Thanks to its popularity as a beach vacation destination, Mexico is perhaps best known to most North Americans for its resort towns like Puerto Vallarta and Cancún.
These are places where large hotels front stunning beaches and a shimmering ocean. You have your pick of restaurants, there are plenty of opportunities for shopping, and there’s always something going on late into the night.
But Mexico is a large country, almost three times the size of Texas. And within that territory is a wide variety of climates and landscapes. There are places you may never have heard about that offer a quite different experience than the frenetic all-inclusive hotels. It could be the perfect destination for your retirement…or a place to explore on your next visit.
One place that is the just about the farthest you can get from a beach resort is Guanajuato, in the Colonial Highlands region of central Mexico. It’s a mountainous area, with the city at an elevation of 6,600 feet—which keeps the climate mild throughout the year.
The town center is wedged into a narrow valley, with homes blanketing the surrounding hillsides. The centro historico, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is well-preserved, full of elaborate churches and cathedrals, civic buildings, and private homes in Spanish colonial style.
Guanajuato is also a center for the arts. It has its own symphony. And every year in October, the city hosts an international gathering of performing arts known as the Cervantino. But really any day of the week, there’s some sort of performance or cultural event going on at some venue in the city.
Head to the Yucatán Peninsula, at the far southern end of the Riviera Maya, and you have the funky beach town of Tulúm. A long-time stop on the hippie backpacker trail, Tulúm has grown up in recent years and now draws travelers and expats of all types. But that bohemian flavor still remains.
The vibrant downtown is all hustle and bustle, with markets, taco stands, seafood restaurants, cafés, and souvenir shops jostling for your attention.
Of course, the showpiece of Tulúm is the beach. A long narrow road parallels the water and on either side of the barely two-lane track are yoga studios, boutiques, small hotels, and open-air restaurants serving up lunch with a view of the water. There’s no large-scale development here. In fact, it’s restricted because of a large biosphere reserve just to the south.
So strolling along the white-sand beach, with the beautiful, clear-blue Caribbean lapping the shore is a pleasant experience as you gaze upon the undisturbed natural beauty.
There are a few things you’ll find in common across Mexico, whether you’re at the beach or in a colonial town.
The cost of living is low, and thanks to the very favorable exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and Mexican peso, your money goes even further. It’d be very tough to spend more than $40 for a very nice dinner for two anywhere.
You also have top-notch and low-cost healthcare, with treatment, including prescription drugs, costing about half what they do in the U.S. You’re very close to the U.S. and Canada, with numerous direct flights from Mexico’s many international airports to destinations up north. And, of course, people in Mexico are friendly, helpful, and welcoming of “gringos.”
It all makes living and traveling through the country great…no matter where you end up.