Part-time Living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

by Elena Hiatt Houlihan

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Why stare at cold gray skies and dirty snow when you could enjoy warm sea breezes? That was the question I asked myself back in 2008. So I decided to search for an ocean view. I conjured up a vision of an international community in a town with an Old World feel, a tropical setting with hills, trees, and water. I was sure I could find a place to rent somewhere south of the border.

And I did. After a few years exploring Latin America, I settled in Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Nowhere lures me the way Vallarta does. I originally arrived in mid-January, thinking I would move on after two weeks. Yet I stayed until June, and I’ve now spent four winters here, energized by the wealth of cultural activities and the talented people I meet at the writers’ group, art exhibits, tango dancing, and the Saturday market.

Costs here are low, too. Within a week of first arriving, I had found a studio apartment by strolling the cobblestone streets and watching for Se Renta signs. (Since then I’ve rented in five neighborhoods for periods from two weeks to six months, paying from $380 to $500 a month, utilities included.)

One woman I know rents a one-bedroom apartment in nearby Pitillal for $200, plus $100 for utilities. Another couple rents a five-bedroom, three-bathroom house with a small indoor pool, in the Las Aralias area, for $965 a month.

I live on far less than I did back in the States. Preferring to cook at home, I usually eat out no more than once a week. A large bag of fruits and vegetables from the market averages around $8; fresh tuna steaks run about $6 a pound; a pint of honey, $2; a liter of fresh orange juice, $1.50. Lunch at a taco stand or in a restaurant is $4 to $8, and you can get dinner and a drink for $15 to $18. Buses are frequent and cost 52 cents, while taxis average $3.75 around town.

Though I rarely need medical care, I’m glad I have access to good doctors here. I consulted a small local clinic for bronchitis and the fee was less than $5. A visit to a specialist is about $45.

When I chose Mexico, my father had passed away. But my mother was in assisted living, and I wanted to be no more than a day’s travel from Indianapolis. Travel back to the U.S. is straightforward. Puerto Vallarta has an international airport, and several international airlines, including U.S. Airways, United, and Air Canada, fly here.

I am now happily ensconced in an apartment in Vallarta’s Conchas Chinas neighborhood, with a view of the sea and stunning sunsets.

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