Nomad Paradise: Mayan Riviera of Mexico

Mexico’s Mayan Riviera region is one of the top travel destinations on Earth…

Maybe the most surprising fact about Nomad Paradise: Mayan Rivera of Mexico is that the number of visitors continues to increase. Cancun airport (which serves the entire region) actually received more arrivals in September 2021 than September 2019 (yes, even while much of the world remains restricted or closed!)

Accessing through Cancun airport is easy: you can fly direct from almost anywhere. And very importantly, Mexico remains completely open to foreigners, as it has throughout 2020 and 2021, unlike many other countries that have made nomadic life difficult to varying degrees!

Mexico automatically grants 3-month or more commonly 6-month tourist visas (easy to renew) upon entry to citizens of practically every North American and European country, so you don’t even need to worry about paperwork if you’re looking to check it out for a few months.  Just bring your passport!

The Mayan Riviera

The region features year-round sunny tropical weather, awe-inspiring beaches on the Caribbean coast, tons of tourist attractions and plenty of visitors from different nationalities and profiles.  There is something here for everyone! (…as long as you’re OK with 77-86F / 25-30C weather in the winter months!)


Let’s see how the Mayan Riviera stacks up on my 7 Criteria of Nomadability…

1. Weather

Rating: A

Weather was one of my primary motivations for escaping Canada for the tropics.  It was a pain point I used to dwell on annually in the winter for several years before actually taking action to leave.

Dinner time on Fifth Avenue, Playa del Carmen Centro. January 2020.

Canada, as we know, is frozen and devoid of sunlight for 4-5 months every year.  As a result, my mood dropped severely every year in the late autumn and winter months.  It felt like forever.

Living in the Mayan Riviera, I don’t have that problem.  Depression = completely gone.

We enjoy the sun 350 days per year. In January the average high is 82F/28C.  I’ve celebrated Christmas Day and New Year’s Day on the beach and swimming in the Caribbean sea.  (It feels even better living here than on holiday!)  From November through April the weather is as close to perfect as you could imagine!

Summers, on the other hand, can be rather hot and sticky.  Travelling seasonally is an option I have used in the past.  Either way, I would happily choose a Playa del Carmen summer over a Toronto winter!  After suffering years of trauma in the Canadian cold I will not ever complain about too much hot / beautiful weather.  Especially not when I’m within minutes of being able to cool off in the Caribbean sea, or a pool, and have A/C indoors and in my car.


2. Quality of service: What can you do and how pleasant is the experience?

Rating: B+

The quality of the service is what you would hope for in a region where 87% of the economy are tourism.

What can you do?

Endless world-class hotels, beach clubs of all kinds, incredible Mayan history with pyramids and ruins, outdoor adventure parks, performance art, spiritual retreats, boating adventures, and many other offerings.  Perhaps a better question would be “what does this region lack?”  Well, there are no major professional sports.  That is basically the only thing I could think of!  Well, other than skiing and other winter activities.  Point being, you can do almost any activity you can imagine
Brunch at Choux-Choux Cafe in Playa del Carmen. September 2020.
The standard for customer service here is very high compared to other areas of Latin America.  Do not take this for granted! Outside of Mexico, it can be a very mixed bag.  Unpleasant service is disturbingly common in some other areas of Latin America.

Of course I have had some bad experiences here, too: I can think of a couple within the past 3 years at some less reputable establishments, and in some cases vendors will try to hustle you for a few extra dollars on the tourist strip if you give off the vibe of a short-term visitor.

Long story short, Mexicans understand and operate by reciprocity!  People here are willing to offer you an excellent service, if you pay them a very modest amount compared to what would be expected in Western countries.  This is nice because you can get a lot of things done with the help of staff, assistants, and handymen for much less money than back home!

Remember to tip at least 10-15% in Mexico for good service at restaurants!

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3. Language: Will your life be limited by a lack of fluency in the language of Spanish?

Rating: A-

I will never forget one of my first impression of this region when I arrived in 2018: thinking that there is more English spoken by locals in Cancun and Playa del Carmen than in the city of Miami, Florida. (Anybody who has been to Miami will know what I mean!)
It’s easier to get by here with little or no Spanish than anywhere else I have been in Latin America.  In fact, it’s easily possible live your whole life here never needing to learn Spanish.  Almost all of the people you will be interacting with in services will speak English.  The rest of what you need can be found online in English in nomad & expat groups.  I know many friends who have managed to live here for years completely in English (zero Spanish at all).
For my part, I have learned the local language.  But the point is that it’s a very low barrier for newcomers to settle in, even with no Spanish!


4. Internet speed and reliability: This must not be taken for granted in Latin America

Rating: A

Fast internet is another US-style comfort I enjoy here.  While some parts of Mexico do indeed have some slow-ass internet, the Mayan Riviera has some of the fastest and most reliable internet that I have experienced in Latin America. Not all providers are perfectly reliable (some of them will go down unexpectedly and then come back online). But there are reliable options that are very fast.
If you are like me and you do video calls for work it is important to not suffer laggy internet.  Infinitum is working great for me at the moment.  Zero lag on my video calls!
Just speed-tested my internet and here is the result:

5. Cultural compatibility & expat community: Is the culture friendly? Will you have easy access to other like-minded individuals (including other nomads)?

Tropical Christmas Eve 2019

Rating: A+

The entire region from Cancun to Tulum has a high population of Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Brits, Aussies, and South Americans.  While many of them are just here for a short visit, there is a big percentage that stays for several months or longer.  I personally have met hundreds of people who have stayed in the area for several years (or return annually for the colder half of the year).
Not only is it possible here to have a community feel, but I personally find it much easier to meet and socialize with like-minded people within the nomad community here than in my home city of Toronto, Canada (the warm year-round weather sure doesn’t hurt your social life either!) The whole area seems to attract people who tend to be independent thinkers with a certain enterprising spirit!  The nomads and expats here range in age from their early 20s to their 70s.  Young nomads all the way up to retirees and all ages in between.
The local Mexican culture will seem basically familiar if you live in the United States. It is undoubtedly a proud culture, but Mexico is also a country that is welcoming to gringos (used affectionately) and other foreigners. Even as an outsider, I enjoy Mexican culture!  It’s nice to live in a country that has more cohesion and common cause than in Canada.

6. Ease of Access / Travel: Ease of travel and getting to/from your home country.  This matters if you have friends or family who may want to join you or visit.

Rating: A+

Cancun might literally be the most accessible airport in Latin America for anyone on the Eastern half of the USA and Canada.  It also happens have remained completely open to foreigners throughout 2020 and 2021. That’s right: Mexico does not require a negative test or Vacks Pass to enter. Let that sink in as a low-level employee demands you “show papers” (digitally) or you get denied access to basic services and amenities in Canada, parts of the USA and Europe.

7. Safety: Will you have an experience of security in your person and property?

Rating: B

Personally, I’ve never seen any gang violence in Nomad Paradise: Mayan Rivera of Mexico.  I’ve been pickpocketed (once in 3 years), have heard of friends being harassed or robbed by police (usually when they are walking alone at night), and have heard of taxi driver misbehavior as well.

On the other hand, other types of crime or violence that are quite common in my home country of Canada actually seem to be less common here. On a typical night out in Canada it is normal to witness one or more violent altercations per night. This is no exaggeration. So far I have only seen 2 altercations (fights/brawls) in my 3 years in Mexico. Walking around at night in the tourist-friendly areas has been safer than in downtown Toronto.

Within Nomad Paradise: Mayan Rivera of Mexico, there are 3 main hubs to choose from in this tropical region, all within 1.5 hours of each other on the highway.

  • Cancun (population 971,798) the famous destinations has been one of the top tourist retreats on earth for what feels like decades
  • Tulum (population 46,721) has become one the trendiest places on Earth for party people with some money to blow, or those people looking for a “spiritual retreat”
  • Playa del Carmen (population 304,942) seems like many nomad’s perfect mix: sandy beaches, fast internet, & walkability between the town and beach, which distinguishes it from both Cancun and Tulum

And smaller municipalities such as Puerto Morelos, Puerto Aventuras, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres.

Island of Cozumel in the background. October 2021.

Your optimal destination in the Nomad Paradise: Mayan Rivera of Mexico of course depends on your personal situation, your priorities and your goals.  


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