3 Under-the-Radar Mexican Beach Towns

Mexico’s top beach resort areas each draw millions of visitors each year. Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos…

But if you’d rather avoid the crowds, the mega-resorts, and the hype, you can find relief in low-key beach towns close by that are quiet, have a more local vibe, and are cheaper to live in too. And if you plan to be there all or part of the year, you can still take advantage of all the big city has to offer when you need it: international airports, major medical facilities, big box shopping, and entertainment…

Organic Farms and Surfing…

Take Todos Santos. It’s about 45 minutes’ drive north from vacation central, Cabo San Lucas, on the very tip of the Baja California peninsula—along smooth highway through the saguaro studded (it’s the cactus with “arms”) scrub, mountains, and desert. With its timeshares, margarita happy hours, cruise ships, and boat tours…Cabo is the trip of a lifetime for some.

Todos Santos is world’s away, with restored historic buildings turned homes, boutique hotels, cafés, and restaurants; bougainvillea vines framing intricately carved wooden doors; silver jewelry artisan shops; dogs lazing in the sun; and a mostly undeveloped beachfront with some of the best surf of the peninsula. In my last visit, I was surprised to find an active organic farming scene as well. A lot of Californians have settled here—makes sense given the location. Maybe that’s one reason for the bohemian and artistic bent.

A 10-minute walk to the beach is a three-bedroom home (not many condos here) that comes with appliances and furniture. Pool, of course. It’s listed at $255,000. A two-bedroom house on the outskirts of town (you’d have to drive to the beach) is available for $110,000.

Snowbirds and Beer on the Beach…

The first time my wife and I went to Puerto Vallarta, we managed to snag a deal for several nights, all-inclusive, in the planned development of Nuevo Vallarta. Buffets and beach books were good for a couple of days…but we were ready to escape. The bellhop recommended Bucerías, a small town where he lived just to the north on the vast Bay of Banderas.

It’s nothing fancy. No glitz or glamor. But a nice beach and laidback atmosphere.

We enjoyed fried seafood and cheladas (beer on ice with lime juice, salt on the rim) at one beachfront restaurant, with tables right on the sand, among vacationing Mexican families. Musicians would stroll by, offering a song for a few bucks. (Some guests had been enjoying cheladas for quite a while, so there was plenty of singing along.)

Friends who visited last winter tell me just about every expat they met was Canadian—it’s a major snowbird haven.

I came across a two-bedroom condo penthouse with a sliver of ocean-view from the terrace—you can walk to the beach and restaurants—listed at $179,900. There’s a community pool with a swim up bar (you have to stock it and staff it yourself). It’s a perfect lock and leave unit for part-timers…you could rent it out when you’re not there. Also, within a walk of the beach is a two-bedroom townhouse for $139,900. It comes fully furnished, complete with barbecue grill on the covered rooftop terrace.

Classic White Sand…

Driving down the ramrod straight highway from Cancún’s airport to Playa del Carmen, it’s easy to miss Puerto Morelos halfway between the two. It’s a small seaside village. If you fancy seafood just stop by the fishing co-op just off across the street from the sleepy main square to see what’s fresh. A small fleet of fishing boats still go out each day. The plaza is lined on four sides with little restaurants, cafés, and shops. Some places have live music on weekend evenings.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the beach here. I love that classic Riviera Maya white sand and clear turquoise water. With condos on or near the beach for reasonable prices it’s no wonder those in-the-know have chosen to settle here. A two-bedroom condo on the beach, with sea views, is listed at $265,000. It’s in a four-unit building with pool and Jacuzzi. On the north end of town is a third-floor, two-bedroom condo with three bedrooms. It has water views and is a block from the beach. List price is $275,000. Set back about five minutes’ drive from the beach you can get more house for your money. A three-bedroom home in a new gated community is available for $179,000.

This is just the beginning. With thousands of miles of coastline, Mexico offers any beach bum dozens of options for ocean views, sandy beaches, and a laidback, lower-cost life.

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