5 (safe) Mexican escapes

Despite recent drug-related violence in Mexico, this long-loved vacation getaway is still safe to visit—with caveats

Best places to visit

Puerto Vallarta/Sayulita. The spasms of drug violence in areas surrounding Puerto Vallarta do not seem to have affected the beach city itself. Try Hacienda San Angel, a lovely boutique hotel set among bougainvillea-traced villas in the terra-cotta-tiled downtown. Go north to visit beautiful Sayulita, a onetime fishing village colonized by surfers and expats.

Mexico City. A world-class city off too many travelers’ radars. Street crime is more of a problem here than in U.S. cities, but follow a few rules—i.e., never hail a cab from the street; don’t carry a lot of cash or credit cards, and keep them hidden—and you should be fine. A clutch of new boutique hotels (Hotel Brick is one of the latest), along with excellent restaurants (we’ll single out Pujol), are a welcome counterpoint to days immersed in street life. Catch young artists at the Kurimanzutto gallery.

Oaxaca. Still a colonial jewel. The city’s cobbled streets, particularly its main drag, Macedonia Alcalá, are lined with museums, stores, and galleries. Outside the city, the Zapotec archaeological sites of Monte Albán and Mitla are grand and mysterious. Occasional outbreaks of civil unrest (like student protests) are not directed at tourists, but they can make getting around impossible. Check the newspapers.

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. You may see caravans of police officers holding guns, as there has been violence here in the past, but very rarely has it targeted tourists. The resort town of Ixtapa has wide beaches, high-rise hotels (like architectural gem Las Brisas Ixtapa), and golf. But for flavor, try Zihua—still a fishing village—where a stroll along the bayside malecón is pure honky-tonk. Forty minutes north is the charming surf town of Troncones.

Los Cabos/Todos Santos. The luxury resorts of the Cabos corridor are the place to spot Hollywood royalty, but the real reason to visit Cabo is to peel off its California veneer and disappear into the extraordinary desert landscape and unspoiled coast. To the east, there’s the Sea of Cortez and the East Cape, known for its diving. On the Pacific side, Todos Santos is a haven for surfers and artists.

San Miguel de Allende. There’s plenty to do in this hill town, like take a cooking class or listen to Cuban music (thisweekinsanmiguelallende.com), and hotels like the Matilda and the Rosewood opened in the past year. There have been isolated attacks on American expats; none has targeted tourists.


Next page:   Where not to go, plus key security questions answered

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