Ranked by the World Trade Organization as the 7th major destination in the world for foreign visitors, Mexico offers unique sights, well-preserved architecture, and lovely beaches for everyone to enjoy. Remnants of Spanish colonization are still evident throughout the country, especially in food and building designs. Another thing to look forward when visiting Mexico is its warm and pleasant weather. If you love basking under the sun, the best time to visit would be from December to April!
Curious about what makes Mexico so special in the eyes of travelers? Here’s a list of some of the best things to do in the country:
1. Visit a comprehensive natural history museum in Mexico City
Museo Nacional de Antropología is the largest and most-visited museum in Mexico. Exhibits span four square kilometers (1.5 square miles), divided between 23 exhibition halls. Some of the most important displays you will find in the museum are Mexico’s pre-Columbian archaeological and anthropological artifacts, including the Aztec calendar stone called the Stone of the Sun. There are also visiting exhibits, which mostly features a brief glimpse of other countries’ cultures like those of ancient Iran, China, and Russia.
2. See Frida Kahlo’s home-turned-museum
Located in Coyoacán, the home of 20th century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is a must-see for every art enthusiast visiting Mexico. It is Kahlo’s birthplace, where she grew up, and also where she lived with her husband, Diego Rivera. After she passed away, it was turned into a museum in honor of Frida’s contribution to Mexican art. Today, the museum is known as the Blue House because it has a cobalt blue wall that stands out in the neighborhood. Aside from Kahlo’s artworks, it also contains personal items, memorabilia, photographs, and pre-Hispanic artifacts.
3. Enjoy basking on the white sand beaches of Cancun
Cancun is every beach-lover’s dream come true. Whether you’re a luxury traveler or a budget backpacker, the coastal city has various white sand beaches to cater to your preferences. There’s Playa Delfines, for instance, where you will find palapas, or dwellings with thatched roofs instead of cement buildings. It has a playground for kids and also a public carpark. Meanwhile, at Playa Tortugas, there are nice open-air cafes, restaurants, and bars. It also has a bungee jump facility for those who are feeling extra adventurous. Other must-see beaches in Cancun area are Playa Marlin and Playa Caracol.
You might be interested in these Airbnbs!
4. Go snorkeling and scuba diving at Cabo San Lucas
Another tropical destination in Mexico is Cabo San Lucas, a resort city located on the Baja California Peninsula. Aside from its beaches, which are suitable for frolicking, it is mostly known as a haven for watersports enthusiasts. Here, you can go diving and snorkeling to catch a glimpse of Cabo’s underwater creatures or go sailing to simply enjoy the surrounding views. Meanwhile, if you are into surfing, take your surfboards to the beaches along the East Cape Road. Getting some grub after all these fun water activities? Playa El Médano has outdoor restaurants and bars serving good Mexican food!
5. Spend a romantic night at Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta, a city nestled on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, offers a lot of romantic activities for traveling couples. First, you can go to the El Malecon Boardwalk, a seaside path featuring a great panorama of the sea. It is known as the best spot in Puerto Vallarta for sunset watching and also as a great place for dining. Late at night, it becomes even more alive because of its booming nightlife scene. If you want a more laid-back place, there’s Zona Romantica, which literally translates to “romantic zone.” It is dotted with quaint shops and restaurants, as well as street performances.
6. Try the longest zip line in Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is not just for romantics. Adventurous people will also find the city interesting, particularly for the extreme activities offered in the Sierra Madre Mountain. Managed by Vallarta Adventures, it is where you will find the country’s longest zipline, which is approximately 1,200 meters (3,939 feet) in length with a speed reaching up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour. Other things to do in the Sierra Madre Mountain include rappelling and ATV rides. The minimum age for these activities is eight years old.
7. Visit a church located 1,200 feet (366 meters) above sea level
Capilla de la Paz, an ecumenical chapel in Acapulco, is located 1,200 feet (366 meters) above sea level. It has a contemporary design and a stunning 130-foot (39.6-meter) white cross on its side. Visitors can expect to have some quiet time for contemplation at the non-denominational chapel, as well as stunning views of surrounding neighborhoods. Meanwhile, outside the chapel is a garden with a cascading fountain and different kinds of blooms. You can even walk close to the huge cross. Also, you won’t have a hard time locating the chapel since the white cross can be seen almost anywhere in Acapulco.
8. Watch cliff divers do their thing in Acapulco
If you want some thrills but you’re not into diving yourself, you can go to La Quebrada in Acapulco. It is one of the city’s most famous attractions, where divers put on a show by jumping from the ledges on a cliff. One of the ledges is 40 feet (12 meters) high, while the other one is 80 feet (24 meters) high. Cliff jumping in Acapulco takes a lot of courage and the right timing in order to finish the jump without serious injuries. There is a restaurant nearby where most tourists gather to watch the divers. Another sight you shouldn’t miss in La Quebrada is the pelicans diving for fish!
9. Catch a glimpse of Mayan ruins in Yucatan
The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is home to some of the most renowned Mayan ruins in the world. There’s Zona Arqueologica Uxmal for instance, an ancient city of Maya characterized by its large structures including the Pyramid of the Magician and the Governor’s Palace. Another must-see is the ruins of Mayapan Mayan, which has a main square, a ceremonial center, and observatories, as well as temples, altars and shrines. Meanwhile, at Dzibilchaltun you can visit a museum where Mayan artifacts are displayed.
10. Check out a "live hacienda"
Haciendas, which refer to huge plantations and factories, were once a prevalent part of the Mexican culture. During the Mexican revolution, these haciendas diminished and the only ones remaining today are those that are used as hotels. One of these is Hacienda Sotuta de Peon in Merida, where guests can experience what it is like to be in a fully-operational hacienda. Nestled amidst an agave plantation, it has thatched-roof cottages, minibars, and private outdoor pools. It also has access to two natural sinkholes, called cenotes, where guests can take a dip.
11. Swim in the cenotes of Tulum
Speaking of cenotes, you will find more of these natural sinkholes in Tulum. Cenotes are caused by the collapse of limestones that reveal a groundwater pool. It is a good alternative for those who are not comfortable swimming at Mexico’s public beaches. One of the most popular cenotes in the area is the Dos Ojos, where you will find crystal clear waters and amazing rock formations. Another must-visit is the Grand Cenote of Sac Actun, famous among divers and snorkeling enthusiasts. For a private cenote tour, go to the Labnaha Cenotes and Eco Park, which only accommodates a few visitors daily.
12. Discover unique animal species at a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Sian Ka’an, a biosphere reserve in Tulum, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing tropical forests, mangrove forests, and a barrier reef. It is home to an array of flora and fauna, including 300 species of fowl. Other species living within the area are dolphins, crocodiles, sea turtles, monkeys, and tropical fish. You can go on an environmentally friendly boat tour to explore the area and see some of these animal species. Meanwhile, there are luxury accommodations nearby if you wish to spend a longer time in one of Mexico’s largest nature reserves.
13. Soak up the uniqueness of the Mexican culture
The Tijuana Cultural Center is a go-to place for every traveler who wants to learn about the Mexican culture in a fun way. Located in Zona Rio district, it was first opened to the public in 1982 and now accommodates more than a million people each year. One of its main features is the OMNIMAX cinema, the only IMAX cinema in Tijuana, which is more popularly known among locals as “La Bola.” The cinema has a total of 308 seats and uses a 360-degree projector. The Cultural Center is also where various festivals and performances take place.
14. Visit a traditional Mexican market
Whether you want to shop or you just want a glimpse of what the local life looks like, a traditional Mexican market should be in your travel itinerary. In Tijuana, there is the Mercado Hidalgo, a famous market built in 1910 as a commemoration of the country’s 100th year of independence. Today, it is where you will find good deals for leather goods and other kinds of clothing, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, for your kitchen needs, the place to go is El Popo Market. It has numerous stalls selling kitchenware, herbs, spices, cheeses, and chilies that you might want to bring home.
15. Go horseback riding
Isla de la Piedra is a breath of fresh air in Mexico, where bustling streets are a common sight. Located southeast of Old Mazatlan, the island has a long stretch of sandy beach dotted with coconut trees. It is a well-known destination for surfers, while the palapas on the beachfront entice those who simply want to relax. Horseback riding is another popular activity, which can take you to the nearby coconut plantation. If that’s not your thing, you can ride an ATV instead. If you come during the weekday or off season, you can have Isla de la Piedra all to yourself.
16. Enjoy big-game fishing at Mazatlan
Big-game fishing refers to offshore fishing which is a recreational type of catching fish. If you want to experience this in Mexico, you can come to Marina Mazatlan and go on a fishing tour aboard a chartered boat. Here, you can fish for any species of game fish, including red snapper, grouper, dorado, tuna, and mackerel. Unconventional tackles or fly gears might also be used. Some tour providers even cook up the day’s catch to be served as dinner to guests.
17. Learn about sea turtle conservation at Isla Mujeres
If you want to see how animal conservation really works, you should come to the Tortugranja Turtle Farm at Isla Mujeres. Sea turtles are classified as endangered, and this government-run organization takes part in conserving these lovely creatures by taking care of them as they hatch and then eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. Tortugranja has a small building and some of the turtles are temporarily put in tanks. Meanwhile, older turtles with disabilities are brought outside to a special area where they can be taken care of. Other animals you will find here include a small shark, some sea horses, and a huge horseshoe crab.
18. Meet locals who make a living out of beaded jewelries
Another must-visit when in Isla Mujeres is the Women’s Beading Cooperative. Talk about women’s empowerment and sustainable livelihood! Here, you can purchase quality handmade items like necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and bags which are mostly made of Swarovski crystals, shells, glass beads, and pearls. Some of the women work at the storefront, giving visitors a chance to have a glimpse of how the products are skillfully made. Each woman who works for the cooperative earns a percentage when their outputs are sold. This income helps them pay for their daily household expenses and for the tuition fees of their children who go to school.
19. Take the Leyendas tour in Queretaro
Learning about history doesn’t have to be dull and boring. In Queretaro, you can take a Leyendas tour where guides also serve as performers who are colorfully-dressed like historical characters. Expect an unconventional way of storytelling as you stroll through downtown, passing by old houses and other interesting spots. Such tours are held at night and take about an hour. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes because it involves a lot of walking. Also, check on the weather before going and always bring an umbrella in case it rains.
20. Enjoy a sport that locals love
Mexicans love sports, especially football and basketball! If you are a sports-lover yourself, it is a crime to miss out on destinations such as the La Corregidora and the Arteaga Stadium, both conveniently located in the city of Queretaro. La Corregidora is the home of the Queretaro Football Club and the host of the 1986 FIFA World Cup. It has a capacity of over 34,000 and is also used for various concerts and performances. Meanwhile, the Arteaga Stadium serves as a venue for local basketball games. Looking for an alternative? Play a game of paintball, also known in Mexico as “gotcha,” at the Evolution Paintball Field!
21. Explore the last fortress of the Spanish Empire
Take a step back in time when you visit the San Juan de Ulúa Castle, a large complex of fortresses in Veracruz, Mexico. Also known as the Last Fortress of the Spanish Empire, it was originally built to deter pirate attacks and then later used as a prison. At present, it serves as a museum. All the prisons and fortresses are open to the public, except for the former presidential palace. Since it is not possible to go here by foot, taking a guided tour would be a convenient option.
22. Visit enchanting waterfalls in Huatulco
Huatulco, a resort region, is mostly known for its white Pacific-coast beaches. It has a total of nine bays, where many luxury accommodations are located. However, if you’re looking for an inexpensive activity, you should go to Huatulco’s enchanting waterfalls. There’s the Magic Falls for instance, boasting crystal clear waters and lush vegetation. It takes a long hike or drive to reach the waterfall, but the view makes it worth the journey. Another must-see is the Cascadas Llano Grande, located nearby villages and coffee plantations. Its cold water makes for a refreshing dip after trekking!
23. Take a sip of aromatic coffee from Pluma Hidalgo
Coffee-lovers are in for a treat at Pluma Hidalgo, a town in Oaxaca where you will find some of the best Mexican coffee brews. Its coffee plantations have spanned five generations and continue to produce quality coffee products. These days, coffee plantation tours have become popular, taking guests closer to the whole process of coffee making. They can also accommodate guests overnight in a specialty lodging located in the midst of the coffee community. Of course, unwinding with a cup of coffee while enjoying the views is a must. Other activities you can do at Pluma Hidalgo include horseback riding and hiking.
24. See a bullring in Mexico City
Bullfighting is a Spanish influence you will still find in present-day Mexico. If you want to witness it for yourself, you may visit a bullring such as the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City. It is considered as the largest bullring in the world, with a capacity of more than 40,000 people. Inaugurated in 1946, the place remains a popular venue for bullfighting. Sometimes, boxing events are also held here. In case there are no fights during the day of your visit, you can take photos with the statues and sculptures located in the area.
25. Join a tequila-tasting adventure
There’s no better place to have a shot of tequila than in the town of Tequila itself, the origin of this popular alcoholic drink made from the blue agave plant. Those who are interested in the process of making tequila can visit the Jose Cuervo Distillery, the oldest of its kind in Latin America. Aside from watching the production process, guests can also enjoy the views of the hacienda while having a drink or two. Don’t forget to stop by their gift shop for souvenirs and great product deals!
26. Taste a variety of local specialty food
Fill your tummy with good old Mexican food at Mercado Libertad, one of the largest enclosed markets in Latin America. It is pretty busy on most days, but it is multi-storey and you have lots of shops and stalls to choose from. Also, it has its own food court that features delicious local food including birria, a kind of goat stew, and pozole, which has hominy and pork as main ingredients. Love spicy food? Give the tortas ahogadas a try! It is a savory Mexican bread with lots of chili and tomato sauce. Another savory treat you might love is tamales, with an outer layer made of corn-based dough and filled with chicken or pork.
27. See one of the filming locations of James Cameron's "Titanic"
Ensenada, also known as The Beautiful Cinderella of the Pacific, was one of the filming locations of James Cameron’s popular movie Titanic. The Baja Studios was originally built for the movie, but was also later developed to be a self-contained production facility. A tour to the studios will take you to some of the world’s biggest stages, filming tanks, and even wardrobe facilities. The whole complex spans 46 acres (18.6 hectares) and it is located near the oceanfront, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the city of Rosarito. Other films that have been shot here are MGM’s Tomorrow Never Dies and Warner Brothers’ Deep Blue Sea.
28. Enjoy the adrenaline rush when rock climbing
Planning an action-packed vacation in Mexico? Go rock climbing in El Salto! Located in Nuevo Leon, it is one of the few areas in northern Mexico with limestones suitable for rock climbing. The whole area is divided into three main sections, namely Las Bocas, Las Animas, and La Cueva del Tecolote. You can climb here anytime of the year, although it might get too cold during the winter season. Some climbers camp inside the caves for a full experience, but you can also rent a bungalow or go to a homestay.
29. Experience a festival in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is one of the remaining Spanish colonial towns in central Mexico. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, it is not just a famous tourist destination but also a well-loved retirement place for many Westerners. Another thing that makes San Miguel de Allende a nice place to visit: its colorful festivals! Yearly, there are numerous festivals celebrated in town, some related to Catholicism while some are national events. There’s the Semana Santa for an instance, which involves a parade of saints and other Roman Catholic figures during Holy Week. Meanwhile in mid-June, the locals celebrate Dia de los Locos, an event similar to Mardi Gras.
30. Go beach camping in La Paz
Ditch those five-star hotels and try beach camping, which will allow you to experience not just five but a million stars! La Paz, located on the coast of the Gulf of California, is often overlooked by travelers but has a lot to offer. Some of the best spots for beach camping in La Paz include Casa Blanca for 18 USD per two people, La Paz RV park for 20 USD per two people, and the La Ventana Campground for 4 USD per person. Since La Paz is a coastal city, you can make the most out of your trip by buying fresh seafood and having it cooked for dinner!
31. Take a peek at Teotihuacan’s pyramids
Dubbed the “City of Gods,” Teotihuacan is an archaeological site 40 kilometers (24.9 miles) northeast of Mexico City. It is a must-visit for an array of ancient pyramids, which are considered the largest in the world. Included in the main highlights of Teotihuacan are the Temple of the Moon, located in the center of the complex, and the Temple of the Sun, which provides a great view of surrounding mountains. Another must-see within the complex is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, a sacred temple adorned with stone serpent heads. Meanwhile, at the Museo Teotihuacan, you will find a miniature display patterned after the archaeological site itself, as well as other displays relating to the site’s history.
32. Practice your golf skills at Nuevo Vallarta
It doesn’t matter if you’re a golf pro or just a beginner, Nuevo Vallarta would still be a lovely place for your much-needed vacation time. There’s El Tigre Golf at Paradise Village, which spans 621 yards (568 meters) and features a great driving range. Another option for golfers is the Vidanta, where you will find the Greg Norman course. It is accessed using a suspension bridge over the Ameca River. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a place near the airport, the Flamingos Golf Club is worth noting. Its course is lined with mango, orange, and lemon trees.
33. Spend a hot summer day at a water park
Mexico has its fair share of water parks and slides for all ages to enjoy. One good example is Vallarta’s Sea Life Park, a family-friendly theme park featuring water slides, swimming pools and water toboggans or sleds. The place is also home to some dolphins and sea lions. See them in action in one of the water park’s shows or better yet, take the chance to swim with these lovely creatures. An equally good choice is Splash Water Park, where you can enjoy other activities aside from swimming and the slides. They have facilities for beach volleyball and soccer and even have a sandbox for kids.
34. Visit an interactive zoo in Puerto Morelos
An interactive zoo experience awaits guests at Croco Cun Zoo, located in the city of Puerto Morelos. Why interactive? Because guests are allowed to touch, hold, and feed different animal species! This attraction is recommended for families with kids and also for anyone looking for a unique encounter with animals that you usually see only on TV or in books. Some of the animals you will find here are spider monkeys, white-tailed deer, green vine snakes, and rattlesnakes. If you’re extra brave, visiting this zoo is also your chance to walk among crocodiles!
35. Get a pair of cowboy boots in Chihuahua
Level up your cowboy fashion and grab a pair of nice boots in Chihuahua, Mexico! Some of the best ones are located at Ocampo Street, filled with an array of shops dedicated to cowboy finds. If you’re into hats, you can also check out locally-made ones to complete your look! While you’re at it, maybe you can also soak up the vibe of the colonial city and enjoy the views of 19th century baroque buildings. A mini-photo shoot while wearing your cowboy ensemble would be amazing too!
36. Have some authentic tacos when in Cuernavaca
Complete your vacation in Mexico by enjoying a serving of delicious tacos! Calle de los tacos in Nueva Inglaterra is the best place to grab a bite of this authentic Mexican specialty. It is popular among locals, because there are lots of stalls to choose from, not to mention they are affordable. Other taco places you can go to are Los Orientales and La Princesa in Teopanzolco.
37. See a real-life mummy museum in Guanajuato
Museo de las Momias is not for the faint-hearted. The term literally translates as “mummy museum”, and it is a depository of mummified bodies that was founded in 1910 when a local graveyard in Guanajuato got overcrowded. Authorities were forced to dig up bodies, but instead of seeing decomposed remains they were surprised to find out that these had turned into mummies. Today, Guanajuato’s mummies are considered an important part of local heritage and history. The mummies even become inspiration for several local films.
38. Unleash your inner daredevil in Puerto Escondido
Playa Zicatela is a three-kilometer-long (1.9-mile-long) beach in Puerto Escondido, a busy waterfront teeming with beautiful hotels and quaint cafes. However, the activities you can try here are not limited to watersports. Playa Zicatela is also a popular venue for skydiving, which requires participants to jump from an aircraft and land with the aid of a parachute. Just imagine the thrill of freefalling, coupled with panoramic views of the white sand beach! A little reminder: this activity is only for physically fit people, and not recommended for those who are afraid of heights.
39. Meet your favorite Sesame Street characters
Traveling with kids? Bring them to Mexico’s Parque Plaza Sesamo, a Sesame Street-inspired amusement park with interactive rides and displays. Meet Elmo, Big Bird, and the rest of the gang, and then watch a performance in the theaters or dine in one of the restaurants. It is also dotted with castles that offer nice views of the park. Other interesting activities at Parque Plaza Sesamo include boat rides, carousels, and roller coasters.
40. Watch an original professional wrestling match
Ever heard of Lucha Libre? It refers to a form of professional wrestling that originated in Mexico. It is a combat sport, but more hardcore than what is usually seen in WWE. If you ever find yourself in the city of Monterrey, you can catch some of the action at the Coliseo, located across the Central de Autobuses.
Since it has an extensive coastline, Mexico is teeming with world-class beach resorts. However, the country has more to offer, from the lush beauty of the Sierra Madre Mountains to the well-preserved Spanish colonial towns and historic Mayan ruins. Feel free to choose which appeals to you the most and enjoy discovering Mexico!
Get Trip101 in your inbox