18 of Mexico’s hidden gems you didn’t know existed: Mexico off the beaten track.
Mexico’s hidden gems are a far cry from the bustling holiday resorts of Cancun, Tulum and Acapulco and are well worth visiting.
From enchanting colonial towns tucked away in the highlands to remote, pristine natural landscapes and secluded beaches, these hidden gems in Mexico offer a glimpse into the country’s rich and diverse cultural tapestry, revealing a side of the country that is authentic and unspoiled by mass tourism.
Whether exploring the vibrant murals of a forgotten pueblo, savouring regional culinary delights in a quiet village, or immersing yourself in the serenity of untouched wilderness, the wealth of Mexico’s hidden gems promises an unforgettable travel experience.
In this travel guide, I uncover 18 lesser-known places in Mexico that travel experts have recommended far beyond the well-trodden tourist paths.
Discover Mexico’s Secret Destinations off the Beaten Path
- Mascota – volcanic hikes
- Yelapa – waterfalls and village life
- San Cristobal De Las Casas – colonial architecture and festivals
- Chiapa de Corzo – archaeological site and waterfalls
- Bacalar – lagoon of seven colours
- Sisal – amazing beach and rich heritage
- El Cuyo – authentic Mexican coastal vibe
- Serenity Luxury Glamping – beachfront glamping
- Las Colorades – An oasis of pink lakes and flamingoes
- Copper Canyon – hiking and a unique train ride
- Mulege – spectacular river views and sandy beach
- Magdalena Bay – whale watching in Mexico
- Agua Caliente Hot Springs – dig a natural hot tub on the beach
- Valle de Guadalupe – wine and gastronomy destination
- La Huasteca Potosina – waterfalls and swimming holes
- Lagunas de Chacahua – national park with jungle and beaches
- San Jose del Pacifico – restorative temazcal ceremonies
- Islas Marias – Unesco penal island retreat
Mexico Location Map
Hidden Gems in the Jalisco Region
Mascota – volcanic hikes and stunning jungle views #1
We discovered the colourful colonial town of Mascota while living in the well-known city of Puerto Vallarta and craving time in the mountains.
As lovers of landscapes and nature, the popular and frequently visited town of San Sebastian popped up. After digging deeper to find somewhere lesser known, we discovered another town further into the Sierra Madre mountains called Mascota. Its appeal of drawing fewer crowds yet being surrounded by gorgeous mountainscapes was undoubtedly why we chose to visit.
Buses run from Puerto Vallarta, as do taxis, but we drove the 2-hour journey to Mascota and found it was straightforward to navigate, albeit on a road that weaved between the mountains. It’s a picturesque drive; however, we were advised to watch for cows on the roads or landslides during the rainy season in October.
Some travellers visit Mascota on day trips, but you need more time to immerse yourself in everything the town offers. For that reason, we stayed for a few nights in an Airbnb. There are also a few decent hotels in Mascota close to the centre.
What makes Mascota one of Mexico’s hidden gems?
Must-see attractions in Mascota include the breathtaking Mascota volcano fields, just a ten-minute walk outside of town. We hiked up Mirador Guadalupe for an aerial view of the whole town. It is a hill in the middle of the town, crowned with a cross, and with an epic 360-degree view of the area.
As with many towns in Mexico, Mascota’s centrepiece is the Basilica de la Virgen de los Delores. It is a beautiful church steeped in history and decorated with murals and ornaments.
Lastly, if time permits, the village of Yerbabuena is off the tourist trail, just a 15-minute drive away. With less than 500 inhabitants, it feels like a ghost town but is full of charm and surrounded by stunning mountain views.
Mascota was awarded the crown of a Pueblo Magico in 2015, and now we have visited, we understand why. It has some of the friendliest people we encountered in our time in Mexico, some of the best views we set eyes on and some of the most beautiful architecture, making it one of Mexico’s hidden gems that should feature highly on a trip to northwestern Mexico.
Yelapa – waterfalls and village life #2
Yelapa is a beach town south of Puerto Vallarta with that quaint fishing village feel. While we were staying in Boca de Tomatlan (another great fishing village south of Puerto Vallarta), multiple locals told us we had to take a trip to Yelapa.
After hearing about Yelapa more times than we could count, we knew we needed to visit one of Mexico’s most talked about hidden gems!
Reaching Yelapa isn’t as easy as taking the next bus to the village. It’s only accessible via boat or hiking in, so we headed to the docks to grab a boat to Yelapa.
From Boca, we cruised down the coastline for about 30 minutes before jumping off the boat to golden beaches and colourful buildings nestled into the rich, green jungle surrounding Yelapa Cove.
With cobblestone streets, no cars in the village, two waterfalls in Yelapa, and excellent snorkelling, it’s hard to decide what the best part of Yelapa truly is.
While visiting Yelapa in a day is doable, with boat schedules and the one-hour trek from Puerto Vallarta each way, we recommend spending the night in Yelapa.
This helps the local economy and offers a more intimate 24-hour experience of Yelapa instead of the limited time the daily boat schedules allow.
Lesser-Know Spots in the Chiapas Region
San Cristobal De Las Casas – colonial architecture and lively Mexican festivals #3
San Cristobal De Las Casas surprised me on so many levels. I originally only considered it for a stopover after crossing the border from Guatemala. Still, so many travellers I met along the way told me I should stay for at least a few days that I became very intrigued.
I ended up spending ten days in San Cris, and it is now my favourite town. Although lesser known and still off the beaten track in Mexico, San Cristobal is packed with incredible things to do, but most of all, it’s just a truly magical city that lives up to its title of “pueblo magico”.
What makes San Cristobal one of Mexico’s hidden gems?
San Cristobal de las Casas in the Mexican region of Chiapas is set in a valley surrounded by mountains at 2,200 metres above sea level, which gives the city its specific climate. But what creates San Cristobal’s unique vibe is its richness in culture and diversity.
The town is deeply rooted in indigenous heritage, with the Tzotzil and Tzeltal communities at its core. Their traditions and festivals have been part of this place since the 1500s. With increasing numbers of tourists turning into long-term residents, the town’s historic centre has transformed into a fusion of traditional Mexican, indigenous, and global influences. Maybe that’s the secret sauce to its magic.
The cobbled streets are lined with charming colonial architecture and full of fabulous eateries and bars. The culinary scene here is incredible, offering a wide range of flavours highlighting the town’s cultural diversity. Finding excellent restaurants and cute little cafés, enjoying authentic cocoa and just getting lost in the town streets were some of my favourite things to do.
San Cristobal de las Casas Tours
San Cristóbal De Las Casas is an excellent starting point for exploring the region’s natural wonders, including the El Chiflon waterfalls and the Cañon del Sumidero.
The best way to explore the town and learn about its history is to take a free walking tour, which starts every day at 10 am and 5 pm in front of the wooden cross on Plaza de la Paz. It’s one of the best walking tours I’ve ever participated in!
There are many markets, museums, stunning street art and historical sights to see that will make you want to stay in San Cristobal de las Casas for a long time. Guaranteed!
Chiapa de Corzo – archaeological site and waterfalls #4
People might know Chiapa de Corzo without realising it because it’s the starting point for most trips down the Cañon del Sumidero; however, it remains one of Mexico’s hidden gems.
We visited Chiapa de Corzo as part of a two-week road trip through Chiapas because we wanted to take a boat ride down the Cañon de Sumidero. The more I read about the town, the more I wanted to visit. Chiapa de Corzo is one of Mexico’s pueblos magicos, and while foreigners rarely take the time to stay for more than a few hours, Mexicans know it’s worth spending more time here.
Just 45 minutes from the Tuxtla airport and one hour from San Cristobal de las Casas, it’s an easy day trip if you don’t have time to stay, but if you can, do.
We were able to stay a few nights in Chiapa de Corzo, which was perfect as it gave us time to see the nearby archaeological site, visit the waterfalls where locals like to swim, explore the Parque Nacional Cañon del Sumidero (where you’ll find views to blow your mind) and watch the birds come to nest at dusk from the town plaza.
Hidden Gems in the Yucatan Peninsula
Bacalar – lagoon of seven colours #5
Bacalar is a gorgeous destination in Mexico under the tourist radar. This south Quintana Roo gem offers the beautiful Bacalar Lagoon, a stunning spectacle.
Because of the different shades of blue shown throughout the water, it’s often called the “lagoon of seven colours”. Visitors can swim, kayak, boat, and river tube in the lagoon. It’s a lot of fun river tubing in the Los Rapidos section; however, apart from the stunning lagoon, there isn’t much more to do and see in Bacalar.
I had wanted to go to Bacalar for a long time after seeing a feature in a magazine. I love water, swimming, and the sun’s warmth, and I wanted an escape from Mexico’s north in the winter.
Bacalar is not so easy to get to from typical tourist spots of Mexico. That’s why it’s lesser known and not as frequently visited. Many visitors will travel to Bacalar from the northern areas of Quintana Roo, like Cancun and Tulum. You can also take a connecting flight to Chetumal Airport. Some visitors will also take a day trip from the Costa Maya cruise port.
It’s best to spend at least two days here to make the travel worthwhile; check out Villa Ecotucan, nestled on the edge of the lagoon, for a restful stay in nature.
Sisal – amazing beach and rich heritage #6
Sisal is a small town on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula that boasts one of the best beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
I visited Sisal after I heard that it was one of the best undiscovered places along the coast of Yucatan that hadn’t yet experienced a tourism boom. After spending a few days in Merida, the capital of Yucatan, I was ready for a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Sisal is designated pueblo mágico, a term awarded to places with historical and cultural significance by the Mexican government to preserve authentic towns and villages throughout the country.
I loved exploring the quiet streets of Sisal and trying local street food like marquesitas and tacos, which are sold on many corners.
A trip to Sisal by taking a colectivo or taxi makes the perfect getaway from Merida. Another option is to rent a car, which will give you more freedom to explore the rest of the Yucatan peninsula. If you want to spend a couple of nights, there are several hotels in Sisal where you can enjoy the relaxed lifestyle of this quiet pueblo.
Aside from the incredible beaches, Sisal has a rich Mayan history. After gaining independence from Spain, it was the principal port of Yucatan and was known for producing henequen, a type of fibre used to make ropes, nets, and hammocks.
After the production of henequén declined, Sisal became a quiet fishing village known for its pristine beaches and distinct architectural style. Today, it’s one of the best up-and-coming destinations on the Gulf of Mexico.
El Cuyo – authentic Mexican coastal vibe #7
If you are looking for a chilled, off-the-beaten-path destination, then El Cuyo is the place for you. It’s a rustic hidden gem located on the Yucatan Peninsula on the northern coast of Mexico, about 180 kilometres east of Merida.
El Cuyo has a laid-back vibe that we love, and we have returned for a trip with our kids. We visit El Cuyo because we want a genuine Mexican experience and like to avoid the expensive and tourist-centric Riviera Maya. El Cuyo provides our family with traditional cuisine, boutique hotels, and the warm hospitality of the Yucatan residents.
Our family enjoys sunbathing on the pristine beaches with beautiful turquoise waters, relaxing or walking the shoreline, and wandering around the small town. However, if you have older kids, water sports and kitesurfing may be more adventurous for them. Located in the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, we also enjoy searching for flamingos in their natural habitat and immersing ourselves in the simple, natural wonders of El Cuyo.
You can travel to El Cuyo in three ways: rent a car and drive yourself, hire a private driver, or take the bus. There are plenty of hotels and resorts in Cuyo; however, we suggest the following three depending on what you want to spend:
Cucu Hotel & Kite El Cuyo – This is where we stayed, offering luxurious accommodations with a pool.
LunArena Boutique Beach Hotel – Midrange
Tropicana House in El Cuyo – Budget.
Serenity Luxury Glamping Resort – beachfront glamping #8
Serenity Luxury Glamping Resort, located between Cancun and Tulum, is truly one of Mexico’s hidden gems! This glamping resort has the best of both worlds since it is located in the middle of the Mayan jungle and has beach access.
The resort is what I like to call “zen-like” and let me tell you, I have never been so relaxed as I was during my stay! I found this gem on Booking.com, and since I’ve always wanted to “glamp”, I booked it right away! I took a private transfer to the resort from the Cancun airport and found myself in paradise!
The resort includes a swimming pool, winding jungle paths with bright flowers and flowing fountains, an on-site restaurant, and a beach club. The tents are air-conditioned and have a patio with a hammock and beautifully decorated bathrooms.
I spent time at the resort relaxing under beachside umbrellas and swimming in the blue Caribbean waters. I soaked up the resort’s tranquil atmosphere with a good book while listening to the rain patter on the jungle canopy.
On-site amenities include a yoga studio and spa with services like massages. I opted for a massage on the beach. It certainly is the place to unwind, relax and rejuvenate! Nearby activities include Kantun Chi Cenote Park and swimming with sea turtles at Akumal Bay.
Las Colorades – An oasis of pink lakes and flamingoes #9
The pink lakes of Las Colorades are a unique place in hidden Mexico. They are located in the Yucatan Peninsula, about three hours by car from many top destinations in the region, and are one of the world’s best pink lakes to visit.
The colour of the pink lakes is natural, caused by pink microorganisms like brine shrimp and plankton and a high salt content, which explains why Las Coloradas has been used as a natural salt mine for centuries.
Las Colorades is in the small town of Rio Lagartos, part of the Ria Celestun UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. While you can’t swim in the water at Las Coloradas, plenty of fantastic photo opportunities exist.
Since most will only need to be at the lakes for about 30 minutes, I recommend you take the boat tour through the mangroves in Rio Lagartos. These tours leave from the central Rio Lagartos dock and cost about 500 pesos per person.
I took this tour and saw everything from wild alligators to flamingos and numerous wading birds. I also got to swim in one river area away from the alligators.
Pink Lakes Tours
How to get to the Pink Lakes
On my visit to Las Coloradas, I came from Merida, the biggest city closest to Las Coloradas. However, you can also come from the Mexican Caribbean if you are staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya or Tulum.
The best way to visit is by rental car or on a guided tour, as the Pink Lakes aren’t easily accessible via public transport. No matter where you’re coming from, it is an easy drive, and the roads are well-maintained.
Most people visit on a day trip, but if you want to stay overnight, there are a few hotels in Rio Lagartos to choose from.
You’ll want to know that you must arrive on a bright sunny day, at midday, when the sun is directly overhead. It was still early when I visited, and the pink lakes looked quite brown until the sun was directly overhead.
Lesser-Known Gems in the Chihuahua Region
Copper Canyon – hiking and a unique Mexican canyon train journey #10
Andy and I were based in Yucatan, Mexico, as digital nomads, researching off-the-beaten-track things to do when we stumbled across the Copper Canyon. The main appeal to us was the ‘El Chepe’ train you could take through the series of six copper-green colour canyons from Chihuahua to Los Mochis (or vice versa); it sounded incredible!
As soon as we had some spare time, we headed up to the Sierra Occidental Mountains in Northwest Mexico and spent 5-days exploring The Copper Canyon by train.
We found many great things to see and do in the Copper Canyon. Still, our favourites were hiking near Creel and exploring the unique rock formations in the Valleys of the Monks, Frogs and Mushrooms, admiring the breathtaking views from Divisadero/ Posadas Barrancas, and the Copper Canyon Adventure Park, which has one of the longest ziplines in the world.
The best way to get to either Chihuahua or Los Mochis to start your Copper Canyon journey is by flying in – both have airports. We flew in from Merida.
It’s possible to travel through the entire Copper Canyon by train in one ‘very long’ day, but I’d highly recommend against it. You need three days at the very least; we did it in 5-days and could have added on a couple of extra days, as there was so much more to discover in this Mexican hidden gem.
Mexico’s Hidden Gems in Baja California
Mulege – spectacular river views and sandy beaches #11
After seeing a photo of a lush, tropical-looking river snaking through a palm grove in the usually arid state of Baja California Sur, I knew I had to visit Mulege!
Sitting on the state’s northeast coast, Mulege is an oasis town, housing one of the only rivers in Baja. The Jesuits chose this location for one of their earliest missions because of the freshwater source. Completed in 1766, the historic mission is one of Mulege’s main attractions.
Today, the town is a tiny settlement of less than 4,000 people plus a handful of in-the-know travellers escaping the cold, northern winters.
You need a rental car to see the best of Mulege. It is two hours north of Loreto, a larger town with an international airport. This is the best place to pick up a car.
What makes Mulege one of Mexico’s hidden gems?
We visited Mulege on a day trip from Loreto. But as soon as we arrived, we wished we had more time to spend there.
Our first stop was the Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé, and we saw the iconic view of the Rio Mulege (Mulege River) with our own eyes. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the narrow streets, past colourful buildings and along the river.
But our favourite part of Mulege was a short drive south of town – Bahia Concepcion. Conception Bay is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Baja. The sheltered bay has perfectly calm, bright blue waters teaming with life. The scenery, with the desert mountains soaring up behind the coast, was simply spectacular.
With no hint of all-inclusive resorts or beach clubs, Mulege and its surroundings are one of Baja’s best-kept secrets.
Magdalena Bay – whale watching in Mexico #12
One of our favourite places in Mexico is a remote island called Isla Magdalena, located on the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California Sur peninsula. The island shelters a large bay from the open Pacific Ocean and is favoured by grey whales, who migrate here yearly to mate and give birth.
We first discovered Magdalena Bay when researching wildlife documentary filming locations. The lagoon is one of only three grey whale sanctuaries in Mexico and a true hidden gem. Staying at Magdalena Bay Whale Camp quickly became one of our best travel experiences and is a bucket list item we’d recommend to anyone with a love of wildlife.
What makes Magdalena Bay one of Mexico’s hidden gems?
Magdalena Bay is a lesser-known destination in Mexico and one of the most unique. The grey whales here have come to trust the local fishermen, who act as licensed tour guides in the winter months.
The whales willingly approach the boats, often getting so close that you can touch them. The whales seem to enjoy this interaction and often benefit as visitors can help remove barnacles that stick to the whales’ skin. We were pleased to discover that whale watching in Mexico is highly regulated, so we knew our visit would have no negative impact on the species.
You can stay on Isla Magdalena in one of the most unique eco-hotels in the world: Magdalena Bay Grey Whale Camp. We stayed for three blissful nights, although tour packages vary in length. The glamping tents are nestled into the hillside with views of the bay, and the restaurant (which caters to vegans and vegetarians) provides some of the best authentic Mexican food we’ve ever had.
The whale camp is a little tricky to get to, but private transfers can be arranged from La Paz and Los Cabos. We arrived from La Paz and were dropped off in Loreto (also both great whale-watching destinations), so we found the option of transfers super helpful.
The best time to visit Magdalena Bay is between January and March. We visited in late February and saw many whales (although it’s important to remember that they’re wild animals and don’t appear on command).
Agua Caliente Hot Springs Beach – dig a natural hot tub on the beach #13
During our RV travels through Mexico, we learned from a fellow traveller about a rare oceanfront thermal hot spring in Baja, California. The Agua Caliente Hot Springs Beach is just a 38.5 km drive south of Ensenada Cruise Port and is a perfect day trip from Ensenada or Valle de Guadalupe.
It’s not widely known to tourists, and while a few places in the world have similar hot spring beaches, this was the only one we had heard about in Mexico.
Sections of the beach are thermally heated, so we arrived just before sunset to dig our own hot tub. We worked to create a large hole and filled it with cold ocean water. And voila, the seawater was heated almost instantly using the natural thermals beneath the sand.
The beach is most accessible during low tides, giving us a small window of opportunity to dig our tub. However, even though we arrived within one hour of low tide, we still didn’t have enough time to dig a suitable hole before the tide started rising. It was a race against nature, and it felt like for every shovel of sand we removed, the ocean deposited more in its place.
Finally, sitting in our self-made hot tub, feeling the warmth of the thermal hot springs beneath us while the sun set over the ocean, was simply magical and made the effort we had put in so worthwhile. So, if you are looking for one of Mexico’s hidden gems, you will find one, as we did, at Agua Caliente Hot Springs Beach.
Several private property and business owners offer paid parking with showers and restrooms for beachgoers. Highway 1 from Ensenada to the beach is paved and is suitable for all vehicles.
Valle de Guadalupe – wine and gastronomy destination #14
Valle de Guadalupe is a relatively new wine region in Baja, California, where the first commercial vineyards were planted in the 1970s. It has quickly become one of Mexico’s most important wine-making regions, producing world-class wines, but remains one of its lesser-known gastronomy destinations.
I heard about Valle de Guadalupe from a friend who had recently visited. They raved about the beautiful scenery, the delicious food, and the fantastic wines. I was immediately intrigued and decided to plan a trip of my own.
The vineyard is about 90 minutes south of Tijuana and inland from Ensenada, and you can easily visit Valle de Guadalupe as a day trip or organized tour from San Diego. If you head down for the day, you easily have time for two or three wineries and lunch.
The Museo De La Vid Y Vino is a great first stop centred around wine tasting. It shares the history of winemaking in Baja and the beginnings of winemaking worldwide. However, if you can spend longer, I suggest booking accommodation in Valle de Guadalupe for 2-3 days to maximise your experience.
There are over 100 wineries in the region. After visiting several times, my favourite wineries and ones I recommend are Casa de Piedra, Monte Xanic, Bodegas de Santo Tomás, L.A. Cetto, and Adobe Guadalupe.
Valle de Guadalupe Tours
Where to eat in Valle de Guadalupe
There are also several excellent restaurants, but the one I think offers the best experience and food is Chef Roberto Alcocer’s Malva. The location is entirely outdoor, with a thatched roof overlooking his herb garden and the Valle de Guadalupe vineyards.
His food is centred around the Baja Med movement. And his dishes are as beautiful as they are delicious. The chef’s tasting menu is a fantastic way to experience the food and flavours of Malva. Local seafood, including fresh oysters, is featured on the menu.
Escape to La Huasteca Region of Mexico
La Huasteca Potosina – waterfalls and swimming holes #15
Featuring an abundance of turquoise rivers and waterfalls, La Huasteca Potosina is one of Mexico’s hidden gems and has been on my radar for a while. It’s an area best explored by car, so when my nature-loving father planned to visit me in Mexico, I decided it was the perfect place to take a road trip together.
This lush, tropical region is located about seven hours north of Mexico City in the state of San Luis Potosí. We spent five days exploring Huasteca Potosina, which I recommend as a minimum. However, you could easily plan a longer trip if you prefer to take your time travelling.
The most popular waterfall in the area is Cascada Tamul, whose waters fall from more than 300 feet high into the turquoise river below. Minas Viejas, Salto del Agua, El Meco, and Cascadas de Micos are other must-see waterfalls.
My favourite place in La Huasteca Potosina is Puente de Dios (Bridge of God) in Tamasopo. Along the river are shallow places to swim, surrounded by tropical flora and fauna. And the jewel is swimming through the incredibly bright blue water cavern to the pool on the other side.
I also highly recommend travelling to the eastern side of Huasteca Potosina to witness thousands of birds flying out of a deep canyon called Sotano de las Golondrinas. Once you’re there, you can’t miss exploring the Edward James Surrealist Garden in Xilitla.
La Huasteca Potosina is a lesser-known destination in Mexico to add to your travel list. Remember, it’s best to avoid the rainy season when the rivers swell, and the rain kicks up sediment on the bottom.
Undiscovered Treasures in the Oaxaca Region
Lagunas de Chacahua – national park with jungle and beach #16
Lagunas de Chacahua? I had never heard of it either until I overheard another traveller at my hostel in Puerto Escondido mention it being one of the best surf spots on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Naturally, I had to look into it myself. And I’m so glad I did because it is truly one of Mexico’s hidden gems.
Lagunas de Chacahua is a magnificent National Park that requires a combination of a bus, taxi and boat to reach. Because of the multiple transfers and modes of transportation to get here, I decided to spend several nights here to make the trip worth it. It takes a few hours from Puerto Escondido, but it is an adventure. The boat ride through the mangroves is only the start of a calming retreat in Chacahua.
Lagunas de Chacahua Tours
Upon arriving on Chacahua’s shores, I was immediately attracted to its simplicity. From the basic accommodations to the home-cooked meals, Chacahua offers a rustic, off-the-grid experience.
This undiscovered treasure was precisely what I was looking for as I unplugged from the city’s hustle and bustle to relax on the beach, in the hammock, or on the water. I enjoyed surfing in the bright blue waters, hiking up to the lighthouse on the neighbouring island, watching sunrise and sunset, and doing absolutely nothing.
San Jose del Pacifico – restorative temazcal ceremonies #17
Located in the mountains of Oaxaca between the city and the coast, San Jose del Pacifico is one of Mexico’s hidden gems and a relaxing place to rest for a few days.
This destination has become popular for those seeking an alternative trip through ingesting the medicinal mushrooms that grow in the forest. I met up with a fellow traveller who was also exploring the area for the first time.
While they were in the back of our minds, we soon discovered that San Jose is a magical destination in Mexico, even without the mushrooms. We spent our days hiking in the woods, taking in the breathtaking sunset above the clouds, and huddling around the fire at night.
With the chilly weather and alternative energy swirling around, I suggested we find a traditional temazcal ceremony. And with a recommendation from locals in the area, we set off through the woods to the house of a temazcalero.
When we arrived, volcanic stones were nearly glowing in the raging fire. The temazcalero walked through the woods singing, “Medicina, la medicina…” while picking an armful of herbal plants.
It was one of the most restorative temazcal ceremonies I’ve ever experienced, solidifying San Jose del Pacifico as one of my favourite lesser-known destinations in Mexico.
Island Hideaway in the Nayarit Region
Islas Marias – Unesco penal island retreat #18
I recently went to Islas Marias, one of the most unique destinations I’ve ever visited. This archipelago is located about 60 miles off the coast of Nayarit and is currently only accessible by a four-hour (one-way) ferry.
The islands served as a Mexican federal prison from 1905 until 2019, when they were shut down due to mismanagement and corruption.
What makes Islas Marias one of Mexico’s hidden gems?
While the islands have a grim past, they also offer unique biodiversity, given their remoteness. In fact, there are over a dozen species that are only found here, and the islands were named a UNESCO Biosphere in 2010!
Accordingly, due to its incredible nature, the Mexican government, in cooperation with the country’s Navy, turned the islands into an ecotourism destination once the prison was shut down.
When my husband and I visited, we were assigned a tour guide, who turned out to be a naval officer and stayed with our group for the duration of our trip. We followed our guide’s itinerary while there, which was an interesting mix of exploring old prison structures, learning about prisoners’ lives on the island, and enjoying its pristine natural beauty.
While the prison aspect of the island was interesting, my favourite part of visiting was our time at Chapingo Beach, a beautiful stretch of soft white sand and sparkling turquoise water.
The only way you can currently visit Islas Marias is on a two-night, three-day trip. We were pleasantly surprised by the food (especially since we’re vegan!) and the accommodations the prisoners used to stay in. One thing is for sure; this remote island must be visited by any traveller looking to immerse themselves in one of the hidden gems in Mexico.
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