By David Simmonds
When I travel Mexico and I’m not getting comped on a press trip in an expensive, tourist hotel, I stay in cheap places. The habit started from necessity back in the day when I had little money and less sense and continues today because it’s what I prefer. I like the family-run, smaller hotels for many reasons, but primarily because it just feels more real and interesting. I can usually size up a place in about two minutes and know if its going to be right. These bargain accommodations can be found all over Mexico, often just up the street (or beach) from the tonier properties, and often priced at 1/5 the cost of the well-known, ubiquitous resorts. And in reality, many of the small towns only have inexpensive lodging as not many gringos ever make it to the back-road locales.
One of my favorite towns lies about 60 miles north of Puerto Vallarta nestled in a pristine, small bay lined with towering palms. Chacala lies about 10 miles off the main road and is bypassed by most. But it is on the Nayarit coast that has, unfortunately, been earmarked for massive development. Hopefully, it will take a few years before a large resort moves in hawking umbrella drinks and time-shares. There are only about 400 people living there now, and knowing that adventurous travelers sometimes wander in looking to kick-back for a few days, they started Techos de Mexico in 1997, an organization comprised of several homeowners who offer guest rooms for rent in the $25 – $45 range. All of the rooms have private entrances and most have balconies and patios with ocean-views. Some offer kitchenettes, but if not there are a string of palapa restaurants along the beach serving everything from fresh fish to pasta to cold beer and warm tequila.
According to the web site, they are expanding the concept to Roseta (inland, in Huichol country), Riviera Maya and Mexico City. So the next time you head to Mexico, consider a cheaper, and more interesting option. If you don’t like it you can always find a fine resort down the road with the soft pillows and Friday night Mariachi fiestas. There is something for everyone in Mexico.