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Where to Retire in Mexico



Click on the towns for the retirement profiles.

Acapulco: Once a haven for those who love real Mexico and nightlife this place has been hit hard by the drug wars, Acapulco seduces at night.

Ajijic: A small artists and retirement community on the shores of Lake Chapala with lots of ex-pats. Great place to retire due to the friendliness of the other ex-pats and the variety of activities.

Aticama: Aticama is a small fishing village on the Pacific Coast, just south of San Blas. Here the foothills of the Sierra Madre meet the Pacific Ocean; its natural beauty and convenience to towns and beaches north and south draw an increasingly large North American community of rat-race dropouts and retirees.

Bacalar: A small town with pre-Hispanic roots, Bacalar is a Pueblo Mágico on the beautiful Bacalar Lagoon.

Barra de Navidad: With a natural lagoon on one side and sandy beaches on the other, Barra de Navidad is an idyllic vacation getaway for surfers, bodysurfers, and others who love the beach and low-key Pacific towns.

Batopilas: At the base of the canyon and reached via super gnarly switchbacks, Batopilas attracts the more adventurous traveler.

Bucerias: Once you get off the main drag, Bucerias is a charming town with many good restaurants and a long, beautiful, white sand beach.

Campeche: A visually stunning town with friendly inhabitants and excellent access to untouristy beaches and fabulous Maya ruins, including Calakmul, Edzna, and others

Cancun: A manmade resort, Cancun offers a gorgeous tropical setting and luxury accommodations

Chacala: Once a fishing village, Chacala is now more geared to tourism but it's stunning location makes worth a visit.

Chapala: Chapala is a vacation-oriented village on the shores of Lake Chapala. About an hour south of Guadalajara, it has a pleasant climate that attracts couples and families on weekends and holidays.

Chetumal: Capital of the state of Quintana Roo, Chetumal is a friendly city but has little to recommend it to tourists. The gateway to the Central American coast at Belize, it has a tax-free shopping zone near the border, a moderately interesting Maya museum, and a low-key attitude perhaps because of the intense tropical heat. With a cement boardwalk that runs for miles along its large bay, it's about an hour south of lovely Laguna de Bacalar, in the southwest corner of the country.

Cholula: One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Cholula has a rich cultural history. Nonetheless it is a relatively small town that's easy to negociate by car or on foot, and easily accessed from Puebla or Mexico City.

Colima: Built by the Spanish in the 16th century, Colima has few colonial buildings (lots of earthquakes), but plenty of charm, friendly people and a warm but pleasant climate. It's a short drive to beach towns like Manzanillo and Barra de Navidad.

Copper Canyon: This series of gorgeous canyons is wonderful for hiking, birding, or just enjoying nature from a log cabin lodge.

Cozumel: A favorite destination of divers, Cozumel has offshore one of the world's most impressive barrier reefs. The small community, populated during the Caste Wars, has grown and attracted cruise ships, sophisticated hotels and internationally acclaimed restaurants, but still appeals to all sorts of travelers.

Creel: Stop at Creel for at least a few days when you take the Copper Canyon train. It is a good place to relax and a great base for day trips to interesting rock formations, waterfalls, and longer treks by horse, mule, truck or private vehicle into area canyons.

Cuernavaca: A pre-Hispanic city favored by Aztec nobility and later Spanish conquistadors, Cuernavaca is now a large city but has a pleasant climate, good spas and restaurants. It's close to Mexico City as well as many water parks found in Morelos State.

Dolores Hidalgo: About halfway between Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, Dolores is a pleasant town of some 130,000 people. Known as the Cradle of the Independence movement, it offers several historical museums as well as a pretty main plaza, its famous homemade ice cream, and its trademark Talavera pottery.

East Cape: Growing as a destination for vacationers as well as retirees and those purchasing second homes in Mexico, the East Cape is famous for its Sea of Cortez breezes that make it prime windsurfing territory. It's also popular for diving and other water sports.

El Rosario: El Rosario is a historic old mining town, close to civilization but with lots to offer the off-the-beaten-track traveler

Ensenada: A friendly town easily accessible by car from Southern California, or fly into Tijuana. Major commercial port with beaches north and south of town

Guadalajara: Mexico's second-largest city is home to tequila, charreadas (equestian events) and mariachis; its inhabitants fond of soccer and good restaurants.

Guanajuato: Guanajuato state's capital, this colonial city is vibrant and unusual. One of its principal thoroughfares runs underneath the city, which sprawls up the sides of a deep canyon. Tall, colorful, narrow houses overlooking narrow, twisty streets characterize the Old City. A university town, Guanajuato has a youthful population and many worthwhile museums.

Guayabitos: On a beautiful bay, Guayabitos is a Mexican family beach destination that beckons snowbirds as well.

Huatulco: A low-key beach resort with nine bays and 36 beaches, this destination on the coast of Oaxaca is more for beach bums than for lounge lizards

Isla Mujeres: The Maya used Isla Mujeres as a source of salt (from two saltwater lagoons here). Today Isla attracts travelers looking for simple pleasures like snorkeling, diving, or dozing on the sand. It's just a short boat ride from Cancun, but a million miles away in attitude. Despite its fairly laid-back atmosphere, travelers returning after decades away are surprised to see that the island's infrastructure has expanded and matured.

Ixtapa: Less than 10 kilometers from Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa is a small cluster of resort hotels built in the 1970s. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and a series of strip malls housing restaurants, pharmacies, bars and shops are about a dozen brand hotels. Here you'll find Best Western, Presidente, Emporio, and other highrises offering accommodations on both all-inclusive and European Plans. The new Real del Mar Resort & Spa and the totally remodeled Club Med are found on or above other Ixtapa beaches close to the main hotel z

Izamal: An important Maya city and later one of the earliest Spanish strongholds in the Yucatan, charming Izamal is easy on the eyes, a boon for laid-back travelers

La Manzanilla: At the south end of beautiful Tenacatita Bay, La Manzanilla has miles of beautiful beaches. Home to snowbirds, ex-pats and vacationers who love low-key beach towns, La Manzanilla is growing but still homespun and relatively untouristy.

La Paz: A couple of hours north of Los Cabos, La Paz is capital of Baja California Sur. Here you'll find the university, symphony and other cultural offerings. Founded as a mission town by the Jesuits in the early 19th century, La Paz is located on the Gulf of California. Miles of sandy beaches and offshore islands provide put-in points for kayakers, and there is good diving in the area as well.

Loreto: This sleepy town on the lower Baja peninsula was built by missionaries in the 1680s. It was the state capital for about 100 years before a major hurricane sent government officials scurrying to La Paz to establish there. Government funds promoted Loreto as a major tourism destination in the late 1970s with minimal success. Although condos and resort developments have been built south of town, this friendly little town continues to attract mainly avid anglers who enjoy their time in the sun.

Los Cabos: Dominated by Americans, an expensive resort easily accessible from the U.S. Many stellar, albeit expensive properties and ocean diversions.

Mahahual: The site of a new cruise ship pier for the Costa Maya, Mahahual is growing in size and popularity. Although battered by Hurrican Dean in 2007, it has recovered and is attracting hoteliers and foreigners who love this laid back Caribbean paradise.

Mazatlan: Mazatlan is a lively beach city with relatively inexpensive restaurants, moderately priced beachfront hotels, and a pretty downtown. Offers fishing and lots of beach activities.

Merida: Capital of Yucatan State, Merida was an important Maya city called T'ho that resisted Spanish domination for several decades. Hot and sultry, Merida today is a busy metropolis that attracts many tourists, both foreign and domestic. In addition to being a good base for touring the region, this friendly city offers loads of cultural activities and has an active ex-pat population.

Mexico City: Cosmopolitan yet ethnic and with lovely colonial sections, Mexico's huge, smoggy capital offers great food, great (well-dressed) people, and tons of sightseeing, galleries, and museums. It's well situated in the heart of the country, with lots of international flights.

Mineral de Pozos: Like Real de Catorce in San Luis Potosi state, this abandoned mining town is staging a comeback. Boutique hotels and garden restaurants are opening, there are mines to be explored and delightfully crumbly adobe homes to photograph.

Morelia: A stately colonial city with wide streets and UNESCO World Heritage status. Many lovely restored churches and two international music festivals.

Mulege: Situated between Santa Rosalia and Loreto on Baja's Gulf Coast, Mulege is a true desert oasis. Near the northern end of long Bahia de Concepcion, this sleepy little town has its own airstrip, and Baja aficionados fly down in their small planes. Those without wings head down on the transpeninsular highway, Carretera 1, in order to fish, kayak, snorkel, and pursue other outdoor activities.

Nuevo Vallarta: A planned resort of several dozen highrise hotels, Nuevo Vallarta is situated just north of the Amecas River, in southern Nayarit. Sharing Banderas Bay with Puerto Vallarta, this beach resort has mainly all-inclusive hotels and a growing number of other diversions to keep vacationers happy. Some residential neighborhoods are also being developed.

Oaxaca: Oaxaca has excellent museums, including colonial and contemporary art museums, those with folk art and pre-Hispanic ruins, and more. The zocalo, surrounded by cafes, is a great place to people watch. There are many excellent festivals and colorful celebrations at Easter, Christmas, and Day of the Dead.

Patzcuaro: Surrounded by crafts villages and scented by wood smoke, a super charming and historical mountain town

Playa Del Carmen: Labeled hip and European by its fans, Playa del Carmen has developed in the last three decades from a tiny village at the dock for the Cozumel ferry to a full-fledged beach resort complete with topless sunbathing and exciting clubs and restaurants. There are many types of lodgings here and on the sandy beaches stretching north and south of town, and lots of opportunities for touring and eco-adventures.

Progreso: Popular with families from Merida during holidays and snowbirds in winter, this is a pleasant if unexciting small seaside town.

Puebla: Puebla is a city steeped in history, and this is obvious in its colonial churches, lovely public buildings and stately old homes. The Spanish imported their tradition of Talavera ceramics, and local artisans expanded the color palate. Visitors today admire the facades of Puebla's historic downtown, many buildings graced with colorful tiles as well as sculpted stucco ornamentation. Puebla is also known for its delicious cuisine, among the most exciting in Mexico; there are many excellent restaurants.

Puerto Escondido: Crank up the Marley, cruise to the beach. Puerto is just right for chillin' at a no-frills tourist town that refused to go 'resort.'

Puerto Morelos: Until recently a small seaside village, Puerto Morelos has experienced the inevitable growth of the Riviera Maya. But the port where the car ferry departs for Cozumel suffered a sort of stigma---or perhaps it was just overlooked. In any case, growth has come later here, mainly in the form of modest hotels and vacation rentals on area beaches. Not far south of Cancun's airport, Puerto Morelos flew under the radar until more mature and budget-conscious sun seekers started to see its potential.

Puerto Vallarta: Beautifully situated on Banderas Bay, PV is charming but bustling, a major resort with many satellite towns up and down the bay as well as planned tourist zones such as Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta for a resort vacation experience

Punta Banda: At the south end of Todos Santos Bay, this relatively rich agricultural area ends in craggy rock formations. The sea here is popular with fishermen, kayakers, and divers. Its famous blowhole, La Bufadora, draws cruise ship passengers on day trips and sightseers from Ensenada, which lies about 20 minutes to the north. The blowhole shoots ocean water several stories into the air when the waves hit the bottom of the rocky bluffs. En route to the blowhole are a multitude of vendors.

Real de Catorce: It is rare these days to find a place so quiet and remote.

San Blas: San Blas is a fishing village of 12,000 located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Only the numerous jejenes (sandflies) have kept this village from becoming a major tourist attraction.

San Carlos: Long popular with snowbirds and vacationers from nearby Arizona, San Carlos offers plenty of services and a beautiful coastline

San Cristobal de las Casas: Seemingly lost in the mountains, San Cristobal is a colonial town in a blissed-out setting. Wood smoke drifts on the pine-scented air. Vastly popular with international travelers, it is surrounded by many colorful Maya villages.

San Miguel de Allende: A picturesque town heavy on ammenities and activities for foreigners, it is a work of art in itself, with art and Spanish schools

San Pancho: A lovely little beach town with wide, sandy streets and a handful of wonderful restaurants

Sayulita: Sayulita is a funky seaside village that's rapidly gaining in popularity. Once just a surfer hangout, it's now 20 minutes from Punta de Mita via a new road.

Teacapan: Teapacan is an out of the way place with simple charm. Slated for development by the federal government, Teacapan is for the moment a sleepy small town that attracts lovers of remote, untouristy beaches. An excellent destination for curious travelers, its Agua Bravo Estuary is a wonderful destination for birdwatchers, and contains an ancient mountain of seashells that’s a puzzlement to today’s archaeologists.

Tijuana: Tijuana is a large, fairly grimy city of 2.5 to 4 million, adjacent to San Diego, CA

Todos Santos: About halfway between La Paz and Los Cabos, Todos Santos is a desert town near the ocean with lots of charm and an ever-growing artist community

Tulum: Long a budget travelers' dream, Tulum today is growing fast. The only major Maya city overlooking the sea inhabited at the time of the Spanish conquest, the Tulum ruins are often visited by travelers to Cancun, 130 km (81 miles) to the north, at the other end of the Riviera Maya. Today hotels and restaurants are springing up to serve travelers, but to the south, the Boca Paila peninsula and the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve offer up less-visited beaches and opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and anglers.

Valladolid: Halfway between Cancun and Merida, this town of 35,000 is a good base for exploration.

Veracruz: A lively port city with effervescent people, lots of native music and dance, and some charming old colonial buildings.

Xalapa: A popular university town with a climate that's's alternately sunny and bracing. Excellent anthropology museum.

Xilitla: With its Surrealist sculpture garden, Xilitla makes a good base for exploring San Luis Potosi's remote Huasteca region.

Zacatecas: Zacatecas is one of north-central Mexico's most interesting cities. Capital of the eponymous state, its name comes from zacate, a nahuatl word referring to the surrounding grasslands that today provide excellent pasture. Located in a narrow canyon at 2,700 meters (8,900 feet) above sea level, Zacatecas gets mighty chilly on winter evenings. This lively city has plenty of great museums and lovely baroque churches made of locally quarried pink sandstone.

Zihuatanejo: A friendly fishing town on a beautiful, horseshoe-shaped bay, with easy access to the mini-resort of Ixtapa