(*Editor’s note: This post on why expats like Mazatlan was updated on May 17, 2022. The updates are indicated with *. Earth Vagabonds keeps in touch with several retirees who call Mazatlan their home.)
Of all the places we talk about going back to, Mazatlan, Mexico, comes up in my heart most often. I’m not alone. So many wonderful features bring expats to Mazatlan.
Expats decide to live in this seaside city for reasons like walkability, affordability, and a sense of community. Every year, Mazatlan ranks in top spots for retirement destinations in the world, including most recently in 2020.
We were surprised it was not named in the 2022 list for the ‘Best Places to Retire’ by International Living* – but we are also glad. Massive amounts of more retirees might wreck its authenticity.
We Earth Vagabonds lived in Mazatlan for two months (*2017), and we understand why this Mexican city attracts retirees.
What attracts expats to Mazatlan, Mexico
We first went to Mazatlan around 2006 on a week-long vacation from work. It’s changed a lot since then.
Mazatlan snagged top spots on retirement lists for the last few years in a row. And yet, it’s not as jammed with Americans and Canadians as other large Mexican cities, such as Puerto Vallarta. Mazatlan still feels more authentic – more ‘Mexican’ — for now. There is a sense of community among expats. The city itself also has many smaller communities throughout various neighborhoods.
We’ve kept in touch with expats in Mazatlan throughout the pandemic. Some are dear, dear friends we made when we lived there for two months in 2017. In fact, we keep in touch with Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans who call Mazatlan home.
Let’s now get to the specific ways this city looks so good to expats and retirees!
Fantastic city layout & planning
Mazatlan is a large, modern city — on a beach. The sandy shoreline goes for miles. And along most of those miles in the city limits is a fantastic malecon, or ocean walkway.
There are more people swimming for exercise each morning in this bay along the malecon than at any other stop in Mexico. The city even has a few public outdoor showers to rinse the salt and sand off after swims near the Fishermen monument. Women do yoga and jazzercise by the water in the early mornings, before the sun gets too hot.
The nine different sections of the malecon cited most often on all the sites I’ve read are: Puntilla (Ferry Pier), El Faro (Lighthouse), Centennial, Olas Altas (Downtown area), Claussen, Avenida del Mar, Shrimp – Chad, Chad – Cerritos, Cerritos – Nuevo Mazatlan.
Want to people watch on a Saturday or Sunday evening? Head to the Olas Atlas section of the malecon. Want to see where El Chapo was captured the second time? The building is right off the malecon on Avenida del Mar. Want to shop for souvenirs? There’s a wide variety around the length of the malecon. Want to get Starbucks, chicken wings, or pizza? Chain restaurants are up in the Golden Zone, if that’s your thing. Want more authenticity? Local restaurants are everywhere along the malecon.
Read the original Earth Vagabonds post on the malecon. It includes a map. Note: reconstruction was finished in 2020.
Affordable housing for expats in Mazatlan
For the two months we lived in Mazatlan, we were in one Airbnb rental. Because we booked it for a shoulder season, for two months, we got an incredible discount. We paid $18.50 a day for a two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment with a balcony on the malecon in the Paseo Claussen area.
There is no coastal city in the U.S. or many other countries where you can get that type of deal.
We know of other expats — Canadian and American — who have rented similar properties. Take Airbnb out of the mix and you can get a comparable rental for less if you shop around.
Buying property in any foreign country is not for us — but we know people who’ve done it in Mazatlan because they feel it’s a relatively safe investment. And they say they have no problem renting their units.
Good health care for expats in Mazatlan, Mexico
Good medical care — in English — is another reason Mazatlan attracts expats from the U.S.A. and Canada.
Many transplants see “Dr. Paty” for dental work. She and her staff speak fluent English. I saw her, and found her to be an honest dentist, unwilling to do unnecessary drilling. There are many other talented dentists expats visit who also speak English, as well.
My personal experience also included an annual gynecologist visit. Not only did the young doctor speak fluent English, but Dr. Didilia Bejarano was highly responsive by text message.
Based on those two highly positive experiences during the two months we lived in Mazatlan in late 2017, it is likely good to great health care in other areas can be found in this seaside metropolis.
Not only that — but the prices were downright reasonable when compared to U.S prices.
Like most Mexican cities, Mazatlan has a good transportation system of public buses. The routes are logical, and buses that run the length of the malecon are air conditioned. Bus fare depends on where you go, of course, but to give you an idea, I went from the Paseo Claussen area on the malecon to the center of the Golden Zone, and back, for $1.25 (one person).
Pulmonias are an option, too. These are taxis that look more like golf carts. They mostly cater to tourists, but sometimes it’s fun to ride. From the Paseo Claussen section of the malecon, into downtown on a pulmonia cost $4 for two people.
Tip: to save money on transportation, buy a used bicycle! Earth Vagabonds do that frequently when they slow travel at a location for a month or more.
Pacific League baseball is in Mazatlan for those times when you just want to watch a baseball game from the stands. And the Venados de Mazatlan (Deer of Mazatlan) know how to put on a good show around their games! They’re good, too – their last championship was in 2016.
This gives a feeling of “home” for expats who might be nostalgic for home and need a little help in adjusting to expat life in Mexico.
Read more about Venados de Mazatlan in the original Earth Vagabonds post. Note: construction is finished as of 2020.
Seafood like you’ve (probably) never had…
We have traveled the world — including Southeast Asia where seafood is cheap. But nowhere else on Earth (yet) have we seen the kinds of deals offered by the Mazatlan Shrimp Ladies.
There are giant shrimping boats off the Mazatlan coast. You can buy more than two pounds of uncooked, fresh shrimp for $7 to $9. The price is based on shrimp size, and sizes range from small to giant. The Shrimp Ladies sell these beauties that have Tedly drooling when he remembers how fresh — and how cheap — they were.
Read how to pick the best shrimp in the original Earth Vagabonds post on the Shrimp Ladies.
Great Mexican food — everywhere
It’s tough not to find great food at great prices in Mazatlan. Go to the upper level of the market downtown and have one of the ladies make you breakfast.
We sure do miss Mexican food.
Here’s a video from inside El Muchacho Alegre — a popular spot with the locals.
Read about 3 restaurants popular with locals in Mazatlan.
Last, but not least, the local people!
I met so many wonderful locals when we briefly lived in Mazatlan. From the shopkeepers along the malecon near our apartment, to people at the gym I joined during my time there. I still keep up with some of them!
And here I will take a moment to talk about Mazatlan safety: it’s safe. I never felt I was in any danger, ever. Of course, if you go looking for trouble in any city, in any country, you are going to find it.
But Mazatlan was a fantastic place to meet and interact with kind local Mexican people — no trouble for us.
We think Mazatlan is better for expats than Puerto Vallarta
Just as I think Mahahual is better than Tulum if you are looking for a quiet Caribbean spot, I believe Mazatlan is better than Puerto Vallarta if you are looking for a lively city.
Don’t get me wrong — I really like Puerto Vallarta — on the ‘short visit’ list. Puerto Vallarta has authentically wonderful spots away from the Gay Zone, the Romantic Zone, and the Tourist Zone. But more of Mazatlan still feels authentic – not consumed by total tourism.
Caribbean and Pacific
Maybe one of these years we will spend six months in Mahahual, and six months in Mazatlan, with a break to visit friends in Guatemala.
If there are any drawbacks to Mazatlan for year-round retirement – for us – it’s the heat. The city is wickedly hot and humid until around November. But this is a factor in most Mexican retirement spots. (Aside from Lake Chapala, which didn’t really feel too authentic to me because of the huge number of American retirees there.)
Ask an expat in Mazatlan
As vagabond world travelers, we have no interest at present to retire to one spot. But many of our friends have done this – and they chose Mazatlan. Some have lived there throughout the pandemic.*
If you have questions, some of our friends, and others in our Facebook Group, “Earth Vagabonds” can help answer questions. They call Mazatlan, Mexico “home” for at least part of the year, year in and year out.
Join our group to ask questions of members.
Or, contact us.
*Editor’s note: Earth Vagabonds know expats and retirees from the U.S. and Canada who are living in Mazatlan during the pandemic. They report they feel safe, take precautions, and are enjoying life in their adopted Mexican city!
Thanks for reading, “This is what brings expats to Mazatlan, Mexico.”
Other suggested reading for budget slow travelers
- Budget slow travel in Bangkok – 2022
- Kortan’s Crib: video tour of a $700/month Bangkok rental
- Bangkok to Hua Hin by bus – 2022
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