Somebody did their homework.
Not far from Cancun, Mexico’s Caribbean coast conceals hidden gems, postcard-worthy beaches retirees can enjoy for a fraction of the price of higher-profile destinations. International Living’s new report identifies three off-the-radar havens on the Yucatan Peninsula that deserve serious consideration for vacation, part-time retirement, or full-time, bargain beach living.
North American retirees looking for the ideal beach spot that features quiet natural beauty far from the madding crowd have plenty of options in Mexico. Cancun is easy to fly in an out of, but it’s built up and often crowded. Not far from there, though, along Mexico’s long and varied Caribbean and Gulf coasts—sit quiet beach communities off the tourist radar.
International Living’s new report reveals three of the best-kept secrets on the Yucatan Peninsula, ideal for anybody searching for idyllic beaches on a budget.
The southern part of Mexico’s Caribbean coast is a mostly an undeveloped stretch of stunning, isolated beach called the Costa Maya. Unlike the tourist-driven beaches of the Riviera Maya farther north, this length of coastline snuggles up against lowland jungle for some 62 miles and is largely inaccessible by road.
This small beachside town of Mahahual is one of only two places (the other being Xcalak, 37 miles to the south) to access this spectacular environment, and it is literally at the end of the road. Turning off the main coastal highway and driving through lowland jungle with only a few small, primitive dwellings to interrupt the sparse landscape, this small village is the idyllic image of the out-of-the-way beach retreat. No traffic noise, no high-rise condos, no hustle or bustle. Only hammocks strung between pier pilings and beach bars full of sandy floors, swimsuits, and cold beer.
IL’s Rivieria Maya Correspondent Don Murray says, “Mahahual is definitely worth your time to visit and may be your first stop while driving south of Tulum. In fact, a relatively small number of expats call it home while a group of snowbirds, seeking the peace of a small, beachside community, return year after year.”
Recent prices in Mahahual and the surrounding area remain a fraction of what they’d be farther up the coast. Five beachfront lots near Puerto Angel, just 20 minutes from Mahahual, were recently for sale for $69,000 each.
On the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, a couple hour’s trek from Cancún, is the tiny island of Holbox (pronounced ol-bosh). It’s known as one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks that congregate offshore from May to September.
Holbox is funky, bohemian, and laidback. Life is all about the white-sand beach and being in or on the water. Development has increased in Holbox in recent years, but there are no condo towers, gated communities, or large resorts. Construction is on a smaller scale here, so it doesn’t feel too commercialized. The island is 26 miles long but only a small portion is developed.
IL’s Roving Latin America Editor Jason Holland says, “This barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect place to relax, with long stretches of white-sand beaches you can have all to yourself. You get around on foot, by bike, or via golf cart. I love the $10 lobster dinners.”
On Mexico’s Gulf Coast about 45 minutes from the city of Mérida is the town of Chelem. Once a quiet fishing village, Chelem provides the opportunity for a slower-paced life.
Expat Geoff Kent moved to Chelem with his wife and two kids in 2018. He says “We have a pretty typical life for a family with young kids. Get the kids off to school in the morning, help them with homework in the evening. It’s pretty normal.”
They are considering opening a small coffee shop or donut shop. Geoff says there are many expats doing everything from selling real estate to running restaurants.
This simple life by the beach costs $1,800 a month. A bus ride to the nearby town of Progreso is about 50 cents. The Kents report that they spend $150 each week on groceries and another $25 per month on gas for cooking and hot water.
The full report on these three hidden Mexico beach gems can be found at Grit Daily partner, International Living: 3 Yucatan Peninsula Beaches.