In recent years, many have flocked to the beaches of Tulum, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos, but there are other Mexican destinations that offer more authentic getaways replete with outdoor adventures, gorgeous coastlines, luxury lodgings, and fewer tourist traps. Here, two low-key places to visit in 2019:
Like Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres is a secluded island off the Yucatan Peninsula, just a quick ferry ride from Cancún. Previously visited almost exclusively by locals, the small island (less than five miles long) is now beginning to attract vacationers, who revel in the lack of mega resorts and chain restaurants.
Isla Mujeres boasts an underwater sculpture museum, turtle farm, and magnificent white-sand beaches. Most activity centers around Miguel Hidalgo, the main street lined with family-owned eateries, al fresco cafés, and shops—it’s just steps away from Playa Norte, the most popular beach. It can get busy during the day, so come around sunset. Because the island is so small, most people get around by bike, golf cart, or on foot. For a scenic workout, bike from downtown to Punta Sur, the southernmost tip of the island—you’ll get dramatic cliff vistas, and take in an ancient Mayan temple ruin dedicated to the goddess Ixchel. The surrounding coral reefs also make Isla Mujeres a great place for snorkeling and scuba diving.
A former fishing village, the island is a culinary destination that specializes in seafood. Lola Valentina is a favorite among locals, and serves grilled shrimp, Yucatan roasted pork, and refreshing salads. Tacos are, unsurprisingly, plentiful in the area—the chicken ones at Café Mogagua and the al pastor version at Taqueria Medina are must-tries.
Getting there: Take the Gran Puerto Cancun ferry at Puerto Juarez outside downtown Cancún. It leaves every half-hour from 5 a.m until 9 p.m. and takes 25 minutes.
Where to stay: The three guest rooms at Icaco Island Village, a private, adults-only property, exude chill, beachy vibes. There's a rooftop terrace with expansive sea views along with a hot tub and rope swing.
Thanks to its world-renowned diving, kitesurfing, mountains, and sandy beaches, La Paz is popular with active travelers. John Steinbeck’s famed novella The Pearl was set in this capital of Mexico’s Baja California Sur. La Paz is known for its marine life—Jacques Cousteau, who spent years here, called it “the world’s aquarium”—which offers dramatic sights like breaching whales and sea lions in addition to activities like snorkeling and paddleboarding. Don’t miss the white-sand Balandra beach and be sure to stroll or bike down the three-mile-long waterfront boardwalk. Take a short boat ride to Espiritu Santo, a nature reserve, for kayaking through the frigatebird colony, caves, and lagoons.
For inventive food in a relaxed but chic atmosphere, head to Nim Restaurante. The global cuisine includes dishes like ceviche, shrimp tostadas, and salads like the Betabel with beets, feta, and quinoa. At waterfront restaurant Azul Marino, casual fare like pizza and grilled fish is served.
Getting there: La Paz is a two-hour drive north of Los Cabos, or you can take a domestic flight to Manuel Márquez de León International Airport.
Where to stay: The luxe CostaBaja Resort & Spa offers panoramic sea views and elegant, comfortable rooms. It’s on a sliver of beach where the water is calm, and there’s a pool bar, marina, and ample opportunities for fishing and golfing.
A hip boutique option, Hotel Catedral features a rooftop infinity pool and central al fresco courtyard. It’s located in the historic part of the city, next to Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, opened as a Jesuit Mission in the 18th century.