The home of tacos and tequila has always stood out among Latin American destinations, bridging North and Central America. From ancient ruins and colonial architecture to tropical beaches and roaring nightlife, this land has endless draws and allures. But following the country’s tourism boom (something that’s been going on since the 60s!), Mexico’s resort-lined coasts and major towns and cities aren’t quite the bargains they used to be.
However, if you’re prepared to go beyond the luxurious tourist packages, then look no further: This guide to the cheapest places in Mexico has you covered. It will show how you can still travel the nation on a shoestring, by picking out lesser-known spots and venturing a bit further off the beaten track to make your dollars stretch.
If you’re hoping to come across Cabo or Tulum on this list, then we’re sorry to disappoint – they are simply no-go for budget travelers. But for great beach towns, digital-nomad hotspots, heritage sites, and surf spots to rival Bali, you’re in the right place. In this guide, you’ll find our top pick of the nine cheapest places in Mexico. And boy are they awesome. Ready? Let’s begin…
Loreto, Baja California Sur
The oldest settlement in this northwestern peninsula, Loreto is an historical city with a rich heritage and colorful traditions. The town has a center that’s gilded with handsome colonial buildings, like the Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreta, a 17th-century church. The nearby Sierra de la Gigantes also come complete with prehistoric cave paintings, belying a much longer human history.
But Loreto is not just a spot for aficionados of past. The Bahía de Loreto National Park is easily accessible from the coastal town. Go there to come across deserted islands that are washed by crystal-clear waters, uninhabited by people but home to whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and pelicans. Loreto also boasts stunning bays, dazzling white-sand beaches, and a backdrop of rugged mountain ranges, where walking trails will take you to lookouts over the sweeping Sea of Cortez.
Oh, and with the price of family condos and apartments starting at less than $100,000, it’s clear to see why this one’s risen to become something of an expat favorite. Those passing through on shorter trips should also be able to bag a stay in a three-star hotel for $50 a night, or a self-contained vacation rental for as low as $20.
Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
This secluded fishing village on the Pacific Coast has seen an influx of foreign travelers and settlers in recent years. Cheap living costs, a slower pace of life, and a world-class surfing status are just some of the reasons to visit Puerto Escondido.
Far enough removed from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities, but with no shortage of hotels and holiday rentals, Puerto Escondido balances authentic Mexican culture with an inviting, foreigner-friendly atmosphere. You’ll also find one of the most Instagram-worthy beaches in the Oaxaca region here: Playa Zicatela. This beach is also home to the world-famous Mexican Pipeline, a temperamental and expert-level surf break that’s just awesome to watch in full swing.
The vibrant restaurant scene, cheap gyms, and accessible co-working spaces have made Puerto Escondido a thriving hotspot for digital nomads. That’s hardly surprising at all, what with short-term apartment rentals averaging at less than $1,600 a month and hotel rooms starting at $33 a night. Our tip? Head to the east side of the bay to find the cheapest eats and most budget hotels.
Sayulita, Riviera Nayarit
Sayulita is a hidden gem for low-cost vacations. With its beachfront hotels and surf hostels, charming restaurants and little seafood cantinas, you can often get a taste of the bohemian, laid-back atmosphere of the surrounding Riviera Nayarit without spending a bomb.
You can take a beginner’s surf lesson, shop the markets, or spend the day on the unspoiled stretches of golden sands. Sayulita is also an excellent spot for water activities and boat tours. The Islas Marietas national park and its secret cave beach are just a stone’s throw in a speedboat from this west coast town. You can also hike through the jungles to the north to find totally secluded bays to call your own for a day, not to mention trails fringed by tropical plants and colossal palm trees.
The price for a family room in a three-star hotel in Sayulita starts at $70 a night, with solo travelers being able to bag a stay for as low as $15. Don’t miss Don Pedro’s Restaurant and Bar for a relaxed vibe and the best tostadas on the seafront. Surf lessons tend to start at around $40 for a group and $45 for a private session.
There’s WAY more to Mexico than the coast. What’s more, for the real cheapest places in Mexico, you have to be willing to step away from the tourist trails promising sun, sea, and surf, and take a detour inland. But when you do, you won’t be disappointed…
Set to the backdrop of the snow-peaked Popocatepetl Volcano, Cholula is situated 7,000 feet above sea level. It promises boutique city breaks for half the price of the coastal towns. The city is best known for the pre-Hispanic Great Pyramid of Cholula, or the Tepanapa Pyramid. This manmade structure stands at 185 feet tall and measures 1,480 square feet wide, making it the largest pyramid in the world by volume. If you’ve not heard of the pyramid, you might be familiar with the iconic Mexican hot sauce that borrows its name from the ancient city.
Six miles west of Puebla, Cholula is a unique gateway town into Mexico’s most historically significant region. You can climb to the top of the Tepanapa or travel through the tunnels underneath. Afterwards, be sure to make the most of Cholula’s thriving nightlife and trendy restaurant scene. If you’re looking for a bit of luxury, you can bag a night in a four-star hotel for just $32! If budget eats are more your thing, pick up some street food from one of Cholula’s famous food trucks for as low as $2.50 a pop.
Playa Del Carmen, Riviera Maya
This coastal town on the Riviera Maya is a magnet for backpackers and shoestring travelers looking for laid-back beach life and cheap amenities. Located just a 40-minute drive down the coast from Cancun International Airport, Playa Del Carmen is the perfect stop-off destination if you want a few undemanding days of sun, sea, and relaxation.
With coral reefs, powdery white sands, and palm trees as far as the eye can see, it’s clear why Playa Del Carmen has become so popular in the last few years. Essentially a party-town, Playa Del Carmen attracts a diverse traveler population with its restaurants, bars, and nightclubs to suit all budgets.
Now, we won’t pretend that it’s among the cheapest places in Mexico overall. It’s more that it’s cheap for its region, since the Yucatan has risen to become one of the most sought-after corners of the country. There’s no shortage of three-star hotels lining the tropical beachfront for less than $100 a night. But many visitors choose to opt for one of the many hostels and guesthouses in the town center where you can bunk for less than $30. That’s a bargain compared to Cancun and the others.
If you’re looking for a taste of “real” Mexico, the town of Pátzcuaro is the place to go for budget-friendly heritage. This colonial settlement is a mecca of terracotta-tiled roofs, cobbled streets, and traditional adobe-style houses situated 200 miles west of Mexico City.
Pátzcuaro dates back from as early as the 14th century, to the heydey of the Tarascan empire. The town sits on the edge of the densely forested banks of Lake Pátzcuaro, 7,200 feet above sea level and shrouded in wispy clouds. The lake contains five islands that you can visit by boat from Pátzcuaro itself. One of these is the Isla Janitzio, where the native Purepecha Indians host several religious ceremonies each year.
Every bit as mesmerizing as it is memorable if you want a Mexican experience far removed from the tourist hubs of the resort-lined coasts, Pátzcuaro should be on your bucket list. What’s more, with hotels starting at $21 a night, you’ve got no excuse to skip this one on the finance front.
Xilitla, San Luis Potosí
Surrounded by lush jungle, with swimming holes and waterfalls aplenty, Xilita promises a totally different Mexican experience that even budget travelers can get a slice of. Ancestral traditions of the Nahuas and Teenek people are deeply rooted in the Xilitlan way of life, so much so that a trip to Xilitla will serve as a lesson in living in harmony with nature and modernity..
The main attraction of the area is the Jardin Surealististico Los Pozas, the former garden of English artist Edward James. This once-abandoned architectural wonder sees spiral staircases, decorative columns, and surrealist structures meet turquoise pools, waterfalls, and a butterfly haven in the spring. It was declared a national cultural heritage site in 2012 and now welcomes tourists all year round.
Xilitla is hot and humid but equally magical. Lodgings start from $17 a night and average out at just $30, making it one of the cheapest places in Mexico for sure. With an average daily budget of $22-$36 needed to get by in this sub-tropical pueblo nestled in the Sierra Gorda, the only thing you can’t afford to do is miss out!
While Mazatlán has suffered a lot because of the less-than-savoury reputation of its mother region, the cartel hotspot of Sinaloa. But the town actually has a murder rate that’s 50% of what it is in Acapulco, another of Mexico’s popular shoreline escapes.
The pulls are twofold: Long, sandy beaches with surfable waves out front and then an old town that’s got Baroque wonders and charming plazas. Mazatlán has emerged as something of an artist’s colony in more recent times, too, so expect lots in the way of galleries and workshops.
Mainly because of the bad rep, the town isn’t anywhere as near as pricy as the likes of Cabo or Puerto Vallarta up and down the coast. However, you will have to be happy venturing into a region that’s certainly not the safest in the country.
Be immersed in the stunning plazas and old town of Morelia, the state capital of Michoacán. While the surrounding region has been under State Department warnings for some time because it’s a hotspot for cartel violence, the town at its center is considered pretty much safe. And what a wonder it is…
Start on the buzzing Plaza de Armas. A pink-tinted church from the 1700s rises overhead there – some say it’s the prettiest in the whole country. The side streets are lines with low-rise saloons and tacquerias, while cheap beer bars spill between the alcoves to offer people watching you won’t forget. You can also use Morelia as a jump-off point for getting to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, where millions of fliers gather in the springtime.
Price tags aren’t high in Morelia. Street food can be had for just a couple of dollars a pop and the hotels are just a fraction of what they are in Mexico city or San Miguel de Allende – think around $20-35 a night.
The Cheapest Places in Mexico
So, can you do Mexico on a shoestring? Is it possible to see this vibrant, tropical country with so much to offer in the way of luxury resorts, raging nightlife, and protected heritage without breaking the bank? Our answer is, of course, you can.
You can find cheap places and great deals all across the nation. You just have to know where to look. Around every corner is colonial architecture and picturesque coastline, unspoiled by tourists and just asking to be discovered.
So leave Quintana Roo to the DJs and Spring Breakers and take a trip off the beaten track. No matter how many pesos are in your pocket, Mexico just opened up.