With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, we have Mexico on the brain. Perhaps this year, instead of celebrating the day with watered-down margaritas at your local Tex-Mex chain restaurant, you should start planning that trip to Mexico you’ve always talked about taking.

The country is filled with a rich culture, profound history and gorgeous beaches. We all know the popular places to visit and stay, but what about the more breathtaking locales? Here are a few places that don’t usually make the list of hottest spring break locations, but do make the list of unforgettable places you really have to see to believe.


city street in Puebla, Mexico

If you truly feel like celebrating Cinco de Mayo, you need to head for the genuinely authentic and very historic Mexican city of Puebla. The vivacious city has managed to keep it much of its history despite its modern amenities and population. Nothing compares to the stunning view of the Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl volcanoes providing a dramatic background for the city. Enjoy the city life, tour pre-Hispanic, colonial and Mexican historical sites and then leave the metro for some unequaled volcano hikes.


Palenque river falls in Chiapas, Mexico

There is no end to the variety of amazing and beautiful sites to see in Chiapas. Rainforest jungles complement inviting beaches. You can tour ancient Mayan ruins, or visit the immense, river-carved Canyon of Sumidero. When you’re done with that, head to the lakes at Montebello and then spend some time in Palenque where you’ll find more awe inspiring ruins and unforgettable sites like the waterfall pictured here.


historical building in Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca is another great place to find the true flavor of Mexico. With ancient buildings and ancient customs, it would not be difficult to find yourself completely immersed in the culture. This is a prime spot for cultural, food and history buffs. If you want a break from the culture, head out to the mountains, beaches, caverns and jungles to explore on your own. You’ll want to make it back for your next meal, though.

Chichen Itza

Mayan ruin at Chichen Itza

If you’ve seen photos of Mayan ruins, you’ve likely seen Chichen Itza. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a testament to the brilliance and power of the Mayan civilization. The sheer size of the structures at Chichen Itza will leave you breathless and the overwhelming feeling of the incomprehensible history of the site will captivate you. Just make sure you plan enough time to enjoy a full view of the area, which is about two-and-a-half square miles.

Isla Mujeres

beautiful beach of Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Translated as “the Island of Women,” this paradise is just a short jaunt from Cancun. It’s quiet and relaxing and a great place to hide yourself from the notorious party atmosphere of the area. The main draw of this island is that it’s a perfect place to do nothing at all. But, if you feel you must do something, there are plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel or sightsee.


one of the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico

One of the gems of the incredible Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is an ideal place to find legendary Mexican beaches, unique geological sites, one-of-a-kind cenotes (underground lakes), and ancient ruins. Despite being a popular destination, the Yucatan maintains the look of an untouched land. And if you get to Mexico and don’t see the cenotes, you’re doing it wrong.

Riviera Maya

resort at Riviera Maya, Mexico

Another must-see destination on the Yucatan Peninsula, the Riviera Maya touts pristine beaches and relaxing resorts. Forget the crowds at Cancun and Cabo and head to a tropical paradise where you’re likely to forget you have a job or any responsibilities at all. Of course, you can always get out and do some exploring if relaxing by the beach becomes too much work for you.


scuba diving with a sea turtle at Akumal, Mexico

With a name that is the Mayan word for turtle, it’s pretty clear that Akumal is an incomparable place for scuba diving, underwater sight-seeing and swimming with turtles. The coral reefs beg to be seen and in Akumal, you’ll experience diving like nowhere else. The island also boasts a small population, so it’s easy to get out of the hustle and bustle of more populated areas and not feel like a tourist by fully immersing yourself in their culture.

Isla Holbox

a relaxing scene on Isla Holbox, Mexico

This gem of an island is not far from Cancun, which makes it surprisingly easy to get to, despite the feeling of being away from it all. The streets of Isla Holbox are white sand and the beaches are the stuff very relaxing dreams are made of. The tiny island also features fascinating whale sharks and large species of birds native to the land. And if you feel brave enough to do any kite surfing, Isla Holbox is the place.


a great escape at Zihuatanejo, Mexico

If you’ve seen the movie ‘Shawshank Redemption,’ you know the name and the attraction of Zihuatanejo. In the film, it was the perfect escape for two convicts and in life, it’s the perfect escape for everyone else. It’s a small, quiet village only 15 minutes from the more lively city of Ixtapa. The atmosphere is laid back and the residents are chill, but if you feel like you need an evening of action, you can easily head to Ixtapa for some fun.

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