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10 Best Places to Visit in Mexico

10 Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Published In: General Created Date: 2017-01-01 Hits: 737

To choose your next vacation destination in Mexico, rely on our list of the country's best places to find beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife and worthwhile cultural attractions. U.S. News considered these factors, along with insight from industry experts and traveler votes, to bring you a roundup of the top spots. Select your favorite destination below to help us tally next year's scores. 

#1 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why go: Situated 5,000 feet above sea level, this colonial city is centered around a traditional town square and surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range. Mexican cuisine, vibrant markets and native customs make Oaxaca ideal for immersion in the country's culture.

#2 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why Go to Tulum

In the past decade, Tulum has grown into a coveted vacation for luxury travelers; however, it still tempts bargain hunters who remember when this tucked-away jewel of Mexico's east coast was more of a secluded getaway. Here, you'll find some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins in the Western Hemisphere, ruins that have the cerulean waters of the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop. And there are other out-of-this-world wonders, including several cenotes (or underground water-filled caverns) and bioreserves. As an added plus: Tulum continues to be the tiny, quiet alternative to the other Riviera Maya resort areas during the spring break season.

Playa del Carmen
#3 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why Go to Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen has carved its own Euro-chic niche along the Yucatán Peninsula. Sophisticated expats and vacationing Europeans relax at the beachside lounges, upholding this small enclave's budding reputation as the place in Quintana Roo to see and be seen. The area's nerve center is El Zócalo, and similar to Mediterranean beachfront towns like Nice, the funky little public square is within walking distance of the beach. Just off the square and running parallel with the shore, La Quinta Avenida features several blocks worth of delicious eateries and quirky shops. And with proximity to the ancient ruins of Tulum and ample natural landscapes to explore (like Rio Secreto, Xel-Ha and the underwater depths of the Caribbean Sea), Playa del Carmen caters to history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And of course, Playa's swaths of white sand and brilliantly turquoise water impress even the most selective beach bums. Cancún is Mexico's vacation of the past – today's savvy beachgoers choose the cosmopolitan "Playa."

#4 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why go: With secluded sands, brilliant sunsets and laid-back vibes, Zihuatanejo offers an authentic experience that sets it apart from its Mexican Riviera peers. Here, divers and snorkelers can pick from more than 30 dive sites, while foodies indulge in fresh fish tacos and ceviche along the beach

#5 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why Go to Cozumel

Cozumel's clear turquoise waters and powdery sands coax travelers from cold winter climates to this 250-square-mile island off the Yucatán Peninsula. Cruise ships are a constant feature of Cozumel's coastal views, and the atmosphere on this charming island is often interrupted by tourist chatter. In fact, Cozumel's charms are so effective that the shopping plazas along the waterfront stay congested much of the year.

But crowds shouldn't deter you from discovering what this tiny Yucatán island has to offer, especially as Cozumel's real allure is far away from the downtown area. You can hire a fishing or diving charter boat to discover the shallow reefs along the coast (this is arguably one of the best diving destinations in the world), take a glass-bottom boat on a tour around the island or simply find a quiet beach where you can relax and do nothing. Once the cruise ships clear out, you should head down to the plaza for some live music and the real skinny on this little island.

#6 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why go: One of Mexico's largest cities, Guadalajara has all of the draws of an urban getaway – diverse dining, an abundance of museums, plentiful cultural sites and a buzzing nightlife. And given that both mariachi and tequila were born in Guadalajara, you'll experience modern local charms with twists of tradition.

Puerto Vallarta
#7 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why Go to Puerto Vallarta
This is more than just a coastal resort getaway. Somehow Puerto Vallarta — also known as "Vallarta" or just "PV" — maintains a small-town atmosphere, while still boasting one of the most unique and sophisticated oceanfronts in Mexico. The dining options and the hotel choices reflect more of the same — you'll find both elegance and efficiency mingled together within the hotel and restaurant areas.

Most people associate this west coast town with its boundaries — the Banderas Bay that snakes along the coast or the palm tree-lined Sierra Madre Mountains that stand tall in the east — but Puerto Vallarta is more than its scenery. Take some time to discover its other perks for yourself by sampling the delicious food, discovering a hidden boutique in the Zona Romantica, sipping a signature cocktail at a bar along the Malecón or dancing to a salsa beat in a Havana-style nightclub.

San Miguel de Allende
#8 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why Go to San Miguel de Allende
Vibrantly colored buildings line the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende, a romantic city with 16th-century origins nestled among central Mexico's Sierra Madre Mountains. Through the past 50 years, this quaint city has evolved into a respite for expats and a popular destination for tourists looking to delve into the music, food and arts scene of off-the-beaten-path Mexico. It's easy to swoon over the 500-year-old colonial city's narrow walkways, baroque architecture and artisan shops selling plenty of crafts, jewelry and handmade accessories. Breaks from shopping can be spent exploring the city's defining Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel church, taking classes at the well-recognized Instituto Allende art school or discovering handcrafted Mexican masks at The Other Face of Mexico gallery.

San Miguel's location — about 170 miles northwest of Mexico City in Guanajuato state — plays a key role in its dynamic history. Once full of wealth from nearby silver mines, San Miguel was left dilapidated after multiple wars (the early 20th century's Mexican Revolution among them). In 1937, Chicago native Stirling Dickinson stumbled upon the small town, established an artist's colony and quickly got San Miguel's renaissance off the ground. Today, evidence of that compelling re-emergence can be seen tucked into every lively corner of the diverse, arts-driven destination.

Cabo San Lucas
#9 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why Go to Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas first beckoned to Hollywood's elite in the 1970s as a luxurious reprieve from the "dregs" of show business. The town's rather seedy reputation changed as world-class resorts took up residence here, in the neighboring village of San José del Cabo, and along the 18-mile stretch of highway that connects the two (known as "the Corridor"). The construction of an international airport in the 1980s made it easier for travelers from all over to hop a nonstop flight to the "Los Cabos" area.

Forty years later, this destination on the southernmost tip of Baja California is still known for its decadence — just take a look at the sprawling golf courses or deluxe villas. But the elitist pretense has dwindled: Days in the spa are just as coveted as evenings at a beachside watering hole. And there's a good chance that you'll see celebutantes and college freshmen sunning themselves side by side on the same stretch of sand.

#10 in Best Places to Visit in Mexico

Why Go to Cancun
Cancún is nothing if not resilient. Consider the debilitating effects Hurricane Wilma had on the region in 2005 — drowned shores, destroyed storefronts and capsized boats. But now, this skinny "7"-shaped barrier island in southeastern Mexico is once again a go-to spot for beaches, golfing and nightlife. Cancún also remains one of the most affordable vacation destinations in the Western Hemisphere — you could pay less than $600 per person for an all-inclusive vacation along these Yucatán sands, even during the self-indulgent spring break season.

So what's there to do here? Cancún's beaches are spectacular spots to try some jet skiing and parasailing. And there's also a host of after-hours activities; be sure to check out the acrobatic dance performances at the Coco Bongo Cancún. This area is also close to one of the most recognizable sites of Mexico — don't miss out on the chance to behold Chichén Itzá, a large Mayan archaeological site that is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

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