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Central Pacific Coast

Region 7: Central Pacific Coast



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The laid-back lifestyle and security of a robust health-Care system makes the Central Pacific region a popular residence for many U.S. and Canadian expatriates and retirees.

The Central Pacific region of Mexico—Jalisco, Colima, and Michoacán states—accounts for over 50,000 U.S. and Canadian expatriates living in Mexico; the majority live in the state of Jalisco. In fact, the Lago de Chapala area hosts the largest concentration of U.S. retirees outside of the United States.

The warm weather, endless miles of coastline and beaches, and easy access to the United States are the main reasons so many flock to this region, but cultural attractions are also a significant factor. Guadalajara and its surroundings in Jalisco state offer three quintessentially Mexican traditions and products, mariachis, the charreada (Mexican rodeo), and tequila. The historic downtown of Morelia, the capital city of Michoacán, is a UN designated World Heritage Site, encompassing nearly 150 city blocks with over 1,000 historical buildings and sites.

Jalisco’s long history of hosting outsiders—with some communities of foreigners dating back even to the 1930s, such as that at Lake Chapala—means that visitors can feel comfortable here and can enjoy a sense of belonging hard to find in other parts of the country. In addition to its cultural appeal and essential “Mexican-ness,” the European elegance of Guadalajara, despite its ranking as Mexico’s second-largest city, makes it easy for visitors to relate to and gives it immediate appeal. Tourist services are excellent and well attuned to needs and interests of North Americans. Another contributing factor is the sense of security afforded by the local, well-established, and contemporary health-care network led by Guadalajara hospitals.

Known for its delightful scenery, picturesque villages, assorted fine restaurants, and some of the best weather in the world, Lago de Chapala has long been a retirement destination for foreigners. Here you will find mostly U.S. and Canadian expats, some local fishermen, artists, and writers from all over the world.

Set against the backdrop of the Sierra Madre jungle, Puerto Vallarta has the heart of a quaint seaside town with a tropical flavor. The fine restaurants, shops, hotels, golf courses, water activities in the huge Banderas Bay, have over the last five years spread up the coast to overlap with Jalisco’s neighboring state of Nayarit, in the huge developments of Nuevo Vallarta.

Manzanillo was a sleepy little fishing town that made its way in the shipping industry to become the country’s busiest cargo port. The deluxe resort of Las Hadas began to draw in the international social set in the late 1970’s, when it was still easier to reach by boat or plane than by land, while Costa Alegre, north of Manzanillo, is the high-class tourist attraction of the day.

Michoacán state is one of Mexico’s colonial, natural, and cultural treasures, boasting the elegant city of Morelia, undulating volcanic landscapes, green valleys, splendid lakes, craftwork, renowned cuisine, and Purépecha Indian (also known as the Tarascans) culture. Morelia has always been a stately and important cultural center. However, investments in road and transport infrastructure over the last few years have improved its connections with the rest of the country and opened it up further to international visitors.

Central Pacific – Safety

The Central Pacific region of Mexico can be considered generally safe and hospitable. Even though beaches on Puerto Vallarta do tend to have lifeguards, the greatest risks for visitors to the coast are posed by the waves of the Pacific, so make sure you check beach flag warnings. Inland, the greatest hazards are driving on winding or badly kept, though scenic, secondary roads (or libres), more of a problem in Michoacán than Jalisco.

Jalisco is a large, wealthy state with corresponding transport networks as well as medical services. People in Guadalajara tend to be frank and direct, and traditional machismo is in full force. Local men are not always at ease with independent women, and those traveling without men might have to deal with some obstinacy and bossiness. It is best to read this as a sign of confused protectiveness rather than as a threat. To discourage unwanted male attention, make it clear that you do not wish to be disturbed.

Michoacán has isolated pockets that seem to be locked in the colonial past. While these contribute to its charm, their existence also means you cannot expect English to be spoken. Therefore it is wise to prepare yourself by learning rudimentary Spanish, having a good first aid kit, help numbers, and knowing where to find the nearest English-speaking support agency, be it an embassy, hospital, or even large hotel.

There has been some resentment towards invasion by outsiders in this state. This seems to manifest in occasional damage to cars with Mexico City number plates and is mostly directed towards other Mexicans. Foreigners are usually welcomed as an important source of tourist income, and for their genuine interest in local culture.

Since the benign climate is one of the attractions of the region, there is little need to prepare for extremes of heat or cold as in the north, although mountainous areas of Michoacán can become very chilly and rainy in winter. The Pacific coast is naturally prone to hurricanes, but warning systems are effectively in place and the last huge storm in Puerto Vallarta claimed buildings rather than lives. Ask about hurricane drills if you happen to visit in rainy season and are worried.

The Central Pacific region is a seismic zone, as is much of Mexico and Central America. You can familiarize yourself with basic procedures in case of tremors, although it is highly unlikely you will experience an earthquake or tremors. These include turning off electrical appliances, not taking elevators, standing in a protected area away from falling masonry or glass shards and, most important, making sure you do not run or panic.

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