of living when compared to the United States.
Jim said he pays around $700 US for his apartment in Cabo San Lucas. For a couple living in Cabo San Lucas, it’s possible to live on around $2,840-$2,915 US per month according to International Living.
The closest international airport to Cabo San Lucas is located in nearby San Jose del Cabo. It has direct flights to many cities in the United States.
#7 La Paz
Also located on the Baja California Peninsula, La Paz is a great option for retirees who like the lifestyle in Cabo San Lucas but are looking for a lower cost of living. If you’re looking for beachside living on a budget, La Paz is one of the best cities in Mexico.
La Paz has experienced significant growth since the 2000s and reports a population of approximately 290,000 inhabitants. Much like Los Cabos, La Paz offers warm weather, beautiful beaches and a close proximity to the United States.
The international airport in La Paz has direct flights to and from the United States.
Life in Baja California Sur is a dream come true for outdoor lovers. It’s the perfect place to live in Mexico if you enjoy hiking, bike riding, sailing, surfing or swimming. This is also a great option for people who want a quiet life in a laid back place.
In addition to an outdoors lifestyle, La Paz has great medical care, a beautiful downtown with a fabulous boardwalk and the opportunity for trips to popular tourist destinations like Todos Santos and Los Cabos.
Check out this post to find out what it’s really like to live in La Paz, Mexico (including monthly rent, real estate and cost of living)!
#8 San Cristobal de las Casas
A mountain town in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, San Cristóbal de las Casas is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture. The city is home to around 215,000 inhabitants including a small but very international expat community.
Unlike other expat communities in Mexico that are largely made up of North Americans, the foreigner community in San Cristóbal de las Casas is very diverse. The city’s restaurant scene features Italian, French, Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisine.
One factor that makes San Cristóbal de las Casas one of the best places to live in Mexico for retirees is its low cost of living–even compared to other cities in Mexico. This lower cost of living is because San Cristóbal de las Casas is located in Chiapas which is the poorest state in the country.
The city’s economy is largely based on tourism. San Cristóbal de las Casas has a rich history and fascinating Mexican culture that is greatly influenced by the indigenous population.
Like San Miguel de Allende, San Cristóbal de las Casas is a great place to live if you’re looking for a cool climate in Mexico. However, humidity is high even during the winter months, and fog is quite common during the dry months. The rainy season runs from May to October.
#9 Puerto Escondido
Located on the Pacific coast in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido has a population of around 60,000 inhabitants. Famous for its surf, in English, its name translates to hidden port.
Puerto Escondido holds a very special place in my heart: I got married there in 2022! It’s one of the best places in Mexico to enjoy the Pacific Ocean.
Here’s what my friend, wedding photographer, and the co-founder of Puerto Food Tours, Alex Krotkov, has to say about Puerto Escondido, where he’s lived for the last seven years:
“Puerto has its own magic. Puerto has its own vibe that is incomparable. The nature is gorgeous, beautiful, and it has waves. Puerto is relatively small; it’s not super small, but it’s a small town, but really, that could offer you basically everything from restaurants to airports. We’re an hour away from Mexico City (by plane). It’s a small town, but it has all the possibilities that a bigger town, a bigger city would offer. It’s very laid back. It’s very open. In many other places where I’ve lived, I was still feeling myself a foreigner most of the time, and here I do feel home and special.”
The Problem With Living in Beach Towns in Mexico
If you’re dreaming of living on the beach in Mexico, you’re far from the only one.
Lots of people romanticize moving to Mexico and waking up to ocean views. They wax poetic about a “slower pace of life.”
However, the reality of living in a Mexican beach town is often dealing with poor infrastructure, limited options and a fundamentally different understanding of time.
Fortunately, in the case of Puerto Escondido, the internet has gotten much faster and more reliable in recent years. This has greatly increased the livability of this particular beach town in Mexico.
Puerto Escondido also has its own airport close to the downtown area, and someday soon(ish) the Mexican government will complete its new highway to Oaxaca City.
If you’re thinking about moving to one of Mexico’s small beach towns, be sure to consider important factors such as medical care, internet reliability & airport access.
Located in central Mexico, approximately three hours northwest of Mexico City, Querétaro is home to over 1 million and a half inhabitants. It’s one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
There is a lot to love about Querétaro, but one of the reasons that it’s one of the best places to live in Mexico is the fact that it is centrally located, which makes it great for traveling around the country.
Querétaro does have a small international airport with a few direct flights to the US, but it’s also only three hours away from the Mexico City airport which is the biggest airport in Latin America. It’s the perfect jumping-off point for a lot of adventures around Mexico, Latin America and South America.
Querétaro is frequently recognized as one of the safest cities in Mexico. It’s also one of the cleanest cities in Mexico. In the city center, there is trash pickup six nights a week.
Where we lived in the Centro Histórico, it really does feel like a pueblo (small town). There’s a lot of charm with the colonial architecture and shopping at local markets.
But if/when you need big city amenities, Querétaro has those too. The best part of living in Querétaro is that you get the best of both worlds.
The capital of the state of Michoacán in central Mexico, Morelia is home to around 850,000 people. The Spanish originally named the city Valladolid, but the victors renamed it following the Mexican War for Independence.
Morelia first popped up on my radar when one of our Move to Mexico members said he was planning on living there. I’ll let Scott tell you what he loves about Morelia:
“I knew that I didn’t want an enormous large city, so I was looking for slightly smaller cities in the central highland plains of Mexico. It is a city filled with classical Spanish colonial architecture, beautiful people, incredible food, a rich culture and history, and just an incredible place to set up home.”
Scott told me that Morelia is home to a larger-than-expected community of foreigners, and he also shared that the city’s international airport makes travel super convenient.
In the short time that I was there, I found the prices of food, drinks and accommodation to be lower than they are in Querétaro. Morelia is a great small city option for people who want plenty of things to do without the hustle and bustle of a Mexico City or Guadalajara.
Regarding safety, the city of Morelia is excluded from the U.S. State Department’s Mexico travel advisories about the state of Michoacán.
The capital of the state of Jalisco in western Mexico, Guadalajara has a population of around 5 million inhabitants. It’s a major Latin American tech hub and financial center.
If you like the idea of living in a big city in Mexico, but aren’t quite sold on Mexico City, then Guadalajara could be for you.
Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico and offers all those big city living amenities. Plus, you have relatively easy access to the beach as Guadalajara is only four hours from the coast.
In October 2022, I left Querétaro and moved to Guadalajara. I fell in love with the city the previous May when what was supposed to be a 10-day trip turned into a three-week stay, and I knew I wanted to live here.
A few of the reasons Guadalajara is one of the best places to live in Mexico for retirees is the warm climate, quality health care, cultural events, proximity to the Pacific Ocean, and international airport. Plus, the cost of living in Guadalajara is much lower than Mexico City.
Personally, I consider Guadalajara a safe place to live. However, petty theft happens so keep an eye on your personal belongings.
# 13 Mérida
Located in the northwest part of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mérida is home to just over 1 million people. Much of Mérida’s architecture from the colonial period through the 18th and 19th centuries is still visible in the Centro Histórico today.
Like Querétaro, Mérida is often recognized as one of the safest places to live in Mexico.
Now, while it is in the Yucatan peninsula, which a lot of people associate with beaches, it’s important to note that Mérida is not located directly on the coast. It’s actually about 40 minutes from the water, and the closest beach is Progreso.
There is a community of foreigners there, but the city itself is not quite as saturated as other places in the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s still a good place to learn and to use your Spanish.
For a lot of people, a big selling point of Mérida is the warm climate. If you’re looking for heat and humidity, Mérida could be the perfect place for you.
Mérida is a great jumping off point for adventures around the Yucatan such as archaeological sites, cenotes and exploring the beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya.
Located in east-central Mexico, Puebla has a population of more than 3 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. It’s home to many prestigious universities and the world’s largest Volkswagen factory outside of Germany.
We can’t talk about Puebla without talking about volcanoes. Two giant ones separate the city from Mexico City, and one of those bad boys is still active (this affects the air quality in Puebla).
Hiking is a popular activity in Puebla, including hiking up the aforementioned volcanoes. This city is a great place to live for outdoors lovers.
After your hike, you can fuel up with some mole. There’s a big debate in Mexico whether mole originates in Puebla or Oaxaca, and I’ve got to say, the mole that I had when I was in Puebla was delicious.
Puebla is the fourth largest city in Mexico, and because of its size, you can find quality medical care and English-speaking doctors.
# 15 Oaxaca City
Situated in southwestern Mexico, the municipality of Oaxaca de Juárez is home to around 715,000 people.
A short bus ride from the city center, the archeological site of Monte Albán is a prehistoric city open to visitors. It’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Regardless of the time of year you’re in Oaxaca, cultural events are always happening. I was backpacking around the state of Oaxaca in 2018 & spent Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca City–a truly incredibly cultural experience.
This is a great city for nature lovers who only need to leave the city limits for hiking trails and waterfalls. If you’re in the market for a real off-the-beaten-path adventure, you’ve got to check out the Pueblos Mancomunados.
Thanks to its location in the Sierra Madre mountains, Oaxaca City features a cooler climate.
I ask Katrin Schrimpf, a spiritual guide who’s called Oaxaca home for more than four years, to share her thoughts on the city:
“If you are into food, then Oaxaca is definitely the best place to live because there is such a big variety of traditional food. It’s incredible,” she said. And everyone is putting so much heart and passion into the food that they are preparing.”
What are the downsides of living in Oaxaca City?
Oaxaca is one of the poorer states in Mexico.
On one hand, this means it has a lower cost of living compared to other parts of the country. But on the other, residents are faced with a variety of issues.
As a city with fewer financial resources, Oaxaca deals with problems like unfixed potholes and garbage collection. In 2022, the city government permanently closed a landfill causing a garbage crisis in Oaxaca.
Tourism is one of the main industries in Oaxaca, and like in most tourist hotspots, petty theft occurs. The best way to keep yourself and your belongings safe is to maintain situational awareness.
- Where to Get the Best Health Care in Mexico
- MAJOR Mistakes Expats Make When Moving to Mexico
- 11 Important Things to Know BEFORE Moving to Mexico
Final Thoughts on Best Places to Live in Mexico for Retirees
If you’re considering moving to Mexico, this list of best places to live in Mexico for retirees is a good place to start.
Now that you have a better understanding of what Mexico has to offer, you can start formulating a plan to see which of these cities in Mexico is right for you.
One of the best ways to learn what it’s really like to live in Mexico is to connect with expats living in Mexico to hear firsthand about important topics like safety, weather, health insurance, making friends, cost of living & more.
If you’re thinking about moving to Mexico, the Move to Mexico Membership is the perfect place to connect with expats living in Mexico as well as other people in the process of planning their move to Mexico.
It’s the community I wish I would have had when I was settling into life in Mexico–a safe, supportive space to ask questions and get thoughtful answers:
- Learn from exclusive Q&A videos
- Dive deep during guest expert presentations
- Connect during monthly mixers via Zoom
- Get thoughtful answers when you post in the forum
I would love to help you decide which of these best places to live in Mexico is right for you. Join the Move to Mexico Membership for the feedback & support you need for a successful move to Mexico.