12 Best Spots to Retire on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast—Internationalliving.com

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For many, Mexico’s Caribbean Coast offers a touch of magic—fine white-sand beaches, necklaces of tall green palms, and warm neon-turquoise waters, all under clear blue skies. Add in the ease of accessibility, and it’s not surprising this stretch of coast on the Yucatán Peninsula is home to some of Mexico’s best-known resort areas, including Cancún and Cozumel. But, according to the editors at InternationalLiving.com, it’s not just vacationers who find this area a welcome retreat—they’ve identified 12 postcard-worthy locations on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast where retirees can live well for a fraction of the cost of living in the U.S. or Canada.

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"Mexico’s Caribbean Coast makes good sense as a retirement retreat—it’s close, relatively affordable, and simple to get to as flights to Cancun are frequent."

The eastern coast of Mexico, along the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, borders the warm, turquoise-green Caribbean Sea. A particularly well-known stretch runs from Cancun south to Tulum and includes popular Playa del Carmen and Akumal. Branded the “Riviera Maya,” the famous sugar-sand beaches here are the most popular vacation destination in the Caribbean basin.

“Mexico’s Caribbean Coast makes good sense as a retirement retreat—it’s close, relatively affordable, and simple to get to as flights to Cancun are frequent,” says Jennifer Stevens, Executive Editor, International Living. “Mexico offers a 6-month tourist visa—which makes part-time living in the sun simple since there aren’t lots of immigration hoops to jump through. And even full-time—Mexico offers straightforward visa options.

“And, of course, there’s the good-value cost of living. Expats report that on a budget from about $1,700 to $3,000 a month (depending on the spot), it’s possible to live quite comfortably day-to-day and enjoy all the benefits that come with life on Mexico’s Caribbean coast—a laidback pace, sunny skies, walks on the beach, sailing, snorkeling, fishing, turtle-saving, Mayan ruin exploration, and golf.”

South of the Riviera Maya is a mostly undeveloped stretch of stunning, isolated beach called the Costa Maya. The Costa Maya makes sense for those who have a pioneering spirit and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle…fishermen, divers, and those who love warm weather, palm trees, and silky sand.

Whether it’s the Riviera Maya or the Costa Maya, Mexico’s Caribbean offers at least a dozen smart options, each with its own character—but all of them delivering low-cost, good-value living with a backdrop of sun and sand.  

Read on to discover the best destinations for retirement on Mexico’s Caribbean coast

1. Akumal

Akumal is a small town, best known for the migrating sea turtles that visit every year to lay eggs along the shore. It’s a beach lover’s paradise, perfect for anyone who enjoys relaxing with their toes in the sand and an adult beverage in their hand. There is also a significant expat community.

This small village has five gorgeous white-sand beaches, liberally studded with majestic coconut palms and bathed by the warm, turquoise-green waters of the Caribbean Sea. Akumal’s temperature averages in the 80s F, with the hottest summer days climbing into the mid-90s F: perfect for a beachside or poolside cool-off with an ice-cold drink.

Until the last few years, Akumal, about an hour south of Playa del Carmen, was often a day trip for a small number of vacationers in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. These days, for better or worse, Akumal is no longer just a day trip but is emerging as a primary destination. In fact, sizeable real estate developments (one with its own championship golf course) have sprouted, encouraging investors and expat residents to make long-term commitments to the area.

A couple could live comfortably, including rent, in Akumal for $2,240 a month.

2. Tulum

For decades, while most tourists stayed farther north in Cancún and Playa del Carmen, Tulúm was a backpackers’ haven. The atmosphere in Tulúm was low-key, the tourists young and casual, and the town filled with inexpensive, palapa-style hotels and restaurants.

How times have changed. Today Tulúm has gone upscale. Many of the bohemian types who gave Playa its vibe have moved south to Tulúm, opening restaurants, shops, and boutique hotels. Today you can still find stands selling tacos and beans…but you can also indulge in gourmet meals, yoga sessions, and spa treatments.

Expats have discovered Tulum and have been moving down, in increasing numbers, for the past decade. Thousands of snowbirds have also claimed Tulum as their winter nesting place as they escape the cold weather up north.

With a tropical climate—temperatures averaging in the 80s F—Tulúm offers a Caribbean lifestyle without the need to travel to and from an island. Residents enjoy warm, turquoise Caribbean waters, a sparkling, perfect beach, and an offshore reef which provides plentiful opportunities for fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling.

Prices have risen accordingly (although there are still bargains to be found). Mexico’s government is positioning Tulúm as a high-end, exclusive destination…but the ambience is still inviting and low-key.

On a budget of $3,175 a month, including rent, a retired couple could live quite comfortably in Tulum.

3. Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen lies about midway between the all-inclusive resort hub of Cancún and the up-and-coming, low-key, and still somewhat bohemian destination of Tulum. It’s a happy medium between those two extremes and a favorite for those seeking to live an active retirement in an atmosphere that is sophisticated yet laidback at the same time. Casual dress and relaxed attitudes are the keys to living in Playa del Carmen.

The heart of Playa del Carmen is the famous Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue. It’s a miles-long pedestrian avenue lined with shops, boutiques, bars, cafés, and restaurants of every cuisine imaginable, from high-end to budget. It’s frequented by tourists in big numbers. But Quinta Avenida is also a favorite among expats for shopping and dining. Happy hours, group dinners, as well as parties at private homes, are main social activities. The place has energy. Among those living in Playa del Carmen is a wide variety of nationalities. Americans and Canadians are the biggest groups, with significant numbers of Italians, French, and Argentinians.

Retiring in Playa del Carmen is attractive for many reasons. There is warm weather year round, which makes it especially nice in winter. At that time, December to April, the city also plays host to snowbirds, winter residents who escape the cold part of the year by the beach.

A couple can enjoy a comfortable retirement in Playa del Carmen, including rent, for around $2,180 a month.

4. Cozumel

Cozumel is a perfect blend of laidback island life with tons of activities to enjoy. Here you can have as relaxed or active a retirement as you want. You can park yourself on a perfect stretch of white-sand beach for the day, listening to the waves as you read the latest best-seller, or don a snorkel to explore the Chinchorro Reef, the world’s second-largest reef system, just offshore. Clear waters make it easy to see (and photograph) sea turtles, rays, and colorful clown fish. You can even make arrangements to swim with giant whale sharks.

Lying only 12 miles offshore from Playa del Carmen, about an hour south of Cancún, Cozumel is about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. But this small space has a lot packed into it. With over 300 restaurants, delicious meals of all varieties are easy to find.

The bulk of Cozumel’s population calls the city of San Miguel home. There is a busy malecón, or main road, running along the shoreline near the ferry terminal and cruise ship docks. Arriving by boat, you’ll find a vast array of tourist-oriented shops, restaurants, and bars. A few blocks inland will put you into local neighborhoods, where small houses and apartments line the streets and groups of uniformed children walk to and from school. Raise your eyes and you’ll note luxury condo buildings along the horizon, offering all the contemporary amenities. 

A couple can enjoy a comfortable retirement here, including rent, for less than $1,900 a month.

5. Puerto Morelos

As you head south from Cancún, past the mega-resorts, including the massive Mayan Palace, the first town of any substantial size is Puerto Morelos. Just 18 miles south of Cancún, Puerto Morelos still retains some of its small-town, fishing-village charm. For those looking for an “in-between” spot that’s on the tourist map but not overrun, this might be a place to take a closer look. (Some people say Puerto Morelos is like Playa del Carmen in the early days.)

People of all nationalities meander along the small malecón taking photos. Restaurants are plentiful and the freshest seafood offerings are numerous. But there are usually a few food carts present, allowing you to sample some local street food. The old, leaning lighthouse provides the perfect backdrop for photos. And although it has clearly been discovered, Puerto Morelos remains the place you imagined it would be.

Dozens of small fishing boats bob at anchor, just offshore, as sea birds perch on the gunwales. The peaceful vibe almost demands that you awaken early to see the sunrise while walking barefoot on the beach, sipping champagne. The seafood is as good as it gets and the guacamole and margaritas are always perfect.

It’s the affordable Caribbean. A couple could live well here on $1,190 to $1,700 a month.

6. Isla Mujeres

Isla (as the locals call it) is tiny. About 4.5 miles long and half a mile wide, it’s much smaller than Cozumel. Some 13,000 residents now call this tiny Caribbean gem their home.

Lying about eight miles off Cancún, Isla provides the sense of independence cherished by island dwellers. But it’s also conveniently close to the mainland and big-city comforts. And although Isla has been discovered by international tourists, and Cancún locals regularly pack lunches and beach gear for day trips to this idyllic retreat, it still retains much of the charm and “get-away-from-it-all” vibe people come to islands to enjoy.

Even the tourist shops, restaurants, and bars lining both sides of the main street for a couple of blocks seem laidback and friendly. The smells of crispy fried fish, fresh-cut limes, hot tortillas, and French fries drift from doorways, pulling hungry patrons off the street as if for a taste. Scooters may be everywhere on Cozumel, but here golf carts are the vehicle of choice. From the streets, golf cart rentals beckon with cardboard signs proclaiming daily rental rates.

In terms of lifestyle, Isla has all the same tropical-island options as Cozumel. Diving, snorkeling, boating, and fishing are all possibilities, and paddle boarding is also popular.

A couple can live a nice life on Isla Mujeres for $2,500 to $3,000 a month, including rent.

The full report can be found, here: 12 Best Destinations to Retire on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast.

Editor's Note: Members of the media have permission to republish the article linked above once credit is given to Internationalliving.com.

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About International Living

Since 1979, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has more than 200 contributors traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment. 

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