Spotlight on Mexico
01 February 2017
With sumptuous hotels and luxury resorts fringing the bright white, sandy bays of Los Cabos, Tulum and Riviera Nayarit, it’s not hard to see why Mexico is such a popular holiday spot.
And though you’ll find plenty of beautiful beaches in Mexico, it offers so much more than twinkling, warm waters and sandy shores.
The incredible opportunities to combine an indulgent beach holiday with a visit to one of Mexico’s fascinating historical sites is one of the reasons that Mexico draws visitors back time and time again. Add to this the unique flavours of fresh, local Mexican food and you can see exactly why Mexico appeals to a wide range of travellers, from sunseekers to adventurers.
Travelling with children? Mexico's resorts, especially those in the Riviera Maya, cater for little ones of all ages. And there are plenty of attractions if you decide to venture away from the luxurious resorts and beautiful beaches.
Read on to discover a few favourite things to explore on your next trip to Mexico…
When to visit Mexico
- Mexico is high-up on the list of the world’s best winter sun destinations, but you can enjoy Mexico year round
- In Cancún, average sunny hours never dip below eight per day – they hover around eight to 11 sunny hours per day, all year round
- The warmest months are March to June, but resorts on the Yucatan Peninsula – such as Cancún and Playa del Carmen – can enjoy hot weather even in the coolest months
- The rainy season officially runs from June until September, so expect wet weather and the occasional storm during this period. However, June and July are usually relatively dry
- On cooler days, there are plenty of attractions, world-class restaurants, historical sites and cultural and sporting activities to keep you occupied!
Sights to see in Mexico
- The Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Caribbean coast offers the most reliable sunshine and some of the best beaches in Mexico. It stretches from the fishing village of Puerto Morelos to the biosphere reserve and UNESCO World Heritage site of Sian Ka'an, south of Tulum. Between the two, you will find glorious beaches and a range of all-inclusive hotels with spectacular amenities and great service that caters for every type of budget
- Visiting Mexico City with little ones? Add the green oasis of Chapultepec Park to your list. At over 1,695 acres, the park lies in the middle of the city and you'll find a zoo, lakes with paddles boats, a small amusement park and the world-renowned Museum of Anthropology.
- Tulum (pictured above) is one of the most exclusive destinations on the Riviera Maya. Height restrictions on development mean that it is also one of the most attractive. Close to the resort, in the Tulum National Park, a spectacular 13th century walled Mayan archaeological site overlooks the sea. Travel Counsellor Debbie stayed at an all-inclusive resort on the Riviera Maya and took a day trip to Tulum: "We didn’t really need to leave the resort, but we wanted to see the Mayan ruins of Tulum, so we took a half day trip and were rewarded with a very good English speaking guide, who told us what the ruins were and how they would have looked in their original form, which really helped to build a picture of how it would have been."
- If you're travelling with children and won't be able to go snorkelling or scuba diving, head to one of the country's fantastic aquariums. The Interactive Aquarium Cancun has more than 1,195 marine species and you can feed stingrays and turtles, touch starfish and swim with dolphins.
- Cancún is the largest resort on the Yucatán Peninsula. As well as beautiful views over the Caribbean Sea, golden sand beaches, great snorkelling and all-inclusive hotels, Cancún is known for its nightlife, especially around Easter when hordes descend on the city for Spring Break
- Chichén Itzá is arguably the most famous of all of Mexico’s ancient sites, due in large part to its location on the Yucatán Peninsula. It is also one of Mexico’s largest and most accessible Mayan sites, about 77 miles (125 km) west of Cancún and Cozumel. You can easily explore Chichén Itzá on a day trip from most of the Riviera Maya resorts
- Playa del Carmen is the Yucatán Peninsula's second largest resort. The diving along this palm-lined stretch of Riviera Maya Caribbean shoreline is renowned for its coral reefs. Nightlife centres on the Quinta Avenida, a pedestrianised road lined with restaurants and bars, that runs parallel to the beach
- Xplor Park in the Riviera Maya is a perfect place for little adventurers (and parents, too!) Expect zip lines, rafts, and underground rivers at this thrilling adventure theme park!
Try something a little different…
- Love water parks? Try the spectacular Xel-Ha and Xcaret aquatic parks in the Riviera Maya. Xel-Ha park is the largest natural aquarium in the world, and combines jungle trails, restaurants and water in one. There's a dedicated Children's World to make sure little ones have as much fun as their parents! Xcaret is an ecological park that blends cultural heritage with the environment. Swim in underground rivers, discover the Mayan jungle, see parrots and marine turtles and even jaguars! Travel Counsellor Annette visited Cancun and the Riviera Maya in July 2016 with her husband and two children and said that "Xel-Ha aquatic theme park is definitely one not to be missed!"
- The snorkelling and diving around Mexico’s reefs and coastline offers some breath-taking dives, such as the wrecks just off the Yucatán Peninsula, but the underground rivers of the Yucatán are something special. These natural wonders offer an unforgettable diving experience. Travel Counsellor Sue stayed at Grand Bahia Principe Tulum and went swimming with turtles: "One of the things I love about this area is the amazing wildlife and there was lots to see in and around the hotel itself. There were iguanas, beautiful birds and butterflies, pelicans, and racoon-like creatures who were always on the hunt for a snack! My favourite had to be the giant sea turtles which lay their eggs on the beaches along this coastline every year between June and September. It is possible to go snorkelling with these wonderful creatures at Akumal Bay which was the next beach along from mine so I went along to have a go. I was absolutely amazed that we saw 10 sea turtles, lazily munching on the sea grass on the seabed!"
- Riviera Nayarit lies on Mexico’s beautiful west coast and this part of the Pacific coastline offers a chance to see hawksbills, leatherback turtles, and humpback whales. Banderas Bay (Bahía de Banderas), the largest natural bay in Mexico, is a mix of glorious sandy beaches and turquoise waters.
- Guadalajara may be off the usual tourist track, but this city of Tequila and Mariachi music is only a five-hour drive away from the beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta, gateway to the Riviera Nayarit. In Guadalajara, catch a charreada (rodeo), dine out in the trendy Chapultepec area of the city, and admire the murals of one of Mexico’s greatest artists, José Clemente Orozco, at the Instituto Cultural de Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and huge former hospital, now cultural museum
- The Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila is officially recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and can easily be visited on a day trip from Guadalajara. The fields of cacti growing across the land between the foothills of the Tequila Volcano and the deep valley of the Rio Grande River is a mesmerising, beautiful sight. The landscape is perfect for exploring on horseback, or touring a distillery
- From Tulum, take an eco-friendly boat tour to the biosphere reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sian Ka'an. Make your way through this tropical nature reserve, on a labyrinth of natural mangrove canals to discover the lagoons of Boca Paila and Campechen, as well as a number of impressive ruins including a magnificent Mayan temple
A taste of Mexico
Mexican food might be available in many destinations around the world but nothing beats the incredible flavours you’ll find while you’re there.
- For breakfast, tuck into a huge plate of rice, refried beans, local white cheese and spicy huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs). It makes a delicious change to a full English breakfast or a croissant!
- Freshly made salsa is utterly moreish and there’s nothing quite like sitting in the Mexican sunshine spooning up this watery sauce of tomatillos, onions, tomatoes, lemon juice and chilli peppers on crisp fried tortilla chips!
- Chicken mole is a restaurant classic. Mole Poblano, from the central-eastern town of Puebla, is the most well-known outside of Mexico – a sweet, smoky sauce with more than 15 ingredients — including chocolate, chilli, tomato, garlic, onion and cinnamon.
- You’ll see tamales being sold by street vendors all over Mexico, and eaten for breakfast. These pockets of corn dough are stuffed with either a sweet or savoury filling, often minced meat, and are wrapped in banana leaves or cornhusks and steamed. Tamales can be traced back to Aztec, Mayan and Inca tribes
- Another infamous Mexican street vendor treat is deep-fried insects! The market in the south-western town of Oaxaca is the best place to sample this delicacy, especially the chapulines (grasshoppers) and, when they are in season, the chicatanas (flying ants).
- Tequila and Mezcal might be Mexico’s most famous tipples, but look out for its local beers. As well as the ubiquitous Corona and Modelo Especial, look out for Modelo Negra, Bohemia, Minerva Pale Ale and Cerveza Chaneque
Did you know?
- Pyramids might conjure up images of Egypt but, in fact, the world’s largest pyramid is in Mexico: Great Pyramid of Cholula, near Puebla
- Mexico is credited with introducing chocolate, chillies and corn to the world
- The official currency in Mexico is the Peso, which is made up of 100 centavos
- The capital, Mexico City, is famously surrounded by seven volcanoes, including Mexico’s most active: Popocatepetl. Its name comes from the Aztec for “smoking mountain”
- Mexico has hosted the FIFA World Cup™ twice: in 1970 and 1986. It is also a contender to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup™
- Until 2016, Mexico was the only South American country to have hosted the Olympic Games (Mexico City hosted them in 1968)
- The Spanish began building Mexico City in the 16th century on the ruins of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Mexico City. Today, its historic centre Xochimilco has five Aztec temples, the largest cathedral on the continent, Aztec chinampas or “floating gardens”, and fine 19th and 20th century public buildings such as the Palacio de las Bellas Artes. Unsurprisingly, it is one of Mexico’s 34 UNESCO World Heritage sites
- Mexico’s 34 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are incredibly varied and cover more than 5,000 years of history. Included are Mayan ruins at Palenque, Chichen Itza, and Uxmal, the Aztec city of Teotihuacan and Totonac city of El Tajin, as well as early Spanish sites such as the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro. UNESCO World Heritage Sites also included are the baroque historic centre of Puebla, the 20th century modernist house and studio of Luis Barragán in the suburbs of Mexico City, and the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Baja California
For more ideas about what to do in Mexico, when to go or where to stay, get in touch with your Travel Counsellor.