People tend to think that Mexico is a “Latin American” country – probably because the dominant language, Spanish, is spoken throughout Central and South America, and Mexico’s history is linked to the indigenous populations of the Mayans and Aztecs that also inhabited regions in Central America. But Mexico is technically considered part of North America, since it shares a long border with the United States and is physically distanced from South and Central America, connected only by the narrow Isthmus of Panama.
The proximity of Mexico to the United States makes it a favorite destination for Americans. It has the allure of a foreign country with a rich history much more ancient than our own. It has beautiful, sandy seashores on both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, and a widely divergent landscape ranging from the Sierra Madre mountain range to the rainforests in the southeast to the huge Chihuahuan Desert. It has appeal for environmentalists, history buffs, those who enjoy art and architecture, adventure and pleasure seekers, foodies, and families looking for a place not too far from home where everyone can have a good time.
You can experience Mexico on a cruise, allowing you to visit more than one region. Cruise ships sail both the Gulf of Mexico and along the Pacific Coast. Another popular option is to book an all-inclusive resort which includes all meals and beverages (often in a variety of restaurants) with added amenities like free entertainment and access to gym and spa facilities. These resorts also have options for day trips to historical ruins, snorkeling and diving excursions, and fishing trips.
If you’re not a beach person, visiting historic Mexico City, Guanajuato, Merida, and Oaxaca will give you an appreciation for the rich culture of this diverse country and its people.
Once you’ve experienced a trip to our southern neighbor, you’ll want to return again and again.
East Coast – Cancun and the Riviera Maya. This is the place to be if you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation with luxurious resort amenities, crystal clear waters perfect for all kinds of water sports and diving, and wonderful weather almost all year ‘round. Some major attractions in the Riviera Maya include:
- Cancun Underwater Museum is the largest museum of its kind in the world, where you can scuba dive in an underwater sculpture garden.
- Take day trips to the amazing Mayan ruins at Tulum, Chichen Itza and El Rey.
- Visit the Maya Museum in the Cancun Convention Center, which has special arts and crafts programs for kids.
- Swim with dolphins and other sea creatures at the Interactive Aquarium.
- Take a day trip to Xcaret, a beautiful theme park with plenty of natural habitat, cultural attractions and the popular scenic tower. “Torre Escenica” features a rotating elevator which lifts its passengers to the top, affording 360 degree views of Cancun and its beaches.
- Take a ferry ride to Isla Mujeres where you’ll enjoy a more laid back atmosphere and some unique, quirky restaurants and shops.
- A 45 minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen will take you to the island of Cozumel for some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving experiences.
The Pacific Coast of Mexico became a tourist attraction long before Cancun and the Riviera Maya was developed. Resorts in Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas were the playgrounds for the rich and famous decades ago, and they still have a unique appeal. New luxury resorts and condos on the Pacific Coast are being developed along Riviera Nayarit and Costalegre. Tourist attractions here include:
- Surfing and boogie boarding in Mazatlan is less crowded than some of the more well-known surfing spots. Then visit Los Osuna, located just outside Mazatlan, for a tour of this 100 year old distillery, processing agave into award winning tequila.
- Visit Acapulco and don’t miss the spine-tingling cliff diving shows at La Quebrada.
- Indulge yourself at one of Zihuatanejo’s fabulous eco-friendly spas for a day of total relaxation.
- Check out artist Diego Rivera’s amazing wall of mosaic murals in old town Acapulco.
- Stroll the Malecon (boardwalk) in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica for breathtaking sunsets, eye–popping street art, and shops, restaurants and bars galore.
- Take your camera to Land’s End Promontory in Cabo San Lucas where you’ll find El Arco, the natural seacliff arch that makes a perfect backdrop for a family photo
The interior of Mexico is where you’ll find some fascinating cities, historic, cultural, and artistic centers that connect you with the REAL Mexico.
- Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city having been established over 450 years ago. Subterranean tunnels connect the city which has a vibrant cultural scene, culminating every fall at the Festival Internacional Cervantino. This event features every art form from street theater to sophisticated opera and symphony performances in venues all over the city.
- Oaxaca should be on your list if you’re interested in traditional food and drink. Chocolate served in surprising ways, mole, mezcal, and barbecued goat are all on the menu. Its location makes it a perfect starting point for trips to ancient ruins and natural wonders like Hierve el Agua, ‘the frozen waterfall.”
- Mexico City, one of the most populated cities in the world, is home to a treasure trove of historical monuments and buildings. The historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and since many of the buildings are located here, they can be easily visited on foot. Examples of the Aztec civilization survive, although much was destroyed by the Spanish who rebuilt their capital on top of the ancient city of Tenochtitlán. The National Library of Anthropology is located in Chapultepec Park and should be at the top of your list. The Museo Soumaya houses over 60,000 pieces of art, dating from 3,000 years ago to modern masterpieces by Salvador Dali.
- Tepoztlán, only an hour or so from Mexico City, is the polar opposite of the hustle and bustle of that thriving metropolis. Here you can hike to the ruin of El Telpozteco, dedicated to the god of pulque (forerunner of tequila.) Visitors come here for spiritual healing, yoga, meditation, and vegan cuisine. The hike itself is a mystical experience through dense rainforest and misty waterfall landscapes.
You’ll need to take several trips to Mexico to be able to experience all it has to offer. Let our knowledgeable agents help you plan a trip that will get you started on your exploration of Mexico.
Tap water in Mexico is unsafe to drink – nobody drinks it, not even the locals. But you’re going to need water if you’re touring ancient ruins or just sitting on the beach, so invest in a filterable water bottle. (Lifestraw Filtered Water Bottle is one example.) Bottled water can be expensive and all that plastic is tough on the environment, so reusable bottles with built-in filters are the answer.
Purchasing travel insurance is especially important for travel to Mexico. The weather can turn ugly at certain times of year. (August through October is hurricane season.) Also, because Mexico is so reliant on foreign tourists, their precautions for Covid are pretty relaxed. Many Mexicans have not been vaccinated, so it’s entirely possible that you will be exposed to the virus. Be proactive about your own safety.
Museums (and some shops and restaurants) are closed on Mondays, so check ahead when making plans for the week. The good news is that most archaeological sites are open daily.
You don’t need a visa to travel to Mexico, but you do need your FMM tourist card. This is the little slip of paper that the immigration agent hands you after checking your passport. You MUST return it when you depart – without it, you’re not going anywhere!
Mexicans dress conservatively – shorts and belly shirts will get you a lot of unwanted attention unless you’re at a resort where minimal clothing is the norm. When traveling away from tourist areas, it’s best to cover up.
Need a restroom? If you’re a man DON’T head for the door marked with an M! That stands for mujeres, the Spanish word for women. You need the door marked C (caballeros) or H (hombres). And if you’re not at a resort or tourist friendly hotel, remember to deposit your toilet paper in the designated bin – don’t flush unless you’re prepared for a nasty flood.
Digital security can be a bit iffy in Mexico. It’s a good idea to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service – especially if you plan to do some computer work while on vacation.
Pay with pesos instead of dollars – or with a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. Many of the local shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards, and paying with pesos will insure you don’t get ripped off with crazy exchange rates.
Learn some Spanish words to help you get where you’re going when not in a high tourist area. The locals will appreciate it! And by all means, get out of the high tourist areas once or twice on the trip. Mexican people are friendly, helpful and very happy to welcome visitors. Patronizing local establishments just might be the high point of your trip!