While tourist hotspots in the Caribbean like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are world-famous and regularly visited by travelers, most people experience Mexico’s magnificent Pacific coast for the first time on board a Mexican Riviera cruise. And while this is undeniably a superb way to discover this fantastic part of the world, a backpacking tour offers a different, more in-depth experience.
Since the glory days of Acapulco faded, the west coast of Mexico has been relatively undiscovered, although that is all changing these days! From Oaxaca’s incredible food culture and gorgeous surfing beaches to the incredible jungles of Colima and Nayarit, all the way up to the mountainous desert beaches of Baja California, the Mexican Riviera is a pretty special place to visit. As a result, packing a bag and heading off on a solo backpacking trip is not as daunting a prospect as it once was!
There are obviously still a few things to keep in mind when backpacking solo, wherever you are. So if you are planning a shoestring adventure down the Pacific coast of Mexico, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for some of the best places to visit, and some expert tips on making your backpacking adventure as amazing (and safe) as possible.
Where to go
While Oaxaca City itself is not actually on the coast, it is a must-visit and an amazing place for backpackers. Filled with wonderful hostels and some of the best food in Mexico, it is also incredibly beautiful, and remarkably affordable. A true gem, and rightly deserving of all the recent good press it has received!
The hippy, surfer enclave on Oaxaca’s coast, Puerto Escondido is perfect if you love big breaks, chill vibes, and amazing wildlife. Catch some waves in the morning, watch endangered turtles being released into the wild in the afternoon, and relax the entire rest of the day.
Often overlooked by foreign tourists, Zihuatanejo boasts some of the best beaches in Mexico, including the gorgeous, sweeping stretch of Playa la Ropa. It’s a great spot for wildlife lovers, as the ocean is teeming with life, making snorkelling and scuba diving a great option.
Puerto Vallarta itself is a little on the ‘resort-y’ side for backpackers, but the surf enclaves of Sayulita and San Pancho are absolutely perfect. Peace, quiet, and stunning beaches flanked by lush, verdant jungle, as well as an array of yoga retreats and hiking tours, it’s the perfect spot for the discerning shoestring traveler.
Up in Baja California, but a world away from the Spring Break vibes of Los Cabos, Todos Santos is laid-back, refined, and brilliantly beautiful. With calm ocean waves and eye-catching mountains that plunge right down to the beach, it’s a wonderful spot to splash out a little and enjoy a break from backpacking!
Mexico backpacking tips
Mexico is bursting with excellent, affordable accommodation options. In almost everywhere mentioned above you’ll find everything from cheap hostel rooms to fancy (yet still affordable) hotels. One of the reasons that Mexico is such a great option for backpacking is that if you feel the need for a little luxury, you can usually manage it even on a budget!
Getting around Mexico is pretty easy, with cheap internal airlines and excellent long-haul bus routes. The smaller towns and villages are well-served by regular hop-on/hop-off combi routes. A little Spanish will help, of course!
For the most part, backpacking in Mexico is safe. The locals are immensely friendly, and as long as you don’t behave foolishly and stick to standard backpacking safety tips, you can almost always rely on nothing bad happening. It is worth keeping an eye on local news, of course, as if anything serious or concerning does happen, this is where you’ll find it first!
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