Things to Do in Mexico
Stretching roughly 3 miles (5 kilometers) along the La Paz coastline, the Malecón is a wide boardwalk that’s frequented by travelers, locals, joggers, families, rollerbladers, and cyclists alike. Lined with restaurants, bars, and shops and dotted with sculptures and benches, it’s the ideal spot for a stroll at any time of day and offers sweeping views over the ocean.
Acapulco's iconic attraction, made famous in Elvis flicks, Ray Austen stunts, and every cheerfully scrawled holiday postcard sent home ever since, are La Quebrada Cliff Divers. Beginning in the 1920s, these brave young men and women began leaping for the crowds some 45 craggy meters (150 terrifying feet) into a wave-crashed inlet just 4 meters (13 feet) deep. And that's if they time it just right.
The ritual begins with a prayer at the shrine to La Virgen de Guadalupe, carved into the cliff-top platform. Then, the divers carefully calculate when their target will have enough water to soften their fall. Finally, they leap. First in the afternoon, and as the sun sets, again. The final dive of the night plunges past torches into a sea of fire (lit with flaming gasoline), no easy feat.
On a peninsula along the Baja California coast, the blowhole ‘La Bufadora’ is a marine geyser that shoots ocean water straight up into the air. It occurs naturally from ocean waves that push water into a sea cavern, which causes the pressure to build and then explode when the water recedes. Depending on the level of the tide, the water can climb as high as 60 feet from the sea.
It’s often seen after a short scenic drive from nearby Ensenada, and has become well known as a natural phenomenon of the area. Legend explains that one of the many grey whales that migrate off the coast here swam too close to shore, and that the geyser is reminiscent of the whale’s spout while waiting to be discovered. There are always beautiful views of the coast here, and a small local square with shops and restaurants nearby.
Opened to the public in 2013, the Xihuacan Museum and Archeological Site offers a unique look at a pre-Columbian temple site as archeologists uncover it. Located in the area around Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the archeological site include a religious pyramid about 45 feet tall and 300 feet square at the base, which remains only partially uncovered, and an ancient ball court that is one of the largest ancient courts in Mexico, second only to Chichen Itza’s. The nearby museum houses around 800 artifacts uncovered at the site, including ancient pottery, tools and art works, along with exhibits about the people who inhabited the area across more than four millennia.
The Sea of Cortez (or Gulf of California) lies between the Baja California Peninsula and mainland Mexico. This stretch of the Pacific, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most diverse seas in the world and home to more than 3,000 marine species, including hammerhead sharks, sea lions, and sea turtles.
Rio Secreto, or the “Secret River,” is a series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river in Mexico. While the reserve is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern—a popular diving spot—you can also explore eerie passageways, swim in the river, and admire dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and colorful mineral formations.
With calmer, warmer waters than other popular beaches in Mazatlán, plenty of opportunity for snorkeling, and several open-air seafood restaurants, Stone Island is one of the most popular day trip destinations in Mazatlán. Palm-lined Isla de la Piedra—which is not technically an island—is also a hub of soft adventure activity, such as horseback riding and hiking, as well as relaxation.
Founded by Father Jaime Bravo in 1723, the mission sits against the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Todos Santos on the Pacific Baja coast. Originally developed as an outpost of a larger mission in nearby La Paz, it became the principle mission of the Jesuits in the area upon its closure. With colorful stained glass surrounding the altar, the interior contains the statue of the Virgin of Pilar that the town celebrates annually with a festival in October. It has become a religious and historic landmark of Todos Santos.
Perched high on the hills above town, a visit to the mission offers views of the ocean and the Valle del Pilar. The structure is surrounded by colorful flowers, clean and simple in its design. The Virgin of Pilar is considered the patron saint of Todos Santos, and the mission remains a symbol at the heart of the area.
Build in the early 1980s, this popular town square is a hub for commerce and the fourth-largest plaza of its kind in the world. Impressive monuments line the pedestrian zone, including Faro del Comercio, which shoots green laser lights into the city sky each night.
Visitors to the plaza can wander the halls of the Palacio de Gobierno, where local government offices are located, or explore the Biblioteca Fray Servando Teresa de Mier—the city’s iconic public library. Visitors can escape the noise of the city in nearby Jardin Hundido—located at the center of Macroplaza—where quiet fountains and well-kept gardens provide a true urban oasis.
Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba, is one of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, in tandem with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Highlights of this archaeological site include the Temple of the Frescoes, which has spectacular figurines of the 'diving god.'
More Things to Do in Mexico
Set on a private stretch of white sand, Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club Cozumel allows you to avoid the island’s beachfront crowds and offers amenities for a relaxing seaside experience. Here you can swim in the Caribbean ocean, sample all you can eat from the restaurant and bar, float in the infinity pool, and relax in shaded cabanas.
High in the rugged mountains of the northern state of Guerrero, the city of Taxco de Alarcon was once an isolated Spanish stronghold. Today, it is known for its silver mines and the generations of artisans who create some of Mexico's most beautiful jewelry. In addition to the silver shops, take in the town’s architectural and natural attractions.
Known as the City of the Gods, Teotihuacán was the metropolis of a mysterious Mesoamerican civilization that reached its zenith around AD 100. Once the largest city in the region but abandoned centuries before the arrival of the Aztecs, Teotihuacán boasts towering pyramids and stone temples with detailed statues and intricate murals.
The second oldest cathedral in the Americas, the Mérida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso) was built atop a Mayan temple in the 16th century. Notable for its relatively austere façade and surprisingly stark Moorish interior, Mérida Cathedral also houses some of Mérida’s most significant religious artifacts, including the Christ of Blisters statue.
In 1998 this national park, which spans tens of thousands of acres of Oaxaca countryside, was declared a protected area and later designated as a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. As a result, Huatulco National Park has become a destination for travelers looking to get back to nature and spot rare species of animals and birds that exist nowhere else in the world.
Exhaustive conservation efforts have preserved the ecosystems of the tropical forests, mangroves, coral reefs and wetlands that make up this park. Visitors agree the park’s untouched beauty makes it worth a trip and easy access from nearby Cruz Huatulco means it a breeze to get to. Despite easy access this crystal blue bay manages to remain untouched. So whether it’s charting a boat to snorkel, dive, or fish in the pristine surrounding waters, or lounging on one of the deserted beaches, Huatulco National Park offers visitors a chance to experience the country as it used to be.
Visit this museum to see Diego Rivera's early childhood home, which has been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and work. Alongside original artworks and the personal effects of Rivera—one of Mexico’s most influential muralists and artists—you may also see temporary exhibits from other artists.
In the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá), an ancient Maya city considered to be one of the most important settlements in Mesoamerican history. During its peak between AD 500 and 900, Coba housed 50,000 residents and was the central terminus for the complex Maya system of roadways. The jungle site is still being excavated, but visitors can experience the already discovered remains of thesesacbes, or stone causeways, as well as a number of engraved and sculpted monuments.
One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Monte Albán—an ancient Zapotec capital—is perhaps the most important archaeological site in Oaxaca and among the largest in Mexico. Head to Monte Albán’s flat mountain top for views of the city, then explore the vast site’s temples, tombs, underground tunnels, and ball court.
Thought to be the highest lighthouse in the Americas, El Faro in Mazatlán sits 523 feet above sea level and has been in operation since 1879. Now a Mazatlán landmark, visitors can walk along the glass lookout platform, admire panoramic views over the port city of Mazatlán, and catch some of the city’s best sunsets.
With its unspoiled beaches, lush nature trails, and abundance of marine life, Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park is among the highlights of Cozumel, set along the island’s west coast in the area’s National Marine Park. The Chankanaab name comes from the Mayan language and means "little sea," referring to the park’s natural lagoon. The access to the warm, turquoise sea is a top draw, as are the provided lounge chairs and hammocks prime for relaxing on the beautiful beach.
The star attraction of Cozumel Reefs National Park (Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel), Palancar Reef is a rich underwater landscape ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Aquatic species thrive amidst these colorful corals, including sea turtles, rays, nurse sharks, barracudas, moray eels, and a kaleidoscope of colorful fish.
Like most boardwalks, Puerto Vallarta’s promenade, known as El Malecon, is dotted with sightseeing opportunities, cafes, shops, galleries, and performers. Overlooking the Bay of Banderas, the mile-long stretch offers scenic views during the day. And in the evening, the waterfront nightclubs and discos open their doors to party-seeking locals and visitors.
Maguey Bay (Bahía Maguey) is an easily accessible bay with a popular beach of the same name. A handful of busy seafood shacks line the beach, and visitors can sip cold beers on patio chairs, or splash around in the bay’s calm, clear waters. You’ll find lots of amenities here, too, as Maguey tends to be one of Huatulco’s busier bays.
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- Things to do in Cozumel
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- Things to do in Tulum
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