Just a few short years ago, Tulum, Mexico was a sleepy town on the Caribbean best known for its beaches and Mayan ruins. Overnight visitors were willing to go “rustic” since it lacked amenities like electricity. These days, Tulum is undergoing something of a “discovery” with an explosion of new condo developments and an influx of visitors and temporary or permanent expat residents. Nowadays, there’s high-speed internet everywhere, luxury condo developments, and gourmet restaurants to rival anything in New York or Los Angeles.
Jo-Ann Shain and Mary Jo have been visiting the area for 35 years and saw the growth first hand. “When we first started visiting the Mayan Riviera, there was a two-lane highway with jungle on both sides and no electricity for miles.” says Jo-Ann.
The pair knew they wanted to retire to the white-sand beaches of Mexico, and Jo-Ann started researching builders in the area. They wanted a well-built and designed condo, with tropical landscaping, and a pool near the Tulum beaches.
They found their two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in an upscale development in 2015 and bought it for $175,000.
The condo has an open floor plan that’s bright and airy with windows opening onto the lush jungle landscaping all around them. There’s a plant-filled patio off the main living area that overlooks the sparkling swimming pool.
All of the building materials are locally sourced to ensure the décor maintains a sense of place, which is an important element. They’ll be doing some renovation soon by taking out the kitchen island and replacing it with a dining table. “The cost of renovations is about a third less than they would be in New York,” says Jo-Ann.
Each bedroom has an en-suite bathroom and a small patio facing the jungle, offering both guests and hosts their privacy.
Now the retired medical editor and family physician enjoy six months a year in their tropical paradise while the rest of the year finds them either home in New York or traveling.
When they’re not using the condo, they earn extra income by renting it out as a vacation rental which helps cover the approximately $450 a month for utilities, maintenance, and HOA fees.
The beach is only a short stroll or bike ride away and there’s a bike path which will take you there, or into town. A sizeable expat community in both Tulum and their condo development makes it easy for Jo-Ann and Mary Jo to meet other people.
In fact, they’ve been surprised by just how easy it is to meet people. Jo-Ann says, “We’ve gotten involved in local beach clean-ups, and are helping to get a recycling program off the ground, No Mas Plastic, (No More Plastic). We also get together for a lunch with a monthly ladies’ group. Being involved in such activities makes it easy to meet people.”
They also take Spanish lessons and enjoy day trips to the nearby Mayan ruins of Tulum and Coba or floating down the Ancient Mayan Canals of Sian-Kann, a biosphere reserve.