Off the Beaten Path: Quieter Alternatives in Mexico

Great weather, beautiful beaches, and cheap food are what Mexico is known for, but throngs of tourists have turned many classic destinations into anything but a relaxing escape. To experience a more genuine Mexico without seeing gringos at every turn, look to these quieter alternatives on the coast. These towns not only offer a feeling of remoteness, but they're also close enough to major airports and cities that you won't be completely lacking in conveniences.

Instead of Cabo San Lucas... head to Todos Santos. Cabo is probably best known for two things: timeshares and Cabo Wabo. If you're not there for a bachelor/ette party, you'll find solace in a tiny town of 5,000 just an hour north. While Todos Santos is starting to see more tourist activity these days, it still isn't the circus that its southern neighbor is. Situated in the foothills of the Sierra de La Laguna Mountains, Todos has a slow and easy vibe with its restored colonial buildings, colorful streets, boutique hotels, handicraft shops and art galleries, and many uncrowded beaches within 15 minutes of the village center. You'll also find the famous Hotel California here (and while it captures the essence of the classic Eagles song, it actually isn't the subject). Visit the Todos Santos tourism site to plan your trip.

Instead of Puerto Vallarta... head to San Pancho. Officially known as San Francisco, but affectionately called by its original name San Pancho by the locals, this fishing village is only an hour north of Puerto Vallarta but feels much farther. With a full-time population of just 1,600, it's what Puerto Vallarta was like before tourism took over. Situated between the jungle and the coast, San Pancho offers white sandy beaches, excellent surf, and a small-town atmosphere free of highrises. You'll find plenty of vacation rentals on VRBO, but if you want to be pampered at an all-inclusive resort, Costa Azul offers adventure packages for surfers, divers, kayakers, and hikers. Find out more on the San Pancho community website.

Instead of Cancun... head to Tulum. When it comes to the Riviera Maya, most people flock to Cancun and merely make day trips to Tulum, site of the popular Mayan ruins. But have you ever considered actually staying in Tulum? The seaside town is emerging as a hip and bohemian destination for travelers who crave easy access (transportation throughout town is best on foot or by bike) and soul-soothing services (yoga retreats and tours of the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve are popular here). Away from the trendy downtown area full of amenity-rich resorts, you'll find boutique hotels and thatched-roof bungalows with no phone lines. Amansala is the perfect place to get away from it all, and you can find more on the Tulum tourism site.

(Images: 1. Hotel California; 2. Costa Azul Adventure Resort; 3. Amansala Eco Chic Resort)