A Welcoming, English-Speaking Expat Community On The Sea
From Ecuador to Uruguay to Colombia, Latin America Correspondent Lee Harrison has been living south of the border since 2001. So smitten with his latest adopted home of Mazatlán, Mexico—where he’s been based for the past four years—Lee claims it represents one of the best lifestyles he’s found in his broad experience living overseas.
Today I’d like to share some of his thoughts on this dynamic city on Mexico’s Pacific coast…
Mazatlán: Mexico’s Best Colonial City On The Sea
By Lee Harrison
Mazatlán offers the best beachfront lifestyle you’ll find in Mexico… maybe the best you’ll find anywhere.
It boasts over 10 miles of sandy beaches, which vary from bustling and energetic stretches conveniently near town, to sections of isolated shoreline where you can get away from it all. The beaches are accessible and can be enjoyed from the wide, new boardwalk, which is 5 miles long.
But what sets this city apart is its Spanish-colonial historic center. Having a colonial city on the beach is what drew me to Mazatlán, and over the past 10 years, the historic center has become a major source of pride for those who live here.
Best of all, both the beach and colonial lifestyles offer countless options for fine dining, quiet coffee shops, energetic and friendly bars… as well as a dynamic and active real estate market.
Here are a few more benefits I enjoy in Mazatlán…
- A large and diverse expat community that will help you feel at home.
- Properties are inexpensive compared to almost any beachfront world market. You’ll spend less in Mazatlán for seaside properties than you’ll spend in Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, or even Tulum.
- An active live music scene, which is a great way to enjoy time with your friends and neighbors.
- Classical music, theater, and art are a part of the local culture, generating activities that are popular with and well-attended by expats.
- You can “go local”… or not. Resort areas aside, Mazatlán is a “real” city of almost a half-million people. You can choose to be part of the American and Canadian community, speak mostly English, and ease your way into Mazatlán, aided by people who’ve come before you. Or you can live in an authentic Mexican environment, speak mostly Spanish, enjoy a lower cost of living, and immerse yourself in Mexico’s charming culture.
- From dining out to buying a property, you’ll find prices are amazing at today’s exchange rates. Whether it’s food, clothing, or a night out on the town, you won’t believe how little it costs to be here.
- Residency is easy for those who want to stick around long-term. I got my visa at the consulate in the States—using English documents—in less than 20 minutes.
- Taxes are negligible. I own a large, new condo of 228 square meters (2,450 square feet) on the waterfront at the edge of the historic center. My tax bill was US$104 for 2019.
- The Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Walmart, AutoZone… Mazatlán has an entire city full of local shops and Mexican supermarkets both large and small. But nothing beats a Walmart or The Home Depot for convenience.
- With frequent air service to the States and Canada and a safe highway all the way to the American border, it’s easy and convenient to get here.
- It feels like Mexico. Lots of places in Mexico have large, dominating expat communities that change the look and feel of the local environment. But in Mazatlán, you’ll see far more Mexican families on the street and boardwalk than you will expats from the north. Expats have an influence, but it’s still an overwhelmingly Mexican city.
One of the biggest benefits of living in Mazatlán is the low cost of living. At today’s favorable exchange rates, prices all over Mexico are a tremendous bargain.
Basic items for a couple in Mazatlán will cost you about 21,000 pesos (US$925 per month) if you own your own apartment and 27,000 pesos (about US$1,200) if you rent a house near the beach.
Basics aside, I’d allow about US$2,000 to enjoy the best of what Mazatlán has to offer if you own your residence and about US$2,400 if you don’t. I’m spending about US$2,000 here for two people.
Dinner for two in the best of the city’s fine dining establishments will cost about 1,200 pesos (US$63), including wine and the tip. A more casual restaurant on the water will run about 600 pesos (US$32) with drinks.
Mazatlán has a large and diverse expat community, and you’ll find them to be friendly and welcoming. Most of the expats are from Western Canada, with the States not far behind.
Virtually all expats I’ve met are good folks who are respectful of the local people and culture. The expat community is not overbearing on the local vibe, and Mazatlán remains primarily a Mexican-national destination.
For a large and welcoming English-speaking expat community, Mazatlán is perfect.
It’s unlikely that you’ll run into annoyances like crime or pickpocketing here… and you probably won’t be bothered by corruption. Mazatlán’s status as a tourist destination means customer service standards are high. Even the driving is courteous by Latin American standards.
In fact, you probably won’t even experience much of a culture shock, as Mexican culture is so familiar, and English is widely spoken. But there are a few things that you may not like…
Summers are hot. June through August, you may see highs in the mid-90s (35°C to 36°C), with humidity levels between 60% and 80%. If you’re on or near the ocean it’s more comfortable because of the breeze, but I still use the air conditioning at night. This is the time of year for visiting friends and family up north.
It can be noisy on the waterfront. In fact, it can be noisy anywhere, but you’ll get more noise if you’re on the waterfront road—particularly on the weekends—thanks to the people cruising with the windows down and the stereo up.
If you want to be a pioneer or the only American in town, Mazatlán isn’t the place for you… It was “discovered” before most of us were born. And if you’d like 12 months of spring-like weather, again, Mazatlán won’t fit the bill.
But if you’d enjoy brilliant weather for most of the year… a friendly, welcoming expat community… a beautifully restored Spanish-colonial center… miles of sandy beaches lined by one of the continent’s longest boardwalks… all within an easy distance from the States and Canada, then Mazatlán could well be right for you.
If you’d like to find out more about Mazatlán… and our other top picks for living and investing in Mexico… be sure to join Lee and the rest of our team of Mexico insiders for our fast-approaching Live and Invest in Mexico Virtual Conference.
As well as hearing from expats already living in their favorite corners of Mexico, our experts will give you the lowdown on your options for establishing residency… where to find the best health care (and your options for health insurance)… current real estate opportunities… and lots more.
It all takes place this July 15–17… and virtual seats are already filling up. We can only host a limited number of online guests for this once-a-year Mexico-focused event. So, if you’re considering Mexico in your overseas plans, I urge you to reserve your place without delay.