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  • Writer's pictureMandy

Why I Live in Riviera Maya

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

I'm often asked why or how I came to live in Mexico's Riviera Maya over many other locations I could have chosen.

Let me start with a little background...

My situation was a little more complex than most. I was leaving Canada and moving to Mexico with my entire family. That's right, 3 generations plus a total of 5 pets. In order to accommodate everyone's needs, we had to be very strategic.

mapping a route

As the head planner, my challenge was to check as many boxes as I could for the entire group. With an aging parent, a senior dog, a cat with an autoimmune disorder and an adult child with special needs in the group, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. There were quite a few non-negotiable boxes.


The areas I was considering were Ensenada/Lake Chapala, Riviera Nayarit (Bucerias, Lo de Marcos), Acapulco, San Miguel de Allende, Merida/Progreso, Riviera Maya and Querétaro. I looked at climate, health care, logistics, veterinary care, proximity to nature as well as temperature, calmness, clarity and overall safety of the water at the nearest beaches as my kids are all water babies.

The Final Decision to Live in Riviera Maya

Playa del Carmen landmark

After much research and mostly a process of elimination, the path became clear. With 5 pets we would need a direct flight from an airport no more than 4 hours from home. We would also need an airbnb within 45 min of the destination airport. We all wanted a beach area. Merida was too hot for my old moms with her bad heart. Ensenada was not tropical enough for me and the kids. Not a fan of earthquakes. Etc. etc.

That left us with CUN as our destination airport and either Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Puerto Aventuras or Akumal as our new home. With everyone's unique needs, Playa del Carmen checked all the boxes.

The Reality: Pros and Cons of Living in Riviera Maya

They say this place either sucks you in or spits you out.

Despite some initial doubts, I guess we know how it turned out for me. My biggest complaints have been the lack of driving skills I see daily, lack of nature (I didn't realize how much this area had developed since we were here a decade ago), inconvenience of getting to the beach and the crowds. Yes, I realize I am in a city now and not on an island completed surrounded by beaches. I think I was made more for island life yet here I am.

*When I say getting to the beach is inconvenient here I mean in Playa/Cancun/Tulum and I mean in comparison to walking down to the end of my sandy lane where the gorgeous blue Caribbean would await me every morning on my Belizean island. Those were the days. (If you want to know why I don't just move back there, I explain it here.)

On to the pros of living in the centre of Riviera Maya! There really are so many for us. At the end of the day, it makes the most sense and offers us the best quality of life.

  • The calm/family-friendly, gorgeous blue Caribbean. This is the only place I could get beaches that resemble Tahiti or Bora Bora within 4 hours of home

  • Countless activities like boating, snorkelling, turtle conservation, hundreds of cenotes

  • Nearby sights (Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum ruins)

  • Lovely road trips (Belize, Merida, Bacalar etc.)

  • You can choose your pace: faster, city life or slower island life. You could also take a step back in time and choose a simpler way of living in any number of quaint Mayan villages

  • Proximity to the 2nd busiest travel hub in Mexico (CUN) with direct flights to a ton of destinations. *For us home is a short 3.5-4 hour direct flight so coming and going is very easy and friends and family can visit and mule things down for us more often

  • Earthquakes are a rare occurrence here. This may sound silly especially to west coasters but I have PTSD from a serious accident and can't handle sudden rumbling and shaking so for me, that was a big factor

  • Health care. The hospitals right in town here have specialists on staff including psychiatrists and can handle all types of major emergencies. GP's make house calls (mine will come out to the house for 500 pesos or I can go to her office for 55 pesos.) There's also nearby Merida and Cozumel which are both known for their high quality, affordable healthcare. If you have a special case you can definitely find good treatment options in either of those places

  • Availability of medication. My mom has a heart condition and takes 10 different meds. We needed to have those available at all times. Not negotiable. I had to run up to Cancun once to find one of them when she was running low but there was no shortage up there

  • 24 hour veterinarians and house calls during business hours (with 2 of our 5 pets having health concerns this was a huge one for us)

  • Community and ease of transitioning for my mother. I didn't want her (or my kids) to feel too isolated wherever we ended up. Riviera Maya seems to be the melting pot of Mexico and it provided a good balance of socialization with both locals and other expats from all over the world. There are a lot of homeschoolers/worldschoolers in this area which is something we could relate to and we found a few different groups to get out and do some fun things with

The Verdict

Overall I think I made the only decision I could have and in a sense the decision was made for us as each day passed in our new home. I have since considered moving a little further out of town as I'm not a city mouse at all but each time I think about it, I come up with 10 good reasons to stay put.

Have I discovered other places in Mexico that I love? Absolutely! I instantly fell in love with Merida when my son moved up there last year. I also really, really love Acapulco. Of course you'll find me at Anarchapulco every February and I sneak out there every chance I get. There's just something so magical about being in that sweet spot between the mountains and the ocean. Breathtaking views and powerful energy. Here's the thing to remember though... I can enjoy a vacation or getaway to many places but I wouldn't necessarily be happier living there.

My advice is to keep your wits about you and prioritize your needs over your wants no matter how tempting it is to do it in reverse. If you have a budget, stick to it no matter what or you'll find yourself on a plane back home sooner than later. Also try to think about things from the perspective of long term living. Do you really need to be near the tourist zone after the initial thrill wears off? For some the answer is yes but for most people who plan to live a full life of working, taking care of their families, running errands, entertaining at home or visiting friends, those things fade into the background. I have done both and can tell you I have no desire to live downtown near the beach. If we're talking $2m beachfront villa maybe that changes things but squeezed into a condo with a bustling city outside my window is not for me. I'm much happier in a bigger house with a yard for my pets, in a quiet residential neighborhood close to the places where I do my shopping and banking.

If you're thinking of checking out Riviera Maya and want to bounce ideas around or need help finding a property or rental, reach out to me to schedule a phone call or Zoom. Email or call/text via WhatsApp: +52-984-268-2428

I'd love to hear about your process. What areas are you or did you consider? What was your final decision and how do you like it? Let me know below.

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