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Moving to Puerto Vallarta: The Lies, the Myth, and the Love

By Erin Neff

September 06, 2023

How to build your girl gang while discovering the beauty of Puerto Vallarta

How it started

It all started two years ago when I visited Puerto Vallarta on a birthday trip. The trip was a disaster as my flights were delayed, and I missed almost half of my four-day trip. I must admit with a bit of embarrassment that I stayed at an all-inclusive, adult-only resort. I thought that was what visiting a new country was all about.

Now, to set the record straight, there’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation to an all-inclusive resort and, if I’m honest, I enjoy going to them now that I live here for a Sunday Funday, but let’s not confuse “going on a Mexican vacation” with staying in an All-Inclusive resort that you never leave.

The truth is, they are great, but you miss out on the beautiful people and culture. Staying in an All Inclusive Resort IS a vacation, but drop the same resort in “anywhere” USA, and you will pretty much get the same experience. I’m grateful my friend made plans for street tacos and a visit to Mezcal Y Sal, one of those places I take all my friends who visit now that I live here. I highly recommend them. The cocktails are over the top, and their food is delicious.


Three women holding together


All too soon, the trip was over, and I left with a longing for the vibe of this city. Just one night off the resort, I met so many cool people who gave me their WhatsApp and wanted to connect. As I boarded the plane on my way home, I started to realize it would be 100% possible for me to move to Mexico.

Fast forward nine months, I sold almost everything I owned; I was saying my goodbyes and boarded a one-way flight with my dog in tow and butterflies in my tummy. I left with a head full of dreams about the life I was about to give myself.

Sound familiar to some of you?


The Lie I Told Myself – I’m going to be a whole new person

I laugh out loud when I think about this thought now. Moving to a new area didn’t make me a new person. There was no magic wand at IMM when they stamped my passport that suddenly gave me a meditation practice or created a healthier version of me. I didn’t walk through and suddenly have all positive self-talk or a whole new level of self-confidence.

The Truth

I walked through IMM with a lot of anxiety and wondered if the wifi would be strong enough to continue working remotely. In my experience, the quote “New place, new me” was a bit of a delusion.

I allowed myself to believe that a new environment would make me a different person. The truth is, I am the same person, just living around new people and in a different environment. All the changes I wanted to make within myself didn’t require a move to a new country. It required a good hard look in the mirror followed by action.


The Lie – I’m going to make my new best friends quickly

There are so many incredible people to meet in this city, and it’s relatively easy. However, building your new friend group is more challenging than attending one mixer in town.

The Truth

Friendships are something I struggle with. I like a close and small group of friends. Being a woman in my 40s, finding new friends is not easy. Creating my girl gang is so important to me that I talked to my Life Coach about how to find the right people. I wanted strong, supportive women in my life, but I always felt like I was spending time with people who weren’t doing that for me.

I discovered I didn’t know what I wanted in a close friend vs. a social friend or a good acquaintance. I was trying to make them all my close friends, coming up disappointed and feeling socially exhausted. I first had to realize that not everyone I meet deserves a place in my close circle, but all women I meet play a part in my social circle.

Some will always be my favorite coffee date friends. Some will always be my two glasses of wine friends. Some will be that person I want to just cut loose with and dance the night away, and some will be social acquaintances. At the end of the day, EVERY woman I meet, I can learn from.

Along the way, I have found those women I can share my innermost person with and know it’s safe because we are there for each other, judgment-free, vulnerable, in the beauty and the ashes; this woman will always be there.

I learned that when I found these women along my journey, they don’t disappear when you relocate, but you carry them in your soul.


How do I determine who belongs in that close circle?

I had to take the time to figure out the qualities I wanted in solid and close friendships, really needle down to what that woman looked like on the inside, how I felt in her presence, and how she treated me and those around her.

Once I had the framework to decide who fit into which category, it created a filter system I could use to understand how these new friends would fit in my world.

Here’s a little secret: It takes a lot of practice. One coffee date doesn’t determine a friendship. You have to practice over and over.

It allows your intuition to tune in to the facts and the emotions. Every woman I meet is somehow a reflection of myself in various stages. Those women you admire and think, “I wish I could be more like her.” She IS INDEED a variation of yourself, and that variation is in you NOW.

The next time you find yourself out with a new friend, give yourself the time to reflect and decide which cup this person might fill. Maybe she falls into the “group-only friend” filter. Give yourself time to understand why you put her in one or the other. Test the water a few times before you go all in or all out—practice.

As we grow older, that filtering system needs to be recalibrated as our needs change. The “bestie” I wanted five years ago has a different value set than the best friend I want today. We have to adjust our filters along with our personal growth.

The beauty of this is that you learn more about yourself in this process and meet some great people along the way. Puerto Vallarta is one of the easiest places I’ve lived, where meeting people is plentiful and available any day or time of the week.

If you are still looking for the right friends, I encourage you to build a framework around what you want in a close, casual, and group friendship. Most importantly, PRACTICE. Set the date, do the follow-up, rinse, and repeat.

One of my hardest learnings is that I have to be the one to reach out. If you want to build a friendship, take control of this area and be the first person to reach out if you want to spend more time with her. Through practice, you will meet your girl gang, support system, and the women you want in your close circle.


THE MYTH – People will steal from you; it’s not safe there!

Insert the world’s biggest eye roll!

Yes, you might get pick-pocketed. You should keep your awareness high. Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t wander down the dark alley, especially alone. Don’t drink too much unless you have someone looking out for you.

Let’s be honest: Have you been to Chicago? NYC? Las Vegas? I would give someone the same advice if they were living or visiting any city in the US.

There was more violence in one night in the city I left than in a whole year in Puerto Vallarta. I feel exponentially safer here than anywhere I have lived in the US. I would tell anyone believing this myth to turn off the news and talk to those who live here to get an unfiltered perspective on safety here in P.V.



There are SO MANY things to love about Puerto Vallarta.

Living in a place where many people have uprooted their comfort zones, moved to a new home, and learned a new way of life, it is easy to find people you can relate to. Most everyone I meet says they move here because of the people.

I love walking down the street and sharing a smile with a complete stranger.

I love that almost everyone tries to communicate and make you feel welcome regardless of the language barrier.

I love the ocean, the sound of the waves, the smell of the salt water, and the feel of the sand beneath my toes.

I love whale watching – take the tour if you’ve never done it.

Tune in to Asphalt Radio – Puerto Vallarta’s English Radio station – Want to find an event to attend and meet your next bestie? Tune in on Saturdays at 11 a.m. to learn all about the events happening around town.

Last but not least, the businesses I love. Check them out!

The Living Room Bookstore – Such a cozy spot to buy a book and curl up for a great read

Pet Buddies – My favorite dog sitting and dog walking in the city trustworthy and credible animal lovers.

Moonwitch Essentials – Best-smelling non-toxic candles, essential oils, and body sprays

Daneto Pet Shop – Healthiest homemade dog treats in town. She also has some of the cutest pet apparel.

Whiskey Kitchen – Get your fried chicken fix!

Akualina MX – Get the best water in town delivered to your door

Mezcal Y Sal – Most beautiful cocktails in the city. Also, they have a great vegetarian and vegan menu.


Come out and network with us and meet other outstanding local women entrepreneurs.

Engagement in our Facebook and in-person networking groups can substantially boost your networking efforts. Our group offers a platform to meet, learn from, and collaborate with like-minded professionals. Save the date for our next Women’s Networking Puerto Vallarta event.

  • Frequency: Last Thursday of Each Month
  • Date/Location: September 28th, 2023 – The Seahorse Cucina Bar & Lounge Puerto Vallarta. Calle Zaragoza #160 B, cuarto piso, Centro de Vallarta. 48300 Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.
  • Language: English-speaking event, open to all women-owned businesses in the local community
  • Admission: Free

For more information and to stay updated on upcoming events, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/womensnetworkingpuertovallarta


About the author: Meet Erin Neff, Founder of Women’s Networking Puerto Vallarta and Life Transformation Coach. A transplant from Austin, Texas, Erin is passionate about creating space for women to collaborate and grow together to make a positive impact within us and our community. Her Life Coaching business started by helping salespeople make small changes that added up to big commissions. It has transformed into helping people make their dream life a reality through changing habits, healing trauma and having a vision that excites them to get out of bed. @erinnlv





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