At three times the size of Texas, with a capital larger than New York City and coasts that touch two oceans, Mexico is vast and full of surprises. People often come here expecting a simple beach getaway but find themselves taken in by the country’s many layers, from the raved-about food of San Miguel de Allende in the country’s center, to the adventures of Los Cabos in the west, to the romantic allure of Tulum in the east. Choose which city is suited for your next vacation with a little help from our guide below.
EAT: San Miguel de Allende
Set in the Bajío mountains of Mexico, San Miguel de Allende has all the hallmarks of a charming colonial town—colorful buildings, cobblestoned streets, a vibrant central square—but its top-notch food scene is worthy of a big city. Leading the gastronomic charge is chef Donnie Masterton, who runs a mini-empire of restaurants, including the new rooftop spot Fátima (7 Juarez, Centro; 011-52-415-688-1438; dinner for two, $10*). On the menu: Mediterranean-inspired plates, such as a variety of tagines and a whole snapper with tahini and grape leaves.
If you’re looking for a place to start the day, consider bakery Panio (29 Calle Correo, Esquina con Recreo; 011-52-415-154-7187; breakfast for two, $10). You can’t go wrong with any of the freshly baked breads or the hearty eggs Benedict served on brioche. Afterward, make your way to Fábrica la Aurora (Calz de la Aurora s/n, Aurora; 011-52-415-152-1312), a former textile mill that now houses more than 50 art galleries, design studios, and antique shops. (Click here for more on Fábrica la Aurora and the city’s artisans.)
There are a number of food halls and markets in town where you can order a little bit of everything. At Dôce 18 Concept House (18 Calle Relox, Centro; 011-52-415-154-9201; lunch for two, $25), chefs turn out burgers, Italian food, and even Japanese mochi desserts—the makings of an international feast. There’s also a coffee shop, a tequila tasting room, and boutiques selling housewares and ceramics, so leave time to browse after lunch.
Come dinner, you can make reservations at Nómada Cocina de Interpretación (88 Hernandez Macías, Centro; 011-52-415-121-9163; six-course tasting menu, $25 a person), run by a pair of young chefs from Mexico City and Guadalajara. The dishes change constantly but always reinterpret traditional Mexican cuisine and are beautifully presented. On Wednesdays, the restaurant offers a special six-course tasting menu for foodies looking for the full experience.
In the mood for a post-meal mezcal? One step through the swinging saloon doors of El Manantial (78 Barranca, Centro; 011-52-415-110-0007; drinks for two, $10) and you’ll know why it’s beloved by both locals and visitors. If you happen to be there on a Thursday, the classic cantina—established in 1920—offers two-for-one margaritas. It’s an ideal way to toast to your vacation and the chefs who made it oh-so delicious.
PLAY: Los Cabos
Sleek, shimmering marlins leap from the sea off the Los Cabos coast, luring anglers with the promise of the catch of a lifetime. Sportfishing is the most popular adventure in the twin cities of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula—great places for thrill seekers of all sorts.
You can book your fishing trip through Minerva’s (Calle Francisco Madero, Cabo San Lucas; 011-52-624-143-1282; fishing trips for up to six anglers, from $834), a well-established company with a fishing fleet and tackle shop in Cabo San Lucas. Try for a tuna or wahoo and have it filleted at the dock to supply your own catch of the day for dinner. If you prefer something a little more active, head to Playa Médano in Cabo San Lucas, a great beach for all sorts of water sports. You can rent kayaks on the shore and paddle to the famous rock arch at Land’s End, zoom about on a personal watercraft, or test your sense of balance with stand-up paddleboarding. Then lunch on sushi and shrimp at Sur Beach House (Playa Médano, Cabo San Lucas; 866-224-4234; lunch for two, $25) while overlooking the ocean you splashed around in moments before. (Click here for more on the food scene in Los Cabos.)
For undersea adventures, try snorkeling in Bahía Chileno, a clear bay filled with angelfish, moorish idols, and puffer fish along the Corridor, a 20-mile stretch of land that links the two cities. You can sign up for a catamaran tour with Pez Gato (Cabo San Lucas Marina; 011-52-624-143-3797; four-hour tours, $80 a person, including snorkeling gear and lunch). Or plan your own outing. The beach at Chileno is one of the most scenic around, with soft tan sand and lots of amenities, including restrooms, showers, and umbrella rentals. (You’ll need to bring water and snacks.) Although water-sports gear is sometimes available to rent on the beach, it’s better to bring your own or look to Baja’s Watersports (Playa Médano, Cabo San Lucas; 011-52-624-144-3688; gear, $25 for eight hours), which rents water toys on Playa Médano. If you’ve got the time, consider exploring Baja California’s sole coral reef, a two-hour drive away in Cabo Pulmo National Park. To go, book a tour with Cabo Outfitters (Manuel Doblado at Blvd. Mijares, San José del Cabo; 011-52-624-142-5222; eight-hour tours, $140 a person).
All sorts of land-based fun is on offer at Wild Canyon (El Tule Bridge, Cabo San Lucas; 866-230-5253; four-hour zip-line, ATV, or bungee-jumping passes, $110; four-hour Animal Kingdom Sanctuary passes, $60). For adrenaline junkies, the park offers eight zip lines more than 300 feet above a steep canyon; ATV trails that cross a wooden suspension bridge; and a bungee jump from a sky-high glass gondola. For a truly unusual experience, try riding a camel through the desert—in Mexico. Ready to wind down? Check out the iguanas and macaws in the park’s Animal Kingdom Sanctuary.
Even if you knew nothing about Tulum, you’d get an idea of its vibe pretty quickly from the signs that line the beach urging travelers to “Stay Present” or “Embrace the Mystery.” In this town on the southeastern curve of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, emotional well-being is as important as physical health. Add in a spellbinding swath of jungle, the remains of an ancient city, the ever-shifting blues of the Caribbean Sea, and sand as soft as peach fuzz, and you have the makings of an idyllic couples’ retreat.
Rise early so that you and your partner can wander the Tulum ruins (Carr. Federal Cancún–Chetumal km 230; admission, $5; admission and English tour, $10 a person) in relative peace. Visitors can enter the former port—built nearly 1,000 years ago by the Mayans, who knew the value of a great view—as soon as 8 a.m. Don’t leave without walking the path around the main temple. If you’ve beaten the crowds, head down the steps to stroll hand in hand along the beach. If not, stay on higher ground and duck into the jungle for a little alone time.
Yoga is a Tulum staple. Practitioners of all levels can sign up for a class in town with Yoga Dicha (Calle Geminis, second floor, Centro; 011-52-984-165-9800; classes, $15), a studio started by Canadian transplant Richelle Morgan, who found herself taken in by the magic of this place. “I had no intention of living here, but that is what happens to many of us who come,” Morgan says. “We arrive with plans to stay for a few months, then a year passes, then another, and we realize we are officially living in Tulum.” (Click here to hear more from Tulum’s residents.)
When you’re ready to cool off, consider hailing a cab to cenote Corazón del Paraiso (Carr. Tulum–Carrillo Puerto; 011-52-984-205-4413; admission, $4), a heart-shaped sinkhole that opened to visitors in the past year but remains blessedly off the map to many. Here you can watch little fish dart about as you laze around the cenote. (Tip: Ask your driver to stay. The total cost for round-trip transportation from town and an hour at the cenote is about $25.)
For a little indulgence, turn to Sanará (Boca Playa km 8.2; 310-933-6408; massages, from $155 a person; yoga classes, $20), where couples can share a treatment room for one of three massages: Sanará Breathe, Sobada Maya, or Relieve Massage. Through the open window, you can hear the soothing rustle of the jungle canopy as you slowly melt into a state of total relaxation. Yogis can sign up for class with an ocean view here.
There are few experiences more romantic than a candlelight dinner in the jungle. At Kitchen Table (Carr. Tulum a Boca Paila km 1.5; 011-52-984-188-4924; dinner for two, $100; cash or cryptocurrencies only), chef-owner Inácio Lamas keeps the menu as intimate as the space. “The idea was to go back to a more connected and simple way of cooking,” Lamas says. “It’s about craftsmanship and freshness.” You may spot Lamas in the open kitchen, where only a counter separates him from diners. Or you may forget to look—between the flickering votives and the excellent food, who could blame you for getting lost in each other?
RCI® affiliated resorts in or near some of the featured destinations include:
Every room has a view at this beachfront property set on 44 acres of lush gardens. Carr. Chetumal–PTO Juarez km. 236.7, Tulum, Quintana Roo
Member Review: Not yet rated
Unwind at the on-site spa with a steam bath or massage. Carr. Cancún–Tulum km. 258.693, Akumal, Quintana Roo
Member Review: “The grounds are spectacular.”
Between the private cabanas and the gourmet restaurant, you may have trouble deciding where to go first. Predio Paraíso Escondido, Paraiso Escondido s/n, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
Member Review: “The entire staff work tirelessly to make sure you are well cared for.”
Units charm thanks to terra-cotta roofing and Spanish-style tile outside and exposed beams inside. Carr. Transpeninsular km. 10, Mega, Cabo del Sol Lote D, Cabo San Lucas
Member Review: “The food was delicious.”
Choose from more than 10 drinking and dining establishments—including a swim-up bar and cupcake café. Domicilio Conocido, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
Member Review: “The shows every night were a great option for on-site activities.”
Opt for an all-inclusive stay to secure an ocean-view room. Retorno Playa Anuiti No. 27, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur
Member Review: “Our room was very nice and clean.”
Consult the resort’s joy squad to sign up for a ton of activities, from kayaking to culture tours. Blvd. San José s/n Lote 12, Col. Campo de Golf, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur
Member Review: “We can’t wait to stay again.”
Still can’t decide where to go this summer? Visit RCI.com and use the Vacation Type filters to help you search. Whether you are looking for the beach, a family vacation, a spa getaway, or other experience, RCI.com can help you search for a vacation that is right for you.**
For complete member reviews (as member reviews have been condensed) and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.
Non-RCI affiliated resorts in the featured destinations include:
Casa Blanca 7
This new 10-room property is set inside a 1700s building and has a Moroccan vibe, with embroidered fabrics and Berber carpets. 7 Juarez, Centro, San Miguel de Allende; 011-52-415-688-1438; casablanca7.com; doubles from $298 a night
Bahia Hotel & Beach House
Easy access to the beach coupled with designer rooms, a pool, and an on-site restaurant. Av. El Pescador, Cabo San Lucas; 866-424-4234; bahiacabo.com; doubles from $249 a night
Expect plenty of little luxuries, such as fresh coconut juice upon arrival and reserved beachfront cabanas, at this health-minded boutique hotel. Boca Playa km. 8.2, Tulum; 011-52-310-933-6408; sanaratulum.com; doubles from $344 a night
- *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
- **These vacations are limited and subject to availability.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: Summer 2019