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11 Popular Mexico Destinations You’ll Want to Visit

Archaeological discoveries? Check. Flavorful cuisine? You betcha. Breathtaking beaches and lush jungles? Oh yeah. Charming towns and vibrant cities? Yup. This south-of-the-border nation has it all!

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Cancun beach panorama view, Mexico


Among the popular Mexico vacation spots, Cancun has a reputation as party central—and deservedly so. It’s flush with all-inclusive resorts that serve bebidas (drinks) from a.m. to p.m. And the clubs in Zona Hotelera are a favorite among spring-breakers looking for booze-fueled fun. But there’s more to Cancun than drinking and dancing. Notably, there are plenty of recreational activities and family-oriented properties too. And with the Mayan museum and ruins just a short drive away, you can treat kids to an eye-opening day trip that might even be one of the vacations that even your jaded teenagers will enjoy.

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the center of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, seen from above
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San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico’s central highlands, is a colonial-era charmer with enchanting architecture, quaint cobblestone streets, a thriving art scene, and romantic ambiance. This expat-friendly city also has admirable accommodations such as Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada and Casa Wabi, superb chef-driven restaurants, and artisan shops. If that wasn’t enough, San Miguel de Allende hosts a number of noteworthy cultural festivals throughout the year.

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Wild Beach at Tulum - Yucatan Mexico
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It’s true that Tulum is one of the Mexico destinations with the most hype. But, honestly, it’s all warranted. This chill coastal town is pure paradise. Eco-luxe hotels, bars, restaurants, and boutiques dot Boca Paila, the road separating the ocean and jungle. Savor tasty tacos at Safari and Taqueria La Eufemia. Rent a bike and ride to the ancient ruins of El Castillo and Parque Nacional Tulum. Indulge in traditional pampering treatments at Yäan Wellness. Or book an excursion to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

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CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO - FEB. 11: The newly constructed Puerto Paraiso Shopping Mall on Feb. 11, 2011. The mall is the most affluent entertainment center in the southern Baja California peninsula.
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Cabo San Lucas

This longtime holiday hotspot hasn’t lost its sparkle over the years. On the contrary, Cabo San Lucas’s star shines brighter than ever. The town’s sport-fishing, buzzing nightlife, and yacht-filled marina continues to be a major draw. It also flaunts fabulous restaurants and high-end lodgings like Hacienda Encantada, Montage Los Cabos, and The Resort at Pedregal, which has one of the most amazing infinity pools on the planet.

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Montejo's House, Merida, Mexico
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The capital of the Yucatán Peninsula is steeped in Spanish colonial heritage, but it hasn’t lost its deep Mayan roots. The heart of its historic center is Plaza de la Independencia, bordered by Mérida Cathedral and Iglesia de la Tercera Orden. The city has more to offer than a look at the past. Museo Fernando García Ponce-Macay displays a collection of contemporary Yucatecán art. And then there’s Paseo de Montejo, Mérida’s rendition of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, a wide boulevard with leafy trees, cafés, and 19th-century mansions turned hotels, which are definitely unique accommodations you’ll want to go out of your way to visit.

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PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO - JULY 13: Unidentified tourists on the beach of Playacar at Caribbean Sea in Mexico, July 13, 2011. This resort area is popular destination with the most beautiful beaches.
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Playa del Carmen

One of the most popular Mexico vacation spots, Playa del Carmen is situated between the chaos of Cancun and the tranquility of Tulum. Its palm-fringed beaches are indeed as lovely as you’ve heard. Coral reefs provide a surfeit of opportunists for snorkeling and scuba diving. The epicenter of Playa del Carmen is Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) with shopping, dining, and entertainment. The Frida Kahlo Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the famed Mexican artist. Travelling to Mexico? You won’t find these popular “Mexican” foods.

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Beach in Chankanaab Park, Cozumel, Mexico
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Off the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Caribbean Sea, is an idyllic island with long stretches of powder-soft sand, lively nightlife, and world-class dive sites unlike any you’ll see in other Mexico destinations. Don’t confuse laid-back with boring—there’s nothing humdrum about Cozumel. Sign up for scuba lessons, swim with dolphins at Chankanaab National Park, or spend the afternoon exploring the Mayan ruins of El Cedral. And if you’d love to check out some Mexico vacation spots but are worried about safety, it turns out Mexico is actually one of the countries to travel to that are safer than you think.

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Statue of Count Pedro Ansurez (1037-1118) opposite the town hall of the city of Valladolid, Spain


Valladolid is a bastion of history with cobbled lanes, Spanish arcades, 16th-century churches, convents, and colorful colonial facades. Feast your eyes on Mexican folk art at Casa de los Venados. Chow down on authentic Yucatán fare at the family-run eateries. Keep in mind, Valladolid’s inland location means no ocean breeze. So, it can get mighty hot. Need to cool down? Take a dip in the freshwater cenotes scattered throughout the city.

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Old Basilica of Guadalupe with Mexico City skyline behind it
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Mexico City

Even among other Mexico destinations, Mexico City is a hub of art, culture, and cuisine. Residents will tell you that it’s all about food and fun. Not surprisingly, both the nightlife and culinary scene are el fuego. Equally exciting are the array of places to stay. Our top pick? InterContinental Presidente Mexico City, which flaunts 700 impeccably designed guests rooms and suites. Plus, it’s within walking distance of some of the most important attractions, such as the Museo Nacional de Antropologia and Museo de Arte Moderno.

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Ocean wave on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta

Made famous by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Puerto Vallarta continues to lure travelers years later as one of the most popular Mexico vacation spots. Not that we’re surprised. You can’t beat its dazzling shores and sparkling waters. From snorkeling day trips to strolling the malecón (boardwalk) and bopping into handicraft stands, there’s more than enough to keep you busy all day. And when the sun goes down, Old Vallarta comes alive with bars, lounges, and clubs. If you like Puerto Vallarta (and who doesn’t?), take a peek at these stunning spots on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

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Norten beach on colorful Isla Mujeres island near Cancun in Mexico. Latin America.
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Isla Mujeres

The antidote to the hordes of tourists in Cancun? A low-key island 20 minutes by ferry across the Bahia de Mujeres (Bay of Women). Locals are warm and easygoing. Golf carts are the preferred mode of transport on Isla Mujeres. No-fuss eateries along the main drag serve fresh seafood sans attitude or crowds while neighboring watering holes mix up strong margaritas. Beautiful beaches, coral reefs, a sea turtle sanctuary, and the remains of a Mayan temple round out its allure. It’s never too early to plan your next trip.

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Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay Cohn is an avid traveler who has visited 46 countries across six continents. At Reader’s Digest, she covers both domestic and international travel. When she's not writing, you can find her hanging out with her son, doing yoga and adding to her ever-growing list of future adventures.