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Mexico has long been a popular place for a budget-friendly vacation, but it can also be quite pricey in places like Cabo and Cancun. If you’re looking for an experience that goes beyond those luxury resorts, you’ll find many fabulous destinations where your dollar stretches a lot farther. And, this country offers so much more than lounging around the pool and sipping margaritas. These cheap vacation spots, in particular, offer some of the best travel values around, and many offer the chance to enjoy a more authentic slice of Mexican life.
The town of Loreto is the oldest settlement in Baja offering lots for history enthusiasts, including prehistoric cave paintings in the Sierra de la Gigantas and a centuries-old church. Enjoy an authentic Mexican feel with colorful traditions and a rich heritage along with access to gorgeous beaches, bays and uninhabited islands that provide the opportunity for snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, sailing or simply soaking up the warmth of the sun. Around Bahia de Loreto National Park you can watch for whales and dolphins right from the shore. All that and three-star hotels start at just $50 a night.
If you’re interested in learning about the indigenous peoples of Mexico and want to enjoy low room rates that start at under $15 a night, look no further than Oaxaca City. Here you can get a good glimpse of day-to-day life in the country’s southern region and enjoy incredible street food too. The exotic state of Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s top culinary destinations, nicknamed the “land of the seven moles,” for its legendary and complex sauces made with dozens of ingredients, often including chocolate. The city is filled with colorful colonial architecture, and also offers plenty of unique and well-priced artisans selling handicrafts.
One of the top lesser-known travel destinations in Mexico, Puerto Escondido is budget-friendly. The quiet fishing village lies hidden away on the Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca and is home to one of the most picturesque beaches in the region. It’s a place that’s remained mostly under the radar, with the exception of those who come here to surf the famous beach break known as the Mexican Pipeline, keeping room rates especially affordable, starting at under $40 a night. Even if you don’t surf, the experience here is all about the beach, though you’ll also find an authentic Mexican culture and a bustling outdoor food market. The east side of the bay is known for its cheap eats and inexpensive hostels.
The “Pearl of the Pacific” is a popular resort town with 11 miles of boardwalk for scenic strolls along the sea, and with massive waves, it draws lots of surfers too. Along with some of Mexico’s best beaches, the city has a rich history, magnificent architecture, many fascinating museums and renowned nightlife in the district called Zona Dorada (Golden Zone). For those looking for a resort kind of experience without the high price, Mazatlan is an ideal pick with three-star room rates starting at $70 a night.
The capital of Baja California Sur is often overlooked but this colorful city with a name that translates to “the peace,” boasts 340 days of sunshine a year and stunning beaches that rival those found on the Caribbean coast. Look forward to strolls along the Malecon (seafront promenade) which is lined with a wide range of tasty eateries and interesting shops, and discovering some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, like Balandra, just a 20-minute drive from downtown. La Paz is also a popular departure point for whale watching, swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling with sea lions, fishing trips and other excursions. All this and three-star hotels start at just $50 per night.
Xilitla is surrounded by lush jungle terrain filled with swimming holes and waterfalls, but the biggest allure is the once-abandoned garden of English artist Edward James, declared a national cultural heritage site in 2012. The beautiful garden known as Las Pozas, or The Pools, is made up of turquoise springs and waterfalls with spiral staircases leading to nowhere, decorated columns, bridges and other sculptures. During the spring, it’s filled with butterflies. Rooms here start as low as $17 a night.
Sayulita is a beautiful and affordable beach town that’s popular for surfing and other water sports. Restaurants here offer fresh, delicious seafood and hotels start at $15 a night. Look forward to a low-key, bohemian vibe, unspoiled stretches of sand and rustic eateries on the beach. If you’ve never tried surfing before, this is a good place to learn as the bay has a nice break ideal for beginners, and both lessons and boards are inexpensive and readily available.
Cholula is located next to the larger city of Puebla, but it offers a far better value for vacationers looking for fun on a budget. Enjoy a hopping nightlife scene and all sorts of attractions, including the pre-Hispanic Tepanapa Pyramid, the widest pyramid ever built. Visitors can climb to the top and even travel through tunnels underneath. A stay here also makes a great base for visiting the fascinating nearby villages of Tonantzintla and Acatepec.
Pátzcuaro is a small colonial town that offers a fabulous slice of “real” Mexico, with plenty of high-value rooms to be found at under $100 a night. Situated on the edge of Lake Patzcuaro at over 7,000 feet above sea level, it’s filled with terracotta-tiled roofs, red-and-white adobe walls and narrow cobbled streets. Unlike the nearby Spanish-founded settlement of Morelia, it was established in the early 14th-century as part of the Tarascan empire, two centuries before the conquistadors arrived. The vast lake it sits along is home to five islands, including Isla Janitzio which can be reached via a short boat trip. It serves as the spiritual and cultural center for the indigenous Purepecha people.
Playa del Carmen is one of the more touristy places to visit with all-inclusive resorts, but it also makes a great destination for those who want to enjoy a beach resort area without high prices. Look forward to endless palm trees, coral reefs, nightclubs, and restaurants, as well as enjoy activities like swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Surprisingly, there are lots of three-star hotels near those powdery white sands that can be had for under $100 per night – some as low as $40 a night.
Mexico City is one of the world’s most incredible destinations, a must-visit for any history, culture, or art enthusiast. It also happens to offer plenty of affordable options for accommodation – in fact, in the desirable La Condesa neighborhood, you can get a room at a nice boutique hotel for only around $50 a night. La Condesa, Polanco, and La Roma are all great areas to base yourself to enjoy the many museums, markets, and beautiful parks. Palacio Bellas Artes showcases world-class art by international and Mexican artists, while the National Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park is the country’s largest and most-visited museum. Eat your heart out for cheap at Mercado Roma, a gourmet food hall featuring tapas, paletas, churros, and more.
One of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with colorful homes and buildings that spill down the hillside. It has an exceptionally rich culture with an intriguing historic district, with a maze of walkable streets that are car-free and lined with baroque-style architecture. There are mines to explore in the surrounding area, lively markets to browse, museums, and a funicular system that can bring you to the Pipila Monument lookout point to take in a bird’s-eye view over it all. Whether you’re looking for an Airbnb or a hotel, you’ll find plenty of affordable options for under $50 a night.
If you want to explore hidden beaches that the masses have yet to discover while enjoying a budget-friendly stay, consider Bacalar. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula close to the border of Belize, it’s a Pueblo Magico, or “Magic Town. with accommodation for only around $40 per night and perhaps $10 for a delicious local meal. Not only is the sea a dreamy transparent blue, but there are four cenotes here, including Azul Bacalar, one of the deepest in the Riviera Maya with a depth of nearly 300 feet.
Guadalajara is Mexico’s “second city,” the birthplace of the Mexican hat dance, mariachi, and tequila. Foodies will love it, as it offers one of the country’s best culinary scenes with dishes based around chilies, corn, beans, tomatoes, and pork. Birria, a spicy goat or mutton stew-style dish, is the most emblematic. while the Torta Ahogada sandwich, fried pork soaked in tangy salsa, or “drowned,” as the name translates to, is popular after a night out on the town. Even better? Guadalajara is often ranked among the world’s most affordable cities, with hotels averaging less than $40 a night.
If a fantasy landscape of lakes, rivers, and waterfalls in stunning shades of blue and green combined with ancient ruins sounds appealing, head to Chiapas. Not only will you pay an average of just $35 for a four-star hotel, but you can gaze at remarkable ruins in the ancient Mayan city of Palenque tucked within a rainforest and explore the on-site museum with stucco hieroglyphs, intricately carved panels, and clay earns. the highlight is arguably Agua Azul nearby with the crystal-clear water in a surreal shade that’s the result of it running over a smooth limestone riverbed that’s illuminated by the sun.
One of the most biodiverse regions of Mexico along the Pacific Coast, Huatulco is located in Oaxaca State and offers comfortable rooms starting at around $40. It’s known for sustainable tourism and hosts many eco-attractions, abundant wildlife, nine pristine bays, and three dozen postcard-perfect beaches connected by rocky cliffs leading to lush rainforest-covered mountains. There are pre-Hispanic ruins to explore, coffee plantations to visit, and endless outstanding opportunities for snorkeling and diving among vibrant reefs in stunningly clear water too.