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Puerto Vallarta Is the #1 Destination for New Expats

Painting by Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Artist Ada Colorina
Credit: Ada Colorina

Puerto Vallarta is the #1 destination for new Expats in Mexico, according to our Expats In Mexico Survey 2021. About 13 percent of aspiring expats from primarily the U.S. and Canada say they want to make Vallarta their new hometown. And, another 13 percent made PV their second choice.

My how things have changed in the past 45 years. The sleepy Bay of Banderas town was less than 40,000 people when I arrived in January of 1976. Highway 200 from the airport was a two-lane road leading to downtown, where you could easily park on any street any time of day.

Ten years later, Vallarta more than doubled in size, and by the time I bought my first home in Mismaloya in 2001 it had grown to about a quarter of a million people. Even then, you could still wander around the Zona Romantica in full sunshine without the soon-to-come towering condos casting shadows on the streets.

Today, the municipality of Puerto Vallarta, which includes its suburbs in Jalisco, is jammed with just under 300,000 people, according to the 2020 Mexico census that is prepared each year by INEGI, the government’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography. In just the last 10 years, the city has increased over 14 percent and the train does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. High-rise condos continue to poke out of the ground almost everywhere.

Growth in neighboring Nayarit municipalities on the bay’s north shore was even stronger. Population grew over 50 percent from around 125,000 in 2010 to just over 255,000 in 2020.

The total population living around the Bay of Banderas is now nearing 500,000, according to INEGI. About 2 percent are expats, or just over 9,800. Americans number 6,880 or about 70 percent of the Bay of Banderas total and about 65 percent of the total foreign-born population living in Mexico. During the winter, our “snowbirds” swell the expat population even higher.

And more new expats are on their way. Our new EIM survey shows that a new wave of Baby Boomers is headed south for retirement, along with younger digital nomads looking for adventure.

About 54 percent of our survey respondents this year say they are either Extremely Likely or Very Likely to move to Mexico. Even more impressive, six-out-of-10 say they will move within one-to-two years.

Not all have their eyes set on Vallarta, though. Perennial favorite Lake Chapala is the second most favored destination, especially for retirees. Los Cabos, Mérida and Playa del Carmen also can expect influxes of new expats.

If you want more information on the study, read our partner Travis Luther’s article, “Survey Shows More Aspiring Expats Are Heading to Mexico.”

For those of you who want to move to Mexico’s most desirable area for expats, bienvenidos todos! Just remember, Vallarta is a metro-area now scrambling to keep up with future growth, so not all is perfecto, but pretty close to it.