Looking for hidden gems in Mexico? Even though Mexico is one of the most visited countries in the world, it still has plenty of secret spots to discover!
Even though most people head to destinations like Tulum, Cancun, and Los Cabos, Mexico is a humongous country with a lot more to offer visitors.
Whether you’re on the lookout for a beach holiday, a trip spent gorging on authentic street food or exploring colorful towns, Mexico has a little something for everyone.
There are a thousand plus one hidden gems in Mexico, so I decided to put together a round-up of lesser-known places and hidden gems in Mexico I’m proud to call my birthplace and home.
- What Are the Best Hidden Gems in Mexico?
- Hidden Gems in Mexico You Can’t Miss:
- 1. Creel, Chihuahua
- 2. El Chepe
- 3. Cuitzeo, Michoacan
- 4. Ajijic, Jalisco
- 5. Islas Marias, Nayarit
- 6. Cañon del Sumidero
- 7. El Pinacate
- 8. Orizaba, Veracruz
- 9. Guanajuato City
- 10. Mineral de Pozos
- 11. Merida
- 12. Puerto Escondido
- 13. Sierra Gorda
- 14. Valladolid
- 15. Taxco
- 16. Oaxaca City
- 17. Sayulita
- 18. Bacalar
- 19. Todos Santos
- 20. La Paz
- 21. Rosarito
- 22. Mahahual
- 23. San Pancho
- 24. Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
- 25. Yelapa, Jalisco
- 26. San Sebastián del Oeste, Jalisco
- 27. Litibú, Nayarit
- 28. Sisal, Yucatan
- 29. Las Guacamayas, Selva Lacandona in Chiapas
- Hidden Gems in Mexico FAQs
- What are some lesser-known spots to visit in Mexico?
- Where can I find unique natural features in Mexico?
- What are some of the best hidden gems in Mexico?
- What are some hidden gems in Mexico’s Yucatan region?
- What are some authentic and non-touristy places to visit in Mexico?
- What are some underrated destinations in Mexico that are worth a visit?
- The Best Hidden Gems in Mexico: Conclusion
What Are the Best Hidden Gems in Mexico?
The best part about these destinations is that they’re not entirely off the beaten track and only accessible to super intrepid travelers (although I’ll be writing a post on those places as well!).
In fact, they’re easy to visit even for first-time or solo travelers in the sense that there is enough infrastructure for visitors to have a great time, but they’re also much less visited than other major destinations in Mexico.
You can also find organized group tours to Mexico that follow such interesting and a bit out-of-the-usual-path itineraries, some of which also include a few hidden gems in Mexico.
If you feel it’s easier to have someone else plan the trip for you and you only need to enjoy it, then a group tour is always a good option.
Hidden Gems in Mexico You Can’t Miss:
1. Creel, Chihuahua
Creel is a small pueblo magico in the Northern State of Chihuahua that is also the gateway to the Tarahumara Sierra and Mexico’s Copper Canyon.
While the village is pretty tiny, it has so many incredible things to see and do, especially if you’re into indigenous cultures and otherwordly-looking landscapes.
While here, you’ll get to dive deep into Raramuri culture and explore beautiful landscapes like the Valley of the Monks filled with whacky rock formations and the Valley of the Mushrooms, which has rocks shaped like gigantic mushrooms!
Creel is definitely one of the best hidden gems in Mexico that most people never visit.
Read my guide to Creel, Chihuahua here.
2. El Chepe
El Chepe is not a destination per se, but rather a journey!
El Chepe is a luxury train that traverses a huge chunk of Northern Mexico from Creel, Chihuahua all the way to Los Mochis, Sinaloa.
Along the way, you’ll get to make stops along incredible destinations and villages that are considered hidden gems in Mexico for foreigners.
Must-do stops include the village of Batopilas for colorful houses, Cerocahui for vineyards, and Copper Canyon for outdoor adventures in a canyon that is four times the size of the Grand Canyon!
3. Cuitzeo, Michoacan
If you’re looking for one of the best hidden gems in Mexico, Cuitzeo, Michoacan is definitely worth a visit.
This charming town was named a Pueblo Magico in 2006 and it’s easy to see why. Cuitzeo has a rich cultural history that dates back to ancient times. It was influenced by various cultures, including Chupicuaro, Teotihuacan, Tolteca, and Purépecha.
One of the best things to do in Cuitzeo is to explore its many religious sites. The Ex-Convento Santa Maria Magdalena is a must-visit.
This beautiful convent was built in the 16th century and features stunning architecture and artwork.
You can also visit other religious sites like the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and the capillas of San Pablito, El Calvario, and La Concepción.
If you’re interested in history, you can visit the Casa de la Cultura, which features exhibits on the town’s cultural heritage.
You can also take a stroll around the town’s picturesque plaza and admire the colonial architecture of the surrounding buildings.
Cuitzeo is also known for its delicious cuisine. Make sure to try the local specialty, charales, which are small fish that are fried and served with lime and salt. You can also try other traditional dishes like carnitas and corundas.
4. Ajijic, Jalisco
This small town is located on the shores of Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco, and it’s known for its breathtaking natural beauty, mild weather, and affordable cost of living.
One of the main attractions in Ajijic is the lakeside pier, which offers stunning views of Lake Chapala and the surrounding mountains. It’s definitely one of the prettiest hidden gems in Mexico.
The colorful main square is also a popular spot, especially on weekends when locals and tourists gather to enjoy the live music and street performances.
If you’re interested in Mexican culture, Ajijic has plenty to offer. The town is home to several art galleries, where you can see works by local artists.
You can also visit the Ajijic Cultural Center, which hosts exhibitions, concerts, and other cultural events throughout the year.
Ajijic is also a great place to try traditional Mexican cuisine. There are plenty of restaurants serving everything from tacos and enchiladas to pozole and chiles en nogada.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try some of the local specialties, like birria (spicy goat stew) or tequila shrimp.
5. Islas Marias, Nayarit
If you’re looking for a unique travel experience in Mexico, you should definitely consider visiting Islas Marias.
This is one of the “newest” destinations in the country’s repertoire (it opened in 2023!) and as such, definitely one of the biggest hidden gems in Mexico.
Located off the coast of Nayarit, these islands were once a prison but have since been transformed into a nature reserve.
The four main islands – Maria Madre, Maria Magdalena, Maria Cleofas, and San Juanito – are home to a variety of flora and fauna, including several endemic species.
You can take a guided tour of the islands to learn about the local ecosystem and see some of the wildlife up close.
In addition to its natural beauty, Islas Marias also has a rich cultural history. The islands were used as a prison from the late 19th century until 2019, and you can still see some of the old buildings and infrastructure.
The prison has been closed and the islands are now a peaceful and tranquil destination for nature lovers.
Keep in mind that Islas Marias are military-controlled (they’re currently cleaning up and getting things ready for tourism). Right now, you can only visit the main island if you book a tour, which is guided my the military!
Yes, it does sound weird but it makes for a pretty interesting experience. I wouldn’t recommend it if what you’re after is a leisure destination, though.
6. Cañon del Sumidero
Located in the state of Chiapas, this canyon is surrounded by the Sumidero Canyon National Park, which spans over 53,000 acres.
One of the best ways to experience the canyon is by taking a boat tour along the Grijalva River.
This tour will take you through the canyon’s towering cliffs, which reach heights of up to 3,000 feet. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to spot a variety of wildlife, including crocodiles, monkeys, and a variety of bird species.
If you prefer to stay on land, there are several viewpoints that offer stunning panoramic views of the canyon.
The most popular viewpoint is the Mirador de Cañon del Sumidero, which can be reached by car or by hiking a short trail. From this viewpoint, you’ll be able to see the canyon’s rugged cliffs and the winding Grijalva River below.
When planning your visit, keep in mind that the best time to visit Cañon del Sumidero is during the dry season, which runs from November to May. During this time, the river is calmer and the weather is more predictable.
Overall, Cañon del Sumidero is one of the coolest hidden gems in Mexico that’s well worth the visit. With its stunning natural beauty and abundance of wildlife, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular attractions in Chiapas.
7. El Pinacate
El Pinacate is a biosphere reserve in Sonora that is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth.
It’s one of the biggest hidden gems in Mexico, so much so that even most Mexicans don’t know about it!
One of the most striking features of El Pinacate is its otherworldly landscape.
The reserve’s volcanic peaks, sand dunes, and rocky outcroppings create a surreal, almost Martian environment that is truly unforgettable.
But El Pinacate is more than just a pretty place to visit. It’s also an important site for scientific research and conservation efforts.
The reserve is home to several endangered species, including the Sonoran pronghorn and the desert tortoise, and efforts are underway to protect and restore their habitats.
If you’re interested in exploring El Pinacate, there are several hiking trails and guided tours available. Just be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as the desert sun can be intense.
8. Orizaba, Veracruz
Orizaba is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. The city is located at the base of Pico de Orizaba, the highest peak in Mexico.
The mountain is a popular destination for hikers and climbers, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Orizaba has a rich history and culture that is worth exploring. The city has a number of historic buildings and landmarks, including the Palacio de Hierro, a beautiful iron building that was once a department store.
The city is also home to several museums, including the Museo de Arte del Estado de Veracruz, which features a collection of Mexican art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
If you’re looking for adventure, Orizaba has plenty to offer. The city is home to several adventure parks, including the Parque de Aventuras Cerro de Escamela, which offers zip lining, rock climbing, and rappelling.
Orizaba is also a great destination for white-water rafting, with several rivers in the area offering thrilling rapids.
No trip to Mexico is complete without sampling the local cuisine, and Orizaba has plenty of delicious food to offer. The city is known for its street food, including tacos, tamales, and churros.
9. Guanajuato City
Instagrammable Guanajuato City, Mexico is considered one of the most colorful, picturesque and beautiful cities in the entire country.
It’s also not super off-the-beaten path, but only really visited by those who know the country well, so I would definitely consider it one of the best hidden gems in Mexico.
Guanajuato City is the capital of Guanajuato state, and was once among the biggest mining areas of Mexico.
In fact, historic Guanajuato City and its surrounding mines are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When visiting, take a tour to see the La Valenciana and El Nopal mines.
The city itself is very walkable and one of the best things to do is wander around and find all the hidden gems it has to offer, like the Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss).
There are also many beautiful churches, including the iconic yellow Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, and historic buildings like Teatro Juarez and the University of Guanajuato.
Spend some time relaxing in the Jardin de la Union (Union Garden), located just in front of the Templo de San Diego church.
There are often musicians playing and vendors selling street food and art at this lively park in the center of town. Then, take the funicular (cable car) up to the Monumento al Pipila for the best views of the city.
For a unique experience, head to the Guanajuato Mummy Museum. This is the most visited of all Guanajuato City’s sites and it has 100 actual mummies inside.
Located in Central Mexico, about four hours by car from Mexico City, and three hours from Guadalajara, Guanajuato makes the perfect weekend getaway.
You can also combine it with visits to nearby San Miguel de Allende, Queretero, Peña de Bernal, Dolores Hidalgo, and more, to see even more of the best hidden gems in Mexico.
By Shelley Marmor From Travel Mexico Solo
10. Mineral de Pozos
Not far from Guanajuato City, you’ll also find another hidden gem in Mexico.
Once a thriving mining town, Mineral de Pozos is what you could call a ghost today after operations ceased decades ago. These days, it’s a quaint village and one of the best hidden gems in Mexico.
Thanks to tourism, Pozos isn’t completely abandoned anymore, but walking through its colorful streets still feels quite deserted!
All around town, you can also find hundreds of ruins of mines, some of which are open to the public and can be explored!
Moreover, Pozos is also home to one of the few lavender fields in Mexico, not to mention there is an actual beer spa.
The capital of the Yucatan state, Merida has become one of the best cities for digital nomads, travelers and expats in Mexico!
The city offers a wonderful mix of Spanish colonial architecture and traditional Mexican culture, with a dash of modernity as well.
Not only is the city itself aesthetically pleasing and brimming with fabulous restaurants and bars, but there are numerous things to see and do around Merida — making it an excellent base for day trips.
One of the best things to do when you first arrive in Merida is to join a walking tour of the city. Free Tours offers one every day at 10:00am and is a great introduction to the city. The tours are free, but a tip is expected.
Once you have your bearings from the walking tour, you can head off to explore some other areas of Merida, including the pretty Paseo de Mantejo street, the Municipal Markets, and of course, day trips.
Don’t miss a trip to Progreso Beach, the Pueblo Magico town of Izamal, and the impressive Uxmal Ruins. Merida is one of the larger cities in Mexico, but it still has small town vibes.
By Dariece Swift from Goats On The Road
12. Puerto Escondido
Located on Mexico’s Pacific Coast is the small surf town of Puerto Escondido.
While a popular destination for pro-surfers, Puerto Escondido is actually an amazing place to visit in Mexico for anybody!
The various nearby beaches are great even beginner surfers and it’s the perfect place to learn and take lessons.
But besides surfing, there are lots of amazing things to do in Puerto Escondido. Do the night tour to swim with bioluminescent plankton.
Also, be sure to get out on the water for a day of spotting dolphins, huge pods frequent the area and you’ll likely see giant sea turtles, too.
Playa Bacocho is a beach that is a sea turtle sanctuary too and every afternoon you can visit at 5 pm and help release baby turtles into the ocean.
Puerto Escondido is also a very relaxing beach town with tons of affordable and nice places to stay.
There are plenty of amazing restaurants around and the town is known for its vibrant nightlife. Truly, it’s well worth checking out for yourself!
By Bailey from Destinationless Travel
13. Sierra Gorda
Not many travelers include the Sierra Gorda in Queretaro in their bucket list, but I hope this will change with this post, as this is one of the most unique hidden gems in Mexico and deserves much more attention.
With a unique diversity of ecosystems where semi-desert meet oak forests and large cliffs rise above flat barren lands, this region is like a wonderland for nature and history lovers, packed with dreamy landscapes dotted with majestic waterfalls, soothing rivers, and breathtaking lookouts, but also old monasteries in the middle of nowhere witnesses of their history, you will need at least 3 days to explore and enjoy it fully.
The most spectacular places to visit in this region are the waterfalls of el Chuveje and Puente de Dios, the 5 old Franciscan missions, and the breathtaking views from the highest mountain point of the Sierra Gorda, Cuatro Palos.
Those who love extreme sports will enjoy rappelling adventures and thrilling mountain biking trails.
You can either stay in Pinal de Amoles, as I did, and from there take tours every day to different areas, or you can stay in one of the eco camps available in the region and ask them to organize your tours to the other places, or just explore as you move around if you have your own car.
In any case, I would suggest you should hire a local guide that is an expert in the area, for a better understanding of the local environment and history.
This way you will also support the local communities and contribute to their efforts to preserve the environment.
From Isabella @ Let’s Travel to Mexico
Valladolid is a charming Spanish colonial town in the Yucatan Peninsula, about two hours from both Merida and Cancun.
Even though the small town has become increasingly popular in the past years, Valladolid is still an authentic and budget-friendly travel destination in Mexico. Despite its small size, there are numerous things to do in Valladolid and around.
The best activities include taking photos of the colorful houses in the street Calzada de los Frailes, buying fresh food at the Mercado Municipal, or visiting the famous church Iglesia de San Servacio, which is located at the main square.
On top of that, Valladolid is well-known for its beautiful cenotes. Cenote Zaci, which is located in the middle of the town, is the perfect spot to take a refreshing swim and escape the Mexican heat.
Cenote Suytun and Xkeken, which both show magical rock formations, are also worth visiting.
Once in Valladolid, you should not miss taking a day trip to Chichen Itza as well. The famous Maya ruins, which belong to the new seven wonders of the world, can be reached after a short drive of 30-40 minutes.
From Carolin Klein @ Happy When Abroad
A short ride southwest of Mexico City, you’ll find one of the most underrated hidden gems in Mexico.
Best known for its silver production and jewelry making, Taxco is also home to beautiful colonial architecture and the marvelous Santa Prisca de Taxco church.
Designed in the Churrigueresque style, an elaborate 18th-century architectural style also sometimes called “Ultra-Baroque,” visiting the church will be one of the highlights of your visit.
Taxco feels like you are traveling back in time, with small white taxis navigating the narrow, cobblestoned streets and quaint architecture surrounded by imposing mountains.
While here, don’t miss out on visiting the historic home-turned-museum at Casa Figueroa and the Museum of Religious Art, which doubles as a museum of Taxco’s history.
Spend some time meandering around the winding streets and pop into jewelry stores for some window-shopping, taking in what is said to be the Western Hemisphere’s best silver.
Be sure to grab a bite to eat at delicious local restaurant Rosa Amaranto, and enjoy the wraparound views of Taxco from its rooftop seating, and spend some time people-watching in the Zocalo.
From Tegan and Alex @ Why Not Walk Travel Guides
Don’t forget to get travel insurance for your trip! As always, I recommend Safety Wing for great prices and coverage abroad. It starts at only $45 USD per month and will have you covered with everything you may need during your trip! Check them out here.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
- Day of the Dead in Mexico City: A Local’s Guide to Dia de Muertos
- Is Mexico City safe? Here’s everything you need to know about safety in Mexico City from a local
- The Ultimate Guide to Mexico’s Maya Train Route
16. Oaxaca City
Between the colorful markets, incredible food, and lively street parades, Oaxaca often feels like it’s in the middle of a fiesta. It’s a lovely city to explore on foot, passing through different neighborhoods while stopping to admire the vibrant street art.
There are also many day trips from Oaxaca that you can explore on your own or with a tour. Most are within an hour bus ride of the city and include several points of interest along the way.
Spend the day hiking and swimming at Hierve el Agua, an infinity pool that sits atop a petrified waterfall.
On the way back, stop to explore a mezcal distillery to learn the entire process from field to bottle.
Or discover ancient Oaxaca with a visit to one of several nearby ruins such as Monte Alban or Mitla.
Oaxaca is a city that beautifully blends its past into a historical modern city. If you want to discover a hidden gem Mexico, put Oaxaca at the top of your list. There are natural places to discover, ancient ruins to explore, and mezcal to drink!
From Julien Casanova @ Cultures Traveled
Drive just an hour away from Puerto Vallarta and you’ll find the bohemian town of Sayulita, known for its surfing, amazing food scene, and colorful streets.
It’s a vibrant town offering affordable, yet stylish accommodation in boutique hotels and Airbnbs, rather than expensive all-inclusive mega-resorts. Sayulita is definitely one of the best hidden gems in Mexico when it comes to beach destinations.
There are many fun things to do in Sayulita. Try out surfing and book a lesson with Lunazul Surf School or rent beach chairs and sunbathe at Playa Sayulita, located right in town.
At Playa Sayulita, there are beach huts where you can get a relaxing massage. They are inexpensive and such a treat right on the beach.
In town, you will find plenty of boutique stores selling bohemian clothing, jewelry, and unique artisanal products.
If you are a fan of the show Bachelor in Paradise, you may be excited to book a stay or spa package at the Playa Escondida Boutique Resort, where the contestants stay on the show!
When the show is not filming, the resort is open to guests. It’s located in a remote beach cove 10 minutes away from town and has its own private beach.
From Cecily Protsack @ Groovy Mashed Potatoes
Located on the eastern coast of Mexico just north of the Belize border, Bacalar is one of the most beautiful and underrated destinations in Mexico.
Known as “Laguna de Los Siete Colores” (Lagoon of the Seven Colors), Bacalar is a massive natural lagoon that is perfect for a relaxing and tranquil getaway. It gets its name from its varying depths and different shades of striking turquoise blue water.
Bacalar is also designated as one of Mexico’s “pueblos magicos”, which is an official distinction given to small towns that offer visitors a magical experience from their natural beauty, culture, traditions, or genuine hospitality.
The town of Bacalar definitely lives up to this distinction with its incredible natural beauty and lack of mass tourism. It’s a less well-known destination which makes it one of Mexico’s hidden gems.
In Bacalar, there are many accommodation options located directly on the lagoon, where you spend the day relaxing on overwater swings and hammocks. For more adventurous activities, you can also try kayaking, standup paddleboarding, or sailing tours on the lagoon.
Another popular attraction is visiting Los Rapidos, which is an excursion where you can float down the rapid canals of the lagoon.
From Allison Sicking @ Viva La Travelista
19. Todos Santos
If you’re looking for hidden gems in Mexico, look no further. Todos Santos is just an hour north of Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific Coast of Mexico’s Baja California Sur. Founded in 1724, today the village is a mecca for artists, surfers, and lovers of Mexico’s traditional food.
Todos Santos has long been known to collectors and visitors for galleries featuring paintings, ceramics, and pottery.
But it’s the spectacular beaches that draw ocean-loving tourists. Rent a board and paddle into the challenging world-class surf at La Pastora or take it a bit easier at Playa Los Cerritos.
One of the more fun and interesting things to do is to plan your visit at sea turtle hatching time.
Hatchlings are released by Tortugueros Las Playitas, the sea turtle conservation group, almost daily from early December through April. You’ll never see anything else like it.
A favorite from mid-January into March is the migration of whales. Thousands of Gray and Humpback whales can be seen breaching, tail smacking, or just swimming along.
You don’t have to book a tour. Pack a picnic and go to your favorite beach. The whales often swim close to the shore and are easily seen from there.
It’s no longer a sleepy quiet seaside destination for just hippies and surfers. With upscale accommodations and excellent restaurants, Todos Santos is on its way to becoming a premier tourist stop. Don’t wait. Book your trip before the throngs of tourists become an everyday thing.
From Lori Sorrentino @ Travlinmad
20. La Paz
La Paz in Baja California Sur is often overlooked in favor of the luxe resorts of Los Cabos, about two hours to its south. But laid-back La Paz has some of Mexico’s calmest swimming beaches, as well as fantastic day trips for snorkeling and scuba diving.
La Paz is located on the Sea of Cortez, which was once referred to by Jacques Cousteau as “the aquarium of the world.”
Much of this narrow sea between the Baja California Peninsula and Mexico’s Mainland is protected as a UNESCO biosphere.
Day trips in La Paz include visiting Isla Espiritu Santo within the biosphere to snorkel or scuba and see a colony of sea lions.
La Paz is also becoming known for its sustainable whale shark tourism, overseen by government agencies and researchers.
From October through April, there are small group tours available to snorkel with whale sharks in the Bay of La Paz, often led by marine biologists as tour guides.
La Paz is also home to amazing beaches including Playa Balandra, one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico.
Located in a quiet lagoon, its calm waters are never more than waist-deep.
Balandra is a hiking spot as well; climb its copper-colored cliffs for sweeping views of the lagoon’s white sands and clear turquoise waters.
From Adrienne @ The Haphazard Traveler
Hidden on the coast below Tijuana is a secret surfing town known mostly only by San Diego locals. If you are looking for incredible tacos and waves, then Rosarito is the perfect place.
It’s a perfect weekend trip from Southern California, and it’s very easy to drive across the border in your car. Just don’t forget to buy car insurance before you cross the border.
The two main beaches of Rosarito, Playa del Rosarito, and Playa Santa Monica, are long stretches of beautiful sand where you can lay out in the sun or watch surfers out in the waves.
Or you can head down the colorful main street Boulevard Benito Juarez and try a taco at each of the taquerias you pass by!
Don’t miss Carnitas La Flor de Michoacan #2, where you can find some of the best tacos in town.
Besides beach hopping in Rosarito, there are two places nearby that will make your experience even better.
The first one is a restaurant overlooking the ocean below. At Dmytri’s Original La Fonda Restaurant, the food is great but the views while you’re eating are incredible!
Next, just a little further down the coast in Puerto Nuevo, you’ll find the best shopping street in the area as well as another colorful seaside village.
If you’re looking to buy something to remember your trip by, then you’ll love the Paseo del Mar shopping street.
Enjoy your off-the-beaten-path vacation in Mexico!
From Dayna Brockbank @ Happily Ever Travels
Home to the port of Costa Maya, a stop for many major cruise lines, Mahahual still manages to fly under the radar when it comes to Mexico’s underrated destinations.
This quiet little beach town features a malecon, boutique hotels, and essentially desolate beaches during the week which are worth visiting. Nearby, you can visit the up-and-coming town of Bacalar and some cenotes.
Visitors should not miss some unique sites nearby. This includes the Bacalar Rapids, a rare opportunity to get up close to stromatolites.
A visit to the Bacalar Lagoon, the Lake of Seven Colors is a great getaway for laid-back visitors. History fans will want to check out the nearby Mayan ruins of Chacchoben, Dzibanche, Kohunlinch, or Kinichna.
Don’t feel like going anywhere else? That’s okay too! Mahahual offers local tours, such as a chocolate factory and tequila tasting.
This small town is deceptive because of the cruise ship port, but what you’ll find (especially when cruise ships are not in port) is a small Mexican town with authentic flavor and experiences. Check out all the best things to do in Mahahual!
From Annick @ The Common Traveler
23. San Pancho
Located on the Pacific coast of Mexico, San Pancho is a lesser-known beach town. Many travelers visit nearby Puerto Vallarta, but make sure to add San Pancho to your travel list!
The main reason that this town is less touristed is due to the fact that the ocean isn’t as swimmable as the nearby towns. However, while it may lack swimming opportunities, it more than makes up for it with the other fun things to see and do.
Take a stroll along the wide, beautiful beach and stop for some fresh ceviche under an umbrella at one of the many beachside restaurants. If golf is your thing, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a great 18-hole course right in town (Las Huertas)— with an amazing view of the ocean.
San Pancho offers many activities and amenities for those who want to stay a little bit longer. Here you’ll find pilates and yoga classes, Spanish lessons on offer, a weekly market and if you’re interested, you can even volunteer at the community center.
As the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean each evening, join the locals and tourists and make your way to the beach. Do as everyone else does and pack a blanket, a bottle of wine and if you have it, an instrument like a ukulele or travel guitar, and serenade your friends as you say goodbye to the day.
By Dariece Swift from Goats On The Road
24. Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California
Valle de Guadalupe is a beautiful wine region in Baja California, Mexico, and it’s often referred to as Mexico’s wine country.
When you visit this off-the-beaten-path destination, you’ll be amazed by the gorgeous vineyards, world-class wineries, and charming boutique hotels.
While there, you can explore over 100 wineries in the area.
Each one has something special to offer, whether it’s unique architecture, innovative wine-making techniques, or stunning views of the valley.
Some notable wineries that are worth visiting include L.A. Cetto, Monte Xanic, and Casa de Piedra.
In addition to the plentiful wine options, the culinary scene in Valle de Guadalupe is rapidly gaining attention.
Many of the wineries have top-notch restaurants where you can indulge in creative dishes made with fresh, local ingredients.
There are also some fantastic food trucks and roadside stands where you can try delicious Mexican cuisine and street food.
If wine and food aren’t enough to keep you occupied, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in Valle de Guadalupe.
Take a scenic biked ride or hike through the vineyards, or visit local art galleries and cultural centers. You could also opt for a rejuvenating spa day at one of the upscale boutique hotels in the area.
25. Yelapa, Jalisco
Imagine yourself stepping into an enchanting tropical paradise – that’s Yelapa for you!
Tucked away on the southern coast of Mexico’s Banderas Bay, Yelapa is a quaint village accessible only by water taxi.
It offers visitors a true escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and an opportunity to enjoy Mexico’s natural beauty.
Once you arrive in Yelapa, you’ll be greeted by the warm, sandy beach and the inviting turquoise waters.
Take a stroll along the shoreline, where you’ll find local fishermen, small restaurants, and a sense of tranquility that can be difficult to find elsewhere.
Don’t forget to taste the village’s famous pie, called “Yelapa Pie,” which comes in flavors like coconut, chocolate, and various fruits – a sweet treat to complement your beach day.
Besides lounging on the beautiful beach, Yelapa boasts numerous outdoor activities. Hiking is a popular pastime among visitors– a short trek through the lush greenery leads you to a stunning waterfall.
Surrounded by vibrant flora and fauna, you can take a refreshing dip in the clear pool at the base of the cascades.
For the aquatic adventurers, Yelapa’s vibrant marine life makes it an excellent spot for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Dive into the enchanting world beneath the surface, where you’ll encounter a variety of fish, sea turtles, and other marine creatures.
If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of the mesmerizing humpback whales and wild dolphins that frequent the waters around Yelapa.
In the evenings, indulge in some delicious local cuisine at one of Yelapa’s charming, family-run restaurants.
With a focus on fresh ingredients, you can expect a delightful array of flavors, from freshly-caught seafood to traditional Mexican dishes.
Dine al fresco while enjoying the soothing sounds of the waves and the friendly atmosphere of this close-knit community.
Yelapa truly is a hidden gem in Mexico’s vast landscape, offering visitors a serene, untouched environment to reconnect with nature.
26. San Sebastián del Oeste, Jalisco
Enveloped in the Sierra Madre Mountains and brimming with age-old charm, San Sebastián del Oeste is perfect for those who love a touch of history and nature.
You’ll find this lesser-known treasure just a couple of hours from bustling Puerto Vallarta, making it one of the easiest hidden gems in Mexico to reach from a major airort.
Begin your visit by strolling down the cobbled streets of the well-preserved town center.
Here, you’ll encounter beautiful colonial architecture, such as the 18th-century church, Iglesia de San Sebastián. Breathe in the aroma of freshly ground coffee at La Ollita, a local coffee shop where you can fuel up before exploring further.
Feel like you’ve stepped back in time at La Quinta María, a beautifully restored hacienda that now serves as a boutique hotel and restaurant.
Treat yourself to a stay in one of their elegant guest rooms or just dine on traditional Mexican fare while enjoying the spectacular mountain views.
Venture just outside of town into beautiful wilderness, where you can participate in several outdoor activities. A few popular options include:
- Hiking: The surrounding mountains are a hiker’s paradise, with trails carved into the lush landscape. Don’t miss the opportuinty to visit Cerro de la Bufa, offering stunning panoramic vistas.
- Horseback Riding: For a more relaxed pace, experience the beauty of the landscape on horseback.
- Birdwatching: San Sebastián del Oeste is home to more than 100 species of birds, making it an ideal destination for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike.
No trip to San Sebastián del Oeste would be complete without exploring the town’s mining history.
Visit the Mina de San Sebastián, an old silver and gold mine, and marvel at the ingenuity behind the extraction process.
27. Litibú, Nayarit
When you’re looking for hidden gems in Mexico, Litibú should definitely be on your radar.
Situated in the state of Nayarit, this small beach town offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of more popular tourist spots.
As you arrive, you’ll instantly feel the laid-back atmosphere of Litibú. The pristine beach, with soft golden sand and clear turquoise waters, will beckon you to lounge for hours.
Beach activities are a must here: try snorkeling in the tranquil ocean, spotting tropical fish and other marine life.
Don’t forget to explore the lush, green surroundings of Litibú. Rent a bike or go for a hike and immerse yourself in nature, discovering unique flora and fauna.
Golf enthusiasts will love the opportunity to play on a picturesque course at the Litibú Golf Club, designed by the legendary golfer Greg Norman.
While in Litibú, indulge in the local cuisine, focusing on fresh seafood dishes.
You might want to try the grilled red snapper, ceviche or shrimp tacos, full of zesty flavor. Pair it with ice-cold michelada, a refreshing local beer with lime juice and spices, perfect for a casual seaside lunch.
To truly make the most of your stay in this hidden gem, try to mingle with the friendly locals.
They can show you the best spots for capturing stunning sunset views or direct you to an off-the-beaten-path hiking trail.
28. Sisal, Yucatan
You might not have heard of Sisal yet, but it’s a charming little coastal village hidden away in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Surrounded by mangroves and sea, it’s the perfect spot for a peaceful getaway.
You’ll love strolling down the picturesque streets and admiring the beautiful colonial architecture, remnants of Sisal’s prosperous past.
Stop at the local cafés for a chat with the welcoming locals, and don’t forget to try the delicious seafood, freshly caught right in the village.
If you’re an adventure seeker, you’ll find plenty to do in Sisal. Enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding through the mangroves, or take a guided boat tour to explore the local ecosystem, rich in unique plant and animal species.
For history buffs, the nearby “Camino Real” is a fascinating trail that once connected Sisal to the ancient city of Mérida.
You can hike or bike along this historic path, soaking in the vibrant culture and stunning surroundings.
So, if you’re looking for hidden gems in Mexico with a friendly atmosphere, beautiful landscapes, and a rich history, you can’t go wrong with Sisal, Yucatan.
29. Las Guacamayas, Selva Lacandona in Chiapas
In the heart of the Lacandon Jungle, you’ll find Las Guacamayas, one of the biggest hidden gems in Mexico.
This eco-tourism center offers you an authentic experience where you can immerse yourself in stunning natural beauty and learn about the local flora and fauna.
When you arrive at Las Guacamayas, you’ll be greeted by the bright red macaws, the center’s namesake, flying overhead.
The vibrant colors of these magnificent birds create a vivid contrast against the lush greenery of the jungle, making for a memorable sight.
You can explore the jungle by taking one of the guided tours. Your knowledgeable guide will lead you through the dense vegetation, pointing out the variety of plants and trees.
Keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating species during your adventure:
- Red Macaw: The star of the show and symbol of the center.
- Jaguar: Elusive and stunning, a rare sight but worth the chance.
- Spider Monkey: Playful primates that you might spot swinging through the trees.
Aside from the wildlife, Las Guacamayas also boasts some fascinating archaeological sites.
You can visit the ancient Mayan ruins nearby and learn about the rich history of this enigmatic civilization.
While at the center, don’t miss the opportunity to interact with the local Lacandon community.
They have a vast knowledge of the jungle and are happy to share their culture and traditions with you. By staying at one of their eco-lodges, you can fully experience life in the jungle while supporting sustainable tourism.
Hidden Gems in Mexico FAQs
What are some lesser-known spots to visit in Mexico?
There are plenty of hidden gems in Mexico that are off the beaten path.
Some of the lesser-known spots to visit include the charming town of Bacalar, the Grutas de Tolantongo in Hidalgo, and the Huasteca Potosina in San Luis Potosí.
These destinations offer unique experiences and are perfect for travelers looking to explore the best hidden gems in Mexico.
Where can I find unique natural features in Mexico?
Mexico is home to several unique natural features that are worth exploring. The Copper Canyon in Chihuahua is one such place.
This natural wonder is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon and offers breathtaking views.
The Peña de Bernal in Querétaro is another natural feature that is worth a visit. This monolithic rock formation is one of the tallest in the world.
What are some of the best hidden gems in Mexico?
If you’re looking to get off the beaten path, consider visiting the city of Guanajuato in Guanajuato.
This charming colonial city is known for its colorful buildings and underground tunnels.
Another off-the-beaten-path destination is Tequila in Jalisco. This town is the birthplace of tequila and offers visitors the chance to learn about the history and production of this iconic Mexican spirit.
What are some hidden gems in Mexico’s Yucatan region?
The Yucatan region is home to several hidden gems in Mexico that are worth exploring. The town of Valladolid is one such place.
This charming colonial town is known for its colorful buildings and rich history. Another hidden gem in the Yucatan region is the town of Izamal.
This town is known for its yellow buildings and is often called the “Yellow City.”
What are some authentic and non-touristy places to visit in Mexico?
If you’re looking for authentic and non-touristy places to visit, consider visiting the town of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas.
This town is known for its indigenous culture and vibrant arts scene. Another non-touristy destination is the town of Real de Catorce in San Luis Potosí. This town is known for its rich mining history and is a great place to explore Mexico’s past.
What are some underrated destinations in Mexico that are worth a visit?
Mexico has plenty of underrated destinations that are worth a visit. The town of Sayulita in Nayarit is one such place.
This charming beach town is known for its laid-back vibe and for having some of the best surfing in Mexico.
Another underrated destination is the town of Todos Santos in Baja California Sur. This town is known for its art galleries and beautiful beaches.
The Best Hidden Gems in Mexico: Conclusion
So there you have it!
Whether it’s your first time traveling to Mexico or you just want to explore beyond the big tourist destinations, these hidden gems in Mexico are a great way to get to know the country in a more authentic way.
Have you ever visited any of these hidden gems in Mexico? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments section below!