Best Places to Vacation in Mexico: Your Ultimate Guide

Mexico is a vibrant country full of stunning beaches, delicious food, friendly locals, and incredible history. From the ancient ruins of the Mayans to stunning colonial architecture, Mexico has so much to offer travelers. If you're looking for your next vacation destination, Mexico should be at the top of your list!

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
Best Places to Vacation in Mexico

Mexico is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Known for its gorgeous beaches, all-inclusive resorts, Mayan ruins, colonial cities, and amazing culture and cuisine, Mexico has something for every type of traveler. Whether you're looking for a relaxing beach getaway or an adventure packed trip exploring ancient sites, you're sure to find amazing places to explore in Mexico.

This article will highlight the top 15 best places to vacation in Mexico. We'll cover everything from major tourist destinations like Cancun to hidden gems like the islands of Holbox and Mujeres. You'll discover the best cities, beaches, Mayan ruins, and destinations for foodies, culture lovers, and nature enthusiasts. 

With so much to see and do, planning the perfect Mexico vacation can be overwhelming. Use this list of the must-see spots in Mexico to help you plan your next unforgettable trip!

1. Cancun - Spring Break Hot Spot with Stunning Beaches

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico

Cancun is one of Mexico's most popular tourist destinations, especially for spring breakers. But there's more to Cancun than just parties and nightclubs. Located on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Cancun is famous for its beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and lively resort atmosphere.

Main Attractions in Cancun:

  • Beaches - Cancun has over 25 miles of gorgeous beaches. Popular ones include Playa Delfines, Playa Marlin, Playa Tortugas, and Playa Langosta. The water is incredibly clear and warm throughout the year. 
  • Resorts & Hotels - Cancun is known for its all-inclusive resorts and hotels, many featuring their own man-made white sand beaches and pools. Some popular options are Le Blanc Spa Resort, Hyatt Ziva and Paradisus Cancun.
  • Nightlife - Cancun has a renowned nightlife scene. Popular areas like Kukulcan Plaza and the Hotel Zone have clubs, bars, and live entertainment.
  • Isla Mujeres - This stunning island just offshore from Cancun offers beaches, snorkeling, and a more relaxed vibe. You can visit by ferry from Cancun.
  • Underwater Museum - Also known as MUSA, this unique attraction has hundreds of sculptures installed on the sea floor for scuba divers to enjoy.

Best Time to Visit Cancun: Early December through April offers sunny skies and mild temperatures. Avoid hurricane season from July-October. Spring break is very popular in March.

2. Cabo San Lucas - Idyllic Beaches & Watersports Paradise

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
Cabo San Lucas

Located at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, Cabo San Lucas is famous for its beautiful beaches, luxury resorts, and world-class sport fishing. With its desert climate and stunning ocean landscapes, Cabo San Lucas has become an iconic Mexican vacation destination.

Top Attractions & Activities in Cabo:

  • Beaches - Lover's Beach and Divorce Beach are connected by a land bridge, with calm waters on Lover's side. The most popular beach is Medano Beach, with its gentle swells perfect for watersports.
  • Land's End - Take a boat tour to visit the distinctive sea arch El Arco at Land's End. Sea lions and pelicans live on the rocky cliffs. 
  • Watersports - Cabo is renowned for sports fishing. You can also enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, Jet Skiing, and whale watching tours.
  • Nightlife - Downtown Cabo has lots of bars, clubs, and a lively social scene. Stop into places like El Squid Roe, Mandala, or The Giggling Marlin.
  • Luxury Resorts - Stay at an all-inclusive resort like Cabo Azul, Grand Solmar, or Nobu Hotel Los Cabos.

Best Time to Visit: October-May, when hurricane season has passed and temperatures are cooler. Whale watching is excellent in winter.

3. Mexico City - Vibrant Capital with Arts, Culture & History

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
Mexico city

Mexico City is one of the largest and most vibrant cities in the world. As Mexico's capital and cultural center, the city offers amazing museums, historic sites, restaurants, and urban parks. From ancient ruins to modern art galleries, Mexico City is an exciting destination for any traveler.

Top Attractions in Mexico City:

  • Zocalo - This main plaza is surrounded by impressive buildings like the National Palace and Metropolitan Cathedral.
  • Templo Mayor - See ruins of the major Aztec temple right in the heart of downtown. Next to the cathedral.
  • Palacio de Bellas Artes - This beautiful art nouveau building houses extraordinary murals and an art museum. 
  • Chapultepec Park - Escape the city with a huge green space that features castles, lakes, and a zoo. 
  • National Museum of Anthropology - Mexico's largest museum has exhibits on ancient civilizations and cultures.
  • Frida Kahlo Museum - The famed artist's "blue house" is now a museum with her artwork, clothing, and personal artifacts.

Best Time to Visit: March to May or September to November for comfortable weather and fewer crowds.

4. Oaxaca - Cultural Hub with Fabulous Cuisine

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico

The southern city of Oaxaca de Juarez is known as the "cultural capital of Mexico." It has a gorgeous colonial center, indigenous Zapotec heritage, and some of the country's best cuisine. Oaxaca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Top Attractions in Oaxaca City:

  • Zocalo - Oaxaca's central square is lined with restaurants, historic buildings like the grand cathedral, and entertainment. 
  • Monte Alban - This ancient Zapotec city set on a high plateau has temples, pyramids, and stunning views.
  • Mercado 20 de Noviembre - This bustling market sells everything from handmade crafts to chiles, herbs, and spices. 
  • El Tule Tree - One of the world's widest trees, with a trunk circumference of 160 feet. It's over 2,000 years old.
  • Ruins - Mitla has intricate geometric stone patterns. Hierve El Agua's cliffs were formed by mineral bubbling springs.
  • Oaxacan Cuisine - Known for complex moles, chapulines (grasshoppers), tlayudas, chocolate, and mezcal.

Best Time to Visit Oaxaca: Late October through May, avoiding the rainy season. Time festivals like Day of the Dead (late October/early November) and Guelaguetza (July).

5. Tulum - Relaxed Bohemian Vibe & Stunning Ruins

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico

For a laid-back beach vacation with a bohemian flair, head to Tulum along Mexico's Caribbean coast. Known for its incredible ancient Mayan ruins and hip boutique hotels, Tulum offers a unique vacation combining culture, nature, and beautiful beaches. 

Top Attractions & Activities in Tulum:

  • Mayan Ruins - Tour the seaside ruins and climb the cliffside castle El Castillo. Nearby sites like Coba have pyramids you can climb.
  • Beaches - Relax on pretty beaches with powdery white sand and turquoise waters, like Playa Paraiso and Las Palapas beach.
  • Cenotes - These natural sinkholes with crystal clear pools are perfect for swimming. Popular ones include Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera.
  • Boutique Hotels - Insta-worthy hotels like Azulik, Mi Amor, and Papaya Playa Project have bohemian-chic decor. 
  • Tulum Town - Explore this artsy central area with yoga studios, organic cafes, and craft markets.

Best Time to Visit Tulum: November to April for great weather. Avoid rainier months from June to October.

6. San Miguel de Allende - Charming Colonial Gem

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
San Miguel allende

With its quaint cobblestone streets, vividly painted buildings, and historic churches, San Miguel de Allende is the quintessential charming Mexican town. This colonial city in the central highlands is popular with artists and expats. 

Top Attractions in San Miguel de Allende:

  • El Jardin - This lovely square is the heart of the city. Plaza bars and restaurants have patio seating for people watching.
  • Gothic Cathedral - The pink neo-Gothic cathedral dominates the plaza, with a facade and towers inspired by European churches. 
  • Historic Buildings - Pink, yellow, and terracotta homes have colonial-era touches like window grilles, wooden doors, and wrought-iron balconies.
  • Mercado de Artesanias - This daily craft market sells art, pottery, silver jewelry, textiles, and more made by local artisans. 
  • San Miguel de Allende Institute - Take a Spanish or cooking class at this renowned institute for expats and travelers. 

Best Time to Visit: September through May when the weather is dry and mild. Avoid rainy season from July-August.

7. Guanajuato - Treasure-Filled Former Silver Mining Town

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico

Built over ancient silver mines, the mountaintop city of Guanajuato is full of winding alleys, plazas, and brightly colored buildings. This cobblestoned historic town has an old-world charm. With its jazz and arts festivals, Guanajuato is also a popular student city.

Top Attractions in Guanajuato:

  • Tunnels - Walk through the winding underground tunnels, built to reroute floodwaters, to pop up in different parts of town.
  • Juarez Theater - This lavish baroque-style theater dates back to the colonial era and still hosts performances. 
  • Alhóndiga de Granaditas - Now a regional museum, this was originally an 18th-century grain storage facility.
  • Mina de la Valenciana - Take a tour of this former silver mine, once one of the world's most productive.
  • Mummy Museum - This morbidly fascinating museum displays naturally mummified bodies unearthed in the area. 

Best Time to Visit: September through mid-December provides the nicest weather and fewer crowds.

8. Puerto Vallarta - Charming Beach Town with LGBT Nightlife

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is a charming beach destination on Mexico's Pacific coast, known for its cobblestone streets, waterfront boardwalk, and thriving LGBT nightlife scene. With its picturesque beaches and outdoor adventures both on land and sea, Puerto Vallarta appeals to all types of travelers.

Top Attractions & Activities in Puerto Vallarta:

  • Beaches - Popular beaches include Playa Mismaloya, Playa Los Muertos, and Playa Conchas Chinas. 
  • Malecon - Take an evening stroll on the boardwalk along the ocean. Stop at a waterfront restaurant or bar to people watch. 
  • Whale Watching - Go on a cruise December-March to see humpback whales in the Bay of Banderas.
  • Outdoor Adventures - Choices include hiking in the Sierra Madre mountains, kayaking to secluded beaches, or an ATV tour through the jungle. 
  • Galleries - Puerto Vallarta has many art galleries and public sculptures, including the famous bronze seaside statues.

Best Time to Visit: Mid-December to April for great weather and whale watching. Avoid late summer's humid, rainy conditions.

9. Playa del Carmen - Hip Beach Town near Tulum & Cozumel

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
Playa del carmen

Just south of Cancun along the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is a more relaxed alternative, with palm tree-lined beaches, boutique hotels, and enticing nightlife. It's a popular base for visiting nearby spots like Tulum, Cozumel, and the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.

Top Attractions & Things to Do in Playa del Carmen:

  • Beaches - Playa's central beach has white powder sand perfect for swimming and watersports. Less crowded beaches stretch away from town.
  • Quinta Avenida - This bustling pedestrian street offers restaurants, shops, bars, and entertainment within walking distance of the beach. 
  • Cenotes - Swim in freshwater sinkholes like Cenote Azul or Cenote Cristalino. Most cenotes are located outside of town.
  • Cozumel - Take a quick ferry ride to explore this island, known for diving, beaches, and the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio. 
  • Adventure Parks - Zip lining, ATVs, cenote diving, and more active adventures available through parks like Xplor and Xcaret.

Best Time to Visit Playa del Carmen: Early December through April for ideal weather. Avoid September-October for rainy hurricane season. 

10. Isla Holbox - Laid-Back Island Paradise

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
Isla holbox

For a super laid-back vibe, visit Isla Holbox off the Yucatán Peninsula's northeast coast. Covered in coconut palms, Holbox has sand roads, colorful Caribbean buildings, and gorgeous beaches without high rise resorts. It's a world away from nearby Cancun. Holbox is also a great place to swim with whale sharks from May through September.

Top Attractions on Holbox Island:

  • Palm-Lined Beaches - The beaches here are some of the prettiest in Mexico. Great for swimming, kayaking, or just reading in a hammock.
  • Whale Shark Tours - Snorkel with these gentle giants from May-September when they gather to feed here.
  • Birdwatching - See pink flamingos, herons, pelicans, and other species in the Punta Coco sanctuary. 
  • Fly Fishing - Year-round angling for species like permit, tarpon, bonefish, and snook.
  • Paseo Kuka - Check out street art, shops, and restaurants along this pedestrian-only avenue. 

Best Time to Visit: Year-round, though May-September is ideal for calm waters and whale shark swimming.

11. Isla Mujeres - Tranquil Tropical Getaway

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
Isla mujeres

Located just 8 miles across the water from Cancun, Isla Mujeres feels worlds away. With its Caribbean beaches, colorful buildings, and laid-back island lifestyle, Isla Mujeres charms everyone who visits. Golf carts are the main mode of transportation here!

Top Attractions on Isla Mujeres:

  • Playa Norte - The island's most famous beach has crystal clear shallow waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. 
  • Garrafon Natural Reef Park - Snorkel the underwater sculpture museum or relax in their pool.
  • Hidalgo Avenue - Explore the downtown strip with restaurants, shops, and lively bars.
  • Turtle Farm - See the conservation efforts in action at this farm rescuing threatened sea turtles.
  • Punta Sur - The rocky southern point has a lighthouse, cliffs, and sculpture garden overlooking the sea. 

Best Time to Visit: May through mid-December for nicest weather. Avoid major crowds during North America's spring break period.

12. Cozumel - Top Spot for Diving & Snorkeling

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico

Cozumel is Mexico's largest Caribbean island, located just off the Yucatán Peninsula. Renowned for its incredible snorkeling and diving, Cozumel offers pristine coral reefs teeming with marine life. It's also home to secluded beaches and the ancient Mayan ruins of San Gervasio. 

Top Attractions and Activities on Cozumel:

  • Snorkeling & Diving - With visibility up to 200 feet, diving and snorkeling is world-class, especially at spots like Parque Chankanaab and the Palancar Reef. 
  • San Gervasio - Explore this fascinating archaeological site in the island's jungle interior with temples and plazas. 
  • Punta Sur Ecopark - See sea turtles hatch at this ecological park at Cozumel's southern point.
  • Beaches - Stretch out on the sands of beaches like Playa del Sol, Playa Palancar, and San Francisco Beach.
  • Cruise Stop - Cozumel is one of the Western Caribbean's most popular cruise ship ports of call.

Best Time to Visit Cozumel: December to April, avoiding wet season from May-July. Peak season is late December to early January. 

13. Guadalajara - Vibrant Cultural Center of Jalisco

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico

Guadalajara is Mexico's second largest city and the cultural heart of the state of Jalisco. This energetic city offers a colonial historic center, delicious regional cuisine, and a thriving arts scene. Mariachi music and wide plazas give Guadalajara its inviting atmosphere.

Top Attractions in Guadalajara:

  • Cathedral - This immense 16th century cathedral has distinctive neo-Gothic spires and French-inspired architecture. 
  • Plaza de Armas - Guadalajara's main square is lined with fountains, statues, and the Cathedral, Palacio de Gobierno, and Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres. 
  • Instituto Cultural Cabañas - The former orphanage by architect Luis Barragán is now an arts institute with stunning murals.
  • Mercado San Juan de Dios - Wander this enormous traditional market selling spices, pinatas, jewelry, textiles, and more. 
  • Tequila & Mariachi - Sample tequila and listen to mariachi bands in the city's historic cantinas and plazas. 

Best Time to Visit: April-June or late September-December for warm, sunny weather.

14. Mérida - "White City" bursting with Vibrant Culture

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico
Mèrida - White City

With its grand Spanish colonial architecture and lively cultural scene, the sunny city of Mérida has a unique flair. Known as La Ciudad Blanca (the White City) for the gleaming limestone buildings, Mérida is the cultural capital of the Yucatán Peninsula. 

Top Attractions in Mérida:

  • Plaza Grande - Mérida's main plaza is surrounded by the enormous cathedral, Palacio de Gobierno, and other historic buildings.
  • Paseo de Montejo - This wide boulevard lined with stately mansions leads to the Monumento a la Patria.
  • Gran Museo del Mundo Maya - Interactively explores the ancient Mayan civilization with modern technology and exhibits.
  • Dzibilchaltún - Impressive ruins from around 500 BC with temples, pyramids, and a famous equinox alignment.
  • Haciendas - Stay at restored hacienda estates outside Mérida, like the luxurious Hacienda Xcanatun. 
  • Cuisine - Savor Yucatecan specialties like cochinita pibil, sopa de lima, and habanero chiles.

Best Time to Visit: Late November-April to avoid rain and extreme heat. Plan Easter week for cultural celebrations.

15. Palenque - Stunning Jungle-Shrouded Ruins

Best Places to Vacation in Mexico

Deep in the jungles of Chiapas state, the ancient ruins of Palenque will take your breath away. Surrounded by lush vegetation and mist-covered mountains, Palenque has some of Mexico's most significant Mayan ruins, including fascinating tombs and temples with finely carved bas-reliefs.

Top Attractions at Palenque Ruins:

  • El Palacio - This elegant multi-level structure with iconic tower housed the ruling elite. Intricate carvings depict war, rituals, mythology.
  • Templo de las Inscripciones - Inside this pyramid is the tomb of King Pakal with a magnificent carved sarcophagus.
  • Great Plaza - The heart of Palenque with the Palace, several temples, ball court, and spacious central square.
  • Museo de Sitio - Palenque's on-site museum displays discoveries like jewelry, statues, and stucco figures found in the ruins. 
  • Misol-Há Waterfall - Take a refreshing swim below this picturesque 138-foot waterfall located in the national park.

Best Time to Visit: December-April for drier weather. Plan around winter solstice for astronomy observances.

Planning Your Mexican Dream Vacation

With its diversity of landscapes and cultures, memorable cuisine, ancient ruins, and captivating colonial cities, Mexico offers something for every traveler. From the white sand beaches of Cancun to the jungle-shrouded temples of Palenque, the experiences are endless.

The best time to visit Mexico depends on your destination, but the dry season between December-April is ideal for many spots. Look for deals on packages and keep hurricane season from July-October in mind for beach vacations.

There are so many incredible places to explore in Mexico. Use this list of top destinations to start planning your Mexican dream vacation today! Whether it's relaxing on the beach, discovering ancient history, or immersing yourself in vibrant culture, Mexico will exceed your expectations.


Is it safe to travel to Mexico?

Mexico is generally safe for tourists who take common-sense precautions. Avoid traveling after dark, don't wear expensive jewelry, and stick to tourist areas. Use hotel safes and only take licensed taxis. Check government websites for travel advisories.

When is the best time to visit Mexico?

The peak season for most areas is mid-December to April, when rainfall is minimal and temperatures are ideal. Prices rise and hotels fill up during these months. The summer rainy season (July-September) brings fewer tourists, but risk of hurricanes on coasts.

What vaccinations do I need for Mexico travel?

There are no required vaccinations for Mexico. However the CDC recommends being up-to-date on routine vaccines and considering hepatitis A and typhoid based on your itinerary. Anti-malarial meds may be needed in some rural areas.

How should I get around in Mexico?

Buses between major tourist destinations are generally safe and affordable. For shorter trips, taxis are widely available. In cities, Uber or cabify can be used. Driving yourself is possible, but signage lacking and road conditions poor outside big cities. 

Do I need to know Spanish to visit Mexico?

No, but learning some basic Spanish phrases will help, especially outside tourist areas. In big cities and resorts, many locals speak English. Still, you'll have a richer experience if you know key words and phrases. Carry a pocket Spanish phrasebook too.

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