Making Gringo Moves
March 2010

by Kevin Graham

We fell in love with Mexico as divers 11 years ago. We were living in Dallas and we would watch for weekend getaway specials to Cozumel via the charter companies. We would laugh that with some of the deeply discounted fares it was less expensive to go to Cozumel for a weekend than it would be to stay in Dallas. We traveled to Mexico so often it grew to have the feel of a home away from home.

It was a dream of ours to live on a beach in the Caribbean. So along with our diving we added checking out the local real estate market to our weekend itineraries. Cozumel was a very established area and the real estate market was pretty pricey, but we continued to look for a beachfront lot that was within our reach. We found a few, but it seemed when we put in an offer, the price that was quoted would change. Instead of a counter offer that a buyer expects in the States, we were being responded to with a price higher than had been originally stated.

We shared our frustration with one of our friends and she seemed to understand our plight. She mentioned the Costa Maya and asked if we had ever been. At that time we had never heard of Mahahual or Xcalak. She told us as divers we might enjoy the area and that she knew that it was just beginning to be built up, so we might have a better chance of finding an affordable piece of paradise.

Back in Dallas we started researching Costa Maya on the Internet. There was some information available at the time, but certainly not a lot. We excitedly planned for our next trip to Mexico to explore Costa Maya. We decided to take a full week, fly to Cancún, rent a car and hit the road. We arrived in Cancún midday and rented an open jeep so we could really see this new area and get a feel for the Costa Maya.

Now I would definitely call that a true "gringo move" on our part. Who knew that "rainy season" meant it will rain, possibly lots, and probably every day, so plan for it. But it didn’t rain ... it poured! In our jeep with no windows we were soaked and needed windshield wipers on the inside as well as the out. It was getting dark and we were almost too afraid to stop due to all of the warnings that we had read online about the dangers of driving these less-than-perfect roads at night through the jungle. So we sloshed on. This turned out to be a good call, for as quickly as the rain started, it also stopped. We finally arrived in Xcalak around nine that night.

Our first day in Costa Maya, I would say we made our second "gringo move." We decided to drive from Xcalak to Mahahual via the beach road. At that time the beach road was, in places, more of a beach than a road. But hey, we were in our open jeep and we weren't worried about getting stuck in the sand. That 60 kilometer trip, which is less than an hour's drive via the highway, took us five long hours. It was worth every hot and dusty minute. We saw one beautiful beach and cove after the next more beautiful beach and cove. It was hard to decide which area we liked the best. We took hundreds of pictures along the way. We arrived in Mahahual a little sunburned and dusty, and had the best and most welcomed cerveza ever. Needless to say, we took the highway back to Xcalak.

We enjoyed our week in Costa Maya, diving and revisiting some of the different areas that we thought to be the most beautiful along the coast. We felt welcomed by both the locals and the expats that we met during our stay. We were excited, as we felt we had found "our piece of paradise. "

During our second trip to Costa Maya, we revisited our favorite beaches along the coast and settled on property. This transaction was nothing like our experiences on Cozumel. Our offer was accepted, the price didn’t change and everyone was happy.

Now that we owned property in Costa Maya, the next item on our agenda was to figure out our plan to transition to living in Mexico. One thing we felt during our property search was that there was a lack of information or guidance for someone who is new to purchasing real estate in Mexico. It is a very different process from our experience in the States. We had many questions and could not always find the answers easily. But now that we had successfully completed that process, I felt that I could put my experience as well as my background in business planning and project management to use by assisting others through the process.

The third "gringo move" was in December, six years ago. We packed up some things, loaded the car and headed south. Four days later I was back in Costa Maya. We chose Mahahual as our new home, as it was quickly passing Xcalak in size, due to its proximity to the cruise ship port, Puerto Maya. I had made arrangements to work with a real estate company based out of Mérida as their Costa Maya expert. I found Mahahual to be a community comprised of people from around the world that welcomed me and I quickly assimilated in to the local culture. After almost a year of working with that real estate company, I saw some things that I wanted to do differently business- and customer-service-wise and decided to strike out on my own. My real estate company, Costa Maya Living, was born. Currently we are the largest real estate company in Costa Maya, offering the most exclusive listings.

If you visit Mahahual today, you will find a place much different than the town we first visited a few years ago. As the popularity of Costa Maya as a cruise destination grows, new businesses are popping up almost weekly. Getting here is easier too, as the old narrow two-lane highway from Playa del Carmen quickly is becoming a safe and smooth four-lane interstate. The government is on the task, providing the infrastructure that any community relies upon; e.g., water, sewer, electricity, and phone service.

I have had the opportunity to view the extensive and exciting plans for the development of the entire area. Much time and consideration were given to ensuring the success of the area, while protecting our natural resources. When you do visit our area, we hope you will stop in and say hello. You will find our office near the center of town in the same building as Hotel Matan Ka'an.

Kevin and Geri Graham live in Mahahual. Kevin also serves as the Costa Maya Warden for the United States Consulate Office. Visit their Web site.

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Matan Kaan Hotel, Mahahual, MX