10 Under-the-Radar Spots to Visit in Mexico Right Now
Tulum. Cabo. Mexico City. We get it — all those spots are incredible, but what if you want to head to Mexico and explore some undiscovered spots? We've got you covered with 10 of our favorite under-the-radar destinations.
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If you're really looking to get away from it all (and can't stand crowds and overrun hotels), then you need to check out Isla Holbox. Located within Mexico's largest ecological reserve, Yum Balam, you can hop in a water taxi to tour the island and see wildlife. Rent a bike (or a golf cart!), and cruise around the 26-mile-long, one-mile-wide island. Kitesurfing is a fun, local activity, and you can take a lesson if you want to learn how to do it like a pro. The sunsets on the island are not to be missed, especially from the Zomay Beach Bar. The locals love this bar because it's right on the beach and has lots of spots to relax and enjoy nature at its best.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Cancun International Airport (CUN)
San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is a lively little town in the mountains of Chiapas in southern Mexico. This colorful, colonial city has plenty of eye candy to take in as you walk through the pedestrian-friendly streets. Less than an hour outside of town is Sumidero Canyon, where you can take a scenic, two-hour boat tour through the gorgeous mountain landscape. Another spot you don't want to miss is the El Chiflon Waterfalls, which will be a magical stop for all the nature-lovers out there. For unbelievable textiles and handicrafts, including blankets, leather bags and table linens, check out the Santo Domingo market. Ad for killer views of this town from above, visit either the Cerro de San Cristobal or the Cerro de Guadalupe, but just be warned: it's quite a hike up the stairs to both locations.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Tuxtla Gutierrez International Airport (TGZ)
Chances are you've already heard of the beachfront town of Sayulita, but we want to introduce you to its cool, up-and-coming second cousin: San Pancho. About 30 minutes north of Sayulita, San Pancho is a boho town with the Sierra Madre mountains and secluded beaches. In recent years, it has become a hotspot for yogis and yoga-lovers, so you can almost always find a cool retreat or class while you're there. A favorite spot for the yoga-obsessed is the Tailwind Jungle Lodge, which offers yoga, paddleboarding and more. It was also the first certified sustainable eco-lodge in Mexico. The sunsets in San Pancho are what dreams are made of - gorgeous colors and soft, dappled light almost every night. One important thing to note: much of San Pancho is closed throughout their rainy season, which runs from May through October, so try to plan your trip around that.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR)
A favorite town among surfers is Todos Santos, located about an hour north of the glitzy Los Cabos. In 2006, Todos Santos was chosen by the Mexican government as a "Pueblo Magico," one of just 100 small towns honored for its natural beauty, cultural riches or historical importance. If you've always wanted to learn how to surf like the pros, hit up Mario Surf School for a private lesson. The hippest hotel in the area is definitely the Hotel San Cristobal. With its tiled pool, vintage-inspired decor and multiple fireplaces, you'll be blowing up your Instagram feed with juicy snaps. There are lovely shops in town and some delicious restaurants to try. But Todos Santos is a perfect choice if you're looking for a relaxing Mexican vacation where you can unplug and decompress.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Los Cabos International Airport (SJD)
It's difficult to look at pictures of Isla Mujeres without immediately pulling out your credit card and booking a flight. We totally get that, and we're not here to discourage you. This island is about eight miles away from Cancun via boat, but once you arrive, you'll truly feel like you're in another world. A former fishing village, Isla Mujeres is definitely calmer than its neighbor, Cancun. A scooter, bike or golf cart is the best way to travel around the island, though it's also easy to walk to most spots. There are only a few places in the world you can swim with whale sharks, and Isla Mujeres is one of them. This once-in-a-lifetime adventure is only available June through September, so make sure to plan your trip accordingly. One of the most luxurious all-inclusive hotels on the island is the Mia Reef. Located on the edge of the island, most rooms have breathtaking views of the Caribbean sea below.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Cancun International Airport (CUN)
About a two-hour drive from Mexico City, Puebla is a stunningly beautiful town that will completely surprise you. It's often considered as a day trip while visiting Mexico City, but we think it's high time Puebla actually got its own superstar status. If you love to visit historical churches, you're in luck! There are 365 of them in Puebla, one for every day of the year. The Church of Santo Domingo is probably the most famous of all of the baroque-style cathedrals, so visit that one first. Talavera pottery is also a mainstay in Puebla—you can find the tiles on buildings all over the city (and yes, even in Starbucks). For anyone with a sweet tooth, check out Calle de Los Dulces. All along this block are small, locally-owned candy shops that sell yummy treats including candied citrus rinds, camotes (cigar-shaped coconut rolls) and lots of other colorful bites. After you've stuffed your face with candy, splurge on a spectacular hotel, and stay at the Rosewood Puebla.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Hermanos Serdán International Airport (PBC)
Known for its big wave surfing, gorgeous scenery and traditional artisan crafters, Oaxaca is truly a special spot in Mexico. Pronounced "wah-hah-kah," the area has become an incredibly artsy cultural hub over the past few years. And many consider Oaxaca the culinary capital of Mexico. It's full of bustling food markets, five-star restaurants and to-die-for street food. Tacos de Comal Plaza Del Carmen is probably one of the most famous food stands in the area (local chefs all give it their stamp of approval), and they're best known for their Empanadas de Amarillo—corn tortilla quesadillas filled with tomato and chicken stew. You should also taste some Mezcal while you're there, as it's the only spot in Mexico where it's actually produced. Casa Oaxaca is a great boutique hotel to stay at while you're in the area—make sure to book a cooking class with executive chef Alejandro Ruiz when you make your reservation. If you're looking for an unforgettable day trip while in Oaxaca, visit Hierve el Agua. This is a petrified waterfall with stunning pools overlooking the mountains. It's about two hours outside of Oaxaca but well worth a visit for a serene and inspiring afternoon.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Oaxaca International Airport (OAX)
Located in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Merida isn't going to stay secretive for much longer. It's a beautiful colonial city that dates back to the 16th century. Architecture-lovers will go gaga for Merida's historic mansions and buildings, many of which have been restored and converted back into residential homes. Several historical ruins are located close to Merida and shouldn't be missed, like Chichen Itza and Uxmal, located less than two hours outside of the city. For a splurge-worthy stay, book at Rosas & Xocolate Boutique Hotel+Spa, one of the most beautiful hotels we've ever seen (the entire hotel is painted pink!). Another must-do activity while in Merida is visiting one of the many local cenotes. These are gorgeous freshwater pools in caves that were often used as sacred wells in ancient times. Now, you can simply swim inside and enjoy their beauty.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Manuel Crescencio Rejon International Airport (MID)
Think of Guadalajara as an up-and-coming alternative to Mexico City. There's a wonderful mix of both old and new in this city, with lovely colonial buildings in the city center mixed with towering high-rise buildings. San Juan de Dios is a three-story market in the historical district. You can find local leather goods, souvenirs, Mexican wrestling masks, dried herbs and an epic produce section with fruits, veggies and aqua frescas. The birthplace of Tequila was in, well, Tequila, located about 90 minutes outside of Guadalajara. You can take tours of the Tequila factories, including one of the most famous ones: Jose Cuervo. Cultural de Cabanas was originally built as an orphanage that housed up to 500 children at a time. The building now features 57 different modernist murals from famous painter Jose Clemente Orozco. For a real treat while you're in town, catch the symphony or a dance performance at the Teatro Degollado, a beautiful historic theater in Guadalajara's central square.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Guadalajara International Airport (GDL)
Morelia is often called the "Pink City" because the buildings were built with pink-hued limestone. It's located halfway between Mexico City and Guadalajara and was in the 16th century. One of the largest baroque cathedrals in Latin America is located in Morelia: Cathedral de Morelia. It's a stunning baroque cathedral that features eye-popping details. Along the eastern side of the city is a mile-long aqueduct which funneled water in from the 1700s until 1910. The city center includes 120 blocks of historic homes and buildings, each more beautiful and regal than the last. Another must-visit spot is Casa de Artesanias, a state-run handicrafts store that occupies an entire building in a former monastery. You'll find handmade baskets, wooden masks, guitars and handwoven rugs. For a real treat while in Morelia, book a room at the Villa Montana Hotel & Spa. This is a luxurious hilltop hideaway outside the center of town with an incredible spa and spectacular city views.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: General Francisco Mujica International Airport (MLM)