Be it windswept tropical beaches, charming cobbled towns, or the welcoming nature of its culture that has a way of drawing visitors in, Mexico delights as one of the top travel destinations in the world. According to Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism, from 2020 to 2021 alone tourist rates to the country grew a staggering 28.1 percent to round out at 31 million visitors in 2021—and with this year’s numbers set to outpace the last, it suffices to say that interest in Mexico is only set to increase.
During a visit, you will likely begin your trip in Mexico City, the country’s thriving capital where some of the country’s top boutique hotels, architectural wonders, and eateries await. From there, even more regional destinations await, from La Paz, a relaxed coastal town on the languid Sea of Cortez, to Chiapas, a mountainous region in southern Mexico overflowing with Maya archaeological sites and Spanish colonial architecture.
For inspiration to plan your next trip, we’ve rounded out the top 15 destinations in Mexico to explore.
San Miguel de Allende
Known for its thriving arts community and colorful façades, the cobbled town of San Miguel de Allende in the country’s central highlands is welcoming a wave of development geared to a younger artistic generation. During a visit, opt for a stay at the private and intimate oasis Hotel Amparo, a renovated 300-year-old, five-room property, or next door at Casa Hoyos, where you can find the best rooftop bar in the city, Bekeb. While you’re in town, be sure to explore the area’s natural wine scene during a tasting at Octagano, the only label in Mexico to produce natural wine in clay vessels, and the boutique winery Cava Garambullo, where you can try French-oak-aged orange wine made from chardonnay grapes.
Perhaps the most enticing destination in the entire country, Mexico City is becoming increasingly admired as one of the world’s foremost capitals of creativity and culinary pursuits. New to the city are boutique hotels such as the minimalist Octavia Casa, a seven-room bed-and-breakfast in Condesa, and the 19-suite Casa Polanco, a renovated 1940s mansion in Polanco. During a trip, be sure to visit the new Lago Algo cultural space and restaurant set before the Chapultepec lake in the city’s main green space. Plan ahead for some of the city’s most coveted new restaurants, including the Japanese bistro Koshó, set in the renovated Pasaje Parián passageway in Roma Norte, and Hugo el Wine Bar, an ideal Condesa eatery for small plates like fried calamari and sourdough toast with tangy boquerones.
Set on the southernmost tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula, Los Cabos is comprised of the sister cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Luxury travelers and nightlife aficionados will gravitate to Cabo San Lucas for a stay at hotels like The Cape, A Thompson Hotel, home to the upscale eatery, Manta, which offers contemporary Mexican cuisine by chef Enrique Olvera. The more laid-back, surf-centric crew will likely gravitate to the historic center of San Jose del Cabo. Located in the downtown area is Drift San Jose, a boutique property conveniently located near some of the town’s top restaurants, including the top brunch locale, Pez Gallo, and the indoor-outdoor café, Lab Baja. For a dose of the area’s festive ambiance, a visit to Hotel El Ganzo is in order, while at Crania (the property’s outdoor venue) expect a rotating calendar of concerts and DJ sets.
Set in Western Mexico, Morelia, the capital of the Michoacán state, is a gateway to exploring this region’s rich Prehispanic traditions and colonial architecture. In the city’s downtown center is the rose-hued Morelia Cathedral, which is located near myriad new restaurants, including the elegant La Conspiración de 1809 helmed by chef Cynthia Martinez, who specializes in regional dishes from Morelia. Next door is Café Michelena, a relaxed eatery where guests can enjoy the afternoon while lounging in white-and-red rattan chairs and chatting over cappuccinos and blueberry tarts. From Morelia, other well-known towns are easily accessible, including San Clara del Cobre, home to the country's best coppersmiths, and Patzcuaro, best known as the foremost location of Mexico’s traditional Día de Muertos festivities.
This relaxed coastal town in Baja California Sur is a springboard to some of the region’s most thrilling ocean explorations. With Baja Club as your home base—a sleek and contemporary 32-room boutique hotel set within a renovated Spanish colonial villa—you’ll be within easy reach of adventures to nearby beaches such as Playa Balandra, home to an iconic mushroom-shaped rock feature. Be sure to book a few days at Camp Cecil by Todos Santos EcoAdventures, a tented camp on Espíritu Santo island that offers adventures like boat tours to swim with sea lions, kayaking excursions to see colonies of blue-footed boobies, and the chance to snorkel with whale sharks, which are usually most prominent from January to April.
Whether you spend the afternoon eating cheese-stuffed and bean-lathered tlayudas at Mercado de La Merced or partaking in a mezcal-infused happy hour at the city’s sleekest bar, Selva, there’s plenty of reason to love Oaxaca City. In this cobbled town, boutique hotels are numerous, including the brutalist-style Escondido Oaxaca and Hotel Sin Nombre, set in a restored 17th-century building. While you need to book advance reservations for restaurants like Criollo (by chefs Enrique Olvera and Luis Arellano) or Alfonsina, a family-run restaurant known for its delicious mole, you can more casually dip into Onnno for cold brews and Boulenc for fresh-made sourdough. Save time for more far-flung explorations like visiting master textile artisans in the town of Teotitlan del Valle or swimming in the pools of a calcified waterfall at Hierve el Agua.
The coastline near Puerto Escondido is full of surprises, from harboring top-notch surf breaks like those found at Playa Zicatela and Playa Carrizalillo to offering some of the most breathtaking examples of modern Mexican architecture. A visit here is all about discovering the right beach enclave for you. In Mazunte, dirt-track roads lead to bohemian smoothie shops and laid-back bungalows, while San Agustinillo offers jungle abodes like Monte Uzulu and one of the most walkable beaches in the region. Then there’s Zipolite, host to the area’s main nude beach as well as the top cocktail bar, Mezcaleria GotaGorda. Finally, there’s Punta Pájaros, set about 30 minutes northwest of Puerto Escondido. Relaxed yet luxurious, this area is home to design villas by some of the world’s top architects, as well as new boutique hotels like Hotel Terrestre.
Set two hours southeast of Mexico City, this conservative colonial town is known as one of Mexico’s epicenters for historic churches and vibrant architecture, with façades covered in the region’s famed hand-painted Talavera ceramic tiles. At its center is the zócalo, or the main downtown square, where you can glimpse one of the city’s finest examples of Baroque architecture: the Puebla Cathedral, completed in the 1640s. Bridging the old and new is the International Museum of the Baroque, designed by Japanese architect Toyo Itō, while the Museo Amparo offers fine examples of Prehispanic artifacts. To keep exploring the area, opt for a stay at the new 78-room Banyan Tree Puebla or La Purificadora, an industrial-leaning boutique hotel with a rooftop offering sweeping city views.
This colorful, cobbled town is not only the capital of the Yucatán state, but it’s also a gateway to exploring the region’s rich arts culture and the living legacy of the Mayas. Stay in a tranquil wellness oasis at Coqui Coqui L’Epicerie Mérida, or opt for a room at the renovated Casa Puuc, where an outdoor garden and refreshing pool await. While in town, be sure to browse the locally-made linens and perfumes at the concept shop Casa Tho (and stay for a cocktail at the Tho Aperitivo) before dropping into the chic cantina Salón Gallos for dishes offering a contemporary take on classic regional cuisine, from pork tacos topped in garlic-spiced mole to empanadas served with a hearty Yucatecan stew. Save time for more excursions to discover the region’s culture, including a visit to Uxmal ruins, a revered Maya suite known for its Puuc style of architecture: arched doorways and decorative geometric blocks support its many vaults.
Once a sleepy fishing village situated on Mexico's central Pacific Coast, Zihuatanejo received an uptick in development when its next-door neighbor, Ixtapa, became a resort hotspot. Evidence of this can be found at the chic 59-suite Cala de Mar Ixtapa, an intimate, wellness-focused property perched on a cliff overlooking the coast. Back in Zihuatanejo and set within easy distance from the downtown center is the Thompson Zihuatanejo, a contemporary respite set along the shores of Playa La Ropa with suites boasting private infinity plunge pools. More under-the-radar and intimate, Musa, set an hour south of Zihuatanejo, offers a relaxed seaside stay with five ocean-facing contemporary suites. With surf accessible directly in front of the hotel, it’s easy to stay secluded in this tranquil spot for days on end, especially when the communal areas include an infinity pool and thatched-roof palapa bar.
This stretch of Caribbean coastline along the Yucatán Peninsula is one of the country’s most concentrated tourist destinations. Beginning south of Cancun and extending to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Tulum, the area offers plenty to explore, from hidden limestone cenotes, or freshwater swimming holes, to tucked-away ruins like Coba, a site with the region’s highest temple and oldest network of stone causeways in the Maya world. Some of the area’s top resort stays include Etéreo, a forty-room luxury hotel set along a protected stretch of white-sand shoreline, and Palmaïa, a secluded sanctuary set south of Playa del Carman that’s revered for its plant-based cuisine and jungle spa. Further south in Tulum, top stays include the private and relaxed Olas Tulum, an all-suite property, and Sanará, a wellness-centric property with the plant-focused kitchen, Real Coconut.
Not only is Guadalajara the land where mariachi music hails, but it’s also the undisputed origin of the Mexican charro, or cowboy. It’s where tequila became tequila, and it’s even the region that produced Luis Barragán, revered as the country’s pioneer of modern Mexican architecture. Though rich with tradition, today Guadalajara is becoming more known for its hip cafés, upscale restaurants, and craft breweries. Base yourself at the city’s original boutique property, Casa Habita, a 37-room hotel with a rooftop pool. From here, it’s easy to arrive at restaurants like Xokol for an upscale presentation of traditional corn-based dishes like tacos and tlacoyos and El Terrible Juan, an all-day café and brew bar. And don’t leave town without a visit to the lienzo, or arena, of the Charros de Jalisco, to see a classic charrería, a rode-style competition that’s also the country’s national sport
Set on Mexico’s Central Pacific Coast and hugged by towering Sierra Madre mountains, the wild coast of Riviera Nayarit offers a surprising mix of small towns and luxurious resorts. For a dose of the area’s relaxed, laid-back roots, opt to visit the beachside towns of Sayulita and San Pancho, where a smoothie bar and hip café are always within reach. For more lofty stays, there’s the 1,500-acre Punta Mita peninsula, an exclusive gated community with somewhat of an arid climate that’s home to resorts like the Four Seasons and St. Regis. Further north and with a verdant jungle ecosystem rife with tropical foliage and towering mountain peaks is Mandarina, a resort development best known for the One&Only Mandarina. At this ultra-luxurious property, each private villa stay comes equipped with a dedicated butler.
In the southernmost bounds of Mexico, Chiapas, a mountainous region that borders Guatemala, offers a vast rainforest landscape where the country’s coffee and cacao plants flourish. To explore the area’s vast system of Maya archaeological sites and Spanish colonial architecture, most travelers base themselves in one of two cobbled towns: San Cristóbal de las Casas or Chiapa de Corzo. Perhaps the best-known cultural site in Chiapas is Palenque, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 200 architectural structures and a verdant ecosystem of streams and waterfalls. For the adventurous set, a boat tour of the Sumidero Canyon grants up-close access to the site’s vertical walls, some rising more than 2,500 feet.
Valle de Guadalupe
About an hour south of Tijuana, where the towering peaks of the Sierra de Juárez mountains merge with the Pacific Ocean, is the arid wine-growing region of Valle de Guadalupe. Myriad boutique stays are available like Encuentro Guadalupe, a hotel with rectangular eco-pods spread across a 40,000-acre ecological reserve, as well as Casa 8, private suites located in the heart of Bruma’s 225-acre vineyards and near the famed restaurant Fauna, by chef David Castro Hussong. The area’s wine route is host to numerous vineyards and fine-dining outposts, including the family-run winery Aborigen, where the natural wine label, Piel de Luna, is produced, as well as restaurants like Deckman’s en El Mogor, a ranch-style eatery with house delicacies like smoky barbecue and fresh Kumiai oysters.