Go Beyond the Resort – Small Villages to Visit Near Mexico’s Most Popular Destinations

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Go Beyond the Resort – Small Villages to Visit Near Mexico’s Most Popular Destinations

Break out of the Mexico mold and go beyond Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Cabo. From the country’s authentic Magic Towns to sleep fishing villages and secluded beach spots, Mexico is so much more than its world-renowned resorts. Even if you have your sights set on an amenity-packed, all-inclusive resort vacation, you can still take day trips out into the countryside or to an offshore island to get a taste of the real Mexico. Here’s where to go for off-the-beaten-path Mexico villages close to top resort towns:

If You’re Staying in Puerto Vallarta, Also Visit …

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Once you spend a day in Sayulita, less than an hour’s drive from bustling Puerto Vallarta, you’ll want to return time and time again. This once-sleepy surfer town is certainly no longer a secret, but its charm remains. Particularly if you are visiting in the off-peak season, you’ll find quaint inns and B&Bs, as well as nice hotels, locally run restaurants and relaxed bars. The beach, while compact, is the hub of the town – and an excellent spot to take your first surfing lesson. Remember, you’re in a small town, so to get around, you will have to rely on local taxis, rented bikes or your own footpower.
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Ten miles from the Puerto Vallarta airport, Bucerias boasts some of the most stunning sunsets in the area. You’ll find more affordable accommodations here, as well as outstanding restaurants. If it’s a quieter, romantic setting you seek, this charming Mexican town is for you. Stroll the cobblestone streets, exclaiming at the brightly colored homes, take a horseback ride along the beach and pat yourself on the back for embracing this secret spot.
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Get to Yelapa soon, before it is no longer considered an off-the-beaten-path destination near Puerto Vallarta. Still a bit under the radar, this authentic, slow-paced beach town on the Bahia de Banderas is most accessible by water taxi from Puerto Vallarta. Spend a day at the foot of the mountains, one one of the world’s largest and most staggeringly beautiful bays. Ride horseback to pretty Yelapa Falls, lounge on one of the area’s prettiest beaches, or snorkel, deep-sea fish and paraglide. Slow-paced Yelapa has all the trappings of a typical Mexico resort vacation, but without the crowds.

If You’re Staying in Cancun, Also Visit …

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Lazy afternoons spent swaying in a hammock beside an azure sea, swimming in a secret lagoon and coming face to face with an enormous whale shark – these are among the many attractions in Holbox, Mexico. The 26-mile-long island is an easy day trip from or alternative to the glitz of Cancun. Disconnect here where golf carts replace cars and the streets are paved with sand. Eschew commercialization in favor of peace and quiet on secluded, sugary beaches. Holbox is the world’s top place to swim with the world’s largest fish – the whale shark – every June through September. Even if it’s not whale shark season, there’s much to enjoy, from fresh-water swimming in the Yalahau Lagoon, set in a serene jungle, or perusing the stalls of the public arts festival for artistic treasures every April.
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If you can tear yourself away from the ocean, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a trip to Bacalar. The Lake of Seven Colors is this Quintana Roo’s town’s biggest attraction, followed by the San Felipe Bacalar Fortress. Take a kayak tour of the huge lake, where the various hues of blue will mesmerize you, or just lounge in a hammock and enjoy a view of its lapis wonder. Get a dose of local history during a tour of the 1733 fortress, built to protect the Spanish colonists from attacks by pirates and local indigenous people.

If You’re Staying in Playa del Carmen, Also Visit …

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Puerto Morelos
Mexico’s Magic Towns have been so named for their authenticity and sincere representation of what life was like here centuries ago. One such magical village is Puerto Morelos, convenient to Playa del Carmen. These are the spots for swimming, snorkeling and jungle exploration when it’s time to get away from the crowds of the Yucatan resort centers. Outdoor adventure reigns supreme here, whether you’re diving into the depths of the sea or indulging in an alfresco massage.
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Another Pueblo Mágico, Valladolid is as authentic Yucatecan as you can get near Playa del Carmen. Try traditional food, visit the beautiful Church of San Servacio and swim in a sacred cenote. The colonial city, awash in pastel architecture and refreshingly quiet streets, is a good jumping-off point for visits to Rio Lagartos and Chichen Itza.

If You’re Staying in Mazatlan, Also Visit …

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El Rosario
With a tight grip on its authenticity and quaint character, El Rosario remains a Magic Town that is, indeed, magical. Step back in time in this historic silver-mining town, whose focal point is the graceful Church of Our Lady of Rosario, a vision of Baroque stylings outside and gold plating inside (check out the 17th-century altarpiece in Churriguera style and covered in 24-karat gold leaf). Join the locals for an afternoon of swimming at Iguanero Lagoon – there’s a swaying bridge you can cross to a tiny island, home to iguanas and turtles. And don’t miss the chance to dine on anything that incorporates the town’s famous mangoes and shrimp.
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El Quelite
Pick up a sweet pan dulce from a local bakery, then wander for hours along the cobblestone, bougainvillea-bedecked streets of peaceful El Quelite, recognizable by its iconic red-tiled roofs and pastel buildings. The laid-back, picture-perfect town is home to several incredible restaurants – the regional cuisine is known for its pork gorditas and cheeses. Hike or go horseback riding, watch a festive ulama game (a pre-colonial game only played in a handful of Mexico cities) or attend the traditional Charreria (a rodeo-like event).

If You’re Staying in Cabo San Lucas, Also Visit …

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Todos Santos
For a breather from the hustle and bustle of Cabo San Lucas, head to Todos Santos, about a 45-minute drive north. Another Pueblo Mágico, this artist village is the place to shop for locally crafted jewelry, indulge in mouthwatering cuisine and hang with the friendly residents who make this 5,000-person town so enticing. Sure, you’ll want to visit the Hotel California, but then follow the winding dirt paths of this 18th-century mission town to historic homes, churches, a cultural center and museum and more. If you’re fortunate, your visit will coincide with the town’s music or art festival, both big local draws.
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Meet the farmers and ranchers who have long made Miraflores their home. It is said that the town was discovered when several young Englishmen deserted their whaling ship. Whatever its origins, the quaint town is known worldwide for its fantastic leather handicrafts and furniture.
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San Bartolo
Bring an appetite to San Bartolo, a tropical village with a bountiful supply of mangoes, avocados, fruit-filled empanadas, meat pies with red chiles, tamales and more. The regional sweets, including locally made candies, have put this scenic town on the culinary map.

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