Exploring Mexico: Authentic, Affordable, and Truly Memorable

February 16, 2021

Feel like you’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to Mexico? There are so many awesome areas to visit, each with their own unique flavor.

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I'm kathryn potter!

I'm an ocean-obsessed Midwesterner with a travel agency specializing in all-inclusive resort vacations & destination weddings.

My signature accessory is dog hair. My love language is witty sarcasm. I could eat Chipotle every day. I listen to Guns n Roses while decorating the Christmas tree because Welcome to the Jungle works in any situation. Try as I might, I just can’t quit the Real Housewives.

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Feel like you’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to a Mexico vacation? Then this blog is for you!

While Cancun is probably one of Mexico’s most notable vacation destinations, I’m here to invite you to explore ALL the options.

Keep reading for some of my favorite vacation spots in Mexico.


Known for its gorgeous white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and close proximity to the town, Cancun is a fabulous place to vacation. It’s also home to some beautiful high-rise resorts, delectable dining options, and plenty of shopping!

Kathryn’s Cancun Bullet Points:

  • That water!! The sea features so many shades of blue and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
  • The surf is usually a big rougher in Cancun & there are often red flag days, which means no swimming in the ocean.
  • The resorts here have much smaller footprints than those outside the Cancun Hotel Zone. They are high rise buildings & there’s no need for golf carts to get around.
  • I always recommend upgrading to an ocean view room here. It’s worth it for those beautiful sea views!
  • The Cancun Hotel Zone is about 30 minutes from the Cancun airport, so it’s great for shorter stays.
  • The ferry to Isla Mujeres is in Cancun, so this is a great daytrip.

Playa Mujeres

Looking for an intimate retreat? Then, Playa Mujeres has got you covered! Centered in a gated community about 10 miles north of Cancun, the destination offers newer resorts on  amazing beaches, with plenty of fun activities!

Kathryn’s Playa Mujeres Bullet Points:

  • There are also resorts in Costa Mujeres, which is the same geographical area, but they aren’t in the gated community.
  • Since most resorts here are new construction, they must follow the newer environmental rules. This means the beaches are more natural and feature some greenery.
  • Isla Mujeres can be seen from here & it also offers a bit of protection from the sargassum seaweed, making the beaches here a bit less susceptible than those found further south in the Riviera Maya area.

Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen is a coastal town about 45 mins from the airport with excellent shopping spots, dining, and nightlife. Famed Fifth Avenue is a pedestrian thoroughfare with blocks of fun shops, tasty restaurants and lively bars that everyone loves!

Kathryn’s Playa del Carmen Bullet Points:

  • There are a couple great all-inclusive resorts right in the heart of Playa del Carmen. You’ll also find more in the neighboring, gated community of Playacar.
  • The ferry to Cozumel is in Playa del Carmen, so this is a great daytrip.
  • If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, then you’ll definitely want to get out and explore the fun restaurants, bars and shops.
  • Beware the ‘I was your waiter last night’ scam. If you are staying at a resort with wristbands, someone will probably approach you and claim they were your waiter at <insert hotel name> last night. They weren’t, they just recognized your resort bracelet and are trying to sell you something. Keep on walking!

Akumal / Puerto Aventuras / Tulum

While it might be a bit further from the airport, this area in Mexico is well worth the trip. Snorkel offshore with majestic sea turtles in Akumal, or explore the bohemian town of Tulum. Want to check out some history? Then, you’ll love visiting the Mayan ruins!

Kathryn’s Southern Riviera Maya Bullet Points:

  • Tulum is popular right now & very Instagrammable. It’s very boho chic. You won’t find any all-inclusive resorts here, most are very small boutique hotels with less than 20 rooms. It’s an eco town and everything is run on generators, so don’t expect air conditioning. Prices at the restaurants are pretty high, so expect to drop some cash.
  • All beaches in Mexico are public. So even if you are staying at an adults-only resort in Akumal, there will likely be children on the beach since it’s a hot spot for snorkeling with the turtles.
  • While these areas are further from the airport, they’re also very close to some of the most popular excursions. You’ll be much closer to the Mayan Ruins (Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum), the Xcaret eco parks and some great cenotes.

Los Cabos

Known for its sunny days and low humidity, Los Cabos will give you the sun fix you crave! Spend your days on the beach or head out to a whale watching excursion for some adventure! Oh, and don’t forget about Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo for some incredible nightlife and an artsy hacienda experience!

Kathryn’s Los Cabos Bullet Points:

  • There are very few swimmable beaches in Los Cabos. Even the swimmable area of Medano Beach is often ‘red flag’ because of the strong undertow.
  • Los Cabos is a desert climate and one of the few places where my hair doesn’t go crazy because of the humidity. Score! It is chillier during the Winter months, especially in the evenings. Bring a sweater & enjoy the firepits!
  • Cabo San Lucas is the party town. San Jose del Cabo is more laid-back and artsy. Both are great to explore!
  • Whale season runs from mid-December to mid-April.
  • Cabo sunsets are amazing!

Puerto Vallarta

For a true and authentic Mexico vibe, Puerto Vallarta is where it’s at! The destination is famous for its breathtaking sunsets and gorgeous mountainous backdrops, as well as vibrant nightlife, shopping, and restaurants.

Kathryn’s Puerto Vallarta Bullet Points:

  • While we commonly call this area “Puerto Vallarta,” there are actually two different destinations that comprise the tourist area of Riviera Nayarit. There’s Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta, which are actually in different states.
  • Puerto Vallarta has a vibrant downtown and the famous Malecon. You’ll find great restaurants and nightlife here. The beaches in Puerto Vallarta tend to be smaller and more cove-like.
  • Nuevo Vallarta is a newer tourist area, so it doesn’t have the historical and vibrant downtown like Puerto Vallarta. The beaches in Nuevo Vallarta are typically longer, so it’s a great place for those who like taking long walks on the beach.

Want to learn even more about these destinations? Check out my free all-inclusive destination guide, which includes some of my favorite excursions in each area.

And if you’re ready for your next trip to amazing Mexico, let’s chat! Schedule your free planning call with me here:

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I'm Kathryn, travel advisor & owner of KP Travel Group 

I’m your boots-on-the-ground, been-there-seen-that resort expert. In an age where the right angle and Instagram filter can turn a pigsty into a palace, I'll help you plan a vacation that really delivers on that picture-perfect promise.

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