10 Best Small Towns in Mexico for Tourists | PlanetWare (2022)

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Nov 3, 2020

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Mexico is a country built for exploring. From its sunny beaches, towering mountains, and cultured cities to its sprawling resorts and indigenous culture, it could take a lifetime to explore everything Mexico has to offer. Aside from its thriving metropolises, like Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico also has spectacular small towns.

These small towns in Mexico are known for their authentic culture, indigenous roots, artisan colonies, and uncharted beaches. From Mayan cities turned Spanish colonial monastic towns like Izamal to boho chic surf paradises like Sayulita, and mystical mountain escapes like San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico is peppered with hundreds of stunning storybook small towns.

Shop handmade artisan goods in Todos Santos, or learn the perfect tree pose overlooking the ocean in Mazunte. Wander the mountain roads in Taxco while looking for centuries-old silver, or sip a fresh fruit smoothie on the powder-soft beaches of Tulum.

If you're ready to discover the smaller, more local side of Mexico, check out our list of the best small towns in Mexico for tourists.

1. Todos Santos, Baja California Sur

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Todos Santos is one of those storied beach towns south of the border that seems to spring from literature. Imagine beatniks and bohemians fleeing conventional life for a simpler, more tranquil life by the sea. Todos Santos is straight out of the pages of John Steinbeck or Jack Kerouac. And while it is certainly gaining popularity along the tourist path, its laid-back ethos continues.

Cobblestone streets are padded by locals and international surfers alike. New Age hippies have left their mark, as well, with art galleries and gourmet restaurants and cafés. It's not far from Cabo, but it seems another world away.

Todos Santos is about an hour away from Cabo San Lucas, so ready yourself for the same dramatic desert-meets-sea landscape but a far more tranquil vibe. Culture vultures roam the streets popping into artisan workshops, or snacking on organic cuisine underneath flowering bougainvillea trees.

But cultural offerings aside, Todos Santos is a prime Baja spot for adventurers, from kayakers and snorkelers to scuba divers and surfers. Hiking trails wind through the desert and beach areas, as well. But while Todos Santos has managed to retain its sleepy, bohemian vibe for years, the secret is out and, like most small towns in Mexico, development is coming.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Todos Santos

2. Izamal, Yucatan

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You're going to want to cue the Coldplay when you stumble at the doorstep of the town of Izamal – because it really is all yellow. Not far from the state capital, Merida, Izamal is a town splashed in shades of yellow and ochre. Cobblestone streets are flanked with low-rise colonial-style buildings that seem to radiate with warmth, both in feeling and in canary yellow color.

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The city was once a center of worship for the Mayan people, packed with temples dedicated to Mayan gods. In the 16th century, the Spanish colonized the town and built a sprawling Franciscan monastery, the Convento de San Antonio de Padua, which is still the centerpiece of the city today.

Remnants of the Mayan past can still be found, even though the Spanish made every attempt to overwhelm the centuries-old Mayan heritage. The Kinich Kakmo Pyramid sits to the north of the city, blanketed in moss, and stands as a tribute to the nearly forgotten past. A quick ascent to the top of the crumbled structure makes way for views over the town, and its base is one of the largest in Mexico.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Izamal

3. Sayulita, Nayarit

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Salty surfers and leathery sun worshipers remember Sayulita – back in the 1990s when it was a jungle-shrouded crescent of beach and solid surf, a few taco shacks, and a dusty road. Today's Sayulita is by no means a big town in Mexico, but it has certainly grown a long way from its sleepy fisherman village roots.

Today Sayulita is a boho chic paradise of a few small streets, center square, and small stretch of beach. It's a haven for haute hippies, whose turn on words include "organic," "yoga," and "artisanal." It's also a great spot for photographers looking for interesting places to photograph in Mexico.

Hotels swing boutique, and yoga retreats are a dime a dozen. You can still manage to score a room at a surf bungalow or two, but accommodations these days do come at a premium.

Today, restaurants swing more along the lines of elevated brick oven pizza and small plates, rather than the dirt cheap fish tacos of yesteryear, but the bustling small town in Mexico is still a welcome escape from the frenetic energy of Puerto Vallarta to the south.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sayulita

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4. San Cristóbal De Las Casas, Chiapas

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Perched atop a mountain in Mexico's southern highlands, San Cristobal De Las Casas rises out of the mist. Steeped in ancient shaman traditions, the colonial mountain city is a far cry from any other place you've seen in Mexico. The Tzotzil Maya tribe is indigenous to this part of the country, who are masters at textiles and shaman mysticism.

As is common for small towns in Mexico, the road is paved with cobblestones, which are lined on either side with low-rise, colonial buildings that pop with bright colors. Markets hum with activity, and the faint scent of incense seems to hang in the air.

A main tourist drag is lined with buzzing restaurants, serving everything from traditional Tzotzil and local hot chocolate (a delicacy in the state of Chiapas) to Lebanese cuisine and tea.

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San Cristobal is a popular stop on the backpacker route around southern Mexico. The state of Chiapas itself is packed with gems, from the ruins at Palenque to the Sumidero Canyon. The state is one of the most beautiful in Mexico and can be a vacation entirely on its own.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in San Cristóbal De Las Casas

5. Mazunte, Oaxaca

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Oaxaca's rugged and wild coastline is among the most beautiful in Mexico, from secluded bays to craggy cliffs, rolling mountains, and strings of sleepy beach towns waiting to be discovered. While tourists are more familiar with Oaxaca's more popular hot spots, like Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, there are stunningly beautiful, far less-traveled beach towns all in between, like Mazunte.

Mazunte is clustered around two beaches: Playas Rinconcito and Mermejita. Backpackers and surfers have flocked to these quieter shores for years, creating a hippie enclave that is all about fresh-pressed juices, dreamcatchers, yoga, and tarot cars.

But beyond the New Age vibe, Mazunte is a haven of natural beauty and wildlife, sea turtles in particular. In fact, it has a research center right in town.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mazunte

6. Valle de Bravo, México

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Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of more than 20 million people. But just two hours away, travelers can transport themselves to an entirely different, entirely more tranquil slice of lake paradise. Valle de Bravo, one of Mexico's Magic Towns, is a lake town perched on Lake Avandaro. Shrouded in thick forest and surrounded by smoky mountains, the colonial town is famous for being a getaway of the Mexico City elite.

The lake, believe it or not, is manmade, but that does not make the views any less spectacular. The colonial center is dotted with red terra-cotta roofs and veined with cobblestone streets. So although it is a tourist town, it exudes a decidedly Mexican character and charm.

Visitors spend their days hiring boats on the lake, hiking in the hills, or camping for the more adventurous. Gorgeous homes with lake views are available for rent, as well.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Valle de Bravo

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7. Zihuatanejo, Guerrero

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Any Shawshank Redemption fan is familiar with the place, "Zihuatanejo." And while the portrayed Mexican town isn't exactly where Red and Andy reunited in the film, it is based on a very real place on Mexico's Pacific coast.

Zihuatanejo is the sister city to the Pacific coast resort town of Ixtapa. Up until the 1970s, Zihuatanejo, or "Zihua," to locals and surfers, was a peaceful little fishing village tucked in a rocky bay lined with a few choice beaches. And while Zihua certainly has retained its sleepy vibe compared to its resort-forward neighbor, it's been infused with a vibrant and colorful soul all its own.

Narrow cobblestone streets run back from the beachfront, lined on either side with local restaurants, shopping boutiques, and galleries.

And then there are the beaches – three, to be exact. Playa La Ropa is the most famous in Zihuatanejo and tends to draw the most crowds. It's a bit outside the downtown area and is located near many of the hotels. Closer to downtown is Playa la Madera, which is lined with beach restaurants and is where many of the locals come to relax for the day. Playa Contramar is yet another beach area, but is much smaller.

While Zihua is very much a tourist town, especially when the cruise ships come in, it's still a thriving fishing village, where fishermen head out to sea each and every day to return with their daily catch. By night, the town square comes alive with live music, street food, and entertainment.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Zihuatanejo

8. Tulum, Quintana Roo

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Tulum may be splashed across the covers of various international travel magazines, but it is still very much a town – one of Mexico's most famous towns.

Most visitors are coming to Tulum for its stunning beaches and A-list boutique hotel scene. There is also the world-famous, eponymous archaeological site. But venture off the beach road, and you'll discover a living, breathing town, as well.

The truth is, the main drag where all the cheap restaurants and budget accommodations are, is along the main highway. But this is where the heart and soul of Tulum lives, from the busy, frenetic side streets lined with taco joints, to the town squares and markets. Rent a bicycle and get exploring.

Of course, there is the beach, too, which is one of the best beaches in all of Mexico. Tulum's beaches are powder white, and the vibe that has been crafted is pure boho-luxury.

Boutique eco resorts dot the sand, while the beach road is flanked with gourmet organic restaurants, artisan shops, and yoga studios.

Nearby, visitors will find the Tulum ruins, as well as the lesser known Coba ruins, cenotes, and lagoons.

Accommodation:

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9. Tlacotalpan, Veracruz

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The riverside Tlacotalpan is a gorgeous colonial town in the Gulf state of Veracruz. It's officially a UNESCO World Heritage town, and not much has changed since the early 19th century. With bold- and pastel-colored low-rise colonial houses, tropical weather, and palm trees everywhere, Tlacotalpan brings Caribbean visions to a Mexican world.

The Spanish colonial city was founded in the mid-16th century and still boasts the colonnaded houses and gorgeous gardens. It also has a high concentration of historic buildings, showing off arcades of arched porticoes, regal columns, and ornate detail. The bulk of the action centers around Parque Hidalgo and Plaza Zaragoza.

One of the best times to visit Tlacotalpan is during the Fiesta de la Candelaria, which is a 100-year-old festival that lasts from the end of January until February 9. The streets are lined with explosions of colorful flowers, and the locals are always outside with music and celebration.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Tlacotalpan

10. Taxco, Guerrero

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From the moment you feast your eyes on Taxco, you will know you have found something truly special. The hillside town is surrounded on all sides by steep mountains, making it a preserved jewel of a colonial city, with white-washed walls, red terra-cotta roofs, and the gorgeous Santa Prisca cathedral with a truly magnificent dome.

Taxco, about 100 miles from Mexico City, is known for its silver trade. Since the 16th century, the town has been put on the map as a silver mining city. Though now the silver is all gone, Taxco is a veritable tourist hot spot – but yes, you can still buy silver here. Historic architecture, stunning natural views, museums, galleries, and restaurants keep it a humming and historic getaway from Mexico's capital city.

Today, the thing to do in Taxco is to absorb its history and architecture. Wander the Santa Prisca church, visit the Museo de la Plateria (the silver museum), and even take a cable car ride up to the Monte Taxco Hotel, which offers a great bird's-eye view for photos.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Taxco

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FAQs

What is the prettiest town in Mexico? ›

Where should I go on my first trip to Mexico? ›

16 Best Places To Visit In Mexico On Your Trip
  • Mexico City. With it being the capital of the country & its most visited city, there is little wonder that Mexico City figures in this list. ...
  • Guanajuato. ...
  • Cancún. ...
  • Puerto Vallarta. ...
  • Cabo San Lucas. ...
  • Tulum. ...
  • Playa del Carmen. ...
  • Cozumel.
14 Jan 2021

What town in Mexico is known for silver? ›

Taxco de Alarcon, Mexico's silver capital, is a charming colonial town nestled in the mountains of Guerrero state between Mexico City and Acapulco.

What are magic towns in Mexico? ›

Meaning magic town in Spanish, pueblos magicos in Mexico are small towns highlighted by the Mexican government's official Pueblo Magico Program for their “magical” qualities. These could be its beauty, history, culture, natural wonders and more.

What is the safest city in Mexico? ›

Seven of the safest cities in Mexico
  1. Merida. Widely acknowledged as the safest city in Mexico (and even Latin America), your biggest safety concern in Mérida will probably be the busy traffic. ...
  2. Playa del Carmen. ...
  3. Mexico City. ...
  4. Puerto Vallarta. ...
  5. San Miguel de Allende. ...
  6. Sayulita. ...
  7. Huatulco.
15 Sept 2022

What city in Mexico looks like Greece? ›

A beautiful greek-like paradise in the most Mexican beach - Review of Villa Aikia, Zipolite, Mexico - Tripadvisor.

What is the safest resort town in Mexico? ›

8 Safest Places to Travel in Mexico in 2022
  • Merida.
  • Puerto Vallarta.
  • Campeche.
  • La Paz.
  • Oaxaca.
  • San Cristóbal de las Casas.
  • San Miguel de Allende.
  • Puebla.

Is Cancun or Cabo better? ›

Los Cabos is cooler and drier, similar to the beautiful weather in Southern California. Cancun is humid and in the Gulf of Mexico, which creates a greater chance of hurricanes and heavy storms. Cabo only has on average 10 rain days per year. For those looking to travel on a budget, Cancun is the way to go.

Should you pay in pesos or dollars in Mexico? ›

The national currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). However the US Dollar is widely accepted across Mexico especially in the more touristic places like Playa del Carmen. In fact most tour companies, restaurants, and even some shops will have their prices in both pesos and dollars.

What is the most visited city in Mexico by Americans? ›

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cancun is America's favorite destination in all of Mexico. This year, the Caribbean jewel posted a 100.8% growth, or namely an a further 4,009,729 arrivals compared to the same period in 2021.

What does Taxco mean in Spanish? ›

/ ˈtɑs koʊ; Spanish ˈtɑs kɔ / PHONETIC RESPELLING. noun. a city in Guerrero state, S Mexico: silver mining.

Is Taxco silver real? ›

We offer over 1,200 designs on our website, and you will find the full variation of hallmarks on these pieces. At the end of the day, they all have two things in common: Every piece was produced in Taxco, and every piece that we offer is at least sterling . 925 silver in its content.

Where is the best silver in Mexico? ›

Zacatecas is Mexico's leading silver producing state (46.5% of total; see map), well ahead of Chihuahua (16.6%), Durango (11.3%) and Sonora (6.9%).

Why is it called Pueblo Magico? ›

Pueblos Magicos are towns recognized by the Mexican government for their “magical” qualities, whether that be their astonishing beauty, rich history, or extraordinary legends. Among the more famous Pueblos Magicos is Tequila – the home of the world renowned spirit.

How many states does Mexico have? ›

Political division of Mexico consists of 32 states: Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur , Campeche, Coahuila, Colima, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Mexico City, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis ...

What is a Mexican Pueblo Magico? ›

Mexico's Magical Towns (or Pueblos Mágicos) are villages awarded with this designation for their mystical and mythical character and for maintaining their original architecture, culture, folklore, and history intact.

What is the safest beach in Mexico? ›

Located on the Caribbean Sea, Akumal is among the safest beaches in Mexico to visit. A must see for many Yucatan Peninsula visitors is the Mexico beach town of Akumal, to swim with the turtles in Akumal Bay.

Is Cabo safer than Cancun? ›

Safety in Cancun and Los Cabos

Currently, both the states of Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur have Level 2 travel advisory warnings, which encourage travelers to exercise increased caution. That said, by and large, travel to both Cancun and Los Cabos is safe.

Is Playa del Carmen safer than Cancun? ›

In 2022, both Playa del Carmen and Cancun have the same safety advisory level. The U.S. Department of State maintains a travel advisory of “Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution” for both towns due to the high levels of crime and violence in the state of Quintana Roo.

What is the coldest place in Mexico? ›

The mountainous area in the north east of Chihuahua called Los Lamentos can claim to be the coldest place in all of Mexico. Here the record low temperature of -29 °C was set in 1962.

Are there nice cities in Mexico? ›

Mexico is rich with renowned destinations. Places like Cancún, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo have all more than earned their reputations, but—let's face it—also lie firmly along the roads most traveled.

Is Cozumel safer than Cancun? ›

Cozumel isn't behind in terms of safety either. It's in the same state as Cancun, so the safety advisory level for it is also the same. The island is relatively safe for tourists as long as the above-mentioned precautions are taken.

What part of Mexico has the lowest crime rate? ›

1. Yucatán. Yucatán, for the second year in a row, has maintained the most peaceful state in Mexico.

Where are Americans moving to in Mexico? ›

Many Americans are leaving the states for Mexico City, which is angering some of the Mexican population there, the Los Angeles Times reports. Americans are capitalizing on the lower rents available, the cheaper standard of living, and the ability to stay in Mexico for six months without a visa.

What month is the best weather in Mexico? ›

The dry-season months of November to March promise the nicest, balmiest weather, though airfare and lodging prices are higher and crowds are more intense during this time. Dry, warm November may be the most ideal month to visit overall, offering a sweet spot between the heavy fall rains and beginning of high season.

How many days should you stay in Mexico? ›

Planning Your Stay in Mexico

Mexico is one of the larger nations in Latin America, which means it's hard to get the full experience in just a few days. That's why we think two weeks is the ideal length to see the country's highlights. With this much time, you can visit multiple locales and criss-cross the nation.

Is 2 weeks in Cancun too long? ›

Two weeks are fine. So many things to do besides just staying at your resort. Some suggestions are: * Day trip to Isla Mujeres.

Is Riviera Maya safe right now? ›

Is Riviera Maya Safe to Visit? What is this? The most popular towns on the Riviera Maya to visit are Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. Playa Del Carmen is a safe place to visit, as long as you are sensible and avoid putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation – like most destinations.

Are all inclusives in Mexico safe? ›

Mexico all inclusive-resorts are a safe option for any traveler looking for a clean and luxurious experience. Offering amenities such as; multiple restaurants and bars, swimming pools and parks, live performances, and kid friendly or adult only options. These resorts are meticulously sanitized and looked after 24/7.

Which Mexican resort has the best food? ›

Top 9 All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico for the Best Dining
  • Le Blanc Resorts & Spa Cancun.
  • Grand at Moon Palace.
  • UNICO 20°87° Hotel Riviera Maya.
  • Grand Velas Riviera Maya.
  • Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.
  • Le Blanc Resort & Spa Los Cabos.
14 Jul 2020

What is the least populated place in Mexico? ›

Colima. One of the smallest states of Mexico by land area, Colima is also the smallest in the nation in terms of population. The state has a population of 711,235 people, an area of 5,627 square km, and its capital city is Colima.

What are towns called in Mexico? ›

Municipalities (municipios in Spanish) are the second-level administrative divisions of Mexico, where the first-level administrative division is the state (Spanish: estado).

What towns are near Mexico City? ›

Top 5 Small Towns Near Mexico City
  • Valle de Bravo.
  • Tequisquiapan.
  • Chignahuapan.
  • Cholula.
  • Bernal.

Which Mexican state is a popular tourist? ›

Most Visited Mexico States

Though you might not know this state by name, Quintana Roo is home to many of the best beach towns in Mexico and top Mexico travel destinations — including Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Cozumel. The state also has cenotes, Mayan ruins and more.

Is Mexico safe for tourists? ›

Mexico has a high risk of violent crime, such as murder, armed robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping. Don't travel at night outside major cities. Kidnapping and extortion are serious risks. Don't draw attention to your money or business affairs.

Where do most Mexican people live? ›

The most populous city in the country is the capital, Mexico City, with a population of 8.9 million (2016), and its metropolitan area is also the most populated with 20.1 million (2010). Approximately 50% of the population lives in one of the 55 large metropolitan areas in the country.

Can u drink when your 16 in Mexico? ›

The minimum legal drinking age in Mexico is 18 years old. Mexico requires that young adults show photo identification, either a passport or driver's license, as proof of age when buying alcohol.

What are Mexico's top 5 major cities? ›

Mexico: The largest cities 2020 (in million residents)
CharacteristicResidents in million
Mexico City8.84
Tijuana1.81
Ecatepec1.64
León1.58
6 more rows
6 Apr 2022

What language does Mexico speak? ›

The official language of Mexico is Spanish, which is spoken by 90 percent of the people. Indian languages of the Aztecs, Mayans, and other tribes are still spoken throughout the country. Originally there may have been more than 200 roots of native languages.

What US city is closest to Mexico? ›

  • El Paso, if you mean a city that actually sits right on the border. San Diego does have a few exurbs on the border with Mexico, but the city center is half an hour worth of driving north of the border. ...
  • Downtown El Paso is about 15 minutes north of the border. On foot! ...
  • This is the eastern part of the city.

What city in California is closest to Mexico? ›

Less than 20 minutes from the city of San Diego, Tijuana Mexico is the gateway to the tourist corridor of Baja California. Recognized as one of the world's most visited cities, with more than 40 million border crossings each year, Tijuana is an energetic hub of activity day and night.

What city in Texas is closest to Mexico? ›

The main U.S./Mexican border crossings along the Texas border are: El Paso, Texas / Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Laredo, Texas / Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

What is the safest beach town in Mexico? ›

Cancun is ranked as the safest beach town in Mexico with lower crime rates than most Mexican cities.

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