Yes, There Are Still Cheap Beaches in Mexico. Here’s One.

Puerto Escondido

There are cheaper places to sit on a beach in the Americas than Mexico, but it can still be a great value one country down from the USA. Many travelers visit one of the big resort areas and presume that’s how much things cost throughout the country. Those are oddities though, bubble places full of foreign tourists who fly in for vacation, spend freely, and then fly back out.

I just spent five great days in Puerto Escondido. This is a town discovered by, and still very much filled with, surfers. That makes it different from Tulum, a place that was once full of backpackers but is now full of moneyed tourists trying to act like backpackers while spending big bucks for a designer yoga retreat with no electricity.

This has happened in other spots too to some extent, from Sayulita to Loreto to Zihuatanejo—all destinations the budget travelers latched onto first. Mexico has a lot of sandy coastline though and even if the government would like to turn every pretty bay into a mass market tourism destination, it’s not going to happen. There are just too many places even if the numbers doubled.

So don’t worry, if you ask around and do some research, you can still find a nice beach spot in Mexico where you can chill for a week on a reasonable amount of money. Here in Puerto Escondido, prices are geared to surfers, backpackers, and average Mexicans. As in double hotel rooms right across from the beach advertised for 400 pesos ($30) and hostel beds for 80 ($6.25). All over town there are 2-for-1 cocktails (“happy hour all day long”) and two beers for $2.30. Food at the beach restaurants is reasonable and if you head into the center, everything is just as cheap as it would be in any other town in Mexico. You can get a meal of the day or a plate of tacos for $3 and a kilo of fruit for a buck.

Carazilillo Beach

Apart from the seriously overpriced rates at the airport if you fly in from somewhere, taxis are far cheaper than in places like Cancun and Ixtapa. We went from Carrizalillo Beach where we’re staying to La Punta at the far end on the other side of town and it was about $3.25. All the other rides have been $2. We bought tickets in an express passenger van up the long and winding road to Oaxaca City and they were about $16 each for seven hours.

I’m here on vacation with my family, so we’re in a rental apartment that’s $100 a night with all the fees, a few minutes walk to Carrizalillo Beach pictured above. There are only three of us, but the place can sleep six and there’s a huge TV with cable, a swimming pool, hammocks, and a full kitchen. Like a lot of places here it’s not air-conditioned though, so it’s deathly hot in the afternoon. Don’t underestimate the heat at a Mexican beach at the end of July. Or how fast you’ll get sunburned.

Carazilillo Puerto Escondido

We’ve tried to stay in the shade much of the time on the beach by renting chairs and umbrellas from one of the restaurants. The thing is, you don’t really have to rent them as long as you order something to eat and drink from the accompanying restaurant. They say 100 pesos each (about $7.80) but they’re pretty low-key about it and you can hang out there the entire day. If you want to gorge on seafood you can spend a lot, but you don’t have to: beers are two bucks and a plate of fish tacos about $5. With a gorgeous view of the water and surfers or learning surfers. But of course you can just plop on a sarong or towel for nothing. Bring a cooler if you want.

I’ve been buying a good cup of coffee in the morning for $1.60 and really good gelato from Italian immigrants for $2 or so a pop. Overall the prices here are pretty similar to what you find in central Mexico where I live, which means they’re a great value.

I’m off to Oaxaca City after this and between the mole, mezcal, and Monte Alban it might be a while before my next post, but I’ll be back with a report on that place then.

  1. Jimmy B

    You’re right, not quite San Juan del Sur prices, but pretty attractive and that’s a good jumping off place to head south through Central America anyway. A little Mexico first, then on to even cheaper places to chill out.

  2. Michael Steinberger

    Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun are also the examples where vast sands and blue water could be recognized in a low budget.

    • K Grams

      True, but 25 years ago, we enjoyed Playa and Tulum as small (teeny) fishing villages. We spent 2 weeks in Pto Escondido a few years back, and loved it. Reality is that ‘best places’ always become Over Popular. But …. good news, MX is not about to run out of beautiful / quiet beach towns any time soon.

  3. Valentina

    I was wondering if you were able to recommend and alternative place to Puerto Escondido to go to in May/June, apparently too hot months to go to Puerto Escondido (they tell me).
    We were looking for a surf destination, alternative town, not too developed and with white sand (not the typical Mexican gray) and not as south, I suppose to stay cooler.
    Any suggestion?
    On another note, i found what you said in this post about Tulum very funny, I couldn’t possibly agree more on that type of thing, although I have never been there. And I was wondering… is the Cancun side of Mexico really not worth it?
    Our 2 main things are surfing and snorkeling. We wanted to go to Maui, but couldn’t find anything cheap.. So here we are at looking at Mexico.
    I appreciate your feedback.

    • Tim Leffel

      Any beach in Mexico is going to be very hot that time of year, as will be any one in Central America. It’s the tropics, after all. But if you’re surfing, you’ll be in the water a lot during the day anyway, right?

      Pacific beaches usually have golden sand rather than white. There are exceptions, but not as much white sand as the (shallower) Caribbean.

    • Peggy Lorene Allan

      Go to Playa Salidaa, just up the coast from Zihuatanejo Guerro. It’s a surfers paradise. Reasonable priced accomodations, includes surf boards and lessons if yo so desire. They also host international surfing tournaments. It’s a must place to visit.

  4. Taylor

    If you fly into Huatulco, walk the five minutes from the terminal to the airport entrance to find cabs that are a lot cheaper than the ones onsite. I paid 400 pesos for the one hour ride to Zipolite. A deal in my book!

  5. Monika

    Fantastic experience after reading your awesome blog. There have a lot of beautiful islands with resorts that are very expensive. But you have shared the beautiful but cheap place in Mexico. Thanks for sharing your great article with us.

  6. Elaine K.

    I would like to retire in Mexico in a low key safe place by the beach. I am not looking for a large place. As long as I have two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen, I will be happy. But, I would like to open my door to a beach. Can anyone recommend any place in Mexico that the prices have not gotten out of control. After living a life as a professional, my goal and wish in life is to live a simple life.

    • Tim Leffel

      Beachfront property will always cost more, but Mexico has a lot of coastline. If you’re willing to be in a sleepy place and get functionally fluent in Spanish, plenty of choices where there aren’t many tourists. Try the ones on the Gulf Coast near Merida, fanning out from Progreso. I sold my house there two years ago for $55K.

  7. Heather

    Wow, sounds like Puerto Escondido my kind of destination! And I definitely know what you mean about Tulum being full of posers. I visited about 8 years ago, and then again recently: what a change. For the better? Time will tell.

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