With a total contributing percentage of almost 15% to its national GDP, tourism is a pretty big deal for Mexico. Due to this high number, there has to be more to see and experience in Mexico than Cancun, right? Yes! The beautiful country of Mexico is comprised of 32 states and each one has their own unique personality. Next time you decide to plan a trip to Mexico, do yourself a favor and consider some alternative options to Cancun (which is very beautiful) beginning with these 20 fantastic destinations:
Best Places to Go in Mexico: 20 Places to Explore - Not called Cancun
Mazatlan is a perfect beach city for those that want to experience more than a beach. The beautiful city located in the state of Sinaloa boasts beaches, culture, and a rich history. This beach city is divided into two zones: the newer Golden Zone (Zona Dorada) where major hotels, bars, and restaurants are situated and Old Mazatlan (Centro Historico) where you’ll find picturesque cafes, churches, and markets. Mazatlan and Sinaloa in general differ from the rest of Mexico in that the state enjoyed an overwhelmingly large German immigration, which gave birth to the region’s banda music and rich beer culture (home of Pacifico beer). Any time of the year is perfect to visit Mazatlan as its average temperature is between 77-86F year-round but the most popular time to visit is between December and April.
Chapala is one of the most charming places in Mexico and many Americans and Canadians choose to retire in this city. Located in the state of Jalisco it is located just one hour away from Mexico’s second largest metropolis, Guadalajara. The city is best known for its classic Mexican cuisine and proximity to other beautiful Mexican cities like Puerto Vallarta, Zacatecas, and Morelia. The city enjoys beautiful weather year round so any time really is good to visit. Most Americans and Canadians visit during their respective winter months.
Puerto Escondido is located at the end of the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountain in the state of Oaxaca. Puerto Escondido is a beautiful beach city with the most well known one being Bacocho Beach, which offers a variety of hotels, restaurants, and cultural institutions. Playa Principal is another beach, which is great for families, and beach Zicatela enjoys a younger vibe and is perfect for surfers and a younger crowd. Approximately 15 minutes away by car, visitors can explore an ecological reserve for those wanting to explore the rock formations that surround the beach city. The best time to visit Puerto Escondido is December through April.
Barra de Navidad is located in Jalisco a short drive away from Guadalajara. This city is known for its warmer seawater, snorkeling and diving, and its seafood cuisine. Visitors can enjoy the Christmas Lagoon and eat some of the country’s best shrimps and fish. The best time to visit Barra de Navidad is December through April.
Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful collection of beaches located where the states of Jalisco and Nayarit meet on the Pacific Ocean. Located on the South Side of Puerto Vallarta is what is called The Romantic Zone where Playa Los Muertos is located as well as the villages of Boca de Tomatlan and Mismaloya. On the North Side of Puerto Vallarta you will find the village of Gringo Gulch and Los Arcos amphitheater, which is very popular because of its daily free shows. Puerto Vallarta enjoys a tropical climate and from November to May daytime temperatures are from 80-85F and night time temperatures average from 55-65F. Today, Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s most tourist friendly cities so you will have no problem communicating with locals and getting around in English.
San Jose del Cabo is the more tranquil version of the southern tip of Baja California: Los Cabos. In contrast to Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo has the look and vibe of an authentic Mexican town. In this town you will enjoy walking through its colorful streets lined with colonial buildings and art galleries and boutiques. The best time to visit is from May to June.
Ensenada is located in the state of Baja California and it is one of the most important ports in Mexico. This city is located only 68 miles from the United States/Mexico border and it is the second large cruise port in Mexico. This city is well known for its aquatic activities such as whale watching, diving, and kayaking. The best time to visit Ensenada is between the months of December and April.
Valle de Bravo or “Valle” is a magic town (officially designated by Mexican government) located in the beautiful state of Mexico. Just a short 45 kilometers from Toluca and 145 kilometers from Mexico City, this town enjoys cooler temperatures, which make it a pleasure to walk around. Built around its lake, Valle is known for boating, sailing, kayaking, water-skiing, and swimming on its calm waters. You can also head to the town square to marvel at the building’s unique architecture. One structure to look out for is the San Francisco de Asis Parish Church. The town square also boasts local artisans from the indigenous people of Otomi and Mazatlinca. Valle de Bravo enjoys great weather all year round.
Acapulco is one of the country’s most important tourist destinations and historically has been the playground of the Mexican and international elite. Located in the state of Guerrero, Acapulco is a port located on the Pacific Ocean and is known as the “queen” of Mexican resorts. Renowned for its exuberance, in Acapulco visitors can bask in the fun nightlife as well as its two magnificent bays: Santa Lucia and Bahia de Acapulco. For those looking for eco-based tours, there are several that tour around the area’s lagoons, islands, and jungles. Acapulco’s population is approximately one million residents making it a sizeable metropolitan area. The best times to visit Acapulco are April, May, October, and November.
Manzanillo has been nicknamed “The Sailfish Capital of the World” and enjoys around 350 days of sunshine year round. The city is located along the central Pacific Ocean in the state of Colima and is well known for its beach activities, ecotourism, and adventure sports. Its main plaza overlooks the bay and is comprised of several bars and restaurants with excellent seafood. Its hotel zone is where visitors will find the best beaches and luxury hotels, restaurants, and golf courses. The best time to visit Manzanillo is from November – April.
11. Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is located in the heart of the Riviera Maya in the state of Quintana Roo and is the region’s top destination for shopping, nightlife, and dining. Due to its proximity within the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is an ideal base for exploration within the Riviera area. This beach city is known for its beach clubs, and its Fifth Avenue strip boasting shops, boutiques, bars, restaurants, and hotels. Playa del Carmen is also strategically located close to the Caribbean island of Cozumel and visitors can hop on a ferry for a day filled with snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean. The best time to visit Playa del Carmen is between April and May.
12. Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a tiny island off of Cancun and belongs to the state of Quintana Roo and it first gained its fame before Cancun was ever a tourist hot spot. Jacques Costeau would snorkel around the island due to its perfect aquatic conditions. Head over to the beautiful island for picturesque swimming with Mexican marine life. The best time to visit Isla Mujeres is between the months of April and May.
Zihuatanejo is located in the state of Guerrero is the home of Guerrero’s art gallery and boutique scene. “Zihua” is well known for its laid-back beach style and seafood restaurants serving the catch of the day. While visiting, you can visit the well-known Playa las Gatas, which is surrounded by palm trees and delicious fish taco restaurants. The best time to visit “Zihua” is between the months of December – April.
14. Puerto Penasco
Puerto Penasco is located just one hour away by vehicle from the U.S. border in the state of Sonora. Mostly visited by residents from Border States like Arizona, the beach city is increasingly attracting tourists from all over. Due to this increasing interest, this small city of about 30,000 residents is prime for rapid growth in the near future. The more well known beaches are Playa Miramar and Playa Hermosa/Bonita. The best time to visit Puerto Penasco is between the months of April and June.
15. Rosarito Beach
Rosarito Beach located in the state of Baja California has long been a favorite of retirees. This beach town is famous for its lobster and its American lifestyle. Due to its proximity to the United States and ex pat population, Rosarito enjoys a very American lifestyle such as large shopping malls and a heavy usage of the English language. This community has a great deal of golf courses and state of the art medical facilities. The best time to visit Rosarito Beach is between April and June.
16. Puebla City
Puebla City is the capital and largest city of the central state of Puebla, Mexico. Known as Puebla de los Angeles (Puebla of the Angels), this is one of the most unique and beautiful cities of the country. Puebla is situated under two large volcanoes (Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl) and it is known as the city in which Mexican troops defeated the French Army in 1862. The city is also a UNESCO Heritage site. The city is known for its classic Mexican dishes as well as beautiful architecture. The best time to visit Puebla City is between the months of May and September.
Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city behind Mexico City and boy where do we start. Located in the western state of Jalisco, Guadalajara it is the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila as well as one of the more important financial centers of the Americas. It truly is an exceptional tourist destination. Visitors can explore the city by foot, buses, or renting a vehicle and can explore the many tourist attractions like The Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Guadalajara, Plaza de los Mariachis, and Guadalajara’s Ballet Folclorico. The best time to visit Guadalajara is between the months of January and April.
Loreto located in Baja California Sur is well known for its rich Mexican culture and the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto festival (held on September 8th). While visiting Loreto visitors can also take a swim in the Sea of Cortez or visit the impressive Church of our Lady of Loreto. The best time to visit Loreto is between the months of April and June.
Progreso is a port city in the state of Yucatan known for impressive waterfront promenade as well as a pier that extends four miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Due to its impressive waterfront, Progreso visitors usually stick by the water and enjoy the city’s waterfront restaurants and hotels. In addition, Progreso is one of Mexico’s most popular cruise destinations and the Mayan ruins of Uxmal and Chichen Itza are conveniently located. The best time to visit Progreso is between the months of September and May.
Cuernavaca is a beautiful city located in the state of Morelos and it boasts arguably the best weather of Mexico leading it to being called “city of the eternal spring.” Many local residents live in Cuernavaca due to its close proximity to Mexico City. It boasts a beautiful landscape full of hills and vibrant colors. Cuernavaca has a great deal of town squares and colonial buildings and enjoys great weather year round.
As this list illuminates, Mexico is home to numerous beautiful and fascinating tourist destinations. Prepare yourself for wonderful and unique experiences when visiting each of these Mexican cities. Start planning now on Tripping.com!
This article was written by Walter Godinez.