Christmas is a time for family to come together, gorge on food, and sing carols. However, many families choose to do this in the comfort of a warm climate. Whether you’re escaping chilling blizzards, obnoxious relatives, or just looking for a beach, Mexico is the perfect place to watch locals perform “la posada” or to just watch the waves roll into the shore. Here are the six best cities to take your Christmas vacation in Mexico.

Celebrate Christmas In Mexico This Year In These 6 Beautiful Places

1. Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a haven of Spanish architecture in southwestern Mexico. It is well-known for the variety of indigenous tribes living in the area and its signature dish “mole,” a chocolate-based sauce. This city is famous for its Christmas celebrations. Starting Christmas Week (December 16-24), festivities take over the town. Traditional posadas (re-enactments of Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn in which to give birth to the baby Jesus) are performed, kicked off by a parade known as a “calenda” which ends in an indigenous dance known as “danza de la pluma,” or dance of the feather. During this week, Christmas “bunuelos” (pastries) are eaten at Cathedral Restaurant and the plates are subsequently and ceremoniously broken. On December 23rd locals celebrate “Noche de Rábanos,” where radishes are carved into different Christmas-themed shapes and positioned throughout the town center. The Christmas celebrations celebrate in a final posada and Mass. This city has many Christmas activities for the whole family to enjoy.

2. Mexico City

Mexico City is littered with street markets beginning in late November, and that’s just the beginning. While Mexico City celebrates the same way as many other towns on this list, it truly committed in 2009 when it transported in the World’s Largest Christmas Tree (according the the Guinness Book of World Records). Mexican Christmas celebrations begin on Advent and last until Epiphany on January 6th, celebrating the journey of the three wise men to the baby Jesus. Often, children will receive gifts from Santa and all three wise men. If you’re of a participatory spirit and a bilingual tongue, join in and try singing some villaincicos, or Spanish Christmas carols.

3. Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas, located of the Baja Peninsula, is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico. What was once a small fishing town in the state of Baja Sur is now a thriving metropolis, filled with restaurants and bars fueled by tourist dollars. However, if the party scene isn’t up your alley, there are all kinds of outdoor activities, and since the city is very English-language friendly, they aren’t too hard to find. Granted, nature is so close by that just walking along the beach you can see the towering rock formation El Arco de Cabo San Lucas. “Swim with the fishes” by taking scuba or snorkeling lessons, catch some air parasailing, hang ten surfing, or re-enact your favorite romantic comedy riding horseback on the sand.

4. Tulum

Tulum, a gem of the Yucatan located on the Mayan Riviera, is home to many of the Mayan ruins (notably Chichen-Itza) and is an excellent option for outdoors-lovers and adventurers alike. Tulum National Park is wonderful for hiking and zip lining through lush jungle, and Hidden Worlds is full of cenotes, which are caves where the roof has collapsed. Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a popular conservation park, and flamingo enthusiasts will love Rio Lagartos. If a beach vacation is your goal, this is the place to be.

5. Puerto Vallarta

The star of Jalisco, the Mexican state in which it resides, Puerto Vallarta is nestled on the Bay of Banderas on the western side of the country. Stroll down the Malecon (seaside road) or amble through the city center. Don’t miss Old Vallarta, the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the botanical gardens. St. Guadalupe is a major saint in Catholic doctrine and the first two weeks of December many Mexican cities have processions celebrating her storied appearance to a young peasant. Try your hand at water sports near Las Caletas beach if the city center is too much for you. Celebrations culminate in Noche Buena, a family street event on December 24 where locals and tourists come out to eat, drink, and take a shot at piñatas around the town. Poinsettias have a storied history in Mexico and the town will likely be covered in them.

6. San Miguel de Allende

The state of Guanajato plays host to the city of San Miguel de Allende, a colorful colonial outpost and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The artist community is expansive and is complemented by numerous Baroque-style buildings, which drew many expatriates and students in the mid-20th century. There is a Christmas procession through town on December 16th, during the Christmas Week “la posada” period, but the main appeal of this town is its art and accessibility. It is best to make plans with other travelers, family, or friends the day of Christmas.

This article was written by Lindy Tolbert.