Place is personal, subjective, and important—and as you consider places to live in Mexico, Mexperience helps you to consider your choices and shortlist locations that may suit your lifestyle needs.
This series of articles introduces you to a curated list of locations throughout Mexico that foreign residents consider to live, work or retire in Mexico.
Most popular places to live in Mexico
This article in the series introduces you to locations that have for a long time, or in recent times, garnered considerable popularity with foreign residents (retirees and others) and have active communities of foreign residents established at the location.
Chapala, Ajijic, and Jocotepec
Chapala, Ajijic and Jocotepec are the three towns situated on the north shore of Mexico’s Lake Chapala—the largest lake in Mexico. The towns are situated about an hour’s drive south of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city. These lakeside colonial towns are home to the highest concentration of foreign residents anywhere in Mexico.
Attractions of the location include an ideal year-round climate, easy access to Guadalajara’s amenities and international airport, and a long-established community of foreign residents who organize a wide range of social and cultural events in the locality. Although the Lake Chapala area has historically been primarily a place for retirees, this is changing and people who are not yet retired, some with young families, have been relocating to this area in recent times.
Learn more: Lake Chapala & Environs
Type: Colonial Mexico
Nearby places: Guadalajara, Morelia & Pátzcuaro, Colima/Comala
Google map: Lake Chapala / Ajijic
Discover more: Lake Chapala on Mexperience
Cozumel and Isla Mujeres
Although small island life is not for everyone, each of these islands, situated off the coast of Playa del Carmen and Cancún respectively, offer charms of their own. Cozumel is a larger island with more happening, and more amenities. Isla Mujeres is small, with hardly any traffic, and has beautiful calm beaches on one side and a rugged, dramatic coastline on the other (some houses overlook the latter). Cozumel has its own international airport (some flight routes are seasonal); and both islands are well-served with frequent sea ferries connecting them to the mainland.
Learn more: Cozumel & Isla Mujeres
Type: Beach/Islands (Mexican Caribbean)
Nearby places: Cancún, Riviera Maya, Mérida
Since Aztec times, Cuernavaca has been a fashionable place for capital dwellers to repair and recuperate; and even today the city remains a popular getaway destination at weekends, and during holidays. It’s a city with hidden charms and a lot going for it: its proximity to the capital, its magnificent climate, and a colonial feel with a sincere character. While it’s not the most picturesque of Mexico’s colonial cities, it has an authentic Mexican feel.
The city is built on a mountain straddling five ravines that give this location unique microclimates: the northern limits of the city are forested and much cooler (cold in the winter); the climate between the north and the city center are temperate; and the areas south of the center get considerably warmer (hot in the summer) as you travel south. Its climate, especially in the temperature zone, remains one of the best you’ll experience anywhere in Mexico and the city offers almost every service and amenity you may need, with easy access to the capital by road.
Learn more: Cuernavaca
Type: Colonial Mexico
Nearby places: Tepoztlán, Mexico City, Puebla
Google map: Cuernavaca
Discover more: Cuernavaca on Mexperience
Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque
Guadalajara is one of Mexico’s important big cities, said to be ‘the most Mexican of Mexican cities’ that features a beautiful historic center and various districts or neighborhoods of interest to foreign residents, the most notable of which is Tlaquepaque.
The city is situated near Lake Chapala and Ajijic (see above), where most of foreign residents in this region live, although all of them repair to Guadalajara for services, shops, and amenities—and the international airport that is based on the south side of the city.
Learn more: Guadalajara & Tlaquepaque
Type: Big City
Nearby places: Lake Chapala/Ajijic, Morelia & Pátzcuaro, Colima/Comala
Google map: Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque
La Paz, Todos Santos, and Loreto
Situated in Baja California Sur, La Paz, Loreto, and Todos Santos are popular locations for living and retirement.
La Paz is the capital city of the state that offers a laid-back, relaxed pace of life with plenty of water sports and outdoor activities amidst the unspoiled nature on its doorstep; it also offers ample amenities and transport connections including an airport and a ferry port to the Mexican mainland.
Todos Santos, situated southwest of La Paz near the Pacific coast of the peninsula, is the bohemian arts quarter of this region and is ideally suited to people who want to find a town away from the more commercialized feel of nearby Los Cabos.
North of La Paz along the coast of the Gulf of California (formerly known as the Sea of Cortés) is Loreto, a location well-known for its planned residential communities —mostly retirees— enjoying a fine climate within a beautiful natural environment.
Learn more: La Paz, Todos Santos, and Loreto
Type: Beach (Gulf of California/Pacific)
Nearby places: Los Cabos
Google map: La Paz, Todos Santos and Loreto
Los Cabos (Cabo San Lucas & San José del Cabo)
Los Cabos comprises a ‘corridor’ that connects two towns at the southern cape of the Baja California peninsula: Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo.
The area is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and it’s also one of the primary locations where foreign residents choose to live in this region and includes a well-established community of foreign retirees.
The agreeable climate (especially in the winter months), access to a comprehensive selection of amenities that foreign residents tend to seek in a destination —including excellent medical facilities, some of the world’s top rated golf courses, a well-developed local infrastructure, easy access via an international airport, and active local community groups— make Los Cabos one of the most attractive locations for living or retirement.
Some choose to spend only the winter months here and rent out their homes in the summer when they are away. Los Cabos is not for everybody, and it’s one of the more expensive places in Mexico to live and buy property; but for the many foreigners who choose to call this place home, full or part-time—they love it.
Learn more: Los Cabos
Type: Beach (Gulf of California/Pacific)
Nearby places: La Paz, Todos Santos, Loreto
Google map: Los Cabos
Discover more: Los Cabos on Mexperience
Mexico City remains a strong favorite with working-age foreign residents who arrive here for the (net)working opportunities and buzz of the capital; and with retirees who never tire of the alluring charm of this, one of the world’s largest and funkiest capital cities.
Some people who come know the capital intimately and fall in love with it tend to stay without being able to articulate quite why they do. Perhaps they adore being part of the vibrancy, the vast size and complexity and contrasts of this remarkable historical metropolis that has been a major inhabited settlement of civilization for over 600 years.
In addition to the unsurpassed selection of services to found here, Mexico City also offers some of the world’s finest museums, parks, restaurants, markets, shops and, being the center of economic and political power, has the best connections to everywhere you’d ever want to travel to inside Mexico and internationally.
Learn more: Mexico City
Type: Big City (Mexico’s Capital)
Nearby places: Cuernavaca, Puebla, Tepoztlán
Google map: Mexico City
Discover more: Mexico City on Mexperience
Playa del Carmen and Tulum
Playa del Carmen and the town of Tulum (more popularly known is the archaeology park here that features spectacular views across the turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean), and both part of the ‘Riviera Maya,’ have become among the most sought-after places to live by foreign residents coming to Mexico in search of a beachside destination.
‘Playa’ (and to a lesser extent Tulum) have experienced tremendous growth in the last two decades. Not too far by road (three hours) from the historical and important city of Mérida, Playa and Tulum offer a beautiful Caribbean lifestyle with less commercial hype than its neighbor, Cancún, although in recent years, Playa del Carmen’s development has created a much more commercialized feel than was present here at the turn of the century. And with Cancún just 30 miles away, you can enjoy the excellent infrastructure and facilities it offers as well as access to a major international airport with direct connections to the US, Canada, and Europe (in season).
Learn more: Playa del Carmen & Tulum
Type: Beach (Mexican Caribbean)
Nearby places: Cancún, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Mérida
Google map: Playa del Carmen & Tulum
Puerto Vallarta and Punta de Mita
Puerto Vallarta and environs has a history and reputation all its own: this is one of Mexico’s fastest-growing areas and the influx in recent times of working-age foreign residents as well as retirees to this region has been unprecedented.
The reasons are clear: the heart of Puerto Vallarta has an authentic colonial city feel to it, and the extensive ‘bay area’ —that encompasses the area of Mismaloya on the southern edge of the bay to Bucerías/Cruz de Huanacaxtle in the north— offers a wonderful oceanfront seat along Mexico’s Pacific coastline.
This is a cosmopolitan, contemporary, and forward-looking region of Mexico. The winter climate is idyllic; July through October can be stifling with heat, although some people don’t mind this, or leave/travel during those months).
The availability of local services and amenities is extensive and improving every year; it’s a one of the most accessible locations in Mexico with good road and air connections, and it’s considered by many who live here ‘the best place in Mexico to be.’
In recent years, Nuevo Vallarta and other towns northward including Bucerías and Sayulita have also become popular; and about 27 miles north of Puerto Vallarta you’ll find the more exclusive area of Punta de Mita: with its rugged, picturesque and dramatic coastline, it’s home to some fine hotel-resorts, one of the country’s best golf courses, and higher-end residential developments.
Learn more: Puerto Vallarta and Punta de Mita
Type: Beach (Pacific)
Nearby places: Manzanillo, Mazatlán
Google map: Puerto Vallrta and Punta de Mita
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende was a quiet backwater and bohemian hideaway in the 1960s and 1970s, a popular dwelling space for foreign artists, writers, and hippies living alternative lifestyles in the highlands of south-central Mexico. San Miguel’s popularity began to soar in the early 1990s and today this highland mountain town is one of the most popular colonial cities in Mexico to live in—sought after by foreign residents and Mexicans alike.
People who have known the town for decades say that its quaint roots have been forever altered by the influx of investment and people in recent times; it does, however, continue to rate as one of the top places in Mexico for living and retirement.
Situated at elevation in the rugged mountains in the state of Guanajuato, about a four-hour drive northwest from Mexico City, this old ‘silver city’ is one of the most picturesque of Mexico’s colonial enclaves; residential property in the historic center and neighborhoods adjacent to it is among the most expensive in all Mexico.
The town has a long history of attracting foreign residents and, like Lake Chapala, has very well-developed community groups and societies managed and frequented by foreigners and Mexicans living here.
It also has a strong arts culture, with language, art and writing schools and societies prevalent. San Miguel offers an excellent selection of services and amenities, including good healthcare and medical facilities. The light here is outstanding, although being a relatively remote town situated at elevation, it can get quite cool or cold during the winter months after sundown and during the early mornings.
Learn more: San Miguel de Allende
Type: Colonial Mexico
Nearby places: Guanajuato, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí
Google map: San Miguel de Allende
Discover more: San Miguel de Allende on Mexperience
Discover more places to live in Mexico
Connect to the other articles in this series and discover more places to live in Mexico:
- Discover emerging locations to live in Mexico: summarizes locations that have, in recent years, been catching the attention of foreign residents and have fledgling or developing communities of interest present.
- Discover underexplored locations to live in Mexico: features places that do not have significant numbers of foreign residents already established and are generally ‘off-the-beaten-path’ for most foreigners considering Mexico for living and retirement. These places can offer attractions that may be of interest to some potential foreign residents and retirees seeking someplace more traditional, unusual, and with a lower concentration of foreign residents living there.