Spend Ten Days on Mexico’s Pacific Coast

Clouds dot the bright blue sky above a flat yellow sand beach with waves rolling in.
Surfers off the shore in Sayulita. Photo © Allison Pasciuto, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Thinking of moving to Mexico? Good planning is the backbone of an easy move, so heading down south for a fact-finding mission can help you make a smooth transition.

If you have a rough idea of where you’d like to move, ten days will give you enough time to explore a decently large region. The following itinerary uses the Pacific Coast as an example, and the pace is a bit leisurely; after all, who wants to rush their way through a beach trip, even with an international move to plan? If you are considering Southern Baja, the Yucatán Peninsula, the state of Oaxaca, or any other region of comparable size and scope, a similar itinerary could be adapted to fit your destination.

Days 1–3

Once you’ve gotten off the plane and settled in your digs, spend the first few days getting to know downtown Puerto Vallarta. During the day, wander through Old Town and check out Playa de Muertos, Vallarta’s most popular beach. Walk the malecón (promenade) to the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone). Try some of the restaurants and cafés popular with the expatriate crowd, poke into shops to review the price of food and furniture, and, of course, enjoy a bit of beach time. You may also want to take a taxi out to the residential neighborhoods east of Puerto Vallarta’s central district, where you can find good deals on properties.

Puerto Vallarta has more information online than you’ll find for some other destinations. Even so, you’ll find a lot more printed material on the ground. Pick up a copy of Mano a Mano, a classifieds newspaper that is good for rentals, as well as printed newspapers and brochures (even publicity aimed at tourists can provide some good information). If you find something that interests you in town—whether it’s an art walk or a cocktail hour—drop by.

If you are considering buying into a condominium complex or gated community, you’ll have a lot of options in Puerto Vallarta. After you’ve gotten the lay of the land, get in touch with real estate agents who can help you visit and decide between properties. If you plan to buy or rent privately, spend your time exploring other residential neighborhoods in the city before you meet with a broker.

Days 4 and 5

Once you’ve gotten a feel for the city, rent a car to explore the greater region (you can also take the bus to any of these locations). Start by driving north up the Nayarit coast, stopping first in modern Nuevo Vallarta. Continue along the coast to Bucerias, a mellow community right on the Bay of Banderas. Have lunch on the beach, then climb back into the car for the drive up the coast to Sayulita, where you can spend the night in a bed-and-breakfast in town. Alternatively, explore The Four Seasons resort at Punta Mita, where there are also high-end vacation properties for sale.

The next day, have a leisurely morning, then take the car farther north to San Francisco and La Peñita. You can return to Sayulita or spend the night in La Peñita; either way, make it an early night, because tomorrow you’ll be on the road again.

Days 6–8

Now that you’ve explored the Nayarit coast, head south from Puerto Vallarta to experience the Costa Alegre, one of the least developed and most beautiful coastlines in Mexico. Exploring this region can take time, and you should definitely research the most interesting destinations before you hit the road. As an example, you might spend the first day in El Tuito, heading south to the Chamela Bay the following day. Get up early on the third day to reach La Manzanilla, on the southern stretches of the Costa Alegre. Spend the night there, enjoying a simple meal on the beach, then get up early to head back to Puerto Vallarta in the early morning.

Days 9 and 10

Return to Puerto Vallarta for your last full days. Now that you’ve seen smaller beach communities, you have a good idea of what the pros and cons are of choosing a bigger city. Now’s a good time to check in with real estate and rental agents, if you haven’t already. Pick up more newspapers and tourist brochures to take home with you. Scan prices in shops and grocery stores, noting what you find. Before you bid good-bye to the Pacific, have a nice brunch in a popular restaurant and review your findings.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad in Mexico.