The Yucatan borders the Caribbean Sea, and a fairly famous stretch runs from Cancun south to Tulum and includes popular Playa del Carmen and Akumal. Branded the "Riviera Maya," the famous sugar-sand beaches rank among the most highly sought-after vacation destinations.
"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 of International Living magazine. "Mexico offers a six-month tourist visa, which makes part-time living in the sun simple since there aren't lots of immigration hoops to jump through. 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 Riviera Maya is a mostly undeveloped stretch of stunning, isolated beach called Costa Maya. This area makes sense for those who have a pioneering spirit and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, such as fishermen, divers and those who love warm weather, palm trees and silky sand.
Whether it's Riviera Maya or Costa Maya, Mexico's Caribbean offers at least a dozen smart options, each with its own character -- but all of them deliver low-cost, good-value living with a backdrop of sun and sand.
Check out these half-dozen marvelous and inexpensive options for living on Mexico's Caribbean coast, via InternationalLiving.com.
Akumal is a small town, best known for the migrating sea turtles that visit every year to lay eggs along the shore. Akumal is a beach-lover's paradise, perfect for anyone who enjoys relaxing with their toes in the sand and an adult beverage in hand. There is also a significant expat community.
This small village has five gorgeous white-sand beaches along the Caribbean Sea -- adorned with plenty of majestic coconut palm trees. Akumal's temperature averages in the 80s, with the hottest summer days climbing into the mid-90s.
Until the past few years, Akumal, about an hour south of Playa del Carmen, was often a day trip for a small number of vacationers who were staying in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. These days, Akumal has grown in popularity and is emerging as a primary destination. In fact, sizable real estate developments (one with a 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
For decades, Tulum was known as a backpackers' haven. While the bulk of tourists stayed in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Tulum's low-key and idyllic environment attracted a younger set of travelers who liked the town's more casual vibe and inexpensive, palapa-style hotels and restaurants.
How times have changed!
Today, Tulum has gone upscale. Many of the bohemian types who gave Playa del Carmen its vibe have moved south to Tulum, opening restaurants, shops and boutique hotels. 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 -- Tulum offers a Caribbean lifestyle without the need to travel to and from an island. Residents enjoy warm Caribbean waters, a magnificent beach and an offshore reef that 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 Tulum as a high-end, exclusive destination, but the ambience is still inviting to North Americans who want to retire to paradise.
On a budget of $3,175 a month, including rent, a retired couple could live quite comfortably in Tulum.
Playa Del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is located midway between resort-filled Cancun and Tulum. It's a happy medium when compared with those two extremes, and Playa del Carmen is a favorite for those seeking to live an active retirement in an atmosphere that is sophisticated yet laid back.
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, cafes and restaurants serving 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. People from a wide variety of nationalities call Playa del Carmen home. 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 all year, which makes it especially nice in winter, during which snowbirds descend upon the town.
A couple can enjoy a comfortable retirement in Playa del Carmen, including rent, for around $2,180 a month.
Cozumel is a perfect blend of laidback island life with tons of activities. Here, you can easily blend relaxation with active pursuits. 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, within the world's second-largest reef system, situated just offshore.
Clear waters make it easy to spot sea turtles, rays and colorful clown fish. You can even make arrangements to swim with giant whale sharks.
Sitting only 12 miles offshore from Playa del Carmen, about an hour south of Cancun, Cozumel is about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. But this small space has a lot packed into it. With more than 300 restaurants, you can have your pick of delicious international cuisine.
The bulk of Cozumel's population calls the city of San Miguel home. There is a busy malecon, or main road, running along the shoreline near the ferry terminal and cruise ship docks. Arriving by boat, you'll find dozens 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. You'll also note luxury condo buildings that line the horizon, offering contemporary amenities.
A couple can enjoy a comfortable retirement here, including rent, for less than $1,900 a month.
As you head south from Cancun, past the mega-resorts, the first town of any substantial size is Puerto Morelos. Just 18 miles south of Cancun, Puerto Morelos retains 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 your place. (Some say Puerto Morelos is like Playa del Carmen in the "early days.")
People of all nationalities meander are spotted along the small malecon. Restaurants are plentiful and offer fresh seafood. There are usually food carts present, allowing you to indulge in street food. The old lighthouse provides a perfect backdrop for photos. Puerto Morelos has clearly been discovered, but it remains a charming and beautiful Mexican town.
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. The seafood is as good as it gets, and the guacamole and margaritas are always perfect.
This destination represents the affordable Caribbean. A couple could live well here on $1,190 to $1,700 a month.
Isla (as residents call it) is tiny. About 4.5 miles long and half a mile wide, it's much smaller than Cozumel. Some 13,000 people call this tiny Caribbean gem their home.
Lying about eight miles off Cancun, 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 Cancun residents regularly pack lunches and beach gear for day trips to this idyllic retreat, it retains much of the charm and "get-away-from-it-all" vibe from decades ago.
Even the tourist shops, restaurants and bars lining both sides of the main street 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. You'll see scooters everywhere on Cozumel, but golf carts are the vehicle of choice on Isla. From the streets, golf cart rentals beckon with cardboard signs showing 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.
Article courtesy of International Living magazine.
Where will you retire? Do any of these great Mexico destinations entice you? Let us know in the comments below.
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