Cheap vacation in Mexico? Somewhere in California? Somewhere else?
December 25, 2005 5:14 PM   Subscribe

CheapVacationFilter: I want to take a cheap few-day vacation with my girlfriend. We're in Los Angeles. I'm wondering about this "Mexico" thing not too far away...

We've been daydreaming about going to a foreign land where we can:
A. Get away
B. Do crazy things with exchange rates like get $5/hour massages in Bulgaria
C. Have some new experiences
D. Relax
E. Not spend lots of money.

Does Mexico fit (some of) these desires? Does some place in California? Does some place with cheap airfare? (I see $156 to Puerto Vallarta, $124 to Mazatlan Mexico, $225 to Vancouver, $164 Cabo San Lucas on airfarewatchdog).

Ballpark budget: <$800 for both of us. The lower the better while still fulfilling requirements A-E.
posted by anonymoose to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You could drive to San Felipe. Or, fly for cheap into Cancun, and quickly take a $3 bus south toward Tulum, and spend the time snorkeling in the most perfectly clear freshwater caves you've ever seen, and spend every evening drinking ice cold Negra Modelo on the beach with your ceviche.
posted by luriete at 6:43 PM on December 25, 2005

If you go to Los Cabos, stay in San Jose del Cabo at a place like the Intercontinental away from the tourist hell that is Cabo San Lucas -- unless you like American fast food and American prices and Americans. San Jose del Cabo is an old-school Mexican town that isn't overrun with Sr. Frogs KFC and Dominos Pizza. Sunday after church the locals come to the square and there are some great people watching.

I went down there a few years ago and stayed there for $80/nt and it was all inclusive.

Another place to try is Pie de la Cuesta about 30km away from Acapulco. I stayed in a little place called Villa Nirvana for $30/nt right on the beach. They had a little restaurant and a fridge full of beers for $1usd each on the honor system. There are hammocks to lounge in on the beach. Very tranquil. Acapulco itself is close but I found the place feeling like if Miami and Las Vegas had a baby. But you can go watch the cliff divers and shit.

Most of the American style hotels will charge American style prices. Get the lonely planet guide and find an off the beaten path place. Just remember not to flush toilet paper down the toilet, not to expect a long shower, or AC.
posted by birdherder at 7:31 PM on December 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

backing up luriete's idea for Tulum (via cancun) -- really, it's the very best you can imagine, low cost, exotic, beautiful, historic.
posted by anadem at 7:46 PM on December 25, 2005

Go to Puerto Vallarta if you can get those cheap fares. It's a lovely place, and you can eat and drink for cheap if you want. Stay away from Nuevo Vallarta, where you'll have to cab or bus into town. We stayed at Hotel Rosita on our honeymoon two years ago and got a great deal (with breakfast) on a lovely room, and it's within walking distance of plenty of eating, drinking, and entertainment opportunities. Go uphill one to three blocks and cut right - you'll find lots of little places that aren't Senor Frog kind of cruise ship tourist traps, both cheap and fancy - or just walk out the door and stroll the Malecon (boardwalk).

I've heard that fares from California to the Carribean side of Mexico never get terribly cheap, or at least they didn't last year. After the hurricane, it might be a different story this year but it's still a long-ass flight.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:58 PM on December 25, 2005

You could drive from L.A. to La Paz, take the ferry to Los Mochis, and enjoy one of the best railroad journeys the world has to offer between there and a small desert town called Creel. There you can stay at a cheap-ass hostel and take a day trip through the Copper Canyon. If you've never seen canyons before, it's pretty spectacular.
posted by Idiot Mittens at 8:58 PM on December 25, 2005

What birdherder said.

Mexico, outside of the tourist holes of Cancun/Acapulco/etc., and the scuzzed out border towns of Tijuana/Juarez/etc., is an *amazing* country. I also highly recommend Tulum. The rest of the Yucatan is also very much worth exploring. Consider the Mayan ruins at Coba, Chichen Itza, and Merida. Snorkeling at Laguna Xelha (about halfway between Cancun and Tulum as I recall) is also fun.

And seriously, who do you blame for the state of Mexico's border towns and Tourist holes? Mexicans? Think again...
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:59 AM on December 26, 2005

This is my favorite selection from the State Department's Advice for Tourists in Mexico page. Read it and weep, kids:

Mexican authorities have failed to prosecute numerous crimes committed against American citizens, including murder and kidnapping. Local police forces suffer from a lack of funds and training, and the judicial system is weak, overworked, and inefficient. Criminals, armed with an impressive array of weapons, know there is little chance they will be caught and punished. In some cases, assailants have been wearing full or partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating some elements of the police might be involved.
posted by frogan at 8:20 AM on December 26, 2005

who'd a thought it - mexico isn't the usa.

if you're just looking for a cheap holiday that's like the usa but half the price, read what frogan et al said. it wouldn't be that hard to find a mexican with mirror reversed views, in all honesty. people are not happy, either way. of course, whether your sympathies lie with the rich gringos or the poor sudacos is a question of politics...

on the other hand, if you speak spanish and don't expect mexico to be identical to the richest country in the world, you could have a good time further south (ie away from the border region). but you need to be careful: you're a rich person going to a poor country; things don't work as you might expect. you also need to be aware of the political situation. and such a holiday is going to be more about travelling around and experiencing a different country, rather than lying on a beach.

if you want an easy, low-cost time without being hassled by the uppity locals, you might try a closed resort in cuba...
posted by andrew cooke at 8:50 AM on December 26, 2005

My experience is that as you approach the United States border the level of nastiness go way up. Overall Mexico is fairly wealthy country but there are a lot of very poor people in Mexico. If you don't want to see poverty, it's possible to construct a vacation where you don't have to deal with it but you end up paying more and being stuck with other people like yourself. It's fairly easy to have a safe and enjoyable vacation in Mexico but there's no point in going if you have an attitude like Frogan's.

If you are driving, then try not to plan a trip that involves taking a ferry since the fares are going to be a good chunk of the $800 budget you've got.
posted by rdr at 9:11 AM on December 26, 2005

If you can get a good airfare to Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a great place to go (I'm flying there on Thursday). Much cheaper than Cancun, great weather year round, beautiful beaches, amazing food, and you can find cheap tours to some fantastic, historic places.

frogan, I thought about responding to you, but why the fuck should I bother. Obviously nothing I say will make you any less of an asshole, so I won't even try.
posted by Penks at 9:47 AM on December 26, 2005

Mod note: a few comments removed, on topic please?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:04 AM on December 26, 2005

it wouldn't be that hard to find a mexican with mirror reversed views

A couple of years ago I was taking a cab into Guanajuato from the airport. The driver and I chatted in my horribly weak Spanish and his limited English. When I told him where I was from he said, "Chicago? Wow, that place is really dangerous!"

But getting back to your question, I second getting the Lonely Planet travel guide and start browsing. Some things will be expensive, some things will be ridiculously cheap. For example: drinks were expensive in a hotel bar in Morelia while watching a the folkloric La Danza de los Viejitos. Getting a bowl of amazing seafood stew at the market in Guanajuato was super cheap.

I liked the area around Guanajuato and Michoacan. Beautiful cities, interesting history, and lots of little towns and sites to discover. (Like the hot baths a bus ride's away from Guanajuato - wish I could remember where exactly.) The area is a popular among vacationing Mexicans, so prices will be geared towards the Mexican middle class. (Not too expensive, but not super cheap either.) You'll meet the more intrepid type of foreign tourist there, who is usually good for suggestions on where to go. You could also ask Mexicans in LA what they like to do when they vacation in Mexico.

Bus travel, even in the first class coaches, was inexpensive and easy. If you've gotten $5/hr massages in Bulgaria, then you're probably skilled enough to find the good stuff when you travel. And you probably don't need to be warned that an English-speaking cab driver is a rarity.
posted by hydrophonic at 12:09 PM on December 26, 2005

Cheap Carribean has all kinds of cheap deals for resorts + airfare. Also check out the mexico deals at travel zoo.
posted by blueyellow at 3:16 PM on December 26, 2005

About 40 minutes from Puerto Vallarta by boat is a village called Yelapa. The 'resort' there is Las Lagunitas. You'l find yoga, massages ($50 for 60 minutes...not the $8 Bulgarian ones, but reasonable just the same). It's peaceful, pretty and you can get rooms for $65 according to their website. Yelapa is the opposite of Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Cabo, etc. but I'm not sure whether it's overrun with American tourists these days. I have to agree with Jessamyn that Guanajuato is a great place to visit. Also, consider Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico but a universe away from Mexico City. Lots of culture, good inexpensive food, many public plazas, art galleries, theatre.
Buen viaje!
posted by lois1950 at 6:40 PM on December 26, 2005

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