With so many awesome cities and towns, deciding where in Mexico to travel can be overwhelming. If you want to narrow down your options, read on for the ultimate list of the best places to visit in Mexico.
The Best Places to Visit in Mexico
Whether you enjoy beaches, mountains, nature, cities, partying, quaint colonial villages, food, hot weather, chilly temperatures, or all of the above, Mexico has something for you.
Mexico is a massive country, and each state has its particular flair. Let’s go over some must-see places for your next trip.
Cancun is one of the most famous travel destinations in Mexico. It has amazing beaches and beautiful hotels. Whether you’re looking for a luxury resort or a party experience, Cancun has what you need. You can spend a lot of money in Cancun or stick to a budget — the choice is yours.
2. The Riviera Maya
Just south of Cancun, you’ll find The Riviera Maya, a stretch of the Caribbean coastline in Yucatán. While most tourists end up in Cancun, not as many visit The Riviera Maya, allowing you less restricted access to its pristine beaches.
There are several popular resort towns in The Riviera Maya. Among them are Tulum and Playa del Carmen. So, which one of the three should you choose: Cancun, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen?
Cancun is the biggest of the three. It’s a city, and even on the beach, you’ll see many hotels on the beachfront along with many other travelers. It’s a chill place, but you can’t escape the urban vibes unless you head to Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen is a big town, with a population of over 200,000. Nevertheless, it is a lot more relaxed than Cancun, while retaining luxury resort options. Finally, Tulum, the smallest of the three, is best if you enjoy nature and ecotourism as opposed to staying in a luxury hotel.
With a population of just a few dozen thousand, Tulum doesn’t have all the grandeur of Cancun, but there are plenty of preserves and nature-oriented activities nearby.
3. Baja California
Tourists from Europe or the East Coast may find it easier to fly into Mexico City or Cancun. However, those from the West Coast often drive down to San Diego and cross the land border to Baja California. Some even fly into San Diego and go straight from the airport to the border.
Baja California is a Mexican state situated right under California. Crossing the border from San Diego to Tijuana is a quick and easy process — you can drive over or cross by foot.
Instead of spending a lot of time in the border town of Tijuana, head further south to the port city of Ensenada, where you’ll find delicious food options, a quaint center, and nature hikes.
If you’re a wine enthusiast, you can take a short tour out of Ensenada to the beautiful wine valley. For a more luxurious option, head to Rosarito, around 25 minutes from Tijuana, where you can enjoy clean beaches and fresh air.
Those who are more adventurous may head even further to the southern state of Baja California Sur (“sur” means south in Spanish). You can also fly into La Paz, the capital of the state, or the resort town of Cabo San Lucas, or simply Cabo or Los Cabos. There, you can tan on the sand or walk on the beautiful promenades.
Once you’re in Baja California, you can consider taking flights to other parts of Mexico. Despite being on the west coast, Tijuana is well-connected with cities like Oaxaca and Mexico City. Getting from there to Cancun will take longer and may require a stop in Mexico City.
The advantage of doing that is that flights within Mexico are often more affordable than flights from the US to Mexico. And, since the airport in Tijuana has a special border bridge that will take you straight back to the states, many find it a convenient option.
4. Mexico City
Should Mexico City be on your list of potential places to go? That depends on you’re style of travel. For many, CDMX (Ciudad de México, or Mexico City) is simply a gateway to the rest of Mexico; a place to spend a night or two, or even just a few hours, before flying out to Cancun or driving to one of Mexico’s magical towns (more on that soon).
After all, it’s a massive city, with a population of over 21 million in the Greater Mexico City area. There’s traffic, congestion, pollution, and even crime.
Nevertheless, CDMX has a lot to offer. It is the capital of Mexico, and it offers culinary delights in its upscale restaurants and famous street food tacos for around $1 each.It’s an international city, with a modern business district, but it also has a quaint historic center, where cars are often barred from driving.
As you may expect, there are plenty of museums in the capital, such as the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Leon Trotsky Museum, both located in Coyoacan.
Generally, tourists stay in one of two areas: La Condesa/Roma and Coyoacan. The adjacent neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma feature wide tree-lined boulevards, excellent nightlife, and a dazzling assortment of eateries. It has a modern feel to it, and it isn’t far from the historic center and financial district.
Coyoacan is a bit further away, but it comes with a more local and authentic feel. With its cobblestone roads, you can sit in one of its cafés and while away your morning before hitting up the museums in the area.
Another neighborhood worth considering is Polanco. Considered one of the more “posh” and upscale districts in the city, many expats have made it their home. Generally, these three areas are very safe, with non-stop police patrols and low crime rates.
5. San Juan Teotihuacan (The Pyramids)
If you’ve ever seen a travel brochure for Mexico, you’ve probably noticed pictures of its famous pyramids. Many fly into CDMX just to visit them; they’re a short drive away, and you can go yourself or as part of a tour.
San Juan Teotihuacan includes the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, but it’s not limited to them; it’s a massive archeological complex left over from pre-Hispanic civilization.
6. The Mayan Ruins
If you’re a history buff, a visit to some Mayan ruins in addition to Teotihuacan is a must-do. Even if archeology doesn’t interest you that much, they’re still worth seeing.
There are many ruins all over Mexico, as the Mesoamerican civilization stretched across much of the region. Regardless of which part of the country you are visiting, you’ll probably find some sort of ruins nearby. The ruins are leftover remains of the cities the Mayans built.
If you’re staying in Yucatán, consider visiting Chichen Itza, one of the most famous and most-visited ruins. You can get there from Cancun. If you’re in Tulum, the Tulum ruins will be close by.
7. The Magical Towns (Pueblos Magicos)
Scattered around Mexico are the so-called Pueblos Magicos, or “magical towns”. These picturesque villages have an enchanted feel to them, a relaxed vibe, and lovely architecture. There are many located within driving distance from Mexico City, such as Cholula in Puebla.
8. San Miguel De Allende
Another charming town located just 150 miles (ca. 241 km) from Mexico City is San Miguel de Allende. Founded by a monk, the town still does not have any traffic lights, allowing you to get a feel for the “real Mexico.”
However, it’s growing rapidly, as new investors buy up land and build resorts, so visit it before it gets overcrowded over the next decade.
Another fascinating place is Oaxaca. Oaxaca, the capital of Oaxaca State, is a quiet city with plenty of appealing bars, restaurants, and lively markets. Its colorful buildings and one-way cobblestone streets may make you want to stay forever.
But consider heading out to the mountains around Oaxaca, as there are many tiny villages with fresh air and few tourists.
Depending on the season, it can get a bit chilly in Oaxaca and its surroundings, so take a jacket or sweater. It’s a walkable place, but you can always take a taxi or ride-share if you need to get somewhere further away.
10. Puerta Vallarta
Located only a few hours by car from Oaxaca, Puerta Vallarta couldn’t be any more different. Instead of being surrounded by mountains, you’ll be able to appreciate the ocean air and take walks on the beach at sunset.
The more adventurous traveler may rent a scooter and take a trip out of town, but make sure you are licensed and know how to ride one.
Things to Consider
Here are some tips that will make your Mexico trip more enjoyable:
- Stay safe. While Mexico isn’t dangerous if you stick to touristy areas, you still need to be mindful of pickpockets and petty theft. Those are especially a problem in larger cities.
- Avoid walking by yourself too late at night.
- In addition to Uber, Didi is a ride-share app that’s extremely popular in Mexico. You may find a driver quicker, and it’s usually cheaper.
- Each region has its unique variety of Mexican cuisine. Nevertheless, you’ll find such ubiquitous foods like tacos and quesadillas everywhere.
- Vegan and vegetarian options are usually available, especially in tourist towns. It may be harder to find gluten-free and lactose-free options, but it will be more managable if you’re eating in upscale restaurants.
- While street food is extremely cheap and pretty good, you may experience stomach upset on some occasions. Buy bottled water instead of drinking tap water in Mexico.
- Ask your hotel or resort for airport transfer and tour information. Usually, they’ll be glad to organize a trip to nearby nature attractions, ruins, or museums.
- Spanish isn’t necessary, especially in cities like Cancun and resort towns frequented by tourists. Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few basic phrases in Spanish.
So, What’s the Best Place to Visit in Mexico?
Hopefully, this article helps you plan your upcoming trip to Mexico. Mexico is a huge country, so don’t expect to experience it all on a single trip.
For a short trip, decide on 2-3 places, so you can experience them thoroughly instead of hopping around too much and not being able to fully take in the sights, sounds, and delicious tastes of the best places to visit in Mexico.