Margaritas and enchiladas might be some of the best things to come out of Mexico, but they’re not the only great things Mexico has to offer. In spite of it being a largely misunderstood country, Mexico should not be dismissed as a vacation destination. Plus, it’s not too far away for most US residents. With its rich culture and breathtaking beauty, it’s no surprise so many tourists keep coming back here. Those vivid colonial buildings, cobblestoned streets, and don’t even get us started on those white sandy beaches... ahhh, bliss.
Regardless of its multiple plus points, we’re not going to mask Mexico’s darker side. Five Mexican states received the highest ‘’Do Not Travel’’ warning earlier this year by the U.S. State Department program. There are places we should avoid in Mexico – we’re not going to sugar-coat the country. Even so, we shouldn’t let a few warnings put us off the country altogether. Mexico still offers safe places to visit without the travel caution.
In case anyone’s itching to see Mexico and experience all its glory, we’ve found the top 10 places to visit and also the 10 places we shouldn’t step foot in. If we know where to go, that shouldn’t stop us from coming to Mexico because it really is a fascinating country.
20 We’ll love: Tulum
Tulum is a popular resort town in Mexico, especially for luxury travellers. Paradise Beach is one of its best beaches, although Tulum is known for having some of the most stunning beaches in the country. No wonder tourists flock there for a relaxing break away!
One of Tulum’s most famous sites is its Mayan Ruins, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s an archaeological site that sits on the seafront, making it one of the most photogenic places in the whole of Mexico. It is also known for being a spa town. Maya Spa, in particular, is a great place to visit to indulge in body wraps, massages, and yoga classes.
19 We’ll steer clear of: Sinaloa
Sadly, not all of Mexico is ideal to visit. As one of the most sketchy states in the country, we might want to avoid stepping foot in Sinaloa, northern Mexico. Visually, it’s not a bad place. However, if we want to stay safe and prevent putting ourselves in any danger, it’s wise to avoid Sinaloa.
Even the US State Department warns citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Sinaloa. It’s best to stick more to the tourist resorts and avoid any of the five states the US State as deemed as too dangerous for travellers.
18 We’ll love: Playa del Carmen
Wealthy expats and holidaying Europeans vacation at the beachside lounges of the gorgeous Playa del Carmen which, by the way, has the best beaches in Mexico. When we’re not sunbathing on one of its white sandy beaches, we can enjoy snorkelling and scuba diving. If we’re looking to experience more traditional culture, this probably isn’t the ideal place. Playa del Carmen is a beachy tourist destination so we’re not really going to get a taste of Mexico’s culture, but we still can soak up its delightful scenery and amazing food. It also offers great nightlife for those who are looking for it.
17 We’ll steer clear of: Colima
Colima is another state placed under the ‘’Do not travel’’ advisory. Once a peaceful place with impressive architecture and stunning views, Colima is now tainted with that US State Department warning. With the highest rate of illegal activity in the country, Colima isn’t somewhere we’d want to spend our vacation. In fact, we doubt we’ve ever have a relaxing vacation there what with all those statistics swirling around in our minds.
It doesn’t exactly get us into the holiday spirit, does it? Still, it’s a great pity that tourists are warned against this state because it used to be so peaceful and still is beautiful.
16 We’ll love: Mexico City
With its amazing arts and culture scene, Mexico’s capital is one of the liveliest cities in the world – and one of the largest. It also boasts some of the best cuisine in the Western Hemisphere. What’s not to love about this place? On top of all that, Mexico City is both affordable and pretty safe. Visitors can expect an unforgettable stay when they come to Mexico City.
Whether you want to explore the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, the Templo Mayor or just experience the city’s food and nightlife scene, every visitor is guaranteed to find something here in this bustling city.
15 We’ll steer clear of: Guerrero
A state on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, Guerrero’s tourism is mainly focused on Acapulco. It is one of Mexico’s oldest and most famous beach resorts, which used to be the getaway for 1950s Hollywood stars and millionaires. Although it still attracts many vacationers today, the danger is rising in Acapulco.
Now that Guerrero is ranked as the most dangerous state in Mexico, we’re not sure it’s too wise going for vacation in Acapulco. It’s a great pity because some of Guerrero’s beach resorts are beautiful and offer so much to tourists. For the sake of our wellbeing, it’s best to steer clear of this state.
14 We’ll love: Cancun
In spite of the devastating effects of Hurricane Wilma, Cancun is once again a go-to destination for beautiful beaches, golfing, jet skiing and nightlife. Even though it’s a stunning place with much to offer, Cancun is one of the most affordable vacation destinations in the area. It’s the perfect place to visit for a spring break holiday. Isla Mujeres, Chichen Itza and Playa Tortugas are some of the best things to do in Cancun. But even if we stick to lying all day on the beach, we doubt we’ll go home disappointed.
This place is picture-perfect – how could we ever get bored with those views?
13 We’ll steer clear of: Michoacan
Michoacan might be known as one of Mexico’s most beautiful states, but when we look at its danger statistics, it sort of makes it a little less beautiful to us.
With dozens of untouched beaches and the emerald peaks of the Sierra Madre del Sur providing a lush background, it’s a huge shame that Michoacan as a state is brimming with unlawful activities. Let’s just say it’s the kind of place we wouldn’t want to be walking alone at night or during the day.
Even for those stunning untouched beaches, we don’t think we’ll take the risk; especially as there are plenty of nicer options to visit in Mexico.
12 We’ll love: Puerto Vallarta
Also known as Vallarta or just PV, Puerto Vallarta is more than just a coastal resort getaway. With its small-town atmosphere and unique ocean fronts, PV is definitely one of the prettiest places in Mexico that feels thriving but cozy. Puerto Vallarta is a place focused very much on elegance. From its hotels to its cuisine to its beaches, PV screams sophistication.
In the summer people come to see sights like the Zona Romantica or Los Arcos and El Malecon, but if we come in the winter, we’ll be able to go on whale watching tours. There is something for everybody.
11 We’ll steer clear of: Tamaulipas
Situated on the Texan border between the US and Mexico, Tamaulipas is a state with many beautiful lakes and fishing opportunities. Since 2011, however, Tamaulipas has become unsafe not only for tourists, but for locals too. With cartel conflict scaring the locals, many are avoiding this state like the plague.
Due to the dangers, we should not step foot in this state unless it’s an absolute emergency. In this case, try not to wear fancy clothing or flash money around – that will only attract unwanted attention.
10 We’ll love: San Miguel de Allende
Over the past 50 years, San Miguel de Allende has evolved into a hub for tourists wanting to experience the music, food, and arts of true local culture. Even though it is a popular tourist destination, it’s not as touristy as somewhere like Cancun for instance.
Between its brightly colored buildings, cobblestoned streets and quaint little artisan shops, San Miguel de Allende is the perfect place to snap some cultural pictures of Mexico. It’s not hard to spend the day admiring the 500-year-old colonial city’s incredible architecture either! There is so much to explore in this city that it would be impossible to get bored here.
9 We’ll steer clear of: Chihuahua
The word ‘’Chihuahua’’ usually conjures up images of the cute little dog we used to see Paris Hilton carrying around in one of her Louis Vuittons. If only the place itself were as cute as the dog.
Unfortunately, travellers are warned against coming to this state. Illegal activities are a big thing here which is why we should avoid it. Just a few years ago, Chihuahua City – the state’s capital - was considered one of the sketchiest cities in the world. Since then, it has continued to get worse in terms of violence.
8 We’ll love: Mazatlan
Mazatlan is another beach escape in Mexico. But there’s nothing fake about this place. It’s brimming with refurbished museums and theatres as well as great things to see like Old Mazatlan, Malecon and Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Old film stars like Gary Cooper and John Wayne used to come to Mazatlan.
Today, it’s just as busy at the sidewalk cafes and Malecon as it was back then. Although it does attract a large number of tourists each year, Mazatlan preserves much of its natural arts and culture. It is touristy but not too touristy for us to not to be able to experience this town’s culture.
7 We’ll steer clear of: Coahuila
This is another state located on the border and one that’s been placed under level three of the US advisory. It’s actually a real shame that Coahuila has become so limited to us because its natural sprawling beauty is spectacular and something all travellers deserve to see (like in the image below).
Between Parras Valley and Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests, there’s no doubt about it that Coahuila is a beautiful place. In saying that, travellers can still visit – and do – but if we’re going to go, we must avoid the clubs. Personally, we would just keep our noses out of it and travel elsewhere.
6 We’ll love: Guadalajara
For the most authentic experience in Mexico, head to Guadalajara. It’s not as busy as other tourist areas in Mexico, but it’s worth visiting to truly get a taste of local culture. Guadalajara is famous for its mariachi bands, stunning architecture, tequila distilleries and excellent nightlife. It’s a wonderful combination of tradition and modernity.
When we visit exotic countries, most of us want to witness its traditional culture and cuisine. It’s part of the fun of travel – a big part! So it is definitely nice to discover places that retain Mexico’s traditions, because we still want to see them for ourselves too.
5 We’ll steer clear of: Nuevo Leon
This state in northern Mexico is home to cities like Monterrey, Linares, Abasolo, Agualeguas and Montemorelos. It is also home to one of Mexico’s biggest national parks, Cumbres de Monterrey. In other words, it sounds like a pretty great place.
It’s just unfortunate that it’s another one on the list that’s deemed dangerous for visitors. Bordered by Coahuila and Tamaulipas, we can see why that would be the case. It is also bordered by the US state of Texas. Still, tourists do come here to Nuevo Leon, despite its reputation. If one must go, try to avoid going out alone at night or flashing money.
4 We’ll love: Puebla
This colonial city situated to the southeast of Mexico City boasts authentic character. It’s definitely a great place to go for an authentic holiday. It’s also a city filled with churches – a total of 365 to be exact. However, Puebla is primarily famous for its Talavera pottery and sweet and spicy food. It really is a great place to experience Mexico’s traditions and true culture. We know we’ve seen a lot of bad places in Mexico so far, but we can see there are still many amazing spots in Mexico that must not be missed. Puebla is one of them.
3 We’ll steer clear of: Jalisco
Google Jalisco and the first thing you’ll see are news articles reporting violence in the area. If that’s not enough to put us off booking a trip to this state, we don’t know what is. It everywhere of course, but if a place like Jalisco conjures up so much negativity, it makes us wonder if there’s any point making a visit.
A vacation should be about relaxing and escaping stress. We don’t want to worry about getting robbed or caught up in something dangerous on our vacation. It has a level three travel advisory, which basically means we should steer clear if we have a brain.
2 We’ll love: Cozumel
It’s hard to choose a favourite place in Mexico. There are, after all, many wonderful cities, towns and resorts that sound so exotic and thrilling. Cozumel is one of our favourites. With its powdery sands and turquoise waters, Cozumel is practically the epitome of paradise. Head to Palancar Beach, Paradise Beach or Faro Celerain Eco Park for amazing views and spectacular diving. A lot of couples actually come to get married here in Cozumel. And it’s not surprising – it boasts spectacular views. It would be a perfect backdrop for a wedding that’s for sure.
Don’t let the warnings of some places put you off coming to Mexico altogether.
1 We’ll steer clear of: Generally all rural areas
Most of Mexico’s border states and towns are the areas to avoid because they pose high safety risks. However, it is also important to stay wary of rural areas in Mexico. See, it’s not just gangs that are the central point of dodginess here in the country. The conflict also revolves around land. For that reason, we should steer clear of rural areas and mountainous areas, in which there is a lack of infrastructure. If we want to visit these areas, we must do it in the daytime, rather than at night where our risks are much higher.
References: cbsnews.com, visitmexico.com, wikitravel.org, travel.usnews.com, en.wikivoyage.org, mexbound.com