Advertisement
retirement

Why Ensenada, Baja California, Is a Great Place to Retire

Just over the border, the city nicknamed "Old Mexico" has a distinct international flair.

Population: 520,000

Nearest large city: San Diego

What $300,000 will buy: Loma Dorada home with 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a rooftop terrace, a half-block from the ocean

As you drive south from San Diego past the Mexican border, the nearly uninterrupted development of southern California and Tijuana quickly gives way to breathtaking coastal views of the Baja California peninsula. The well-maintained four-lane road hugs the rocky shoreline and passes through Mexican towns and small communities until, 65 miles south of Tijuana, you round one final bend and Ensenada stands before you.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Ensenada is often described as “Old Mexico,” but the downtown area also has an international vibe. Walking along the wide, brick sidewalks, you’ll find no shortage of traditional Mexican restaurants, bars showing soccer games and street vendors selling souvenirs, churros and fish tacos. In fact, Ensenada is reputedly where the fish taco originated, as well as home to the bar that invented the margarita. But you’ll also spot restaurants experimenting with lighter, Mediterranean-inspired Mexican fare, as well as French, Thai and Chinese cuisine. Cruise ships drop off passengers for a few hours four days a week, temporarily transforming the main thoroughfare into a much busier place.

Thousands of U.S. expats call Ensenada home. Retiring abroad appeals to Americans seeking a different culture and lower cost of living, and Mexico earned the top spot on International Living’s 2017 list of retirement havens abroad. The mild climate and warm, easygoing culture in which even new acquaintances often hug goodbye don’t hurt, either. Speaking Spanish is helpful but not necessary.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Ensenada’s proximity to the border makes it particularly appealing. Many retirees opt to use a mix of Mexican and U.S. doctors so they can continue to see their stateside providers while paying less for some procedures south of the border. “We live in the best of two worlds here,” says Tillie Foster, 85, who moved to Ensenada from Orange County, Calif. Retirees can live comfortably on $1,500 a month and still have access to most of what they’re accustomed to back home, she says.

Many expats in the area choose to live in communities a few miles away from downtown Ensenada, such as Bajamar to the north and Punta Banda to the south. Homes that would cost $500,000 or more in San Diego typically sell for $200,000 to $300,000 here, and people looking for an unimpeded ocean view can find property for about $400,000. Mexico limits the number of foreigners who can purchase coastal real estate, but you can still buy residential property in restricted areas if you pay the bank a few hundred dollars a year to hold the property in trust. Property tax rates are reasonable—usually about 0.1% of a home’s assessed value. And renters can find modest options close to the water for about $500 a month, or homes with an ocean view starting at about $1,500 a month.

A short drive north of Ensenada lies the Guadalupe Valley, known as the Napa Valley of Mexico. Informal Facebook groups of expats gather to practice yoga on the beach weekly; others volunteer with local organizations. Or you can just chill out and watch the sunset over the ocean while listening to the seals bark from the nearby fishing docks.

One cultural quirk that many Americans say takes some getting used to: Things run on Mexican time. It’s not unusual for people to be 15 or even 30 minutes late, because south of the border, people are more important than schedules.

Advertisement

Most Popular

2020 Stock Market Holidays and Bond Market Holidays
Markets

2020 Stock Market Holidays and Bond Market Holidays

Is the market open today? Take a look at which holidays the stock markets and bond markets take off in 2020.
July 1, 2020
What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020
Searching for the Perfect Place to Retire
Empty Nesters

Searching for the Perfect Place to Retire

We home in on two places with less traffic and lower costs. 
July 2, 2020

Recommended

13 Tax Breaks for Homeowners and Home Buyers
income tax

13 Tax Breaks for Homeowners and Home Buyers

Owning (or buying) a home is expensive. But at least there are some tax deductions, credits, and exclusions that can help you recoup some of those cos…
June 22, 2020
12 Things Every Home Buyer Should Do
real estate

12 Things Every Home Buyer Should Do

Buying a home may be one of the biggest purchases you will ever make.
June 12, 2020
11 Things Every Home Seller Should Do
real estate

11 Things Every Home Seller Should Do

As a home seller, your goal is to sell your property quickly for the most money possible.
June 12, 2020
13 Reasons You Will Regret an RV in Retirement
retirement

13 Reasons You Will Regret an RV in Retirement

RV-loving retirees talk about the downsides of spending retirement in a motorhome, travel trailer, fifth wheel or other recreational vehicle.
June 8, 2020