Although access to the beachfront may require a short drive, the Mexican capital cities of Colima and Xalapa can offer a strong quality of life for expats. Colima has several green parks and a laid-back feel, while Xalapa has a university vibe and strong music scene. See the following article from International Living for more on this.
Some of my favorite cities in Mexico are what I call “two-for-one” bargains: mountain cities with temperate climates that are also close to the beach. They can be tailor-made for folks who can’t decide between life on the beach or life in the mountains—because with these cities you don’t have to choose.
Even better, two of my top picks—both of them colonial cities—have a very high quality of life. In 2007 Mexicans voted Colima the city with the top quality of life in the country. Xalapa is home to the best symphony orchestra in Mexico and to the best anthropological museum after the world-famous one in Mexico City.
Colima, in west-central Mexico, is just an hour from Manzanillo, a Pacific-Coast port and beach resort. Manzanillo has a laid-back Southern California feel and remarkably affordable properties (you can get a two-bedroom condo near the beach for around $70,000).
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If Manzanillo is like Los Angeles perhaps 40 or 50 years ago, Colima is more like San Francisco (without the Bay). The colonial main square is charming, and there are numerous green parks.
The city is very clean and well-tended, and I hear that the local government is well-run. There’s no expat community to speak of (they’re mostly in Manzanillo), but locals are friendly—making this a great place to practice Spanish. I love strolling the square and the parks here—you often see families out for the evening, with children running about the parks’ fountains.
Xalapa, in the state of Veracruz, lies near the opposite coast—the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a hilly city, with buildings and streets flowing up, down and around steep hills—you’ll work up strong leg muscles walking around the small historic center. Unlike Colima, whose climate is warm, Xalapa tends to be cool and moist, with frequent showers. This is the heart of Veracruz’s coffee-producing region, and if you’re a coffee-holic you’ll be in heaven.
There are plenty of cafés here serving the local java, and they all know how to brew it well—I didn’t have a bad cup the whole time I was there. And real estate prices here are relatively low—you can find plenty of modern homes in the $100,000 to $150,000 range.
Xalapa has a brainy, university-city vibe. The cafés are filled with people who seem to be having lively, interesting conversations. There’s a vibrant music scene and the food is fabulous (Veracruz is known for its good eats). And when you want to kick back, the Gulf Coast beaches are only 45 minutes away on a fast highway. Travel an hour and you reach the Port of Veracruz, a seductive city that is part Havana, part New Orleans and all fun. (It’s also home to arguably the best Carnaval celebration in Mexico.)
These two cities also share one other feature that I really like: They’re both state capitals. I know that sounds dull, but I’ll let you in on a little secret—when you’re getting residence visas, work permits, or other government paperwork, it’s convenient to live in a state capital. That’s where the documents are all processed.
In fact, I could easily live in either of these cities…whether I ever went to the beach or not.
This article has been republished from International Living.