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Mexico is known for its heavy-hitter tourist destinations—think Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, Mexico City, etc. The list goes on, and for good reason: These destinations contain some of the world’s best beaches, cultural attractions and UNESCO heritage sites. But with great reputation inevitably comes great crowds. Fortunately for Mexico, it’s packed with scores of destinations still coming into their own. Think under-the-radar beaches, authentic colonial cities and ancient ruins buried deep in the jungle—all without hordes of tourists. But no secret lasts forever, so get to these five next-level Mexican destinations before everybody else does.

RELATED: 10 best cheap places to travel in 2019

mexico, guanajato city

Guanajato City

Guanajuato City

Mexico’s northern central state of Guanajuato isn’t new to the tourism scene, thanks to its cultural capital, San Miguel de Allende, which often finds itself awarded top accolades like “Best City in the World” by the likes of Travel + Leisure. But the state has another city that is coming into its own, a city that boasts just as much charm and history, with far fewer crowds. Guanajuato City has been growing over the last few years as a center for business and industry. Because of this, there has been increased air travel to the destination, especially on United Airlines, which has direct flights from San Antonio and Chicago. UNESCO has named it a World Heritage Site, thanks to its colonial architecture, pastel-colored buildings, cobblestone streets, wide tree-lined plazas, galleries, churches, and the iconic Templo La Valenciana, which overlooks the entire city from a hilltop. Guanajuato is also the birth city of Diego Rivera, Mexico’s most important muralist, and his childhood home has been converted into a museum where the ground floor is a recreation of the original house, with the upstairs used for original paintings, sketches and temporary exhibits.

Mexico

Todos Santos

Los Cabos may be the land of glitzy hotels and glamorous yachts, but just 45 minutes north, travelers will find the sleepy seaside town of Todos Santos. One of Mexico’s so-called Magical Towns (a designation given by Mexico’s tourism board to towns known for providing a “magical” experience, thanks to their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions or other factors), it has long been a favorite among budget travelers and surfers seeking its convivial, laid-back lifestyle, massive swells, and its blend of authentic culture and seaside living. Art galleries, cafes and coffee shops abound, as are small boutiques, tapas bars and beach hangouts.

campeche, mexico

Campeche

Campeche

Mexico’s new president has proposed a very controversial $8 billion Mayan train route to run along the Yucatan peninsula. If completed, it will open up Cancun tourism to more far-flung destinations, like Campeche, Merida and Valladolid. Before these new, once hard-to-reach destinations become easily accessible by a tourist train, visit the colorful, vibrant, seaside town of Campeche, which explodes on the scene like a vision from a storybook. Colonial buildings painted bright yellows, pinks, reds and blues flank cobblestone streets. The walled Centro Historico is home to a gleaming white cathedral that stands at the center of the tree-lined plaza, and there are beautiful sunsets that dip behind the Gulf of Mexico, on which the city sits. It’s a beautiful city to visit to try local cuisine, like pan de cazon, layers of white fish between tortillas smothered in tomato sauce, or panuchos de pavo, which are small corn cakes topped with shredded turkey, sour cream, and cheese.

Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara

Guadalajara

Known as Mexico’s second city (behind Mexico City), Guadalajara is drawing massive interest among artists and creative youth, thanks in part to a booming tech industry that is sweeping the city. As a result, the city is blossoming into a thriving juxtaposition of traditional and modern. For example, the city skyrocketed from 5,000 restaurants to 17,000 in only the last six years. These trendy eateries sit alongside traditional markets like Tlaquepaque, which is one of the largest crafts markets in all of Mexico. Six new hotels opened in 2018, including Hard Rock Hotel Guadalajara, 1970 Posada Guadalajara, Aloft Guadalajara, Hilton Midtown, City Express & Suites and FCH Providencia Urban Boutique. An additional 15 hotels are set to open between now and 2020, as well.

Costa Brava, Mexico

Mahahual

Mahahual

While Tulum might be the last stop for many travelers venturing south from Cancun, keep driving another couple of hours to be rewarded with breathtaking sugary beaches, laid-back beach bars, and an eco-friendly boutique hotel scene that mixes nature with luxury. Mahahual is a small seaside beach town that is the nucleus of the Costa Maya—the southern coast of Quintana Roo and home to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, as well as some of the best snorkeling north of Belize. Right now, the closest airport is Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo, but as there are limited flights from the U.S., most travelers fly into Cancun and then end their journeys in Tulum. It’s worth the extra drive to be rewarded with spectacular Caribbean water, a serene environment and jewels of hotels that have yet to be discovered by mass tourism.

Tagged: Beach, Destinations, Mexico

Megan Drillinger

Megan Drillinger

Megan Drillinger

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