It's no secret that a vacation in Mexico can be an amazing value — especially if you're interested in traveling to the country's exciting cities and charming inland towns. However, Mexico's most famous beach destinations — like Los Cabos and Cancun — can be less of a bargain. Prices on everything from hotels to food can sometimes put these vacation destinations out of reach. We've spent a lot of time traveling Mexico's coasts, from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Riviera Nayarit and Oaxaca, and have found comparably awesome Mexico beach towns that still offer the chance for a budget-friendly getaway. Check out our five favorite week-long beach trips in Mexico — all for under $1,500 including flights — and start planning yours now.
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It’s no secret: Here at Oyster.com we love Oaxaca. That goes for the whole state, from the mountain towns to culturally rich Oaxaca City and especially its stunning beaches. For now, the majority of Oaxaca’s coastline is blissfully free of major resort developments. Instead, you can expect towns that have maintained their bohemian beach vibes and surfer history, and offer plenty of bargains for sun-seekers. What’s more? Oaxacan food is some of the best local cuisine in Mexico, and you’ll be able to tuck into everything from whipped Oaxacan chocolate drinks to tlayudas and tamales for far less than what it costs to feed yourself elsewhere.
If you want to really get in touch with Oaxaca’s surf scene — and still want to tap into that cool Mexican beach vibe — Puerto Escondido should be your home base. The city itself is one of our favorite underrated destinations in all of Mexico, and you’ll find a more authentic local vibe here than in other well-known beach destinations in Mexico. Given Puerto Escondido’s hidden-gem status — and laid-back surfer vibe — it’s no surprise that some of Mexico’s young cultural scene has made its way here in recent years — an edition of Comunite Music Festival came to town in 2020, featuring Mexican and international underground DJs.
The majority of the city’s beach scene centers on the Zicatela, where you’ll find a number of cool bars and restaurants. The Zicatela is one of Mexico’s most famous surf destinations, and draws legions of surfers from around the world (and travelers seeking surfing lessons, like those offered by Surf Travel & Friends). The waves can be punishing, but it’s still beautiful, and there are calmer waters to be found around Puerto Escondido (the calmest is Playa Carrizalillo — which is the best swimmable beach).
If you’d like to sample some of the region’s other cool towns, head to Mazunte, one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns). There, a postcard-pretty beach is backed by a former hippie colony turned hipster escape. If you’re in Mazunte, make sure you do the short hike to Punta Cometa, which has amazing sunset views along the rugged Oaxacan coast from Mexico’s southernmost point.
You can score hotels in Puerto Escondido for as low as $45 a night, though if you up it to $65 a night you’ll get more for your pesos. That generally holds true whether you’re visiting in high season or not. Of course higher-end hotels — like Hotel Escondido — are available, though you can expect to pay far more. Food and drink is reasonable in Puerto Escondido, especially when compared to other major Mexican beach destinations. You can keep your costs low by crafting lunch from the many food vendors that prowl the sand all day long, slinging everything from tacos to tamales and Oaxacan roasted peanuts. Even if you opt for more traditional dining, you shouldn’t expect to spend more than $30 a day on food. Airfare to Puerto Escondido from most major U.S. cities is incredibly reasonable. You’ll need to connect through Mexico City, but reaching Puerto Escondido’s airport will rarely cost you more than $550 round-trip (and that’s on the high side). There’s really no need to rent a car — even a taxi to Mazunte for a night or two won’t cost you more than $60 round-trip (an hour-long drive, each way), and local taxis within Puerto Escondido are incredibly cheap. All in — including three surf lessons — you’ll still have over $400 left for food.
With its colonial charm and amazing location at the north end of the Zicatela, it’s hard to complain about anything at the budget-friendly Hotel Santa Fe in Puerto Escondido. It’s not the absolute cheapest in town, but all rooms are huge and include their own private terraces or balconies. There are also two pools, and the restaurant serves delicious vegan-friendly fare.
You don’t have to go off-the-beaten-path to have an awesome beach vacation in Mexico. Playa del Carmen has long been a favorite among travelers. Its combination of pretty beaches, a lively downtown area, and nonstop things to do have all solidified its place on must-visit lists. It’s also a solid destination for LGBTQ travelers, at least among the Riviera Maya cities and towns.
If you’re on a tight budget, you’re going to be staying in or near Playa’s busy city center. Since that’s the case, a Playa del Carmen vacation is best for travelers who like a nice dose of partying with their beach vacations. The downtown area is anything but quiet — you’ll find tons of packed bars and restaurants throughout the city center’s streets. Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Ave, is the touristy nerve center of these goings on. It’s literally lined with restaurants, bars, street performers, malls, and shops, and is packed with people day and night. The area around 12th Street is particularly wild at night, and is where you’ll find the majority of nightclubs and bars. Tequila shots are practically a requirement for entry.
However, you should note that you’ll be paying more for your meals, and likely won’t get the best tasting food, along Quinta Avenida. The dining scene is comparable to the touristy marina area in Cabo San Lucas or the Hotel Zone in Cancun. If you head inland just a tiny bit, you’ll find far better local fare (plus international options like Italian and sushi) as well as lower prices. Popular spots that aren’t on Fifth Avenue include Los Aguachiles and Cueva del Chango, though street food and low-key cantinas also sling excellent Yucatecan fare at bargain prices. Search out Doña Paula’s pozoles (on 6th Street between 10th and 15th Avenues) and Taqueria El Fogon.
Playa del Carmen is 45 minutes to an hour south of Cancun and the Cancun Airport. You can get to Playa del Carmen by taxi or airport shuttle — budget around $50 each way. Flights into Cancun are cheap from most major U.S. cities, including New York, Newark, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Miami. It’s a rare occasion that you’ll spend more than $400 round-trip if you time it right. You can find some real bargains on hotels in Playa del Carmen if you are willing to stay off-beach and steer clear of the pricey resorts at developments like Playacar and Maykoba. Around $80 a night should get you some simple, but sufficient, digs, in or near the city center. That leaves you with over $500 to spend on food and drink over a week, which is more than enough, especially if you stick to taco spots and cantinas for one or two meals a day.
If you want to be near Quinta Avenida and within a 10-minute walk of the beach, Casa Ticul is your spot. Why? Well, it’s a cute boutique hotel that’s a really nice step up from the crash pads that are found at similar price points in Playa. In fact, it’s one of the more charming boutique hotels in town, and features a couple of small pools in case you want to cool off in peace during the day.
Head south from Cancun into the Riviera Maya and it’s unlikely that you’ll find a cheap hotel on the beach. However, if you head north from Cancun into the less developed part of Quintana Roo, you’ll find an island paradise that has — for now — resisted development. Welcome to Isla Holbox.
Holbox has been getting a lot of buzz in recent years, so you shouldn’t expect it to be quite as cheap as some of the other beach destinations on this list. However, it’s still far more reasonably priced than other Quintana Roo beach destinations. And it’s special for a unique reason. You see, this island has resisted the kind of commercialization you’ll find in places like Tulum by isolating itself as much as possible. There are no cars on Isla Holbox, and you need to take a ferry to reach it from the mainland. That should be a clue as to the kind of beach vacation you can expect in Holbox, though in case you needed more of a hint, the island is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve.
Isla Holbox is celebrated for its pristine tropical setting and the incredible diversity of animal and sea life you can find. The lagoon to the south of the island is a major birding area, and is home to flamingos and pelicans. To the north, the Caribbean Sea holds amazing coral reefs and whale sharks. Snorkeling and diving are both incredibly popular activities, with good reason. Whale shark season runs from May through November, if you’re hoping to catch these gentle behemoths in their habitat. You should definitely book one of the many reasonably priced whale shark tours that can put you in the water with them.
Most of the action on dry land centers on Holbox Village, though the pace is sleepy (that’s a good thing — trust us). Like we said, there are no cars, and traffic limited to pedestrians, bikes, and golf carts. The handful of colorful single-story buildings has just enough options when it comes to drinking and dining, and you’ll find zero of the eye-wateringly expensive foodie attitude of Tulum here. You also won’t find any nightclubs, jungle parties, or beach clubs, all contributing to the low-key atmosphere meant for unwinding.
If you’re willing to go the budget or mid-range route and look for bargains well enough in advance of your trip, you can expect to pay around $80 per night on Holbox Island. While you won’t need a rental car on the island, for obvious reasons, you will need to get to the ferry departure point. If you’re only planning on exploring Isla Holbox, you can opt for a taxi from Cancun International Airport or the Holbox Shuttle, which will only run you about $40 each way. Keep in mind that the drive or ride from Cancun Airport to the Holbox Ferry takes nearly two hours. Round-trip flights from most major U.S. cities to Cancun are often incredibly reasonable and can be had without layovers for under $400 per person. If you add in a whale shark tour at around $120 per person, that leaves you around $500 to feed yourself and keep cold Coronas close at hand. While Holbox has its pricier restaurants and fancy coffee shops, you can also find no-frills hole-in-the-wall cantinas that will keep you more than happily fed for a week.
A traveler favorite for more than just its incredibly low nightly rates, this quaint little property gives you easy access to Isla Holbox’s beauty without the cost of the more polished hotels on the island. Casa BlatHa is just west of the main town area, and only a 15-minute walk from Punta Cocos (or under five minutes by bike). There’s a beach nearby, and rooms are simple and quaint, with ceiling fans and — in some — hammocks on terraces.
Perhaps you’ve heard more than a few whispers about the Riviera Nayarit in recent years. The coast of Nayarit state to the north of Puerto Vallarta has enjoyed the moniker of “Mexico’s Next Big Thing” by major media outlets since 2018. And while we’re glad that this beautiful beach region is finally getting the attention it deserves, the truth is that the towns of the Riviera Nayarit have been trending among in-the-know travelers for years. Among those, Sayulita is perhaps the most famous — and with reason.
Like almost all of our favorite Mexico beach spots, Sayulita started its tourist days as a fishing village and surfer decampment, primed for those who wanted to quote-unquote get away from it all. While today it’s very squarely on the tourist radar — and is hardly the no-frills escape it once was — it still draws on that bohemian ethos. Like Puerto Escondido that we told you about up above, surfing still figures largely in the modern-day story of Sayulita, and certainly informs the village vibe. You’ll find plenty of surf shops and surf schools in the region, should you feel adventurous. In fact, some of Mexico’s most famous surfers hail directly from the area.
The town itself flanks the hillsides of the Sierra Madre as they crash into the Bay of Banderas below. This creates a rugged, boulder-strewn coast that’s incredibly pretty. Low-slung houses peek out of the green jungle all around, and the town itself has plenty of cute little bars, cantinas, raw-bowl-and-juice joints, and cafes. One of the most popular spots in town is La Rustica — a Sayulita staple that’s one of the current must-try restaurants in town. You’ll also find a concentration of souvenir shops, all with an artsier side (think: Mexican-chic home decor rather than beer-logo tank tops). Eye-catching Huichol art— made by the Huichol indigenous group from the Nayarit region — is a must-buy when you’re here. The Bay of Banderas and the Pacific Ocean beyond are an incredible place for encounters with underwater life, and humpback whales are numerous in this region during the winter months. You can also head offshore on boat excursions to the Marieta Islands, which are exceptionally photogenic in their own right, but are also home to amazing wildlife of all kinds.
You reach Sayulita by flying into Puerto Vallarta International Airport. Round-trip flights from most major U.S. cities are rarely above $500, though fares are generally far cheaper from western U.S. cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix. Once you’re on the ground, shuttles like those offered by Jose Ramos Transportation from Puerto Vallarta’s Airport to Sayulita are around $140 round-trip, though you can also find cabs for around $50 one-way, if you walk across the pedestrian bridge outside of the airport. The cheapest hotels in Sayulita come in around $100 a night, and you won’t be skimping on style or charm in most spots. You’ll need to be a little more diligent about your budget on food here, though — you have about $260 to spare. But if you stick to making your own breakfast in your kitchen at the hotel pick below and opt for taco lunches, you shouldn’t have to bust out an emergency credit card.
While Amor Boutique Hotel is a 10-minute walk from the heart of Sayulita, that little bit of distance pays off big time when it comes to charm. The entire hotel has a beautiful local style, and rooms are packed with personality. Even better? The property sits along the Bay of Banderas, has its own pool, and all units feature their own kitchens so you can save money on food costs.
We’re going to start with some advice: If you’re after a sanitized resort experience, head straight to Ixtapa. You can find plenty of budget and mid-range properties for really reasonable rates within striking distance of the beach. However, you’ll be short on Mexico vibes in Ixtapa, as it’s a purpose-built resort town that’s best for people uninterested in experiencing local culture. But, if you opt for a stay in Ixtapa’s beachy and charming next door neighbor — Zihuatanejo — your Mexico beach vacation dreams can come true.
Come to Zihuatanejo to get away from mega-resorts and experience a charming little town that overflows with artsy atmosphere. Zihutanejo manages to be tourist-friendly yet more authentically Mexican than Ixtapa. The charming town center has cobblestone streets lined with art galleries, cafes, restaurants, and casual bars. It’s the kind of place where you can vibe with the local pace of life, rather than wall yourself off in a resort that caters to your every whim. And if you ask us, there’s no better way to experience a beach vacation in Mexico.
The main beach in town is Playa Principal, but you should head to Playa la Ropa, which is lined with palm trees and backed by amazing beach bars and restaurants. Zihuatanejo offers a nice mix of low-key holes in the wall and more hipster-friendly juice-and-coffee spots. You can also opt for excursions to other nearby beaches. Playa las Gatas is an easy hike via footpath from Playa la Ropa, while other travelers opt for horseback rides on Playa Blanca. If you’re after a day trip, Barra de Potosi is a resort-free little village at the end of Playa Larga; it’s an ideal place to visit if you’re after something even more locals-only. We recommend posting up on its beach for a day and getting a feel for the town’s vibe.
The airport is only a 15-minute cab ride from the center of Zihuatanejo, and you’ll likely be able to put together a flight here through Mexico City from most U.S. East Coast destinations for under $500. You can fly direct to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport from West Coast cities like L.A. Taxis from the airport shouldn’t be more than $5 each way. While you can pay a pretty penny for some hotels in Zihuatanejo (and you’ll be handsomely rewarded for doing so at utterly charming spots like La Casa Que Canta), there are nice budget-friendly options that can be had for $70 to $90 a night. That leaves you around $500 to feed yourself for a week, which is more than doable by mixing meals at local taquerias, beach vendors, and even a few nice dinners by the beach.
This hillside property sits next to Playa la Ropa, making it prime real estate for the perfect Mexico beach getaway. We love the pool with views of the bay and hills all around, and the spacious rooms are pleasant enough for travelers who won’t spend all of their time outdoors. There are chairs on the beach for hotel guests.
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