Growing up, I never had any interest in traveling to Mexico. I visited Acapulco once as a teenager with my mother and that was enough for me. It wasn’t until Eddie and I considered fitting out our own van in the US to drive through Central America that I ever even considered traveling in Mexico. In my mind, we were going to drive through Mexico and head to some place more exotic like Nicaragua or Honduras. I never really considered where to go in Mexico or what to do in Mexico. Mexico travel was not even on my radar.
But what I found out during my travel in Mexico is that there is soooo much to do in Mexico. Mexico has more to offer than a wild night out in Cabo or college spring break in Cancun or a holiday to one of those all-inclusive beach resorts.
On our Mexico travels we saw amazing beaches in Mexico, ate some of the best food (tacos) of our lives, drank too much wine (suprising, right?), visited some incredible natural wonders, and learned of the culture and history of Mexico.
While our list may not be an all inclusive list of where to go in Mexico, we think that at a minimum our Mexico travel list will get you started. So get to packing your bags because you are about to find out where to go in Mexico with this list of our 25 favorite Mexico destinations!
Where to Go in Mexico for the Best Beaches
We love beaches. With Eddie being from Queensland, Australia, he never misses an opportunity to see a beach. And luckily, the Mexico beaches measured up when compared to the Queensland beaches Eddie loves. And while we didn’t make it to Baja California, we were able to suss out the best beaches in Mexico on the mainland. So if you are looking for where to go in Mexico for the best beach, we have got you covered. Here are our favorite six beaches not to miss on your next trip to Mexico.
1. San Pancho, Nayarit
Often overlooked when visiting Mexico by nearby Sayulita, San Pancho is the quintessential laid-back beach town. Stunning white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, cold Pacifico beers. Trust me, life does not get much better than San Pancho. With a handful of bars and restaurants, a small surf, and plenty of sunshine, San Pancho is quickly becoming one of the best places to visit in Mexico!
2. Arroyo Seco, Jalisco
Visiting Mexico beaches doesn’t mean you have to share them with 1,000 of your new best friends. That is why the next beach in Mexico has made the list.
Arroyo Seco is one of the best beaches in Mexico mainly because you will most likely have this beach to yourself. Approximately 3 hours south of Puerto Vallarta, the desolate beach of Arroyo Seco was one of our favorites. Camp under a palapa, take long walks, enjoy the peace and quiet, and relax. This hidden gem in Mexico definitely won’t stay hidden and untainted by tourism for long.
3. Mazunte Oaxaca, San Agustinillo Oaxaca, and Zipolite Oaxaca
Ok, so this is technically three of the best beaches in Oaxaca in one, but the beaches of Mazunte Oaxaca, San Agustinillo Oaxaca, and Zipolite Oaxaca are only separated by 5 kilometers. So you can easily visit all three in one trip to Oaxaca without much hassle.
Each beach has its own unique style or flair, so choosing the best beach for you to visit would be difficult.
Of the three beaches, Mazunte is the most developed. With trendy bakeries and coffee shops, restaurants, and a handful of fruit/veg shops or grocery stores, Mazunte is easily the most visited and populated. Mazunte is also the best beach of the three to go for a swim. With a small cove protected by the headland, this cove offers the most protection from the sometimes turbulent Pacific Ocean.
San Agustinillo Oaxaca
San Agustinillo in Oaxaca is often overlooked by Mazunte and Zipolite. This small beach community may be overlooked by many, but those who stop in to give it a chance will be rewarded with stunning views over the lush headlands. We also think San Agustinillo is the best place to grab breakfast as La Mora Posada serves up one of the best chilaquiles we had during our travel in Mexico.
Of the three beaches, Zipolite has the laid-back, hippie vibe. Home to Mexico’s only nude beach, here you can let your hair down and relax a little. With a beautiful white sand beach lined with beach bars and restaurants, you will find plenty of places to visit to keep yourself entertained. And if you are overlanding Mexico and part of the vanlife Mexico movement, Zipolite has one of the best free campsites in Mexico in a small parking lot on the edge of town.
4. Playa Coral in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca
Puerto Escondido is a popular destination in Oaxaca for backpackers, holiday-makers, and tourists alike who are visiting Mexico. Puerto Escondido has plenty of the best beaches in Oaxaca, but our favorite is Playa Coral. Located in the Barrio Carrizalillo, this stunning cove with a white sand beach is the least popular yet most picturesque. You won’t find any restaurants, working hotels, or sun loungers and umbrellas to rent here. Just peace, serenity, and some of the most stunning blue waters in all of Mexico.
5. Playa San Diego, Oaxaca
So if you haven’t figure it out by now, we really enjoyed our time in Oaxaca and there are plenty of beautiful beaches in Oaxaca to explore. Our most favorite beach in Oaxaca (or even Mexico) is Playa San Diego. To get here, however, you will need to be self sufficient. There are no stores, restaurants, cafes, or hotels. Just a handful of palapas, miles and miles of white sand beaches, and headland after headland. This is truly the place to kick-back and relax which is the whole point of vacation, right?
6. El Cuyo, Yucatan Peninsula
El Cuyo in the Yucatan Peninsula is often overlooked in favor of Cancun or Tulum. But if you are looking for an authentic Mexican beach town, then head over to El Cuyo.
Home to some of the best kite surfing in North America, El Cuyo is offers a laid-back atmosphere, beautiful beaches, albeit a little windy, and an authentic Mexican vibe. Plus, it is a great base for exploring the flamingos of Mexico in nearby Rio Lagartos.
Where to Go in Mexico for Foodies
Ahhhhh…. I do not even know where to begin with the food in Mexico. Before our travels to Mexico, I would have said “Mexican is my favorite food”. And now, after our travels in Mexico, I would still say “Mexican is my favorite food”.
From the taco stands to hole in the wall mom and pop shops and to the fancy highfalutinm yet delicious world class restaurants, there is truly something for everyone in Mexico. And if you are wondering where to go in Mexico to tantalize your taste buds, here are our four favorite food destinations in Mexico that every self-claimed “foodie” should visit!
7. Oaxaca City
Of all the cities in Mexico, Oaxaca was by far our favorite. The arts, culture and food scene enraptured us. We spent the majority of our time in Oaxaca dining out at all of the best restaurants in Oaxaca, sampling the local spirit of Mezcal, and scoping out their amazing coffee culture.
The food in Oaxaca is different than Mexican food found in other states. Even the tacos are different. And while you can still find your standard Mexican tacos, Oaxaca is the best place to explore other Mexican cuisines.
For example, mole, a traditional sauce, is home to Oaxaca (or Puebla who’s really to know) and is served throughout all of the restaurants. Moles, or Mexican sauce. Or maybe try the tlayudas which are a cornerstone of Oaxacan street food!
With restaurants to suit all budgets, you won’t starve in Oaxaca and you may even go home a few pounds heavier.
Bonus: Looking where to go in Mexico for mezcal? Most mezcal is made in Oaxaca, so if you want great food and drink then Oaxaca may just be the city for you!
8. Mexico City
Traveling to Mexico City is a must for anyone traveling to Mexico. This sprawling metropolis is home to some of the best food in all of the world. From the street vendors selling out of this world tacos al pastor, pork grilled kebab style and served with grilled pineapple on top, to the #10 best restaurant in the world, Pujol, there is something for all walks of life. Combined with a lively arts and culture scene and steeped in history, a trip to Mexico City will sure to be a memorable one.
If you are looking for more great tips on where to eat check out our Driving in Mexico and Other Overlanding Tips for Traveling Mexico City!
9. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
It is clear upon arrival that San Miguel de Allende is unlike any other place to visit in Mexico. Retirees flock to San Miguel to escape winter making it an epicenter of great food, arts and culture. There is no shortage of dining options to knock your socks off and most of them won’t break the bank. The best restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, in our opinion, is Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion. This restaurant is serving up upscale Mexican cuisine in a stylish yet affordable setting. If you are on a budget, Wednesdays these guys offer a tasting menu for only $550 pesos per person.
And Nomada Cocina de Interpretacion is only the beginning of all of the amazing restaurants in San Miguel de Allende. From cheap eats in San Miguel de Allende to upscale restaurants, there is something for all in this charming colonial city.
READ MORE: Nightlife in San Miguel de Allende
10. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
San Cristobal de las Casas is the epicenter of international food in Mexico. Due to its cooler climate and proximity to an abundance of nature activities, internationals are making San Cristobal de las Casas their home and are bringing with them some of the best cuisines. Whether you are craving authentic Indian food, homemade Italian pasta, hangover curing Thai food or delicious Korean street food, San Cristobal de las Casas has got you covered. Plus, it is a great place to base yourself for exploring all of the many things to do in Chiapas.
Where to Go in Mexico for Culture
11. Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas
Chiapa de Corzo is home to the annual Fiesta Grande in January of each year. Listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010, the Fiesta de Enero de Chiapa is something to behold. A celebration of local food, culture and history, this 2 week long festival is a must see as you travel Mexico. We particularly enjoyed the parade of the parachicos, colorfully adorned dancers with painted masks.
READ MORE: How to See the Fiesta Grande Chiapa de Corzo
12. Oaxaca City During Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Perhaps counter-intuitively, Oaxaca comes most alive during the annual Day of the Dead celebration, known as Día de los Muertos. Not that Oaxaca isn’t a vibrant and busy city year-round, but they really turn it on for the most important celebration on the cultural calendar.
Día de los Muertos is a day (or a rather week) to remember your loved ones who have passed on. Like Christmas, Easter, or any other religious or cultural holiday steeped in tradition, Día de los Muertos is a time when families come together to celebrate and carry out rituals and traditions. Mexican families gather in the cemeteries to remember their loved ones that have passed on. However, the day is one of celebration rather than mourning. Aside from visiting the busy and vibrant cemeteries, there are street parades, music, face painting, performances, and concerts. Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca is truly a unique celebration and an unmissable experience if you are considering where to go in Mexico during October.
Where to Go in Mexico for Wine
Planning a trip to Mexico for wine? This, at one point in time, may have been unheard of, but today Mexico is working hard to become a destination for wine connoisseurs. Tequila may still be the star of the show in Mexico, but if you are looking for a unique place to visit in Mexico then one of these three wine regions should be on your Mexico travel bucket list.
13. Valle de Guadalupe
Valle de Guadalupe is where to go in Mexico for wine. Dubbed the “Napa Valley of Mexico”, Valle de Guadalupe is Mexico’s up and coming wine destination, And only three and a half hours from Los Angeles, it makes for an easy weekend holiday from the US especially if you are in Southern California.
Don’t expect Valle de Guadalupe to be Mexico cheap though. As Mexico’s largest and most famous wine producing region, the region is making a name for itself and is quickly becoming a food and wine destination. With world-class restaurants, wine and culinary tours, and more, a trip to Valle de Guadalupe feels a bit more like the US than some of the other places on our list of where to go in Mexico.
14. Parras de la Fuente
Parras de la Fuente is one of Mexico’s smallest wine regions. Located only two hours from Mexico’s bustling and wealthiest city of Monterrey, Parras de la Fuente’s tourism industry caters mostly to Mexican nationals.
Despite being the less known wine region in Mexico. Parras de la Fuente does hold the oldest winery in North America. Casa Madero, founded in 1597, still has its doors open and is welcoming visitors daily.
And Casa Madero is only one of many wineries that have opened up in the area. While the town may be small in size, they are working hard to make a name for themselves as a wine destination in Mexico.
15. Queretaro’s Wine and Cheese Route
Just outside the town of Tequisquiapan in Queretaro is Queretaro’s vino y queso ruta or wine and cheese route. This is another area of Mexico that seems to be quite popular with the Mexican nationals, but still remains relatively unknown to international tourists.
Unsurprisingly cheese and wine are the name of the game here as you follow the 30-kilometer route through Queretero’s beautiful countryside. Stop off along the way to sample wine, cheese, and other local artisan produce.
If visiting Queretaro, San Miguel de Allende, or even Mexico City, Queretaro’s wine and cheese route is a perfect day trip!
Where to Go in Mexico for Nature
Most people visit Mexico to visit one of the many stunning beaches. But there is a surprising number of great outdoor and nature activities in Mexico! From the desert in the north to the jungles in the south, where to go in Mexico for your nature adventure is up to you. Until then, we have put together our favorite places to travel in Mexico for nature!
16. Copper Canyon in Chihuahua
Most people who travel to Mexico come for the Mexican beaches or to see the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City. Few venture north, but those who do are rewarded with stunning views over Copper Canyon.
One of the main attractions and things to do in Copper Canyon is to take the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico or ChePe. This railway train runs along the main canyon called Canyon Urique between Chihuahua and Los Mochis and offers stunning views of Copper Canyon.
If you are looking for more adventurous things to do in Copper Canyon, there are plenty of hiking trails to be enjoyed or even consider taking a horseback ride through the canyon.
17. Waterfalls in Chiapas
If you are looking for nature activities in Mexico then Chiapas will definitely be high on your list as there is no shortage of nature in Chiapas. Bordering Guatemala, this jungle clad state is heaving with amazing nature activities. The most popular activity is visiting the amazing waterfalls in Chiapas. From the 120 meter tall El Chiflon to the roaring Agua Azul and even the remote Las Nubes, the waterfalls in Chiapas are simply stunning. It is no wonder people travel to Mexico just to visit these natural wonders.
18. The Mangroves of Chacahua Oaxaca
We did not know what to expect when we decided to visit Chacahua Oaxaca. And while Chacahua Oaxaca is a stunning beach in Oaxaca, the star of the show might be the trip out to the beach. Parking our car in El Zapotalito, we bartered with the locals for transport to Chacahua. Little did we know, the ride would be one of the highlights of the trip.
The forty-five-minute trip is incredible. The captain of the dinghy deftly maneuvers through the narrow openings of a dense mangrove forest periodically emerging into the open lagoon before plunging into another maze of mangroves. The fact that they have memorized the path through the tangle of forest is astounding. The speed with which they navigate the mangroves is as impressive as it is terrifying.
As you navigate through the mangrove forest sunlight filters through the thick foliage, hidden birds call, and you have the distinct feeling that there are numerous crocodiles that live here watching you.
A trip to Oaxaca is not complete without this experience!
19. Flamingos in Mexico at Rio Lagartos (or Celestun)
Traveling in the Yucatan Peninsula, I was surprised to learn of flamingos in Mexico. Having seen these marvelous birds in the Atacama Desert in Chile, I was keen to see them again.
If you are wondering where to go in Mexico to see these sharply dressed birds then you are in luck as there are two locations! You can see flamingos in Mexico in both Rio Lagartos AND in Celestun. If you are not keen to join a tour and have your own car, then we recommend visiting the flamingos in Rio Lagartos. Easily accessible without a guide, you can visit the flamingos on your own time.
The best time to see the flamingos in Rio Lagartos is between March and June during mating season.
Bonus: Visiting the flamingos in Rio Lagartos will also allow you to visit the pink lakes of Mexico!
20. The Mountain Town of San Jose del Pacifico Oaxaca
The mountain town of San Jose del Pacifico was one of my favorite places to visit in Mexico. High in the Sierra Sur mountain range, on a clear day you can see the Pacifico Ocean which is how the town’s name was derived.
The main reason people visit San Jose del Pacifico is to partake in the hongos magicos, the local psilocybin mushroom. But even if magic mushrooms are not for you there are plenty of things to do in San Jose del Pacifico. Enjoy a traditional temazcal, hike along one of the many trails, or recenter at one of the ecotourism retreats.
If you are looking where to go in Mexico to relax in nature, San Jose del Pacifico is definitely the best option!
21. Las Pozas Xtilia
Las Pozas in Xtilia is a unique place to visit in Mexico. Born out of a vision of Sir Edward James, this surrealist sculpture garden set in the sub-tropical rainforest is one of the most interesting places we visited while traveling in Mexico. Stroll through the gardens alone or hire one of the many tour guides waiting outside of the entrance. Make sure to arrive early as Las Pozas is a popular destination for Mexican nationals.
Where to Go in Mexico for Ancient Ruins
Part of visiting Mexico is visiting the ruins in Mexico. It is a great way to learn about the history of Mexico and the people who inhabited the area. And while we are not history buffs, we still enjoy visiting the ruins as each one it seems is more impressive than the other. Here is our list of the best ruins to visit in Mexico if you are looking for where to go in Mexico for ruins.
22. Palenque in Chiapas
Palenque in Chiapas is one of the most impressive set of ruins in Mexico. Tucked into the Chiapas jungle with howler monkeys calling in the distance, you can truly imagine what it would have been like to live long ago. That is until, you round the corner to see hagglers setting up shop along the pathways. But if you visit Palenque just as the ruins are opening, you will have the place more or less to yourself and the haggler’s wont be haggling yet.
23. Teotihuacan in the State of Mexico
Mexico’s most visited ruins only 45 minutes outside of Mexico City make for the perfect day trip. Once the center of life as the largest city in the Pre-Colombian Americas, Teotihuacan is a reminder of the sophistication of our predecessors.
24. Tonina in Chiapas
Another set of ruins in Chiapas, Tonina was one of my favorites while visiting Mexico on our Chiapas road trip. Due to its remote location you may even have Tonina all to yourself.
The highlight of Tonina is the acropolis which extends over 71 meters tall and provides sweeping views over Chiapas’ countryside.
A visit to Tonina is a must if you are planning a road trip in Chiapas or if you are making the journey from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque.
25. Monte Alban in Oaxaca
Another personal favorite over some of the larger ruins such as Chichén Itzá in the Yucatan Peninsula is Monte Alban. Only a short 10 minute drive from the city of Oaxaca, it is the perfect morning activity when visiting Oaxaca. Set against the backdrop of the Sierra Sur Mountains, it is little wonder why the Zapotec people choose this spot to settle down.
Make sure you arrive early to avoid the fierce Mexican sun and to beat the rush of tour buses!
So have you figured out where to go in Mexico yet? There are so many options to choose from that you cannot go wrong!
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