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Mexico Travel Overview

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           Itineraries   Additional Resources

 

 

Best Places to Visit  in  Mexico

Surf, Sand And More  - Mexico's  Leading Attractions

  The white sand beaches of Cancun are highlighted by the warm, turquoise waters of the Caribbean

Mexico has over five thousand miles (9,000 km) of beaches, which, along with its warm winter temperatures, attract the majority of the visitors to this enchanting country.

Mexico's best places to visit are mainly spread along the country's Caribbean and Pacific Coasts, mixed in with a limited number of attractions scattered throughout the interior of the country. 

We describe each of Mexico's best places to visit below. In addition, we include links to our detailed guides to these locations for those seeking more information about the specifics of Mexico's vacation destinations.

Mexico is a terrific place to visit! It offers: extensive cultural and cuisine experiences, colonial cities, UNESCO World Heritage Sites (31),  archaeological sites (over 200 can be toured), adventure vacations, and eco-tourism mixed in with great value and great service.

Over 90 percent of those who visit Mexico return again to vacation in this amazing country.  Mexico is regarded as the number one  vacation value in North America.

Cancun/Riviera Maya/Yucatan Peninsula

The most popular area for vacations in Mexico is the Yucatan peninsula.  Located in the southeast of the country, the Yucatan  is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the north, the Caribbean Sea on the east and the country of Belize on the south.

Offering access to the gorgeous beach towns of  Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and  the scenic island of Cozumel, the Riviera Maya (also known as the Caribbean Riviera) is famous for its majestic, white-sand beaches, sunny weather, warm winters and exotic, well-preserved Mayan ruins.

The eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula lies within the historic state of Quintana Roo, which is graced with 120 miles of excellent coastline populated with beachfront hotels, beautiful beaches, wonderful food and an inviting climate, at least when it is not hurricane season (see our note on the right).

Cancun

       Cancun is the leading travel destination in Mexico and visiting it is a wonderful experience

Considered by many to be the best beach-resort  in Mexico (and perhaps the world), Cancun is an all-encompassing tourist paradise.  Known for its impressive seventeen-mile strip of white-sand beach and clear temperate waters, the area offers a variety of activities for those who want to do more than just enjoy the sun.  See our Cancun Guide for a detailed description of what this area has to offer. 

Cozumel 

Offshore from the Riviera Maya,  the Island of Cozumel (Isla Cozumel) offers romantic beaches and a relaxing environment.  Scuba or dive here if you get the chance, as this is a highlight of  a visit to this island.  Click here for our  detailed guide to visiting  Cozumel

The Riviera Maya

The Riviera Maya offers swimming and sightseeing in abundanceThe Riviera Maya runs south of Cancun from Puerto Morales to just south of Tulum.  The area is famous for its gorgeous, broad white-sand  beaches and  relaxed atmosphere. The area is also a noted location for good quality scuba and diving experiences. 

Of course, you can only play in the sun for so long, before you start looking for a change of pace and the Riviera Maya has a number of unique attractions the might be of interest. The Mayan civilization built major settlements in this area and many of these have been relatively undisturbed for centuries.  Touring the Mayan archaeological sites is extremely informative and one of the many highlights of visiting the Riviera Maya.

Click for our detailed guide to the Riviera Maya.  We cover the major beach towns,  the Mayan sites of Tulum and Coba, as well as the area's unique ecological parks, which should not be missed if you visit. 

Chichén Itzá  

The Mayan sites in Mexico are stunning, as is Chichen ItzaChichén Itzá, in Yucatan state, is the best preserved and most famous of the Mayan ruins in Mexico. It is  considered one  the greatest  Mayan-Toltec centers in the Yucatan Peninsula and at only 90 miles from Cancun, it is a popular day trip, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Take your time when exploring Chichén Itzá, as the site is one of the treasures of the Mayan civilization.  Be sure to see the Great Pyramid (the Castle), the Warriors Temple, the ball fields (for sports) and the astronomical observatory. 

Our  detailed guide to Chichén Itzá provides a great preview of what you will see during your visit.

Merida  Click for climate chart of Merida showing the annual ranges of precipitation and temperature 

If you are not tied to a hotel in Cancun, Merida is the best base for an exploration of Chichén Itza and has much to offer on its own. Merida is the capital of the Yucatan state and was a colonial capital founded by the Spanish in the 16th century. Be sure to visit the Zocalo (the town Square), its cathedral and the Governor's Palace. 

See this official website from the City Government of Merida for more information on visiting.

The Mexican Riviera

The Mexican Riviera stretches from Ensenada to Acapulco and encompasses over 2,000 miles of scenic coastline and a number of unique coastal resorts. We recommend  exploring  the Mexican Riviera on a cruise, as this is the best and safest way to sample the delights of the towns along the coast of western Mexico.  Unfortunately, a number of cruise line have either cancelled or lowered the frequency of their visits to ports the Mexican Riviera, so your choices of cruises may be more limited than in the past.  Some say the cruise lines have cut back their service due to concerns about safety in several of the ports of the Mexican Riviera, others say that passenger traffic has dropped-off due to the difficult economic times. 

If you have decided to visit this area, we can will help you discover the best places to visit.  Continue reading below or see our guide to the Mexican Riviera for more detailed information on visiting  Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo/Guerrero.  We provide coverage of Acapulco, but no longer recommend visiting due to public safety issues.

Each of these exotic destinations has a great deal to offer tourists, but for most of us, they are wonderful places to escape the cold winters where we live.  The beaches along the Mexican Riviera are spectacular, the food is delicious and  varies by region. Beach-side activities are numerous, as are tours to some of the scenic, surrounding towns.  We think the highlights of the Mexican Rivera are visits to Cabo and Puerto Vallarta, so we provide a taste of these delights below.

Cabo San Lucas 

       Los Cabos is an attractive place that will slowly win your heart

To many travelers, Cabo is the "place to be" in Mexico.  Good beaches, great shoreline, golf, deep-sea fishing, and an active nightlife combine to make the Cabo area an attractive destination for a variety of travelers. (During Spring Break - Cabo is  home to the  party hardy!).  If you are interested in visiting, click our detailed Guide to Cabo and the Los Cabos area for an in-depth look.

Puerto Vallarta

Spectacular beaches, great weather and a fun-city combine to make Puerto Vallarta an attractive destination.  Its Bay of Banderas is the place to be, but touring the nearby jungles on horseback can be an attractive option. In addition, Puerto Vallarta is an area of Mexico that has attracted many talented artists and is known as one of the country's centers for the fine arts.

Read more about Puerto Vallarta and the new and emerging destination of Riviera Nayarit, both of which are covered in part 2 of our detailed guide to the Mexican Riviera.

More Mexico

The “third” tourist Mexico runs down the center of the country and includes Copper Canyon, Morelia and Mexico City. We cover these locations below but note that the percentage of visitors attracted to these destinations is much smaller than those who will choose to visit the Caribbean or Pacific shores of this interesting country. We do not provide detailed guides for these locations.

Mexico City  Click for climate chart of Mexico City showing the annual ranges of precipitation and temperature 

       Mexico City has fine treasures for all travelers

Mexico City's historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Aztec ruins, the continent's largest cathedral (the Catedrale Metropolitano),  fine museums (e.g. the Palace of Fine Arts ( Palacio de Bellas Artes) and  historic architecture (particularly the National Palace) make Mexico City an attractive venue for many. 

Visitors should note that Mexico City is rough around the edges and personal security should be a major concern.  We recommend that you acquire the services of a registered and approved tour guide hired from a reputable travel agency.  A professional travel agent or your hotel should be able to help you with this request.

The Basilica de Guadalupe in the north of Mexico City is a location that attracts many Catholics on pilgrimage. It is believed that in this place Our Lady of Guadalupe (the Blessed Virgin) appeared and left an icon that is revered by Catholics in Mexico and around the world.  (see the official website  (in Spanish - use Google Translator) for more details on services at the Basilica).

See the official tourism website of Mexico City for more details on planning a trip to Mexico City.

Copper Canyon 

Copper Canyon is an out of the way place that may be attractive to travelers who like scenic landscapes, incredible canyons, and great train rides.  The Copper Canyon complex, considered the Grand Canyon of Mexico, covers an extensive area and consists of six separate canyons, all of which are worth seeing.

To maximize your enjoyment, we suggest that you sign-up for a train tour/hotel package and travel from west to east (towards Chihuahua).  The "Chepe" (Chihuahau Pacifico Railroad) runs between Chihuahua and Los Mochis on the west coast.

If you are interested in traveling to Copper Canyon, see this site.

Morelia 

Morelia, once called Valladolid, is a UNESCO World Heritage site with noted architecture,  enchanting plazas, and  beautiful walled-gardens that you will find peeking out, but behind  ever-present, gated courtyards.   Many travelers consider Morelia to be the most beautiful city in Mexico.

Dating from the 16th century, the town's urban plan combines both Spanish and Meso-American features. The architecture of the Old Town is very pleasing and includes elements from the Baroque and Renaissance styles of architecture.

Itineraries

Mexico is an enchanting country, but one that is troubled by drug gangs and their battle with each other and the government. Independent travel in Mexico, outside of the established tourist zones, is not recommended at this time. However, there remain some great ways to explore the famous hospitality of Mexico.

First Time Trip.

Pack up and head for either Cancun on Mexico's Caribbean Coast or Cabo San Lucas on the country's Pacific Coast. Both are exceptional resort areas that offer fun in the sun and a great respite from the cool temperatures of winter.

If you visit Cancun, try to take in Chichén Itzá and travel down the coast to experience the Riviera Maya.

If you choose Cabo, your roaming will a little more limited due to the surrounding desert, but we recommend that you explore the amazing desert landscape of Baja (ATV or horseback) in between all of that sunbathing, surfing, swimming, paragliding and dancing the night away.

An alternative to Cabo and a great opportunity for your first visit to Mexico, is to take a cruise on the Mexican Riviera, which will allow you to sample several towns from Ensenada south to Acapulco. Cruises depart from ports in Southern California.

Second Trip

You guessed it. If you have been to Cabo try Cancun or Cabo if you have already sampled Cancun. Or maybe it's time to take that long awaited cruise on the Mexican Riviera?

If you like adventure, you may want to consider traveling to Copper Canyon, although you will need to be careful about personal safety in Chihuahua.

Additional Resources

Visit Mexico  is the official tourism website for Mexico.  It provides additional details for our recommended best places to visit, as well as information on locations not on our list. 

For country facts on Mexico, as well as tourism information on driving, personal safety, medical care and other information " see this page on Mexico  from the U.S. State Department's Consular Affairs.  Regardless of your home country, we think you will find this information on Mexico to be useful for planning a trip to Mexico.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index  or Googling ThereArePlaces.

 
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Use these links if you want to skip to our detailed travel guides covering Mexico.

East Coast/ The Yucatan

Cancun
Chichén Itzá
Cozumel
Riviera Maya
Tulum
Coba

West Coast

Mexican Riviera North

Ensenada
Cabo San Lucas
Mazatlan

Mexican Riviera South
Puerto Vallarta
Ixtapa
Acapulco

Return to The Best Places to Visit in Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hurricane season on the east coast of Mexico is between June 1 and November 30.

The "canes", which peak in August and September, can occur anytime during the season.

 

 

 

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In addition to the information on this page, we provided several detailed guides to Mexico's best places to visit.

East Coast/ The Yucatan

Cancun
Chichén Itzá
Cozumel
Riviera Maya
Tulum
Coba

West Coast

Mexican Riviera North

Ensenada
Cabo San Lucas
Mazatlan

Mexican Riviera South
Puerto Vallarta
Ixtapa
Acapulco

Return to The Best Places to Visit in Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The hurricane season on the west coast begins in late May or early June and continues until late October or early November.

Peak  storminess is usually  in late August to early September.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


     
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