Cancun is every American’s go-to destination when they think of a Mexican getaway, and we can’t really blame them: it’s got all of your household names in hospitality, from Wyndhams to Hard Rocks, an impressive of services, and the coast is simply gorgeous.

The luxurious Hotel Zone and its attractive all-inclusive offers make Cancun the number one hotel in Mexico, as well as the whole of Latin America.

However, interestingly enough, Mexicans themselves do not share their northern neighbors’ love for the touristy resort city.

In fact, when Mexicans go on a vacation, they are far more likely to skip the Caribbean coast altogether and opt for these two alternative beach destinations instead:

Cancun Is No Longer Number One In Mexico (For Mexicans)

cancun from above

According to a new survey conducted by INEGI, which stands for Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, Cancun has been continuously losing strength against other domestic destinations when it comes to the travel preferences of locals in Mexico.

It may have topped the ranking in a not-so-distant past, but it’s now fallen to number four, still respectable enough, but a significant drop nonetheless, considering it’s the country’s international best seller, and other resort towns in Mexico are not nearly as well-equipped.

aerial view of stunning beachfront resort in cancun mexico

At the end of the day, it’s not like Cancun needs to stay in Mexico’s good graces when it’s captured the hearts of Americans, the main drive behind those record-breaking figures last year, but in case you’ve been wondering where Mexicans are traveling instead, this is where you’ll find them:

Mazatlan And Puerto Vallarta Are The Most Popular Destinations For Mexicans

Mazatlan, a coastal city in the lesser-known state of Sinaloa, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s third best international offer after Cancun and Cabo, are Mexico’s top two faves currently, as seen on the latest INEGI report, and it’s time we had a look into the why:

scenic views of ocean in mazatlan

Why do Mexicans love Maz and PV more than Cancun?

Both Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta straddle Mexico’s Pacific Coast, an increasingly popular alternative for vacationers keen on escaping the year-round busy, gentrified Mexican Caribbean, especially now that the opening of a new international airport in Tulum is poised to further impact the region.

That’s not to say Maz (as Mazatlan is affectionately called) or PV (Vallarta’s popular shortened version) are exactly peaceful and undisturbed (far from that). They’re bustling coastal cities, not quaint fishing villages, but they have something Cancun is clearly missing:

aerial view of pretty buildings in puerto vallarta downtown in mexico

Why Do Mexicans Love These Cities?

  • They’re more historical
  • More affordable
  • They weren’t built to cater to Americans exclusively

The Culture

Unlike the Caribbean giant, they were not built in the 1970s exclusively to attract Americans.

In case you weren’t aware, Cancun is not that old: it was only founded 53 years ago to host the influx of tourists coming from the United States, so it lacks that undeniable historical appeal.

Colorful Buildings In Mazatlan, Mexico, Sinaloa, Latin America

Both cities were founded much earlier – Maz in the 16th century, PV in the 19th – and prior to becoming tourism hubs, they were home to actual communities with a fascinating historical background, so they’re more authentically Mexican than leisure-zone Cancun.

They are known instead for their beautiful architecture – Viejo Mazatlan and PV’s Zona Zona Romántica evoke that European Old World charm – people-friendly beaches, unlike Cancun’s Caribbean strip that is all but claimed by hotels and more affordable prices.

Cheaper Hotels

Woman standing in a hotel at the window

Americans love all-inclusive stays, and who are we to judge when they get an average of 11 days of paid vacation per year?

Evidently, when they go abroad all they can think about is booking a week-long stay in a luxury resort to shut off from the outside world.

Mexicans do not partake in that mentality, however, and though they love their beaches, they’re not your typical all-inclusive resort guest as $500 per night can be an exorbitant rate for a local.

Maz and PV, and PV in particular, also have their fair share of luxury listings, but the offer is arguably more diverse.

the famous los muertos pier in puerto vallarta at sunset

Beyond a $339 all-inclusive Hacienda and the landmark $420-a-night Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, locals have a myriad of more affordable options available, still within walking distance to the beach, such as the aptly named Soy Local ($71) and Hotel Hacienda de Vallarta Centro ($72).

In lesser-known Mazatlan, private rooms in guesthouses start from only $51 per night, and if you really want to flex that Americanness, as you should, DoubleTree by Hilton, located in the trendy Zona Dorada, has overnight rates from as ‘cheap’ as $261.

They Do Not Cater Exclusively To Americans

Girl With Mexican Flag In Cancun, Mexico, Latin America

Consumer prices tend to be lower in these Pacific cities than in the Mexican Caribbean, which can explain the sharp increase in domestic arrivals.

Contrary to their American counterparts, Mexicans tend to be on the budget side of traveling.

Going out for dinner in an inexpensive local restaurant in Vallarta will cost you $10.77 per person on average, no drinks included, while in Mazatlan, the most you will spend on food will is an acceptable $34, unless you’re in for some fine dining in Maz’ Tripadvisor favorite ATOL.

Mexican Chef Cooking Mexican Food, Unspecified Location

While it’s extremely difficult to keep expenses for a one-week sojourn in Cancun lower than $2,061, including accommodation and daily expenses, you definitely can keep it under $800 in Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan if you’re strict with your budget.

That is because, unlike Cancun, where the local hospitality industry has been effectively dollarized in response to the overwhelmingly American clientele, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan have a more diverse group of guests (Americans included, but also Mexicans).

Are Mazatlan And Puerto Vallarta Safe To Visit?

Police Officer In Mexico Pictured From The Back, Latin America

Yes. However

When it comes to safety, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta have been hit with dire travel warnings on U.S. authorities’ part, with the former being officially considered a no-go zone, while visitors are urged to ‘reconsider travel’ to Vallarta.

We have already discussed these advisories in detail, and as concerning as they might sound, you should know they have a reputation for being overly conservative and sometimes not accurately depicting the situation on the ground.

colorful Mazatlan sign

For starters, Puerto Vallarta was named safest beach destination in Mexico back in January, based on polling alone, and despite being located in a gang-dominated state, Mazatlan is somewhat of a safe haven, where trouble won’t come find you unless you actively go looking for it.

If these two cities were indeed dangerous, Mexicans wouldn’t be flocking in, nor a growing number of Americans visiting, and even expats moving there in droves: as long as you’re prudent, avoid involvement with the subworld of crime, and you follow general safety advice, you’ll be left unharmed.

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