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Mexico Two Ways

Charter a yacht, or navigate the aisles of a busy mercado? Here are two different vacations in our favorite country to the south.


Urban Tour: Oaxaca

Colorful ceramics, intricate textiles, mouthwatering cuisine, and artisanal mezcal: It’s all handcrafted in Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s most diverse destinations. For less-frills travelers craving an authentic taste of the city, let the locals be your guide.

Opt for an AirBnB in a refurbished factory for as little as $85 per night. Known as La Calera, the two-bedroom house features hip design in a tucked-away setting (about 2 miles from the city center). It shares the property with artist studios and a library.

Get a crash course in Oaxacan fare at Zandunga: Sample a flight of mezcal—the region’s popular agave-based spirit—or sip mezcal margaritas, and share street food favorites like tlayudas—toasted tortilla with refried beans, Oaxacan cheese, and meat. Looking to splurge? Check out Pitiona, named one of Latin America’s top 50 restaurants; don’t miss the fish with mole or rib eye steak.

Take in the countryside and learn how mezcal is made with Alvin Starkman, a friendly expert at Mezcal Educational Excursions. The day-long tour goes off the beaten path to visit several small, mom-and-pop-owned palenques, or distilleries.

Pick up new culinary skills with Agustin Canseco. The cook will lead you through the Mercado 20 de Noviembre and take you to his modest kitchen to make the classic indigenous dish mole negro, just like locals have for generations.

Luxe Hideaway: Puerto Vallarta

Nestled into a tropical forest hillside punctuated by coconut palms, the swanky all-villa resort Matlali overlooks Banderas Bay and the cobblestoned fishing village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. The stylish villas have all the modern amenities and terraces with plunge pools.

Matlali’s Makawé Spa honors indigenous healing traditions of the Huichol. An open-air palapa is a blissful spot for a white-and-black-pearl body mask and facial or an aura cleanse with copal smoke followed by a traditional massage.

At the marina, charter the resort’s private yacht for a sail to Islas Marietas and snorkeling. The adventure is that much better with cold cervezas, ceviche, and a convivial crew.

Don’t miss the Eva Mandarina Beach Club, a seaside hangout made whimsical by Guadalajara-based artist Abel Galvan. Meet locals and sip a fiery Macho Margarita, served in a hollowed-out red bell pepper.

Hook a tuna or dorado on a fishing jaunt, or wander through La Cruz and its fish market—if you return to the resort with fresh catch, Matlali’s culinary team will transform it into an in-villa feast. Or drift over to Raixes, whose fusion menu sings of organic produce and seafood. End the evening floating in the infinity pool and drink in the stars and lights of beautiful Riviera Nayarit. Villas start at $220.

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