Best Places to Visit in Mexico
As the 13th largest country in the world, Mexico has it all. Want to lie down on the sand or go surfing? You have both the Caribbean and the Pacific. Feeling like escaping to a mountain town where they distill tequila? No problem! Itching for culture in a city with millenary history? You'll find several.
In truth, few places on Earth can compete with this incredibly beautiful, wonderfully friendly and unfailingly fun country. The biggest dilemma every traveler faces is choosing where to go. To help you out, U.S. News released its 2023 rankings of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Try to go to each of these 15 amazing Mexican destinations at least once.
15. Punta Mita
Located in Mexico's Nayarit Riviera, Punta Mita is a wonderful gateway into the country's Pacific Coast. It's a quieter and more laid-back alternative to nearby Puerto Vallarta.
The town is known for its luxurious spas and resorts, but there are also affordable and beautiful accommodations near the sea. Life here revolves around the water, so you'll definitely want to participate in watersports and indulge in fresh seafood. The absolute best thing to do, however, is to take a boat trip to the Marieta Islands, where you'll find themost beautiful beach in all of Mexico.
*Note: This list comes from U.S. News and World Report's 2023-24 report.
14. Playa del Carmen
On the other side of the country, hugging the Caribbean Sea, you'll find Playa del Carmen. A popular destination for international tourists, this city is known for beaches, shopping and nightlife.
It's also close to some of the Yucatan Peninsula's coolest spots, like Xcaret's eco-parks and several cenotes.
Though it receives a healthy dose of national tourism, Puebla is still somewhat hidden from the international eye. That's all the better for those who make the three-hour drive from Mexico City to this colonial town.
Built around the Puebla Cathedral, the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While walking around, try some of the city's famous foods, like mole poblano and cemitas. Also, set aside a day to visit the Pyramid of Cholula, whose base area is the largest in the world.
12. Mexico City
Even city haters can't resist the allure of Mexico City. Sure, it's loud, there's pollution, and the crowds are unbelievable. But none of that matters when you're walking around one of the most exciting places on the planet.
Spend time in the large Chapultepec Park, an impressive urban green space that also hides several museums, including the world-renowned National Museum of Anthropology. Catch the Mexican Ballet at the Fine Arts Museum, see the works of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and other important Mexican artists, and spend time at the Zocalo, the heart of the city.
The capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan, Merida might be one of the country's most neglected cities. People love its colorful streets and the buzz of urban life that brings with it chaos, diversity and excitement.
But the best part about Merida is that you can easily escape to see ancient Maya ruins, cenotes and quiet fishing villages.
Guanajuato is truly one of the prettiest colonial cities in the entire world. The hilly streets abound in color, and cars pass through small tunnels in order to get from one part of the city to another. In the backdrop, the imposing mountains provide scenic views.
Its city center is another UNESCO site, housing landmarks like the Juarez Theater and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato. For an impressive panorama over Guanajuato, take the funicular up to Monumento al Pipila. And for something truly unique, go to the Mummy Museum, where you'll see local mummies that were naturally preserved by the geological conditions of the area.
Mexico's party town par excellence is not a place you'd go to for peace and quiet. The city is big, loud and rowdy, offering some of the best nightlife in the country. Expect over-the-top night shows, gigantic clubs and bars in every corner.
But while you party your vacation away, don't neglect to enjoy Mexican culture. Within Cancun's Hotel Strip, you'll find El Rey, ancient Maya ruins as well as the Maya Museum. You'll also be close to some of the Yucatan Peninsula's most interesting spots (some of which also appear on this list). Break off an entire day to go to Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World that's a must-visit archaeological treasure.
With whitewashed houses piled on top of each other, Manzanillo looks as if it belongs on the Mediterranean. Instead, you'll find it on the Pacific, attracting people who want to see a less touristy side of Mexico.
The vibe is laid back, the seafood is delicious, and the people are friendly. And if you love the world hidden underneath the ocean, you'll be delighted to find shipwrecks and coral reefs that welcome both snorkelers and divers.
Located near Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita, people come to Sayulita for its strong surfer culture. The high waves of this Pacific town bring in surfers from all over Mexico — as well as the world. Although the spot has become increasingly popular, it has managed to retain its chill atmosphere and stay true to what made it so charming in the first place.
You can also visit the magical Marieta Islands from here or (in the right season) do whale-watching tours. Outside of the water, you can learn about the Huichol people, who are native to the area and who sell their art around town.
6. Isla Holbox
If you want to see what the Yucatan Peninsula was like before it was overtaken by mass tourism, go to Holbox. About 2.5 hours away from Cancun, this island is cut off completely from the mainland, meaning that you have to take a ferry to get there. This guarantees that only dedicated travelers get here, which keeps it a true island paradise.
Since Holox is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, you'll have the chance to see some of the Gulf of Mexico's most magnificent wildlife, including sea turtles, flamingos and whale sharks, the largest fish in the entire world.
5. Isla Mujeres
Another one of Yucatan's treasures, Isla Mujeres is located right off Cancun and is accessible by ferry on a 20- to 40-minute ride. You'll find a completely different vibe from the city and a decidedly wealthier (and older) crowd.
This is the best spot in the Mexican Caribbean for a luxury vacation, filled with time on gorgeous beaches and visits to the spa, just letting the hours melt away.
Ixtapa is Cancun's twin on the Pacific Coast. Although decidedly less rowdy, the city is marked by a string of large hotels, international restaurants and golf courses. Visitors love to take boats out onto the water or do extreme water sports like parasailing.
If you're into diving, you absolutely have to book a tour to Los Morros de Potosí, where granite rocks make a habitat for various fishes. Of course, you'll also want to try to catch the sunset every single day.
Like Isla Mujeres, Cozumel is an island off the coast of Cancun. But because it is a very popular stop for Caribbean cruises, it tends to be much more crowded and busy. Not that that should deter you from visiting. After all, the island is popular for a reason.
Whether you come on a day trip or stay longer, get out to the ocean, where you'll find coral reefs teeming with life. You can also take a jeep tour through the inland jungle or visit the Mayan Ruins of San Gervasio, dedicated to Ixchel, the Maya goddess of love and fertility.
Years ago, Tulum was the perfect foil to the buzz of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Today, the once-sleepy town has a boho-bougie vibe that attracts a young crowd with its green-and-beige palette. But despite its change, Tulum is an amazing destination, especially because of its seaside Maya ruins.
While here, make sure you also explore the treasures of the area, particularly the cenotes (underground sinkholes) that were sacred to the Maya and that now provide incredible spots for swimming and diving.
If Ixtapa is too busy for you, head a bit farther south to the fishing village of Zihuatanejo. This relaxed spot on the Pacific is known for its seafood, particularly its delicious fish tacos. In the city center, you'll find local markets where you can savor regional food and buy local art and crafts.
The town's most popular beaches are Playa la Ropa and Playa las Gatas, but there are also smaller beaches where you can enjoy some sun and sand. As in most other places along the Pacific Coast, Zihuatanejo offers great spots for snorkeling, diving, kayaking and boating.