The U.S. might share a nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico, a country almost three times the size of Texas, but most American travelers are familiar with only a handful of its destinations—Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and other beach towns that cater to Americans.
While a relaxing vacation at a beach resort never hurt anyone, visitors who avoid traveling elsewhere are missing out on some of the best that Mexico has to offer: virgin beaches unspoiled by development, colonial cities that are older and more European than anything in the States, and indigenous cultures that still hold true to ancient traditions. All that, and lower prices, too.
In many colonial cities and small out-of-the-way beach towns, you'll find B&Bs and inns charging as little as $50 a night (or less) and luxurious accommodations in converted haciendas and Spanish estates for less than $150 a night. As for dining and shopping, you'll always find cheaper and more authentic food and handicrafts beyond the big tourist zones.
To experience Mexico outside the resorts you'll need to show a bit of independence and an openness to a less structured style of travel. Driving a rental car down crumbly roads, speaking some basic Spanish, and sharing your room with a lizard or two may be involved. Nevertheless, for the right kind of traveler, these elements are part of the excitement of venturing off the beaten path.
Here's a glimpse at 10 affordable, under-the-radar Mexican cities and beach towns that can be added on to a beach resort vacation or made the focus of a trip.