Mexico Tourism: Safe Vacation and Traveling Destinations

Pristine beaches, ancient ruins, five-star resorts. The nine hotspots Mexico wants you to be talking about.

Mexico is determined to replace the country's bloodstained image with an exotic one. From Tulum to Morelia, see photos of the most luxurious—and safe—tourist destinations.

Marco Ugarte / AP Photo

San Miguel de Allende

Not far from Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende has attracted artists and writers since the 1940s with its quaint cobblestone streets and brightly colored 16th- and 17th-century architecture. In the past 10 years, Mexico's hospitality industry has capitalized on the city’s attractions, luring tourists with stylish boutique hotels and restaurants that infuse the colonial town with a touch of modernity. Dubbed by Travel + Leisure as the city’s equivalent of a Four Seasons, the Casa de Sierra Nevada is as luxurious as it gets. But art enthusiasts might opt for the Casa Rosada Hotel, the former home of Diego Rivera’s daughter.

Israel Leal / AP Photo

Tulum

On the southern edge of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Tulum is a hotspot for ecotourists and yoga retreats. Gussied-up thatched huts line its relatively pristine white sand beaches, where many hoteliers have built smallish, ecofriendly lodges and resorts. One of the newer, more luxurious hideaways is Ocho Tulum, which boasts beachfront cabanas, palapas massage rooms, and free Russian Gypsy card readings. Urbanites in particular are drawn to Tulum's hippie atmosphere, where they can fantasize about ditching the corporate world for a more laidback lifestyle.

Manuel Valdes / AP Photo

Oaxaca

The southern city of Oaxaca has a reputation for being the center of social-justice protests, including a large teachers’ strike in 2006, but this passionate spirit extends far beyond its political realm. Foreigners and native Mexicans are drawn to Oaxaca’s colorful, buzzing markets and boisterous festivals. The city’s history is encapsulated in the grand Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, a magnificent 16th-century colonial building housing silver, gold, and crystal artifacts from Monte Alban, the ancient city where Oaxacan culture was born. Tourist guides host adventure attractions like hiking and horseback riding in the city’s mountainous surroundings. 

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Morelia

While Morelia may lack the beautiful beaches of coastal Mexico, the culturally rich capital of Michoacan boasts beautiful 17th-century architecture steeped in Spanish colonialism. Wide boulevards and two charming main plazas make Morelia ideal for walking and sightseeing. Located in a high valley, sweeping views of the countryside can be seen from a monumental 18th-century aqueduct on the city's edge. The elegant Villa Montana houses guests in classically decorated terra-cotta villas immersed in lush gardens.

Gregory Bull / AP Photo

Mexico City

The capital—known to early natives as Tenochtitlan—Mexico City still brings in millions of tourists each year with its combination of modern urban amenities and ancient sites. Mexico City’s population has grown to 20 million in recent years—in part because the capital is still one of the safest areas for people fleeing more dangerous parts of the country. 

Guillermo Arias / AP Photo

Cozumel

A popular stop for cruises and beachgoers, Cozumel is a primarily known as a hotbed for scuba divers. In 1960, Jacques Costeau declared the island one of the best diving spots in the world. Mexico’s largest Caribbean island, Cozumel even has some Mayan ruins that tourists can visit. While Cozumel is fairly far removed from Mexico’s drug violence, a Royal Caribbean employee was found dead in February 2011 on the island.

Israel Leal / AP Photo

Chichen Itza

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, this architectural wonder contains some of Mexico's most famous Mayan ruins. Chichen Itza has been in the news because of the battle over its ownership rights, but the 100-acre site is relatively peaceful and far from the country’s drug-war battlegrounds.

Israel leal / AP Photo

Cancun

Perhaps best known as a Spring Break destination, Cancun is also a quiet city for those who want a different type of vacation. Fodors admits there “isn’t much quaint or modern” in Cancun, but the city does have cellphone service and cable television. The real attraction lies in its beaches, which bring in a sizable chunk of Mexico’s tourism money. Although Cancun is located on the Yucatan Peninsula—far from areas plagued by drug violence—the mayor was arrested in 2010 on drug-trafficking and organized-crime charges, leading many to question how safe the area really is.

Guillermo Arias / AP Photo

Cabo San Lucas

On the southernmost tip of Baja California is Cabo San Lucas, a former fishing outpost turned world-class resort destination. Hollywood’s elite first discovered its azure waters back in the '70s, before high-rise hotels started popping up along its shores. The region has since become more accessible and is often swarmed during Spring Break season by rowdy college students drawn to the tequila-fueled nightlife on Marina Boulevard. But the crowds haven’t deterred celebrities and other luxury connoisseurs from vacationing at Cabo’s exclusive five-star resorts. And while some are worried that Cabo may become the next Cancun, the Mexican government is rooting for its tourist boom.