Mexico has always been a popular vacation spot.
But in many ways, it’s become even more popular since Covid hit, since the country’s lax restrictions have made it one of the only places Americans could actually still travel freely. And that trend shows no signs of slowing down.
So, if you’re looking for ideas for your Mexico vacation, we’ve got you covered. Our top picks have a little of everything: beaches, adventure, nightlife, food, and culture.
Surprise! Bet you didn’t see this one coming.
If you’re a veteran traveler, Cancún can seem a little overrated. But if it’s your first time in Mexico, you don’t understand the language, and/or you just want to get really wasted, Cancún is still a great pick.
Beautiful beaches, luxury hotels, and pumping nightlife are the highlights. However, if you get out of the “hotel zone”, there’s lots of other cool stuff to explore too.
Not everyone is into the hustle and bustle of major resort cities like Cancún. For them, we recommend the “Island of Women”.
No, it’s not another night club; Isla Mujeres is actually a quaint little island just 20 minutes off the coast. It’s a lot less crowded, a lot more affordable, while still offering equally exquisite beaches.
Snorkel with tropical fish, visit the world’s largest underwater museum, or swim with whale sharks, which are around the island from June to November.
For a more historical escape from the Riviera Maya madness, there’s the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá. It’s only about two hours from Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen, making it a popular choice for tourists staying in those cities.
The centerpiece of the ruins is the pyramid known as El Castillo, “The Castle”, but there are lots of other interesting sites to see throughout this archaeological Wonder of the World.
If you really want to explore Mexico’s culture, both old and modern, there’s no better place to do it than the country’s capital.
There are numerous museums, from art to anthropology, and dozens of iconic landmarks along Mexico City’s tourist trail. But there are still plenty of street food stands, hole-in-the-wall cafes, local markets, and less-visited sites to discover off the beaten path.
Even if you don’t spend your whole vacation here, it’s a worthy stop on the way to or from your next destination.
Hey, the beach is great.
But there are other natural wonders to explore in Mexico too. And Copper Canyon is near the top of that list. Part of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, it’s actually composed of multiple canyons, each much bigger than the Grand Canyon.
The most popular way to explore Copper Canyon is on El Chepe, the train line that runs for roughly 400 miles through the region, over dozens of bridges and down nearly a hundred tunnels. Hiking, mountain biking, and other activities are available as well for the more adventurous – and active.
If you’re looking for a fun, accessible Mexican resort vacation – but one that’s a little less touristy than Cancún – Puerto Vallarta is a great choice.
It offers a lot of the same activities, from water sports to nightlife, but it’s got a more authentic cultural vibe, in a smaller city, and at lower prices. And it’s still an easy place to navigate if you’re new to Latin America.
Plus, it’s only a one-hour boat ride from our next location.
Even if you’ve never heard of Islas Marietas, you’ve probably seen its most popular attraction pop up on your Instagram feed.
It’s known as the “Hidden Beach”, since it can only be reached by swimming or kayaking through a small tunnel, but its official – and sexier – name is Playa del Amor (Lovers’ Beach).
Unfortunately, you can only actually visit for about 30 minutes, just long enough for a few selfies. But there’s lots more to do in Marietas Islands National Park, including other caves to visit.
So, we already did canyons by train – but let’s try this one by boat. After all, what’s a Mexican vacation without a little water sports.
Your two-hour trip through Sumidero Canyon will take you down the Río Grijalva, surrounded on both sides by the immense canyon walls. It’s a great place for bird watching, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a glimpse of some of the other local wildlife, like crocodiles and spider monkeys.
Of course, you can also get out and do some exploring by foot, including spots like the Cave of Colors.
Are you looking for a traditional, indigenous Mexico experience, from bustling local markets to vibrant native performances? Then give Oaxaca City a try.
Visit fresh markets, wander amid striking architecture, then eat some delicious mole and wash it down with Oaxaca’s famous mezcal. If your taste buds are a little more adventurous, the city is also known for its roasted grasshoppers.
Sleep it all off, then check out some of the nearby ruins or waterfalls the next day.
If you can only go one place in Mexico, but you want the full experience – relaxing on the beach, exploring ancient ruins, eating great food, and seeking out adventure – then Tulum might be the choice.
Unlike other cities on the Yucatan its ruins don’t require an extra trip: they’re right there above the beach. And said beach is still just as breathtaking. Tulum is also surrounded by cenotes (sinkholes), like Gran Cenote, which are well worth visiting – and swimming in.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com