A concrete block wall should be less expensive than a concrete wall.
You could put a stone or stucco veneer on the concrete wall to make it
look better. Both concrete and a concrete block wall needs a concrete
footing. The concrete block wall will need to be reinforced with
rebar and those cells filled with grout (a fluid concrete).
The segmental block wall (the manufactured look you don't like) is
probably going to be the cheapest. It doesn't require a concrete
footing, but only a 4" to 6" base of crush and run stone. There are
companies out there that make (in my opinion) a very attractive
segmental block... some of the blocks are tumble to look like natural
stone. A 3 foot tall wall shouldn't require geogrid reinforcement,
but segmental block walls are proprietary products that have there own
earth reinforcing requirements.
No matter what type of wall you decide to build, make sure you provide
adequate drainage behind the wall (ie. layer of #57 stone behind wall
with french drain, or weep holes, etc.). Also, make sure the backfill
is compacted. Uncompacted fill with rain can can overload a wall and
make it fall...I have seen this before.