The author is staying in an Airbnb with a rooftop pool in the quiet neighborhood of Versailles, Puerto Vallarta.
- Meagan Drillinger has worked remotely from all over the world and says Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is her top choice.
- It’s a beautiful, relaxed beach destination and modern international city all in one, with plenty of coworking spots.
- She keeps up a super productive, “semi-normal routine” — all while feeling like she’s on vacation.
One of the biggest perks of freelance work is that it can be done from anywhere, so when I left my desk job in 2014, I made it a point to pick up and work from all over the world wherever I could. I’ve worked from Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Colombia, Ireland, Italy, and, most extensively, Mexico. Of all the countries I’ve tried, it’s Mexico that I find to be a remote worker’s paradise — particularly the city of Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta blends the cosmopolitan with escapism
I first started visiting the city in 2013, and it’s since become a second home. I even met my now-husband there (on Tinder, believe it or not). A far-cry from the sleepy beach town it used to be, you can go so far as to call Puerto Vallarta a full-fledged city these days, thanks to all the hotels, Airbnbs, restaurants, infrastructure, shopping malls, coffee shops — you get the idea.
But even though it’s fully connected and modern in its own right, Puerto Vallarta is still very much a coastal Mexican town with all of the charm, history, and quirks that come with a tropical paradise. An example: After a day of work, I stroll down the Malecon (boardwalk) past an ever-changing rotation of public art toward El Solar, a cash-only beachfront bar with a relaxing soundtrack and a menu of succulent ceviche, fresh tacos, and frosty drinks. I usually go here for happy hour by myself after a long day to unwind, toes in the sand — and it sure beats my 9-to-5 desk job routine in my previous New York City life.
I’ve been able to do my job seamlessly
Wifi is very fast and reliable in Puerto Vallarta, and it’s free in most restaurants, bars, Airbnbs, and hotels. Unlike other more remote parts of the world, where the wifi can drop unexpectedly, you rarely have that problem here.
The city’s also teeming with coffee shops and coworking spaces, most of which offer air conditioning, lockers for storage, private meeting rooms, and phone booths. Vallarta Cowork is one of the best in the area.
But as a creature of habit, I prefer working from a Starbucks on the Malecon and affectionately refer to it as “my office.” It has outdoor tables under a covered awning, a picture-perfect view of the Bay of Banderas, and great people-watching. The WiFi is fast (and free) and they never kick me out, even if I sit there long after the ice from my cold brew has melted, which I often do.
Drillinger affectionately refers to a Starbucks on the boardwalk as her office: “There’s something about this spot that keeps me super focused and productive.”
Around me is a constant rotation of people on their laptops, taking calls, or simply breezing in and out on their way to the beach. There’s something about this spot that keeps me super focused and productive; I get more done in four hours at Starbucks than I do in an entire day in a beautiful Airbnb.
I’m able to structure my days in a way I love
Puerto Vallarta is a very easy city in which to adopt a semi-normal routine, while still feeling like you’re on vacation. I’m a member of Anytime Fitness, a 24-hour gym with more than 4,000 locations around the world that costs about $50 a month (less if you buy six months at a time). The one in Puerto Vallarta is on the second floor of the Plaza Caracol mall. It’s spacious, with strong AC and brand-new equipment. I go around 9 a.m. and frequently have the place to myself.
The city does not lack grocery stores, either, from Walmart and Costco to more local (yet similar to Walmart) chains like Soriana or Chedraui. You can even find gourmet supermarkets like La Europea, which has high-end imports from France and Italy. I’ll do a big shop at Soriana (since it’s right underneath the Anytime Fitness) and will spend about $75 for two people for a week’s worth of groceries.
I often book an Airbnb so that I can cook most of my meals, but of course there are many restaurant options around the city. Prices now are a lot higher than in previous years, but you can still get a night out for four people at nice restaurant with two bottles of wine for less than $200, so it’s cheaper than cities like New York City or Los Angeles.
My work-life balance is never better than when I’m here
What I wanted most when I went freelance for the first time was a better work-life balance, and living in Puerto Vallarta allows for that beautifully. The surrounding mountains are veined with hiking trails and picturesque waterfalls. One of my favorite things to do is to grab the bus from the Zona Romantica and head south to the small fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan. There’s a mountain hike here that runs along the coastline and weaves in and out of coves and secluded beaches, opening up to one of the most beautiful restaurants in the area, Casitas Maraika.
“What I wanted most when I went freelance for the first time was a better work-life balance, and living in Puerto Vallarta allows for that beautifully,” Drillinger writes.
My husband and I have also taken to driving our motorcycle up and down the coast of Nayarit, popping into the smaller beach towns that remind us of what Puerto Vallarta used to be like when we first started visiting.
There are several great neighborhoods for a remote worker to live
I’m staying in an area called Versailles right now, and going forward, this is where I’ll always stay. It’s a quiet residential neighborhood with charming cobblestone streets and a mix of historic architecture and modern condo-style apartments. Our two-bedroom, two-bathroom Airbnb has a rooftop pool deck, full kitchen, and washer/dryer and costs roughly $70 per night (but can change depending on the season). We’ve been here a month, and will likely return for another month and a half in the fall.
While we’re walking distance to several grocery stores and shopping malls, it would require a taxi or a bus to get to the energy of downtown or a 15-minute walk to the beach. Remote workers who are newer to Puerto Vallarta might do better in either the 5 de Diciembre neighborhood, which is packed with restaurants, bars, and coffee shops; Centro, a busier and more historical neighborhood that can get noisy at night; or Zona Romantica, the oldest and most visually stunning neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta (that’s also the main tourist section of the city, so expect prices to be a little higher). I’ve stayed in all three and had great experiences.
San Pancho, one of the small beach towns along the Nayarit coast that the author and her husband visit.
Of course, there are a few downsides
For one, Puerto Vallarta does not have the most beautiful beaches in Mexico; to find those, you’ll have to venture outside of the city along the southern Costalegre or up north into Riviera Nayarit. Second, it’s a city that’s teeming with both domestic and international tourists and there’s no way to get around that — though it’s unique to see how well the tourists and residents intermix with each other.
What makes Puerto Vallarta such an appealing spot for remote work is that while it’s a beach destination, it has blossomed into such an international city that it can give people the best of both worlds. As long as I’m able to work remotely, I will always find a reason to come to Puerto Vallarta at least once a year. I’m not saying we are starting to look at real estate yet, but it certainly has been a conversation.