Considering an Overseas Move? Here Are Mexico’s 5 Best Places for U.S. Expats


Thinking of moving abroad can be both exciting and unsettling. While another country promises new experiences, it also means leaving familiar comforts behind. As a neighbor to the south, Mexico is one option that offers American expats a blend of cultures along with affordability and beauty. Its varied landscapes span from beach towns to bustling cities.

If you’re considering taking the plunge, here are five of Mexico’s top destinations for expat settlers. One of them may just feel like the perfect new home-away-from-home.

1. Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen, also known simply as Playa, stands as a prominent resort town nestled along the sandy beaches of the Mexican Caribbean in the Yucatan’s Riviera. 

Renowned for its stunning coral reef, natural swimming caves called ‘cenotes,’ vibrant nightlife, and diverse culinary scene, Playa del Carmen has become an all-time favorite Caribbean destination in Mexico.

The climate in Playa is consistently sub-tropical, featuring distinct rainy and dry seasons. Despite its small size, the town offers all the amenities one would expect from a larger urban center. The bustling 5th Avenue, locally known as ‘La Quinta,’ runs parallel to the beach, housing a plethora of shopping options and hypermarkets. Additionally, large shopping malls are scattered throughout different parts of Playa.

Engaging in local community activities is common, with opportunities ranging from environmental beach clean-ups to poker-playing groups and meetups catering to retirees. It is ideal for forging new connections and gaining insights into the local community. 

A growing expat community, consisting mainly of digital nomads and retirees, has taken root in Playa, complemented by a mix of European, U.S., and Canadian tourists.

The city’s flat and walkable layout makes it conducive to maintaining an active lifestyle. 

While December, January, and Semana Santa (Holy Week) are particularly bustling periods, Playa del Carmen accommodates both high-end rentals and older-style apartments and houses. 

The exclusive Playacar area, featuring gated communities and higher rental or sale prices, contrasts with the more affordable Anemonas Playacar. This quieter residential zone has budget-friendly rental options and houses for sale.

The downtown area, prized for its proximity to the beach and amenities, may offer older-style properties with higher rent. Popular attractions like the Xcaret amusement park and scuba diving off Cozumel Island draw expats and tourists alike.

The main street along the beach is a hub of lively restaurants offering a variety of world cuisines, along with nightclubs, bars, and cafes. Particularly vibrant on weekends, the area sees a mix of locals, tourists, and expats. However, it’s worth noting that downtown Playa, especially near 12th Street, may be noisy in terms of property.

Playa del Carmen

2. Los Cabos

Nestled in a breathtaking locale, Los Cabos stands out as one of the safest and economically competitive cities in Mexico, making it an ideal haven for expatriates. 

According to Del Mar, the allure of this destination extends beyond its safety and economic advantages, drawing people in with its diverse landscape. 

Los Cabos boasts miles of sandy beaches, striking desert panoramas, and the stunning Sierra de la Laguna mountain range, designated as a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve.

Experts in luxury real estate in Cabo highlight the community of El Tezal in Cabo San Lucas as a favored neighborhood. Situated conveniently close to downtown, El Tezal offers coveted bay views from a substantial number of properties. 

The abundance of services in the vicinity eliminates the necessity of venturing downtown, making it a highly desirable aspect of this community. Unsurprisingly, El Tezal is experiencing a surge in new developments and opportunities, further enhancing its appeal for those seeking an idyllic living experience in Los Cabos.

Los Cabos

3. San Miguel de Allende 

San Miguel de Allende stands out as a Spanish colonial gem adorned in pastel hues. 

Renowned for its captivating arts-and-crafts tradition, the town boasts many small shops where one can easily spend hours marveling at and acquiring various treasures. They include pottery, paintings, sculptures, hammered tin mirrors, lamps, and more. San Miguel is a haven for art enthusiasts, featuring numerous galleries, restaurants, and picturesque plazas.

Like Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel has become a melting pot for expatriates hailing from diverse corners of the world. In this welcoming town, one can navigate daily life in English or opt for the charm of speaking Spanish. Notably, the local etiquette often sees conversations continuing in Spanish if initiated in the language, providing a cultural touch.

 The allure of San Miguel extends to its high-desert climate, characterized by warm days and cool nights throughout most of the year. With an estimated 10,000 expats among the 140,000 residents in the metropolitan area, the town has become a preferred destination for North Americans seeking a vibrant and comfortable lifestyle.

While San Miguel lacks an international airport, the region has convenient options. Travelers can choose from León, located approximately two hours away, or Querétaro, which is just an hour’s drive. Alternatively, those arriving in Mexico City, three hours away, can opt for a bus journey to reach the enchanting town of San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende

4. Tulum

At the southern end of Mexico’s renowned Riviera Maya, Tulum emerges as a charming and burgeoning resort town with a distinctive bohemian vibe. The community, marked by abundant yoga practitioners and therapeutic massage businesses, maintains its roots as a haven for backpackers. 

Many feel a tangible connection to the ancient Maya culture that once thrived in this region over 1,000 years ago. The nearby archaeological site, sharing the town’s name, stands as an impressive testament to the grandeur of this once-dominant civilization. It offers a glimpse into its bustling trade and cultural significance during the 13th to 15th centuries.

Tulum town, divided by the coastal highway, is near the inviting sands and warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. Located approximately 80 miles and two hours south of Cancún, Tulum has transitioned from a hidden gem to a rapidly developing destination. The construction of homes and condos is rising, catering to those eager to secure their piece of paradise.

Living in the central town area eliminates the need for car ownership, as walking and bicycling are popular modes of transport. The streets often see as many bicycles as motorized vehicles, and motor scooters offer an alternative for those who prefer not to pedal around town.

Tulum’s reputation as an exceptional vacation spot and a growing expat community is well-founded. With a tropical climate and average temperatures in the 80s Fahrenheit, Tulum provides a Caribbean lifestyle without traveling to and from an island. 

Residents revel in the warm, turquoise waters of the Caribbean, pristine beaches, and an offshore reef that beckons enthusiasts of fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling.

As new, modern homes and condos emerge, Tulum’s population has surpassed 40,000 and is on a constant upward trajectory. More individuals are drawn to the town, seeking an affordable Caribbean lifestyle slightly off the beaten path.


5. Lake Chapala

Situated in the heart of Mexico’s Jalisco state, this place stands out as the most popular destination for expatriate retirees, offering a blend of basic amenities, local markets, and golf courses. Comprising numerous charming villages with distinct appeal, Lake Chapala epitomizes a delightful mix of natural beauty and laid-back comfort.

While Chapala holds the distinction of being the largest town on the lake, it is Ajijic, the second largest, that serves as the preferred residence for many expats. The region’s serene atmosphere and pleasant weather are irresistible magnets for those seeking a tranquil lifestyle.

Boasting a robust expat community, the Lake Chapala municipality is home to approximately 55,000 residents, meeting the evolving needs of expatriates with modern amenities such as a world-class hospital and assisted living homes. This diverse community comprises individuals from America, South America, England, and Mexico.

Lake Chapala also attracts “snowbirds” looking to escape harsh winters, further contributing to its dynamic population. The welcoming local community fosters a sense of belonging for expats, and numerous clubs and events cater to various interests. For those desiring a change from the serene life by the lake, Guadalajara’s vibrant city is conveniently a 30-minute drive away.

Contemplating a move abroad can be both intimidating and thrilling. Mexico presents a mosaic of possibilities for American expatriates, combining cultural diversity with cost-effectiveness. 

From the captivating charm of Playa del Carmen to the peaceful vistas of Lake Chapala, each location showcases its distinctive way of life. Whether it’s the lively artistic community in San Miguel de Allende or the peaceful ambiance of Tulum, these five destinations entice the promise of a new, welcoming home.

Lake Chapala

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