Until the 1950s, Puerto Vallarta was a small fishing village along a spectacular bay on the Pacific, modestly popular among Mexicans as a beach resort.
Then, in 1963, John Huston filmed Night of the Iguana in Mismaloya, a seaside village just south of Puerto Vallarta. The film's star, Richard Burton, was involved with actress Elizabeth Taylor at the time. Taylor followed Burton on location... and the paparazzi followed her.
Suddenly Puerto Vallarta was all over the news... and on the map as far as Americans were concerned. It's remained there ever since.
Today, Puerto Vallarta is one of the most sophisticated resorts in Mexico, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Though it's a major cruise ship destination, with ship arrivals almost daily, the massive influx of tourists (about two million visit each year) hasn't lessened Puerto Vallarta's appeal for those thinking about staying on longer term.
Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude. Yet, frankly, you can have a great time here even if you never set foot on the beach... and you certainly could enjoy a comfortable, well-appointed retirement on this coast.
This is one of Mexico's most cosmopolitan beach resorts. In the city proper, you find cultural activities including plays, films, jazz and classical concerts, gourmet restaurant festivals, gallery openings...
You could start each morning with a walk or a jog along the Malecón, alongside the blue Pacific, followed by coffee in a downtown coffee shop or on your terrace overlooking the bay... then build your day out from there.
Fully half the population works in the tourism business, so English is widely understood, a big plus if you speak little or no Spanish. A whole range of services has sprung up to cater to English-speakers, from gourmet shops and restaurants to clothes design and medical care.
Yet beneath the cosmopolitan, international veneer, the core of the city remains very Mexican. In the older parts of town, traditional white-washed houses with sloping red-tiled roofs line the cobbled streets. Little green grocers, where Mexican matrons (or their maids) buy the family's fruits and vegetables, remain a staple in some neighborhoods. And you still find local restaurants where a filling, home-cooked lunch can cost you just US$8.
One expat friend describes her experience of Puerto Vallarta this way:
"I've discussed Mexican history with a shoe-store owner while browsing his wares, and talked economics with a restaurateur who joined me at the table after serving my meal. It's all part of Mexico‘s leisurely, personal way of life..."
Many expats living in Puerto Vallarta came on vacation, fell in love, then returned home with the intention to figure out how they could make Puerto Vallarta their home, either full- or part-time. Today, the expat community here numbers as many as 10,000.
Puerto Vallarta has long been our #1 pick for luxury and cosmopolitan retirement on the ocean. The coast stretching north along the Pacific from Puerto Vallarta is all grown up from a development perspective.
In Puerto Vallarta, you aren't buying for someday, as you can be in many coastal destinations in Central America. Here you can buy a world-class lifestyle in a region with world-class beaches and ocean views that is supported, right now, by world-class golf courses, marinas, restaurants, and shopping. This is a lifestyle that is available only on a limited basis worldwide, a lifestyle that is truly (not metaphorically) comparable to the best you could enjoy in southern California if you could afford it. In Puerto Vallarta, you can afford it even on an average retirement budget.
You could buy a small apartment outside Puerto Vallarta town for less than US$100,000, or you could buy big and fancy for US$1 million-plus. Whatever you buy, you could rent it out when you're not using it. The Puerto Vallarta region, including the emerging Riviera Nayarit that runs north from it along the coast, is an active tourist rental market with a proven track record.
For all these reasons, Puerto Vallarta will be among the featured destinations at our Live and Invest in Mexico Conference taking place Sept. 26–28 over on the Riviera Maya... Mexico's other beautiful coastline.Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was released by Penguin Books.