Many tourists are attracted to Mexico for its sun, sand, and culture. Looking to veer off of the beaten path? These are the country’s best-kept secrets.
1. Hierve el Agua
Mexico is known for its picturesque beaches, but the natural mineral springs of Hierve el Agua reveal a much different side to the surf you’d expect.
The Central Valleys of Oaxaca are home to these natural mineral springs that have formed over thousands of years. They appear to be waterfalls that have frozen over while careening down a cliff. The mineral pools that sit at the edge of the cliffs are just as beautiful.
A visit to the two falls, “cascada grande” and “cascada chica,” is well worth the drive and short hike. You can even cool off by taking a swim in one of the mineral pools. You have to see Hierve el Agua for yourself —it’s one of nature’s most breathtaking surprises.
2. Cafebreria el Pendulo
Nestled in the heart of Mexico City, Cafebreria El Pendulo is a book lover’s dream. This two-story bookstore is also a cafe and a forest, allowing you to relax in nature with a good read and a warm espresso. Why just visit a traditional cafe when you can witness the spiral staircases and ivy-lined bookshelves of Cafebreria El Pendulo? Recline on a sofa on the first floor, or sit at the bar and enjoy a drink. A trip here will ignite your imagination, making you the main character of your own Mexican fairytale.
3. Snack On A Cucamelon
Mexican delicacies are plentiful, but the cucamelon is one of the most remarkable. This grape-sized fruit resembles a tiny watermelon, but once you bite into it you’ll taste cucumber. Native to Mexico, these adorable oddities are referred to as “sandita” or “little watermelon.” Try a bite at a local market and see how your taste buds can totally confuse you!
4. Swim With Whale Sharks
A visit to Isla Mujeres, only an eight-minute boat ride from the spring break hotspot of Cancún, gives tourists the rare opportunity to splash around with some of the world’s most fascinating sea creatures — whale sharks the size of school buses!
They generally don’t bother with humans and swim remarkably slow, making it a safe and life-changing experience to share their company. This dive is sure to take your breath away in the best possible way. Snorkeling along the surface is just as rewarding; there’s vibrant aquatic life everywhere you look here.
5. La Pascualita
Mexico is rich with interesting peculiarities, but the city of Chihuahua is home to one of the most bizarre the country has to offer.
La Pascualita is an 80-year-old mannequin dressed in a wedding dress, and she has been terrifying shoppers who pass La Popular for nearly a century. She appears so lifelike that some locals believe she is the corpse of the original shop owner’s daughter, who died from a spider bite. Eerie yet enticing, La Pascualita is an attraction that will test your superstitions. This attraction takes window shopping to an entirely new level.
6. Playa del Amor
The Hidden Beach — part of the Marietta Islands west of Puerto Vallarta — is one of Mexico’s most unmissable destinations. As the name suggests, the Hidden Beach is literally a hole in the middle of an island that contains a small beach. Secluded and invisible from the outside, Playa del Amor can be accessed via tour groups. This enclave allows you to enjoy the Pacific Ocean in a totally unconventional, unexpected way.
7. La Casa Azul
If you want to revel in the inspiring art and colorful culture of Mexico, La Casa Azul is sure to catch your eye. The former childhood home of beloved Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, this striking blue building has become a museum in her honor. Now filled with her surreal artwork, this was where Kahlo once taught herself to paint. A visit to the museum will have you feeling like you are reliving a pivotal part of Mexican history, and Kahlo’s paintings will stay in your mind long after you leave.
8. Playa Hermosa
Mexican ruins are a popular tourist attraction, and the history behind Playa Hermosa is undeniably intriguing. A now-abandoned resort in San Blas, this seaside escape was once a booming vacation spot for celebrities in the 1950’s. Stars such as Jim Morrison used to flock to Playa Hermosa regularly to drink and party, but once mosquitoes — yes, mosquitoes! — began to take over, the resort slowly began to decay. This little piece of forgotten history is a must-see — just don’t forget your bug spray!
9. Mercado de Sonora
Travel is best done with an open mind, and there is nowhere better to explore the great unknown than Mercado de Sonora in Mexico City. This marketplace is dedicated to everything witchcraft, and there is no shortage of mystical novelty in the shops at Sonora. Pick up magic soap, peruse through aisles of voodoo dolls, or simply marvel at whatever ‘sorcery’ you can find. The Mercado de Sonora is eccentric and undoubtedly magical —in one way or another. It’s definitely your one-stop shop for clever and baffling souvenirs.
10. Tacos Gus
A visit to the neighborhood of La Condesa in Mexico City is not complete without enjoying some authentic tacos. Mexican food is filled with a panoply of flavors and fresh ingredients. Tacos Gus, a local spot, will expose you to all that Mexican cuisine can do to your palette. This eatery offers 20 different tacos, with a variety of vegan and vegetarian options available for those with dietary restrictions. The fresh ingredients are stored in large clay pots on the counter, giving you a clear look at the preparation of genuine Mexican fare.
11. Pyramids Of Teotihuacan
Mexico isn’t the first place you associate with ancient pyramids, but the city of Teotihuacan certainly has some. About an hour outside Mexico City, Teotihuacan has stood for about 2,000 years.
The pyramids are larger than life, but even more astounding is the mystery of the origin of this ancient metropolis. It is unknown who built the structures, but we do know the city’s decline began when a fire destroyed many of its neighborhoods around 1,400 years ago.
Don’t have time to tour all of Teotihuacan? Make sure you climb the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon — the two largest ones. The trek may be a little tiring, but it’s worthwhile to know you’re walking in the footsteps of the mysterious artisans who created this ghost city two millennia ago.
12. Punta Monterrey
Looking to enjoy the beach, but want to take a more rustic — and romantic — approach? The Punta Monterrey resort is 15 minutes from San Pancho, but it’s tucked away in the jungle, making for a secluded and serene getaway. It even boasts its own private beach, which you can enjoy after taking a quick hike through the jungle or enjoying a meal cooked with ingredients fresh from the resort’s garden. The stay is insanely budget-friendly, costing less than $100 per night. A weekend at Punta Monterrey is sure to refresh your mind and rejuvenate your spirit!
13. Las Pozas
Nestled in the small town of Xilitla, Las Pozas is the work of English poet and semi-exile Edward James. James was intrigued by Surrealist art, sponsoring Salvador Dali during the 1930’s. The sculpture garden of Las Pozas is truly a testament to James’ love of surrealism, and it will make you feel as if you fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. The garden is filled with natural and man-made delights unlike anything you have ever seen, so be sure to bring your camera!
14. Cactus Flower Ice Cream
This Mexican delicacy is exotic and rather refreshing, and the light green color just urges you to take a bite. Made from the fruit of a cactus plant — as you might have guessed! — cactus flower ice cream is delightfully sweet, with the texture of cucumber. This makes it the perfect summertime treat, especially when you are sweltering under the hot Mexican sun. Don’t let the ice cream shops fool you; “tuna” is the word they use for the cactus flower in Mexico, so if you see tuna ice cream on the menu, no need to hold your nose.
If you find yourself searching for a quick bite to eat in the heart of Mexico City, Minichelista is by far the most vibrant local spot. From hookah to coffee — and even a side of chicken wings — this tiny restaurant is colorful and charismatic; the entire building has been transformed into a work of art. Eye-popping graffiti and scrap objects made into furniture are just a few of the amusements that await you here. It’s obvious this establishment was created by artists. Since its beginnings 10 years ago, it has become the strangest and most endearing eatery in the city.