Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger

Tried-and-true favorites will continue to dominate Mexico's tourism scene in the new year, but there are plenty of changes, openings and new investments that are going to help shape rising destinations into new spots for tourists. Here are five places to know in Mexico in 2020.

Guanajuato

Most people are traveling to this part of Mexico to experience San Miguel de Allende. But while the rest of the world has its sights set on that much-praised city, travelers in the know will want to turn their attention to Guanajuato. As the capital of Guanajuato state, it makes sense that the city is its own microcosm of what the rest of the state has to offer. Founded in the 16th century, this colonial city is what San Miguel de Allende probably looked like two decades ago. A trickle of tourism is evident, but not on the scale of San Miguel de Allende. Instead, it's a charming city surrounded by mountains and popping with brilliant colors like ochre and deep red.

Bacalar/Mahahual

The secret is out on Bacalar, and, frankly, it's surprising it took as long as it did. At the end of December, the New York Times named Bacalar, a sleepy Magic Town on the banks of a lake of the same name, as the "next" Tulum. Laguna de Bacalar has been one of Mexico's best-kept secrets, with sparkling, crystal-clear water, shrouded in mangroves, and a smattering of boutique, eco-luxe resorts. At the moment Bacalar still remains off the beaten path, as it's about a four-hour drive south from the Cancun airport. It's roughly an hour drive from Chetumal's airport; however, flight selection is limited. Last spring the Mexican government approved an $8 million expansion of the airport, according to Mexico News Daily, but the expansion has yet to be completed. For now Bacalar remains on the tipping point between secluded and boho-chic.

Mandarina

There's Riviera Nayarit, and then there's Mandarina. Frequent travelers to Mexico's Pacific coast know Sayulita, the fishing village-turned-hippie hideaway-turned boutique blitz, north of Punta de Mita. That said, next year promises to drastically change the stretch of coast that runs to the north of Sayulita. First, One&Only will be opening the One&Only Mandarina, home to the world's first One&Only residence collection. Following that, Rosewood will be opening the Rosewood Mandarina in 2022. But the real game-changer will be the $2 billion master plan community, Costa Canuva, which was announced in 2016, and will begin opening at the end of 2021. The development will have five hotels: first the Ritz-Carlton, which will open in 2021, and a Fairmont, which will open in 2023. The other three hotels have yet to be confirmed. But it is for certain that the Mandarina coast, north of Riviera Nayarit, is a section of Mexico to know in 2020.

Copper Canyon (with Mazatlan)

Both Copper Canyon and Mazatlan are compelling destinations on their own. But in 2020, travelers can put the two together for an even more dynamic and varied type of trip that combines the gorgeous scenery of interior Mexico with a bit of beach, as well.

The coastal city of Mazatlan is promoting package tours that combine a few days at the beach with the El Chepe train tours of Copper Canyon. Sinaloa and the Costa Barrancas tourism board are teaming up to highlight both of these destinations in one trip, from Mazatlan to Chihuahua or vice versa. Guests will be transferred from Mazatlan to Los Mochis, which is the gateway to Copper Canyon and the point of departure for the El Chepe train. The train departs daily with regional and express service with a capacity of up to 500 tourists per day. The route saw an estimated 425,000 tourists in 2019. Mazatlan is expecting 2,200 new hotel rooms in the four- and five-star categories in 2020, a 15% increase.

La Paz

As the East Cape of Los Cabos continues to develop, other cities in the Baja Peninsula are going to start to get a bit more attention. Right now Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo have the lion's share of the spotlight, but with luxury developments cropping up along the Sea of Cortez side of the peninsula, it's only a matter of time before destinations like La Paz steal focus.

Earlier this year, the Costa Palmas Community Master Plan opened its gates with the arrival of the Four Seasons, a community with a beach club, marina, yacht club, golf club and residences. Coming in 2021 will be a new Aman resort, the Amanvari. This is only the beginning of what is sure to be creeping real estate development along the coast. Two hours north of East Cape is the seaside city of La Paz.

With a sprawling malecon all its own, historic architecture, and high volume of restaurants and cafes, this is very much a bustling Mexican port city with a lot to show for itself. What's more, this is also the ferry connection point between Mazatlan and the peninsula. Mazatlan itself is an international port, meaning that La Paz has a wide variety of international visitors and residents, as well. La Paz is also a great home base from which to explore other sides of Baja, like Cabo Pulmo National Park, the eclectic town of Todos Santos, and the stark desert beauty of Espiritu Santo island.

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