Complete Guide For Chapala, Mexico

Chapala is a town that offers its residents lakeside and mountain views every day. With a beautiful climate all year, residents and visitors alike can enjoy the surrounding nature regularly. Kayaking, hiking, and biking are all easily accessible when visiting or living in Chapala.

What else is there to love about Chapala? Well, there’s plenty! In addition to the great outdoors, Chapala is rich in Mexican culture. You can find markets, mariachis, and many friendly locals to mingle with. 

Curious to learn more about this often-overlooked Mexican destination? Well, read on because this guide will explain what you need to know about visiting or living in Chapala. 

Where is Chapala located?

Chapala is in the state of Jalisco in central Mexico. While Chapala is a smaller town, the state’s capital, Guadalajara, is just an hour’s drive away. If you’re considering a move to this area, then it’s likely that the lake and its surrounding mountains are what caught your eye. 

The most prominent attraction of the town is its picturesque setting. Chapala is on the north shore of Lake Chapala. Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico, covering about 417 square miles. It even crosses the state border into Michoacan. 

The town of Chapala is not only located on the edge of this beautiful freshwater lake but also enjoys the lush green Sierra Madre mountains as a backdrop. That makes views in this and neighboring towns breathtaking. 

Weather in Chapala

Chapala is known to have one of the best climates in the world. Who’s the judge? According to a 2016 article, National Geographic ranked Chapala as the second-best climate in the world. But we’ll let you decide for yourself based on the facts.

The average highs in Chapala range between the early 70s and mid-80s, depending on the month. Lows are also pretty mild, with the average lows ranging from the low 50s to the low 60s. The rainy season falls from June to September. However, the rain hardly impedes daytime plans as it usually rains in the evenings and at night. 

The “hot season” is April-June, with temperatures in the high 80s. The “cold season” is from December to February, when lows could drop to the high 40s. However, daytime highs are still in the 70s. 

A significant contributor to this lovely weather year-round is Chapala’s altitude. Chapala sits at an elevation of 5,000ft. Many foreigners and Mexicans flock to this bucolic getaway for nature and the comfortable year-round weather. If you want to enjoy mild temperatures at any time of the year, then Chapala is a great option as a future home or a mountain getaway.  

You may be interested in this Video- What is It Like To Live in Chapala

Getting to Chapala

Chapala is a popular destination for vacations and those looking to settle in Mexico. Getting there is relatively easy as the city is only an hour south of Guadalajara, one of the largest cities in Mexico. 

The Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Guadalajara International Airport (GDL) offers many international and domestic flights. Additionally, plenty of direct flights are going to and from the United States, making it an easy visit for U.S. citizens. 

Chapala is just a 35-minute drive from the Guadalajara airport, so continuing your journey to your lakeside getaway is easy. You can take a taxi, rent a car, or grab the bus. Naturally, taking the bus will be the most affordable option. However, a taxi is convenient and not too expensive. The fare should be around $600 MX (or about USD 30). 

What is the Population in Chapala?

When considering where to move to in Mexico, the size of the place is a large factor in the decision-making process. You’ll want to think about if you want to be in a large metropolitan area, small town, beachside city, or rural village. On the other hand, if you’re set on living in a small to a medium-sized town where nature is the main attraction, then Chapala is the perfect place!

Chapala is not only the name of a town but also the municipality. The municipality houses several villages, as well as the town of Chapala. There are just over 50,000 residents within the entire Chapala municipality. About half of those living in the city of Chapala, which has a population of around 25,000 residents. The neighboring village of Ajijic makes up a large part of the municipality, with a population of over 10,000 residents, many of which are expats. 

Things To Do in Chapala

So, how will your time be spent when vacationing or living in Chapala? Nature lovers and those who appreciate a good view will find endless options for enjoying the area’s beauty. Many of those activities center around Lake Chapala. 

Tejuino is a must try in Chapala- look for them on the malecon
Top 8 things to do in Chapala: 
  • Walk the Malecon (boardwalk). Did you think boardwalks were just for beaches? Well, think again. Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico. And the bordering towns have boardwalks so visitors and residents alike can enjoy a lakeside stroll. There are also many vendors along the Malecon where you can buy souvenirs or food and drink. One popular drink in Chapala is a tejuino- a shaved ice drink with minimal liquor and very refreshing. Or you can try a cantarito- a large jug made with tequila and squirt soda. Delicious! But if drinking is not your thing, you can hop onto one of the small boats lining the way if you want to be on the water. 
  • Go biking. The beautiful weather in Chapala makes it one of the greatest attractions. So, for those of you who are exploring a little further outside of Chapala, a paved bike bath runs along the Chapala-Ajijic-Jocotepec highway. You can see the neighboring towns and their boardwalks (malecon) while enjoying great lakeside views. Bike rentals are easy to find in Chapala. You could even rent an electric bike if you’re looking for a more leisurely outing. 
  • Kayak on the lake. While you can enjoy the beautiful lakeside views from land, there’s nothing like seeing the Sierra Madre mountain range while paddling on the calm lake waters. There are plenty of companies that offer rentals as well as tours on the lake. This is one of the best ways to enjoy the beautiful setting. If you decide to settle down in Chapala, there are kayaking groups you could join. It’s a great way to meet people and get outside!
  • See the main church. Parroquia San Francisco is the landmark church in Chapala’s city center (el Zocalo). Seeing the town’s church is a must in most Mexican cities. The area outside often serves as a gathering place and is buzzing on most nights of the week. Another plus is the beautiful architecture. Even if you aren’t the most religious person, snapping some shots of the intricate designs of this church is worthwhile. 
  • Visit the neighboring villages. Lake Chapala is quite large. In fact, within the municipality of Chapala are five other villages: Ajijic, San Antonio Tlayacapan, San Nicolas de Ibarra, Santa Cruz de la Soledad, and Atotonilquillo. They are all relatively close, and each has its unique charm. However, they are all smaller than Chapala, so a day trip of exploring can be a nice change!
  • Check out the hot springs. Did you know that there are underground thermal springs surrounding Laka Chapala? I highly recommend visiting some of the thermal spas in town to relax. The largest and most well-known public pool is San Juan Cosala between Ajijic and Jocotepec. However, several hotels and boutiques also offer naturally heated pools. You can usually purchase day passes for under USD 30. 
  • Enjoy the live music. Although not a large city, Chapala offers a lot of events. You have live music and dancing. Depending on the establishment and night of the week, you can find everything from mariachi to salsa to jazz. You can also take some dancing classes. Whether you want to tango or salsa, you’ll find options in Chapala!
  • Take a hike. The surrounding mountains outline the trails for beginner or seasoned hikers. With so many options, you could get out on the trails daily! This is a significant draw for the active nature hiker. There are also hiking groups that meet weekly to not only exercise but socialize as well! Check out the many trails in the area. 

What is the cost of living in Chapala?

Regarding this area’s lakeside towns, Chapala is the most affordable option. This may be because although the area has a large expat community, it also has many local Mexican residents. Also, national tourism is quite popular in this down. Many come from Guadalajara for a weekend city escape to enjoy the nature in the area. 

Of course, your monthly budget in Mexico will certainly depend on your spending habits and lifestyle. Usually, though, the cost of living will be much less expensive than in the United States. 

Average estimates of the cost of living for a single person in Chapala: 

  • 1 bedroom apartment (city center) $8,500 MXN or $470 USD
  • 2 Bedroom House in city center $17,000 MXN or $800 USD
  • Meal at an inexpensive restaurant $155 MXN or $9 USD
  • Monthly utilities (gas, water, electric, internet) $1,000 MX or $55 USD
  • Public transportation ride $9 MXN or $0.50 USD

Another charming and practical offering of Chapala is the many markets where visitors and residents can shop for produce and meat. You’ll find fresh fruits and veggies every day of the week. Shopping at the markets is the most affordable option for groceries.

One could get a week’s worth of nourishing meals for about $1,000 MXN or USD 55.

Example: 3 Bed 2 Bath Rental in Chapala for $18,000 MXN

Can someone get by with English only in Chapala?

As we’ve mentioned, Chapala has a large expat community. This is great when you’re looking for people with whom to connect easily. In addition, other expats understand what it’s like to uproot their home and live in a place with a different culture and language different than their own. However, if you plan to live in Mexico, you should learn some Spanish and embrace the local community

Learning the local language will open up many doors for you. Mexicans are generally friendly and welcoming. They’ll often try to speak to you in English since they also want to practice. However, if you try to practice your Spanish with them, they will be grateful that you’re not only there because your money goes further, but also because you love the culture. 


The benefit of being in an area like Chapala, with a large expat community, is that many locals will offer private Spanish lessons. There are also language schools in which you could enroll.

You’ll find many English-friendly options for doctors, lawyers, and other professional services. This can be handy in emergencies or dealing with issues such as Mexican residency. However, to ensure you completely understand the process, it can be helpful to hire a professional.  

So, in short, yes, you could get by in Chapala only speaking English. However, you’d miss out on a large part of the culture. And that’s the majority of the fun of living in a different country.  

Enjoy the beauty of Chapala.

Chapala is a wonderful place to visit or even make your next home! There are plenty of things to do in town and the surrounding villages. Everyday life is centered around nature, and with one of the best climates year-round, any time is a great time to come! 

So, if you want to get outside more and enjoy some spectacular views at an affordable price, then Chapala is a great place! You can even check out this video on living in Chapala. 

After you visit, you may want to make your time here permanent. We’re happy to help you with all your concerns about moving to or retiring in Mexico. If you are wondering if it could be for you, then take the first step and sign-up for our 10 Part Email Series, where we’ll give you expert advice on living in Mexico. 

Mariana Lange

Mariana Lima-Lange was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child. She spent every summer visiting family throughout Mexico and is very knowledgeable about Mexican culture, lifestyle, and traditions. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.

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