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Big Island is great, too. Some really good snorkeling. Great waterfalls. Coffee plantations. Beaches. Volcanoes NP (plus LOTS of national monuments). Just about anything you could want. Very pretty, too.

Tucson would be a lot cheaper for you. I used to live there (grad school). I can tell you, it's a sleepy college town. If your interests line up with what's there, you'll probably have a really nice time. Center for Creative Photography, Saguaro NP, two observatories (south of the city), an old mission, the Pima Air Museum, the Titan Missile Museum, a photography get the idea. Very different from a typical beach vacation, which you were discussing in the OP.

Nogales is an hour south, but it's not much. Not really Mexico. It is, but it isn't (if you know what I mean) due to proximity to US. Basically a huge tourist trap.

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