Jalisco, Mexico

The state of Jalisco in the centre of Mexico's west coast, is a treasure trove for everything from mariachi bands and tequila to jungle trails and snorkelling in the Pacific. The region's capital, Guadalajara (known as Mexico's "second city") is culturally a super-saturated alternative to Mexico City. Spend Saturday combing through the handcrafted beaded jewellery and local ceramics at the Avenida Chapultepec market, while the sprawling Mercado Libertad, known for flowers and leather goods, is open daily. Then there's Tlaquepaque just outside the city centre, which is renowned for its decorative pottery.

For an oceanfront experience, Puerto Vallarta is a slightly more laid-back alternative to Cancun or Playa del Carmen. A beach town sprawling along Bahia de Banderas on the Pacific, it's worth the visit to unwind via sailing, snorkelling and ceviche.

Don't miss

Water babies mustn't pass up the opportunity to spend at least a night or two in Puerto Vallarta. Visit Los Muertos beach for parasailing and surfing, while Banderas Scuba Republic offers lessons and certifications for those who are keen to check out rays, turtles and polychrome schools of fish. Beyond the beach, there are snaking jungle trails in the nearby Occidental Sierra Madre mountains for biking and hiking past waterfalls, itsy-bitsy villages and rivers.

Patrón aficionados can take to the "Tequila Route" - a slight deviation from the California Wine Road - to explore agave fields and learn how to differentiate your blanco from your reposado. For a truly unique visit, try horseback riding between the rows of agave plants.

Who to take with you

A friend who's up for tequila and dancing until sunrise.

When to go

Wintertime (November-March) is ideal, but to escape the crowds as well as the rainy season, visit between April and June.

Most likely to bump into

Art lovers stocking up on local handicrafts.

Essentials to bring with you

Flowy dresses that can take you from sipping cocktails beachside in Puerto Vallarta to pounding the pavement in Guadalajara - especially if you're trying to squeeze everything into just a carry-on.

How to get there

Guadalajara has a major international airport, but you can also fly into Puerto Vallarta's international airport if you want to begin your exploration of Jalisco seaside.

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