Explore Like a Local in These Unique Places in Mexico
Mexico is undoubtedly a popular holiday destination. Tourists regularly flock to Mexico to visit all-inclusive resort towns like Cancun and Cabo. But did you know there is a whole other Mexico tourism industry? There are plenty of unique places to visit in Mexico that many foreign travelers have never even heard of. Places that are off the beaten path in Mexico. Where the number of locals and national tourists far exceeds the number of foreigners. Places where you can still find an authentic Mexico.
After spending six months in Mexico, we realized Mexico is truly special. Moreover, there are still plenty of places to visit in Mexico that have not been spoiled by over-tourism. From the white sand beaches of Nayarit to the jungles of Chiapas, we have found some of Mexico’s hidden gems. These unique destinations have managed to avoid the spotlight of the tourism industry. Here are our favorite up and coming destinations in Mexico that you should visit before everyone else!
1. San Pancho, Nayarit | Sayulita’s Quiet Neighbor
One of the main reasons to visit Mexico is the beaches. With miles and miles of coastline, it is hard to know what is the best beach in Mexico. One of our favorites is San Pancho in Nayarit. Officially called San Francisco, San Pancho it less than a half-hour from Sayulita, one of Mexico’s most popular beach destinations. Being so close, the beach itself is remarkably similar to Sayulita but with a fraction of the people.
This small beach town has everything you could want. A handful of quality restaurants, cafes, and bars, all without the price tag of nearby Sayulita. Grab a surfboard and hit the waves. Sip a Pacifico (our favorite Mexican beer) on the white sand beaches of San Pancho! Whatever you want to do, this is the place to relax and soak up the Mexican sun!
2. San Jose del Pacifico, Oaxaca | The Psychedelic Mountain Town
Many drive right past the unassuming mountain town of San Jose del Pacifico on their way to Oaxaca’s beaches. This tiny mountain town is barely a blip on the map with only a handful of restaurants lining the road. But anyone visiting Oaxaca would be remiss not to stop as it is one of the most unique places to visit in Mexico.
It is hongos magicos that put San Jose on the map. These local psilocybin mushroom, psilocybe mexicana, grow abundantly in the mountains. But, in addition to the mushrooms, San Jose boasts incredible natural beauty and stunning views.
It has become a beacon for bohemian and alternative travelers. Meditation, yoga, wellness spas, traditional temazcal ceremonies, are just some of the activities available here.
3. Arroyo Seco Jalisco | The Best Hidden Place in Mexico
Getting off the beaten path in Mexico is more difficult than I imagined. While not as overpopulated as Western countries, Mexico is more densley populated than most other Central and South American countries. Luckily, there are still a handful of remote destinations in Mexico to visit. And, one of the most unique places to visit in Mexico is none other than Arroyo Seco.
To be honest with you Arroyo Seco is really off the beaten path. There are no hotels, restaurants, or any resemblance of tourism. Just miles and miles of beach with no one around to bother you. Except for maybe the coconut man who scales the palm trees and will undoubtedly offer you a few.
Other than an abundance of coconuts, you will need to take everything you need for a weekend to camp at this beach in Mexico. There is a small store in the town that sells the basics, but I wouldn’t count on them being fully stocked. In twenty years, it may be different, so make sure you take advantage of this up and coming Mexico destination before the secret is out!
4. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas | The Up and Coming Mexico Destination
San Cristobal de las Casas is one of the up and coming destinations in Mexico not to miss. If you love Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende, then you are sure to love San Cristobal de las Casas! San Cristobal de las Casas is a unique place to visit in Mexico because it is a charming colonial town. But its other appeal is its proximity to the abundant natural beauty Chiapas has to offer. The small state of Chiapas is often overlooked by tourists who look for something, well, a bit more “beachy”. But, the Chiapas jungle holds a world of amazing hidden places. It is one of Mexico’s best places to explore for the outdoor and adventure lover.
San Cristobal de las Casas is a jumping-off point for some of the best nature activities in Mexico. The best waterfalls in Chiapas like Agua Azul, el Chiflon and Las Nubes are the stars of the show in this jungle-clad region. Plus, Chiapas is home to some of the most impressive ruins in all of Mexico!
Unexpectedly, this up and coming destination in Mexico is also serving up great international cuisine. Some of the best we have sampled on our Mexico road trip. You might be visiting Mexico for delicious tacos, but in San Cristobal, it is worth checking out some of the international flavors getting around. Thai, Korean, Indian, the list of international restaurants is long in San Cristobal de las Casas and we highly recommend sampling as many as you can!
5. El Cuyo, Yucatan Peninsula | The Hidden Gem in Mexico
El Cuyo, located at the top of the Yucatan Peninsula, is often overlooked on the tourist circuit. What El Cuyo lacks in glamour and style, it more than makes up for in authenticity. This up and coming destination in Mexico is truly one of Mexico’s hidden gems.
El Cuyo is popular among kite surfers who flock to this windy stretch of coast. This laid-back beach town in Mexico is what I imagine the more popular places like Tulum looked like twenty years ago. With a few quality restaurants, miles and miles of white-sand beaches, and a laid-back vibe. It is a wonder El Cuyo is not teeming with backpackers.
This off the beaten path Mexico destination also is a great place to see the flamingos in Mexico. The best time to see the flamingos at Rio Lagartos is between March and June each year. However, when we visited in January there were still a handful of these unique birds to see.
Deserted beaches, water sports, local vibes, and flamingos? El Cuyo has to be one of the most unique places to visit in Mexico!
6. Bernal, Querétaro | The Local Haunt
This unique place to visit in Mexico is no secret to the locals. Locals from nearby cities like Mexico City and Querétaro, flock to Bernal to marvel at the large monolith. The charming town set against the backdrop of its towering monolith makes Bernal one of the more interesting towns to visit in Mexico.
While a climb to the top of the monolith is worth it, there are also plenty of other things to do on Bernal. Stroll through the colorful streets, grab a gordita, or sip cervezas from one of the many rooftop terraces under the shadow of the third largest monolith in the world.
Bernal is also a great launching pad for the nearby Querétaro Wine and Cheese Route, Mexico’s second-largest wine-producing region. Take a break from the tequila and cervezas to check out this up and coming destination in Mexico!
7. Chacahua, Oaxaca | Off the Beaten Path in Mexico
Chacahua located in the state of Oaxaca is one of the best hidden gems in Mexico for international tourists. Known as a local holiday getaway, this isolated beach community is a unique place to visit in Mexico.
Half of the fun of visiting this Chacahua is getting there! Getting here requires a boat from the mainland through the mangrove forest of the National Park of Laguna Chacahua. As you zigzag through the dense mangrove forest of the, it is clear you are getting off the beaten path in Mexico. Another laid back beach town, there is not much to do at Chacachua besides surfing and relaxing. Spend a few days soaking up the Mexican sun before checking out some of the other best beaches in Oaxaca!
8. Campeche, Yucatan Peninsula | The Best Small Town in Mexico
Campeche, often overshadowed by other cities in the Yucatan Peninsula, is a charming colonial town. One of my favorite things to do in Campeche was to wander the walled city. It’s not every day you get to stroll cobblestones streets lined with colorful buildings. And one of the best streets to visit is Calle 59. This pedestrian-only street is the place to be after sunset. The street comes alive with locals and tourists alike enjoying delicious Yucatan food and cold cervezas.
Other things to do in Campeche include visiting the botanical gardens, strolling through the art museums, or even taking a day trip out to see the flamingos in Celestun.
9. Las Pozas in Xtilia, San Luis Potosi | A Surreal Mexican Experience
Las Pozas in Xtilia, Mexico is interesting, to say the least. National tourists from all over Mexico come to visit what has to be one of Mexico’s most unique places to visit. Born out of a vision by Sir Edward James, Las Pozas is a surrealist garden set against the backdrop of the Mexican jungle. Sculptures and archways overgrown with sub-tropical vegetation, all centered around a cascading waterfall are what make Las Pozas so unique. We think a trip to Las Pozas is a must-see when visiting Central Mexico.
10. Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila | The Up and Coming Wine Destination in Mexico
One of the most unique places to visit in Mexico is the oldest winery in North America. Located in Parras de la Fuente, Casa Madero was established in 1597 which pre-dates the oldest winery in the US by almost 200 years.
Parras, already a staple on the local tourist circuit, is an up and coming destination in Mexico for international tourists. With a handful of wineries to explore, it is definitely worth a visit and an easy day trip from Monterrey, Mexico’s bustling northern city. Get off the beaten path in Mexico with a wine glass in hand and head over to Parras de la Fuente for an authentic Mexican adventure!
With one of these unique places to visit in Mexico, you are sure to have an amazing holiday! Start planning your trip today and get off the beaten path in Mexico!
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