Mexico is home to vibrant arts and culture, age-old histories and unparalleled beauty. Overlooked by U.S. travelers as a ‘beach’ or ‘leisure’ destination, Mexico is so much more. Escape the crowds of Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, and opt for more authentic experiences centered on nature and the aesthetics of open spaces. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, the opportunities for marine safaris and water-based experiences are one-of-a-kind.

Over 760,000 square miles of territory, ranging from high plateaus and mountains to arid deserts, to tropical forests, and pristine beaches, Mexico offers a variety of ecosystems for a range of travelers. Travel back in time at the pyramids of Teotihuacán, the Aztec remains of Tenochtitlan in the heart of Mexico’s eponymous capital city; or the awe-inspiring ancient Mayan structures of Chichen Itza and Tulum in the tropical Yucatan Peninsula.

For years, art collectors have flocked to Mexico City for intriguing and must-see art galleries and the greatest concentration of museums in the country. Mexico City is the oldest capital city in the Americas and one of two founded by ‘Amerindians’ (indigenous peoples). But age is just a number, and this city is home to vibrant contemporary arts, food and culture – not to mention the best bars, cafes and clubs. Culinary explorers, fuel your morning with a coffee and indulge your evenings with a high-end mezcal or agave nightcap.

To the southeast, lies Oaxaca in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Oaxaca, a city located about 300 miles south of Mexico City, is a burgeoning cultural and culinary capital with a beautiful colonial core. Explore the great outdoors on foot or cycle on tree-shaded streets. Better yet, ride on horseback like a ‘vaquero’ or Mexican cowboy.

For a less crowded beach experience, skip Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun in favor of Baja California Sur. Todos Santos is a town on the Pacific coast of Mexico’s Baja California. Designated a Pueblo Mágico, one of just 100 or so small towns honored for its natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance, Todos Santos is one of the most appealing towns in all of Baja. On the east coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, Cabo Pulmo National Park is one of the most fruitful examples of marine conservation. Boating and unique freediving experiences with experts get you up close and personal with whale sharks and dolphins. Further off the beaten path, try glamping on Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez, prime for scuba diving, freediving, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding and hiking. Encounter sea lion colonies and blue footed boobies as well as whale sharks and dolphins.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mexico is a large country, so we recommend picking one or two areas in which you are interested. Choose between the coast for beach and marine life or the city for history and culture. Baja California Sur is a top destination for laidback coastal experiences. Inland, Mexico City offers access to archaeological sites, as well as more modern amenities such as top restaurants, clubs, museums and more. For Mayan past, the Yucatan Peninsula is chockfull of ancient history, while the Atlantic coastline and small towns are ripe for exploration. If the open sea is intimidating, then snorkel in one of the country’s thousands of ‘cenotes’, or naturally formed access points to underground freshwater reservoirs.       

Travelers interested in the beach and water-based activities or art and cultural/historical excursions will enjoy Mexico’s abundance of each. The coasts offer world-class scuba diving, snorkeling, freediving and stand-up paddle boarding. Marine safaris are great opportunities to encounter massive schools of fish, dolphins, whale sharks, blue footed boobies and more. If you’re more fascinated by history than biology, then sightseeing excursions or simply admiring the museums and architecture of the bigger cities is a world-class experience. 

Mexico has luxury options and a mostly healthy economy; however, rural poverty in certain areas and the disparity between luxury accommodations and cars and the scarcity in other parts can make some travelers uncomfortable. Additionally, Mexico is ideal for a marine safari but does not have big game like Africa. If you’re in search of mammalian wildlife then Mexico is not for you. 

Of course, climate and weather vary according to altitude and region but Mexico is a generally temperate and sunny destination. The dry season (fall and winter) is the best time to go because the coastal areas are slightly cooler, and you avoid the spring/summer showers. That being said, if you’re traveling to areas of high altitude, it is always a good rule of thumb to bring warmer layers. 

Spring and summer are the hottest and wettest months in Mexico. Tropical storms can disturb coastal vacations and rainstorms inland can hinder excursions. Temperatures along the coast can be muggy and uncomfortably hot during these months. That said, travelers visit year-round.  

Mexico offers a wide range of accommodation and itinerary options, and trips can be designed to suit particular budgets. To take advantage of our preferred and trusted accommodations and private, personalized tours and experiences, we recommend budgeting approximately $5,000 per person, per week. 

Excursions to ancient ruins and private guided tours in cities are excellent ways to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of this country. There is no shortage of local flavor. Opportunities to visit museums and frequent bars, clubs and restaurants are great ways to better understand contemporaneous life in Mexico.

For active travelers, explore the coasts for scuba diving, freediving and snorkeling opportunities. hike across the Baja Peninsula, or head inland to explore the jungles and ancient ruins on bike. 

The country is home to monkeys, ocelots, jaguar, wolves and more, but Mexico is not a wildlife destination and sightings are rare. If you choose to dive in certain coastal areas though, you will have the opportunity to swim with whale sharks, dolphins and other marine life.

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Lara Ray