I get emails and comments a lot asking what the best places to live in Mexico are. I’ve been living in and traveling around Mexico now for just over two year. I’ve found towns and cities that I absolutely adore and the odd one or two that I don’t really need to go back to.
The thing about answering this question is that it’s totally personal. I love big cities. I love the hustle and bustle, all the restaurants and bars, the endless options for street food and constant festivals that happen every weekend. For me, Mexico City is a dream place to live (if only it had a beach, I’d literally never leave).
For other people, the idea of a city packed with over 20 million people, terrible traffic, and months that are punctuated by skies full of pollution, is an absolute nightmare. People who feel that way won’t think that Mexico City is one of the best places to live in Mexico.
I do, however, believe that if you want to move south of the border, there is a city or town that could make you very happy. Mexico is much cheaper than living in say, the US or Canada, but it’s not just about money.
The quality of life in Mexico is excellent. Every week I go to a local farmer’s market (called a tianguis in Mexico) where I buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are in season and packed with flavor. Mexico currently has a ban on all GMO companies, so what you’re eating is as good as it gets.
The weather is unbeatable. If you don’t like being hot, you can find a city in the mountains that has near zero humidity year round. If you love to roast, the coast or the desert will melt you no matter what the season. There are tropical climates and temperate zones. There are stunning mountains and beautiful white sand beaches. Mexico has it all (in my opinion) and moving here was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
1. Mexico City
I mean, it goes without saying, doesn’t it? I love this city. I love its grit and its cosmopolitan sides equally. I love the crowded markets like La Merced and the tree-lined streets of Condesa and Roma. I love the deep fried quesadillas in Coyoacan and the fine dining in Polanco. I love shopping at the bazaar for budget finds and hopping on the metro for 5 pesos.
Mexico City is my ideal climate. It sits at 7,382 feet (2,250 meters) and while the spring is pretty hot with temperatures of up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celcius), the winter is super mild with daytime temperatures of up to 65 degrees F (18 C). The rainy season is a bit of a pain from June to September, but it’s still pretty warm during the day.
I have so much content on this blog about Mexico City, so I won’t bore you with all of the extra details. If you’re considering a move to Mexico City, check out the Mexico City section of my blog to read more.
I love Merida. It’s the perfect mix of city excitement and laid back beach vibes. It has colorful colonial buildings and run-down hipster-style cantinas. It’s only about a half an hour drive from the beach and the cost of living there is incredibly low. The city has plenty of great street food and comida economicas, but it also has a Costco and a Walmart.
There’s a major airport nearby and it’s only a few hours away from Cancun. It’s surrounded by Mayan history, hidden cenotes, and cultures that you’ve probably never even heard of. Have I mentioned that Yucatan food is some of the best in the country (don’t tell the Oaxacans I said that).
If you want a place that is warm year-round (summer is particularly hot), that has great city amenities, but without the claustrophobia of a big city, and you want to be near the beach, it doesn’t get much better than Merida, in my opinion.
Read: A Guide to Merida
3. Riviera Maya
I’m going to go ahead and lump Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and all that falls in between into the category of the Riviera Maya. Cancun is a tourist hotspot, which also means there are a lot of jobs there. Which also means that the price of property, whether renting or buying, is quite high.
As you head down the coastline towards Playa del Carmen, there are tons of tiny little towns and bays where those that want total seclusion can live. Playa del Carmen is a pretty cool beach town that definitely gets crowded with American and Canadian tourists during the winter and spring. You don’t necessarily have to live near the tourist area though. Playa del Carmen has a city side where the locals live and if you drive a little bit further down the coast there are a few great condominium and apartment complexes with reasonably priced places.
Tulum is one of my absolute all-time favorite beach towns. The beach is swanky and has world-class restaurants. The town is quiet and has tiny little bars, yoga studios, and juice bars. If I could stand the humidity during the summer months (we’re talking literally sweating 24/7), then I would probably move here. I love the laid-back vibes and yet how accessible all of the creature comforts still are. If you are a total beach bum, you’ll love Tulum.
Related Posts: First Timer’s Guide to Tulum, The Anti-All Inclusive Guide to Cancun, What Not to Do in Playa del Carmen
Oaxaca is my second favorite city in Mexico. I could quite easily live here. The city of Oaxaca has everything I love – craft beer bars, rooftop restaurants, great food, tons of culture, beautiful parks, and it’s really easy to get into and out of. There’s a huge ADO bus terminal and the airport is only a few miles from the city center. The city is low, there aren’t really any skyscrapers or large buildings, which is really nice.
The weather is excellent. It’s hot and dry for half of the year and hot and wet for the other half. The people are kind, there are tons of markets where you can buy cheap groceries, there’s a huge organic market with vegetarian options. The city just has such a great vibe about it and there are tons of little neighborhoods around the periphery of the city center. It’s incredibly safe there, at least that’s been my experience there. I also like that it’s easy to access the surrounding region where you can enjoy lush countryside.
The downside? It’s pretty far from the coast. If you wanted to have a quick weekend by the beach, you’d have to fly.
5. San Miguel de Allende
This is a popular expat town in the state of Guanajuato. It’s an old colonial town with a huge pink cathedral, brightly colored buildings, and a really incredible artist community. A lot of Canadians and Americans retire to this area of the country because the cost of living is quite low, the weather is warm – never too hot, never too cold. It’s surrounded by incredible mountains and has one of the best botanical gardens I’ve ever visited.
Although it’s a retirement hub, I didn’t feel like it was a place only for the 60+ crowd. There are tons of things to do in San Miguel de Allende for youn people. There are really cool food halls, great craft beer bars, high-end restaurants, grungy bars, amazing bakeries, and plenty of shopping to do in the city. It’s just a much slower pace than any of the big cities in the country, which I kind of love. If you’re an artist, a writer, a lover of the arts, this is a really great place to spend some time.
6. Puerto Vallarta
Another popular spot for expats, Puerto Vallarta has a nice mix of amenities (like Costco, Walmart, Spanish language classes, private hospitals with English-speaking doctors) while still offering you the opportunity to get out of the tourist zone and integrate into Mexican culture a little bit. While the main tourist zone of the city is quite expensive and packed with Spring-Breakers half the year, the areas around Puerto Vallarta like Nueva Vallarta and further north to Punta de Mita are incredibly beautiful and much quieter. If you really want to get remote, you can travel inland for a few miles and all of the high rises and condominiums will give way to small neighborhoods where you can rent a house with a nice yard and practice your Spanish a lot more.
The west coast offers a lot of opportunities for cheap living while still being close to the beach. While I personally love the calm waters of the east coast of Mexico, the west coast is rugged and great if you love surfing and seafood. So while I don’t totally recommend moving you and all of your belongings to downtown Puerto Vallarta, I do think there are a lot of incredible areas surrounding this hub and being close by means you can easily access the rest of the country.
7. San Luis Potosi
I have been dying to get to San Luis Potosi because the city and the state with the same name are packed with adventure and nature. If you love waterfalls, hiking, lush forests, and rafting, then I highly recommend checking out if San Luis Potosi should be your new home. The city is small, but still has everything you need. It has different events throughout the year like craft beer festivals, jazz festivals, and a yearly state fair.
The main attraction of living in San Luis Potosi, though, is the access to the natural beauty. The city is less than three hours from the jaw-droppingly beautiful Huasteca region. This is where you can see enormous waterfalls, go hiking, rafting, kayaking, and take a dip in crystal clear lakes. Visiting this part of the country is high on my list and I know from other expats that it’s a really one of the best places to live in Mexico.
The country’s second biggest city is really awesome. If you want city living, but don’t want the traffic, pollution, and overcrowded life in Mexico City, Guadalajara is a great alternative. It has fantastic restaurants, a cool bar scene, and even a few craft beer bars to check out. It’s also a lot more laid back than Mexico City.
I’ve written a few articles about Guadalajara which you can read here:
- The Best Restaurants in Guadalajara
- What to Do in Guadalajara Mexico: A Travel Guide
- Mexico City Versus Guadalajara: Which should you choose?
Before You Make the Move to Mexico
It’s tempting to simply move to a new place without doing much research. Hell, it’s what I did when I moved to Mexico City. I’d never been before and I lept in with both feet. But I’m a little cooky and I had a solid amount of savings in the bank in case everything ended up being terrible. I also wasn’t leaving behind anything. My boyfriend came with me and so did our two suitcases full of the only things we own (except for those boxes in my parent’s basement of course).
If you have kids, if you are retiring, if you are spending all of your savings to make this move, I urge you to do your research. Visit a few different cities and towns in Mexico before you make your final decision. Find out about rent prices, find out how much things are at the grocery store, find out what life is going to be like there.
Ask yourself why you really want to move to Mexico. While I love this country and I believe that a lot of other people will, too, it’s not for everyone. If you’re only coming because it’s cheap and warm, there are plenty of other parts of the world, and indeed your own country (if you’re American), where you could live and you may be a lot happier there.