Cancun has long been a favorite winter escape among travelers, and between its stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife, it’s easy to see why.
However, while most similar beachy hotspots have yet to catch up to their 2019 visitor numbers, Cancun has far surpassed its previous peak, setting a new all-time tourism record and becoming the most popular beach destination in the world.
During the first eight months of 2023 alone, Cancun hosted well over 18 million visitors, which, while impressive in its own right, also means that tourists are currently having to deal with inflated prices, fully booked hotels, and chaotic crowds at major attractions.
Luckily, though, there’s no shortage of quieter, more laid-back destinations that offer the same sun-kissed shores and azure waters without the overwhelming crowds.
Grand Costa Maya
According to the latest reports, Grand Costa Maya is the best place to avoid the tourist crowds this winter in Mexico.
As of the time of writing this article, the region is looking at a 45% occupancy rate in the next few months, which is a notable decrease from this past summer.
Don’t let these numbers fool you, though; Grand Costa Maya boasts the same type of beachy allure as visitor-packed hotspots like Cancun and Tulum.
If anything, you’ll get an even more authentic experience here, with so many hidden gems waiting to be explored. Maya Chan Beach and Pez Quadro, in particular, are not to be missed.
The nearby Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also a must-visit, especially if you want to indulge in some truly scenic views during your travels.
In Grand Costa Maya, you can also witness diverse wildlife, ancient Mayan ruins, and lush mangrove forests in their natural habitat – it doesn’t get any better than that.
Though Cozumel is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, the region’s occupancy rates dwarf in comparison to Cancun, hovering around 51%.
Booking your winter trip here means you’ll be able to revel in some peace and quiet while also getting to enjoy the perks of being in a lively, international travel hotspot.
The island boasts incredible underwater flora and fauna with colorful coral reefs and a diverse array of marine species.
So, if you do get a chance to see the region’s most gorgeous beaches (e.g., Isla Pasion, Playa El Cielo, Playa Chen Rio), make sure not to spend all day sunbathing.
Diving, snorkeling, parasailing, jet skiing, and virtually every other water sport you can think of off the top of your head are popular in the area, so pick whatever you think you’ll enjoy the most and make it a point to try it out at least once.
Don’t worry if you’ve never done anything like it before – water activities here are tailored to all experience levels.
Isla Mujeres is looking at occupancy rates that range between 52% and 56% this winter, which is still well below the regional average.
However, if you’re planning to spend your winter vacation here, make sure to book ahead.
As temperatures up north start dipping, the number of tourists looking to escape to idyllic beach destinations like Isla Mujeres will inevitably surge.
Still, the former fishing village manages to hit that perfect spot between peaceful and exciting, and, best of all, it’s just a half-hour ferry ride away from Cancun.
This means that you can spend your days sunbathing in Playa Norte, indulging in beachfront massages, and snorkeling with whale sharks, and return to Cancun right on time to take advantage of the bustling nightlife.
Travelers on a budget will fall in love with Puerto Morelos this time of year – hotels and short-term rentals are only at 50% occupancy, so you’ll be able to forgo the sky-high prices of the peak summer season.
The charming port town located between Cancun and Playa del Carmen offers a serene alternative to the bustling resorts of Cancun and an authentic Mexican Atmosphere that can’t be replicated in the over-commercialized hotspots that everyone seems to be flocking to.
The town is home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which is the second-largest coral reef system in the world – even if you’re not much of a nature enthusiast, you won’t want to miss out on that one.
Puerto Morelos is also known for its iconic leaning lighthouse, which will make for the perfect backdrop for your newest travel pictures.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com