Mexico is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for a reason. With thousands of years of history dating to the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec empires, wild jungles, beautiful beaches, and hip modern towns, the country has something for everyone.
However, Mexico is too big to even think of seeing the whole country in one trip. That’s why choosing where to stay in Mexico is so important to ensuring that you see what you want to see during your trip in the country!
Why You Should Visit Mexico in 2023
There are so many reasons to visit Mexico that it’s almost difficult to narrow them down. Many people visit Mexico for the beautiful beaches.
With two coasts, on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Mexico has plenty of beautiful beaches. Whether you opt for the party beaches of Cancun or the wild landscapes of Baja California, it should be a swimming experience to remember.
Mexico is a must-visit destination for history lovers. Ancient civilizations such as the Mayans left their mark on the country, and there are few sights in the world quite like the stunning Mayan pyramids of places such as Chichen Itza.
Mexico’s long-time colonial rulers the Spaniards left behind imposing architecture in the capital, Mexico City, and in other regional centers such as Guadalajara.
Mexico is fast becoming a popular destination for young travelers, expats, and digital nomads. Cities such as Mexico City and towns such as Puerto Vallarta are popular among young people from around the world thanks to their lively culture, arts, and music scenes.
Of course, no trip to Mexico is complete without eating Mexican food.
Mexican food differs so much from region to region that you could spend an entire lifetime (or just your trip) trying food from different places and getting to know the many delicious treats Mexico has to offer.
Unless you are dedicating several months or even a year to exploring Mexico, you probably won’t be able to see everything in one trip. That’s why picking the right place to stay, so you can see the things you are interested in, is so important.
The 5 Best Parts of Mexico
There are so many wonderful areas of Mexico, but these are some of the best:
- Mexico City: Great for culture, history, and first-time visitors
- Baja California: Best for exploring nature and untouched beaches
- Riviera Maya: Best for beaches and nightlife
- Puerto Vallarta: Best for beaches and bohemian culture
- San Miguel de Allende: Best for slower travel, a relaxed pace, and older visitors
Where to Stay in Mexico: Best Areas & Hotels
Mexico has something for everyone and tailoring your itinerary means knowing how to pick where to stay. Any one of these destinations is a great choice to use as your base for exploring Mexico.
1. Mexico City
Every visitor to Mexico has to stop by the capital and largest city, Mexico City, at least once. The bustling city is packed with things to do, which is why many visitors are choosing to move here for the long term.
Mexico City was built by Spanish colonists on the site of an older Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, which means that it has thousands of years of history under its cobblestones.
The best way to catch a glimpse of the Aztec heritage of the city is to head out to the floating gardens of Xochimilco, a canal-lined oasis.
As you walk the streets, you will see Spanish colonial buildings such as the imposing Zocalo Square, surrounded by the National Palace and the Templo Mayor. Arts and history lovers will also enjoy the many museums that pack Mexico City.
There are museums dedicated to specific artists, such as the Museo Frida Kahlo. There are older, stunning museums dedicated to historic artifacts. Up-and-coming neighborhoods are home to galleries that might feature your next favorite artist.
Mexico City is a stunningly lively city. Neighborhoods such as Colonia Juarez are packed with restaurants, bars, and clubs.
There are restaurants serving cuisine from all parts of Mexico and all parts of the world (although some locals are frustrated by this trendy turn as their city is becoming more and more expensive).
Mexico City has so many sights, but it is not for everyone. The crowded, bustling city has many of the problems big cities around the world face, such as traffic and air pollution. It is not the most comfortable stay, especially not for families.
Hotels are fairly expensive, which is why budget travelers tend to stick to hostels and homestays. Plus, if you were hoping to check out Mexico’s beaches, you’ll be disappointed to find out that Mexico City is landlocked.
Things to Do
- Visit the National Museum of Anthropology for a stunning look at Mexico’s history.
- Hire a boat to ride the canals in Xochimilco, a quiet oasis in Mexico City that feels like a trip back in time.
- Explore Chapultepec Park and take a break from the busy city.
- Pay your respects at the Frida Kahlo House and explore the artsy neighborhood of Coyoacan.
Where to Eat
- Check out delicious Mexican-Indian fusion at Masala y Maiz in Colonia Juarez.
- Try churros, a favorite Mexican dessert, at El Moro Churreria.
- Try high-end cuisine at Huset, in the trendy Roma neighborhood.
- Try traditional comfort food at Paramo (and snap a sneaky picture of the stunning dining room).
Mexico City Budget Hotels
- Hotel Cle Reforma Insurgentes offers amenities such as air-conditioned rooms, a fitness center, and a great location in the stylish Reforma neighborhood.
- Econo Express Hotel offers a comfortable stay in Mexico City, including amenities such as wifi, a fitness center, and complimentary parking.
Mexico City Mid-Range Hotels
- Zocalo Central offers modern rooms, a fitness center, and a restaurant on the rooftop terrace, all in a historic building overlooking the Zocalo square. It can’t get more centrally located than this!
- MX Grand Suites is the perfect accommodation choice if you need a little more space. The suites come with a private bathroom, and some include full kitchens and terraces.
Mexico City Luxury Hotels
- Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, with its elegant colonnades and historic building, is one of the most stylish places where you can stay in Mexico City. Plus, enjoy laundry, a fitness center, and two on-site restaurants.
- Sofitel Mexico City Reforma is one of Mexico City’s most elegant hotels with amenities including a terrace, spacious rooms, and an on-site bar.
2. Baja California
Baja California, a long, spindly peninsula on Mexico’s west coast, is a popular vacation destination thanks to its proximity to the United States.
However, even if it were located on the other side of the world, many loyal visitors would still flock here thanks to the stunning landscapes. Mexico is full of beautiful landscapes, but even in this country, the stunning Pacific vistas of Baja California stand out.
The peninsula is full of stunning rock formations such as Land’s End at the very southern tip, as well as beautiful beaches such as Balandra Beach.
Serious scuba divers must visit Cabo Pulmo, nicknamed the “aquarium of the world” thanks to its stunning marine life. Inland, you can hike the Sierra de la Laguna or visit the rugged Dunas de la Soledad.
Baja California is a great destination for adventure travelers, with activities such as kite surfing, hiking, scuba diving, and even dune surfing easily available.
For those slightly less adventurous, you can lie on the beach in the resorts of Cabo San Lucas. Baja California is a great destination for nature lovers, and it has some lively towns and cities, but they have nothing approaching the cultural life of Mexico City.
If you want lively, authentic culture, you may want to look elsewhere. Plus, the northern part of the peninsula around Tijuana has some serious safety concerns.
Things to Do
- Go whale watching in Loreto Bay National Park, which is also stunning to visit outside of whale season.
- Visit Todos Santos, a town hidden in the Dunas de la Soledad that feels like a time capsule.
- Indulge your inner hedonist in the luxury resorts of Los Cabos.
- Road trip along the peninsula, catching the miles of beautiful landscapes.
Where to Eat
- Have a meal to remember at luxury restaurant Acre, now an entire resort set in the jungle.
- Have an original Caesar salad at Caesar’s in Tijuana, where the dish was invented.
- Chow down on the massive surfer’s burritos at Barracuda Cantina, a surf shack on Cerritos Beach.
- Enjoy authentic Mexican food at La Cocina de Dona Esthela in Ejido San Marcos.
Baja California Budget Hotels
- Posada del Cortes is a Mexican-style accommodation in the quaint fishing town of Loreto. The posada features comfortable rooms in a colonial-style home, complimentary in-room coffee, and a patio.
- Pension Baja Paradise in the beach town of La Paz is true budget travel, with no-frills amenities such as free wifi, air conditioning, and a shared kitchen and BBQ grill.
Baja California Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel HBlue is not quite on the beach in La Paz, but still offers easy beach access. Plus, amenities include a rooftop terrace complete with a pool, a snack bar, and comfy air-conditioned rooms.
- Castillo Blarney Inn is a quiet, unusual choice in Cabo San Lucas due to its touch of Irish heritage. Enjoy spacious suites and amenities such as patios, lush gardens, a pool, and a Jacuzzi.
Baja California Luxury Hotels
- Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort in San Jose del Cabo lives up to its name with luxury fixtures such as a private pool, an on-site sauna, and a beach just steps away from your room.
- Chileno Bay Resort & Residences is a peak-luxury resort which boasts a pool with cabanas for guests, bathtubs and hot tubs in some rooms, and luxurious, comfortable rooms.
3. Riviera Maya
The Riviera Maya, a stretch of coast on Mexico’s southern Yucatan peninsula, is one of the country’s most famous tourist destinations.
It contains towns such as Tulum and Playa del Carmen (people debate whether or not Cancun is included in the Riviera Maya, but for our purposes, let’s count it here).
Every year, millions of people flock to the Riviera Maya to enjoy the pristine sandy beaches and exciting character of these towns. From the thumping nightlife and beach clubs of Cancun to the hippie yoga studios and artwork of Tulum, these towns have been attracting tourists for years.
There is plenty to see and do along the Riviera Maya away from the coastline as well. To live up to its namesake, the area has some stunning Mayan ruins, especially in and around Tulum.
You can also go swimming inland at the fascinating Yucatan sinkholes called cenotes. Even though there’s a lot to do inland, if you’re not much of a beach bum, the Riviera Maya is probably not the best place for you.
Plus, this region is one of the most touristy areas of Mexico, so if you are looking for a more authentic experience, or just don’t like hordes of foreigners and loud beach clubs, you are better off going elsewhere.
Things to Do
- Swim in the amazing beaches — from the nearly hidden pristine waters of National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos to the popular public beach of Playa Paraiso, you’ll have plenty of choice.
- Explore the area’s beautiful nature in the reserve of Sian Ka’an, a protected biosphere with old Mayan lagoons, canals, and trading routes.
- Check out Mayan ruins, such as the Tulum Ruins or Chichen Itza, a short trip away from the coast.
- Take a yoga class in Tulum and immerse yourself in the hippie expat culture.
Where to Eat
- Have an upscale twist on traditional Mayan cuisine at Cancun’s La Habichuela.
- Have delicious sushi and Japanese food in an unexpected place in Kokoro Tulum.
- Enjoy some of the best Mayan food available to tourists at Ix Kool in Cozumel.
- Treat yourself to a romantic Mediterranean meal at Mi Amor restaurant, located in Tulum’s Mi Amor hotel.
Riviera Maya Budget Hotels
- Hotel Delfin is surprisingly affordable and has a convenient location in Playa del Carmen and amenities such as wifi, air conditioning, and quirky touches that fit with the ivy-covered exterior.
- BAU Tulum in the Tulum City Center offers a pool, wifi, and a bar perfect for socializing with other guests (or you can retreat to your comfortable, spiffily designed room).
Riviera Maya Mid-Range Hotels
- Casa Gatos in the small town of Akumal is the perfect getaway from the crowds, with amenities such as a solarium, lush garden, and spacious, well-decorated suites complete with balconies.
- Casarte Boutique Hotel in Playa del Carmen has stylish rooms, an outdoor pool, and excellent service from the staff that help make you feel at home.
Riviera Maya Luxury Hotels
- Fairmont Heritage Place Mayakoba is one of the best luxury resorts in Playa del Carmen, with amenities including a terraced pool, spacious rooms, and even a kid’s club so adults can enjoy some peaceful time on vacation.
- Hotel Shibari in Tulum is one of the only hotels with easy access to a cenote. You can also swim in the hotel’s pool, drink your morning coffee in the lush garden, or relax all day in the luxe air-conditioned rooms.
4. Puerto Vallarta
As the crowds of Cancun and the Riviera Maya begin to frustrate people, more and more visitors in the know are beginning to head to Puerto Vallarta.
The stunning resort town has miles of beautiful beaches, and plenty of opportunities for swimming and any other water sport that you may want to try out.
The city itself is even more of an attraction than the beach — and not just because of the stunning Spanish-era Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe church. The city is packed with bars and clubs (including plenty of LGBT-friendly clubs), making it one of the best places for nightlife in Mexico.
It has one of the best food scenes in the country, including many vegan-friendly restaurants. The bohemian vibes have made Puerto Vallarta a popular destination among expats as well.
Many remote workers moved to Puerto Vallarta, attracted by its arts scene, great restaurant scene, and reputation as Mexico’s most LGBT-friendly city.
The expat-heavy atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta may turn off some travelers who are in search of a more authentic experience.
It’s also not the best place for families due to the mostly adult-oriented activities and because some parents may get nervous as the state Puerto Vallarta is in, Jalisco, is one of Mexico’s more dangerous areas (although the city itself is fairly safe).
Things to Do
- Stroll along the Puerto Vallarta Malecon, the city’s iconic boardwalk.
- Swim on the beach, whether you go to trendy Playa Los Muertos or deserted Conchas Chinas.
- Duck into the indie boutiques and galleries in the bohemian neighborhood of Zona Ra.
- Head to Cuale island, a place with a bohemian market, and don’t miss the swinging rope bridges!
Where to Eat
- Have dinner at high-end La Tienda Grande, which melds Mexican flavors with international techniques.
- Have heirloom tortillas at El Itacate Molino de Nixtamal.
- Rub elbows with locals at popular local hole-in-the-wall Cenaduria Tia Anita.
- Join the local hippies at El Planeto Vegetariano for out-of-this-world vegan food.
Puerto Vallarta Budget Hotels
- Posada Casa Adriana offers an authentic Mexican inn experience, and has many modern amenities such as wifi, TVs in every room, and bike-friendly facilities.
- Los Muertos Hostal is a great place for backpackers to meet fellow travelers. The shared dormitory rooms are surprisingly nice and clean, and the hostel even has a tour desk to help you plan day trips.
Puerto Vallarta Mid-Range Hotels
- Marcela Resort & Spa is a surprisingly affordable hotel, especially considering that it has a terraced pool in a lush garden, sauna for guests, and easy access to the beach.
- San Tropico Petit Hotel & Peaceful Escape is a calm boutique hotel with great views, a comfortable outdoor pool, and spacious rooms that even have multiple bathrooms.
Puerto Vallarta Luxury Hotels
- Grand Miramar All Luxury Suites & Residences allow you to enjoy multiple terraces with hot tubs and activity spaces (including one adults-only terrace), great rooms, and delicious food.
- Tres Marias Luxury Suites is a luxury collection of spacious suites that all have their own kitchen, as well as access to the outdoor pool and terrace.
5. San Miguel de Allende
If you want to get to know the best of Mexico without fighting hordes of tourists along the resort-heavy coasts or choking down Mexico City’s notorious smog, San Miguel de Allende in the central state of Guanajuato is a great place to go.
San Miguel de Allende may not be Mexico’s most famous city, but it is one of its most beautiful. Its historic center is actually on the UNESCO world heritage sites list thanks to its five centuries of history.
Look at the Spanish Colonial and Mexican Baroque buildings such as the Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel, a strikingly pink church. Many people adore the town for its more modern charms, such as its low-key pace of life and culture.
Check out the boutiques along Handicrafts Market for unique souvenirs or visit the Fabrica La Aurora to see textile artists at work. The great weather, safety, and gentle pace of life makes San Miguel de Allende a popular location for expats, especially retirees.
However, it can be a bit staid for younger travelers, and some visitors complain that due to the high population (nearly 20%) of expats, a lot of local flavor is gone.
Things to Do
- Head out of the city to the nearby Ruta de Vino and taste what local wineries have to offer.
- Walk the cobblestone streets of the UNESCO-protected historic core and take in the pretty architecture.
- Take a day trip to the nearby hot springs and spas nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains.
- Shop for unique souvenirs at the Mercado de Artesanias.
Where to Eat
- Have upscale European cuisine at Cosa Nostra Terrace and Restaurant.
- Try some street food at Mercado Ignacio Ramirez.
- Have a drink and a light meal with a view at Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar.
- Try Mexican-Thai fusion at Zibu Allende.
San Miguel de Allende Budget Hotels
- Casa Maricela B&B is an affordable hotel right in the UNESCO-protected zone of the city, with amenities including free wifi, TVs for each room, and complementary Mexican breakfast.
- Casa Frida B&B is another comfy bed and breakfast located in a mansion, and the artsy décor will make you feel even more like a rich connoisseur without the prices. Enjoy the garden as well.
San Miguel de Allende Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel Tierra de Sol y Luna feels luxurious but is surprisingly affordable. The hotel is full of gilded décor and includes amenities such as a fireplace in most rooms and a shared seating area for guests.
- Casa Cien Hilos boasts comfortable, air-conditioned rooms decorated Mexican style, in a great location.
San Miguel de Allende Luxury Hotels
- Casa Blanca 7, lets you feel like an old-time Mexican millionaire, as it’s located in a colonnaded building. Stroll around the lush courtyard and enjoy the great location — if you can tear yourself away from the perfectly designed rooms with bathtubs.
- Casa Mision de San Miguel boasts a soothing garden, complete with fountain, gorgeous rooms, and touches such as free fruit and flowers that mean you will never want to check out.
So, Where Should You Stay in Mexico?
|⛪ Best Area for History||Mexico City|
|🌳 Best Area for Nature||Baja California|
|🏖️ Best Area for Beaches||Riviera Maya|
|🥳 Best Area for Nightlife||Puerto Vallarta|
|🧓 Best for Older Travelers||San Miguel de Allende|
Mexico is such a vast country; it is hard to narrow down where you should stay. If it is your first time in the country, you must stop in Mexico City.
The capital has hundreds of years of history and a vibrant present-day culture. Mexico has many regions with spectacular landscapes, but the rugged coastal areas of Baja California are some of the best for nature lovers.
Many tourists come to Mexico with hedonism in mind. If you want to check out traditional resort and party areas, head to Cancun and the Riviera Maya. If you are looking for more of a bohemian crowd, head to Puerto Vallarta, a beach town with some of the best nightlife in the country.
Mexico is not just for young people, and many older travelers and expats enjoy the sedate pace of life in San Miguel de Allende. Wherever you go in Mexico, you are almost guaranteed to have a trip to remember!