Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos: Visit These 4 Lesser-Known Towns

Tourists to Mexico seeking a trip off the beaten path might consider visiting one of the 177 "magic towns."
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Written by Sally French
Lead Writer/Spokesperson
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Edited by Meghan Coyle
Assistant Assigning Editor
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Vacations to Mexico don’t have to solely entail sipping on margaritas at an all-inclusive beachside resort or sampling tacos al pastor in Mexico City. For tourists seeking an off-the-beaten-path trip, Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism has curated a list of lesser-known destinations that stand out for their historical significance, natural wonders and local charm. They’re called Pueblos Mágicos (which means magical towns).

The list has grown from four towns in 2001 to now 177 towns. As part of the requirements of the designation, towns must prove they can provide what the government considers “necessary infrastructure to provide visitors with comfort and facilities during their stay.”

In short, towns must make it relatively easy for tourists to get around, book accommodations and find activities to fill a vacation.

Sure, Mexico’s tourist hotspots offer that, too. But these Pueblos Mágicos can offer a unique (and sometimes more budget-friendly) alternative.

These four Pueblos Mágicos are especially worth visiting this year.

1. Bacalar

(Getty Images)

For serene beauty, head to Bacalar in the southern part of Quintana Roo state. The clear waters of Bacalar Lagoon make for prime swimming.

The area’s boutique, luxury hotel scene has surged. Boca de Agua opened in late 2023 with treehouse-style rooms designed by renowned Mexican architect Frida Escobedo. And in 2023, travel site Afar named local Our Habitas Bacalar, which stands out for its adults-only, A-framed tented rooms, as one of the best resorts in Mexico for that year.

2. Loreto

(Getty Images)

Loreto, located in Baja California Sur, serves as a gateway for whale watching at Bahía de Loreto National Park — particularly in late winter (January through March).

In addition to whales, the area is home to a huge array of diverse wildlife, including more than 170 seabird species and more than 700 fish species.

The town itself is pretty small. According to Mexico’s latest census data, there were only 18,000 residents in 2020. Loreto has maintained its heritage as a fishing village, while also catering to tourists with its locally owned boutique hotels and restaurants.

Despite its size, Loreto has its own airport, offering direct flights from major U.S. cities, including Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco. The flight from Los Angeles takes less than two hours, making it an easy trip for Southern California residents.

3. Santa Rosalia

(Photo courtesy of Visit Baja Sur)

Santa Rosalia, which is also located in Baja California Sur, earned its Pueblo Mágico designation in June 2023. Santa Rosalia serves adventure seekers given its beaches for surfing, diving and snorkeling, where you may even spot a fish called a burrito grunt.

If you can’t make it to Paris this year, you may enjoy visiting Santa Rosalia's own piece of possible Eiffel history. Atlas Obscura shares that the town’s main church, Iglesia de Santa Bárbara — which has a unique iron structure — was possibly designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. Yes, that’s the same Eiffel behind France’s Eiffel Tower.

And that’s not the only French influence in Santa Rosalia. One of the city’s top tourist attractions, El Boleo Bakery, bakes bread using French techniques.

4. San Miguel de Allende

(Getty Images)

San Miguel de Allende, located in Guanajuato, doesn’t officially have a Pueblos Mágicos designation anymore — but that’s because it got an upgrade. In 2008, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thus taken off the list.

And it’s only gotten more popular since then, especially with young travelers. According to AmEx Travel data, San Miguel de Allende has experienced a 400% increase in bookings among Gen Zers and millennials. The city earned a spot on the company’s 2024 Trending Destinations list.

Why do people love it? The town is known for its cobblestone streets adorned with candy-colored houses. Much of the city still has baroque architecture, creating a compelling environment for photographers and urban hikers.

Meanwhile, foodies can explore street markets and restaurants, tasting popular local specialties like chiles en nogada (a meat-stuffed poblano chile topped with a walnut-based cream sauce). Art and history buffs will be entertained by its galleries and well-preserved buildings, too.

How to make a Pueblos Mágico trip affordable

Colorful houses line the streets in Guanajuato City, another Pueblo Mágico. (Getty Images)

Going to a Pueblo Mágico isn't necessarily cheap. Getting to more remote towns can be expensive if the airport is far away. Plus, some of these towns are primarily served by boutique, luxury hotels, which can mean higher prices.

Still, there are a few ways to save on a trip to one of these unique destinations.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
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Hold the right credit card: Since you’re less likely to find the big chain hotels in Mexico’s magic towns, don’t count on redeeming hotel points or cashing in on free night certificates. That said, it’s not impossible to redeem credit card points for boutique hotels through the credit card issuer’s travel portal.

And with some cards, this can be a smart redemption. For example, those who have the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can redeem their Chase Ultimate Rewards points for boutique hotels at a value of 1.5 cents each through Chase’s travel portal. Otherwise, they’re only worth 1 cent when redeemed for cash.

Cash in on statement credits: In that same vein, some travel credit cards let you redeem points for statement credits against travel expenses charged to the card. Sometimes the statement credit automatically kicks in. But if you hold a card that requires you to manually redeem points for travel statement credits, don’t forget that next step.

Credit cards that offer the ability to redeem points as a statement credit after you’ve made a travel purchase include:

Credit cards with easy travel redemptions
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
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Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
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on Bank of America's website

Citi® Double Cash Card
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on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
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Annual fee

Redeem points at a rate of 1 cent per mile against travel purchases made within the last 90 days.

Redeem points at a rate of 1 cent per mile against travel purchases made within the last 90 days.

Redeem points at a value 1 cent per point toward any purchase (travel or otherwise).Redeem points at a value 1 cent per point toward any purchase (travel or otherwise).

Redeem Citi ThankYou® points at a rate of 1 cent each with this card, which earns 1% cash back on all purchases, then another 1% back when you pay them off. Plus, through the end of 2024, cardholders can get 5% cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked through the Citi Travel portal.

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Travel during shoulder season: Throughout Mexico, peak season is generally winter as snowbirds flock for warmer weather. Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons — most of spring (aside from spring break) and fall — for better deals.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

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