7 Absolutely Stunning Places You Need to Explore on Mexico’s Pacific Coast
There's more to Mexico than Cancun and the Riviera Maya. The west coast is a paradise for lovers of fun, sun, and beautiful beaches.
Mazatlán exudes colonial charisma and the lively atmosphere you’ve come to expect from Mexico. The cobblestone streets of Centro Histórico (Old Mazatlán) are lined with 19th-century buildings, while the modern district of Zona Dorada is where you’ll find most of the bars and nightlife. The boardwalk, which stretches across 13 miles of soft sand, is another major draw. Adding to its allure are warm hospitality, year-round bikini weather, beachfront resorts including Vidanta Mazatlán and Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay, and authentic cuisine. While it may be the shrimp capital—aguachiles are local favorites—meat also shines, especially in dishes like tacos de cabeza (cow head tacos) and pozole (a hearty, hominy and pork stew).
Once a little-known hamlet on the Pacific coast of Mexico, Puerta Vallarta rose to fame when Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor bought a residence there in 1964. And let’s just say, its under-the-radar status was pretty much non-existent after that. (Love Boat fans will remember it as a favorite port of call for the Pacific Princess.) Having said that, Puerto Vallarta still retains much of the charm that attracted Burton and Taylor to it in the first place—namely bougainvillea-clad courtyards, a malecón (boardwalk), street tamale vendors, and flea markets of Old Vallarta.
Sayulita is a brightly-colored fishing village 26-miles north of Puerta Vallarta. While some audacious American surfers have been coming here since the early 70s, it remained relatively unfamiliar to the masses until recently. The completion of the highway connecting Puerta Vallarta and Sayulita opened up access to this quaint town and it didn’t take long for the secret to get out. Now hailed as one of the best boarding spots in Mexico and an all-around awesome place to visit, Sayulita has grown into an unpretentious utopia, where tourists, locals, surfers, and fisherman coalesce, and you can score cheap, tasty street tacos around the corner from high-end lodgings, including Playa Escondida and Amor Boutique Hotel. Check out these budget-friendly travel destinations that still feel like VIP vacations. (Hint: Mexico is one of them.)
Just 30 minutes south of Sayulita is Punta Mita, an exclusive development that’s partially owned by Bill Gates. The peninsula is home to five-star hotels—Four Seasons and The St. Regis—luxury real estate communities (which means awesome vacation rentals, like Casa Koko), residents beach clubs, Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses, and a tennis center managed by Peter Burwash International. The newest addition to the area is the recently-opened hospital. Self-funded by Beverly Hills doctor Sam Najmabadi, MD, it’s the first full service, state-of-the-art medical center in the region. While in Mexico, you won’t find these popular “Mexican” foods.
Cabo San Lucas
Located at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, Cabo San Lucas, AKA “Land’s End,” boasts beautiful beaches—including Medano Beach, the longest and most swimmable in the area—vibrant nightlife, world-class deep-sea fishing, and internally-acclaimed marina (you’ll often see mega-yachts docked here). As Cabo San Lucas has grown in popularity, many of luxury lodgings have started to pop up, including The Resort at Pedregal and Grand Solmar Land’s End with its sweeping vistas, infinity pools, and swim-up bars.
If you drive an hour north of Cabo San Lucas, you’ll find Todos Santos, a place that feels like some wild gem, despite it being accessible from the main highway. Backed by the Sierra de la Laguna mountains, this idyllic destination—designated by the Mexican government as a Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town)—is a mecca of artists, galleries, and culture. Cobblestone streets are dotted with Mexican colonial architecture, artisan boutiques, and saguaro cacti. Coupled with its relaxed atmosphere and authentic restaurants, like Tacos Y Mariscos El Sinaloense, and it’s easy to see why Todos Santos tops so many must-visit lists.
San José del Cabo
With its narrow streets—dotted with Spanish colonial architecture, churches, plazas, and quaint shops—and low-key vibe, San José del Cabo evokes the ambiance of a traditional Mexican town. Sun-seekers can visit Playa Palmilla, one of Mexico’s best beaches, as well as Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, where you’ll find the Sea of Cortez’s only hard coral reef. And when it comes to accommodations, the 70-room Hotel El Ganzo is unsurpassed—and in a town known for wow-worthy places to stay, that’s saying something. Standout features include wall murals, rustic woods touches, an in-house recording studio (because why not?), and unobstructed views of the majestic marina. Dreaming of snoozing under the stars? You can fall asleep under the Baja sky at this resort. Don’t miss these other 11 popular Mexico destinations you’ll want to visit.