Mexico Hidden Gems: The 10 You Need to Know About

Apr 18, 2020 | 34 comments

Looking to discover Mexico Hidden gems?

You’re in the right place — and with the right guide — as venturing off the beaten path in Mexico to hidden gems is kinda my thing! 👋 Hi, I’m Shelley, and I have been both living in, and also going on Mexico solo trips since 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. In an effort to keep this article to a reasonable size, the Top 11 Mexico hidden gems are featured here, but be sure to discover even more of Mexico in these related Mexico travel blogs.

As someone who’s been to half the states in Mexico, this guide is intended to shed some light on a country that is so much more than just Tulum, Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. That’s not to say those places aren’t wonderful in their own ways, just that you won’t find them here.

Rather, this article is all about traveling off the beaten path in Mexico — but not so off the beaten path that you don’t have plenty of Airbnb options with hot showers and WiFi. These 11 places are all top Mexico destinations, some of the most beautiful places in Mexico, in fact, just not the usual ones you already know about.

By the end of this article, your Mexico bucket list will have 10 more amazing places on it, from the best non-touristy places in Mexico, to pueblos magicos (magic towns), and even one hidden beach in Mexico. Ready to get to this list? Let’s dive in and discover some hidden gems in Mexico.

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Mexico Hidden Gems: Bacalar Lake

1. Bacalar Lagoon

Laguna Bacalar (Bacalar Lagoon) is basically a postcard. This blue waters in this freshwater lake is the main draw in the pueblo magico Bacalar. In case you’ve never heard of a Mexico pueblo magico, or magic town, let’s clarify.

📌 What is a pueblo magico? The Mexican Tourism Board awards the prestigious distinction of pueblo magico to small towns in the country with certain characteristics like unique culture, historic relevance and exceptional natural beauty. There are a total of five pueblos magicos on this list, but about 135 in total in all Mexico.

Where is Bacalar located?

Bacalar is in Quintana Roo state, in the Yucatan Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico. It is in the southern part of the state, and less than an hour from the Mexico-Belize border. 

This part of Mexico is home to the Mayans, who call Bacalar the “Lagoon of Seven Colors.” Ranging in depth from 0- to 200-feet, you’ll see the bright blues in the shallows, and the dark indigo blues in the deeper areas. The blue waters of Bacalar Lagoon has earned it the nickname, the Maldives of Mexico.

a sail boat in the middle of the blue waters of bacalar lagoon mexico
houses on the lake in bacalar lagoon mexico
Bacalar coral in the water near a swing

What is Bacalar Near?

Not far from Bacalar, there are some lesser-visited Yucatan Mayan Ruins, like Kohunlich and Becan. The Mexican Caribbean beach town of Mahahual, Mexico, is also nearby, and Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun, are within driving distance by rental car or bus.

What’s the best time to visit Bacalar?

Being in the tropics, Bacalar weather is hot year-round. The summers tend to be the hottest, rainiest, and have the most mosquitoes. While the months of November-May can be busier, they have the best weather to enjoy Bacalar Lake.

Is Bacalar worth visiting?

If you’re looking for a calm, beautiful place that’s known more for nature than nightlife, then yes, you’re going to fall in love with Bacalar Lake. While here, you can do all of the quintessential “vacation things,” like swim, eat and drink, read, lay in a hammock, chill, think, watch the sunrise and admire nature.

blue water in a tropical setting

RELATED BLOG ⛵️ Bacalar Lagoon in Mexico: How to Plan the Ultimate Trip

MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: BACALAR LAKE

Best Things to Do in Bacalar

BACALAR boat tours

Lake Bacalar is the second largest freshwater lake in the world at about 26-miles-long. The best way to see it all is on a boat tour. On Bacalar tours of the lagoon, you’ll see all the best sites, including the Canal de los Piratas (Pirate’s Channel), Cenote la Bruja (Witch’s Cenote) and Isla de los Pajaros (Bird Island).

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

Los Rapidos is one of the Bacalar balnearios, which are essentially beach clubs. As Los Rapidos is on the outskirts of Bacalar Lake, definitely check out some of the more centrally-located balnearios, like Cocalitos, Los Aluxes Bacalar and Bacalar Beach Club.

CENOTE AZUL BACALAR

Besides Bacalar Lagoon itself, you’ll want to check out the Bacalar cenotes, including the second most popular place to swim in Bacalar, Cenote Azul (Blue Cenote). This is one of the deepest Yucatan cenotes, at about 300-feet-deep.

Just as with the balnearios in Bacalar, you could spend the whole day at Cenote Azul, as there’s a restaurant, lockers for your stuff and bathrooms onsite.

rusted cannon at a fort pointed at the water
Cannon at the historic Fuerte de San Felipe (Saint Felipe’s Fort) in Downtown Bacalar.
MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: BACALAR LAKE

How Do I Travel to Bacalar?

FLYING TO BACALAR

The closest airport is Chetumal International Airport (CTM), located about 30-45 minutes away in the city of Chetumal. You can get a connecting flight through the Mexico City and Guadalajara Airports.

BUS TO BACALAR

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.

DRIVING TO BACALAR

Yucatan road trips are quite common, as there’s so many Yucatan Peninsula must see places. For this reason, and because Bacalar is quite remote, driving is a great option.

It is easily accessible from any of the other top Yucatan travel destinations: plan for 4.5 hours from Cancun and Merida, and 3.5 hours from Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Valladolid.

🚗💨 12 Useful Mexico Driving Tips

1. Rent with a reputable company! As they say, “you get what you pay for.” For a reliable Cancun car rental company, go with Discover Cars.

2. Avoid driving at night. When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and highways.

3. Always use the couta, or toll, roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. Pro tip: Bring cash for the tolls.

4. Download an offline map. Your signal will go in and out as you travel through rural areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, so download an offline map from Google or Maps.Me. You’ll also want to download some podcasts and music while you’re getting that map.

5. Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You don’t have to worry about conversion math here; just make sure the speed limit sign number matches your speedometer number.

6. Do not use your cell phone while you’re driving. Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. In fact, even having your phone in your hand is a ticket-able offense, so try not to even hold your phone while driving.

7. The rumors are true about the cops expecting bribes. If the cops pull you over, and they only will if you give them a reason to, they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.

8. Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). Make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as topes don’t always have signs alerting you to them.

9. Mexico’s gas stations are not self-serve. When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and live off tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1).

10. Mexico’s traffic lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.

11. Make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance. You are generally not covered in any way through your U.S. company when you drive in any other country.

12. Most travel insurance policies cover driving. In case you’re wondering Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?… The answer is hell yes! There’s a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important — maybe even more so when traveling during the pandemic.


Mexico Hidden Gems: Guanajuato City

2. Guanajuato City

Guanajuato (pronounced wan-uh-wat-toe) is like being in a painting. You’ll love spending the day taking travel 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.

Guanajuato is a festive town with several universities and festivals throughout the year. Among the two biggest is one of the biggest festivals in all of Mexico, the International Cervantino Festival, which takes place in October. This is followed immediately by Day of the Dead in Guanajuato, Dia de los Muertos, on November 1-2.

🌺💀🌺 Day of the Dead in Mexico on your bucket list? Head to this article for info on Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, one of the country’s biggest celebrations.

Where is Guanajuato located?

Guanajuato City is the capital of Guanajuato state, in central Mexico about 4.5 hours west of Mexico City. As Guanajuato is both the name of the city and the state, this can get confusing because the town is usually just referred to as Guanajuato, rather than Guanajuato City.

What is Guanajuato Near?

There are so many great places right around Guanajuato, and honestly, this area of the country makes for a great trip in itself. The beautiful Mexico colonial towns San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro are nearby, and the smaller pueblos of Peña de Bernal and Tesquisipan are also less than 1.5 hours away.

Beyond these, Mexico’s largest cities, Mexico City and Guadalajara are both accessible by rental car, bus, or a short flight.

What’s the best time to visit Guanajuato?

Central Mexico, where Guanajuato is located, has what’s known as an “Eternal Spring” climate. This means Guanajuato weather is pleasant year-round. The dry season runs November-May, which coincides with traveling to Guanajuato for Day of the Dead. 

Is Guanajuato worth visiting?

There’s a lot to do in Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town itself is not huge, but it is gorgeous, and actually considered one of the most beautiful places in Mexico. For those seeking a unique Mexico cultural experience, you’ll love Guanajuato City.

brightly colored home and buildings in the colorful colonial town of Guanajuato City, Guanajuato, Mexico, located in central Mexico, and a safe place for female solo Mexico travel

RELATED BLOG 📸 24 Instagrammable Places to Visit in Guanajuato + Free Map

MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: GUANAJUATO CITY

Best Things to Do in Guanajuato City

DOWNTOWN GUANAJUATO

The best way to experience Guanajuato City is by just walking around downtown, with essentially no agenda. This walkable city has numerous great plazas, cafes, churches, buildings and colorful streets where you’ll love taking some travel photos  — and then taking even more photos! 

📸 Head here for a complete guide to all the best things to see in Guanajuato City.

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.

Guanajuato MUMMY MUSEUM

The town’s most popular museum, and among the top things to do in Guanajuato, is visit the Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum). As the name says, it really is a museum of mummies. Yes, real mummies.

The Alley of the Kiss (Callejon del Beso), one of the must see Guanajuato places in downtown.
Funicular cable car going up a mountain in a colorful city
Take the Guanajuato Funicular up to the Monumento al Pipila (Pipila Monument).
MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: GUANAJUATO CITY

How Do I Travel to Guanajuato City?

DRIVING TO GUANAJUATO CITY

Guanajuato is in Central Mexico, about a 4-5 hour car or bus ride from Mexico City. It is about four hours from Guadalajara. This is generally considered a safe drive — as long as you do not drive at night. 

BUS TO GUANAJUATO CITY

Mexico’s bus transportation is safe, inexpensive and reliable. For extra comfort at not much of a price difference, opt for a luxury class bus, sit back and enjoy the ride. The biggest company is ADO, which goes just about everywhere in Mexico, but also check out Primera Plus.

FLYING TO GUANAJUATO CITY

You can just fly directly into Guanajuato International Airport (BJX), located about 30 minutes from downtown. The nearby Queretaro International Airport (QRO) has several direct flights from the U.S. to Mexico, so if you’re planning a Guanajuato – San Miguel de AllendeQueretero trip, you can compare prices.


Mexico Hidden Gems: Isla HOLBOX

3. Holbox Island

Holbox (pronounced hole-bosh) is one of the best beach towns in Mexico, and the only island on this list of off the beaten path Mexico hidden gems. The thing you’ll love most about 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 this incredible beach town island. There are no street lights, golf carts and bikes remain the main modes of transport, and the roads are “paved” with beach sand.

You won’t find tourist shops, Holbox tours operators don’t scream at you to buy from them, and there’s not even chain restaurants. It’s just beautiful beaches for miles, hammocks in the water, and “good vibes,” as the kids say!

Where is Holbox located?

Isla Holbox is an island in Quintana Roo state, in the Yucatan Peninsula of southeastern Mexico. It is located in the Caribbean Sea in the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, a protected natural area.

woman laying in the Caribbean Sea on a hammock in Holbox Island, Mexico

What is Holbox Near?

As an island, there’s not much near it, but being in the Yucatan Peninsula, there are many other places easily accessible to Holbox Island, Mexico. Many head to Holbox from Cancun, which is about three-hours by car to the town of Chiquila, where you catch the Holbox ferry.

What’s the best time to visit Holbox Island?

Located in the tropics, Holbox has hot, rainy, summers. However, many visit during this time to swim with the whale sharks in Holbox, which migrate past the island from June-September. Beyond this popular time to visit, the months of November-March are the nicest to visit Holbox. 

Is Holbox Island worth visiting?

Holbox Island is a wonderful place with a great mix of small town feel, beautiful beaches and nature, and even a bit of nighttime options. It can be a bit of a trek to get there, but if you’re seeking unique places to visit in Mexico, Holbox checks a lot of boxes.

small beach town with big palm trees and sand roads
Calle Tiburon Ballena (Whale Shark Street), one of the main streets in Downtown Holbox Island.
Mexico Hidden Gems: ISLA HOLBOX

Best Things to Do in Holbox Island

Lay in THE Holbox HAMMOCKS

One of the most Instagram worthy spots are the Holbox hammocks in the water. If you’re looking for a relaxing spot, head to the water hammocks at Punta Cocos beach. The more famous hammocks are on the other end of the island at Playa Holbox beach, where you’ll also find the colorful HOLBOX letters sign.

BIOLUMINESCENCE ON HOLBOX ISLAND

Beyond the water hammocks during the day, Punta Coco beach is a great spot to watch the sunset away from the crowds, and really comes alive when the sun goes down.

At night, head to this beach to see the bioluminescence in Holbox. You can (usually) see it all year long, but it’s most vibrant during the New Moon — when the moon’s not visible in the sky.

SWIM WITH THE WHALE SHARKS iN HOLBOX

If you visit during June-September, 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 and don’t even have sharp teeth. They are huge though — 40-feet-long huge — and this is an unforgettable experience.

🐳 Practice Responsible Tourism in Mexico: Only use an ethical tour company that keeps the animals’ safety and well being as their top priority when doing a Holbox whale shark tour.

Mexico Hidden Gems: ISLA HOLBOX

How Do I Travel to Holbox Island?

DRIVING TO CHIQUILA (HOLBOX ISLAND)

To get to Holbox from anywhere, you first have to get to the small town of Chiquilá, Mexico. At the Chiquila ferry dock, you’ll buy your ticket and take the 20 minute ferry to Holbox Island.

Upon arriving to Chiquila in your rental car, you’ll have to leave it there before taking the Holbox ferry because cars are not allowed on the island. Not to worry; there are paid parking lots right next to the dock that cost about $5USD per day. 

BUS TO CHIQUILA FERRY (HOLBOX ISLAND)

Most Yucatan bus companies have daily trips to/from Chiquila, at varying levels of comfort. The biggest bus company is ADO, which goes just about everywhere and has luxury class buses, though Oriente and Mayab are other Chiquila bus options.

HOLBOX ISLAND FERRY

There are a couple of ferry companies that run daily, every hour or so, from about 6am-8pm. Keep in mind Isla Holbox runs on “island time,” meaning schedules are a little more laid back. You can buy your Holbox ferry tickets right at the dock in Chiquila.

FLYING TO HOLBOX ISLAND

Holbox also has a small airport for private planes, Aerodromo de Holbox or Holbox Aerodrome (code: HOL). You charter the plane from Cancun for this 35-minute flight, which will cost about $600USD for up to five people on a one-way charter.


Mexico Hidden Gems: Oaxaca City

4. Oaxaca City

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 Oaxaca is simply amazing.There’s everything here: amazing Oaxacan food, rich history, colorful festivals like Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, beautiful nature, colonial architecture, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, indigenous artisan communities, and more.

Where is Oaxaca located?

Oaxaca City, Mexico, is the capital of Oaxaca state, located in southern Mexico, about six hours south of Mexico City. Oaxaca is the name of the city and the state, though the town is usually just referred to as Oaxaca, rather than Oaxaca City, or Oaxaca de Juarez, its official name.

Day of the Dead Oaxaca colorful altar
Day of the Dead cemetary with flowers and lit candles

🌺💀🌺 Day of the Dead in Oaxaca: For a truly Mexico bucket list experience, the Oaxaca Dia de los Muertos celebration is well worth the trip. Head to the linked article for everything you need to know for Oaxaca travel planning to one of the best places to experience Day of the Dead in Mexico.

What is Oaxaca Near?

Oaxaca is surrounded by many other great Mexico states, but travelers commonly spend time in both Oaxaca City and the beaches of Oaxaca. The most popular beaches include Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, Zipolite, the famed nudist beach in Mexico, and Mazunte, one of the 135 pueblos magicos in Mexico.

What’s the best time to visit Oaxaca?

Oaxaca City’s temperate climate means this city is basically a year-round destination. You’ll want to try to avoid Oaxaca’s rainy season from June-September, but during the other months you’ll enjoy warm days and cool nights.

If you want to avoid the crowds, Oaxaca City’s busy season runs from late-October for Day of the Dead, through March. Though possibly rainy, many visit Oaxaca City for the Guelaguetza Festival in July, known as the largest folkloric festival in Latin America.

Is Oaxaca worth visiting?

Can we curse around here!!? …because FU+K YES Oaxaca is worth visiting! Oaxaca, in a word, is magical. This is the Mexico people imagine Mexico to be, and also known as a Foodie Capital of Mexico, so what’s not to love about Oaxaca!?

RELATED BLOG 🍷🍽 Eating Alone While Traveling: How to Overcome Your Fear

Centro Historico in Oaxaca City, the Historic Downtown, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: OAXACA CITY

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City

Oaxaca Centro Historico 

The best way to experience the city is by strolling downtown to see all the top sites in Oaxaca, like Templo de Santo Domingo, home to the Oaxaca Botanical Garden. There’s also great museums, like the Oaxaca Textile Museum, mercados (markets) to sample delicious Oaxacan food, and beautiful buildings and colorful streets.

📸 Head here for a complete guide to all the best things to see in Centro Historico, Oaxaca City.

HIERVE EL AGUA IN OAXACA

Hierve el Agua (Boiling Water) is one of most beautiful and Instagram worthy Oaxaca places. Actually, it’s technically about 40 miles outside of the city in the town of Roeguia, but you can get there within an hour by taxi or opt to go on a Hierve el Agua tour.

MONTE ALBAN Oaxaca

Both Centro Historico (Historic Downtown) and Monte Alban are UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Oaxaca. The prehispanic city of Monte Alban functioned as the capital of Oaxaca’s indigenous Zapotec people until 800 AD, when it was then uninhabited for unknown reasons. As one of the top Oaxaca sites, head there early to beat the crowds.

BONUS: DAY OF THE DEAD in oaxaca

Each year, from November 1-2, 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.

🌺💀🌺 Head here for a complete guide to planning your trip to Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City.

MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: OAXACA CITY

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. The airport is only about 25 minutes from downtown, and easily accessible by taxi, colectivo (small, shared van) or private taxi.

🚕💨 Pro Tip: There’s no Uber in Oaxaca, but there are plenty of taxis.

Driving TO OAXACA CITY

Oaxaca is in southern Mexico, about six hours by car from Mexico City. The drive is generally considered safe, but make sure you always rent a car in Mexico from a reputable company, like Discover Cars, and get full coverage insurance. Some also drive over from

BUS TO OAXACA

For bus travel, ADO, Mexico’s largest company, has day and overnight trip options. As roads in Oaxaca aren’t always the best, taking the bus sometimes doubles travel time.

OAXACA CITY TO PUERTO ESCONDIDO 

Also headed to the coast of Oaxaca? Smart choice! Coastal Oaxaca has some of the best beaches in Mexico — from the world famous surf town of Puerto Escondido, to the pueblo magico (magic town) of Mazunte, to laid back Huatulco, and clothing optional Zipolite.

🚌 🚙 ✈️ Head here to discover all your transportation options in this Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido & Huatulco: 5 Transportation Options.


Mexico Hidden Gems: Tolantongo Caves

5. Las Grutas Tolantongo

Grutas Tolantongo, AKA Tolantongo grutas or Tolantongo caves, is gorgeous, and one of the most Instagram worthy places in Mexico. It is also one of the best Mexico City day trips and weekend trips, located about four hours north of the city.

As one of the best Mexico hidden gems, with emphasis on “hidden,” planning a trip to Las Grutas de Tolantongo isn’t always quick. In fact, the easiest way to go is on a Mexico City to Tolantongo Tour, which is often more economical than visiting on your own.

Where is Las Grutas Tolantongo located?

The Grutas de Tolantongo is located in Hidalgo state, in central Mexico. Hidalgo state is one of the lesser-visited states in Mexico, but one of the best places to enjoy the country’s lush, green, unspoiled nature.

Las Grutas Tolantongo natural hot spring pools near Mexico City

RELATED BLOG 🧜‍♀️ Las Grutas Tolantongo: How to Visit Mexico’s Hot Springs

What is Las Grutas Tolantongo Near?

Hidalgo state and the Tolantongo Grutas is between 3-5 hours from a few other top Mexico travel destinations, like Mexico City to the south, and Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and Queretaro, to the west.

What’s the best time to visit Las Grutas Tolantongo?

Tolantongo is open all year to visit, and as the water comes from a hot spring, you can swim all year also. As it’s located in Central Mexico, which has what is known as an “Eternal Spring” weather, expect springtime temperatures for most of the year.

Is Las Grutas Tolantongo worth visiting?

If you have the time in your trip, love being in nature, enjoy venturing off the beaten path, and want to visit one of the most beautiful places in Mexico, then Tolantongo is worth a visit. As it’s a bit remote, you’ll have to use 1-2 days of your Mexico trip, but you won’t regret it after visiting Grutas Tolantongo.

bright blue water and waterfalls in a forest - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
Mexico Hidden Gems: TOLANTONGO CAVES

Best Things to do in Grutas de Tolantongo

THE CAVE AND TUNNEL

Located right next to one another, this part of Tolantongo is where most of the hot water comes from, that then feeds out to the whole site.

To enter, you’ll get in line, which does move fast, and pass under a small waterfall that goes inside the Tolantongo cave.

THE POOLS 

These are Tolantongo hot springs where all the Instagram shots happen. Located right next to the pools, don’t pass up the chance to walk across the Suspension Bridge to get some amazing views of the canyon below.

📸 Pro Tip: If you’re looking to get the Instagram money shot and don’t want any other people in your photos, be at the pools within the first 30 minutes of opening. (As you can see in the IG photo, I got there too late 🤣)

The River

While the Tolantongo pools are the most photographed place, the river is one of the most beautiful places at Tolantongo.

It cascades down in sections, and at each section, you can sit under the water as it falls on you for a natural hydro-massage.

blue river water cascading over rocks - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: TOLANTONGO CAVES

How Do I Travel to Grutas de Tolantongo?

Grutas Tolantongo Tours

From Mexico City, a group tour is the most convenient, and often, most inexpensive, way to visit Tolantongo. You save money not paying for a hotel room at one of the Tolantongo resorts, and returning to the same day. Also, not dealing with a rental car, insurance, gas, and driving in a foreign country makes the tour the easiest option.

🧜‍♀️💦 Head here for some options of Mexico City to Tolantongo tours.

DRIVING TO Las Grutas Tolantongo

Besides a tour, the second easiest way to visit Tolantongo is in a private rental car from Discover Cars. The drive from Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato is about 4-5 hours, and from Queretero, about 2-3 hours.

BUS TO Las Grutas Tolantongo

As bus travel is quite popular in Mexico, there is a way to get from Mexico City to Grutas Tolantongo on the bus, however, it does take a while. 🚌💨 Head here for the complete Mexico City to Tolantongo bus and public transport route.


Mexico Hidden Gems: San cristobal de las casas

6. San Cristobal de las Casas

Located about 1.5 miles above sea level, way up in the Central Highlands, you’ll find the mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. This pueblo magico (magic town) lives up to its magical name for nature, food and culture lovers.

Those continuing on to Central America from Mexico will often use San Cristobal as a last stop, because you can do a land crossing into Guatemala from this part of Mexico. This is also a popular place for backpackers, as it’s safe and inexpensive.

Where is San Cristobal de las Casas located?

San Cristobal de las Casas is the Chiapas state, located in southern Mexico. It is at a higher elevation of about 1.5-miles, so make sure you’re prepared with an altitude sickness bracelet and altitude sickness meds. so you don’t get altitude sickness if you’re not used to being this high up.

What is San Cristobal de las Casas Near?

San Cristobal borders Oaxaca state to the west, and Guatemala to the east. It is the second biggest city in the state, behind the capital city, Tuxtla Guitierrez. Many combine their trip with visits to Tuxtla Guitierrez, as well as Palenque and Chiapa de Corzo, two of Mexico’s pueblos magicos.

What’s the best time to visit San Cristobal de las Casas?

Located quite far up in the mountains, San Cristobal de las Casas weather is cooler than what most associate with Mexico weather. It’s more of a misty rainforest feel here, with cooler temperatures, and a pretty intense rainy season. For the best weather, head to San Cristobal from November to April.

Is San Cristobal de las Casas worth visiting?

San Cristobal de las Casas still feels very connected to its indigenous Mayan heritage. This is the perfect place for anyone who wants a true Mexican cultural experience, but also posh accommodations — like Hotel Bo and Casa del Alma Hotel Boutique & Spa — two of the best hotels in San Cristobal de las Casas.

MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS

Best Things to do in San Cristobal

Stroll San Cristobal Centro Historico 

San Cristobal is a small Colonial town, and completely walkable. Spend some time just roaming the streets to see the colorful buildings and eat amazing food — perhaps some you’ve prepared in a cooking class — and at the Mayan Textiles Museum, the best museum in San Cristobal.

Sumidero Canyon Boat Tour

Head back to Tuxtla Gutierrez to do the boat tour of Cañyon del Sumidero (Sumidero Canyon), one of the largest navigable canyons on Earth. You can usually purchase a tour for about $30USD from a number of tour operators in Downtown San Cristobal de las Casas.

Palenque Ruins

Don’t miss some of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico in Palenque, a pueblo magico. If you have the time, spend the night there, as it’s about five hours from San Cristobal. There are day trips to Palenque from San Cristobal, though it is a long day.

MEXICO HIDDEN GEMS: SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS

How Do I Travel to San Cristobal de las Casas?

FLYING TO SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS

The closest airport to San Cristobal de las Casas is Tuxtla Gutierrez International Airport (Code: TGZ), located in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital and largest city in Chapas state. From there, you can take a colectivo (small, shared van), taxi, or rental car for the one hour drive to San Cristobal.

🚕💨 Pro Tip: There’s no Uber in San Cristobal and Chiapas state, but there are plenty of taxis.

DRIVING TO San cristobal

As Chiapas is quite remote, you might not want to drive here. The closest place frequented by visitors is Oaxaca City, at about 8-9 hours away, though this isn’t known to be the safest drive.

BUS TO San cristobal

As San Cristobal is a popular place for backpackers, bus travel here is quite popular. As not much is near here, opt for a luxury class bus ticket on ADO, for what might be a long journey to this off the beaten path Mexico destination.


Mexico Hidden Gems: CAMPECHE

7. Campeche City

Though San Francisco de Campeche City, AKA Campeche City, is quaint at about 25 square blocks, there’s still some amazing things to do in Campeche, Mexico. The walled city of Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its beautiful colorful streets, and fort walls once used to ward off pirate attacks. 

Where is Campeche City located?

Campeche City is the capital of Campeche state, one of the three states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula. It is located on the Gulf of Mexico, in southeastern Mexico, and the least-visited of the three Yucatan states.

Colorful colonial town
red trolly next to a park and near a large colonial church - day trips from Merida
entrance to walled city of Campeche, Mexico

What is Campeche City Near?

Campeche state borders Yucatan state, so it’s not far from the top destinations in that state, Merida and Valladolid. In fact, Campeche is one of the best best day trips from Merida

What’s the best time to visit Campeche City?

Being in the Yucatan, it’s hot, rainy and humid in Campeche from about April to October. As with the entire Yucatan Peninsula, the best time to visit is from November to March when the temperatures cool down and it’s pleasant to walk outside.

Is Campeche City worth visiting?

For those traveling to Merida, don’t pass up the opportunity for a Merida to Campeche day trip or overnight trip! As it’s quite small, Campeche City makes a great place to spend 1-2 days before continuing to explore other parts of the state, like the Calakmul Mayan Ruins, Isla Aguada pueblo magico and Ciudad del Carmen beach town.

yellow wall surrounding a fort - day trips from Merida
The yellow San Jose Fort, one of the must see Campeche City sites.
Mexico Hidden Gems: CAMPECHE

Best Things to do in Campeche

Visit the Campeche Forts

Centuries ago, Campeche was vulnerable to pirate attacks due to its location on the Gulf of Mexico. Now that pirates don’t pose a threat, you can take a leisurely walk along the rampart walls atop the Fuerte de San Miguel (Saint Michael’s Fort), and visit the bright yellow Fuerte de San Jose el Alto (Saint Jose’s Fort).

Campeche Tram Tour

You’ll find the bright red and green trams parked at Independence Square, AKA the Zocalo, or main square, in Downtown Campeche City.

There are two Tram tours in Campeche routes offered: Tranvia de la Ciudad (City Tram Tour) and El Guapismo (The Handsome Tour), a longer tour which goes along the Gulf of Mexico and passes by the Fuerte de San Jose el Alto.

Sunset at the Campeche Malecon

The Campeche Malecon (boardwalk) is located all along the Gulf of Mexico, and makes for the perfect place for a sunset stroll. There are a few parks, sculptures and monuments along the Malecon that are of interest, namely the Campeche Letters sign, Angel Maya (Mayan Angel) and Novia del Mar (Ocean’s Girlfriend) sculptures.

larger church, city tram and zocalo park in downtown Campeche City, Mexico

RELATED BLOG 🚗💨 Merida to Campeche: How to Take an Amazing Day Trip

Mexico Hidden Gems: CAMPECHE

How Do I Travel to Campeche?

DRIVING TO Campeche City

The Merida to Campeche drive is only about 90-minutes, and from Valladolid, slightly longer. From other parts of the Yucatan, like Tulum and Playa del Carmen, it’s a bit further, but still a totally safe drive in your rental car.

BUS TO Campeche City

The same with driving, it is an easy bus trip from Merida to Campeche, and also from Valladolid. For this trip, check the schedule with ADO, Mexico’s largest bus company, which offers several trips each day from Merida and Valladolid.

FLYING TO Campeche City

There is a small airport, Campeche International Airport (CPE), that you can fly into through a connecting flight from Mexico City International Airport.


Mexico Hidden Gems: Tepoztlan

8. Tepoztlan

In search of the best Mexico City off the beaten path destination? Look no further than the “magic town” pueblo magico Tepoztlan. This haven for spiritual seekers and healers, wellness enthusiasts, yogis, artists and the like, is also one of the best day trips from Mexico City.

Where is Tepoztlan located?

Tepoztlan (pronounced tep-poze-lan), is located just in Central Mexico, just one hour south of Mexico City in Morelos state. This is one of the smallest states in Mexico, and Tepoztlan is a top destination in Morelos.

What is Tepoztlan Near?

Besides its proximity to Mexico City, many also like to check out another beautiful place in Morelos state, Cuernavaca, a historic colonial town. Besides these cities, the Taxco pueblo magico, a gorgeous old silver mining town, is about two hours south.

What’s the best time to visit Tepoztlan?

Tepoztlan, located in Central Mexico, has the “Eternal Spring” climate, so it’s more or less a year-round destination with moderate temperatures. The dry season runs October-May, and the summer months can be quite rainy. 

Is Tepoztlan worth visiting?

Tepoztlan is one of those places some people visit once, and end up moving to. It has its own vibe and attracts spiritual types and artists in droves, but for those not looking to relocate, it does make for a great wellness weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of Mexico City.

RELATED BLOG ✈️ 4 Days in Mexico City: The Ultimate CDMX Travel Itinerary

Mexico Hidden Gems: Tepoztlan

Best Things to do in Tepoztlan

Climb the tepozteco pyramid

For many, no visit to Tepoztlan is complete without climbing to the Tepozteco pyramid. It is quite an intense climb to the top, but the views are spectacular. This pyramid is dedicated to Tepoztēcatl, the ancient Aztec god of pulque (pronounced pull-kay), Mexico’s original adult beverage!

Visit the Tepoztlan Market

Head to the main mercado (market) in town, the City Market of Tepoztlan, to sample some pulque, a centuries-old prehispanic beverage made from the fermented agave plant — the same plant used to make tequila and mezcal.

Though an acquired taste, pulque, “the drink of the gods” is just one of the interesting things to try at this lively mercado. Be on the lookout for vendors selling prehispanic foods, like alache, a dark green veggie, and itacates, fried corn cake, as well as cecina, a cured, dried steak meat famous in Morelos state.

Temazcal Purification ceremony

As one of the top places for spirituality and wellness in Central Mexico, many take advantage of the ancient healing practices still offered in Tepoztlan today.

One of the most popular is a temazcal ceremony. A temazcal (pronounced tem-maz-scal), is similar to a Native American sweat lodge, and has been used for centuries in Mexico for purification of the body and mind.

How Do I Travel to Tepoztlan?

The closest airport to Tepoztlan is Mexico City International (code: MEX). As driving in Mexico City isn’t for the faint of heart, you might want to just opt for a tour to Tepoztlan, or take the bus. There are several bus companies in Mexico, like ADO and Primera Plus, with multiple Mexico City to Tepoztlan trips each day.


Mexico Hidden Gems: Cholula, Puebla

9. Cholula

The state of Puebla, where Cholula is located, seems like its own country altogether. Poblanos, as the locals are known, have their own foods, slang and customs from the rest of Mexico. Cholula is one of the most colorful towns in the state of Pubela, and all of Mexico.

🌶 Fun Fact: Cholula brand hot sauce is named in homage to this 2,500-year-old Colonial town.

Where is Cholula located?

Cholula, Mexico, is in Puebla state, located one state to the southeast of Mexico City, in Central Mexico. On its south side, Puebla borders the state of Oaxaca.

What is Cholula Near?

The pueblo magico (magic town) of Cholula is about an hour from Puebla City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the capital of Puebla state. Atlixco, another pueblo magico is also not far, as well as Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park, home to the Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl Mexico volcanoes.

What’s the best time to visit Cholula?

Blessed with the “Eternal Spring” climate of Central Mexico, Cholula weather is nice for most of the year. The rainy season lasts from June to October.

Cinco de Mayo in Puebla: Though very popular in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo isn’t really celebrated in Mexico outside of Puebla City, where the country’s biggest celebration takes place on May 5th each year. For this reason, many visit Puebla and nearby Cholula in early-May for the festivals and battle reenactments.

Is Cholula worth visiting?

Cholula is a small town and makes for a nice day trip from Puebla, or even overnight trip from Mexico City. For those visiting Puebla City and state, do not pass up the opportunity to visit the colorful, historic city of Cholula.

🚗💨 RELATED BLOG: Take A Day Trip from Mexico City to These 15 Amazing Places

The Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies), the iconic Cholula church.
Mexico Hidden Gems: Cholula, Puebla

Best Things to do in Cholula

Stroll Historic Downtown Cholula

Spend the day exploring historic downtown San Andrés Cholula, to see all the colorful buildings, streets and churches. Ancient legends use to say Cholula had 365 churches, one for each day of the year, and though that has been debunked, it feels like there are 365 because they are all very grand and elaborate.

Our Lady of Remedies Church

Of all the churches, none is more iconic and recognizable than Cholula’s giant yellow and white Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, which towers over the city. While this grand 16th Century Catholic church is a masterpiece, its coolest feature is located beneath it. 

Great Pyramid of Cholula

Located under the church — yes, under it — is the Great Pyramid of Cholula. This is the largest pyramid, by volume, found on Earth; bigger than any pyramid in Egypt or elsewhere. After seeing the church, pay a visit to this large, well-reserved archaeological site used by the Aztecs to worship their central deity, Quetzalcoatl.

Mexico Hidden Gems: Cholula, Puebla

How Do I Travel to Cholula?

DRIVING TO Cholula

From Puebla City, this is an easy and short 30-minute drive in your rental car. It’s also doable from any of the neighboring states and Mexico City, as long as you’re only planning to drive during the day.

BUS TO Cholula

With service to all parts of Mexico, ADO is always an option for a trip to Cholula. The smaller company, Primera Plus, also services much of Central Mexico, but regardless of your choice, make sure to upgrade to first class if you have a longer ride.

FLYING TO Cholula

Puebla, the fifth largest city in Mexico, has its own airport, Puebla International Airport (PBC). From there, you can rent a car, take an Uber, taxi, or shared transportation for the 30-45 minute trip to Cholula.


Mexico Hidden Gems: Sauylita

10. Sayulita

It’s almost as if good vibes were invented in this chill bohemian haven of Sayulita, Mexico, one of the safest places to travel in Mexico. This laid back Mexico beach town is also one of the best places to surf in Mexico.

Besides surfing, just what made this otherwise tiny beachfront pueblo so famous and Instagram worthy?

The colorful Sayulita flags, called papel picado, are traditional Mexican folk art paper flags.

While you’ll find them in other places in Mexico during holidays and celebrations, Sayulita has them up all year.

Where is Sayulita located?

Sayulita is in Nayarit state, in southern-central Mexico. It is located on some of the best beaches in all Mexico, known as the Riviera Nayarit, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

What is Sayulita Near?

Sayulita is only about an hour from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, one of the top Mexico travel destinations.

Many also spend some time visiting the next town over, San Pancho, a laid-back haven for surfers, yogis and digital nomads, and among the best non touristy places in Mexico.

What’s the best time to visit Sayulita?

As with nearly all beach towns in Mexico, the ideal time to visit is from November to April. During the summer months, you can expect heavy rains, hot and humid days, and even the possibility of a hurricane.

Is Sayulita worth visiting?

It is definitely worth visiting if you want to experience small town Mexico, mixed with a beach. In fact, some go for a Sayulita day trip from Puerto Vallarta, and end up wishing they had opted for Sayulita instead because it is much calmer and more peaceful, with equally-beautiful beaches.

Mexico Hidden Gems: Sayulita

Best Things to Do in Sayulita

SURF LESSONS IN SAYULITA

Always wanted to try surfing? Now’s your chance, surfing in Sayulita is one of the best things to do. There is a great wave that breaks just offshore, which is perfect for beginners, and plenty of surf schools on Playa Sayulita, the main beach near downtown.

If surfing’s not for you, there are plenty of other Sauylita things to do that involve just being on some of the best beaches in Riviera Nayarit.

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 best beaches in Sayulita, too.

ISLAS MARIETAS TOUR: Mexico hidden beach

The Marietas Islands is truly a Mexico bucket list experience, and the home to the famous hidden beach in Mexico, Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach). 

There are two Islas Marietas tours offered: One lets you swim and snorkel near the islands, and the other one lets you actually go onto the secret beach. Mexico, in an effort to keep this place pristine, only allows about 125 visitors per day — so tours sell out fast and in advance.

If visiting one of the most secluded beaches in Mexico is on your travel agenda, secure your spot on the Hidden Beach and Snorkeling Tour before you even arrive to Sayulita, to ensure you get one of those few coveted spots.

Hidden Beach Mexico: Book your Hidden Beach and Snorkeling Tour to see the beautiful Marietas Islands.
Mexico Hidden Gems: Sayulita

How Do I Travel to Sayulita?

FLYING TO SAYULITA

Getting to Sayulita is easy, as you’ll fly into Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR), which has direct flights from many major U.S. cities. From there, you’ll drive your rental car, or take an Uber, private transport service, or public bus, for the one-hour trip to Sayulita.

DRIVING TO SAYULITA

Driving only makes sense from Puerto Vallarta or Guadalajara. In fact, if you’re just staying in Sayulita, you might want to skip driving at all, but if you’re you’re also visiting the great areas near Sayulita — Puerto Vallarta, San Francisco (AKA San Pancho), Guadalajara, Tequila and San Sebastian del Oeste — a rental car is a great option.

BUS TO SAYULITA

You can take a bus to Sayulita from all places mentioned above. For longer trips, opt for a luxury class ticket on ADO or Primera Plus, as the price difference isn’t much, but the quality is significantly better.


Mexico Hidden Gems

Mexico Travel Guide

1. Is Mexico safe for travel?

Short answer: Yes! Aside from hurricanes and petty crime, all of the best Mexican beach towns listed here are safe, both for Mexico travel solo and with a group.

As no place on Earth is 100% safe, including Mexico, you’ll want to, of course, follow the 10 General Travel Safety Tips below, the same ones you would follow when traveling anywhere on Earth. You should also register for the U.S. STEP Program and put your mind at ease by purchasing Mexico travel insurance.

Mexico Travel Insurance

Wondering Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?

Want an added level of security and peace of mind during these strange travel times? Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health while traveling. If Mexico and Tulum travel safety are on your mind, get your free quote below from World Nomads, one of the biggest names in travel insurance.

10 General Travel Safety Tips
  1. Don’t walk home alone at night if you can help it; take a taxi or ride your bike in Tulum.
  2. Always listen to your intuition because your intuition is always right.
  3. If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place immediately. If you feel you’re in danger, don’t worry about making a kind, nice, or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away ASAP.
  4. Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
  5. Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
  6. Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things.
  7. Speaking of bar neighbors, don’t take drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended near one.
  8. Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
  9. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
  10. This should be a no brainer since you’re traveling during a pandemic, but get Travel Insurance!
Register for the STEP Program

Make sure you enroll in the FREE STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In Tulum, that’s the Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen.

After you’ve registered, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home, in the event of an emergency while abroad.


🇲🇽 Mexico Podcast

Looking for Mexico travel safety info? This is the podcast for you!


Mexico Hidden Gems

2. Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

Short answer: Yes! In fact, the easiest, fastest and most convenient way to travel to most Mexico hidden gems is via rental car.

As a general rule, driving in Mexico is considered safe. However, there’s the obvious caveat to that: Since you will be driving in another country, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Mexico driving laws, or ask the agent at your car rental for advice.

For your convenience, there are 12 useful Mexico driving tips below to help you with how to drive in Mexico. For a Mexico car rental provider, Discover Cars is a great company that compares prices at numerous Mexico car rental agencies all over the country to get you the best price.

🚗💨 12 Useful Mexico Driving Tips

1. Rent with a reputable company! As they say, “you get what you pay for.” For a reliable Cancun car rental company, go with Discover Cars.

2. Avoid driving at night. When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and highways.

3. Always use the couta, or toll, roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. Pro tip: Bring cash for the tolls.

4. Download an offline map. Your signal will go in and out as you travel through rural areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, so download an offline map from Google or Maps.Me. You’ll also want to download some podcasts and music while you’re getting that map.

5. Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You don’t have to worry about conversion math here; just make sure the speed limit sign number matches your speedometer number.

6. Do not use your cell phone while you’re driving. Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. In fact, even having your phone in your hand is a ticket-able offense, so try not to even hold your phone while driving.

7. The rumors are true about the cops expecting bribes. If the cops pull you over, and they only will if you give them a reason to, they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.

8. Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). Make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as topes don’t always have signs alerting you to them.

9. Mexico’s gas stations are not self-serve. When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and live off tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1).

10. Mexico’s traffic lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.

11. Make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance. You are generally not covered in any way through your U.S. company when you drive in any other country.

12. Most travel insurance policies cover driving. In case you’re wondering Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?… The answer is hell yes! There’s a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important — maybe even more so when traveling during the pandemic.


Mexico Hidden Gems

3. Do I need a visa for Mexico?

No, U.S. passport holders don’t need a visa to travel to Mexico. This is just one reason Mexico is one of the best travel destinations for Americans.

When you arrive in Mexico and go through Customs and Immigration, you’ll receive a 180-day (6 month) FMM tourist visa. This is a small piece of paper that you need to hold on to so you can give it back to an Immigration officer when you leave the country, so don’t lose your FMM!

4. Best time to visit Mexico?

For much of the country, the best time to visit is the Mexico dry season, November-March. During these cooler, winter months, temperatures are warm but pleasant. However, make sure to double check the weather reports because places like in Central Mexico, like Mexico City and Guadalajara, do get cold.

If you’re visiting any of the Mexico beach towns, November-March is the perfect time because these months are warm, but not humid, and the mosquitoes are at bay. It will also be after Hurricane Season ends, and you’ll likely have no rain at all.

5. What do I pack for Mexico?

Wondering exactly what to pack for Mexico? Head to this article for a complete guide on packing for your Mexico trip, The Ultimate Packing List for Mexico + FREE Printable Checklist.

🧳 FREE PRINTABLE PACKING LIST FOR MEXICO

Download your FREE printable packing list for Mexico below — it covers both Mexico beach packing and Mexico city packing. This multi-page Mexico packing checklist covers everything you’ll want to bring, and more importantly, what not to bring to Mexico.


Did we miss any Mexico Hidden Gems?

Please join the conversation and comment below any questions you have, or to highlight an off the beaten path place we missed!


Enjoy these related Mexico blogs!


Please join me on my Solo Travel & Mexico Travel adventures


¡Hola Chicas!

I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

I started this Blog and Podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel and Mexico travel off your bucket list… Read more

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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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