Q: I'm considering a trip to one of the coastal areas of Mexico, but am concerned about the crime and drug-related violence in certain regions. I don't wish to "hole up" in an isolated spa-type resort either. Do you have any recommendations for a reasonably comfortable, up-to-date beach spot?
A: The last thing you want to do when visiting another country is retreat to the type of resort that offers little or no chance of contact with the local people, culture or food. So good for you for looking for alternatives. Mexico is a huge and diverse country, and most destinations remain safe to visit.
Pie de la Cuesta is an off-the-beaten-track alternative to the nearby big spa resorts of Acapulco. One of the highlights of a visit here is the freshwater Coyuca Lagoon with a variety of tropical flora and fauna and different species of edible fish. A boat cruise takes visitors to islands filled with bird sanctuaries.
Many tourists love the low-key beaches of Sayulita, 25 miles north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. This is a picturesque fishing village with lush jungles and a taste of rural Mexican life. You'll find basic beach bungalows and inexpensive food stalls along with more gentrified restaurants, cafes and villas. See http://sayulita-mexico.com/ and www.sayulita.com.