8 of our favorite hotels in Mexico that aren’t in tourist hot spots like Cabo, Cancun, or Tulum

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A casita with a pool by the beach at Fairmont Mayakoba
  • Mexico is packed with desirable vacation destinations, many of which are well known to travelers.
  • Comparatively, Mexico’s lesser-traveled resort areas offer fewer crowds and unspoiled environs.
  • Our top places include hotels in destinations like Punta Mita, Mayakoba, Oaxaca, and Careyes.

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I’m a professional travel writer who has visited Mexico many times for work and leisure, both with and without kids. So, I’m often the go-to resource for those looking for recommendations on places to stay in the country.

Even prior to the pandemic, I preferred to avoid heavily trafficked tourist regions in favor of more under-the-radar destinations (often nearby and easily accessible from those busier spots) that offered comparatively quieter beaches and peaceful resorts.

My favorite is Punta Mita, less than three hours by direct flight from L.A., and a short car ride from Puerto Vallarta. And it’s hardly an outlier – areas like Mayakoba, Oaxaca, and Careyes are regions that may be well known among frequent travelers to Mexico, but less so with first-time or casual travelers.

Here, we rounded up several Mexican destinations that might not yet be on your radar but should be.

Browse all the best hotels below, or jump to a specific area.

These are the best hotels in Mexico that aren’t in tourist hot spots, sorted by region and price.

Punta Mita

Punta Mita is located along Mexico’s Pacific coast on the north end of Banderas Bay in the state of Nayarit. It’s about 20 miles from Puerto Vallarta, accessed via a short car ride. The destination is actually a 1,500-acre private peninsula, a gated area that is home to the Four Seasons Punta Mita, St. Regis Punta Mita, and other posh properties.

Four Seasons Punta Mita

The exterior and beachview of the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita
Four Seasons Punta Mita has endless options for lounging outdoors, with two beaches, pools, and a lazy river.

Book Four Seasons Punta Mita

Easily accessed from the Puerto Vallarta airport (which is itself served by many airlines, including low-cost carriers with direct flights), the Four Seasons Punta Mita feels like another world.

There are two secluded beaches at this paradise, separated by a dramatic clifftop perch that makes an unforgettable private dinner destination for a special occasion. There’s an adults-only pool and an infinity-edge all-ages pool, plus a serene lazy river that almost feels like it meanders naturally through a jungle. 

There are multiple dining options including the sprawling Dos Catrinas restaurant that anchors the center of the resort. Bahia by Richard Sandoval is right on the sand, and Aramara serves upscale Asian fare.

Newly renovated rooms are out of this world with entry-level lodgings that come in at a sprawling 645 square feet of indoor-outdoor space with room for three adults or two adults and two kids, sophisticated beachy decor, and marble bathrooms.

As a parent traveling with young children, I can’t say enough good things about the kids club here. It’s like a luxurious summer camp that kids will never want to leave and comes included with the room rate, which makes for an outstanding value if you use it to its fullest.

Overall, this property is one of my favorites in the world for family travel and the place we’ve chosen for many major occasions and milestones.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Mayakoba

Just about 30 miles from Cancun is the 500-acre development of Mayakoba (technically in Playa del Carmen, though far more peaceful and remote).

Mayakoba encompasses 620 acres of lagoons, jungles, and beaches along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The private gated community is home to an array of full-service resorts, all designed with the goal of preserving and enhancing the native landscape. In addition to the Fairmont and Banyan Tree properties that made our list, other attractive options include Andaz, Viceroy, and Rosewood, which also come highly recommended.

Fairmont Mayakoba

The exterior of the Fairmont Mayakoba
Fairmont Mayakoba offers golf, spa, beach, and pools across 45 acres.

Book Fairmont Mayakoba

This 45-acre property is an enormous full-service resort offering 401 rooms and suites, including 34 suites with an array of beach and lagoon casitas. Standard guest rooms are generously sized at 436 to 480 square feet, with abundant natural light, a private terrace or balcony, and large spa-like bathrooms with marble accents and soaking tubs.

Book the property as an all-inclusive — or not as you prefer. Activities include nature trails, biking, kayaks, catamarans, tennis, golfing on the renowned El Camaleon golf course (host to the only official PGA Tour event in Mexico), and scenic boat tours through the canals.

Of course, lounging waterside is the main draw, with white sand beaches and several pools on property. The Willow Stream Spa offers signature Mayan treatments and the hotel is pet friendly and family friendly, with the Discovery Kids Club and a water slide at the main pool.

Dining options are so plentiful and woven throughout all the Mayakoba resorts. Take a complimentary town car ride to any of the other hotels where you can dine and still charge your meal to your room. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

The beachview of Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Mexico
Banyan Tree Mayakoba is the only all-pool villa resort in the Riviera Maya.

Book Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Banyan Tree Mayakoba bills itself as the most sustainable five-star resort in a region known for them. It recently underwent a $50 million expansion, debuting 34 private beachfront pool suites and the new Sands Beach Club, which has an infinity oceanfront pool, all-day dining restaurant and raw bar, beachfront lounge, a larger interactive Rangers Club for kids, and ocean view massage rooms operated by the Banyan Tree Spa. 

Banyan Tree Mayakoba offers 120 villas, which all come with indulgent private pools and terraces. It’s the only all-pool villa resort in the Riviera Maya. Even the smallest rooms among them clocks in around 1,700 square feet with high design and thoughtfully curated details such as included bicycles at each. While the resort is lavish and inviting, it’s easy to spend your entire trip within your room, swimming in your own pool and spreading out on the various living spaces, with every need tended to by a butler.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a state in southern Mexico steeped in historic architecture and indigenous culture. Its capital city of the same name is dotted with charming colonial buildings often made of green volcanic stone. The baroque Catedral de Oaxaca stands in the main square, El Zócalo. 

Parador De Alcala

The streetview of the Hotel Parador de Alcalá
Parador De Alcala is located in the heart of Oaxaca’s historic center.

Book Parador De Alcala

Parador De Alcala is a boutique hotel located in the heart of the historic center between the Santo Domingo de Guzmán Ex-convent and the Zocalo.

Here, 21 rooms and suites take over a restored and converted eighteenth-century mansion. The lodgings are distributed over three levels with high ceilings and most have access from a stunning colonial courtyard. All rooms have marble flooring, Egyptian cotton sheets, and a soft color palette highlighted by natural light. 

El Patio restaurant is located in one of the hotel’s central atrium spaces, offering full traditional Oaxacan breakfast. A terrace, garden, and chaises lounges surround the pool deck, which offers 360-degree views of the city.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

NaNa Vida Hotel Boutique Oaxaca

A room in the NaNa Vida Hotel Boutique Oaxaca
The boutique NaNa Vida is located in the heart of Oaxaca, ideal for sightseeing on foot.

Book NaNa Vida Hotel Boutique Oaxaca

NaNa Vida Hotel Oaxaca is situated right in the center of Oaxaca City, about 1,500 feet from Santo Domingo Convent, and steps from restaurants and bars for easy and relaxed sightseeing. The San Pablo Cultural Centre and Macedonio Alcalá Theater are just blocks away.

Rooms are unique, artful, and stylishly outfitted, with colorful bedding and intricately patterned bathroom tiling. Many elements of the decor are made by local artisans.

You will not find a pool in this boutique property, but you can relax in the sunny courtyard and enjoy full breakfast on weekends (or pastries and coffee during the week). At a soap bar, guests can select their own scents for bespoke soaps, using 100 percent natural and vegan ingredients, for use during their stay. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Costalegre

Costalegre is a 150-mile long stretch of the Mexican coast on the Pacific within the state of Jalisco, between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. It features an array of beaches, capes, and bays, plus charming seaside towns and villages.

El Careyes Club & Residences

Bird eye's view of the exterior of El Careyes Club & Residences
Careyes is a favorite among in-the-know travelers for its vibrant colors and artful installations.

Book El Careyes Club & Residences

Careyes is the place you go when you are in the cognoscenti … or at least you’ll certainly look like you are when you visit. Founded by Gian Franco Brignone in 1968, this unique resort has been continuously family-owned and operated since then, exuding a vibe that combines a sultry Mediterranean feel with the ultra-saturated colors and unique architecture of Mexico. Think eccentric, arty, and focused on wellness and the natural environment.

El Careyes has infinity pools, lighted tennis courts, restaurant dining, and a private access beach club. The resort is comprised of bungalows, casitas, villas, and so-called “Ocean Castles,” which are opulent, dreamy lodgings. Entry-level accommodations are brilliantly colored bungalows located directly on the sand overlooking the Careyes Bay just steps from the sea and beach club.

The property spans over 35,000 acres including the biosphere reserve. The so-called “Careyes Wonders” on-site include spiritual-feeling spaces that guests can visit (or book for events), including La Copa del Sol, an 88-foot diameter cup-like structure that is acoustically and visually arresting, and definitely sets this place apart.

Careyes also has a lively event calendar, including the chicer-than-Burning-Man, Ondalinda Festival. 

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Tequila

This town is located in the western state of Jalisco. It’s famous for — of course — the production of the famous Mexican spirit. Located near the Tequila Volcano, its outskirts are awash in fields of the main ingredient in the spirit: blue agave. An array of local distilleries and haciendas offer tours of the production (and tastings too, of course).

Casa Salles

The Casa Salles Hotel Boutique building
The boutique Casa Salles has 25 intimate guest rooms.

Book Casa Salles

Casa Salles Hotel Boutique opened in Tequila in 2020. The site that had been used for Salles family celebrations over the past 60 years is now a destination with 25 intimate guest rooms. Located within walking distance of the town square and other tourist landmarks, Casa Salles Hotel Boutique is an ideal launchpad.

Guest rooms are thoughtfully appointed with built-in furnishings, private bars, seating areas, smart TVs, and rainfall showers. Large Master Family Suites have room for seven adults, with sliding glass doors that open to private balconies overlooking a picturesque mango grove and gardens.

The hotel also offers a lively restaurant, Mango Cocina de Origen, serving regional Mexican cuisine. There’s also a pool, banquet facility, and spa, and the La Guarreña Distillery, producer of El Tequileño tequila, is located adjacent to the hotel.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

Mérida

This is the lively capital of the Yucatán, the peninsula state that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, and is also home to Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.

Rich in Maya and colonial history, the city’s centerpiece is the Plaza de la Independencia, bordered by the colonial-era churches Mérida Cathedral and Iglesia de la Tercera Orden, both built with relics from ancient Mayan temples.

The Diplomat Merida

A seating area in The Diplomat Merida
The Diplomat Merida is hip and stylish, with colonial architecture and a beautiful pool.

Book The Diplomat Merida

The hip, stylish Diplomat is well situated in the city’s historic center, within easy walking distance of many historic monuments, cathedrals, and parks, plus tons of eateries and shops. The hotel boasts colonial architecture and a beautiful pool.

Entry-level suites are high on style and comfort with colonial tiles, smart TVs, sound docks, included high-speed Wi-Fi, Nespresso machine, fans, premium linens, and air conditioning.

Snacks and fresh cocktails are served on arrival, and an ever-changing vegetarian breakfast is also included and served daily. Guests have access to a tea and coffee bar with fresh juices and champagne in the morning, as well.

COVID-19 procedures are available here.

FAQ: Mexico hotels

When is the best time to visit Mexico?

The weather differs by region across the country, but generally, September through May is a good time to visit Mexico.

Mexico gets much of its rain throughout the summer, but these may be quick and isolated showers that won’t derail a trip.

The Gulf of Mexico area sees hurricanes from late July through early November. It’s hottest in April and May, and the busiest seasons are during the Christmas holiday and spring break periods. 

What is the best Mexico hotel on the beach to avoid crowds? 

Secluded beaches dot the country’s coastline. The island of Holbox is a small 26-mile island within the protected YUM Balam nature reserve and offers pristine, crowd-free beaches, enjoyed by hotels like Villas Flamingos or the Mystique Holbox by Royalton.

Elsewhere, Four Seasons Punta Mita has the advantage of being located a short drive from Puerto Vallarta airport, but boasts a pair of very quiet beaches all to itself.

Can I drink the water in Mexico?

It’s generally not a good idea to drink water from the tap in Mexico. Opt instead for bottled water, even while brushing your teeth. Be mindful of ice and avoid getting it in your drinks unless you can confirm it’s made from safe water. 

Is it safe to stay in a hotel?

While hotels do provide opportunities for face-to-face interactions with staff and other guests in common spaces like check-in desks, lobbies, and dining venues, experts say guests who exercise proper precautions can stay safely in hotels.

However, no travel is completely risk-free right now and we recommend following CDC current guidelines as well as all applicable local protocols at the time of travel.

Is Mexico safe for U.S. travelers?

CDC advises that unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to Mexico. It currently lists Mexico as a Level 3 (out of 4) COVID level. See the CDC’s recommendations for fully vaccinated travelers and recommendations for unvaccinated travelers. Travelers should follow recommendations or requirements in Mexico, including wearing a mask and staying six feet apart from others.

What are the best Mexico hotels for couples or families?

As a parent of young children, I’ll always pick a Four Seasons anywhere in the world for top-notch service that accommodates families indulgently and seamlessly, with included kids clubs and incredible all-seasons programming. So, the Four Seasons Punta Mita is my go-to pick in Mexico for families.

And while many of Mexico’s most well-known adults-only resorts for couples are located in popular destinations like Cancun, couples seeking romance might find it a treat to visit a hotel like Casa Salles in less-frequently visited Tequila, where spirits tasting makes for memorable, grown-folks-only fun.

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