Guadalajara, Mexico: First Impressions on Neighborhoods, Safety, Weather, and More
Was there an event going on? I had no idea what was happening, but the streets of Guadalajara, Mexico were packed with people.
Art vendors, food trucks, kids skateboarding, families walking, and quite a few cuties enjoying a nice Saturday night on Avenida Chapultepec.
I strolled around taking in the scene. Just relaxing and unwinding.
I'd taken a dip in the pool at my Airbnb apartment and was looking for some dinner. But the vendors and vibe had me intrigued. Hunger was the last thing on my mind.
It was just such a cool spot, minutes away from where I was staying.
And I can't lie…
Guadalajara, Mexico was never at the top of my list. Visiting was never a priority.
I'd heard mixed things about the spot. I figured it wouldn't be a place I'd like – much less love.
Then I decided to check it out for myself. Something came up and I decided to give it a try.
And damn, I'm happy I did.
Guadalajara, Mexico is beyond dope. In fact, it might be my favorite city in the whole country. I'll certainly be back.
Sure, I love my village by the sea and CDMX is solid, but Guadalajara was more than solid. It was great.
Why? Honestly, I haven't put a finger on it. If I had to describe the city in one word, it'd be:
Guadalajara is pleasant. You'll enjoy walking around the nice Colonias, working from one of the many cafes, grabbing a beer at a great cerverecia, or cruising down to Lake Chapala for a relaxing day trip.
The people are friendly and educated. I didn't feel unsafe one time while in the city. Guadalajara offers the typical traveler or digital expat:
- Modern amenities
- Great neighborhoods
- Fantastic food and cuisine
- Friendly, educated people
- Low cost of living
- Solid safety
- Strong, stable Internet
- Great medical services
- Decent day trips
- …And more!
But enough of my fluff, let's dive into the details and talk more about this solid city. Don't get it twisted. Guadalajara, Mexico isn't perfect.
But it's definitely underrated.
First Impressions on Guadalajara, Mexico
Now, I was only chilling out in Guadalajara, Mexico for a week or so. So, this isn't an in-depth guide. Just a quick breakdown of my first impressions in the city.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
I'm not a Guadalajara expert just yet, but I'll do my best to break things down for y'all.
Now, this one is tricky. Why? Because Guadalajara is so much bigger than I ever thought.
If you look online, you'll see the city has something like 1.5 million people in Guadalajara proper.
This is misleading!
Guadalajara is made up of a bunch of small “cities” combined into one metro area. But these aren't suburbs, they're basically part of the same city.
It only took 12 or so minutes in an Uber to get from my Airbnb apartment to Zapopan. A completely different “city” in the Guadalajara metro area.
Basically, the whole metro area is one city, but all the smaller communities wanted to keep their identities. So, they did.
Which is why Guadalajara only has 1.5 million people living in the city proper, according to Wikipedia.
The reality of the situation is there are around 5.1 million people living in Guadalajara. It's truly a big city, and far bigger than you'd think from statistics.
With that being said…
Where should you stay?
Well, in a city so big, you'll have tons of options. But, there's really only one area to stay in my mind.
As close to Avenida Chapultepec as you can!
This means staying in Colonia Americana. If it's your first trip to Guadalajara, I highly recommend staying in this area.
You'll have easy access to cafes, gyms, restaurants, bars, clubs, yoga studios, and so much more. Everything is walkable and incredibly safe.
Weather in Guadalajara, Mexico
Hot as hell. Although, it wasn't too humid while I was in the city.
Apparently, May is the hottest month or the year, as the rainy season starts in the middle of June and cools the city down.
And hot it was while I was in Guadalajara. It was 97 degrees Fahrenheit during my last day in the city.
After talking with many Tapatíos and Tapatías, aka people from Guadalajara, I was told the city is usually much cooler.
May, June, July, and August tend to be hot.
But the rest of the year, the weather in Guadalajara is absolutely ideal.
Usually, the average daily temperature in the city hovers in the high 60s and low 70s (Source).
Is Guadalajara Safe?
While many a taxi driver told me the city wasn't as safe as it used to be, I felt good walking around Guadalajara during the day and at night.
Colonia Americana seemed extremely safe and I didn't feel threatened or nervous once.
The statistics seem to back this up, as Guadalajara is never mentioned as one of Mexico's more dangerous areas.
Just check out what the U.S. Government has to say about the city here.
You shouldn't have much issue in Guadalajara, Mexico if you've traveled in Latin America before.
This place is far safer than Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and probably even Mexico City.
Nightlife in Guadalajara
I didn't party at all during my stay in the city. So, I can't give you a fair overview of nightlife in Guadalajara.
What I can say is…
There are bars and clubs around every corner in Colonia America. Seriously, there are at least a couple dozen places to enjoy a night of rumba in this area.
Plus, the people of Guadalajara seemed friendly, educated, and pretty damn attractive.
So, partying in this city should be an enjoyable experience. If ya know what I mean.
Food and General Fat Assery
Mazatlan, Mexico has some of the best seafood in the world. Well, in the opinion of your humble author.
But for traditional Mexican fare, Guadalajara takes the cake.
The Mexican food in this city was outstanding. If you're a foodie, you're sure to be pleased.
Damn near every meal I had here was exceptional. From street tacos to torta ahogada and even sushi, you're sure to find great cuisine in this city.
Make sure to try torta ahogada!
I'm not even sure what it is, but it was delicious the one time I tested it out. Highly recommended, although a little on the spicy side of things.
Things to Do in Guadalajara, Mexico
This isn't Mexico City. You'll eventually run out of new things to do in Guadalajara, Mexico.
But that shouldn't happen for a solid 3-4 months, as the city and metro area is chalked full of fun stuff.
I loved strolling up and down Avenida Chapultepec during the days and early evening. The Centro Historico is a must visit at least one time, as the architecture is stunning.
If you're looking for things to do in Guadalajara, here's what I recommend:
- Spend a Day Strolling Chapultepec: Grab your laptop. Head to a cafe on Avenida Chapultepec. Get some work done. Take a stroll. Check out the arts and crafts vendors that set up shop just before dusk. It's a lively scene and quite enjoyable.
- Check Out Centro Historico: If you're looking to get some solid Instagram photos, then this is the spot in Guadalajara. Here you'll find dozens of stunning builds and people moving around at all times. Just don't go once it's dark outside.
- Guadalajara Zoo: I didn't get to check out the zoo this trip, but a couple people recommended the spot to me. It's supposed to be one of the better zoos in all of Mexico. On my list the next time I'm in Guadalajara.
- Tequila Tour: One of the most famous liquors in the world, with a renowned reputation for debauchery, was created right here in Guadalajara. Well, next door. Tequilla is a small city just outside Guadalajara. They offer popular tours every day that teaches you about the history of tequila, the distilling process – and gets you drunk.
- Lake Chapala: I checked out Lake Chapala for an afternoon and the spot was incredibly pleasant. If you're looking to enjoy lakeside views and a relaxing time, I couldn't recommend this place enough. Make sure you hop in a lancha and enjoy a tour of the lake. Chapala is just a 45-minute ride outside of Guadalajara.
If you're looking to hit the beach, Puerto Vallarta is just a four-hour drive from Guadalajara. Many wealthy Tapatíos head to the beach city each weekend, especially in the hot summer months.
Getting In and Out
Guadalajara has an international airport, although it's certainly not as popular as the airports in Mexico City or Cancun.
You'll find direct flights to dozens of cities in the United States, along with direct national routes to almost every major city in Mexico.
Guadalajara's airport is about 30 minutes outside the city center and easy to get in and out of.
You can get almost anywhere in Mexico from the bus station in Guadalajara. It's easy as can be, although it's often just as cheap to fly. Buses in Mexico are surprisingly expensive.
Guadalajara Isn't Perfect
Now, no city is perfect. And Guadalajara is no different. While I'm a huge fan of this spot, it should be noted that:
- Guadalajara isn't Popping Every Night: I didn't go out, but I did take a walk late every evening. If you want to party a little bit on the weekend, Guadalajara will more than suit your needs. If you want a little rumba every damn day of the week, then Mexico City may be more up your alley. Or Bogota.
- Nothing Spectacular: Guadalajara is nice. It's pleasant. You'll enjoy it. But there's nothing that stands out about this city. There are no beaches. No stunning mountain ranges. The nightlife is good, but not great. It's a solid city and the people are more than friendly, but nothing pops out about it.
- Traditional Culture: Guadalajara is a traditional and conservative place. People here value their families and close friends. It's not a liberal free-for-all like CDMX. This could be great for some, bad for others.
Guadalajara, Mexico: First Impressions on Neighborhoods, Safety, Weather, and More
Overall, Guadalajara far exceeded my expectations, y'all. Seriously. A solid city in every which way.
The city has a lot to offer digital expats and travelers alike. While it's not perfect, there's no doubt you could have a damn good time spending 3-6 months in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Just make sure you speak a little Spanish before you go. While English levels are decent, you'll get a lot of love for putting an effort into speaking Spanish here 🙂