Mexico Hidden Gems: The 5 You Need to Know About


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Mexico hidden gems are kinda my thing!

Looking to travel some of Mexico’s off the beaten path destinations?

You’re in the right place… and might I, not-so-humbly say, you’ve come to the right guide!

Here’s the deal:

👋 I’m Shelley, and I have been a solo traveler in Mexico since April 2018! I have personally been to each place on the list  some more than once!

The great thing about planning a trip to Mexico is that it’s huge. There is something, and somewhere, for everyone.

I needed to keep this blog to a reasonable size, so I could only list 5 here.

However, in an effort shed some light on a country that is sooooo much more than just Cancun, Tulum, Mexico City & Cabo San Lucas, I created this FREE downloadable guide with 5 more places — for a total of 10!

LOVE TRAVELING OFF THE BEATEN PATH?

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Venturing off the Beaten Path: 10 Hidden Gems of Mexico Travel

In this guide, you’ll discover the 5 additional Mexico hidden gems you’ll want to travel to likerightnow — in addition to the 5 places highlighted in this blog.

I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but I’ll give you a hint as to one of the places:

This place is located not too far from Mexico City, and is on every instagram travel influencer’s bucket list to visit and photograph.

👉 Download your free guide now to see if you guessed right!

If all 10 of the places in there still aren’t enough, head to my Merida blog to learn about one more of the beautiful Mexico hidden gems you need to discover.

But for now, let’s look at these five: Bacalar, Guanajuato City, Holbox Island (Isla Holbox), Oaxaca City & Sayulita.

collage of beautiful places in Mexico
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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Bacalar/Bacalar Lagoon

Mexico Hidden GemsBacalar

LOCATION: Quintana Roo State
LOCATED NEAR:
Cancun, Tulum, Merida, Rivera Maya
BEST TIME TO VISIT BACALAR:
Nov.-May
BACALAR IS KNOWN FOR:
Blue water, Tranquility, Nature

Laguna Bacalar (Bacalar Lagoon) is basically a postcard! This blue lagoon is the main draw in the Pueblo Mágico (magic town) of Bacalar.

The Mexican Tourism Board awards the prestigious distinction of Pueblo Mágico to pueblos (small towns) in the country with certain characteristics like unique culture, historic relevance & exceptional natural beauty — which Bacalar has in droves!

Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, this area is home to Mexico’s Mayan population. In fact, the Mayans refer to Laguna Bacalar as the “Lagoon of Seven Colors.”

Ranging in depth from 0-200 feet, you’ll see the bright white blues in the shallows, and the dark indigo blues in the deeper areas. The bright blue water in Bacalar Lagoon has earned it the nickname of the Maldives of Mexico!

While here, you can do all of the vacation things: Swim, eat/drink, read, lay in a hammock, chill, think, watch the sunrise, admire nature… and basically, just a whole lotta nothin’.

blue water in a tropical setting
podcast cover-woman on a colorful colonial street

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blue water and swing in Bacalar Lagoon

Bacalar Things to Do

COCALITOS BACALAR

Take the boat tour around the lagoon & visit the Canal de los Piratas (Pirate’s Channel). You can find companies along 1st Ave., the street that circles lagoon.

Another option is to take a boat tour from Cocalitos. This is a popular “beach club” (lagoon club?) to spend the day relaxing, swimming, eating & drinking.

LOS RAPIDOS BACALAR

One of the lagoon’s most popular places to spend the day is Los Rapidos (The Rapids). As the name implies, there are actually fast-moving rapids you can ride, swim in & play in!

There’s a restaurant, bar, kayak rentals, water hammocks, swings & bathrooms, so you can easily hang out there all day long.

CENOTE AZUL BACALAR

Besides Bacalar lagoon itself, the second most popular place to swim is Cenote Azul (Blue Cenote). It is also one of the deepest cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, at about 300 feet!

Just as with the other places listed, you could spend the whole day here. There is a restaurant, lockers for your stuff & bathrooms on-site.

DOWNTOWN BACALAR

Downtown Bacalar Things to Do:
  • Parroquia de San Joaquin (Saint Joaquin’s Parish/Church)
  • Fuerte de San Felipe (Saint Felipe’s Fort)
Bacalar’s Best Restaurants:
rusted cannon at a fort pointed at the water
Cannon at Fuerte de San Felipe (Saint Felipe’s Fort) in downtown Bacalar.

How Do I Travel to Bacalar?

FLYING TO BACALAR

Bacalar is all the way down in the southern tip of Mexico, and only a 30 minute drive to Belize.

The closest airport is Chetumal International Airport (CTM), located about 30-45 minutes away in the city of Chetumal.

DRIVING TO BACALAR

Driving is an option from any of Mexico’s other Yucatan destinations: Cancun, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Merida, Valladolid, etc.

Make sure to take the Couta (toll) roads, as they are well-maintained and generally safer. Oh, and bring cash for the tolls! Here are a few more Mexico driving trips you’ll want to know.

It usually takes about 4-5 hours by car from Cancun, Riviera Maya & Merida, and 3-4 hours from Tulum, Playa del Carmen & Valladolid.

BUS TO BACALAR

Not renting a car?

No problem!

The best way to get to most Mexico hidden gems is actually by bus.

Bus transportation in Mexico is very common, just opt for the luxury class busses, sit back and enjoy the ride! The biggest company is ADO, which goes just about everywhere.

Stromatolites in Bacalar Lagoon

The giant circular disks you’ll see in the water are called stromatolites.

They are among the oldest living things presently found on Earth, and also found only in a handful of places.

It’s not super easy (or super quick) to explain what they really do, but basically they filter the lagoon’s water & keep it so beautiful.

To greatly simplify, Stromatolites do for the lagoon what coral does for the ocean; among other things.

Please practice responsible tourism and do not touch them! In addition, only use eco-friendly & biodegradable sunscreen when swimming in Bacalar Lagoon.

Guanajuato City

Mexico Hidden GemsGuanajuato City

LOCATION: Guanajuato State
LOCATED NEAR:
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Queretaro
BEST TIME TO VISIT GUANAJUATO CITY:
Nov.-May
GUANAJUATO CITY IS KNOWN FOR:
Colors, beauty, culture

While most of Mexico’s old Colonial cities more-or-less follow a 2-3 color scheme, Guanajuato (pronounced wan-uh-wat-toe) is every color of the rainbow.

You can easily spend the day taking photos while just walking the town’s narrow, winding alleyways. These quaint streets look like something right out of an old European village… just way more colorful!

Keep in mind there are several universities in Guanajuato, so the town can (sometimes) be a noisier and more of a party town than other Mexican cities.

One of the biggest festivals in all of Mexico, the International Cervantino Festival, takes place here each year in October. This is followed immediately after by Mexico’s famed Dia de Muertos/Day of the Dead.

GUANAJUATO CITY & GUANAJUATO STATE

Guanajuato is both the name of the city & the state. This can get confusing because the town is usually just referred to as Guanajuato, rather than Guanajuato City, it’s full name.

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Guanajuato City Things to Do

DOWNTOWN GUANAJUATO

No, really. Just walk around downtown, go to a cafe, take some photos — then take more photos. Guanajuato is like being in a painting. It is almost sensory overload just being somewhere so pretty!

YOUR FREE GOOGLE MAP!

If you prefer a map, check out the FREE Google Map below with 24 of Guanajuato’s most instagrammable places. From the Mummy Museum to the Alley of the Kiss, this map will get you there!

Orange and pink colored buildings with colored balconies
The Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss).

ALLEY OF THE KISS (CALLEJON DEL BESO)

The Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss) is located up on one Guanajuato’s many hills, behind the Plaza de Los Angeles (Plaza of the Angels).

I’ll let you google the story for yourself, but if there was ever a Mexican “Romeo & Juliet” story, it happened on the two balconies in that  ⬇️ photo!

MUMMY MUSEUM (MUSEO DE LAS MOMIAS)

The town’s most popular museum is the Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum), which is just what it sounds like — a museum of mummies.

Yes, real mummies.

One of the most fascinating things about Mexican vs. U.S. culture is how death is considered a much less taboo subject. It’s a much less taboo subject here, and often, it’s a celebration (ie. Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos)!

Funicular cable car going up a mountain in a colorful city
You can walk up to the famous Monumento al Pipila, or you can also take the Funicular.

MORE GUANAJUATO CITY THINGS TO SEE:

  • Diego Rivera Museum
  • Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato: The big yellow church.
  • Monumento al Pipila: Best views of the city!
  • University of Guanajuato
  • ⬇️ ⬇️ Actually, just head to my blog for my top 24 places to see in Guanajuato, all pinned to a handy Google Map!

How Do I Travel to Guanajuato?

DRIVING FROM MEXICO CITY TO GUANAJUATO CITY

Guanajuato is in Central Mexico, about a 5-hour car or bus ride from Mexico City. It is about 4-hours from Guadalajara.

This is generally considered a safe drive — as long as you do not drive at night!

Make sure you take the Couta (toll) roads, as they are well-maintained and generally safer. Oh, and bring cash for the tolls!

BUS FROM MEXICO CITY TO GUANAJUATO CITY

If you don’t want to fly or drive, the best way to get to this, and most Mexico hidden gems, is by bus!

Mexico’s bus transportation is safe, inexpensive & reliable… just opt for the luxury class, sit back and enjoy the ride! The biggest company is ADO, which goes just about everywhere, but also check out Primera Plus.

The Jardin de la Union (Union Garden) in downtown Guanajuato.

FLYING TO GUANAJUATO CITY

The good news if you’re not planning to drive or take the bus?

You can just fly directly into Guanajuato International Airport (BJX)!

The nearby Queretaro International Airport (QRO) has several direct U.S. to Mexico flight routes, so you can price compare, but also you might want to plan a Guanajuato-San Miguel de Allende-Queretero trip…

QUERETARO-GUANAJUATO-SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

Honestly, you could make this area of the country its own trip by visiting Guanajuato, QueretaroSan Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel is popular with American expats, tourists & foodies — Top Chef even filmed there in Season 12!

📸 🌺 ☕️ LOVE THAT PHOTO UP THERE?! It was taken on the rooftop patio of my Airbnb in San Miguel de Allende. Book it here!

You can dine at restaurants from some of Mexico’s best chefs in San Miguel, including Enrique Olvera of Pujol, considered one of the best restaurants in the world. He also made the menu at Moxi in San Miguel.

Queretaro, like Guanajuato, is a cute, colorful Colonial city. Though overshadowed by its neighbors, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro offers a similar visual esthetic, but with less crowds.

Find out 7 reasons you need to add this amazing city to your itinerary!

Holbox Island (Isla Holbox)

Mexico Hidden GemsHolbox Island

LOCATION: Quintana Roo State
LOCATED NEAR:
Cancun, Tulum, Merida, Rivera Maya
BEST TIME TO VISIT HOLBOX ISLAND:
Nov.-March
HOLBOX ISLAND IS KNOWN FOR:
Beaches, nature, good vibes

One of the best beach towns in Mexico, and the only island on this list of hidden gems!

The thing you’ll love most about this Holbox is that it still manages to feel like the small town fishing village it was 20 years ago.

With the exception of a few work trucks, cars aren’t allowed on the island. There are no street lights, golf carts and bikes remain the main modes of transport, and the roads are “paved” with beach sand.

small beach town with big palm trees and sand roads
Calle Tiburon Ballena, one of the main streets in downtown Holbox Island.

You won’t find neon t-shirt “tourist shops,” tour operators don’t scream at you to buy one of their tours ⁠— There’s not a Señor Frogs in sight! It’s just beautiful beaches for miles, hammocks in the water, and “good vibes,” as the kids say!

Best of all, you never have to wear shoes on Holbox (pronounced hole-bosh, btw).

Holbox provides a nice mix of tranquil & lively. Meaning, there’s peace & quiet when you want it, and also hip nighttime spots for live music, a delicious dinner and drinks. To which, I emphatically recommend these places:

Holbox Island’s Best Restaurants:
  • Big Fish
  • Roots: Get the lobster pizza!
  • Viva Zapata
Hammocks in the water at Punta Cocos.

Holbox Island Things To Do

LAY IN THE WATER HAMMOCKS

With many discovering Holbox via Instagram, some of the island’s most instafamous landmarks are the hammocks in the water.

If you’re looking for some chill hammock time, head to Punta Cocos beach. The more famous spot is on the other end of the island at Playa Holbox beach. There, you’ll also find the giant, colorful HOLBOX letters.

BIOLUMINESCENCE ON HOLBOX ISLAND

Go see the bioluminescence at Punta Coco beach at night. You can (usually) see it all year long, & during any moon phase, but it’s most vibrant during the new moon — when the moon’s not visible in the sky.

Punta Coco is also a great spot to watch the sunset if you want to be away from the crowds. The main sunset viewing spot is from the main fishing pier.

SWIM WITH THE WHALE SHARKS ON HOLBOX ISLAND

If you visit during June-Aug., you can take a boat tour to swim with whale sharks, the largest fish in the ocean! Don’t worry; they aren’t actually sharks & don’t even have sharp teeth. They are huge though — 40-feet-long huge!

Pretty PLEASE do keep this in mind:

Only use an ethical tour company that keeps the animals’ safety & well being as their top priority 🐳

MORE THINGS TO SEE IN HOLBOX ISLAND

  • Yum Balam Nature Reserve
  • Boat Tour to Cabo Catoche: You’ll find several tour companies offering this in downtown.
  • Punta Mosquito: Don’t worry… it’s not full of mosquitoes! However, you might see some Yucatan Peninsula’s wild flamingos, especially if you visit between April-Oct.

How Do I Travel to Holbox Island?

To get to Holbox by land, you first have to get to the town of Chiquila. From there, you’ll take the 20-minute ferry ride over. 

DRIVING TO HOLBOX ISLAND/CHIQUILA

If you are driving your own car to Chiquila, you’ll have to leave it there before taking the ferry over.

Not to worry though!

There are a few paid parking lots right next to the ferry dock. This is also where you buy your ferry tickets.

You can leave your car in one of the lots at the daily rate of about $7 per day. The lots have guards, so your car will be safe, but remember to err on the side of caution & take all of your valuables!

aerial view of the small beach town of Holbox Island

BUS TO HOLBOX ISLAND/CHIQUILA FERRY

Nearly every bus company operating in the Yucatan Peninsula has daily trips to/from Chiquila. The biggest bus company is ADO, which goes just about everywhere.

Mexico’s bus transportation is safe, inexpensive & reliable — and often the best way to get to all of these small-town Mexico hidden gems!

HOLBOX ISLAND FERRY

There are a couple of ferry companies that run daily, every hour or so, from about 6am-8pm.

Keep in mind Holbox, and most islands, run on “Island Time” — meaning schedules are a little more laid back — and you might want to check ahead for that day’s ferry schedule.

You can buy your tickets right at the ferry dock in Chiquila.

FLYING TO HOLBOX ISLAND

Holbox also has a small airport for private planes. You charter the whole plane, so you pick the time you want to fly. The flight time is only 30 minutes, so there is a lot of convenience with this option.

With convenience comes expense; so a flight charter is, of course, the most expensive option. By “expensive,” think about $600 for up to 5 people for a 1-way charter out of Cancun.

Oaxaca City

Mexico Hidden GemsOaxaca City

LOCATION: Oaxaca State
LOCATED NEAR:
Puerto Escondido, Mexico City, Chiapas state
BEST TIME TO VISIT OAXACA CITY:
Oct.-May
OAXACA CITY IS KNOWN FOR:
Food, culture, Day of the Dead

Of all the places on this list, Oaxaca likely has the most name recognition, as far as Mexico hidden gems go.

But how many people do you know who have actually visited? Your answer is likely Not many.

This is unfortunate, because, for me, Oaxaca is the Mexico people imagine Mexico to be!

There’s everything here: ahhhmazing Mexican food, mezcal, rich history, colorful festivals, beautiful nature, colonial architecture, pre-hispanic sites, indigenous artisan communities — and did I mention the food!?

Let’s just say that Oaxaca is known as the Foodie Capital of Mexico for good reason!

Water and a tree on a cliff at Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca City
Located just outside of Oaxaca City, Hierve el Agua is one of the most photographed places in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca City Things To Do

HIERVE EL AGUA IN OAXACA

Hierve el Agua (Boiling Water) is one of most beautiful & photographed places in Oaxaca.

Actually, it’s technically about 40 miles outside of the city in the town of Roeguía, but you can get there within an hour by taxi.

Pro Tip: Go early! It gets crowded by about 10am.

CENTRO HISTORICO IN OAXACA CITY

It’s easy to spend a full day walking around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Centro Historico (Historic Center AKA Downtown), taking photos of the beautiful architecture, checking out boutiques and art galleries… and eating!

If you have time, do the guided walking tour of the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca (Botanical Garden). They are offered in English several times per week.

Colorful buildings in downtown Oaxaca City, Mexico
Oaxaca City’s Centro Historico (Historic Downtown), a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are 3 UNESCO sites in Oaxaca!

MONTE ALBAN & MITLA IN OAXACA

Both Oaxaca’s Centro Histórico and Monte Alban are UNESCO World Heritage sites!

This pre-hispanic city functioned as the capital of Oaxaca’s indigenous Zapotec people until 800 AD. It was then uninhabited for unknown reasons.

Monte Alban is the most visited archeological site in Oaxaca, with Mitla coming in second.

ALSO VISIT OAXACA’S ART TOWNS:

DAY OF THE DEAD (DIA DE MUERTOS)

Each year, for a few days in late-Oct./early-Nov., many Mexicans believe the veil to the spirit world is lifted and our departed family members return Earth-side.

Rather than a somber funerary event, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a celebration.

Families join together to create elaborate ofrendas (alters), filled with marigold flowers, candles, copal incense, photos of their loved one, and whatever food and drink they would want to consume on their arrival.

Though this is Oaxaca’s biggest festival, the Guelaguetza Festival might be its most colorful!

EAT & DRINK IN OAXACA, MEXICO

Eat. A lot. Then, drink mezcal. Oaxaca is where mezcal was born, and it’s taken very seriously here. Head to El Rey de Matatlan, one of Oaxaca’s top spots, for distillery tours and mezcal tastings.

READ MORE: 💡Eating Alone While Traveling: How to Overcome Your Fear

Many of the country’s most famous chefs also have restaurants in Oaxaca. Usually atop many diners’ lists is Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo‘s restaurant, Casa Oaxaca.

For a casual, but authentic (and amazing!!) Oaxacan food experience, Itanoni is your place.

Mexican pizza
A tlayuda, sometimes referred to as a Mexican pizza!

YOUR FREE GOOGLE MAP

Check out this FREE Google Map I made with 33 of Oaxaca City’s best places to eat & drink!

This list includes everything from fine dining to street food stands, traditional restaurants to mercados (markets), and everything in between. There are also several mezcalerias (mezcal bars) listed as well.

Oaxacan Food Guide & Local Delicacies

Mole negro: There are 7 types of mole, but mole negro (black mole) is the most popular.
Tamales oaxaqueños: Oaxacan tamales, also called tamales ojas (leaf tamales), or just tamales.
ChapulinesMexico’s infamous grasshoppers! You’ll find vendors selling them on the street & in mercados (markets).
Tlayudas: AKA “Mexican Pizza” Tlayudas do look like pizza, but they taste completely different!
Tejate: Served cold, this prehispanic corn/chocolate drink is perfect on those hot Oaxaca City days.
Also Try: Mezcal, Quesillo, Tasajo, Memelas, Enmoladas, Nieves, & Cafe de olla.

Want to learn more about Oaxacan food? Head to this blog now!

How Do I Travel to Oaxaca City?

FLYING TO OAXACA

You can fly directly into Oaxaca International Airport (OAX), as there’s direct flights from several U.S. cities. These include Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, LA & Chicago.

If you’re coming from within Mexico, you can fly to OAX from most major cities including Tijuana, Mexico City, Monterrey & Guadalajara.

DRIVING/BUS FROM MEXICO CITY TO OAXACA CITY

Oaxaca is in southern Mexico, about 6 hours by car or bus from Mexico City.

The drive is generally considered safe as long as you stick to the Couta (toll) roads and don’t drive at night!

Mexico’s bus transportation is safe, inexpensive & reliable! The biggest company is ADO, which goes just about everywhere, but also check out Primera Plus.

Stairs leading down to a tropical beach in Mexico
Playa Carazillio is among the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.

OAXACA CITY TO PUERTO ESCONDIDIO

Headed to the coast of Oaxaca also?

Smart choice!

Coastal Oaxaca has some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches… from the world famous surf town of Puerto Escondido, to the Pueblo Magico (Magic Town) of Mazunte, to laid back Huatulco, and off-the-beaten-path Lagunas de Chacahua — Oaxaca’s beaches have something for every traveler.

Learn about all your travel options here!

Sayulita

Mexico Hidden GemsSauylita

LOCATION: Nayarit State
LOCATED NEAR:
Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara
BEST TIME TO VISIT OAXACA CITY:
Nov.-April
OAXACA CITY IS KNOWN FOR:
Colorful flags, Surf, Good vibes

It’s almost as if good vibes were invented in this chill bohemian town, the last of the Mexico hidden gems on this list.

So just what made this otherwise tiny beachfront pueblo so famous (& Instafamous)?

The colorful flags!!

The papel picado paper flags are everywhere here, and while other Mexican cities have them as well, they aren’t usually up year-round. Sayulita rocks them all day, everyday.

Besides the flags, Sayulita is a laid back, boho, hippie, surfer, beach bum, beach town — and what’s not to love about all that?!

Sayulita’s waves are perfect for beginner surfers, with many surf schools located along Playa Sayulita.

Sayulita Things To Do

PLAYA DE LOS MUERTOS

Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) is something you don’t see everyday!

Sayulita is a beach town, and part of a larger beach community, and they have to work with what they’ve got, so one of their cemeteries is located just behind this beach.

It’s arguably one of the prettiest beaches in Sayulita, too.

SURF LESSONS IN SAYULITA

Learn how to surf at a surf school. There is a great wave that breaks just offshore, which is perfect for beginners.

You’ll find the majority of surf schools on Playa Sayulita (Sayulita Beach) near downtown.

hidden beach cove
The hidden beach of Islas Marietas, called Playa del Amor (Love Beach). Book your tour here!

TOURS TO ISLAS MARIETAS

If surfing’s not for you, book the tour to Islas Marietas (Marietas Islands).

There are two tours offered:

One lets you swim & snorkel near the islands…

The other one lets you actually go onto the hidden beach of Playa del Amor (Love Beach), which looks like something straight out of a dream!

Pro Tip: In an effort to keep this incredible beach pristine, the Mexican government restricts entry to about 125 people per day.

If you’re interested in this tour, secure your spot before you even arrive to Sayulita as it is often sold out for months in advance due to the admission restriction. Book yours here!

MORE THINGS TO SEE IN SAYULITA

  • San Pancho, Mexico
  • Playa Carricitos (Carricitos Beach)
  • Downtown Sayulita’s boutique shops
small fishing boat on the shore of a beach town

How Do I Travel to Sayulita?

FLYING TO SAYULITA

Getting to Sayulita is easy! Take a flight into Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) and then take an Uber, private transport service, bus, etc. for the 1-hour trip to Sayulita.

DRIVING TO SAYULITA

If you’re coming from Guadalajara, you have the option of a doable 6-hour bus or car ride, or a 1-hour flight. Flights within Mexico are generally not much more than the bus, so I’d personally opt for the flight.

BUS TO SAYULITA

To those who prefer buses, Mexico’s bus transportation is safe, inexpensive & reliable! The biggest company is ADO, which goes just about everywhere, but also check out Primera Plus.

Discover 5 More Hidden Gems

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Mexico is huge country, and so much more than just Cancun, Tulum & Cabo San Lucas!

Download this pretty pdf, which has the 5 places from this blog, and learn about 5 more. That’s right — the Top 10 Mexico hidden gems delivered right to your inbox!

Hint: One of them is in the photo on the cover & you need to know about it right now!

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Venturing off the Beaten Path: 10 Hidden Gems of Mexico Travel


Know of any Mexico hidden gems & off the beaten path places?

Please let me know in the comments down below.


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¡Hola Chicas!

👋 I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world! I started this blog & podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel & Mexico travel off your bucket list…

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34 Comments

  1. Jyotsna Ramani

    Oaxaca and Bacalar were on my list but I just had a month in Mexico and ended up dividing it between Guanajuato, Mexico city and Playa del carmen/ Tulum. The cenotes are stunning there.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Jyotsna: You have to come back then! Oaxaca & Bacalar are two of Mexico’s most amazing destinations.

      Reply
  2. Olivia

    Great list! I’ve never been to Mexico, but I do always love exploring destinations that are off the beaten path. I would definitely like to visit Guanajuato and Oaxaca!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Olivia: You made some great choices… Guanajuato & Oaxaca are two of Mexico’s coolest & prettiest cities.

      Reply
  3. Taylor

    I definitely need to get back to Mexico and see all of these spots. Bacalar looks absolutely beautiful and I now want to go to Beach of the Dead! Such a great article! 🙂

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Taylor: I hope you do make it back! Bacalar is absolutely stunning & the lagoon freshwater so, it doesn’t burn your eyes as bad as the ocean.

      Reply
  4. Shafinah Neville

    I’ve always known the Mexican culture to be a colourful one but this just puts me in such an awesome mood! Really really hoping I can make it there at least once in my lifetime! (Am situated in Asia and it’s a little hard to get to)

    Reply
    • Shelley

      omg Shafinah, I feel your pain!! At least once a day I wish Mexico was closer to Asia so I can travel there quicker 🤣🤣🤣

      Reply
  5. Camden

    Mexico is so beautiful! I really would love to visit someday and I had no idea about these hidden gems! Better start brushing up on my Spanish…

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Camden: I hope you get to visit… and for sure, some basic Spanish does go a longggg way. I always encourage visitors to brush up on the basics, but it looks like you already knew that 💚

      Reply
  6. Hannah

    Wow, all of these destinations sound fantastic! The colourful flags in Sayulita looks magical! Laguna Bacalar also looks stunning! I’ve never visited Mexico before but now I have a list of places I want to see! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Hannah: …and these are just some of the amazing places in this amazing country! I hope you get the chance to visit soon.

      Reply
  7. Shay

    I can’t believe how blue and crystal clear the water is in your photos! And Guanajuato looks like the most colorful place ever! I can’t wait to visit Mexico – I’m just afraid I might never leave!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Shay: I was also so shocked when I saw that water! I think it was the bluest I’ve ever seen.

      Reply
  8. Emma

    I didn’t think it would get any better after seeing the beautiful pictures of the bluest water in Bacalar, but this is a great list and I now officially want to go to all of these places. There’s definitely something for everyone here from quiet beach vacation to lovely little towns. I love the colors of Guanajuato city and while I don’t know if I’d give surfing a try, I could definitely spend a lazy week in Sayulita.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Emma: Yes, Bacalar is something else! I’m so glad my blog inspired you to visit Mexico 🇲🇽

      Reply
  9. SHANY

    Everything looks so perfect! I would love to visit all of these places. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Shany: You’re welcome… & I hope you get to visit these & all your dream destinations.

      Reply
  10. Kate Toll

    What a great list! I love visiting Mexico, my favorite place is San Miguel de Allende! But I’ve also always wanted to visit Oaxaca, it’s so beautiful!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Kate: SMA is beautiful & actually only about an hour from Guanajauto, #2 on this list! I hope you make it to Oaxaca soon — You’ll love it.

      Reply
  11. Sarah

    I adore this post so much!!! In all my visits to Cancun/Playa Mujeres/Riviera Maya I’ve never been to Bacalar and it’s high on my list now!!! I have a friend doing whale shark tours in Holbox – I just need to time it right! What gorgeous spots to get to – thanks for the inspiration. I can’t wait to come back!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Sarah: You really must make it to see Bacalar, it is so spectacular & so very different from the rest of Quintana Roo state/Riviera Maya.

      Reply
  12. Disha Smith

    Your photos from your trip to Mexico are beautiful!! I can’t wait to visit someday!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Disha: Thank you! It’s such a beautiful country, so it’s very easy to photograph. I hope you can visit & see for yourself!!

      Reply
  13. Travelling Tam

    Such a great post! I cannot tell you how many years I’ve wanted to go to Mexico but it’s also so big – where do you even start! These are some fantastic ideas that I will definitely be coming back to when I end up making it!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Tam: I’m so glad you liked the post. Even though it’s not one of the ones mentioned here — because it’s certainly not “off the beaten path” — Mexico City is also a great first time Mexico destination! …but really anywhere is a great first time Mexico destination 🇲🇽

      Reply
  14. Caitlin

    I’ve seen lots of mention of Holbox recently, I definitely want to visit in the future!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Caitlin: I hope you get to! It’s very close to Cancun & Tulum, so I think many people are beginning to include Holbox in their Yucatan Peninsula itinerary.

      Reply
  15. Bliss

    Such a great guide. I’d love to visit Holbox and Sayulita. They both looks relaxed and full of interesting things to do.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Bliss: You’re right about Holbox & Sayulita… they are both very beautiful & very laid back!

      Reply
  16. Francesca

    I seriously need to explore more of Mexico. I live so close and I love going! I want to go to Cancun and Tulum. Oaxaca looks amazing too!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Francesca: I hope you make it to both of your choice destinations! They are two of the most popular & most visited in all of Mx.

      Reply
  17. Nicola Lavin

    Wow it looks so beautiful there. Your photographs immediately make me want to book flights.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Hi Nicola: Mexico is incredibly beautiful… I hope you do book that flight!

      Reply

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