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Fleeing Canadian Winters for Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen beach palm trees in Riviera Maya Caribbean of Mexico
Credit: Tono Balaguer | Shutterstock

After fleeing Canadian winters for Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Riviera Maya late last year, Scott Walters faced tragedy once again.

Walters, 59, lost his first wife in 2007 and then married a school teacher who also loved the warmth of the Mexican sun. Sadly, she passed away this year, shortly after the couple purchased a home in Playa del Carmen. He is now rebuilding his life in a place in Mexico he loves and visited often in the past.

Scott Walters Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Scott Walters

Walters was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in Aurora, a suburb of the city. After high school graduation he attended George Brown College in downtown Toronto where he received a welding certificate in 1980 before heading west to the sprawling oil fields of Calgary.

“I started looking for welding jobs,” he said, “and after getting to know a few people there I finally got into the business.”

But after working as a welder for a while, Walters discovered that oil company pipeline surveying was more to his liking.

“I worked for TransCanada Pipelines, which is now TC Energy, and Enbridge, another large Canadian oil company,” Walters told us. “I surveyed for them for quite a few years, but then switched to jobs as an oil pipeline inspector. I was there to keep the contractors honest.”

He married in 1984 and the couple had a son in 1988. She passed away in 2007 and Walters remarried. Soon, the couple began earning an income that allowed them to travel south to warmer climes during the cold holiday season, when both were off from work.

“We went to Cuba, the Dominican Republic and a few other places before we found Playa del Carmen,” he said. “When we came to Mexico we thought it was just head and shoulders above the other places we had been. What’s not to like? The beaches and the climate are perfect for us. We like it hot, especially after living in Canada all of our lives.”

They moved to Playa del Carmen in December, 2019, but his wife passed away this past summer, leaving Walters despondent.

“We had only been here for about seven months before she died,” he said. “I am trying to put my life back together and meet new people. I’ve made a few friends who share my love of motorcycles.”

Walters is a Harley guy. He and his new friends help out with local charities delivering food and donated clothing.

“It’s a good way to give back to the community and also meet new people,” Walters said. “In December, about a hundred of us are going to ride down to the children’s hospital in Chetumal, which is about 317 km (just under 200 miles) south of Playa del Carmen. It’s for kids with cancer. We will take them on motorcycle rides and things like that.”

Sunrise at Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Credit: Cyndra Schultz

Walters lives in a new area of Playa del Carmen called Arcos Bambú, not far from Playa’s city-center and on the northwest side of town. He bought his three-bedroom and three-bathroom home with a private pool at pre-construction prices: $250,000 Canadian dollars, or about US$190,000.

“It’s a detached house with extras like a water softener, dishwasher and private pool,” he said. “We bought it a little big because there are three children, two grandchildren and one on the way. They live in Alberta and will be visiting. We also have a large community pool with a barbecue area.”

He said his neighbors are mostly Mexican and expats from Argentina, which he said has a large community in Playa del Carmen.

Playa del Carmen is located halfway between Cancún and Tulum, about a 45-minute drive from each city. Fronting the Caribbean Sea’s turquoise water and white sand beaches, this city of about 150,00 people has recently undergone rapid development.

Like most of the Riviera Maya, tourism is Playa del Carmen’s primary local industry. A growing number of expats has also helped spur new luxury residential condominiums, restaurants, boutiques and entertainment. Fifth Avenue is the epicenter of activity for both tourists and locals alike. The street is lined with hundreds of shops, bars, restaurants and small boutique hotels.

“If you go down to Fifth Avenue, you’re going to pay tourist prices for things,” Walters cautioned. “Where I live I can get a very good meal, including beverage, food and dessert for less than $200 pesos, or about C$12 and US$10. I also have found several good food stands, but it can be a bit of a crapshoot to find a good one.”

Besides shopping at local stores, Walters can shop at two Walmart stores and a Sam’s Club in Playa. He prefers to stock up at the membership-only Sam’s Club. If you are looking for a Costco store, you will have to drive north to Cancún.

Healthcare is always top-of-mind for most expats. Walters said the three private hospitals in Playa del Carmen provide good service, but are more expensive than the local IMSS hospital, which requires expats holding resident visas to pay an annual fee if they wish to use IMSS hospitals and doctors as a less costly alternative to private hospitals.

Mayan Riviera beach
Credits: Alena Tono Balaguer | Adobe Stock images

We asked Walters if Playa del Carmen has met his expectations.

“It has exceeded my expectations,” he said. “I love the friendliness of the people and their willingness to help a guy out who struggles with the language a bit. As long as you try to speak Spanish, they appreciate it. Everybody here always greets you with a friendly buenos días and buenas tardes, that kind of thing. I have been very happy with the people who have been helping me out if I have to ask for something. Everyone has been very helpful and very friendly.”

The two most important reasons why Walters loves Playa del Carmen are the cost-of-living and the area’s climate.

“You can’t beat it,” he said, “there’s no snow to shovel. Besides the weather and the local cost-of-living, it’s really the friendliness of the people and the ability just to get around and do whatever you want whenever you want. What’s not to love about that?”