Five Off the Beaten Path Places to Visit in Mexico

mex3Mexico is traveled to by people from all parts of the world, yet most tourists miss many of its best spots. It is a large and diverse country with much to offer. In my opinion, all of the least desirable spots get seen by the most “gringos”, such as the tourist havens and, especially, the border towns. These places can leave a bad taste in the mouth making some not want to travel back to Mexico despite its natural and cultural wonders.

Guanajuato – Halfway between Mexico City and Guadalajara lies one of Mexico’s greatest cultural treasures. The city of Guanjuato is one of the finest examples of colonial architecture. As the birthplace of Diego Rivera, this city carries on a tradition for the arts that may be unparalleled in Mexico. The city even carries a taste of the macabre with the Panteon. One trip through the underground area with its glass enclose mummies is enough to fascinate or to conjure up nightmares.

mex4Puerto Escondido – Most surfers have heard of this special place in Oaxaca. Zicatela Beach is known worldwide as the Mexican pipeline for its curling waves. The flights from the states don’t work out well to these sublime beaches and communities of friendly people.  Flying directly to the small airport is often expensive, but oftentimes a mini-bus from vibrant Oaxaca city is cheap and easy.

mex1Tiburon Island – There is a place where the Gulf of California and the Sonoran Desert meet. The stark beauty of the natural preserve of Tiburon Island is haunting. Years ago, Mexico declared this place a nature preserve for the forms of life that are native to this corner of the world. Getting there is a difficult matter. We had to pay a gentleman named Pedro to take us out there in his little boat. If you appreciate the heat, amazing beauty and are willing to cross the strip of water called El Infiernillo, Tiburon is worth a visit.

mex2Bahias de Huatulco
– Often just called “Huatulco”, this gem of a place lays on the south facing coast of western Mexico. I was there in the green season and was amazed by the lushness of the vegetation. There are nine bays to explore and legends say that the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl was from this place. It seems apt. Even with modern developments, the geography of the region makes this beautiful place difficult to get to. However, the reward is worth it.

mex5Copper Canyon – The whole world knows about the American treasure of the Grand Canyon. Despite being many times the size of the Grand Canyon, fewer people know about the Copper Canyon. The most common and simplest way to traverse the Copper Canyon is by the Chihuahua Al Pacifico Railroad nicknamed “Chepe” by locals. If you take a train ride, be sure to take any chance you can to learn about the fascinating and hardy Tarahumara tribe indigenous to the area.

IMAGES VIA: K. Kendall,, Lance and Erin, Chris J Murray and israael on flickr

13 thoughts on “Five Off the Beaten Path Places to Visit in Mexico

  • The Highway to Huatulco is very treacherous. You can do it, but it’s not the safest road in the world. Also if you are prone to motion sickness, it probably will make you ill. There is a small airport there, but it’s expensive to get to.


  • I went via the bus. Mexico’s bus system is great and goes pretty much everywhere and is very affordable. There are a lot of companies, but I took Primera Plus and Ticket Bus a good deal. I hooked up with a friend that was living in Mazatlan to get to Tiburon, we drove in his crappy old dodge, it was a blast. I took a minibus from Oaxaca to get to Puerto Escondido. There were some city buses, a taxi or two, but mainly I got around on the bus on that trip. I think it’s how most Mexicans get around.

    Puerto Escondido doesn’t have the kind of hotel coverage that you would find in Cancun or even Puerto Vallarta, but it’s not hard to find a place to stay. I recommend La Punta Rooms right on Zicatela beach, if you enjoy the hostel experience that is.

  • Kate,

    You are an extremely talented photographer as I’m sure you know. But I am struck by the way you really captured some of the essence of this remarkable region. In writing the article I spent a good amount of time wracking my brain for the memories. I didn’t have a camera with me on that trip, well I did for awhile, but it was stolen. You brought those memories flooding back with your images, thank you.


  • I flew from Oaxaca City to Huatulco with Aerotucan and it was not very expensive and a fun experience.

    Also, if you like boutique hotels, you might want to look at the Mexico Boutique Hotels collection. There are some very affordable properties in great off the beaten path locations.

    Travel by bus is good for the most part in Mexico. Easy, accessible and affordable. I’ve traveled quite a bit this way as well.

    Oh! and finally, Guanajuato is fantastic! A must-see. Good luck!

  • HiJake
    I second what Kate said about Copper Canyon, it is incredible. I visited it in the winter just after a snow storm and stayed in Creel for several days, visiting Arareko, Cusarare and several of the canyons. The rail journey is rated as one of the Great Railway Journeys of the World.

  • Hola Jake,

    I’ve been in Guanajuato and Pto. Escondido, incredible places!!!
    Thanks for give this kind of options. I’m planning my next vacations maybe in Copper Canyon…
    I live in Mexico City, so i can do it with calm…


  • Hey guys, it’s fun to read about your experiences in Mexico. I took a trip down there last year with my cousin and some friends and we drove around a lot but the intercity buses are certainly a great way to get around. I prefer ETN over PrimeraPlus because the buses are more comfortable but also more expensive.

    It’s true that the roads throughout much of Mexico are very winding and can be nauseating. The trip from Oaxaca City to Zipolite took us almost an entire day, even though the two spots are separated by only about 120 miles. The drive through the sierra is spectacular, though.

    Anyway, I’d like to visit Barranca del Cobre someday but after reading Jacob’s article I’m more motivated than ever.

    Greetings from Chicago!

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