Where NOT to Go in Mexico

I noted a few posts back that this is a fantastic time to go to Mexico. The peso has dropped 20 percent against the dollar and with airlines having trouble filling their planes and fuel costs coming down, there are plenty of ongoing sales on flights.

For most tourists who go to Mexico though, it doesn’t seem all that cheap. The reason is, they go to Americanized resort areas where the gringos outnumber the locals. Everything is in dollars at the hotels—including the pricey excursion tours—and the restaurants are priced for norte americanos in free-spending vacation mode.

mexico beach resortsWhich spots are those? Well you can find them pretty easily on this screen shot from the Señor Frog’s locater map. If you haven’t ever set eyes on a Señor Frog’s outlet or see one of their god-awful ugly t-shirts, count  yourself lucky. Basically it’s a chain of bars dishing out overpriced margaritas to sunburned middle-aged tourists trying to “not act their age” as the marketing slogan goes.

If you see their logo when you are strolling down the street, you know you are in the land of short vacations and U.S. prices, not in the real Mexico. If you are a traveler on a budget, get on the next bus out.

The only place on that map missing a red dot is Los Cabos. Maybe they don’t like frogs. The others are where you would think though: Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Acapulco, Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen. If you want to really benefit from the lower prices south of the border, scout around for other options. If you’re not already an experienced world traveler, you might want to start with Traveler’s Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America.

  1. wandermom

    I could not agree more.
    However, you don’t have to avoid these areas totally – since cheap flights to places like Cancun are what make Mexico a cheap destination at the moment.
    You can find towns and villages nearby which haven’t suffered from over-development.
    Here’s a quick summary of a trip I took with my kids to a town near Cancun.

  2. Beth Whitman

    Good point, WanderMom.

    I went to Cabo years ago, rented a car and drove an hour north where I rented an entire house for $100 for the whole week! And I wasn’t far from a four-star restaurant.

    Glad to know that flights to MX are starting to drop. I hadn’t considered this as a place to visit this winter but now ya got me thinking!


  3. NewWrldYankee

    I guess the idea is to stay away from the coast line, eh? Move on in to the central part. What are the best cities in your mind to visit?

  4. Grandad

    You all have the right idea–just drive an hour from any of these places and it’s a whole different world. Most people don’t bother. Use them as a gateway for the cheap airfare, but don’t stay there.

  5. JetPunk

    I’ve always avoided traveling to Mexico because it seems over-touristed.

  6. Schultz

    I have heard that some areas of Mexico are being racked with drug-related violence. For example, in Ciudad Juarez, just across the river from El Paso, Texas, over 1,000 people have been murdered this year.

    What areas of the “real” and “unreal” Mexico should tourists stay away from due to concerns about violence?

  7. tim

    You don’t have to avoid the coasts. If you look at those dots on the map above, there’s a lot of coastline in between. Just going north from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita makes a huge difference, or to Isla Holbox or Tulum instead of Cancun, or to Zihuatanejo instead of Ixtapa. But yes, head inland and the difference is even more dramatic.

    But don’t head anywhere near the U.S. border, or drive through quickly if you are coming in your own car. The drug smuggling zones are ugly places to be right now. The police are cracking down hard and the cartels aren’t liking it one bit. Those areas are indeed a little too “real.”

  8. Shreesh Taskar

    There are so many great places in Mexico that are reasonably safe and have lots of interesting things to do. The Rio Bec area on the Yucatan peninsula and the pretty beach area around Tulum come to mind. Of course, Oaxaca is a dream and one of my favorite places!

  9. Jan

    yeah I think ixtapa is starting to die out.

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