Are you planning a trip south of the border and want to know where the best vacation spots in Mexico are?
I have been living in Mexico for over five years and have spent a lot of that time exploring all of the best places to go on vacation in Mexico (and perhaps a few that were not the best).
A quick search on this blog will help you find information about most of the best spots for a great trip to Mexico as well as tips for making the most of your trip to each of those destinations. But first, we need to pick one, right?
How to Choose the Best Places to Vacation in Mexico?
The best place to vacation in Mexico will be different for every person. Some people are looking for a beach getaway where they can have every luxury catered for. Others are looking to travel like a local and eat street food.
There is no right or wrong way to explore Mexico (as long as you are always being respectful to the people and culture, of course).
This article will cover the absolute best places to vacation in Mexico for all different types of vacations, so whether you want a luxury holiday in Cabo San Lucas or to go adventure hiking around Puebla or something in between, we’ll talk about it here.
If you are unfamiliar with the geography of Mexico, there are a few things you’ll want to know about the country before you book your trip.
If you want a vacation with calm, warm turquoise waters, you’ll want to check out the Riviera Maya which is home to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and Tulum (as well as tons of smaller amazing beach towns in between).
Of course, there are plenty of places inland in Mexico where you can go hiking, learn about the language and culture of Mexico, and see some incredible history up close.
Popular Vacation Spots in Mexico
These popular vacation spots in Mexico are in no particular order. They are simply some of the best places to go on vacation in Mexico based on popularity and personal experience.
Tulum is one of the first places in Mexico I went on vacation. That was back in 2016 and a lot has changed since then. It is now more famous than ever and is without a doubt one of the most popular vacation spots in Mexico.
It’s popular for good reason. It’s absolutely stunning.
You can swim with an ancient temple as your backdrop. The Caribbean Sea is turquoise and so crystal clear. The sand is white and the beach clubs in Tulum are a luxury experience.
Tulum is separated into two main areas, the beach, and the town. The town is about a 10-minute bike ride or 5-minute drive from the beach. The majority of hotels and resorts are at the beach. That’s also where some of the more popular restaurants and cute boutique shops are.
Tulum is a great place to base yourself if you want to check out Akumal, Bacalar Lagoon, the Coba archaeological site, swim in local cenotes, or go into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere.
However, Tulum’s popularity has meant two things: it’s more expensive than most other vacation destinations in Mexico and it’s not the safest place in Mexico to go on vacation.
Check out all of my Tulum articles here:
The number one most popular vacation spot in Mexico has to be Cancun. Cancun is the first place I ever knew about in Mexico thanks to my parents leaving my brothers and I with my grandma as kids so that they could go on an all-inclusive vacation without us.
They loved it and they still talk about that trip to this day.
I have visited Cancun several times since moving to Mexico and I understand the draw for so many. It is a true vacation spot. The hotel zone sits facing the most pristinely clean and blue waters I’ve ever seen.
There are so many things to do in Cancun whether you just want to chill at the beach or you want to see ruins, go snorkeling, take boat trips, or go island hopping.
It isn’t the place to vacation in Mexico if you want to try traditional Mexican food, get deep into the language and culture, or you are on a tight budget. However, if you want a complete escape in the sunshine where everyone speaks English and you can stay occupied (or not) for the entire trip, Cancun is a good option to consider.
Read some of my Cancun articles:
3. Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is one of my favorite vacation spots in Mexico. Puerto Vallarta offers the relaxation, weather, and resorts that you might want in a place like Cancun while also being a city that is so vibrant and has managed to maintain its history and culture.
Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest vacation spots in Mexico and has grown steadily over time versus the explosive growth that has taken place in a location like Tulum.
There are also several different neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta to suit any vacationer.
So if you want to stay in an all-inclusive resort you can stay in the hotel zone. If you want a cute boutique hotel you have the Romantic Zone. If you are on a budget and want to self-cater, there are tons of cute Airbnb or Booking.com options available in 5 de Diciembre.
Puerto Vallarta has a nice beach in the downtown area. It’s also a great place to go on vacation in Mexico and get a rental car. You can take that over to beaches north of Vallarta like the two I will talk about below in the neighboring state of Nayarit.
It’s one of the few vacation destinations in Mexico that has both a fantastic beach scene and an incredible bar and restaurant scene.
It has amazing places to eat, cool craft beer bars, cheap local bars, amazing street tacos, fancy upscale restaurants, and incredible clubs while also being relaxing and calm when you want it to be.
Check out all of my Puerto Vallarta articles:
- Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
- Amazing Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
- Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta: Neighborhoods & Hotels
4. Cabo San Lucas
I used to believe that Cabo was just a party town and I wasn’t really interested in that.
But then I moved to San Jose del Cabo in 2021, the town right next to Cabo, and I really learned to love this incredible vacation spot in Mexico.
Cabo San Lucas is a popular vacation spot because they have really learned what vacationers want. Going on vacation in Cabo San Lucas is easy. You can book a resort or a cute boutique hotel and you can speak English to everyone.
There are amazing restaurants everywhere. There are so many things to do and so many beaches to enjoy.
You can get Uber or taxis or buses everywhere. You can rent a car easily with Cactus Car Rental. You can take day trips, navigate grocery stores, walk everywhere or simply relax on your balcony that faces the Pacific Ocean.
It’s also incredibly beautiful. Taking a boat out to Land’s End and seeing the famous arch is such a magical experience. Walking along Medano Beach and seeing whales breach from shore is unforgettable. Paddleboarding at Santa Maria Beach or snorkeling at Chileno Beach are things I will seek to do again on my return trip to Cabo.
Check out All of my Cabo San Lucas posts:
- What to Do in Cabo San Lucas
- Best Restaurants in Cabo San Lucas
- Amazing Day Trips from Cabo San Lucas
- Is Cabo San Lucas Safe?
- Cabo San Lucas Vs San Jose del Cabo
5. San Jose del Cabo
I spent the first half of 2021 living in a cute little apartment in downtown San Jose del Cabo.
San Jose del Cabo often gets overlooked as a vacation spot in Mexico because it’s neighbor, Cabo San Lucas, is much bigger and more famous.
However, the two towns are only 30-minutes apart by car or bus, so any Cabo vacation could easily become a San Jose del Cabo vacation (at least for a day!).
San Jose del Cabo tends to attract a slightly older crowd who isn’t interested in the party scene of Cabo.
That being said, there is definitely a shift happening. San Jose is making a name for itself as a beautiful boutique town and is starting to attract people in their 20s and 30s who want to stay in a cute hotel, spend time at the beach, eat at great restaurants, and enjoy a few cocktails or craft beers in the evenings (I put myself in that bracket!).
During my time living there, I wrote extensively about San Jose and I made a ton of videos about my experiences there over on YouTube which you can watch here.
Check out my San Jose articles here:
- Things to Do in San Jose del Cabo
- Best Restaurants in San Jose del Cabo
- Los Cabos is NOT What I Thought it Would Be
6. Sayulita and San Pancho
I put these two vacation spots in Mexico together because they are both quite small and quite close together. Although, they couldn’t be more different.
Sayulita is the party spot. This is the place to come to surf all day and party all night. This is the place to come to meet other travelers, to meet people from around the world, to have a seriously great vacation if that’s the sort of thing that interests you.
Less than 10-minutes up the road is the town of San Francisco, or San Pancho for short. San Pancho is a quiet town with one paved road, a few cute art galleries and boutiques to go shopping, and one long quiet beach to hang out at all day.
San Pancho is the place to come to relax, to get away from it all, to do some shopping, to eat great food on the beach with your toes in the sand. Of course, there are bars here and there are quiet places in Sayulita.
Whichever location you choose, you are close to some incredible beaches, amazing hiking opportunities, and tons of restaurants.
Read all of the articles and check out videos about Sayulita and San Pancho:
- The Best Things to Do in Sayulita
- Best Hotels in Sayulita
- Amazing Day Trips from Sayulita
- Top Restaurants in Sayulita
- There’s a San Francisco in Mexico?
- Why I Love Sayulita
7. Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido means hidden port and for a long time, this little gem of a beach town in the state of Oaxaca was just that, hidden.
In 2020 and 2021, Puerto Escondido became something of a backpacker’s paradise. Before that, it was a popular vacation spot in Mexico for surfers.
Puerto Escondido is most famous for its waves at Zicatela Beach. It’s not the place to go to learn to surf (head to Sayulita for that!). The waves here can get pretty big so it attracts those that are already quite experienced. They even host surf competitions here throughout the year.
There are tons of hostels and budget hotel options along Zicatela Beach which means it’s quite an affordable place to go on vacation in Mexico.
However, it also has some beautiful beachside resorts and as you head to the other side of Puerto Escondido near Carizalillo Beach (a truly stunning beach spot) the town becomes a bit more upscale and is perfect for families, couples, or friends who want more of a boutique vacation experience.
My friend Alex of Backpacking Brunette loves Puerto Escondido so much, she got married there! Check out her videos from Puerto Escondido here.
8. Mexico City
Mexico City isn’t just one of the best vacation spots in Mexico, it may be one of the greatest cities in the world.
But I’m biased. I called Mexico City home for over four years and while it was time to move on to something a little bit quieter, with a bit more nature, I will always love this city and I look forward to taking my own Mexico vacations there in the coming years.
There are more articles about Mexico City on this blog than any other place in the world, so be sure to scroll through the Mexico City section of this website if you are planning to vacation in Mexico City.
It’s one of the biggest cities in the world with over 20 million people in the metro area.
That means it’s always busy, there’s always traffic, it’s always noisy, you will wait in line for almost everything, but also that you can find anything you want at almost any time of day or night.
It’s not everyone’s idea of a vacation, but if you love cities, you shouldn’t skip out on visiting this one, even if just for a few days.
Merida is without a doubt one of the safest vacation spots in Mexico which, in recent years, has meant that it is one of the most popular vacation spots in Mexico.
Merida really does have it all. It’s less than 45 minutes from the beach. It has Maya culture and history around every corner. The food is some of the best in the country.
The only thing that makes me not want to live in Merida is the heat. It may be one of the most popular vacation spots in Mexico, but it is also one of the hottest vacation spots in Mexico.
However, most people want to be hot on vacation, especially when they are escaping the winters up north. If you want a holiday that doesn’t require a jacket no matter the time of year, Merida is your spot.
Located not far from Cancun, it is a good option if you want to plan a whole Yucatan Peninsular itinerary for a few weeks and explore several places on this list.
Read all of my Merida articles to help plan your trip:
Oaxaca is the name of the most southwesterly state in Mexico, but it is also the name of the state’s capital city. Officially called Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca City is a wonderful place to go on vacation in Mexico.
It is much smaller than Mexico City, so those that get overwhelmed by big cities will likely prefer visiting somewhere like Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is home to a huge number of indigenous Mexican people who still speak their own language and wear their traditional clothing. They make textiles like rugs, stunning pottery and jewelry, and some of the best chocolate and coffee you’ll have in Mexico.
Oaxaca is a city in Mexico that is so packed with history and culture, you will want to spend several days here simply wandering the markets, eating the incredible food (it’s the home of mole!), and learning about the people who call this city home.
Read all of my Oaxaca articles here:
- Things to Do in Oaxaca
- Best Tours to Take in Oaxaca
- One-Week Oaxaca Itinerary
- Best Food to Try in Oaxaca
11. San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal is a Mexico Magic Town that doesn’t often get a ton of attention, but it is a popular vacation spot in Mexico for people who want to know more about the state of Chiapas.
It is also growing in popularity thanks to visits from lots of YouTubers who have large followings. From San Cristobal, you can visit the stunning Sumidero Canyon, the indigenous town of Chamula, and you can get yourself over to see the ruins of Palenque.
The town is small but beautiful. There are churches to visit, colonial architecture to admire, and wine bars to drink in. It is also much more temperate than other parts of Mexico, so it never gets too hot and never really gets too cold.
It’s a very popular place to retire for French and Italian expats who want a slower pace of life. It’s also one of the cheapest vacation spots in Mexico that still has fantastic amenities.
Read all of my content about San Cristobal de las Casas:
A very easy two-hour drive from the border with San Diego and Tijuana, Ensenada is a very popular vacation spot in Mexico. You can simply drive across the border or walk across the border from the US and start your vacation.
If you are not driving your own car to Ensenada, I recommend renting one in Tijuana. It’s much easier to get to Ensenada and to get around the area with a car. Many of the best things to do in Ensenada are a short drive away.
The town itself is not the most beautiful place to go on vacation in Mexico, but it is close to the country’s wine region, Valle de Guadalupe which is a spectacularly beautiful place to spend your vacation.
It’s best to visit Ensenada in the warmer summer months. If you are looking for a winter destination in Mexico to have a warm beach vacation, Ensenada isn’t that place. But in the summer months, this is a fantastic place to eat all the best seafood and go for walks on the incredibly long beach.
13. Todos Santos
Before moving to San Jose del Cabo in 2021, I spent a month living in Todos Santos. I probably would have really fallen in love with it if I had rented a car, but alas, all I had was a bicycle which isn’t enough in this hilly town.
Todos Santos has two paved roads and lots of amazing places to eat fish tacos. It is quite spread out, which is why it’s best to have a car or quad bike to get around.
If you are planning to come here on vacation, your best bet is to land in La Paz or Cabo and rent a car from there before heading over to Todos Santos.
Once you have a car, you can get to Playa Cerritos to learn to surf. You can drive down to Las Tunas and have a picnic on the beach. You can drive into town and enjoy the markets and incredible restaurants. You can stay up in the hills with views back over the Pacific Ocean.
Todos Santos is slowly starting to become more well-known and is attracting young people in their 30s and 40s who want a place to surf, paint, write, relax, do yoga, and meet like-minded people.
There is this sort of mixture of high-end places and cheap Mexican-owned family shops and restaurants.
It’s also a great base if you love hiking, mountain biking, surfing, whale watching, or simply spending all of your time outside in that dry Baja heat.
Mexico’s second-largest city is significantly smaller than Mexico City and has a completely different vibe as you might expect.
Guadalajara is a fantastic vacation spot in Mexico because there are so many different places to explore within a short distance from the town.
You have Tlaquepaque 15 minutes from the center of town where you can watch mariachi bands performing live for the price of a drink at the bar.
You can take a tour of Tequila and wander through the agave fields and sample tequila from Jose Cuervo. You can drive to Lake Chapala and explore the towns that surround the country’s largest freshwater lake.
That’s not even mentioning all of the amazing things to do in downtown Guadalajara like visit historical cantinas, eat famous Mexican foods that come from this state including birria and tortas ahogadas.
Check out all of my articles and YouTube videos about Guadalajara:
- Best Things to Do in Guadalajara
- Awesome Restaurants in Guadalajara
- Day Trips from Guadalajara
- Mexico City vs Guadalajara: Which to Choose?
- Guadalajara Travel Vlog
15. Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende
Although they are two different cities, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende are both in the state of Guanajuato and can easily be combined into one of the best Mexico vacations.
Both have incredible colonial architecture.
San Miguel de Allende is slightly bigger, slightly glitzier, slightly more expensive. The downtown area has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church is bright pink and photographs so well against the near-constant blue skies you get in this region of Mexico.
Guanajuato is a historical city with incredible museums, the wonderful Cervantes Festival that takes place each year. It is a little bit cheaper in general because it is a college town and it has some of the best street food in this region of the country.
They are about an hour apart from each other and can easily be reached by bus which goes between the two cities several times a day. I actually did a day trip to San Miguel de Allende from Guanajuato once and it was a great way to experience the city while enjoying cheaper accommodation back in Guanjuato.
Read all of my articles about Guanjuato and San Miguel de Allende:
- Best Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende
- Aweseome Things to Do in Guanajuato
- Best Restaurants in Guanajuato
16. Copper Canyon
Copper Canyon was on my Mexico Bucket List for such a long time. When I finally got the opportunity to visit this incredible vacation spot in Mexico it was even better than I could have imagined.
This is where to go on vacation in Mexico if you love mother nature, you love hiking, you love incredible views, and you want to explore the Grand Canyon of Mexico (it’s actually 4-times bigger than the Grand Canyon!).
You can start the trip from two directions, but I think it works best starting from the city of Chihuahua.
From Chihuahua, you take a bus to Creel. Creel is a small town where the El Chepe train begins. But before you hop on the train, you’ll want to spend some time learning about the indigenous people that call this region of Mexico home.
You may have heard of them if you are a runner. The native people of Copper Canyon are the Tarahumara or the Raramuri as they refer to themselves.
You can take several different types of tours from Creel where you can visit with them and learn more about how they survive and thrive in this part of the country.
From there you can hop on the El Chepe train and stop for a day or two in different places along the way and either go hiking or visit the adventure park where you can take a zip line across the canyon or climb up onto a bridge that hovers over the canyon.
The train finishes in the state of Sinaloa where you can visit the beautiful town of El Fuerte before getting yourself to another fantastic beach vacation spot in Mexico, Mazatlan.
Watch my videos from my trip through Copper Canyon:
- First Impressions of Chihuahua
- Visit Creel, the most beautiful Pueblo Mágico
- Hiking in Copper Canyon
- El Chepe Train
- El Fuerte, Sinaloa
I spent about six weeks in Mazatlan working and enjoying the sunshine a few years ago and I really fell in love with this as a fantastic beach vacation spot in Mexico.
It is a very popular vacation spot for Mexicans, but less so for international visitors.
That means it is cheaper and the food is better.
The main beach is very long and the city claims that the boardwalk in Mazatlan is one of the longest in the world! I used to love going for a run on the boardwalk because it is just one long uninterrupted trail of almost seven miles.
There are islands that you can visit to go camping or hiking. There are lakes to go fishing and kayaking on. There are tons of great bars and indeed, the nightlife is incredible here.
Mazatlan is also home to the best quality shrimp in all of Mexico. In fact, if you have any shrimp in Mexico (or California), it probably came from Mazatlan. Mazatlan-style seafood is famous around Mexico and is often copied in beach towns around the country.
18. Isla Holbox
Island Holbox used to be a quiet little island not too far from Cancun that almost no one knew about. I had never heard about it when I first moved to Mexico.
But now it is quite a well-known and popular vacation spot in Mexico.
That doesn’t diminish the fact that there are only a few hotels, so only a limited number of people can stay on the island at any given time.
There are no paved roads. All of the roads are made of sand. No cars are allowed on the island, but there are petrol golf carts that can go about as fast as a small car, so you’ll want to watch out for those!
The island is surrounded by turquoise water. The sand is so fine and soft and white. Most bars are playing reggae music and serving ice-cold beers.
It feels like a true island paradise. Check out my guide to Isla Holbox here and see all of my hotel recommendations here (which you will NEED to pre-book before arriving so as not to get stranded without a room).
19. La Paz
I have been on vacation in Mexico to La Paz three times since moving to Mexico and I would without a doubt book another trip to this stunning beach town.
La Paz has the infrastructure of Cabo while being as quiet and chilled out as Todos Santos. As a bonus, it’s also cheaper than both of those locations. Located, like the towns I just mentioned, in Baja California Sur, La Paz is the capital of the state.
It doesn’t have a great beach in the city center, but you are a short bus ride away from some of the most stunning beaches in the country, including perhaps the most famous beach in the country, Playa Balandra.
La Paz has a long boardwalk that gets busy with locals and visitors in the evening when the city has cooled down. It has fantastic food, cool bars, great sunsets, and some of the best marine life in the country.
You can take boat trips to swim with whale sharks, to snorkel with sea lions, to see migrating birds or whales. You can spot dolphins or dive with colorful fish.
Check out all of my articles and YouTube videos about La Paz:
My Personal Favorite Vacation Spots in Mexico
Of course, this article could never be an exhaustive list of all of the best places to go on vacation in Mexico, mostly because it’s entirely subjective anyway.
Above are some of the most popular and safest places to go on vacation in Mexico. However, I couldn’t sign off without sharing some of my absolute favorite places, some of which make the above list and some which don’t.
Click on the places listed below to be taken to more content about these incredible vacation spots in Mexico.
- Huatulco – a small beach town in the state of Oaxaca, Huatulco has 9 bays and over 30 beaches to choose from.
- San Jose del Cabo – mentioned above and where I lived for several months, San Jose del Cabo has it all.
- Mulege – a tiny little town in the northern part of Baja California Sur, this place just has something about it that makes you want to stay forever.
- Bacalar – not a beach but not inland, this lagoon and town are without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to vacation in Mexico for some serious peace and quiet.