Mexican Vacation?
January 17, 2008 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Travel recommendation: short, authentic stay in Mexico?

My gf and I want to visit Mexico for a four (maybe five) day trip this February, coming from the New York area. Do any of you have recommendations?

Here are some requirements, starting w/ most important and moving into bonus points:

1. authentic / not in a cheesy resort
2. possible in a short trip like this (I guess this translates to easily reached from the airport).
3. fun (this could either be stuff to do, or just chilling by the beach)
4. low(er) budget

Random anecdotes and suggestions are welcome (even if it is "go to Costa Rica instead").

Thanks for your time-
posted by cgs to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Are you willing to drive?
What about buses?
Do you like deserts?

Contemplate Real de Catorce.
It's fun to wander in the desert. Small town but lots of expats. (US, German, Swiss, Argentinian, Italian, etc.)
It can be kinda hip, but you can slip into the desert every morning and avoid the peyote gnawing hippies. Good food.

Bus from Austin or Houston to Matehuala is overnight and costs about $60. Bus to Real from Matehuala is about $10.
Ed Alexander has a pretty cool place where you can rent rooms.

I like eating at La Esquina Chata or breakfast at El Meson.
posted by Seamus at 2:16 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a great time at Cabanas Copal in Tulum, and it meets all your requirements. February should be the best time to go, weather-wise, but prices are a little more expensive (still pretty cheap compared to anywhere else). You can spend all day lounging on the beach, or go snorkeling in the cenotes or visit ruins or whatever you feel like. The coast is absolutely beautiful, the town itself is authentic (full of tourists, maybe, but non-cheesey), and the food is amazing.
posted by logic vs love at 2:18 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


How about Mexico City? (link to my own writeup at
posted by vacapinta at 2:28 PM on January 17, 2008

Does it have to be near the beach? My sister loved Merida. Although there's a good deal of tourism to there, it hasn't yet gotten to the overrun state that, say, Cancun has. And the places to stay are really cool, old plantation houses and stuff. Good day trips.
posted by brain cloud at 2:33 PM on January 17, 2008

Mexico City is fantastic. If you're looking for a beach, you could fly into Cancun and then take the ferry to Isla Mujeres.
posted by donovan at 2:48 PM on January 17, 2008

I spent a week in Oaxaca City and the surrounding areas and it was lovely. Its a manageable size, unlike el D.F.
You can find both the traditional (massive artisans and food markets, ruins) and the modern (we saw "Los Monologos De La Vagina" and some avant-garde films). And the pastel paint on the colonial architecture makes me swoon.
posted by quelindo at 2:51 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

We went to Yucatan a few years ago, and our favorite place was the tiny town of Paamul. You can usually find cheap tickets to fly into Cancun and then take about an hour cab ride to get there. It's got a secluded beach, good food, and amazing diving and snorkeling. It's kind of off the usual tourist track, but it's very convenient to get to places like Tulum (which is amazing) or Playa del Carmen (nightlife) from there. If you decide to go, you should talk to the folks at Scuba-Mex and arrange for some diving or snorkeling. It's run by some really friendly fun-loving Texans who can also point you to where all the locals hang out/have fun/eat at.
posted by TungstenChef at 3:03 PM on January 17, 2008

The main problem is that in Mexico, requirements (1) and (2) often contradict each other. Much of the really authentic rural areas are still a bit inaccessible. I was in Mexico for Christmas and we went hiking in remote Indian villages. Not only no other tourists but also Spanish was not even common.

It helps to stay away from the beaches where the biggest tourist infrastructure is. Oaxaca, as mentioned above, is a good balance. So, possibly are some of the colonial cities such as Morelia or Guanajuato. But, in the case of Morelia for example, it has an airport (it's a state capital) but it'd be a shame to fly in there and not see the surrounding area.
posted by vacapinta at 3:12 PM on January 17, 2008 - what the hell? how long has that been there? Is it in Beta or something?
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:04 PM on January 17, 2008

I'd go to Guanajuato--UNESCO world heritage site, old-world charm, not a lot of gringos. Or so I'm told. I haven't been but I researched it a lot.
posted by PatoPata at 4:28 PM on January 17, 2008

vacapinta has a very good point. The airports you can fly to easily from NYC are also those in the most touristy areas. We're actually heading to the Emerald Coast on the Gulf (northwest of Veracruz) in February and it's going to take two flight transfers to get there.

Oh and Paul, the mods keep promising to get Travel linked one of these days. It's been around for a while now, but yeah, I think they consider it still in beta.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:01 PM on January 17, 2008

yeah, if a beach is not a requirement, guanajuato is gorgeous, although maybe a little small for a 5-day trip (but good for just chilling in a beautiful environment). in which case it's perfect. puebla is a good city-sized choice, as is oaxaca city. mexico city, of course, has tons to offer. any further afield, and it's probably going to be too arduous to travel there.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:04 PM on January 17, 2008

If it's going to be in February, and you want authentic, you shouldn't miss the Son Jarocho Festival in Tlacotalpan. It lasts for three days, ending in February 2 and it's a meeting of farmers/musicians who gather to keep their music (Son Jarocho) alive.

The town itself was declared World Heritage and it's a beautiful Caribbean style town bordered by a large river.

It's about a four hour bus drive from Mexico City, but it's well worth it. If you have a few spare days you can spend a couple of them in Xalapa, which is also nice.

I've been there, love it with all my heart, and if you have more detailed questions, feel free to MefiMail me.
posted by micayetoca at 5:40 PM on January 17, 2008

i was gonna say "!san blas, san blas, san blas!" but if you're coming from nyc, you'll never make it in your time frame.

so here's nthing d.f. (mexico city) or tulum/isla mujeres.

!diviertate! (that means "have fun!")
posted by deejay jaydee at 7:46 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: wow... thanks for all the great suggestions!

i'll make sure to post back w/ photos :-)
posted by cgs at 8:15 AM on January 18, 2008

Response by poster: Hey everyone- I'm not sure who will check back, but we ended up going to Tulum and staying on the cabana strip along the shore (Esmeralda K). I slacked off after my initial posting, so it was all last minute, but it worked out and we had a great time.

Snorkeling in the cenotes and climbing the pyramid were my highlights (outshining the low points of paying off the federales at a traffic stop and the expensive food).

Here are the photos:

Thanks again!
posted by cgs at 1:00 PM on February 22, 2008

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