There are so many things to love about Mexico. It is one of my favorite countries in the world to visit. I bring you ten popular Mexico destinations to visit in this article that you may not even know existed. Mexico has such a deep heart and soul that it wants to show you all of its Mexico tourism. It is also a diverse country that is filled with friendly people, colonial architecture, a vibrant history, and mouthwatering food and drinks.
Popular Mexico Destinations
From the Mayan ruins to the resort town of Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas, to the heart of San Miguel de Allende or the beaches of Zihuatanejo, there are absolutely so many beautiful places in Mexico that are waiting to be discovered. I should know, as I have been there at least 100 times, maybe even more!
Plus, cities in Mexico are not only culturally enriching, gorgeous, and easily accessible for Americans, but they provide a ton of things to do and places in Mexico to go for those with an adventurous spirit. For those travelers who love to explore popular Mexico destinations or those of us who just love to relax at one of the best Mexico beach resorts, there certainly is something for everyone.
Mexico Popular Destinations
These top 10 places of Mexico are the reason that this country continues to be one of the most popular destinations for Americans, as we simply cannot stay away from the places to visit in Mexico. With the sands of its many resorts on the Caribbean and the Pacific oceans to the cultural sides of its cities and states in the interior, Mexico has much to offer the American traveler – cultural sights, pre-Hispanic sounds, traditional Mexican music, ancient history, “Dia de Los Muertos “celebrations of life, and of course, its Mexican food and delicious Mexican drinks! Not to mention its’ famous Mexican cenotes, scuba diving, and hidden underworlds.
In fact, there is nothing quite like a Mexican taco! I have heard that the #1 thing Americans miss when they move abroad, is Mexican food! And even though we eat Mexican food in the USA, we really eat TEX-MEX! But popular Mexico is where it all began, in the mysterious lands and beautiful places in Mexico! So whether you’re in the process of planning your next vacation or just simply dreaming about Mexico’s beach towns, here’s a list of ten popular Mexican places to visit.
Before you go, Stay Safe
Many people may be worried about their personal safety when visiting Mexico. There is crime in several places in Mexico, primarily along its Northern border. This is where the media concentrates their news mostly because of the violence the US State Department advises on travel to Mexico. So be sure and check out the Travel Warnings here before you go.
But my advice to you is to say that the entire country of Mexico is NOT unsafe. Just be aware of your surroundings, stay in your small groups of friends or family, and try not to get too drunk late at night out at nightclubs or bars. According to the US Government, millions of Americans safely visit Mexico each year. Use your common sense while traveling to and within Mexico and try to be a good Mexican tourist!
Ten Popular Mexican Places or cities in Mexico:
#1 Oaxaca City
So many people go to Mexico, but not that many make it to Oaxaca, a city I highly recommend and a well-liked Mexican place. The city of Oaxaca is known for its distinct colonial charm that can rival any colonial city in Latin America. It was included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites thanks to its stunning churches and beautiful plazas and squares. If you’re someone who loves culture and history, then explore the city’s Culture Museum and discover several unique art pieces, including a turquoise encrusted skull that was dug up at an ancient site nearby. Here you will find a true taste of real Mexico.
Don’t forget to drop by at one of the buzzing local markets in Oaxaca, where you can shop for just about anything, from local herbs and spices to clothes, crafts, and souvenir items! And no one makes mescal like Oaxacans. Plus there are many great day trips from Oaxaca and one of my favorites is a trip to Hierve el Agua waterfall. So be sure and put it on your family’s bucket list.
While in this region of Mexico, you can also drive south down to the Oaxacan coastline area of Mexico that is close to the sea. Now I am not saying it is close by, but I am saying it is within the same region of Oaxaca itself. In fact, it is quite aways away, basically a drive of about 6 hours, but this does take you to a beach in a sleepy little surf town. It is here where you will find Playa Zipolite. Now even though it continues to have that hippie vibe, apparently it is now attracting a lot of different types of tourists – family-friendly to European nudists to yoga lovers. You name it, they have got it down here. So keep your eyes peeled for fun in the sun, surf, great food, and the bohemian lifestyle.
Recommended Reading about Zihuatanejo, Mexico:
Popular Mexican Places
#2 Central Mexico: San Miguel de Allende & Querétaro
While many tourists think to go coastal for a Mexican vacation, central Mexico offers a great cultural experience. If you have met me or read many of my articles, you may know that San Miguel de Allende is one of my favorite places in the world! San Miguel de Allende is another charming town in Mexico that is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located in the country’s mountainous region of Bajío, there are so many things to do and explore in this popular Mexican destination.
You can walk through the cobblestone streets that look even more enchanting at night while you marvel at the city’s gorgeous historic church, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, or take part in one of the city’s vibrant annual festivals and parades.
Guanajuato City and Queretaro
Guanajuato City, a mining town located in the mountains not too far away from San Miguel (1 1/2 hours), attracts many tourists with its museum hopping and mine tours (in fact, mining is what made this area prosperous). And just down National 57, the city of Querétaro offers a meticulously maintained histórico center with its churches, convents, museums, and state palaces. Querétaro boasts a bustling art and music scene and is a wonderful place to explore on foot.
Recommended Reading about San Miguel de Allende, Mexico:
#3 Mexico City
The Frida Kahlo Museum (the BLUE house), Palacio de Bellas Artes, Templo Mayor, and Palacio Nacional are just a few among the many interesting sights to see in Mexico City. With its reputation for art, culture, cuisine, and shopping, Mexico City attracts more than 12 million visitors every year. It is the top tourist attraction in all of Mexico. Although the city has a somewhat intriguing past, it has been cleaning up its act now for over 10 years. You can now safely stroll through the downtown area and discover the capital’s several museums and palaces.
There are also boating excursions at the city’s ancient canals and local street foods can be bought at a taqueria along the street. Adding to the whole experience, there are volcanic mountains that overlook the city, Popocatépetl, and Iztaccíhuatl. These towering volcanic mountains offer a reason to explore the stunning scenery in this part of the Mexican Highlands.
And don’t forget to go to the Arena Mexico to see the famous Lucha Libre wrestling matches! They even have women wrestlers! I did and loved it for a great afternoon of fun! For a few bucks, you can get picked up at your hotel, brought to the arena with a tiny bottle of tequila, shop for the famous Lucha Libre masks before you go inside to watch the show. It is a lot of fun!
Popular Places in Mexico:
#4 Isla de las Piedras or Stone Island
Located southeast of the Old Mazatlán, the Isla de la Piedra or Stone Island is another popular Mexican destination that should be included in your list of places to visit in the country. The island boasts a long stretch of sandy beach surrounded by coconut groves. Surfers from all over the world come to visit and experience the water’s amazing waves.
Thatched roof restaurants can also be found all over the island, serving a lot of day guests that come here from the cruise ships. In fact, if you are coming to Mazatlan on a cruise, I can highly recommend this island, as usual, it is within walking distance to where the cruise ships dock. A warm walk down to the end of the pier, you will find a tiny 10-12 people passenger boat that will take you out to the island for $2 USD. It is a simple way to enjoy your day at the beach from a cruise ship.
#5 Los Cabos and the Los Cabos Corridor
Los Cabos is no doubt, one of the most beautiful places in Mexico and extremely popular. In fact, it may be the best Mexico beach resort area in all of Mexico. But the great thing about visiting this Mexican municipality is that you will get to choose so many interesting places to see. It is such a joy to discover this popular double-city Mexican place. If you want to frolic at the beach, then go check out the tourist resorts of Baja California and Cabo San Lucas. Those who love nature should explore El Arco, a distinct rock formation at Cabo San Lucas. The lively party scene is alive and well in Los Cabos, especially at El Squid Roe where I heard it gets crazy, especially since it is next door to Senior Frogs!! I stay as far away from that place as possible, but the young ones love it!
Recommended Reading about Los Cabos, Mexico:
Mexico Popular Destinations
#6 Cancun and the Riviera Maya
If you’re looking for sun and the best Mexico beach resorts with an upbeat style, look no further than Cancun. It is consistently ranked number one of the top 10 places in Mexico by big named travel websites. Cancun and the neighboring treasures of Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Isla Contoy, and the small, fisherman village of Puerto Morelos each year welcome over 3 million visitors.
A popular destination for sun lovers is definitely Cancun, as well as the nearby Mayan Riviera region. Dotted with high-end luxury hotels and family-friendly resorts, the beaches at these Caribbean destinations are truly gorgeous. They cater to travelers who want to experience the tropical Yucatan climate.
Located in the state of Quintana Roo almost everything here focuses on water activities, such as jet-skiing, snorkeling, tubing, and scuba diving. Come scuba dive the cenote Kukulkan or the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. While the hotel pools are the major draws to this area, travelers also lured by attractions such as the area’s culinary delights, the dating and nightlife scene, and, of course, the shopping experiences.
Other popular archeological sites are Tulum, and Cobá, which are among the top tourist attractions in Mexico. Several Mayan ruins are also found like the Yamil Lu’um, a popular archeological discovery that consists of a crumbling tower made of gray stones, and of course, the famous Chichen Iza, which is totally worth a day trip. Oh, and don’t forget the amazing scuba diving in the Underwater Museum!
#7 Pacific Coast: Ixatapa and lazy Zihuatanejo
Two of the best beach towns are the cities of Ixtapa and its neighbor Zihuatanejo on the country’s Pacific coast. Zihuatanejo is often included on the list of the most popular Mexican destinations due to its stunning beaches, laidback vibe, and friendly people. Although some parts of the city have become a bit touristy, it has still retained its unique historical charm. The city’s narrow cobblestone streets are lined with friendly restaurants and bars, charming boutiques, and several artisan studios. But of course, you can still go to its party-friendly city just a few miles away: Ixtapa.
We stayed in a gorgeous private villa in Zihuatanejo, the much smaller fishing village and I cannot recommend it enough. We were able to eat at the villa almost as much as we ate out. I was able to find a lot of fresh seafood in town because, in the early morning, fishermen converge at the beach to display their catch for you to purchase.
I would like to mention that on my visit to Zihuatanejo, we had a chance to go out each day on a fishing boat and catch fresh fish for the day. We had some wonderful memories out there on the ocean with my kiddos – and you can do the same for your family.
Recommended Reading about Cancun, Mexico:
#8 Magical Town: Cuernavaca
Cuernavaca is known for its sprawling estates and gated haciendas. Its warm climate and attractive architecture have made it a popular Mexican destination for many travelers, especially those of Latin descent. If you prefer an easy-going escape, away from the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan Mexico City, then take a trip to this charming city where you can stroll through the walled monastery complexes and check out the beautiful Cuernavaca Cathedral. I had a chance to stay at Hacienda San Antonio del Puente and it was fabulous!
Popular Mexican Destinations
#9 Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is one of those beautiful places in Mexico where you will find the most inviting beach resorts. Every year, thousands of sun worshippers can be seen lazing along the majestic sandy beaches of Puerto Vallarta. If sunbathing is not your cup of tea, you can stroll through the picturesque cobblestone streets and check out the resort town’s quirky boutiques.
After a whole day of exploring, take a stop at one of the stylish restaurants and sample some of the best Mexican delicacies with a shot glass of tequila. Sayulita is close by and great for those lazy beach fisherman type of towns. I’ve stayed at several resorts in Puerto Vallarta and you can read about them here and here.
Recommended Reading about Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
#10 Baja Side: Puerto Peñasco (aka Rocky Point, Mexico)
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sleepy town of Puerto Peñasco, also known as the Rocky Point since I have visited this place literally hundreds of times over the last 20 plus years. It is what I call Arizona’s Mexico. It is another beach city in Mexico, but it is easily accessible for the California and Arizona crowd, which is near the Sea of Cortez in Baja California. It is known for its long stretches of sandy beaches, local restaurants, and golf courses that were uniquely carved out of the sandy desert.
Some of the most interesting sights in Puerto Peñasco are the Playa Bonita, Isla San Jorge, and Cholla Bay, a popular party destination just outside of Puerto Peñasco. Beyond its stunning beaches, there’s definitely so much more to see in Mexico. So do not limit yourself to the country’s touristy beach towns. Refer to this list of Mexico popular destinations above and discover Mexico like no other!
Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry, I was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purposes of review by multiple hotels and destinations listed above. While it has not influenced my review, PointsandTravel.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. All Photos by the author.