Mexico Holiday Planning Guide
Tailor-made for anyone seeking that traditional sun-and-sand experience, Mexico vacations allow visitors to explore nearly 10,000 km (6,200 mi) of picturesque coastlines. Idyllic beaches and favorable year-round weather aside, this diverse country with a rich pre-Colombian history allows tourists a chance to discover a fascinating cuisine, numerous archaeological sites, state-of-the-art museums, colonial-era haciendas, and outstanding examples of 21st-century architecture. Most visitors get to know the country by its cities, but if you want a well-rounded Mexico tour, spend some time exploring its jungles, cloud forests, Caribbean reefs, snowcapped volcanoes, vast deserts, and tranquil lagoons. Life is lived outdoors in Mexico, so wherever you go, don't forget to dine alfresco and stroll the country's colonial streets.
Places to Visit in Mexico
Regions of MexicoYucatan Peninsula
: With an abundance of ancient Mayan ruins scattered across its karst landscape, and a wealth of sunny beach resort towns along its Caribbean coast, Yucatan Peninsula represents a popular starting point for varied Mexico itineraries. Central Mexico and Gulf Coast
: The cradle of ancient Aztec civilization, Central Mexico and Gulf Coast draw visitors with UNESCO-listed ruins and important museums, while the coastal areas and lively modern cities show off the country's natural heritage and contemporary culture.Pacific Coast
: Famed for its white-sand beaches and lively but accessible resort towns, the Mexican Pacific Coast also offers a number of less developed and wilder areas, including forested mountains, hidden coves, and untouched wildlife-rich jungles.Baja California
: One of the country's wilder and least built-up regions, Baja California features a rugged limestone coastline of sea-battered peninsulas and secret beaches, and an interior of sprawling deserts and mountain ranges, making it an ideal playground for adventurers scoping out an active Mexico vacation.Southern Mexico
: Dotted with UNESCO-listed Mayan archaeological sites, and boasting lively beach resorts along its picturesque coastline, Southern Mexico brings together history, nature, and contemporary culture to offer a fascinating and diverse introduction to the country.Jalisco
: Long the favorite destination for a beach-hungry holiday crowd, Jalisco increasingly appeals to a more varied set of travelers, with its wild jungles and small, culturally rich towns adding a welcome counterpoint to the thriving coastal resorts.Northern Mexico
: The vastness and ruggedness of the area bordering the United States has left Northern Mexico relatively undeveloped and off-the-map for international tourism, but the remoteness of its frontier towns and the scale of its canyons and deserts make it one of the most evocative and timeless places to visit in Mexico.
Cities in MexicoPlaya del Carmen
: A small fishing village developed into one the most popular cities along Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen deserves its popularity, offering stylish beach bars and gourmet restaurants, spotless accommodations and plenty of sandy coastline.Cancun
: One of the most popular destinations for vacations in Mexico, the "Glistening City" sits on the Caribbean Sea and boasts sun-splashed beaches, azure waters, and luxury accommodations. Mexico City
: The country's capital and the most populated city in North America, sprawling Mexico City offers a number of leading cultural sites, museums, lively dining and nightlife scenes, and loads of malls and markets.Puerto Vallarta
: With tourist developments along its picturesque beaches, historical sites, and untouched areas of landscape and wildlife, Puerto Vallarta brings in a varied crowd of adventurers, luxury-lovers, and photographers.Cozumel
: With the island lying just off the mainland in the Caribbean, Cozumel tourism focuses on an abundant marine ecosystem, as well as a large selection of both lively and secluded beaches, and a welcoming main town providing an ideal base for active Mexico holidays.
Popular Mexico Tourist AttractionsXcaret Eco Theme Park
: A large eco-tourism development on the Caribbean coast, Xcaret Eco Theme Park includes a wide range of environments to explore, animals to see, and activities to try out, including snorkeling, swimming, hiking, and diving.Ruinas Mayas de Tulum
: One of the most important pre-Columbian sites in the country and a popular choice for sightseeing in Mexico, Mayan Ruins of Tulum sit along coastal cliffs and include temples and walls dating back to the 15th century.Chichen Itza
: World Heritage-listed Chichen Itza represents one of the most famous and complete Mayan archaeological sites, its well-preserved temples, pyramids, and ballcourts offering a look at imposing architecture and sculptural flourishes of a now-extinct civilization.Xel-Ha
: Xel-Ha represents a theme park offering a range of sporty and relaxing activities, including river cruises, snorkeling, and jungle hikes--the neighboring Mayan ruins provide plenty of appeal for history buffs.Quinta Avenida
: A lively thoroughfare running parallel to the coast, Quinta Avenida includes a wealth of souvenir shops, sit-down restaurants, and street food options.National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropologia)
: Founded in 1964, National Museum of Anthropology provides a good starting point for culturally enriching Mexico vacation--it houses Aztec artifacts, Mayan treasures, and an array of exhibits on how indigenous cultures live today.Akumal Beach
: A relaxing alternative for those wishing to escape the nearby resort towns, Akumal Beach offers a chance to snorkel with sea turtles and sample coastal life without big tourist crowds.Xplor Park Cancun
: Family-friendly Xplor Park offers a range of activities and experiences, including ziplining, rafting, and swimming, all of which bring you closer to the natural and cultural heritage of Riviera Maya. Puerto Vallarta's El Malecon Boardwalk
: El Malecon Boardwalk takes visitors to some of the town's must-see attractions and must-visit eateries, with a wealth of monuments, restaurants, and beaches located along the pedestrianized promenade.Chapultepec Castle
: Formerly an imperial and presidential residence, Chapultepec Castle now houses a museum dedicated to the history of Mexico, while the surrounding grounds offer extensive views of the sprawling capital city.
Planning a Mexico Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Mexico with Kids
Families on holiday in Mexico for the first time may be drawn to Yucatan Peninsula
, which offers resorts and beaches along the Caribbean coast particularly well suited to those with kids in tow. The area also features a number of eco and cultural theme parks that help bring the natural and human history of the region to life.
Vacations along the quieter Pacific Coast
hold a similar appeal for families, with beaches and seaside entertainment options spread out between a number of welcoming resort towns.
Major urban centers, such as the capital Mexico City
, benefit from a wide range of cultural institutions, including aquariums, zoos, and museums designed to engage the younger visitor with state-of-the-art audiovisual exhibits and activities.
Things to Do in Mexico with Kids
Wherever your Mexico itinerary takes you, kid-oriented activities will never be too far away.
The beaches, hotel-run kids clubs, and large entertainment complexes like Xcaret Eco Theme Park
and Xplor Park Cancun
on Yucatan Peninsula
make it one of the country's best family-friendly vacation destinations.
The same applies to Pacific Coast
, where lively spots like Nuevo Vallarta Beach
and outdoor adventure facilities such as Huana Coa Canopy Adventure
provide a range of thrilling new experiences.
Many of the leading museums in Mexico City
feature exhibits tailored for kids, with places like Papalote Museo del Niño
, a museum of childhood and toys, appealing to all those feeling young at heart.
A trip to see the pandas at Parque Zoologico de Chapultepec
has become a staple of many a family holiday in Mexico.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Mexico
Children on vacation in Mexico should be prepared for plenty of hair ruffling and cheek squeezing--Mexicans are known for their warm welcomes, particularly when it comes to kids.
In the larger cities and beach resorts, you'll find a wealth of child-friendly places to eat. Head out into the more rural areas and the welcome's just as warm, but communication can be an issue, so learn a few useful phrases before you go.
Make sure your little ones drink bottled water even in some of the more established resorts--this can save you time dealing with upset stomachs and trips to the pharmacy.
Travel across the country can be particularly taxing on kids, so consider basing your Mexico holiday in a single destination, and take day trips to surrounding sites.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Mexico
Cuisine of Mexico
Known throughout the world for both its traditional and Americanized forms, the country's cuisine is a real highlight of holidays in Mexico.
Street food staples like tamales and burritos are found across Mexico City
and other major towns and cities, supplemented by stylish restaurants serving contemporary takes on regional classics.
Beach towns along Pacific Coast
have become known for their citrus-soaked seafood dishes, while a trip to Yucatan Peninsula
allows for an exploration of traditional Mayan cuisine, which consists of slow-roasted, spiced, and smoked meats served with corn tortillas, pickled onions, and limes.
Farmers markets in the main cities and towns offer a good chance to learn more about local produce, with the array of chilies available in the country a particular draw for adventurous foodies.
Shopping in Mexico
After a trip to Mexico, many visitors walk through the arrivals gate wearing a sombrero and holding a bottle of tequila. You'll see loads of such famous Mexican souvenirs in the touristy areas of Yucatan Peninsula
, especially Cancun
and Playa del Carmen
Thoroughfares like Quinta Avenida
offer plenty of opportunities to pick up authentic items, whether you're looking for something inexpensive or artisanal.
The malls of Mexico City
are perhaps the best places in the country for brand-name fashion and electronics, while the markets in Southern Mexico
have a particularly lively feel to them and sell authentic goods, including handmade jewelry and locally produced chili sauce.
In Central Mexico and Gulf Coast
you'll find numerous little workshops selling Aztec-inspired ornaments and fabrics.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Mexico
Interesting Facts About Mexico
● In the Mexican flag, the green stripe symbolizes hope, the white stands for togetherness and purity, while the red represents the blood of the country's heroes
● The world has Mexico to thank for chocolate--the country's indigenous cultures were the first to realize chocolate's universal deliciousness after mixing it with various natural sweeteners
● The country's full name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos, or United Mexican States
● The country is the largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world
● Mexico produces more silver than any other country in the world
Things You Should NOT Do in Mexico
As you tour Mexico, you'll notice the natives relish their country's relaxed atmosphere at home, on the street, and even in the workplace.
To avoid insulting your hosts or pushing the boundary on laidback behavior, avoid commenting or joking about anything related to the Catholic Church--Mexico is a predominantly Catholic country and its natives take their religion, its icons, architecture, and figureheads very seriously.
Mothers are held in high esteem across the country, so kids should be nice to their moms--and parents in general--at all times.
Holidays & Festivals in Mexico
Many visitors try to synchronize their Mexico vacation with the country's major celebrations and festivities.
The food, music, and fireworks of Independence Day create a true fiesta atmosphere, with crowds gathering in town squares from midnight on November 15, and the streets lit up by processions, pyrotechnics, and colorful outfits.
The town of Patzcuaro
has become particularly well known for its Day of the Dead celebrations, lasting between October 31 and November 3 each year. Other big towns and cities also observe the holiday, with parades, music, costumes, and offerings to the dead.
The country has a range of festivities and traditions throughout the Easter and Christmas seasons, while December 12 sees celebrations and parades honoring to country's patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Useful Mexico Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Mexico
● Buenos dias--Good morning
● Buenas tardes--Good afternoon
● Buenas noches--Good evening
Climate of Mexico
Mexico's climate varies greatly across its regions, with the Tropic of Cancer dividing the country into a temperate north and tropical south.
Sun-worshippers generally head to coastal areas such as Pacific Coast
and Yucatan Peninsula
, with the latter particularly renowned for its high temperatures, averaging between 75 F and 82 F (24 C and 28 C) each year.
While the north experiences little rainfall throughout the year, most of the country has a rainy season between June and October. Pay attention to weather reports when planning your trip to Mexico, and keep in mind that major storms can hit both coasts between July and November.
Transportation in Mexico
Tours of Mexico take many forms, with the country enjoying a varied and largely well-maintained transport system.
Those arriving by plane will likely fly into the airports of Cancun
or Mexico City
. From there, good road and rail networks allow for easy travel to various other destinations.
Long-haul bus and coach journeys provide a budget-friendly option for those wanting to see a lot of Mexico without breaking the bank. Car rentals offer independence from bus or train schedules, and ferries are regularly used to travel up and down the coasts.
Tipping in Mexico
Many people who work in the service sector in Mexico make ends meet through tips. During your holiday in Mexico, you'll notice that some restaurants and bars add a service charge onto the bill, listed as "propina."
In businesses that don't immediately put it onto the bill, leaving a tip of 15-20 percent of the total cost is normal, although it should change according to the quality of service you feel you've received.
In grocery stores, teens helping bag your purchases usually get paid solely in tips. Generally speaking, 10 or 20 pesos is a fairly standard amount to tip in this situation.