Amazing beaches, relaxing settings, natural landscapes, and great food. These are some of the key ingredients that make a perfect vacation for Mexicans when exploring their country. Mexico has many travel destinations that attract travellers from all around the world, but for locals, it’s all about feeling at home — places that feel familiar and welcoming is a must. By Christin Parcerisa Vigueras
Below are just some of the destinations in Mexico that attract the most local travellers year after year. Some are even recurrent places where Mexicans love to go several times a year to disconnect and relax under the sun with a local dish or drink.
Tulum, Quintana Roo
The Mexican Caribbean is always a good idea. Both locals and international travellers fall in love with the Riviera Maya with every single visit. But when you really want to unplug, Tulum is the town to do it. Unlike other places in the region, Tulum is free of crowds, loud parties, and dress codes — sometimes it’s even free of cell service! — which really allows its visitors time to relax and recharge. The archaeological zone of Tulum is unlike any other since the pre-Hispanic ruins are located on top of a cliff overlooking the turquoise sea of Paradise Beach.
Nature is very important here, and it’s not only the wonderful white beaches, but the town is where the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve begins, which includes coral reefs, jungle, mangroves, and cenotes. This makes it a great destination for ecotourism, too. Many hotels, like Azulik or Papaya Playa Project, offer only sustainable experiences, from the materials they used to build the hotel to the fair trade they practice every day, and even spa treatments based on local customs and ingredients. There are also numerous options to connect with nature, like bike tours through the jungle, glamping, or taking a yoga class on the beach.
Valle de Bravo, Estado de Mexico
This is one of the favourite weekend destinations for Mexicans. The Magical Town is close to Mexico City and it’s the perfect getaway to disconnect from urban life. It has a refreshingly slow pace of a small town, but the amenities that you look for in an indulgent vacation. Since it’s a mountain town, there are several cottages deep in the forest to enjoy evenings next to the fireplace.
However, the heart of the town is the lake — Lago Avándaro. Surrounding it there’s a vibrant atmosphere filled with restaurants, bars, and shops that go from emerging fashion brands to crafts like blown glass, pottery, or wooden sculptures. The lake is always busy, either with water sports options like kayaking and skiing or with floating restaurants and bars that take the party to the water. However, during the winter all the attention goes to the tallest section of the forest, which is one of the places where millions of monarch butterflies arrive after a long flight from Canada.
Cuernavaca, Morelos in Mexico
Only half an hour from Mexico City, this is a favourite spot for city travellers looking for a place to getaway. Cuernavaca is known as the City of Eternal Spring for its warm weather all year long and colourful flowers that dress its streets. Whether you rent a house or stay in a hotel like Las Mañanitas or Camino Real, large gardens and heated pools are a must. This is a place where travellers can truly relax.
The historic centre with steep streets and stone façades has numerous restaurants that attract visitors from breakfast to dinner. Here, people enjoy walking and discovering local shops, colonial buildings, and quaint parks and fountains. This is also where many historic attractions can be found, including the Cathedral and the Plaza de Armas where Cortés Palace is set. This building dates back to the early 16th century and was created by the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés as his residence. It is now a key historic place where travellers can discover tales about the city very few people know about.
Calm waves and lush vegetation describe the nine Huatulco Bays. Mexicans love a good beach, and these are beautiful, with green mountains as background colour, golden sand under your toes, and colourful sunrises. There are 36 beaches here, which gives travellers many options to try, from water sports like kayaking or sailing, to scuba diving through the coral reefs, or even just enjoying a mezcal under the sun. For a worry-free experience, Huatulco has huge resorts in Tangolunda Bay, most of them all-inclusive, that take care of every single detail.
The beaches are great, but being in Oaxaca, Mexico there’s so much to explore to connect with its rich culture. One option is the Museum of Oaxacan Handicrafts, which is considered a cultural museum. Since there are no items on display, members of local communities are there to explain their traditions and even show people how pieces of plants are woven together or how their mole is made (yes, you get to taste it). Here you can admire and also shop authentic crafts, like rugs with traditional Zapotec techniques and motifs, black clay pottery, clothes with colourful embroideries, or wooden alebrijes. And for outdoor lovers, the Huatulco National Park is the protected area surrounding the bays that mixes the tropical forest and the marine world. It’s the perfect place for passionate hikers who want to discover waterfalls, ancient ceremonial centres, and wild animals.
Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Great food and fantastic wine? This is the place to go for a trip of indulgence in Mexico. Couples and friends love to discover Mexican wine in this vineyard town. Whether you’re looking for a luxury resort and winery, like El Cielo, a modern experience, like Encuentro Guadalupe with rooms “floating” on the rocky mountain, or a glamping adventure, like the Campera Bubble hotel, there’s something for everyone. There are about 200 wineries here, producing almost all of the wine in the country.
Many of them are open for tours, like LA Cetto, Monte Xanic, or Vinícola Bruma. You can not only enjoy tastings, but some have restaurants that offer pairing dinners to highlight the flavours of the Baja cuisine, and you can go through the vineyard on foot or even on bikes. Lately, Guadalupe Valley has grown as a gourmet destination with some top restaurants like Fauna, Laja, Corazón de Tierra, and Silvestre, to mention a few. During the summer, several pop-up farm-to-table restaurants open with outdoor seating overlooking the vineyards, or in some you can even sit among the vines. In August, the Harvest Festival (Fiestas de la Vendimia) arrives with celebrations filled with music, games, and food in wineries, vineyards, and restaurants all through town.
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo
Tulum, Mexico is where Mexicans go to recharge, but Playa del Carmen is where they go to party. This small town with turquoise waters has a vibrant energy. Exclusive resorts and small boutique hotels share the soft sand of the beaches and offer under-the-sun options like water sports and day clubs — from the iconic Mamita’s to the chic Coralina at the Grand Hyatt. The Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is the main pedestrian street here, covered with restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s also an ideal location for shopping during the day, whether you’re in the market for crafts or for special editions of luxury brands, and it’s also where the nightlife booms, especially on the weekends.
The options for foodies are endless, from typical seafood like the one served at Los Aguachiles (aguachile is a spicy dish made of seafood in a “chilli water” preparation of chilli peppers, lime juice, and vegetables), to eclectic options like Alux, which serves Mayan and Mexican food in an underground cavern, or the Traveler’s Table, a five-course dining experience at the beach club of Punta Venado with just one large table intended to make new friends.
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
This is the closest beach to Guadalajara city, and one of the most popular destinations in Mexico. The beach is a great place to visit all year long. However, there are some exciting opportunities during certain times of the year. During the winter, over a thousand humpback whales visit this coast and it’s possible to watch them jump and sing as part of their courting rituals. If you’re lucky you can even see a baby or two since they give birth in these warm waters as well.
Tours are only held by certified operators who make sure they don’t have a negative impact on these marine mammals. During the second half of the year, sea turtles visit the beach to lay their eggs. Since turtles are frequent visitors, the city has developed one of the most successful protection programs in the country that includes protected nurseries placed in top hotels so everyone helps out. Once they hatch, they release the turtles and invite visitors to help, while teaching them about the ecosystem and the importance of protecting these species.
If you get enough of the beach, the mountain range that embraces the town is an oasis for adventure lovers. Here, you can hike next to waterfalls, mountain bike, or explore the suspension bridge, El Jorullo, which is over 1,540 feet long and almost 500 feet tall over the Cuale River. And for some not-nature-related fun, the Malecón (boardwalk) is covered with arts and crafts. There are murals and sculptures that adorn the walkway where you can also find regular art performances. This is a great place to eat with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, as is the Marina Vallarta with its iconic lighthouse and pier where yachts and boats rest.
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico
The long strip of beautiful golden beaches is a trending destination spot for Mexicans. Bahía Banderas has luxury hotels with infinity pools that overlook the ocean and spas that mix modern treatments with ancient knowledge from indigenous communities. The town also has restaurants, exclusive spas, and golf courses. The Grand Velas Spa, for example, offers a massage with obsidian stones and chocolate body and face masks. Vacationers also come for the calm sea — it has turned this place into an idyllic sailing destination.
Most recently, the two marinas have grown in importance and are now home to almost 500 boats. Golf is also attracting visitors to the courts in the area, such as El Tigre golf court, considered one of the most challenging ones in the country. Nuevo Vallarta, as part of the Riviera Nayarit, has several nature protection programs, such as the El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary, where visitors can get a guided tour and learn about the crocodiles that make this place home. Some tours even include feeding the crocodiles — but only for the brave!
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo and Acapulco are always competing to be the favourite vacation spot for Mexicans’ in Guerrero. They share some of the best reasons to visit: warm waves and year-long great weather. Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are two towns that have been growing together for so long that are considered just one destination; however, Ixtapa is more focused on resorts and Zihuatanejo has a more bohemian vibe. The large coastline is perfect to take a long walk along and admire the sunset and soft sand while enjoying a coconut — since it used to be a coconut plantation.
For a relaxing day, Las Gatas Beach is one of the most peaceful ones with crystal clear water, which makes it a favourite place to go snorkelling. And for those looking to explore someplace new, a water taxi from Playa Linda can take you to Ixtapa Island. After a 10-minute boat ride, you get to a green and golden island with four beautiful beaches. Carey is the only one of them that doesn’t have restaurants, so here nature is the protagonist. On the other three, you can find rustic restaurants on the beach that bring in fresh fish and seafood daily so you can enjoy incredibly fresh local dishes.