The Best Places to Retire in Mexico for Expats in 2023

For Americans or Europeans, These Are The Best Places in Mexico to Retire

According to data from the Immigration Policy Unit of the Secretariat for Home Affairs (SEGOB), the number of Americans residing in Mexico increased by 69.9% in 2022 compared to 2019, the year before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

If we consider the total US citizen entrances to Mexico, the number is even more significant: 215.9% according to the Mexican government.

These skyrocketing numbers contrast with the constant bad news we receive about violence and social  turmoil in Mexico.

So, how is that possible?

The answer is simple: Mexico is not Venezuela, a completely collapsed country. There are violent and problematic areas in Mexico (see more below), but there are also cities and entire regions with safety levels superior to the US and comparable to Europe (we also disclose them below).

Moving Out, Working Abroad and Keeping Your Sanity Cover
Recommended book: Moving Out, Working Abroad, and Keeping Your Sanity

The fact that the country is listed in the seven premier Spanish-speaking countries to visit to is not surprising. You can have an idyllic life in a sierra or beach town for a low cost of living and healthcare prices that are a tiny fraction of what they are in the US (and yes, Mexicans have decent private healthcare institutions in every big city). 

So this raises the question: while thousands of Americans, Western Europeans and even Russians  chose this that is one of the most beautiful and visited countries in the world (and also one of the best places for family holidays), which cities are the best for expat retirees?

To answer that, as in our previous article about the best places to retire in Portugal, we will resort to our archetypes: Mary, Robert, Linda, Thomas, Patricia, Susan, and John.

Ilustration of the Mexican map and a beach for article about The Best Places to Retire in Mexico for Expats in 2023

Ps: Before deciding to move to any country, visit it first, at least a couple of times in different seasons. As travel insurance for visiting Mexico (and any country in Latin America), we recommend Ekta.

The 4 Expatriate Archetypes That Would Enjoy Retiring in Mexico (You might be one of them)

  1. The Peace Seekers
    • Persona: Mary and Robert, both 70, retired teachers
    • Mary and Robert are a retired couple who have spent their lives teaching in busy, urban schools. Now they’re looking for a peaceful and quiet place to relax and enjoy their retirement.
    • They’re attracted to the calm and serene less-known coastal cities of Mexico, or even consider living in the countryside, where they can enjoy nature, read books, and take long walks. They’re particularly interested in small towns or villages, where they can become part of a close-knit community.
  2. The Sun Lovers
    • Persona: Linda, 68, retired nurse
    • Linda is a widowed retired nurse who loves the sun and the beach.
    • She’s looking to move to a coastal town where she can enjoy the warm weather and beautiful beaches. She’s interested in outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, and sailing. She’s also looking forward to enjoying fresh seafood, local cuisine, and socializing.
  3. The Urban Couple
    • Persona: Thomas and Patricia, 69 and 67, retired engineers
    • Thomas and Patricia are a couple who have spent their careers as engineers in a bustling metropolis. They’re looking for a retirement destination that offers the same level of connectivity and infrastructure they’re used to.
    • They’re attracted to larger cities, which offer excellent transport links, including international airports, ports (so they can visit the rest of their family in the country where they are from), and well-maintained highways.
    • Being health-conscious, they also want to be near top-notch healthcare facilities. Despite their love for city life, they also enjoy the occasional quiet retreat, so proximity to parks or natural reserves is a plus.
  4. The Active Woman and the Pub Fellow
    • Persona: Susan, 67, a former businesswoman, and John, 65, retired from a successful career in marketing. 
    • Susan is looking for an active retirement but also wants a place close to an airport so she can frequently travel to her home country to visit the rest of her family. She’s interested in moving to a city where she can engage in various activities like yoga classes, cycling, and golf. She’s also looking forward to exploring local markets, trying new foods, and attending local festivals and events.
    • John is looking to move to a vibrant city where he can immerse himself in the local culture, enjoy the nightlife, and make new friends. He’s particularly interested in learning Spanish and joining local clubs or societies where he can meet like-minded individuals.

The Best Places to Retire in Mexico, from Lake Chapala to Playa del Carmen

Ensenada, Baja California: Good for both The Peace Seekers and the Sun Lovers

Living costs in Ensenada are 72.9% lower than in New York, NY and housing prices in Ensenada are 88.3% lower than in New York, according to Numbeo.

Opening our list of the best places to retire in Mexico is Ensenada, located in Baja California. It is a coastal city that offers a peaceful and serene environment, perfect for retirees like Mary and Robert. Known for its warm climate, beautiful beaches, and excellent seafood, Ensenada offers a variety of outdoor activities, including surfing, fishing, and whale watching.

The city is also home to the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s premier wine region, where they can enjoy peaceful vineyard tours and wine tastings. The cost of living in Ensenada is relatively low, making it an affordable option for retirees. The city has a small but growing expat community, providing a sense of community for those living far from home.

Playas de Baja California, Ensenada.

Closest International Airport to Ensenada

The closest international airport to Ensenada is the Tijuana International Airport, which is approximately 108 kilometers away. This airport offers flights to several major cities in the United States, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. It also offers flights to Shanghai in China, making it a convenient option for international travel.

San Miguel de Allende: The Pleasant Spot for The Active Woman and the Pub Fellow

Prices in San Miguel de Allende are 64.4% lower than in New York (sourced from Numbeo).

San Miguel de Allende is a charming colonial city located in the central highlands of Mexico. It’s known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, vibrant arts scene, and pleasant climate. The city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is filled with cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and beautiful churches.

For Susan, the city offers a variety of activities, from yoga classes to cycling, and for John, the city’s vibrant nightlife and cultural events provide ample opportunities for socializing and immersing himself in the local culture. San Miguel de Allende also offers a high quality of life at a reasonable cost. The city has a large and welcoming expat community, making it easy for newcomers to make friends and integrate into the local culture.

San Miguel de Allende, one of the best places to retire in Mexico

Closest International Airport to San Miguel de Allende

The nearest international airport to San Miguel de Allende is the Guanajuato International Airport, located about 77 kilometers away. This airport provides flights to several major cities in the United States, including Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles. It also has flights to Cancun, Mexico, and Madrid, Spain, providing retirees with a variety of travel options.

Playa del Carmen: The Favorite of The Sun Lovers

Living costs including rent in Playa del Carmen are 65.3% lower than in New York, NY, according to the Numbeo comparison.

Playa del Carmen, located in the Riviera Maya, is a popular retirement destination for sun lovers like Linda. The city is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant nightlife. Linda can enjoy a range of outdoor activities from diving and snorkeling to exploring ancient Mayan ruins.

Playa del Carmen also has a thriving expat community and a cost of living that is lower than many U.S. cities. The city’s Fifth Avenue, or “La Quinta,” is a pedestrian walkway lined with shops, restaurants, and bars, providing endless entertainment options.

Playa Del Carmen Tourist District, Mayan Riviera, Mexico Shops, Restaurants

Closest International Airport to Playa del Carmen

The Cancun International Airport, located about 55 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, is the second busiest airport in Mexico. It offers flights to numerous major cities in the United States, including Miami, New York, and Los Angeles. Additionally, it provides flights to London, England, making it a convenient option for international travel.

Puerto Vallarta: Another Great Spot for Linda

Living costs including rent in Puerto Vallarta are 65.4% lower than in New York, NY

Puerto Vallarta is another great option for sun lovers like Linda. This resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast is known for its beautiful beaches, water sports, and nightlife scene. The city’s Malecón, a beachside promenade, is home to contemporary sculptures, boutique shops, bustling nightclubs, and restaurants serving up local and international cuisine.

Puerto Vallarta also offers a range of affordable housing options, from luxury villas to more modest apartments. The city has a large and active expat community, and English is widely spoken, making it an easy transition for American retirees.

Puerto Vallarta, one of the best places to retire in Mexico

Closest International Airport to Puerto Vallarta

The Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport is conveniently located just 7.5 kilometers from the center of Puerto Vallarta. It offers flights to several major cities in the United States, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. Additionally, it provides flights to Guadalajara, Mexico, and Calgary, Canada.

Lake Chapala: Peace Seekers like Mary and Robert Will Find Their Place Here

Living costs including rent in Guadalajara (the big large city to Lake Chapala) are 68.9% lower than in New York, NY

Lake Chapala, located in the state of Jalisco, is Mexico’s largest freshwater lake and a popular retirement destination for peace seekers like Mary and Robert. The area is known for its mild climate, beautiful scenery, and vibrant expat community.

The towns around the lake, such as Chapala and Ajijic, offer a relaxed lifestyle with plenty of amenities, including restaurants, shops, and healthcare facilities. The cost of living is also relatively low, making it an affordable option for retirees.

Not far from Lake Chapala is Guadalajara, one of the safest large cities in Mexico and with excellent private healthcare infrastructure.

Picture of a park in Guadalajara for an article about how safe is the city.

Closest International Airport to Lake Chapala

The closest international airport to Lake Chapala is the Guadalajara International Airport, which is approximately 31 kilometers away. This airport offers flights to several major cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston. It also offers flights to Panama City, Panama, providing retirees with a variety of travel options.

San Pedro Garza Garcia: An Upscale Destination for the Urban Couple

Living costs including rent in San Pedro Garza Garcia are 56.4% lower than in New York, NY.

Closing our list of the best places to retire in Mexico is San Pedro Garza Garcia, located in the state of Nuevo Leon. It is one of the wealthiest municipalities in Mexico. The city is known for its high quality of life, modern infrastructure, and excellent services, making it an ideal location for urban couples like Thomas and Patricia. San Pedro Garza Garcia offers a range of amenities, including upscale restaurants, shopping centers, and cultural venues.

The city also has a number of parks and green spaces, providing plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. While the cost of living is higher compared to other Mexican cities, many retirees find it worth the additional expense for the lifestyle it offers. The city’s proximity to Monterrey, the state capital, also ensures easy access to top-notch healthcare facilities and an international airport.

Closest International Airport to San Pedro Garza Garcia

The General Mariano Escobedo International Airport, located about 35 kilometers from San Pedro Garza Garcia, offers flights to several major cities in the United States, including Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta. It also provides flights to Madrid, Spain, making it a convenient option for international travel.

Book: Budget Travelers, Digital Nomads & Expats: The Ultimate Guide: 50 Tips, Tricks, Hacks, and Ways to Free Stuff & Cheaper Flights
Recommended book: Budget Travelers, Digital Nomads & Expats: The Ultimate Guide: 50 Tips, Tricks, Hacks, and Ways to Free Stuff & Cheaper Flights

Is it Cheap to Retire in Mexico?

Yes, it is generally cheaper to retire in Mexico than in the United States or Canada. The cost of living is significantly lower, including housing, healthcare, and everyday expenses. However, it’s important to note that costs can vary depending on the region and lifestyle choices.

Check the price comparisons we made above of each one of the places to live in Mexico we listed vs New York. Even expensive cities like San Pedro Garza Garcia are more than 50% cheaper than cities like New York. It is a bargain.

Where Do Most Americans Retire in Mexico (and Why Mexico City is so Popular?)

Most US citizens who obtained a new residence card chose to live in three territories: Mexico City (3,518 people), Jalisco (3,427 people), and Quintana Roo (2,411 people). These three areas represent 48.92% of the total.

In the numbers above are included not only retirees, but also young professionals (what explains Mexico City’s large numbers).

If we talk only about american retirees, often they choose to settle in calmer places like Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende. These areas have significant communities of American, Canadian and European expats, making it easier for newcomers to integrate.

What are the Most Dangerous Cities in Mexico?

First of all, don’t worry: none of the cities mentioned here are among the most violent in Mexico. As a matter of fact, many of them are among the best cities for anyone looking for tranquility. 

Cities like Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez, marked by gang violence, are far away, and they are the ones placing Mexico as one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America and the world.

San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala are considered some of the safest places in the country. As always, it’s important to stay informed about local safety conditions and take necessary precautions.

We wrote an entire article explaining the most violent cities in Mexico, which I am sure you will find very interesting.

Conclusion: Retire to Mexico on a Budget (But With Class) And How To Find the Best Places for Expats

Retiring in Mexico offers a wealth of opportunities for those seeking a change of pace, a lower cost of living, and a chance to immerse themselves in a rich and diverse culture. From the Sierra Madre Mountains to the small beach towns of Baja California, Mexico is a country of contrasts, offering something for everyone.

The historic cities of San Miguel de Allende and San Pedro Garza Garcia, both listed among the 10 best places to retire, offer a blend of old-world charm and modern amenities. These cities, surrounded by mountains and steeped in history, offer a unique retirement experience that combines the best of both worlds.

The country’s best retirement communities are found in regions such as Lake Chapala, known as the largest freshwater lake in Mexico, and the state of Baja California, home to some of the cheapest places to retire. These communities offer a relaxed lifestyle, a warm climate, and a welcoming atmosphere for American and Canadian retirees.

No matter if you’re looking to retire abroad in Mexico or planning to relocate, the country offers a range of affordable places to live. From the cosmopolitan city of San Pedro Garza Garcia to the small beach town of Ensenada, Mexico is a popular retirement destination that caters to a variety of lifestyles and preferences.

Mexico is not only a country of beautiful cities and stunning landscapes, but it’s also a place that welcomes retirees with open arms. With its affordable cost of living, high quality of life, and friendly communities, it’s no wonder that Mexico is considered one of the best places to retire in the world. Whether you’re a peace seeker, a sun lover, an urban couple, or an active retiree, Mexico has a lot to offer.

So, if you’re planning to retire abroad, why not consider Mexico as your new home?


If you enjoyed this article about the best places to retire in Mexico, here are a few other reading suggestions for you:

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Levi Borba is the founder of The Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transactions.

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