Mexico is probably one of the most popular destinations for North American expats or retirees. And it is not just because it is close from home: the country offers a great weather, good medical care, splendid beaches etc. No surprise that more than one million Americans currently live there. This figure could increase significantly, especially given the current exchange rate USD-Mexican peso (jan 2017).

If you’re reading this article it means that you’ve probably decided to settle down in Mexico as well but still need to make your mind regarding the city/region. Here is a little guide to help you chose where you’ll potentially buy a house in Mexico.

This ranking is totally subjective, and yours might be totally different. This is why it is followed by pros and cons.

  • Lago Chapala
  • Ensenada
  • San Miguel de Allende
  • Guadalajara
  • Mérida
  • Riviera Maya (between Cancun and Tulum)
  • Mazatlan
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Puerto Peñasco
  • Guanajuato

The first choice you’ll have to make is whether you want to live by the sea or not. I agree, this is a tough one! This is how we’ll divide the list so that if you’ve already make your mind you can go directly to the section that interests you.

Buy a house by the sea

Ensanada (West coast, Baja California)

Small family town close to the US border (1 hour). Perfect for transitioning. The temperature is quite stable over the year: from 60 to 80F.


  • Close to the US
  • Cheap
  • Family friendly


  • Closest airports are quite far, 1-hour drive for Tijuana and 1h30 for San Diego (plus 1 to 3 hours to cross the border)
  • Not “real” Mexican culture, if you’re looking for a true Mexican experience, forget about Ensenada.

Riviera Maya (East coast)

Riviera Maya is not a city per say but a stretch of the Caribbean coastline between Cancun and Tulum, including Playa del Carmen. Probably one the most popular destinations for tourists, retirees and expats in the country.


  • Among the most beautiful beaches of the country
  • International airport in Cancun
  • Good medical infrastructures


  • Higher cost of living than in other areas of the country
  • Not so exotic: you’ll find Wal-marts, Costcos etc.
  • Tropical climate, it gets very hot between June and September

Mazatlán (West coast)

Mazatlan used to be a popular resort in the 70s and 80s. After being forgotten for a while, it is getting busy again.


  • Inexpensive
  • 20 miles of beaches and boardwalk
  • City’s historic center


  • Temperatures can reach 90°F in the summer
  • Not much animation

Puerto Vallarta (West coast)

It is one of Mexico’s most popular resort since the 60s and a heaven for expats.


  • Many activities
  • Great ocean views
  • International airport


  • Prices are higher than elsewhere in the country
  • Forget it if you’re looking for some tranquillity

Puerto Peñasco (East coast)

This resort is quite popular among North Americans as it is situated 1-hour drive from the US border. Perfect if you plan is to buy a vacation home or if you want to make a smooth transition from the US to Mexico.


  • Warm weather
  • Beautiful beaches
  • Low housing prices


  • Close to the US
  • Many tourists

Buy a house beyond the sea

Lago Chapala

For a long time, the North American living there were all retirees. It has changed a lot in the last 10 years, with families and entrepreneurs moving there. Despite from concentrating one of the biggest North Americans community in Mexico, Lago Chapala doesn’t feel as “americanized’ as other popular destinations in the country.


  • Climate, according to National Geographic, the area has the 2nd best climate in the world.
  • Affordable and top-notch medical care
  • Many infrastructures and modern amenities
  • Close to Guadalajara, Mexico’s 2nd largest city (40 minutes from the city and 25 from the airport)


  • Altitude, situated at a mile high, it can be a problem for those suffering from respiratory illnesses.
  • Small villages, if you are looking for big city feel, forget about Lake Chapala
  • Few business opportunities

San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende, or SMA, is probably one of the most classy place to live in the country. Perfect if you are into arts, music, gastronomy. Some compare the city to a college campus, with constant social and cultural activities.


  • Beautiful colonial city
  • English spoken everywhere
  • Cultural and social life


  • Mexico City airport is 3-hour drive away (Consider arriving at Queretaro 45′ or Leon 90′)
  • Nothing to do within an hour away


  • Mérida is an old colonial and charming city situated in the Yucatan jungle. Needless to say that you must love hot weather and humidity to live there.


  • Low prices
  • Excellent amenities, international airport
  • Less expats than in Puerto Vallarta or San Miguel


  • Climate
  • Quite a big city: 1 million inhabitants
  • Flights can be expensive, you might consider traveling from Cancun (4-hour drive from Mérida)


Guanajuato is a colonial city much more authentic than San Miguel de Allende. The expat community is still small.


  • Beautiful architecture
  • Many cultural activities
  • Cheap


  • Mexico City airport is 3-hour drive away (Consider arriving at Queretaro 45′ or Leon 90′)
  • Climate: extreme temperatures


2nd largest city in the country


  • Weather
  • City life


  • More and more expensive
  • Language barrier

I hope this guide has been useful to you. One last thing that you need to anticipate if you consider investing in Mexico is how you will be dealing with your money transfers. You can check the free money transfer comparison tool from CurrencyLive to help you find the best rates for your money transfers to Mexico. It is important that you do some research and compare your options to make sure you find the most cost-effective methods. is a news site only and not a currency trading platform. is a site operated by TransferWise Inc. (“We”, “Us”), a Delaware Corporation. We do not guarantee that the website will operate in an uninterrupted or error-free manner or is free of viruses or other harmful components. The content on our site is provided for general information only and is not intended as an exhaustive treatment of its subject. We expressly disclaim any contractual or fiduciary relationship with you on the basis of the content of our site, any you may not rely thereon for any purpose. You should consult with qualified professionals or specialists before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content on our site. Although we make reasonable efforts to update the information on our site, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content on our site is accurate, complete or up to date, and DISCLAIM ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. Some of the content posted on this site has been commissioned by Us, but is the work of independent contractors. These contractors are not employees, workers, agents or partners of TransferWise and they do not hold themselves out as one. The information and content posted by these independent contractors have not been verified or approved by Us. The views expressed by these independent contractors on do not represent our views.