Beautiful caribbeen beach at Playa del Carmen with emerald water, Quintana Roo, Mexico

With world-class beaches, UNESCO World Heritage sites and flourishing art, culinary and cultural scenes, Mexico's tucked-away towns and cities offer plenty of allures. (Getty Images)

A strong U.S. dollar and weakened Mexican peso offers a strong value proposition for American tourists looking to explore Mexico this year. With historic sites, white-sand beaches, clear waters and attractions that run the gamut, from snorkeling to zip lining, Mexico's playground appeals to travelers of all kinds and is more affordable than you might think. If you want the most bang for your buck, however, it helps to look beyond some of the more touristy areas like Cancún. By planning an itinerary that's slightly off the beaten path, you can get the most bang for your buck – and potentially get a more authentic Mexican experience, too.

So, if you want to cash in on an advantageous exchange rate for a warm-weather trip south of the border, make sure to think beyond the typical haunts and check out these often overlooked locales this year.

[See: The 10 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico.]

Nuevo Vallarta

Riviera Nayarit sits just north of Puerto Vallarta and its airport, yet it feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city. Riviera Nayarit spans 200 miles of pristine Pacific beachfront and includes many seaside towns, golf courses, shopping venues and luxury resorts. With marinas, a mountain backdrop and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, Riviera Nayarit's Nuevo Vallarta may be the ideal stop for a luxurious Mexican getaway. Here, you can enjoy memorable meals at top-notch restaurants, relax along the beach or take in the sunset with a glass of local tequila or mezcal in hand. When you're ready to turn in, Paradise Village Beach Resort and Spa offers picturesque and convenient beachfront lodging. Best of all, families can explore the resort's spacious pools, relax on the adjacent beach or check out the nearby marina without paying a steep nightly rate.

[See: 9 Ways to Save for Your Dream Trip in 2017.]

Playa del Carmen

Tourism in Playa del Carmen has surged over the last decade, yet there are still lesser-known areas awaiting discovery. Just an hour from the Cancún International Airport, Playa del Carmen offers guests an easy day of travel and lacks the kitschy feel of neighboring Cancún. Whether you want to shop 'til you drop, nosh on gourmet fare or simply lay on a white-sand beach, Playa del Carmen has you covered. Guests can walk Playa del Carmen's famous 10th Avenue, snorkel the nearby beaches and reefs or unwind a beach bar all day. Playa del Carmen also offers a wealth of high-end accommodations. Playacar Palace, a high-end all-inclusive, offers pristine pools, well-appointed rooms and easy access to Playa del Carmen's major thoroughfare. The property also offers Alkimia, an intimate, immersive dining experience that stimulates the five senses over the course of a two-hour dinner created by Chef Oscar Dominguez.

Mazatlán

Mazatlán sits on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Flanked by mountains on one side and the sparkling Pacific Ocean on the other, Mazatlán's scenery is exotic and awe-inspiring. Plus, Mazatlán is known as the shrimp capital of Mexico, and offers a range of fresh and flavorful dishes that lean on local ingredients. While vacationing in Mazatlán, families and large groups can rent a pulmonía (or an open-air taxi) to cruise down Mazatlán's main drag, take a catamaran to Deer Island or simply browse the city's markets and streets. Best of all, hotels cost just half of what they often cost in pricier parts of Mexico, and affordable cuisine is easy to come by. In short, Mazatlán offers the natural beauty, versatile outdoor attractions, high-end accommodations and culinary hot spots you'd expect in an emerging destination in Mexico at a cost-effective price. As for accommodations, El Cid Marina Beach Hotel offers guests spacious pools, enormous rooms and suites and upscale dining – all for a reasonable rate. Hotel room rates start at around $100 per night for a family of four and an all-inclusive option is available.

[See: 10 All-Inclusive Resorts Debuting in Mexico and the Caribbean in 2016 and 2017.]

Guadalajara

With breathtaking art and architecture and carefully tended parks and public spaces, Guadalajara has become a top tourist destination for visitors with a penchant for culture. Here, you can explore the city's famous cathedral, enjoy lively street fairs and celebrations and shop for handmade pottery and local culinary delights. As one of Mexico's largest cities, Guadalajara offers a big-city feel with the mariachi music, nightlife and culture of a quintessential Mexican resort destination. For accommodations, consider Marriott's new AC Hotel Guadalajara to be situated near famous landmarks such as Teatro Degollado and the iconic Hospicio Cabañas, which is known for its vibrant José Clemente Orozco murals.

Tags: travel, vacations, Mexico


Holly Johnson writes about travel, credit cards, personal finance and frugality for a wide range of publications including U.S. News, The Indianapolis Star, The Simple Dollar, Lending Tree, Frugal Travel Guy and Wise Bread. Along with her husband, Johnson also runs two personal blogs - Club Thrifty and Travel Blue Book. Johnson's travel writing revolves around the Caribbean and Europe, with a special focus on family-friendly activities, all-inclusive resorts and unique hotels. Follow Holly Johnson on Twitter @ClubThrifty.

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