Mecca, Saudi Arabia has been one of the most important cities on the Arabian Peninsula for over 4,000 years. Being the birthplace of Muhammad in 570AD and the home of the largest mosque in the world, the Grand Mosque, Mecca is considered by Muslims to be the holiest site of Islam. Since the 7th century AD, Mecca has hosted millions of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world on their way to Hajj.
During the time period around 630AD, Muhammad was successful in uniting the warring tribes of the Arabian Peninsula into a single nation, under one God. With this truce, there followed centuries of relative peace with most of the local tribes choosing to accept Islam as their own faith and using Mecca as their center of prayer. Although Mecca is basically in the middle of nowhere, it became a major trading hub between the Byzantines and Bedouins as the Meccans signed treaties with everyone in the area. Goods from Africa and the Far East flowed through Mecca on their way to Syria and the other areas within the Ottoman Empire. Today, the population of this holy city is 1,700,000 residents.
Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar), unlike Mecca, is a relatively young city, founded in 1857 with a current population of approximately 1,000,000 inhabitants. Mandalay is situated at the foot of Mandalay Hill because this is the site where around 500 BC while visiting Myanmar, Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, pointed to the land below and around the base of Mandalay Hill and proclaimed that at someday in the future there would exist a great city on the land. Today, the worlds largest book, the official Buddhist Bible consisting of 729 slabs of stone, rests in a pagoda at this site; thus it is accurate to say that Mandalay is Burma’s cultural and religious center of Buddhism.
As with Mecca, Mandalay has become a major trading hub, with goods flowing between China and India. Also, being the religious center of Buddhism, millions of Buddhist pilgrims visit Mandalay yearly to pay homage to the beautiful pagodas located there. As with Mecca, the average daily temperature is about 75°F throughout the winter months, which might have had some bearing on why Muhammad and Buddha both preached peace and tranquility in these beautiful climates.
Now we ask, what in the world do these two religious and cultural cities have in common with Puerto Vallarta, Mexico? Well, it just so happens that they both lie on or very near the 21st parallel north which is exactly the same latitude as Puerto Vallarta. For that matter, Maui, Hong Kong, Guadalajara, Hanoi, and Guantanamo Bay, also lie at this latitude and what they all have in common is great climates throughout the winter.
Being located just south of the very northern edge of the tropics, near the 23rd parallel north, which defines the northern edge of the Tropic of Cancer; these cities possess ideal climates from November through May when Puerto Vallarta sees an average daily temperature of 73°F with virtually no rain. As a note of interest, a large monument marking the Tropic of Cancer rests in Zacatecas, Mexico which is due west of Mazatlan, Mexico, also resting on the Tropic of Cancer line at 23° north latitude. Mazatlan is roughly 100 miles north of Puerto Vallarta and therefore we can acknowledge the fact that Mecca, Mandalay, Vallarta, Maui, Hong Kong, etc are all approximately 100 miles into the tropics where the sun is directly overhead at noon during the summer solstice in June.
Because the climate is so comfortable in these areas for such a large portion of the year, conditions are ideal for peace and tranquility. After all, Banderas Bay, home of Puerto Vallarta, received its name when warring Indian tribes and Spaniards during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico laid down their weapons and colorful flags (banderas) and proclaimed peace for this beautiful and comfortable region. By 1530, the short conquest was complete and for almost 500 years, there have been no serious conflicts between the Spaniards and Indians. To the contrary, they have intermarried for over 20 generations, to the extent where today, approximately 80% to 90% of all native Mexicans are mestizos, a combination of Spanish and Indian.
When the climate is absolutely perfect for at least seven months per year, it’s only logical that they made love and not war! To this day, the natives are still a very kind, gentle, and hospitable group of people and war, crime, or any other kind of confrontation is avoided at all costs. They are a very religious and peaceful society living the motto of “mi casa es su casa” or my house is your house. Foreigners, regardless of whether they are tourists or immigrating retirees, are always welcome by the natives of this very special Banderas Bay region.
When we think of regions of the world with ideal winter climates, the Hawaiian Islands often come to mind. This entire chain of islands also straddles the 21st parallel with Maui at the exact same latitude as Puerto Vallarta. Although the average winter temperature is 74°F, its exposure to Pacific Ocean winter storms leaves Maui with more than 15 inches of precipitation during the months of November through May, while Vallarta receives virtually none.
When evaluating either Maui or Vallarta for a winter vacation or retirement destination, a couple of factors other than climate should also be considered. Maui is approximately 8 hours from the US mainland, whereas Vallarta is just a little more than a 2 hour flight. If so inclined, you can drive to Vallarta; don’t try it to Maui! Even though it’s far from cheap, the cost of living in Vallarta is substantially lower than that in Maui.
While the population of the entire group of Hawaiian Islands is approximately 1,300,000 inhabitants, the island of Maui is home to less than 150,000 people; whereas Greater Metropolitan Vallarta has approximately 430,000 residents. Both of these resort areas have large cruise boat terminals that welcome 1,000´s of cruising passengers daily. Both cities have beautiful natural scenery, an abundance of fine golf courses and world class deep sea fishing, numerous five star restaurants, activities for people of all ages, night life, and sightseeing galore. Again, it should be remembered that winter vacations to Maui can frequently be hampered by rainfall; however this is never the case for winter vacations to Vallarta where every day is perfect for doing whatever pleases you.
Another magnificent city lying on the 21st parallel is Hong Kong with its population of 7,000,000 residents enjoying an average temperature of 70°F throughout the months of November through May; however on the downside, Hong Kong receives more than 25 inches of rain during this period. Any tourist searching for a very unique, interesting, dynamic, and beautiful winter vacation, Hong Kong is a must. It’s terribly expensive and very densely populated; therefore you can forget it as a potential retirement destination!
In summarizing, there are millions of people living on or near the 21st parallel north where the tropical winter climate is so inductive to enjoying life. Mecca, Mandalay, and Hong Kong are probably not the most suitable for the majority of the North American baby boomers evaluating various retirement destinations; however Maui and Vallarta should be given serious consideration.
For the reasons discussed above, an estimated 50,000 North Americans have chosen Vallarta as their winter residence and the number continues to increase daily. If you’re among the fortunate ones about to retire, you need to visit Vallarta and evaluate the opportunities it has to offer; perhaps you’ll be among the next 50,000 retirees that migrate to this glorious Paradise south of the border!