What are the best places to visit in Mexico? This list of destinations will help you start planning your trip.
With bustling cities, pristine beaches, colorful hill towns, ancient ruins, and natural wonders, Mexico is the gift that keeps on giving for travelers. Unfortunately, many skip Mexico entirely thanks to its less than stellar reputation.
While there are certainly dangerous areas, most of the best places to visit in Mexico are quite safe. Would you skip out on the Grand Canyon because you read about violence in Chicago? I didn’t think so!
Check out this list of the best places to visit in Mexico in 2021 and start planning your trip to the land of tequila and tacos!
Table of Contents
- 1. Mexico City
- 2. Guadalajara
- 3. Monterrey
- 4. Puerto Vallarta – Definitely One of The Best Places to Visit in Mexico!
- 5. Huatulco
- 6. Tulum
- 7. Teotihuacan
- 8. Palenque
- 9. Chichén Itzá
- 10. San Miguel de Allende
- 11. Oaxaca City
- 12. Guanajuato
- 13. Yelapa
- 14. Los Cabos
- 15. Zihuatanejo
- 16. Cozumel
- 17. San Pancho
- 18. Isla Holbox (one of the top places to visit in Mexico to relax)
- 19. Isla Mujeres
- 20. Morelia
- 21. Puerto Morelos
- 22. Tijuana
- 23. Puerto Escondido (one of the best places to visit in Mexico for surfing)
- 24. Mazatlan
- 25. Valladolid
- 26. Merida
- 27. San Cristobal de las Casas
- 28. Cancun
- 29. Sayulita
- 30. Puebla
- 31. Playa del Carmen
- 32. Lake Chapala
- 33. La Paz
- These Are Just Some of The Best Places to Visit in Mexico!
1. Mexico City
When it comes to the best places to visit in Mexico, we have to start out with the country’s vibrant capital city. Mexico City (or DF as it’s known to locals) is one of the liveliest cities out there. There are so many things to do in Mexico City that even a week isn’t really enough.
Spend your days visiting museums on a wide range of topics, from anthropology to art, to history, and even tequila. You can also see the ruins of the former Aztec capital city and a stunning cathedral right downtown. Don’t miss the great tours in and around the city as well.
Sightseeing is great in Mexico City, but it’s the culinary and nightlife scene that makes it one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Foodies and party animals alike will be in paradise here. You’re spoiled for choices with a bounty of street food, international restaurants, bars, and clubs. There are endless things to do in Mexico City, with every night out being a great one.
☞ Click here to compare prices on all accommodation options available in Mexico City on Booking.com
Mexico’s 2nd largest city definitely lives in the shadow of the capital, but Guadalajara has enough going on that you should also include it when choosing your places to visit in Mexico. After all, this is the birthplace of tequila and mariachi.
In addition to sampling both (ideally at the same time), there are quite a few cultural sights to take in. Most of these are located in the Centro Historico and are easily visited in a day.
For sports fans, Guadalajara is home to two football teams. You can catch the wildly popular Chivas or the ultimate underdog Atlas for a wild, beer-soaked good time.
No visit to Mexico would be complete without an evening of lucha libre, and the Estacion Pub runs a great party bus to the arena every Tuesday night. Be sure to grab a colorful mask as a great souvenir.
☞ Click here to compare prices on all accommodation options available in Guadalajara on Booking.com
Do a quick Google search of the best places to visit in Mexico, and you probably won’t find the country’s 3rd largest city there. Known more as an industrial city, Monterrey often flies well under the radar of tourists.
Surrounded by epic mountains, it’s actually a great choice for eco-tourism and you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and more, all within reach of the city.
In the city, you can enjoy a stroll through the Macroplaza to take in some cutting edge architecture.
After visiting the massive Mexican History Museum, take a boat cruise up the manmade river to Parque Fundidora and stick around for sunset. Be sure to work up an appetite and dig into a plate of cabrito (slow-roasted goat), the local specialty.
☞ Click here to see all accommodation options available in Monterrey
4. Puerto Vallarta – Definitely One of The Best Places to Visit in Mexico!
Forget the touristy Yucatan area and head to Mexico’s west coast for your beach vacation. Puerto Vallarta has been making lists of the best places to visit in Mexico for decades now and for good reason.
While it is well-known as an all-inclusive resort and spring break party destination, PV is so much more than that.
There are numerous activities, excursions, and tours in Puerto Vallarta to keep you busy. Adventure junkies will love this place, as you’ve got sky diving, bungee jumping, and paragliding all on tap here.
Speaking of on tap, PV has two craft breweries and several fantastic cocktail bars. Enjoy the amazing food by eating your way through the city while searching for the best Puerto Vallarta restaurant.
The real fun goes on outside of the resorts in town, where the party goes all night. There’s some awesome nightlife in PV, numerous incredible beaches to see and endless things to do in Puerto Vallarta!
Having spent six months in Puerto Vallarta, I can say with confidence that this is also a great place to live as a digital nomad. Although it’s on the coast and is wildly popular, it’s surprisingly affordable. Read more about the cost of living in Puerto Vallarta and you’ll be ready to move there as well.
Looking for more information on Puerto Vallarta? Since Puerto Vallarta is one of the top places to visit in Mexico, it’s no surprise that we have numerous articles about this beach town on our website! Check out these posts:
- 20 Cool Things To Do in Puerto Vallarta
- Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta: The Best Neighbourhoods and Accommodations
- Complete Travel Guide to Puerto Vallarta
- 10 Best Puerto Vallarta Tours, Excursions and Activities
- Puerto Vallarta Nightlife: Where to Drink and Dance
- 10 Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta
- Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
How does a pristine and undeveloped stretch of beach sound? If you’re into that, you should probably be planning a trip to this gorgeous part of Oaxaca.
Huatulco is home to nine bays and thirty-six beaches, and many of them are ecological preserves where development is not allowed. It’s actually the only resort area in Mexico that has won a Green Globe award.
In addition to sunbathing, you can also visit nearby coffee farms and waterfalls or join a rafting or cycling trip. This hidden gem is mostly popular with domestic tourists, but it won’t be long until the secret is out.
This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Mexico this year, so start planning! *Bonus, check out nearby Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca too.
Once upon a time, Tulum was considered an off-the-beaten-path destination in Mexico. The path has definitely been beaten now, as more and more travelers flock here for the white sand and turquoise waters.
The beaches are great here, but you can’t come to this part of Mexico without taking a dip in a cenote. These sinkholes are abundant in the Yucatan, and they’re a great place to do a bit of snorkeling or scuba diving.
Back in town, there are tons of choices to wine and dine the night away. Although not a hidden gem, there are numerous fun things to do in Tulum and it’s still one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
When visiting Mexico City, be sure to set aside a day to explore the ancient city of Teotihuacan. It was the largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas, with a population of around 150,000 at its peak.
As the legend goes, this is the place where the gods planned the creation of man.
Here you’ll be able to climb on some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world. After taking in the views from atop the Temple of the Sun, you can sit down to lunch in a cave.
La Gruta is located right outside of the ancient city and is the perfect place to cool down. Oh yeah, the food is pretty good, too! There are numerous day trips from Mexico City that will take you here.
If you’re into ancient ruins, the best time to visit Mexico to see the sites without tons of tourists would be during the shoulder season in April or May.
Make sure you spend some time around the Yucatan, visiting the other amazing ruins of Ek Balam, Coba and Chichen Itza — some of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico.
Located in the state of Chiapas (which in itself is one of the best places to visit in Mexico), the Mayan ruins at Palenque are much smaller than some of the more well-known sights.
Surrounded by jungle and far from any major city, it also means that they’re far less crowded. In addition to exploring the ruins, you’ve also got several waterfalls and caves in the area to check out.
While some travellers visit the ruins on a long day-trip, you’re better off basing yourself in one of the cool forest hideouts.
Spending the night at one of these funky spots allows you to get an early start and take in the ruins before the hottest part of the day. Check out accommodation options in Palenque here.
9. Chichén Itzá
As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it should come as no surprise to see Chichén Itzá on a list of the top places to visit in Mexico.
Be prepared to be awestruck by the amazing El Castillo (The Castle), which was built to honor a Mayan serpent deity. This is one place where it’s well worth it to shell out a few extra pesos for a guide, so you can learn the fascinating details of this impressive structure.
While hordes of tourists descend upon the site on a daily basis, it’s very easy to escape the crowds. Stay at a hotel a few miles up the road rather than visiting on a day-trip, and you’ll almost have the place to yourself in the early morning. Even the vendors and touts aren’t going yet when the doors open.
Visiting this incredible site is one of the best things to do in Playa del Carmen, and Mexico in general.
☞ Click here to see all accommodation options available near Chichén Itzá on Booking.com
10. San Miguel de Allende
A longtime favorite destination for “Mexpats,” San Miguel de Allende was recently awarded the Best City in the World by Travel + Leisure.
This charming, colorful city boasts a temperate climate, a vibrant arts scene, and a beautiful church at its center. There are numerous things to do in San Miguel de Allende to keep you busy. Outside of town, you’ll find hot springs, horseback riding, cycling, and more.
While it’s true that San Miguel is somewhat of a “Gringolandia,” that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a local experience here.
It’s one of the best places in Mexico to study Spanish, and there are several options for homestays where you can live with a local family and get lots of practice.
If you’re looking for somewhere a bit more authentic, check out the things to do in Guanajuato, which is just an hour and a half away.
☞ Click here to see all accommodation options available in San Miguel de Allende on Booking.com
11. Oaxaca City
This beautiful colonial city is the capital of the state by the same name, and it definitely earns its spot on the list of top places to visit in Mexico.
In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced wa-HAH-ka. Here you’ll find some of the best cuisine in Mexico, bustling markets, and a thriving arts and crafts scene.
Oaxaca is also home to the Guelaguetza festival, which highlights the indigenous culture of the area and is focused primarily on traditional dancing. This is one of the best festivals in all of Mexico.
The city also throws one of the biggest celebrations in the country for the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) – this is one of the best things to do in Oaxaca, don’t miss it.
Once a thriving silver mining town, Guanajuato is now a huge draw for tourists and expats. It’s a gorgeous city located on the steep slope of a ravine, with a name meaning “Place of the Frogs.”
Walking around town, you can admire the colonial architecture and bright houses, pausing to chill in tree-filled plazas or quaint cafes.
☞ SEE ALSO: Manzanillo, Mexico – The Ultimate Travel Guide
It’s a very cultural city, with plenty of museums, theaters, music venues, and festivals. Be sure to join a walking tour with the city’s famous callejoneadas, a band of musicians and story-tellers who lead you through the meandering alleyways on a musical journey like no other.
With colourful buildings, historical sites and an awesome vibe, Guanajuato is definitely one of the most vibrant places to visit in Mexico.
☞ Click here to see all accommodation options available in Guanajuato on Booking.com
Those looking to escape the all-inclusive resorts, chain stores, and packaged tour groups that descend upon Puerto Vallarta should consider hopping on a speed boat and heading 45 minutes south in the Bay of Banderas to Yelapa.
It’s not an island, but it sure feels like one. Since it’s wedged in between the mountains and the ocean, there are no roads or cars here.
This small fishing village once attracted famous actors and musicians (like Bob Dylan), who sought an escape here in this little slice of paradise in Mexico.
You might not find Mr. Tambourine Man hanging in Yelapa anymore, but you’ll be able to enjoy horseback riding, hiking to a waterfall, or just chilling in a hammock listening to the sounds of waves crashing and kids playing. Life is slow here, and life is good.
14. Los Cabos
Los Cabos is the collective name for two towns found at the southern end of Baja — Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
This was a remote, rural area until a few decades ago when the Mexican government developed it for tourism. It’s now one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico, famed for its world-class beach resorts, excellent sport fishing, and championship golf courses.
The two towns are only about 20 miles away from each other, but they feel worlds apart. San Jose is a more traditional Mexican town that still has cobblestone streets and a tree-lined plaza centered around a gorgeous cathedral.
Cabo San Lucas, on the other hand, is far more touristy and is known for its raucous nightlife. There are many other things to do in Cabo San Lucas if you aren’t into partying, so give yourself some time here to explore.
There’s now a corridor of resorts and golf courses in between the two towns where many vacationers choose to stay.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Zihuatanejo experienced a tourism boom with the development of the nearby resort city of Ixtapa.
Skip the government-planned resort and head instead to this chilled-out town that locals simply call Zihua. Roam the cobblestone streets, feast on the super fresh catch of the day, and just kick back and relax on the idyllic beaches.
If this seems familiar, that’s because this is the paradise that Andy and Red escaped to in The Shawshank Redemption. After a few days lounging in Zihua, you’ll probably be planning your permanent escape here as well.
The main draw here is the incredible diving and snorkeling that’s quite possibly the best in all of Mexico. There are tons of dive shops here, and it’s a great place to finally get certified if you’re not already.
There are numerous things to do in Cozumel, so rather than just visit on a day trip, it’s well worth it to spend a few days here. Rent a scooter and explore small Mayan ruins, an excellent national park, and the rugged beaches on the east coast.
You have plenty of choices when it comes to places to stay, eat, and party in Cozumel, but it’s still far less developed than its neighbors over on the mainland.
17. San Pancho
“The San Francisco You’ve Never Heard Of” is a popular nickname for this beach town. It’s more commonly referred to as San Pancho, and it’s a little slice of paradise on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
While it’s just up the coast from Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita, it’s less built up and crowded than its neighbors.
Even though it’s a small, sleepy pueblo, there are plenty of things to do in San Pancho. You can take yoga classes, check out the polo club, volunteer at the excellent community center, and so much more. Not bad for a little beach town of only 2,000 people!
18. Isla Holbox (one of the top places to visit in Mexico to relax)
Often touted as Mexico’s best-kept secret, Holbox is a tiny island off the north coast of the Yucatan peninsula. This is a great spot for wildlife spotting, highlighted by the whale sharks that visit in the summer months.
There’s not much else to do here, but that’s the point. Simply enjoy this beautiful, laid back place where you can spend the majority of your time barefoot. Isla Holbox is one of the top places to visit in Mexico if you’re seeking some relaxation.
To get here, you’ll need to drive or take a bus to the town of Chiquila and then catch a ferry. Cars are not allowed on the island, so if you do have one you’ll need to leave it parked in Chiquila.
Since there are no cars here, your options for getting around include rented bicycles or golf carts.
19. Isla Mujeres
The “Island of Women” is located in the Caribbean, just a few miles off the coast from Cancun.
If you’re wondering where the name comes from, it’s because the island was once a Mayan sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of childbirth and medicine named Ixchel. When the Spanish arrived and saw all the images of the goddess, they called it Isla Mujeres.
While most travelers simply visit for the day, for such a small island there are many things to do in Isla Mujeres and it’s definitely worth a longer stay if you’ve got the time.
Rent a scooter or a golf cart and spend a couple of carefree days beach hopping and enjoying the relaxed pace of life.
Although it’s often mentioned on lists of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, Morelia still remains off the beaten path. The capital of Michoacan, this gorgeous colonial city is so well-preserved that it was given UNESCO status in 1991.
There are over 200 historic buildings here that were built out of the pink stone that’s characteristic of the region.
Morelia is also a cultural hub in Mexico. The city is home to several big events and festivals throughout the year. Whether it’s food, dance, or film, there’s probably something going on in Morelia.
21. Puerto Morelos
If you’re looking for a more authentically Mexican experience in the Riviera Maya than what you’ll find in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, look no further than Puerto Morelos. This peaceful beach town is located between the two tourist hot spots, meaning you still have easy access to both.
Although it’s geographically close, Puerto Morelos feels the world’s apart from the glitz of Cancun.
You won’t find massive resorts in town, as buildings are limited to three stories here to retain its small-town feel. If you still want that luxurious vacation, though, there are some amazing resorts on the coast.
Just offshore is the Great Mesoamerican Reef, which is the second-largest reef system in the world. This is one of the best places to visit in Mexico if you’re into snorkeling or scuba diving.
Located just south of the US border with San Diego, Tijuana is one of Mexico’s fastest-growing cities. It’s a pretty wild place, to say the least.
Gringos flock here for cheap everything — dental work, pharmaceuticals, eyeglasses, Cuban cigars, plastic surgery, and a good time.
If you can look past the absurdities like donkeys painted as zebras for you to pose with, there’s plenty to discover in Tijuana.
The city has an impressive art scene, which is centered around the massive Centro Cultural Tijuana. You’ll find lots of vibrant street art here as well. Tijuana loves its sports, as the city is home to several professional teams. You can also catch a night of lucha libre wrestling while you’re here.
Of course, you’ll also want to indulge in the city’s famous nightlife scene, whet