10 Best Things to Do in Mexico
+ Important Travel Tips for Mexico
Hola Mexico! Mexico is charming, Mexico is beautiful and Mexico has a lot to offer. However, there are some things you should know and consider before you book your trip to Mexico.
If you are considering to visit Mexico but are unsure about the security aspect (especially as a female traveler) or which places to visit then you are lucky as you have found the perfect site – this posts covers all important aspects about traveling to Mexico.
This Post was Written by Cassandra
Tips and tricks to know when visiting Mexico
How to get around in Mexico
Security tips for (female) travelers in Mexico
The best time to visit Mexico
What to pack for Mexico
Where to Stay in Mexico
Find out about the 10 best places to visit and see in Mexico
Things to Know Before Visiting Mexico
General Tips and Tricks for Traveling in Mexico
Tap water in Mexico is not drinkable! Only drink bottled water. The majority of the coastal towns are very safe, but of course, exercise common sense. When in cities, be more aware of pick pocketing and such, and if in Mexico City, beware of fraudulent taxi services.
Try to eat in restaurants over street carts, especially if this is your first time in Mexico or if you tend to have a sensitive stomach. When shopping, always barter and negotiate pricing!
Tips for Female Travelers in Mexico
Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings— always. Most of the coastal areas are very accustomed to travelers, and I have found most people to be very friendly; once inland, in bigger cities, such as Mexico City, I exercise more caution.
Don’t walk around alone late at night; usually, if I am alone after dinner, I will head back towards the hotel and relax at the beach or pool, or maybe go to a nearby/neighboring establishment, so I am close when it’s time to head back.
Be careful not to expose your money/valuables. Trust your gut if a person or situation doesn‘t feel right—leave. Don’t go out drinking alone and don’t share your hotel information with people you don’t trust. If you don’t feel comfortable walking, grab a taxi and establish the price before getting in. Be conscious of the fact that every city has good and bad areas—research before you go, so you know your good areas, and stay in them.
Knowing some Spanish (even just the basics) is also very helpful. I do not speak Spanish fluently, but over the years have gained enough to ask directions, and have basic conversations and understanding, which can be incredibly helpful. Pick up a phrasebook and practice before going. If you are staying mainly in coastal areas where tourism is more common, English will be more widely spoken.
Aim to blend in—don’t wear/flash designer items and expensive jewelry, for example, and don’t dress too revealing, the Mayan culture is more conservative. Once again, the coastal areas are more accustomed to tourists and will have more of a beach culture, where you will see more people wearing shorts and such. But going into the cities, you want to be a bit more conservative. And ignore catcalls; it’s better to avoid confrontation.
How to Get Around in Mexico
I typically don’t recommend a car rental in Mexico because roads aren’t always in the best condition and sometimes local police can give you a hassle. In addition, many areas don’t require a car.
I use transfer services where I can. I typically pre-arrange airport transfers via Olympus Tours. For other areas where Olympus Tours may be unavailable, I use Viator.
Once in the destination, if staying in a town or city, I walk a lot. Some cities may have hop-on-hop-off bus passes for touring. I mainly use local taxi services, although please note that you should know the price before getting in the vehicle, and bargaining is commonly used; some areas have also started using Uber.
Also note that you have to be cautious when using taxis in Mexico City, as there have been cases of fraudulent drivers, so I like to ask my hotel to arrange my taxis for me. There is also the ADO bus service, which is easy to use and inexpensive, although usually takes longer than car services. Collectivos are also an option, which are like shared mini-van taxis.
Things to Pack for Mexico
It depends on the time of year and what area you are looking to visit. With its diverse climates, you can visit the desert, mountains, or a rainforest. Generally, most of Mexico has warm weather year round, but if you plan to visit an area of higher altitude, like Mexico City, you may need some jeans and sweaters. Always check the weather forecast before going for temperature estimates, but don’t be disappointed if rain is predicted!
Being in a tropical environment, rain is common in the majority of the country, but usually clears up quickly, bringing sunshine. Always bring both sandals and sneakers, bug spray, sunscreen, and basic over-the-counter meds, like Tylenol, Benadryl, and Pepto Bismol.
Where to Stay in Mexico
Below are my favored areas and hotel options. I choose the hotels based off of location mainly, as well as the options NOT being all inclusive, so you can get out to local eateries and try the cuisine. They are all varied in style and level of accommodation though (some in town, some beachfront, some very basic and simple, and others a bit more high-end). If you plan for longer periods of time or need less expensive options, you can always use Airbnb to rent a local home or apartment. Just check the location on a map in relevance to these hotels and you can stay in a similar location.
Accommodation: Caribbean Coast in Mexico
Isla Mujeres: (aim to stay in the Playa Norte area to be close to town, so you can walk to restaurants easily) Hotel Ixchel.
Puerto Morelos: Hotel Arrecifes (located on the beach, about 10 minutes’ walk into town center).
Playa Maroma: Hotel Amarte (this area is normally pricey, but this property is set back in the rainforest area, making it more affordable. It’s about a 15-minute walk to the beach or you can take a shuttle service, but a great eco-boutique hotel) *more secluded- no town area within walking distance.
Playa del Carmen: (aiming to stay near 5th Ave or the ferry port are good areas for easy walking and exploring) Hotel Mahekal, set up in a traditional cabana style, right on the beach; amazing spot, but a bit more pricey. If you opt to stay in town at the Fiesta Inn (not on the beach), prices are lower (read more about Playa del Carmen).
Akumal: Hotel Akumal Caribe is more secluded- no town area within walking distance, great area if you enjoy snorkeling or scuba
Accommodation: West Coast in Mexico
Puerto Vallarta: Hotel Playa Conchas Chinas. This is right on the beach, only a 5-minute taxi ride into downtown for shopping, exploring, and nights out.
Punta Mita/ Sayulita area: Hotels Meson de Mita and Casablanca Sayulita, simple, beachfront, bohemian properties *more secluded- no town area within walking distance
Mexico City: (Reforma and Historic areas are best) my favored hotel is Downtown Mexico
Accommodation: Yucatan Cities in Mexico
Merida: Hotel Casa San Angel, located in the historical district and only a 15-minute walk from the center of town, where the park and cathedral are.
Valladolid: Hotel Meson del Marques, an old colonial mansion converted to a hotel and serves delicious traditional Mayan dishes! Even if you don’t stay here, eat here.
Campeche: Hotel Socaire, located centrally in the historic center, within easy walking distance to restaurants and sites.
Best Time to Visit Mexico
Any time! Note that November and December bring high price points, and September is the heart of hurricane season (although this doesn’t mean necessarily bad weather)! I visited during September with days of sunshine, but just a good thing to keep in mind. May usually has good pricing and is before the heavy heat of the summer months, so it is a great option.
What to See in Mexico – My Favorite Picks
I first fell in love with Mexico when I was 19 and got an apartment in Merida, Mexico. Previously, I had traveled some, but only within the US and Canada, so this trip to Mexico felt exotic. I don’t remember how I discovered this old, Spanish Colonial city in the middle of the Yucatan Jungle, but I do remember landing there the first night. Touching down at this small airport, we could see very little street lights—nothing that even remotely resembled the NYC skyline I had left behind.
I wandered out, following the line of people ahead of me, getting my passport stamped, and finding an airport taxi to take me to the apartment, while nervously clutching the piece of paper that had the address stamped on it. It was late at night, the air was thick and balmy. As we started driving towards the unknown, I looked out the window—palm trees lined the streets and the scent of lush forest, tropical flowers, and spicy fried food filled my nostrils. My heart rate sped up with excitement.
The next morning, I work up early, eager to explore, and I was immediately in love! Cobblestone streets, Spanish Colonial architecture, tropical birds singing from the branches of exotic plant life, delicious food, and friendly people. After I returned to the US, I would not only continue an ongoing love affair with travel, but also with Mexico, going back over and over again to various parts of the country.
10 Best Places to Visit in Mexico
1. Visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World Chichen Itza
Although Chichen Itza is a popular and touristy spot, it is still a must-see and one of Mexico´s best tourist attractions. The Mayan temples are absolutely striking. If you’re like me and want to avoid crowds, you can do an evening tour (I went with Amigo Tours on their Chichen Itza Day and Night tour) — they have licenses to go into the site after closing, so you’re only there with a group of 20, instead of in a crowd of thousands.
2. Swim in a Cenote
Best Cenotes in Mexico
Cenotes are these magical, underground swimming pools created by Mother Nature. Some are open at the top and some are more closed, like a cave. Most are located within the Yucatan Peninsula.
Ik Kil is a popular one, mainly because it is near Chichen Itza, but it is also STUNNING, with vines and tree roots stretching down hundreds of feet towards the water. The key is to get there early to avoid crowds. There are several other cenotes that are lesser known and great to check out, each unique in its own way.
Cenote Zaci is lovely, and is in the center of the colonial city Valladolid. It is also best to go in the morning because locals come to cool off midafternoon and it can get more crowded. Cenotes by area: Valladolid (Zaci, Samula, Xkeken and Xcanche), Playa del Carmen (Azul, Jardin Eden and Cristalino), Puerto Morelos (Verde Lucero and La Noria), and Merida (Xlacah, and “the 3 cenotes of Cuzama”). Ik Kil is central to all of these locations, being a long drive of about 1 1/2-2 hours, regardless of which area you stay in, so it is best paired with a visit to Chichen Itza.
Ik Kil is central to all of these locations, being a long drive of about 1 1/2-2 hours, regardless of which area you stay in, so it is best paired with a visit to Chichen Itza.
Where to Go in Mexico?
3. Snorkel the Mesoamerican Reef
Best Place to Snorkel in Mexico
Mesoamerican Barrier is the second largest reef system in the world and stretches from Cancun all the way down to Honduras! The only reef larger is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The reef system is beautiful, and you can not only see vibrant corals, but snorkel with sea turtles. This reef can be accessed from any point along the Caribbean coast of Mexico, but the best spots are Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Puerto Morelos, and Akumal.
4. Visit a Biosphere
Best biosphers to visit in Mexico
Mexico is home to 12 biospheres, which are scattered throughout the country, and depending on which area you travel to, there will always be something amazing to see.
The mangroves of Sian Ka’an, the leopards residing in Calakmul, the deserts of Mapimi, the sea lion colonies in the Islas de Gulfo de California, the wolves at La Michilia reserve, the forests of Sierra de Manantlan, and much more! The country is so diverse, but whichever area you choose to visit, make sure that you get in a day trip to the closest biosphere.
5. Mayan Cities of the Yucatan Peninsula
Best cities to visit in Mexico
The Yucatan area (states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche) are not only home to a plethora of ancient Mayan cities, but are also home to the largest populations of contemporary Mayans in Mexico. Although Quintana Roo has become a tourist hotspot for their Caribbean beaches, you can venture into the jungle just a bit to find some stunning cities within Yucatan and Campeche.
Spanish-colonial architecture, colorful buildings lining the streets, and traditional Mayan cultures are kept alive. My favorite cities are Merida, Valladolid, and Campeche. Get off the beaten track and explore these cities packed with history and culture, and don’t forget to try some Mayan dishes, like Relleno Negro and Pollo Pibil—delicious!
MORE THINGS TO DO IN MEXICO
6. Swim with the Whale Sharks
Where to Swim with White Sharks in Mexico
Don’t worry, they eat plankton—not fish (and don’t even have teeth to bite with!) These gentle giants migrate to Isla Mujeres to feed on the plankton annually between June and September. I went during August and it was magical! Manta rays feed in the same areas, too, so chances are that you will get to see and swim with both. It was absolutely awe-inspiring.
Although you must be conscious of what company you go with—this is an endangered species and responsible tourism is necessary. I HIGHLY recommend Ocean Tours Mexico. They pick up travelers anywhere from Playa del Carmen north to Cancun, and transport you to the boats and then to the whale sharks. They are professional and care about the wellbeing of both the traveler and the sharks. Plus, they video and photograph your experience so that you can just focus on the swim— it was amazing!
7. Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mexico
Mexico is home to 34 UNESCO World Heritage sites!
That is more than any other country in the Americas, and lands Mexico as #7 on the list of all the countries in the world! These include ancient Mayan ruins, as well as historic city centers, and much more. Some of the included ruins are Chichen Itza (which falls centrally between Merida, Valladolid, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen), the Teotihuacan ruins near Mexico City, Uxmal near Merida, and Palenque near Villahermosa.
Some of the historic, gorgeous town centers included are Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende (one of my favorites), The Walled City of Campeche, Puebla, Zacatecas, Morelia, Mexico City, and Oaxaca (known for their Day of the Dead festivals). No matter where you choose to visit in Mexico, you will have a UNESCO World Heritage site to explore nearby.
8. Visit the Caribbean Coast
Best Places at the Carribean Coast in Mexico
The Caribbean coast of Mexico is a dream come true. White, baby-powder sand, turquoise sea the temperature of bath water, coral reef systems, sea turtles, and palm trees; combine that with the flavor and culture of Mexico, and you couldn’t ask for more.
The trick is to find the right areas to visit because, unfortunately, it is not a well-kept secret, so avoiding tourist hot spots has become more challenging in the past few years as mega resorts take over. Of course, if you want a pampered, all-inclusive stay, go for it! There is no shortage of them here, but if you want a more authentic experience, I would avoid Cancun.
You could head to Isla Mujeres, if you don’t mind taking the ferry over, or go south to Riviera Maya. Specifically, my favored areas of Riviera Maya are Puerto Morelos, Playa Maroma, Playa del Carmen, and Akumal.
Playa del Carmen has a larger town and continues to grow with a chic vibe. It is a great spot if you like to walk around and self-explore; in addition, there is a ferry there to Cozumel, which makes for nice day trips. Puerto Morelos is a much smaller fishing town, more for relaxing and having a good home base to explore ruins and cenotes. Playa Maroma neighbors Puerto Morelos and boasts some of the best beaches on the coast. Akumal is farther and more secluded, about an hour south, if you want to be more in nature.
9. Visit the West Coast
Best Places at the West Coast in Mexico
Best Places at West Coast in Mexico
Cabo is the west coast version of Cancun, so once again, if you want to get a bit more authentic with your travels, opt to avoid this area. The Pacific Coast is a beautiful place, and there are plenty of places along the coastline to enjoy, but I most recommend the states of Jalisco and Nayarit.
They have nice beaches, gorgeous mountains, and a variety of areas to explore. The jungles and mountains stretch until they touch the ocean here. The water is clear and warm, but with more movement than the eastern coast—making it a nice spot for surfers as well.
You can opt to stay near a large town, like Puerto Vallarta, where you can explore the markets, see the Spanish cathedral, and take to the cobblestone streets to shop, eat, and have fun. Or, if you prefer more seclusion, try sleepy, bohemian towns, like Punta Mita or Sayulita. From these states on the west coast, you can head into the jungles and zip line through the tree tops, head out on a zodiac to see the magical pods of whales that migrate down here during winter months, or explore the hidden paradise in the Islas Marietas.
10. Mexico City
Best places to visit in Mexico City
Best Things to Do in Mexico City
The Capital of Mexico is a hustle and bustle city, with a population of almost 9 million. It combines the ancient, the colonial, and the modern. You can see the famous Mexican Folkloric Ballet, Frida Kahlo’s home, explore the grand Spanish Colonial buildings, take a ride down the Xochimilco canals with a mariachi band, or try some interesting foods.
In addition to everything this city has to offer, it is a great home base for exploring other nearby areas, like the Teotihuacan ruins, some of the tallest Mayan ruins in Mexico and still open for visitors to climb! You can also witness the Monarch butterfly migration within the biosphere during winter months (about 2 hours outside of the city), hike the Izaccihuatl Volcano, and much more
Hope, you enjoyed the post! Leave a comment and let us know if you have traveled to Mexico or which place had made it on your bucket list!
Cannot get enough of Mexico? Then read the off-the-beaten Oaxaca guide!
“I hope to inspire you to see the world and not wait any longer.” Cassandra Londono
About the Author
Cassandra is a US-female travel addict that loves traveling the world. She has made traveling her priority and so she has traveled for the last few years. Check out her site where she sells her travel photography.
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