It’s easy to see what makes Mexico the ultimate vacation destination. With almost 6,000 miles of coastline touching four bodies of water, the choice of idyllic beaches here is pretty overwhelming. The country’s rich history and fascinating traditions permeate its ancient towns, while its delicious cuisine offers a feast for the senses. Easily accessible from every major city in the U.S., our southern neighbor has always been the preferred spot to relax and unwind, whether for a quick weekend getaway or a more extended trip. And as one of the top tourist destinations in the world (in fact, it’s Travel + Leisure‘s 2022 destination of the year), investing in a vacation home in Mexico means plenty of year-round rental potential.
“It is a destination with clear real estate growth, mainly focused on sustainability. At the moment, Playa del Carmen has 199 developments while Tulum has 406. There is also a very active land market, very related to the real estate construction boom,” Liszette Torres, office manager for Riviera Maya Sotheby’s International Realty, explained in an email.
When it comes to finding your dream vacation property, Torres’ number one piece of advice is to contact a certified agency or an agent who not only knows the market and the inventory well, but can also guide you through the legal, tax, and immigration requirements for foreigners. She recommends hiring a local real estate attorney to coordinate the closure on your behalf.
For those scouting a second property, here are the top markets for vacation properties to get you started in your search for vacation homes in Mexico.
Playa Del Carmen
Once a sleepy fishing village, Playa Del Carmen is a bustling beach town famous for its beaches and vibrant nightlife. But away from its busy commercial strip La Quinta Avenida, this lively destination also offers plenty of fun outdoor, nature-focused activities such as ziplining, diving, and snorkeling. The area is also home to a few great golf courses, including the Greg Norman-designed gem, El Camaleón Mayakoba, the first PGA Tour golf course in Latin America.
Many expats have made Playa del Carmen their permanent home and English is spoken everywhere. The real estate offerings here are fairly diverse — from studios, multi-bedroom apartments, and condos to single-family homes. While prices vary, expect to pay more if the property is closer to a stretch of sand.
Year-round sunny weather, lower cost of living compared to bigger cities, and lower HOA and property taxes make Cancun a paradise for second home buyers, according to Torres. Its proximity to Cancun Airport that has one of the highest numbers of direct international flights has made the city a major transportation hub in Mexico. In fact, this October alone over 1.1 million visitors arrived at the airport, making it the busiest October on record. So, needless to say, a vacation home here means you can easily rent your house to tourists whenever you’re not using it.
Cancun itself is a bustling city both during the day and night. With plenty of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment opportunities — and that’s in addition to its many pristine beaches — boredom is never an option in this famous resort town.
The historic heart of the Riviera Maya is home to many Mayan ruins, making it a magnet for history buffs. The stunning turquoise waters of the Caribbean, white-sand beaches, and mysterious remnants of temples and castles perched above the sea look like they belong in a fairy tale.
“Tulum is concentrating on an offer of holistic services related to health, wellness, meditation, yoga, and spa,” said Torres. “Investing in the area is synonymous with surplus-value, investment returns, [but] also of life quality and permanent connection with nature.”
Another reason to invest in Tulum? Plans for a railway that connects the town with the rest of the Quintana Roo state promise a spike in visitor numbers.
Home to a large expat community, Puerto Vallarta has a distinct international flair which translates into hip eateries, gourmet coffee shops and craft breweries, and plenty of yoga and pilates studios. The picture-perfect city is home to traditional serrana (or highlands) architecture and new and sleek high-rise condos. Of course, the main draw here remains the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta’s beautiful beaches, and the picturesque Banderas Bay.
The real estate market has something for every type of buyer — from old houses with plenty of character to modern condominiums and villas with rooftop pools and resort-style amenities.
Riviera Nayarit (beyond Puerto Vallarta)
While many visitors come to Riviera Nayarit to stay in Puerto Vallarta, there is so much more to explore in this region with more than 190 miles of Pacific coastline. If your ideal vacation revolves around a beautiful stretch of sand, then there are about two dozen small beach towns to choose from, among which the exclusive and upscale Punta de Mita, the hip and laid-back Sayulita, a surfer’s paradise, and the secluded Punta Raza, home to a turtle sanctuary. And if you prefer to relax in the mountains, the Sierra Madre and Sierra de Vallejo Mountain Ranges offer plenty of land adventures, too.
“The attractive thing [in Riviera Nayarit] is that the buyer can invest in presales or move-in-ready homes,” recommended Tania Segura, office coordinator for Guadalajara Sotheby’s International Realty. “You can search for properties from official real estate sites from the comfort of your home and check what real estate agencies are affiliated with the AMPI, which is the closest thing to the NAR [National Association of Realtors] in Mexico.”
Ranked as one of the safest cities in Mexico, Mérida is located in the Yucatan peninsula and is the largest city in the region. But don’t expect your average busy city full of anxious and stressed-out residents. Mérida’s charm is in its laid-back vibe steeped in history and culture. Beautiful colonial architecture, ancient fortresses, world-class museums, vibrant markets, and delicious local cuisine will keep you busy and entertained. And you can still sit under an umbrella on the beach; The closest stretch of sand is only 25 miles away in Progreso.
The capital city of the Baja California Sur state is another popular vacation spot, especially among West Coast residents. It is the perfect destination for urban explorers and nature lovers. The city’s historic downtown area is home to many landmarks, restaurants, and shops. And the Sea of Cortez is one of the richest and most biodiverse bodies of water in the world, a protected UNESCO biosphere, and home to many marine species such as sharks, turtles, whales, and dolphins.
Resort-style developments with luxury amenities and golf courses are the standard in the area, including the brand new Fairmont La Paz Puerta Cortés Resort and Residences, slated to open in 2023.
If you dream of an island escape, then Cozumel, off the Riviera Maya coast, is the perfect place to buy your vacation home in Mexico. Accessible via Cancun International Airport and then a 40-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is a diver’s paradise as it is part of the world’s second-largest barrier reef. And while the stunning ocean views are the main attraction, the island is also home to an ancient Mayan archaeological site (San Gervasio), a vibrant downtown area, a museum, shops, beach bars, and many areas with lush, untouched nature.
The real estate market here is diverse and includes everything from condos with beach and golf views in resort-style communities to more secluded beachfront properties and empty lots where you can build your dream home (or a hotel).