17 BEST Places to Visit in Mexico

Mexico is a country that will surprise you. In every way possible. There will be so many things to see, visit and explore. However, if you aren't planning on spending a large amount of time in it, you will have to pick your destination. The coasts of Jalisco, Nayarit and Colima are dotted with tourist destinations that offer endless activities and beautiful hotels for all budgets.

Riviera Maya from the south of Cancun to the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, is the most important tourist destination in Mexico and a favorite of travelers when it comes to travel to Caribbean. Here we will give you the best tips to travel to the Riviera Maya on a budget and best places to visit in Mexico.

places to visit in mexico

Here are some of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico:

1. Cancun


Ever heard of underwater museums? At the Cancun's underwater museum, you'll not only find a submerged Volkswagen car on the ocean floor, but also strange statues of humans that form an artificial coral reef, that are crucial towards preserving the ocean's marine ecosystem.

The best time to visit Cancun is during its peak season – from December to April. Traveling to Cancun somewhere between December and April will allow you to experience its near-perfect weather. And at an affordable rate, since the flight and accommodation rates are cheaper during the winter.

In Cancun you can also camp in the Isla Blanca area. You cannot miss a traditional and economic dish from the Yucatan Peninsula, which is the cochinita pibil. It is very common to see places of cakes and cochinita tacos, both in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Seeing the beaches of Cancun and the Riviera Maya has a very great disadvantage.

You will not be dazzled by any other beach in the world. In Cancun, hotels are located in the center of the city. Among things to do in Cancun, Riviera Maya Jazz Festival is held every year at the Mamita's Beach Club in Playa del Carmen. Cancun has very nice hotels, attractions, and nightlife. It does that very well. However, if you want an authentic Mexican experience you will be disappointed. Cancun is not that.

The best thing you can do if you have time is exploring the Mexican Caribbean. This includes Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Holbox, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Bacalar, etc. This region is awesome and has so much to offer. Cancun is just the gateway to much more interesting places.

2. Mexico City


Now this is a city oozing with European charm. The downtown area, the district with the major colonial monuments and giant palaces built for the Viceroy’s court and viceregal aristocrats, feels a lot like Barcelona. The city authorities have done a remarkable job of preserving most of the European-inspired buildings for blocks and blocks all around.

You can easily pick up this district, put it in some random corner of Spain, Italy or Portugal, and it wouldn’t look that out of place. And that area is enormous, easily swallowing up half of Manhattan in sheer acreage. Mexico City is laid-back, and has a very European vibe.

It definitely doesn’t feel all rush-rush, busy-busy like NYC usually is. Mexicans, like the Spanish and Italians, take their time to savor the smaller moments in life. Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world. It is famous for its renewed art scene and, as many people say - the best cuisine in the world. This crowded city is popular all around the globe and promises its visitors an unforgettable stay. Once again – at an affordable rate.

Santa María Cuautepec colony, in the municipality of Tultitlan is a few hours north of the federal district of Mexico, and they say that it has the largest statue of Santa Muerte in the world.

First up, Centro Historico shouldn’t be missed. Not only is it historic and there’s tons of museums, those streets were the first “outdoor department store”, of sorts, and it still works as such. One street is all wedding and quinceañera stores; another street, all electronics, all the time, another one for writing implements and art, the next one clothes, one for photography fans, another for used bookstores with hard to find things, and so on.

There’s even a guide online. Excellent street food in the area, too, tons of museums, and zero of the pretentiousness of Polanco. If you’re not into shopping, there’s also museums there, and of course the Cathedral and National Palace. If you go in winter, there’s Christmas decorations there and an enormous tree.

Some of the museums in these same busy streets beyond “Templo Mayor” which is a must can be quite niche and interesting. Mexico City has the most museums than any city in the world. You should take advantage of that. The Soumaya museum is a place you have to go to and it’s in the Ampliación Granada neighborhood, although its extension Casa Guillermo Tovar de Teresa is indeed in the Roma). But the Granada building is breathtaking.

Chapultepec park and the museums there are also important to visit. It is one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. For “down and dirty” counterculture (go with a local who knows it or use a guided tour), Tepito, the “barrio bravo”, has some very interesting art, boxing, transvestites, and a series of “down and dirty” things that many find appealing.

And also has some great food. A neighborhood that went from a set of black market stands where cops were afraid to go to a fixture of the city and a part of the culture, its motto is “Tepito exists because it resists”. You can also go eat and see the wonderful produce the country produces by going to the Merced central market. Go hungry as there’s places to eat there. All are delicious.

On a trip to Xochimilco it’s nice to float around the trajineras and the other boats sell you delicious food, which you eat right there at your “table”. You can also visit some silly but fun attractions, like an island of scary dolls and things. Many of these chinampas still work, after 700 years, as agricultural land.

It’s quite different, and it’s traditional. It’s not fancy, but it’s peaceful, and a lovely stop inside an otherwise hectic city. BTW if anyone in your group likes anime type stuff do not miss the Frikiplaza (in Mexico, the term Friki is a little bit like the term “Geek” or the Japanese term “Otaku”). So go there for Anime, Cosplay, Comics, MCU and so on (they do Geek Pride day, which they call “Día del Orgullo Friki”, on May 25th).

Tlaltelolco is another place you can go. You can also travel to the Southern part of the city - “Ciudad Universitaria” and see this UNESCO World heritage central campus and the oldest university in Continental America. The building below is “Humanidades” (so you can direct your driving, as “C.U.” is itself a city) and it’s gorgeous to look at.

Culture includes architecture, markets, food, music, behaviors and a series of things, and there’s something for everyone. All cities have an “underside”, but Mexico City is not afraid to show it to you. And at the end you decide what kind of trip you want to have and how you talk to others about the place and what you saw when you go back.

And above all, have a lot of fun. Do what you gravitate to, and know there are many other “Mexicos” waiting for you if you change your mind.

3. Tulum


Once a Mexico’s secluded getaway, Tulum became a coveted vacation spot for luxury travelers. This tucked-away jewel has some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins and other wonders that will make you feel like going back in time. If you are looking for an affordable way to spend your vacation in Tulum, we advise you to plan your trip for the next spring since it is the season when the rates go down.

Sac Actun River has eleven cenotes, natural cavities of crystalline water in the calcareous soil, considered as the entrance doors to the underworld by the Mayans. One of the best is the Ecological Xel-Ha Park. In some beaches of Tulum you can also find ecological cabins at a good price, there are even areas for camping.

4. Akumal


Very close to the park, specifically in the Akumal Bay, we can practice underwater fishing with a bottle, surrounded by lobsters, corals and balloon fish. Riviera Maya in Mexico is one of the best places to go on family holidays. It offers a great mix of ancient ruins to explore and also beach and water activities to enthral the young ones.

This place is best for children aged between 4 and 14. Most important of all, the fresh natural pools provide magical snorkelling experiences to remember for life. The kids can safely swim with beautiful and friendly herbivorous marine mammals, manatees. In addition, this region has family-friendly hotels equipped with theme parks and kids clubs.

5. Playa del Carmen


Make sure to check out its renowned beaches. Nohoch Mul pyramid built in honor of the descending god Ah Muu Zen Caab is the highest in the entire Yucatan Peninsula. The ruins of Coba surround it. The Ecological Xcaret Park has in its interior a great variety of fauna of the area distributed in different spaces where jaguars, spider monkeys or manatees, among other species, campan at ease.

But the main attraction offered by this park is the possibility of diving among sharks. In Playa del Carmen, the most expensive hotels are those that are next to the beach. Among things to do in Playa del Carmen, 20 kilometers from Playa del Carmen is the one known by the ancient Mayans as Las Golondrinas, an ideal place for diving due to its unique coral reef.

Recognized until very recently as the spiciest chilli in the world, the red pepper variety Savinas Roja is a challenge for diners. But the cuisine of the Riviera Maya offers much more.

Mexican cuisine is famous throughout the world and that of this area, specifically, offers specialties such as tikinxic (barbecued fish), the pan de cazón (cazuela de fish) or the curried shrimp. As for drinks, the most typical cocktail here is the cocoloco, an explosive mixture of five different liquors served in a coconut. The best time to visit Playa del Carmen is between April and May.

6. Cozumel


Another thing you should do if you decide to spend your vacation in Playa del Carmen – explore the nearby Cozumel and the Caribbean Sea. To get to the Cozumel Island you can take the ferry that leaves every hour from Playa del Carmen. In the center of Cancun, in Playa del Carmen and Tulum there are many hostel options.

7. Valladolid


Two hours from Cancun, in the State of Yucatan, is Valladolid. There is also a tequila tour and another Chocolate tour.

In the middle of the city of Valladolid there is a beautiful open-air Cenote Zaci. The Xkekén is one of the most famous cenotes in the world since it has been photographed by National Geographic. But on the other hand the Cenote Samulá that is 100 meters away from the Xkekén also has its own. To see both cenotes you have to descend stairs, you have to be careful not to slip, because they are always wet and there are rocks around.

If you want to swim you can take your swimsuit and in the craft markets that are next to these cenotes you can rent the life vests if you want to use them although it is not mandatory. The food is simple, not for demanding, but if you want to taste typical Yucatan food here you can do it, for example, some motuleños eggs, cochinita pibil, papadzules, salbutes, lime soup.

8. Mérida


Mérida in Mexico is a city with its own identity very different from other places in the country. A cross between the Mayan culture and the Spanish culture, the capital of Yucatan is known for having the second largest historical center in Mexico. Walk or rent a buggy to tour the historic center and the Paseo de Montejo, noticing the architectural contrast of its buildings or to the Mayan ruins in Yucatan peninsula.

Try the delicious dishes that have made Yucatan cuisine so famous. You will be astonished by the Plaza Grande, which offers significant sixteenth-century cathedrals and art museums. If you stop by the Plaza on weekends, you can be involved with the fervor as it turns into a prominent spot of dance exhibitions and street parties.

9. Chichen Itza


Chichén Itzá and Ek Balam, are about 30 minutes from Valladolid and are the best places to go in Mexico. In Chichen Itza we can discover the great knowledge that this culture had of the stars, highlighting the ball game and the observatory, among others, without forgetting the Kukulkan pyramid, where each equinox can see the serpent ascending its steps.

10. Guadalajara


Besides being one of the closest beaches to Guadalajara, Manzanillo is also the most convenient option in many other ways. Manzanillo has dozens of beaches suitable for bathers. The most traditional are Olas Altas, Miramar, Santiago and La Audiencia. San Patricio - Melaque is a paradisaical destination with calm waters, natural environments and a typical Mexican fishing village.

The town of San Patricio - Melaque, is located in the extreme coastal south of the state of Jalisco. It is 4 km northwest of Barra de Navidad, on the Costa Alegre, within the Christmas Bay in the municipality of Cihuatlán. Here it forms the trinomial of conurbated towns of San Patricio, Melaque and Villa Obregón, and is better known as San Patricio Melaque.

This quiet and traditional town, in its center has the small church with its spiky tower, the typical square with its kiosk, the clock tower and the fountain of the dolphins, all shaded by palms and ornamental trees. In the surrounding streets you can find most of the craft shops, beachwear and products for tourist use.

The main beach called Melaque has soft, golden sand, and it is bathed in gentle waves. The coast is adorned with umbrellas and coconut trees, and small rocky cliffs line the ends. Towards the continent it looks high mountains of brown tones during the dry season and green in the rains. In front of the beach, restaurants abound, where you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood.

Tequila is also the name of the a small town not far (about an hour by car, or you can take a Tequila Train and arrive already, well, served) from Guadalajara, the state Capital. Like Champagne can only come from the Champagne Region in France, Tequila is an alcohol made out of agave plants that must be grown in the Tequila Valley, in Jalisco (any other drink made the same way, even elsewhere in Mexico, must be named Mezcal, its generic name).

Like Napa in California with its famous wineries, lots of Tequila plantations exist, which not only make and bottle tequila but have tasting rooms. Many people who like the drink make it a point of doing a day trip to Tequila and do some tasting and touring so they can learn the process of making their favorite drink.

Parangaricutirimícuaro is a Purépecha name for the town better known as Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro, after the old town of San Juan Parangaricutiro was buried by lava from Parícutin volcano in 1943.

11. Palenque


Chiapas is one of the most exciting states while travelling in Mexico that offers its visitors the warm treatment of its people. The magic of its places and an extensive culture are aspects that can easily be appreciated in each city or town that make it up. Discover its majesty by exploring its archaeological sites and let yourself be conquered by its natural beauty.

During the last decades, Chiapas has presented an intense development due to its tourist and commercial activities, having sites like Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Tapachula, Palenque and Comitán. You can enjoy quietly while planning a vacation with your family, or, practice sports extremes, hiking, rappelling and rafting, among others.

Thanks to the enormous projection and investment derived from its versatility, Chiapas is the venue for events such as the Tapachula Mesoamerican International Fair and the Sumidero Canyon Marathon. In addition, it has first class spaces for the realization of congresses, including the Convention Center and Polyforum, which makes this destination a wide range of options for the traveler to travel Mexico.

The natural beauties of Chiapas are definitely one of the main reasons why people set their sights on this destination when planning to travel to Mexico. The biodiversity with which this land has been endowed makes it an ideal place for those who travel in search of adventure and spectacular landscapes.

Examples of the above are the Sumidero Canyon, a geological fault whose rock walls flank both sides of the Grijalva River, and the Tacaná Volcano, which rises to 4 thousand meters above sea level, in addition to the Lagunas de Montebello, the Agua Azul Waterfalls and the Lacandon Jungle.

12. Tijuana


Tijuana is a city located northwest of Mexico, on the border with the United States. It is the most diverse city after Mexico City, making it an important cultural center of the country. In addition, it is the headquarters of hundreds of maquiladoras of international companies.

Tijuana is an important tourist city and the most well-known attractions are the Tijuana Cultural Center, the Municipal Institute of Art and Culture, the House of the 9th, the Place of the Nopal, among others. Also, visit the Playas de Tijuana and La Mesa delegations to enjoy nature.

The Tijuana International Airport is located about 10 minutes from the city center. Its surroundings have various service centers such as hotels, restaurants and land transport terminals to different destinations in Mexico. Tijuana is a destination to visit throughout the year, although in summer temperatures can rise considerably.

Take advantage of the Tijuana Interzona and Mexican festivals like Expoterquila Festival in October, the Northwest Literature Festival and All My Friends Music Festival in November.

13. San Juan Teotihuacan


Visit the Teotihuacan pyramids, known as the City of the Gods, with a specialized guide. Being early in the morning you can avoid the crowds of tourists and the long queues, which will allow you to enjoy the squares, the murals and the majestic atmosphere in the morning's tranquility. You can visit the famous monuments, such as the Mexican Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.

You can also make a stop at an obsidian factory, where you can taste a wide variety of liquors. Mexico remembers its dead in style in one of the most unique and representative festivals of its popular culture. Skulls, flowers, and a lot of color stain every corner of the country in a mixture of Aztec traditions to celebrate the Day of the Dead, from October 31 to November 2.

In the Mayan culture, the skulls embody rebirth and, far from generating fear, have positive connotations. In states like Guanajuato, Morelos and Mexico at this time sugar skulls are sold everywhere like alfeñique sweets, a kind of candy based on cane sugar, and filled with chocolate.

14. Cabo San Lucas


Cabo San Lucas is a popular holiday destination at the tip of the Baja peninsula, with luxury resorts, trendy restaurants and miles of beaches. Cabo San Lucas is the southernmost city of the peninsula of Baja California and is one of the places with the best beaches in Mexico. It has excellent boutique hotels and world-class restaurants, but the most beautiful is its collection of lush beaches.

To travel by car to Cabo San Lucas, the ideal is to take the Trans-peninsular highway that goes from Tijuana directly to Los Cabos. If you do not have a car, you can take a bus in Tijuana that will take you directly to your destination. Los Cabos International Airport is one of the busiest in Mexico. This air terminal connects with many domestic and international flights from Mexico City, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Toluca, Monterrey, Culiacan.

To enjoy a complete maritime experience, you must board a ferry that travels across the Sea of ​​Cortez from the ports of Topolobampo or Mazatlan, in Sinaloa, to the port of La Paz. From there you can travel by bus to Los Cabos. Although it seems strange, the summer in Cabo San Lucas is not as crowded.

Among things to do in Cabo San Lucas, it is ideal to go with family, make sandcastles and play volleyball. There are beach umbrellas available for rent and cold beers throughout the day. It is the favorite place for surfers because the big waves abound and the currents are unpredictable. This is NOT an ideal beach for swimming because you could suffer an abrupt fall, and also for tropical storms that originate in the south.

Playa del Amor has a stretch of beautiful sand and some impressive rock formations. The beach offers an impressive view, with its turquoise waters dotted by these peculiar rocky structures. The beach faces the Sea of ​​Cortez, famous for being the aquarium of the world, by the French explorer Jacques Cousteau. The area surrounding the beach is brimming with marine life and is popular with divers.

On the contrary, Playa del Divorcio is extremely dangerous for swimmers. However, it is highly recommended for its sunsets, which are truly spectacular. This stretch of clean white sand is located on the Pacific coast, a few steps from Playa del Amor. Divorce Beach or Playa del Divorcio is ideal for sunbathing and relaxing, but is often dangerous for swimming. There are strong currents and waves breaking.

Playa Solmar is known for its majestic golden stretch of sand. It has strong and unpredictable currents which means that swimming is not always an option. Undoubtedly, the most famous beach in Cabo and the safest to swim is Playa Medano. It is characterized by calm, transparent waters and impressive views. The beach has designated bathing areas and a wide selection of hotels, bars and restaurants.

The beautiful Médano beach is an excellent beach in Mexico that looks towards the rock formations of Land's End and the famous Arco. The gentle waves make this beach perfect for water sports. You can also rent equipment to enjoy kayaking and jet skis. The Sea of ​​Cortez has incredible species that you can see when you dive or snorkel . There are excellent places that are accessible to dive like El Chileno Bay.

Among things to do in Cabo, popular activities include surfing, kayaking, sport fishing, whale and sea ​​lion sightings. In addition, you can have a fun adventure in Canopy so that you can enjoy, from the heights, the beautiful flora and fauna of the region. In addition, it is there where the best bars are concentrated, therefore, the best nightlife in Cabo San Lucas.

You will also find restaurants with international food and typical Mexican food.

15. San José del Cabo


In addition to Cabo San Lucas, there are also Los Cabos (San José del Cabo). The main tourist places of San José del Cabo are Plaza Mijares, the Town Hall, the House of Culture, Mission Church, Puerto Los Cabos, the San José Estuary and the Art District. Also known as the Aquarium of the World, the Cabo Pulmo National Park is located 2 hours from Los Cabos and is one of only three living coral reefs that are North America.

Los Cabos is one of the main tourist destinations enjoyed by golf lovers. In addition, many of them were designed by important characters in the sport such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman. Only a very few places can compare to the beauty of Los Cabos. Spectacular weather all the year long together with wonderful natural settings make this paradise a dream for travelers who visit.

Los Cabos is an amazing contrasts between mountains, arid deserts and the sea create simply fascinating landscapes, and it is exactly this diversity what prepares the terrain to enjoy as many activities as you can think of. Here is a list of some must do places while you are in Los Cabos.

Interesting Reads: Best Wine Destinations in Mexico

16. San Miguel de Allende


San Miguel de Allende is a popular destination among Mexico city inhabitants and a place where foreigners love to live, but mostly a delicious little city painted in warm colors.

17. Santiago de Querétaro


Santiago de Querétaro is a rising tourist destination in Mexico, a fast growing metropolis with a colonial heart listed by UNESCO.

Don’t know where to start? You can visit websites such as easymovekw.com and explore their blog. It’s rather easy to find many useful tips and tricks for packing, and perhaps even some suggestions on how to move to Mexico hassle-free if you happen to enjoy it during your trip!
Kalyan Panja

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