What’s it really like living in Mexico? Is it worth the hype? Why is EVERYONE moving to Mexico right now? These were my thoughts before packing my life into a 75L backpack and moving to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico one month ago. I needed a city with good wifi, a beach (necessity), and a community of cool humans. From what I heard, Puerto Vallarta seemed to have it all.
Here’s the full scoop on living in Puerto Vallarta and a few personal updates after month one.
Flight From Chicago to Puerto Vallarta
I bought a one-way ticket on a whim, packed my 65L backpack and left Chicago on February 7th.
I was here 5 years. In 2016, I hitch-hiked up from the Guatemala border to Guadalajara, Mexico. It’s when I fell in love with mole, tortas, micheladas, Frida Kahlo, pueblos magicos but more importantly the energy, the culture, and the people of Mexico. When I left Mexico I knew I would one day come back to live here. It’s a special country. If you’ve traveled to Mexico, I know I am preaching to the choir.
Related post: Tips for flying from USA to Puerto Vallarta
Arriving in Puerto Vallarta
I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, nervous and anxious to start a new chapter of my future travel memoir titled “Mexico.” I planned to get an Uber from the airport, but upon opening the app outside the airport, I realized I had failed to update my Uber app. I laughed then walked across the street to a little restaurante for some wifi to figure out what to do next. I drank a limonada, sweating from the Mexican heat and from carrying everything I own on my back across a hilly pedestrian bridge. I made it, I thought. There’s no going back now.
After 7 years of nomadic life, I still get nervous arriving to a new place. The good kind of nerves. I chatted with the waiter in Spanish, my shitty Spanish slowly coming back to me. After I finished, I asked for la cuenta (the check) and prayed they had a card machine. They didn’t. So, I overpaid in dollars. I approached a taxi acting confident in where I was going, like I’d been to Puerto Vallarta plenty of times. “Hola señor, I’m going to a hostel close to the center – how much is it?” He told me the amount. I pretended to think about it and he lowered the price a few pesos. I agreed while not remembering the dollar to peso conversion rate and not having any pesos in my wallet.
Puerto Vallarta is absolutely stunning. Along the ride, I passed multiple resorts, a Walmart, and a fancy outdoor mall with a H&M. The streets are lined with palm trees. This city has the comfort and convenience of American stores while still preserving the flavor of Mexico.
I have this white notecard of a vision of my “perfect life” written in present tense that I wrote while living in South Korea. It reads “a spanish-speaking town with cobbled stone streets and colorful colonial buildings.” I teared up knowing while Puerto Vallarta might not be my forever, it is where I am supposed to be. I had manifested my life here. While I thought I’d be hiking through Spain right now, the Universe had other plans.
What’s it Like Living in a Hostel?
I’m living in a hostel for my first month here (El Sunset Hostel). I have a private room with a bathroom on the second floor of the hostel for $200/month. The hostel is outside of the center, about a 30-minute walk to the downtown area and a 5-minute walk to the beach.
There are others living in the hostel; “my roommates,” I call them. One 25-year-old woman from England who is attending an in-person TEFL program nearby. One retired, divorced 70-year-old man from Syria who owns a condo in Argentina and is waiting for the borders to open back up. One 27-year-old guy from Colorado who came here for a 2-week vacation who decided to quit his job and stay in Mexico two days before his departure date. One Canadian woman in her mid-thirties who got divorced and sold everything who plans to travel slowly around the world. One 30-year-old American military guy who quit his job and is “searching for the meaning of life.” One Mexican guy who lives and works part-time here. Then there’s my best friend here: the hostel owner and his Norwegian pup, Vikingo (Viking).
Welcome to mi casa:
What’s Puerto Vallarta like?
Puerto Vallarta is a resort city on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It is filled with restaurants, beautiful beaches, a cute downtown area, and is surrounded by majestic mountains.
Puerto Vallarta is a perfect hub for digital nomads. There’s co-working spaces, affordable housing, work-balance, and a community of expats that live here.
My neighborhood, Versalles, is home to quaint coffee shops and diverse restaurants. It’s a more residential area, away from the chaos of the center.
I spend most of my days chasing good wifi (aka working in a cafe). I grab dinner at the taco place near the hostel (tacos for around a dollar) or cook at the hostel. At around 6:30pm, I walk to the beach for sunset. At night, I hang out with friends or chill with hostel roommates. On the weekends I adventure out. Nothing too crazy.
How’s the LGBTQ scene in PV?
Zona Romantica is the LGBTQ+ neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta filled with 98.2% attractive, beefy gay men vacationing with their hot husbands. There are drag bars and clubs, rainbow flags, and men in tight speedos galore. Paradise, no?
Make sure to check out Los Muertos beach (gay beach) and go to a drag show at The Palm Cabaret and Bar.
LGBTQ+ Resource: Puerto Vallarta Gays: Everything You Need or Want to Know (Facebook group)
Weekend Trips from Puerto Vallarta (El Tuito and Mayto)
There are tons of fun day trips from Puerto Vallarta accessible by bus or water taxi. You can head to popular destinations like Sayulita, San Pancho, Tequila, and more by bus. Or, secluded beach destinations like Yalapa and Mayto.
Last weekend, I took a trip to a small beach town called Mayto on the coast about an hour and a half from PV. I left my computer at home and went off the grid for two nights. I camped on the beach under the full moon and swam naked in the ocean. I was reminded of the importance of unplugging and enjoying this vida loca (crazy life). Pass it on.
I am apartment hunting with Sarah, my friend who inspired me to come to Puerto Vallarta. Sarah (@thesarahszuba) is a fellow queer travel content creator and Life Path Coach from New York. I met her on Instagram about a year ago. She also backpacked Central and South America by herself. We have loads in common and have since decided to be temporary roomies in Puerto Vallarta.
Where do you find an apartment in Puerto Vallarta? Lots of places! Most people use Facebook groups to find month-to-month or long-term leases. Most of the people posting on the Facebook groups are local realtors. They can help you in your search. Kind in mind, these will be on the more “expensive” side. If you speak a little Spanish and are on a budget like us, I recommend walking around neighborhoods you like and looking for “se renta” (for rent) signs. There are multiple options especially in the Versalles neighborhood, north of downtown.
How much are the rentals in Puerto Vallarta? We looked at five or so apartments. Our budget is $300/month (per person). We’ve found everything from $100/month to $1,000/month. I’m sure there are luxurious beachfront home rentals for thousands. There’s something for everyone’s needs and budget.
UPDATE: We found an apartment and we move in TOMORROW!!! *YouTube video and photos coming soon*
Finding an apartment in PV Facebook Groups: Affordable Rentals in PV, PV Rentals
If you’re thinking of moving to Puerto Vallarta (or wherever), do it. I was (really f*cking) nervous about moving to Mexico. I replayed the thought, “am I making the right decision?” over and over in my head. When I got to Puerto Vallarta, those doubts went away. You know those moments where time stops? You look around and think, “THIS is life.” I’ve felt it while watching the sunset on the beach, having deep chats with hostel roommates, watching the drag show with Sarah, and salsa dancing at the Cuban bar. I feel at peace. A deep knowing that everything will be okay.
That’s all I got for ya. Hope that was informative, interesting or maybe a bit inspiring (or whatever).
If you have questions about moving to Puerto Vallarta, drop them in the comments or DM me @courtneytheexplorer on Instagram!
Check out this Puerto Vallarta Resource: Best Tips for Traveling to Puerto Vallarta in 2021!
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ChristinaMarch 9, 2021 at 1:30 pm
Thanks for sharing your experience. What are the $100/month apartments that you saw like? Are they worth it?!
CourtneyMarch 9, 2021 at 4:55 pm
Hey!! The $100/month apartment I saw was a room in someone’s home (not too much privacy). SUPER basic. Not worth it for me. I think it’d be fine for a student (similar to a home stay). Great for learning Spanish I suppose! It’s good to know those cheap options are out there!
KrisMarch 27, 2021 at 4:39 pm
Courtney, It was awesome reading your post. I have been coming to PV for over 23 years now and promised I would move to PV some day. The time is almost here. I share your passion for PV. I have also traveled quite a bit, 200 plus trips just not out of a back pack. I have never fell in love with a City like PV. I loved your statement about the cool humans. I enjoy the sunsets, beaches, shops etc. but I fell in love with the people and culture and the expats that were drawn to the hearts of PV. I’m in the process of purchasing a home there and can’t wait to start the next chapter of my life. Thank you for reigniting my enthusiasm because pulling the trigger is not always easy.
CourtneyApril 8, 2021 at 1:05 pm
I totally agree Kris! There’s no place like PV. That’s so exciting that you’re moving here/buying a home. #goals !!!!
TheresaApril 3, 2021 at 6:51 am
We visit PVR every May (except for 2020 due to Covid) and one day want to go back to stay for a long while. We visited El Tuito on one trip. We found a lady, I’m guessing in her 70s, who makes what we call moonshine in her living room. Had to sneak it home in a cheap tequila bottle for the tax seal. We love the people. Have yet to meet anyone rude. Safe stay and travels!
JennApril 3, 2021 at 11:46 pm
What a wonderful telling of the beauty of Puerto Villarta!! My fiancé and I just returned after 8 days there and can’t wait to buy a place and move there!! A couple fun places we found while there and HIGHLY recommend… I’d love your thoughts if you check them out! El Rio BBQ and Bar is a wonderful little place on the river with live music every night, an AMAZING menu with a mix of good ol’ southern BBQ with a Mexican flair and wonderful community of locals, almost locals and kind hearted human beings. If you’re looking for a tattoo artist, Kiki at Vallarta Ink is not only an amazing artist, he is a genuine soul!
Though I am heterosexual, I agree that the LGBTQ+ community is wonderful, fun and welcoming! Enjoy your time in PV and I can’t wait to follow you for more stories of your adventures!!
CourtneyApril 8, 2021 at 1:02 pm
Thank you so much Jenn for the recommendations!! Cheers to your future move! Take care. -Court
Jason HullJune 8, 2021 at 4:34 am
I second El Rio! Amazing food, great live music, and wonderful scenery! I didn’t see many Mexican locals, but there were a TON of expats on Saturday afternoon.
Jeremy JohnsonApril 4, 2021 at 9:19 am
Lived in Nayarit for over a decade, my advise, get out of tourist areas like Vallarta and experience real Mexico. You never really experience Mexico when you are surrounded by Americans, Canadians, Brits, and people paid to serve the never ending train of tourists etc..
Chacala, Guayabitos, San Blas, San Pancho, even Bucerias are all much nicer beaches, better priced, better food and more authentic. If you want to get real adventurous find mexcaltitan.
CourtneyApril 8, 2021 at 12:58 pm
Nayarit is beautiful. Cheers!
ObiMay 17, 2021 at 7:06 pm
Experiencing Mexico is everywhere. No such thing as “get out of touristy area” to experience Mexico. You can tell that to those who are visiting Puerto Vallarta. As for “living in Vallarta” in so called “touristy places” it’s suits perfectly well for those who want modernity and developments and that’s exactly what’s offered in Vallarta.
ObiMay 17, 2021 at 7:10 pm
Personally, I relocated to Puerto Vallarta from Los Angeles beginning January 2021, and having visited and spent time in various towns, Bucerias, Sayulita, Nuervo Vallarta, there are only 2 places I would live comfortably in, and that’s P.V. and N.V….
ShelDecember 3, 2021 at 7:56 am
I am considering a move to PV area. Would you be willing to share with me the challenges you have had in moving from USA to Mexico? I would love to hear what you enjoy most about your new life in Mexico and what has caused some frustrations. What do you do for healthcare, transportation, banking?
Anything you can or will share about how the move went, how life is going and suggestions you have – I would appreciate it. Thanks so much! Another American who LOVES PV! Shel – ukw221@gm—
AnonymousApril 4, 2021 at 12:39 pm
I’m planning to move to enjoy my next chapter as well! What is their application “process” for renting an apt if no job yet & just arriving???
CourtneyApril 8, 2021 at 12:56 pm
Hello! There was no application process for ours. 🙂 I’m not sure if there is for others.
PhilipApril 4, 2021 at 2:06 pm
Hey Courtney, I’m Philip I’m a gay man that just retired last month and I’m planning to relocate to PV next week actually April 15th I’m driving my car which is kind of a adventure in itself. I do have a boyfriend in Mexico City and was going to meet me in Monterey and we’ll drive down together I am anxious to get my life and another chapter started hi thanks for the Insight on gay activity. Maybe my partner and I could meet up with you and a friend for a drink sometime I appreciate your writings and keep us informed I would love to see the pictures of your rental I’m not wealthy so something around 5 or 600 a month probably what you got is probably what I’m looking for have a beautiful day down there bye
CourtneyApril 8, 2021 at 12:56 pm
AH how exciting!! I’d love to meet up for a drink – feel free to DM me on Instagram @courtneytheexplorer! Check out the full tour of the apartment on youtube! (Search “Courtney the explorer”) You can definitely find something in that price range!
Margarita GarciaApril 5, 2021 at 10:38 pm
I love Puerto Vallarta! I wanted to go and stay there for 3 months.. plans changed!
Hopefully soon my dream will come true.. solo traveler…
Wayne OppenheimerApril 7, 2021 at 6:49 pm
My wife and I go every year from mid January to end of February! I have a car there, and I love driving up to Sayulita, San Francisco, Los Marcos and spending at least a week or more in Chacala, absolutely the best. The Romantic Zone, even as a straight man is absolutely fabulous! Great bars, restaurants, art galleries and hotels, the culture and people are super awesome!!
CourtneyApril 8, 2021 at 12:44 pm
Love to hear that!! Will put San Francisco and Los Marcos on my list – thank you! Agreed, The Romantic Zone is amazing. Cheers!
MelanieMay 6, 2021 at 9:29 am
This was so informative! I’m moving to Vallarta in July and have a similar experience like you described… I found a journal entry from 2018 where I described my dream life. Vallarta checks all the boxes I had written out (close to the beach, ability to spend tons of time outdoors, walkable, focus on wellness, affordable, etc.) Going to check out your insta and YouTube!
CourtneyMay 6, 2021 at 9:41 pm
AHHH soooo excited for you!!! ☺️☺️☺️🥳🥳
AnonymousMay 12, 2021 at 4:45 pm
“Playa de los Muertos” actually translates to “Beach of the Dead.”
ObiMay 17, 2021 at 7:19 pm
Having relocated here beginning January from Los Angeles, yes a bit of nervousness felt, but what more can be said about living here thus far is the simplicity demanded of lifestyle. Only thing I miss is the ability to just get in the car and drive around (road trips.. something I live for).. I seem to fear coming in contact with some form of police corruption.. (getting pulled over just for extortion reasons et al)…
Until then, my lifestyle hasn’t been quite fulfilling here.. once I’m over this fear, renting a car just to go road trips, Sayulita etc would be gold.
EricaAugust 31, 2021 at 9:17 pm
Hi thank you for sharing this ! I do have a question what about work like what American jobs are there I’m Puerto Vallarta or what can you do if I want to plan to live there ?