8 Safest Vacation Destinations In Mexico And What To Do There

Mexico has a mixed reputation; solid tacos on the one hand and sensationalized media reports on the other. The truth is that, while, yes, parts of Mexico are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs, it also has many safe destinations you’d be a fool to miss.

You might have seen the ticker tape on the news denouncing Mexico as a wholly unsafe place to travel; however, this is wholly untrue. There are both safe and unsafe areas like any destination, and common sense practices will have you avoid most bad experiences. One of the best practices for traveling to any new destination is to do your research, and we are here to help you with just that.  

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What are the safest places to visit in Mexico?

The safest places to vacation in Mexico are: 

  1. Puebla, Puebla
  2. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
  3. Merida, Yucatan
  4. Huatulco, Oaxaca
  5. La Paz, Baja California Sur
  6. Sayulita, Nayarit 
  7. Holbox Island, Quintana Roo
  8. Todos Santos, Baja California Sur

While a few places should be avoided as a vacation destination in Mexico, there are infinitely more safe, beautiful choices for your next trip to Mexico

We will lay out the safest places, where to stay when you get there, and some ideas for adventures in the area. For good measure, we’ll also add a safety tip for each area. 

We have consulted with not only travel experts and current travel advisories, but we also surveyed the ex-pat living communities who call these vacation destinations home. After all, what better mark of safety than people who intentionally move to a place where safety is often a top priority. 

Is Mexico a Safe Place To Vacation?

The short answer to this complicated question is, yes, Mexico is a safe vacation destination

Mexico’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and is highly protective over areas that are popular destinations for foreign tourists.

However, despite the reputation, Mexico regularly sees nearly 40 million American tourists a year. Travel and Leisure has predicted Mexico to be the top vacation destination for Americans in 2022.

Mexico has had an ongoing reputation for salacious crime over the years. However, the truth of the matter is that most of this crime is concentrated in certain areas and revolves around the drug cartels that have become prevalent in a few regions. 

The Mexico Peace Index, which tracks crime rates and safety throughout Mexico, has indicated a 3.5% improvement in peacefulness from 2020 to 2021, with 22 of Mexico’s 32 states recording declines in violence in that period. 

You will notice in the list below that our top choices for safest places to vacation in Mexico are mostly in these states; Yucatan, Baja California Sur, and Quintana Roo, all of which are generally considered safe to travel within according to the United States Travel Advisory listing which is updated regularly.  

None of our choices are in the states of Sinaloa, Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, or Tamaulipas as these are all listed on a Level 4 travel advisory which has a “Do Not Travel” designation by the United States Travel Advisory service. 

Being practical and doing due diligence in research before leaving is the best practice for safe traveling anywhere. 

Commonsense Precautions

With guidance from the United States Travel Advisory as well as consulting the 2021 Mexico Peace Index we have compiled some Common Sense Precautions for traveling to Mexico. 

  • Keep friends and family back home up to date with your travel plans. 
  • If taking private transportation, take note or a photo of the license plate. 
  • Use toll roads whenever possible. 
  • Do not travel solo at night. 
  • Keep your bling at home. 
  • Be cautious when using ATMs, don’t carry more cash than you need. 
  • Have a contingency plan in place in case of emergencies. 
  • Consult the Country Security Report Before traveling. 
  • Consult the United States Travel Advisory before traveling and apply for updates via SMS. 

Now that you are prepared, let’s travel to the safest places to vacation in Mexico! 

1. Puebla, Puebla

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Puebla manages to be the fourth largest city in Mexico without losing its colonial small village charm. Although it is within easy driving distance of Mexico City for a day trip, it is quickly being upgraded to a full vacation destination with structural and hospitality improvements. 

Exceptional attention is paid to heritage in its arts, historical building preservation, and local gastronomy scene; Puebla is a deserving Mexican vacation spot. 

According to Travel Safe Abroad, Puebla is considered safe for vacationing tourists. Most of the crime that tourists might encounter here centers around petty theft, such as pickpocketing.  

What To Do

Many travelers come here for the incredible vistas of Popocatepetl, or “Popo,” as the locals call it, and Iztaccíhuatl, twin active volcanoes which overlook the Valley of Mexico. These volcanoes are part of Iztaccíhuatl–Popocatépetl National Park (also known as Itzo Popo National Park). There are several tours that take guided hikers through its nearly 100,000 acres, including Tu Experiencia

Museo Internacional del Baroque is a must-visit museum in Puebla with interactive exhibits honing in on 17th and 18th-century art over 18,000 square meters. Opened in 2016, this museum’s exterior is more reminiscent of the Guggenheim’s minimal design than the ancient art it protects.  The Museo Internacional del Baroque’s ambitious projects include exhibitions dedicated to a 17th-century library collection, modern science, and nature. 

This city was first built by the Spanish at the intersection of two rivers and was dubbed the “New Jerusalem” by them. Locals will tell you that there is a church on nearly every city block in Puebla, around 365 in fact, one for each day of the year. As the highest cathedral in the Americas at 70 meters high, the Basilica Cathedral of Puebla is a stunning example of the churches of this area. It is considered an architectural jewel with its refurbished Baroque and Renaissance interiors. 

Where To Stay 

Casona Los Sapos is just two blocks from the city center and represents a perfect take on Puebla set in a 17th-century mansion. It has only 16 suites, each with exposed beams and a mix of modern and neoclassical furnishings. Its arched doorways, romantic patio, and all-stone lobby complete a truly authentic vibe. 

What To Eat

Besides a healthy dose of antojitos and authentic moles, Puebla is famous for its over 300 varieties of locally made candies. One of the most beloved is made out of sweet potatoes and wrapped in paper. Find any of these sweet delicacies in any of the local markets, such as Los Sapos Weekend Market or Mercado Hidalgo, Puebla’s largest Mercado located next to the central bus station. 

Safety Tip

Keep valuables in a safe at your hotel, or better yet, leave any unnecessary valuables at home to prevent being a victim of pickpockets. 

2. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

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San Miguel de Allende is a surprise at every corner with the perfect blend of luxurious accommodations and culinary choices adjacent to neo-gothic temples like Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. It is antiques and artisan culture at its finest, melded with a deep and well-honored history. 

The history here is so well represented that it was honored as a World Heritage City by UNESCO in 2008 due to its historical and cultural influence in Mexico’s War of Independence. 

Today that history is most celebrated in its Baroque moving into Neo-Gothic architecture, making San Miguel de Allende somewhere that is best viewed from a rooftop, of which there are plenty. 

According to the vast amount of tourist accounts and one of the most significant expat populations in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende is a very safe vacation destination in Mexico. There are currently no travel advisories in effect in this area. Outside of the regular petty theft you might see in any tourist destination, such as pickpocketing, you will find San Miguel de Allende very safe for vacation. 

What To Do

Most of the top spots in San Miguel de Allende revolve around its historical cathedrals, artisan offerings, and numerous museums. However, just outside the city, you’ll find a hidden gem in The Gruta Spa. These thermal waters or “balnearios” are located in a peaceful grotto here that offers a day pass that includes access to restaurants and handicrafts gift shops. 

Fabrica Aurora is an old textile factory-turned art gallery, and cultural center spread over the once bustling factory grounds. Each of its rooms now pays homage to a different category of goods – antique rugs fill one, while another is full of modern hand-blown glass art. Also on site is a well-stocked cafe and outside terrace to lounge on. Nearby shops and a stroll around its beautiful grounds make for a great half-day excursion. 

Where To Stay 

San Miguel de Allende is overflowing with artsy boutique hotels and luxurious haciendas each competing for who can be the most “San Miguel” with colorful interiors, dark wooden beams, and local textiles dripping from every corner. One of the best examples of what accommodations do best here is the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, which encompasses both the artsy modern feeling of the city with its colonial heritage woven into its interiors. 

What To Eat

Cafe Rama is a favorite eatery with locals and visitors alike, playing a triple threat as a combination bistro, bar, and art gallery in one. A trendy but locally inspired menu, reasonable prices, and a midnight closing time make this spot near perfect. 

Safety Tip

Don’t accept drinks from strangers in any bar or leave your drink unattended. If the first sip tastes off, stop drinking. 

3. Merida, Yucatan

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Merida is a beautiful mix of both Mayan and colonial heritage, pristine natural environs, and colorful mansions dotting its cityscape. The city itself is encircled by ancient ruins, temples, and sky blue cenotes- former caves crumbled long ago to reveal the freshwater pools beneath. 

This favorite city of ex-pats and digital nomads is known as La Ciudad Blanca – “The White City ” due to the white limestone that much of the city is built out of as well as what some locals will claim due to its astute cleanliness. 

Merida is located in the Yucatan Peninsula, considered one of the safest states overall in all of Mexico. 

What To Do

Merida is famously full of free entertainment- including a free morning historical walking tour of Merida that departs from the central Plaza Grande square. This is a great way to get your bearings around the city and learn about its heritage and cultural sites. 

The Gran Museo de Mundo Maya Merida is a museum dedicated to the Mayan people, culture, and history. It is a great way to get acquainted with the ancient history that is part of the foundation of this great Mexico vacation destination. 

Where To Stay 

If it’s your first time in Merida, you should treat yourself and do it right with the luxurious and centrally located El Palacito Secreto. Situated in the heart of the historic district, this combination hotel and spa will give you just the right amount of relaxation and experience. Fairytale staircases and beds that are built for a princess make for a vacation stay fit for royalty. 

What To Eat

One of the most famous flavors of the Yucatan is Salbutes, a fried tortilla topped with a combination of shredded meats, pickled onions, jalapenos, and cabbage. They are typically found in street carts around the city.

Safety Tip

Merida is considered THE safest city in Mexico by numerous statical and personal accounts; however, it is a tourist destination, and commonsense should prevail. If there is one area to avoid here, it is South Merida, where some of the very little crime does occur. There is not much to see on this side of the city, so it should be fairly easy to avoid. 

4. Huatulco, Oaxaca

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Huatulco is one of Mexico’s still undiscovered treasures. Its name literally translated means “ place where the wood is revered,” and if you are a nature lover, you’ll understand why. 

This sunny beachside town on Mexico’s Pacific Coast southwest of Puerto Escondido is known for its nine bays, over 30 beaches, and coffee plantations. In regards to the latter, before the hotel industry began being built up in the 1980s, Huatulco was primarily known as a coffee-growing region. Because Huatulco is spread out across its numerous bays and coves, you’ll find it uncrowded and peaceful. 

Travel Safe Abroad rates Huatulco as a highly safe vacation destination citing its lack of presence of cartels and violent crime. In addition, Huatulco is a developing tourist area, and the local attractions and accommodations are well-appointed with security. 

What To Do

You cannot properly experience Huatulco without experiencing one of the nine bays that this region is home to. You can tour seven of the nine bays from a tour that leaves from the Santa Cruz Marina. Consider hiring one of the “lanchas”, a small boat, to take a scenic tour of the surrounding beaches and bays at your own leisure. 

Two of Huatulco’s most precious natural assets, waterfalls and coffee plantations, can be seen in one go with Amigo Tours. You’ll be taken into the fertile mountains of Oaxaca to the small town of Llano Grande to check out the crystalline pools, waterfalls, and nearby coffee farms. There is a small amount of walking alongside a river, but the payoff makes it worth the effort! 

Where To Stay 

To make the most of your stay in Huatulco, stay in one of the bayside resorts. A great choice to take in the beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean is Secrets Huatulco, located on the secluded shoreline of Bahia de Conejos. Their accommodations are modern and luxurious and include a world-class spa and seven gourmet restaurants. 

What To Eat

Dorado, a white fish, is a specialty of the beachside palapa stands and should definitely be tried! This seaside catch is as fresh as it gets in any of the many bayside restaurants in Huatulco. 

Safety Tip

The Mexico Crime Map uses statistical evidence to produce maps showing where certain high concentrations of crime take place. It is an excellent tool when considering where to travel, and looking at recent data,  you’ll see that Oaxaca, the state Hualtulco resides in, does not indicate high concentrations of crime. 

5. La Paz, Baja California Sur

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La Paz is a great boho-friendly surf paradise on the southern end of the state of Baja California. La Paz has stunning views of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range and, of course, the Gulf of California. It has an old-world charm with modern world amenities centered around a  waterfront promenade with many international restaurants and shopping opportunities. 

If you are a lover of marine mammals, La Paz will come through with Gray Whale watching and sea lions. Many also make the pilgrimage down “the Baja” for the great sport of fishing, kite surfing, and even sandboarding in La Paz. 

La Paz is located in the state of Baja California Sur, which is generally considered safe. It has no major cartel presence, and violent crime is lower compared to other states. 

What To Do

One of the most unique adventure activities La Paz offers is sandboarding in the soft fine dunes. The best place to experience this is in El Mogote, which is just 20 minutes outside of La Paz. Baja Desconocida offers tours to the dunes and gear to get you started on the sandy slopes. 

The Gray Whales migrate from colder waters to the Baja area to give birth in shallow waters making for a great opportunity to see these majestic creatures up close. The Gray Whale season in La Paz runs from January to March, with Choya Tours taking out groups for day trips daily during this timeframe. 

Where To Stay 

Casa Kootenay Waterfront Bed and Breakfast provides great waterfront accommodations heavy on the charm reflective of the area. They offer convenient solutions for traveling couples or families with two-bedroom suites. Casa Kootenay also boasts a rooftop with 180-degree views of the bay. 

What To Eat

Nim is a great choice if you are looking for a blend of local ingredients incorporated into an international spread of dishes. This location also hosts art exhibitions and cooking classes. 

Safety Tip

The Northern part of Baja California towards Tijuana requires more caution, especially on the roadways where it is always best to stick to toll roads. 

6. Sayulita, Nayarit

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Sayulita is located just one hour north of the bustling tourist-heavy paradise of Puerto Vallarta. Although Sayulita certainly sees its fair share of visitors, it is home to just 5000 year around residents making for a very laid-back feel to this charming surf village. 

Sayulita also has the uniqueness of being one of  Mexico’s over 100 Pueblo Magicos (“Magic Towns ‘), which is a designation given by the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism for their contributions to history, art, culture, or natural wonders. 

By far the biggest attractions in Sayulita are the massive stretch of beach, the endless summer surfing vibes, and the chic boho shopping down the quaint pedestrian streets. It is also a great place to unwind for a wellness retreat with a tranquil jungle just behind the beachside. 

Far from where most of the drug-related crimes in Mexico happen, Sayulita is considered very safe, with well-lit streets and 24/7 security around the tourist areas. 

What To Do

If you are an avid surfer or just learning, Sayulita offers forgiving waves to try out your skills. The beach here offers a “bunny hill” version of a surf break that is perfect for learning. Check out any of the beachside surf huts for details on lessons or board rentals. WildMex is a great outfit that runs a surf school as well as other adventure packages.

While Sayulita is full of Instagram-able streets and beaches, be sure to check out the colorful flag street of Calle Delfines, known to locals as “Slap Street. The legend goes that two men got into a disagreement about who was to redesign the street, and an argument commenced, which gave this street its funny moniker today. 

The vibrant pennants hanging above the street are a great photo opportunity, and the shops lining the streets have some great local artisan finds. 

Where To Stay 

The Haramara Retreat is a well-known getaway in a secluded area above the oceanside. It offers a therapeutic wellness center and a quiet refuge in cabanas connected by tropical walking trails. 

What To Eat

El Itacate is the place for the quintessential beach taco experience. Served with three tray varieties of salsas and guacamoles as well as their famous fried cheese burrito, this is a must-eat place on your next vacation to Sayulita. 

Safety Tip

Sayulita has some great beaches to lounge on, but if you are considering taking a dip without leaving someone to watch your belongings, consider taking important things like ID, money, and phone with you in a waterproof swim pouch. 

7. Holbox Island, Quintana Roo

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Holbox Island is just a short ferry ride away from Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo. This island is close enough to be a convenient stop from the mainland of Mexico but far enough away to feel like you’re stepping onto a secluded paradise far away from it all. 

This island breathes laid-back vibes at every turn with little to no cars, bare-feet welcome beachside restaurants, and plenty of places to pull up a hammock. 

This sleepy little island, with a small and intimate local population of around just 2000 people, sees little crime besides the occasional petty beach towel theft. 

What To Do

The primary activities in Holbox center around relaxing and more relaxing. However, if you do get restless, there is always snorkeling, and why not try it at night! Bioluminescence is created when phytoplankton creates a weak light source leaving what looks like a blue meteor trail in the ocean. Snorkeling through the bioluminescent galaxy is a magical experience. 

If you want a formal way to get your bearings around Holbox Island, try the Art Mural Walking Tour. Since 2014, Holbox has been home to an international art festival, which attracts artists from around the world who create vibrant murals along the streets. The walking tour is a great way to see Holbox and learn the stories behind its famous street art. 

Where To Stay

Cuban artist Sandra Perez Lozano has created a luxurious gem in Ser Casa Sandra Hotel.  This serene boutique hotel is brimming over with artistic creativity and tranquil nooks around the property. It is also home to the first Holistic Center on the Island for a full rejuvenation experience. 

What To Eat

As long as you are revitalizing your soul on this tranquil island, you might as well grab a healthy meal at Arte Sano. This trendy spot has a variety of vegan and vegetarian options, including a tasty cauliflower popcorn falafel that visitors rave about. 

Safety Tip

Although Holbox is relatively safe compared to the border states of Mexico, it’s best to have commonsense after dark and to travel with a companion late at night, staying in well-lit areas. 

8. Todo Santos, Baja California Sur

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Todo Santos is located on the Pacific side of the southern end of the peninsula of Baja California. It is a fantastic location in itself but also due to its close proximity to other great locations of La Paz and Los Cabos. 

Todo Santos can be summed up as a stunning and tranquil beachside town rich in music and art. It goes without saying that the white sandy beaches are the biggest draw to this highly cultured Mexican gem, but there is more to Todo Santos than just a place to lay your towel. 

Todo Santos is considered safe by many tourist, expat, and travel advisory reports, with relatively insignificant levels of crime in the area. It is a tourist destination that attracts occasional petty theft on the beaches and pickpockets occasionally on the streets, but if common sense measures prevail you won’t find yourself in any danger here. 

What To Do

Todo Santos is probably first known for its surfing but followed closely by its ability to let you pass an entire day wondering about its charming streets and shopping. The town’s history predates the 1800s, when the sugar boom brought development, and most of the colorful facades are still intact. For the best shopping haul, you can check out boutique shops Etnica or Nomad Chic,  which both have a great blend of local goods and apparel. 

If you find yourself in Todo Santos from December to April, try to attend a sea turtle hatchling release with Todos Tortugueros, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping this endangered species thrive. They also offer “Biologist For A Day” programs as well as eco-tours around the area. 

Where To Stay 

The legend of Hotel California started right here in Todo Santo; however there are many places to stay that you that don’t involve “not being able to leave” per the famous Eagle’s song where the hotel found fame. 

The Guaycura Boutique Hotel Beach Club and Spa is a bucket list-worthy stay located in a 19th-century brick historic building in the heart of Todo Santos. Conde Nast Traveler called its rooftop bar “mindblowing” for its expansive sunset views of downtown and the Pacific Ocean. If you want to get some sand time in, the Guaycura provides access to the El Faro Beach Club and Spa, which has a seaside grill and spa that offers wellness treatments.  

What To Eat

Before hitting the waves for a morning surf, have breakfast at the super chill Cafe La Esquina on their open-air patio. Besides serving international dishes from locally sourced ingredients, they also host a Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and Saturday with lots of locally crafted goods for sale. 

Safety Tip

Todos Santos is considered a very safe vacation destination; however, to avoid the attention of pickpockets, it’s wise to keep a small amount of cash in a pocket at all times to avoid taking your wallet in and out.