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If this spring’s lukewarm weather has you dreaming of an exotic getaway with cold drinks and a hot sun, you’re definitely not alone. Popular spots like Cancun and Cozumel are obvious picks, but there’s a lot more to our southern neighbor—and, specifically, these Mexico destinations—than powdery beaches. If you’re looking for something a little more authentic or less crowded, read on.

Go drinking and dancing in Guadalajara

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This is basically Mexico personified. Think mariachi music, always-flowing tequila and mind-blowingly beautiful plazas, but leave the stereotypes at the airport. Besides the admittedly dangerous margaritas and all-out fun that Cinco de Mayo is known for, you can easily discover some deeply enriching cultural experiences. Explore the historic center’s churches and cathedrals before settling in for a night of live music and fun. If you’re a fan of Mexico’s most famous elixir, hop on the Tequila Express (no joke) out to the Jalisco countryside to see how the inhibition-bending drink is made, have some samples, and dine on regional specialties before a mariachi dance performance. Snag a bargain at Hotel Morales in the colonial downtown district to stay plugged into Guadalajara‘s rapid, nonstop pulse.

Discover beautiful beaches and ancient ruins in Tulum 

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Ancient ruins? Check. Resorts galore? Check. Postcard-worthy beaches? They’re some of the best in the world. Welcome to Tulum, a fabled destination for beach bums and history-lovers alike. When you’re not exploring the ancient, walled Mayan city—which edges up against the turquoise Caribbean Sea—you can walk right onto the beach for a little sunbathing, or cool off in a gorgeous cenote or two. Plus, UNESCO World Heritage site Sian Ka’an is located just south of this surprisingly affordable beach town. It’s worth the trip to snorkel with the dolphins, turtles and fish that call the Mesoamerican Reef home, and take a boat tour along the diverse park’s mangrove canals and ruins. Rest your weary suitcases at Maison Tulum for a steal before heading to nearby Tulum National Park for a hike.

Get back to nature in Mazatlan

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‘The Pearl of the Pacific’ isn’t just a fancy nickname—this beach town is perfect for an outdoorsy adventure, thanks to its numerous islands, seaside promenade, beaches and lagoons. It’s also located along the migration routes of several whale species, who pass through the region between December and March. Get up close to the endangered Humpback Whale by signing up for a whale watching tour through Onca Explorations (which also offers mangrove kayaking, swimming with dolphins and plenty of other eco-adventures). In Plaza Machado you’ll find the the best restaurants and shops in town, and it’s not far from Casa Lucila Hotel Boutique, a great (and inexpensive) spot to lay your head at the end of a busy day. Plus, it’s within walking distance of Mazatlan Archaeological Museum and the Olas Atlas Beach.

Kick back on the beach in Zihuatanejo

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This Pacific Coast town is a far cry from the quiet fisherman’s village it used to be, but has still retained much of the charm that has attracted so many visitors for the last 40 years. Best known for its beautiful beaches and cobblestone streets, there is plenty to see and do here while soaking up that famously warm sun. Sign up for a eco-tour, kayaking, snorkeling or horseback riding on the beach to get the most out of your days. Then, at night, take a romantic (or friendly) sunset stroll along the waterfront. While the beach is by far the main draw, food comes in at a delicious second place. Learn to make local delicacies at the highly rated Zihuatanejo Cooking School, or scarf them down at eateries like the seafood-focused El Gabo and hipster cantina La Katrina. Need to sleep? Easy. Let the crashing waves lull you to sleep at Catalina Beach Resort.

Get your culture fix in Mexico City

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Cleaner, hipper, and better than ever (or at least recent history), the capital of Mexico is in the middle of a renaissance, thanks to its exploding cultural and culinary scenes. To that point: take a boat tour through the canals and nosh on Hidalgo-style barbacoa at El Hidaguense before exploring the vast collections of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The city is also home to so many world-class museums and historic, beautiful buildings you’ll never see it all, but it’s definitely worth a shot. Spend some time checking out wonders of the ancient world like Templo Mayor—an old Aztec temple that dates back to when Mexico City was named Tenochtitlan—and the mysterious Teotihuacán Pyramids just north of the city. Visit Plaza de la Constitución for some people watching, and try Paseo de la Reforma for a lovely evening walk before retiring to the Hotel El Ejecutivo.

Get lost (metaphorically) in Copper Canyon

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If you’re up for some serious adventure, check out northern Mexico’s Copper Canyon, which is four times bigger than the impossibly huge Grand Canyon and tucked in the middle of the Sierra Madres. Considering its size, you won’t get far on foot (that’s not to say that the hiking is not 100% worth it). But to a big part of it, book a 14-hour ride on the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway, which will take you between cities of Mochis and Chihuahua, and past lakes, forests and over bridges along the way. The lengthy itinerary includes plenty of stops where you can stretch your legs and check out the mind-boggling scenery.

Wander the heart-achingly beautiful streets of San Miguel de Allende

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This beautiful, old city nestled in central Mexico is chock-full of history. San Miguel de Allende gets its name from a prominent figure of the War of Independence, and offers well-preserved Colonial and Spanish architecture on nearly every corner. Best of all, the city is home to a thriving art scene that draws people from all over the world. You can spend your days drifting from galleries to shop-lined streets to find the perfect pieces to take home as a reminder of your more-memorable-than-Cancun travels. For an authentic, local experience, stay at Antigua Capilla Bed and Breakfast, just a few blocks from the city center.

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Tagged: Beach, City, Family, Holidays, International, Mexico, Tips & advice, Uncategorized

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