Are you looking for underrated alternatives to Mexico’s most popular destinations? Check out these less touristy, less expensive, and less crowded alternative destinations in Mexico!
Mexico set a new tourism record in 2022, welcoming more than 20.6 million tourists last year. 2023 is shaping up to be another record-setting year for tourism as visitors continue to flock to Mexico.
According to TripAdvisor, these are the most popular destinations in Mexico for tourists:
- Playa del Carmen
- Cabo San Lucas
- Puerto Vallarta
While all of these destinations offer stunning beaches and plenty of things to do, visitors will also encounter large crowds and high prices.
Some places, like Tulum, have become virtually unrecognizable in the last decade as this once hidden-gem destination transformed into one of the trendiest and most-visited places in Mexico.
However, if you’re looking for underrated destinations that have the same vibe as Mexico’s most popular tourist hotspots, here are the best alternatives to check out:
1. Cancun Alternative: Puerto Morelos
Cancun is the number one most popular destination in Mexico for American travelers, with more than 40 nonstop flights from cities in the United States to Cancun each day.
Because of its popularity, Cancun can get extremely crowded and prices soar during peak times of year like the holidays and spring break.
A great alternative to Cancun is Puerto Morelos, located just forty minutes to the south. Puerto Morelos has the same gorgeous beaches as Cancun, but it’s more laidback and less expensive.
2. Playa del Carmen Alternative: Isla Holbox
Playa del Carmen is another extremely popular destination along the Riviera Maya in Mexico. It’s known for its beaches, resorts, nightlife, and coral reefs.
But if you’re looking for a more underrated alternative, try Isla Holbox. This laidback, car-free island is located two hours to the north of Playa del Carmen, plus a short ferry ride. Like Playa del Carmen, it has great beaches and wildlife, including sea turtles and whale sharks.
However, it has a more low-key atmosphere and fewer crowds, while still having plenty to do.
3. Cabo San Lucas Alternative: La Paz
Cabo San Lucas, located in Baja California, on the western side of Mexico, is known for its dramatic scenery, great beaches, and resorts.
But crowds and prices can get high, especially during peak season from December through April.
A fantastic alternative is La Paz, located about two hours north of Cabo San Lucas. This authentic Baja California city is lively and has lots to do, like Cabo.
It also has beaches and landscapes that rival Cabo. But you’ll find that it remains an underrated gem with lower crowds and lower prices.
4. Puerto Vallarta Alternative: Sayulita
Puerto Vallarta is a popular resort city on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. It’s extremely touristy and over-developed, so if you’re looking for something more low-key, try Sayulita instead.
Located just one hour away, this beach town retains its laidback atmosphere despite growing in popularity among tourists.
There are plenty of things to do in Sayulita, from surfing during the day to partying at beach clubs and bars at night.
5. Tulum Alternative: Bacalar
Tulum is one of the most notorious destinations in Mexico known for its sky-high prices and crowds that flock to trendy restaurants, cafes, beach clubs, and nightlife.
Once known as a quiet hippie haven, Tulum has exploded in popularity due to its Instagrammable locales.
For somewhere less developed and touristy, check out Bacalar instead. Located about 2.5 hours from Tulum, Bacalar is not actually on the beach.
It’s on Lake Bacalar, also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors. Bacalar is already being called “the new Tulum” and it’s not hard to see why.