The underrated magnificence of obscure Mexican small towns

by - September 13, 2019

The underrated magnificence of obscure Mexican small towns

When tourists vacation in Mexico they usually go to Cancun or Cozumel, Cabo or maybe Mexico City (that Day of the Dead scene in that James Bond movie did make it look cool). Sometimes though, it's really nice to go somewhere really obscure. There’s something about ‘Tourist coldspots’ that is actually quite special. 

I recently visited friends in the town of Los Mochis Mexico, and being possibly the only tourist in town made me feel really special. As the only white girl around with green eyes, I got a fair amount of attention. I felt like a Kardashian and no one in my family even had to make a sex tape! I was there for two weeks and we never ran out of things to do or sights to see. There were no lines, no annoying people posing in all of the cliched ways I’ve vented about before, with all of the confidence (or arrogance) of a supermodel (with all of 300 Instagram followers) in front of everything worth seeing (hashtag: “#model”). It was wonderful!

If you’re looking for a quiet holiday destination away from the crowds, this part of the world might really appeal to you. And since over-tourism is the latest four-letter word, this way you can have a nice vacation without being made to feel guilty or unwelcome about your presence there.

While there are loads of different small towns in this country worth seeing, here are some tips to make the most of any of them. 

What to do to make the most of just about any Mexican small town

(As someone who doesn’t drink you will notice that ‘drink tequila’ is not on the list)

1. You can go to the beach (well, if the town you visit is near the beach).

  • If you play your cards right and go to a less-popular beach on a weekday in the off-season you can have the whole place practically to yourself… or yourself and your friends …and their dogs. 
  • Beaches usually have oceanside restaurants and you can have those to yourselves too.
Girl and dog on vacant Mexican beach
Lucas and I

2. You can frolic 

  • Towns usually have parks. Parks are good for frolicking. 
girl frolicking in park
Jardin Botanico Benjamin Francis Johnston

  • Sometimes they also have other fun features like:
Duck and iguana unlikely animal friends

Unlikely animal friends: Iguana and chickens

Cactus gardens

Cactus garden

And even other strange ‘public art’. - At least that’s what I’m calling it. 

public art in Mexican small town park

3. Experience live music

  • Whether it’s gatecrashing the neighbor’s Mothers' Day party to appreciate the 12 piece mariachi band who have to serenade them from the pavement because the yard is too small for the whole band to fit in it, or going to the local cafe to enjoy the world’s most underrated acoustic rock duo while sipping on the world’s most decadent milkshake, live music seems to be valued in Mexican culture far more than it is in my own. You will experience some somewhere and it’s awesome!  
RocksFerry at the Artisanal cafe
Rocksferry at the Artisanal Cafe

decadent milkshake
Take that, pancreas!

4. You can interact with local wildlife

  • In the neighbouring town of El Fuerte, we went to an animal sanctuary and fed Bambi.
Girl feeds buck in El Fuerte

  • In the other neighbouring town of Topolobampo (yes, that’s even more fun to say than ‘Guadalajara’, and ‘Guadalajara’ is fun to say!) you can go on a boat tour (for a fraction of what it would cost in America or the Caribbean) and see dolphins, LOTS of dolphins. You may even get to see one poop! 
Dolphin pooing

5. You can visit local landmarks

  • Towns always have statues - like this one: 
Los mochis statue
(Sorry, it's a bit pixelated.)
  • Or Mary up on the hill:
Maria de Los Mochis
 (Significantly less popular than her Brazilian son)

6. You can visit historical sites.

  • While Los Mochis doesn’t have history dating too far back, the nearby town of El Fuerte dates back to 1563.  Judging from its name, you have probably guessed that there is a fort here. 

El Fuerte's fuerte
El Fuerte's 'fuerte'

It is a museum and it’s full of insightful information about all sorts of interesting things like this: 

Strange museum exhibit

And this: 

Video machine

  • El Fuerte is also the site of the Hotel Posada del Hidalgo, the birthplace of Diego de la Vega. The hotel claims that he moved to California and while defending the poor against Spanish rule, he became the person upon which the legend of Zorro was based.
Hotel Posada del Hidalgo

Girl and flamingo takes on Zoro at Hotel Posada del Hidalgo

  • (Obviously, some parts of Mexico have a history that dates back a lot further, but if you want to see Mayan ruins, I think you have to go to the South East.)

7. Find some street art

  • Any town (in any country) trying to attract tourists, has some street art (normally with the town’s name included in it). If you create something ‘Instagramable’ tourists will promote you for you. 
Street art - Topolobambo

Street art - Topolobambo

  • Sometimes brightly coloured walls are exciting enough. El Fuerte - with its Spanish colonial architecture and it’s brightly coloured edifices - is a perfect location to shoot your next album cover! 
Brightly coloured walls - El Fuerte, Mexico

Brightly coloured walls - El Fuerte, Mexico
It's like street art but abstract!

8. Play Mexican Lotería

  • Mexican Lotería is essentially bingo but with pictures instead of numbers. Not only might you win some money (or get rid of that pesky small change that weighs down your purse), but you will greatly improve your vocabulary with useful words like:
    • Chiquihuite: It's like a basket
    • Chalupa: The picture is of a lady in a canoe, usually referred to as ‘Sharon’ in our games. (Because I used to live on a ship.)
    • And, the so not politically correct, potentially offensive, actually quite racist ‘negrito’. (Basically a little black man.)
Mexican Lotería

9. Visit the town square

  • Towns usually have town squares. We went one night to the one in Los Mochis for churros and it was quite the experience. There was live music a warm breeze and a market. (Maybe it’s just a novelty for me because I come from a big city where you can’t walk around at night?)
El Fuerte town square

10. Count Oxxos 
This is like a Mexican seven eleven. There are so many of them that you can turn it into your own version of punch-buggy. Although, that might be too easy. There are probably about 3 Oxxos in walking distance of each Oxxo.

11. Eat the street food
Who doesn’t love Mexican food? People who don’t have souls, and don’t like music, and do maths on weekends for fun, that’s who! It's even more bad for you, inexpensive and delicious if you buy it on the side of the road. 

Mexican street food

12. Visit the cemetery
Yes, I know I got flashed in one once but I still think it’s a good idea. How people honour their dead is fascinating. 

Los Mochis cemetery

Los Mochis cemetery

Los Mochis cemetery

13. Visit the churches
I learnt lots about Mexican catholicism and their saints. I now know all about the Virgin of Guadalupe, San Antonio and Santa Muerte. 

Church steeple

14. Pose with an abundance of letter signs 
In Mexico, they absolutely love letter signs. You will find one anywhere. (Don’t photograph the one at the airport though - you’ll get shouted at for that.) I suspect that if a town has a greater number of occupants than the number of letters in its name, it is entitled to a letter sign. Topolobampo just made the cut off! 

Sign: Los Mochis

Sign: Topolobampo

Sign: El fuerte

Sign: Los Mochis
(This is the one at the airport. Don't photograph this one)
15. And finally, you can crash a wedding

If you’re not sure which Mexican small towns to visit (and you don’t have wonderful friends who live in one) you can always look for one considered a ‘pueblo mágico’ (a magical town). The Mexican tourism board assigns this title to towns that they feel are worthy of it (like El Fuerte). Then if you need a flight, Kiwi is by far the best way to find cheap flights in this part of the world in my experience. Check out their flight deals here.  And if you need a place to stay, has some great offers on the hotel that was Zorro’s birthplace or anywhere else
(The links mentioned in this paragraph are affiliate links and I will get a small commission if you book through them.) 

Rodrigo flamingo in Los Mochis Market
Rodrigo at a market in Los Mochis

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