Your sick and tired of always visiting the family on your vacation. The kids are finally gone and you want to get away to someplace fun, exciting, and not too expensive. The problem is, where should you go? It’s a question people frequently ask, and yet sadly, many will never come to an incredibly easy answer.
Mexico! That’s right, Mexico.
I know, I know many of you are thinking I’m nuts. And depending on where you considered going, a few years ago I might have been a little less bullish on this great country. But the truth is, Mexico is a wonderful destination to escape the winter weather of the US, it’s a great bargain and, with a little common sense, is completely safe.
Yes, you heard me right, Mexico is safe to visit, but more on that later. First up is where should you go? That depends. Are you a beach person, or do you see yourself as more of a city person? How much comfort do you want, or are you willing to pay for? Finally, are you a read a book person, or do you need to be on the go every day? Or maybe, you want to mix it up. Here are a few suggestions as you think about what you want to do.
Beach life… I’ve got two hands down favorites, Huatulco and Puerto Vallarta. Vallarta is the classic Mexican beach resort. It is that wonderful mix of beach and city. Visit beaches like Yelapa [only accessible by water taxi] or Las Animas by day, party the night away on the Malecon, or shop til you drop all day long.
A favorite of gringos since John Huston filmed “The Night of the Iguana” there in 1964, Vallarta, as it is known to locals, is Mexico as us Norte Americanos know it. Loaded with times shares, condo rentals and even some great budget hotels. If you want a beach vacation that gives you a ton of options and a bustling shopping and restaurant and club scene, Vallarta is for you.
However, if you like your beach laid back and quiet, check out Huatulco. Developed years ago by the Mexican government as the next Cancun, the area never quite took off. But that’s not to say it is underdeveloped. There are a few of the large resorts, like the Camino Real and Secrets, that people come to expect when they vacation near a beach, but there are also a number of nice boutique hotels and private villas from folks like My Huatulco Vacation that you can rent as well. Add in a boat ride to a deserted beach, and you’ve got the perfect romantic getaway locale.
City life… If you are thinking city, I’ve got a group of great recommendations. Looking for a safe place where you’ll encounter folks speaking English? Check out San Miguel Allende with it’s cobblestone streets and red cantara stone cathedrals. With modern Queretaro nearby, this location gives you a wonderful mix of old and new.
Maybe want to get a little further off the American tourist track? Try Guanajuato, birthplace of famed muralist Diego Rivera and former home of the mother lode of silver in Mexico. Guanajuato has a quaint city square, lots of sidewalk cafes, old plantations to explore and streets running throughout the old silver tunnels. In the evening you can sit and listen to the various rondallas [men’s choirs] roaming the area, or even take a walking tour with them as they sing their hearts out for you and the people they encounter. Add in the spectacular architecture and Guanajuato is a must see destination.
Finally, you can never go wrong with Oaxaca. The heart of the indigenous culture of Mexico, Oaxaca is simply magical. A gastronomic adventure park, your taste buds will come away from a week in this city longing for a few more days. Add in the colors, local handicrafts, artwork, Monte Alban, architecture and of course, mezcal and you’ll be asking yourself why you never visited Oaxaca before.
Let me be up front here. The days of $20.00 hotel rooms and $5.00 dinners are, for the most part, gone in Mexico. But with a little work, you can vacation very reasonably at a comfort level you’ll never match in the states for the same money. How about a two bedroom, two bath private villa steps from the beach for under $200.00 a night? It’s not available in Vallarta, but just a half hour taxi ride away, you can get that place in a tiny village called Sayulita. Did I mention that it comes with it’s own salt water pool?
How about a three bedroom three bath home in the center of the Yucatán city of Merida? 7 nights for under a grand with access to all the great archeological sites like Uxmal, Chichen Itza and even Dhzilbatun, and yes, it too comes with a pool.
A short hour away is the beach at Progreso and if you add in a day at one of the local cenotes you’ll have an incredible week at a very affordable price.
But the question on everyone’s lips is this… Dave, is it safe? That depends. Just like it does here in the states. Mexico is no different from the US. Both countries have places where we know to avoid. With a little common sense, you’ll be fine.
Let’s remember that Mexico is a gigantic country and for the most part, the violence that many in the US are aware of is localized in a few areas. Skip those areas and you’ll be wondering what all those US newspapers have been writing about. Should you do your homework? Of course, as you would if you were vacationing here in the good old US of A. Just like you’d probably never pitch a tent in the middle of Detroit or Washington DC, there are places in Mexico you should never go. But don’t let problems in a few areas discourage you from visiting this vast, wonderful, diverse country. Problems in one area of a huge country do not mean, despite what you may read in the media, that the entire country is engulfed in some sort of civil war.
In all my travels in Mexico, over more than 20 years, I have never felt threatened or experienced any violence personally, and I have travelled in some pretty notorious areas. Think Sinaloa and Michoacan, home to some of the most dangerous drug cartels in the country.