How I Live in a Tropical Paradise on $1,000 US per Month

Updated on April 14, 2020
David Warren profile image

David Warren has lived in Puerto Vallarta for almost two years and wrote this article after being asked repeatedly for this information.

Cafe del Mar. I often have coffee here. Great light as the sun sets into the Pacific.
Cafe del Mar. I often have coffee here. Great light as the sun sets into the Pacific. | Source

Starting Over in a Tropical Paradise

I went from a proud, hardworking army veteran and family man to disabled, divorced, and adrift, but that's another story.

When circumstances beyond my control limited my earning capacity, I chose the tropical paradise of Puerto Vallarta to reinvent and restructure my life. I could not have lived under a bridge in Northern Nevada on my Social Security Disability.

This article is specifically a summary of how I live comfortably and safely in Mexico on a limited budget.

My Personal Experiences in Mexico

Please remember that Mexico is a very large and diverse country. The information you read here is based on my personal experiences, mainly here in Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding Banderas Bay beach towns. The only aggressive act I have witnessed in a year and a half in Puerto Vallarta was a road rage altercation initiated by an American tourist, and luckily for the ignorant gringo, it did not result in anything more than a few ill words between the two parties.

I recently traveled through several towns in the states of Sinaloa and Sonora where the US State Department has Do Not Travel Advisories. I did not have any problems at all in these areas, but I did not venture out late at night or go to any bars. In Puerto Vallarta, I walk alone at all hours and feel safer here than anywhere I've lived in the United States.

About the City

Mainly a fishing village until the 1960s, when tourism started getting a firm hold, Puerto Vallarta hasn't stopped growing since.

It is a playground for many foreign tourists as well as Mexican nationals. There are very expensive hotels, time shares, restaurants, and activities. I certainly learned some financial lessons the hard way. I spent several of my first months here during the height of the tourist season, which is December to April.

The beach. La playa.
The beach. La playa.

The Cost of Living in Puerto Vallarta

Rent and Utilities

My rent is 4,500 pesos per month. At today's exchange rate, that is equivalent to $240 US dollars. I live in Zona Romantica, also commonly called Old Town. There are condominiums that rent for $3,000 to $4,000 US dollars per month in my neighborhood. It was not easy to find and secure an apartment two blocks from the beach at my level of income, but there are also many apartments outside of the tourist areas for even less than what I pay.

In my previous apartment, my electric bill averaged 210 pesos each two months (electricity is billed every other month). The equivalent in US dollars was $11.00. When I utilized my AC, from about June to early October, my bill increased to about 2,000 pesos per billing cycle, which is over $100 US.


I was paying 500 pesos per month for Dish Network but canceled it (saving $26.31 US) and gave my television to a Mexican friend and her daughter along with a DVD player. I had purchased the television and DVD player at a bazaar for about fifteen US dollars, and they both worked well.

A new flat screen, however, from Costco or Walmart would set you back significantly more than what you would pay in the states. Computers and phones are also more expensive, even when purchasing older models that would be considered outdated in the states. The upside is that phone services, which include international calling between Mexico, Canada, and the United States, as well as data, are rarely above $15 per month US.

Some Monthly Expenses in Puerto Vallarta

(click column header to sort results)
Cost in Pesos  
Equivalent US Dollar Amount  
Electric (CFE), included
Gas, included
3 Cervezas from Oxxo or Kiosko (Local convenient stores)
33.00 (11 pesos each for three on sale)
1.73 (58 cents each)
Latte at a tourist cafe
Four carne asada tacos in my neighborhood
Haircut at a neighborhood salon
Whole cooked chicken with side of white rice, corn tortillas, and hot sauce
20 Liters of spring water
Some prices current in Puerto Vallarta as of May 2019.
A Page in the Sun: my favorite bookstore.
A Page in the Sun: my favorite bookstore.

The Banderas Bay Area

Banderas Bay is actually in two separate Mexican states, Jalisco and Nayarit. There is Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, where I live, and there is Nuevo Vallarta (New Vallarta), which is actually in the neighboring state of Nayarit. I don't go to Nuevo Vallarta often as it reminds me of Scottsdale, Arizona or Boca Raton, Florida. Nothing against it—different strokes for different folks—but it just doesn't seem representative of Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta was the last port of call for The Love Boat. This tropical paradise became well known when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were making headlines while buying property in a neighborhood currently known as Gringo Gulch.

My Favorite Hike: Las Animas

There is truly something here for everyone. Hiking, scuba diving, sailing, snorkeling, surfing, fine dining, or simply relaxing on the beach beneath the palm trees with a margarita.

Tourists commonly ask me what is the one thing not to miss, with so many activities to choose from. My favorite activity here is taking the bus from downtown Vallarta to Boca de Tomatlan and then hiking to Las Animas. It is a moderate hike, with some decent elevation gains and descents, but there are many small, beautiful beaches and places to stop along the way.

Las Animas is only accessible by boat or by hiking. Often I'll hike in, enjoy the day at Las Animas, and then hop on a boat (water taxi) back to either Boca for the bus or all the way back to town. The scenery is spectacular on this hike. Lush green jungle, secluded beaches, waves crashing as they collide with rocks, and tide pools.


The Mystery of Los Muertos

Puerto Vallarta's pier is at the Los Muertos beach, which translates to "beach of the dead." There are stories about miners fighting pirates upon this beach, but there never was any mining done here in the bay that I am aware of. The pirate part of the story does merit some truth, as Banderas Bay certainly had pirates, and likely there are still unfound treasures buried in the Sierra Madre.

Beautiful beach at sunset.
Beautiful beach at sunset. | Source

About the Author

Two years ago, I never imagined I would be single or that I would be living in a tropical paradise. I am an Army veteran, three years active as a forward observer, five years as a combat medic in a reserve unit, and four years in an Airborne Civil Affairs unit. I've worked as a carpenter, front loader operator, truck driver, bridge repair technician, and video engineer. After multiple serious neck surgeries, I had to accept the harsh reality that physically demanding work was no longer an option for me.

By 2012, I was barely able to walk. I was on daily morphine and many other prescription pain killers. The doctors, both VA and private care, agreed that I had no chance of recovery and wanted to implant a pump beneath my collarbone that would automatically deliver morphine into my spinal canal in my neck. I refused the surgery and stopped taking all pain-related prescriptions against the advice of the VA.

Have You Ever Considered Going to México?

See results
Life in a tropical paradise.
Life in a tropical paradise.

© 2018 David Warren


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • SgtCecil profile image

      Cecil Kenmill 

      21 months ago from Osaka, Japan

      So cool! Do you need a special visa to live there? I'm an expat myself. I live in Japan now.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Articles like this one, David, always carry an air of authenticity when the author has actually lived it and speaks from personal history...well done! Good to have you back among us.

    • David Warren profile imageAUTHOR

      David Warren 

      23 months ago from Nevada and Puerto Vallarta

      I broke my wrist in March and a trip to the hospital ER, radiology, having an orthopedic surgeon called in, getting the bone set and casted came to ninety dollars US. That is with no insurance! Anything major I would fly home for and use VA. Love Puerto Vallarta!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      23 months ago from USA

      I wish you the best in Mexico. How is healthcare there?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)