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
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.
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
The Riviera Maya
The 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
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
Coba, as well as the area's unique
ecological parks, which should not be missed if you visit.
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
Our detailed guide to
Chichén Itzá provides a great preview of what you will see during your visit.
If you are not tied to a hotel in Cancun, Merida is the best base for an
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.
official website from the City Government of Merida for more information
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
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
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
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
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
Guide to Cabo
and the Los Cabos area for an in-depth look.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.