Why you should go: American tourists think of Mexico – one of the world’s most diverse countries – and usually don’t get beyond resort towns, Corona-commercial beaches, and sticky tequila drinks. But look further than sprang breaaaaaak and Mexico opens up, with dramatic waterfalls, epic canyons, colonial cities, firefly forests, and huffy volcanoes. Its pre-Columbian history dates back thousands of years, the food scene evolves from state to state, and you always forget about this, but it’s literally right across the river from your home country.
Why you should go right now: Even by the standards of Mexico – Mexico – this will be a cheap vacation. The dollar is historically strong against the peso (about 18 to the dollar; it was just 12 per in 2013). And the country’s getting developed quickly. As hotel chains overtake Cancun, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta, the more off-the-beaten path places are, logically, being encroached upon. Overnight, it seems, Tulum, the walled Mayan city with the dramatic beaches, went from sleepy hideaway to a sensation. Instead, consider the Costalegre, along the Pacific Coast just south of Puerto Vallarta, or the beaches of Huatulco and Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca. Isla Holbox off the coast of Cancun is a Caribbean pearl of an island, with nothing but sugary sand, beach bungalows, and placid blue water. Authentic Mexico is worth the chase.