Are you planning on going backpacking in Mexico? Or perhaps you’re planning a surf or beach holiday to Mexico and are looking to get some inspiration and direction as to the best things to do in Mexico?
Well, my friend, this is the blog post for you! In this post, I am going to share some of the best things to do in Mexico with you, some of which I have done and some that are still high on my Mexico bucket list.
Mexico is home to such a variety of landscapes, there really are so many things to do here that will suit everyone. Beach lovers can head to Cancun. Surfers can head to the Pacific Coast. Hikers will love the National Parks here and culture vultures can soak up the knowledge of the indigenous people or visit the museums in Mexico City (there are over 150).
From surfing in Puerto Escondido to hanging out with the locals in San Cristobal, I absolutely loved my time in Mexico and I cannot wait to come back and explore the likes of Mexico City, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Oaxaca, as well as more of the best places to visit in Mexico. And, I’ve definitely got to come back and eat more tacos, for sure.
Get your pen and paper at the ready, by the end of this post you’re going to know the best things to do in Mexico, the best places to visit in Mexico and the best adventures to add to your Mexico bucket list.
Blog posts you might find useful include…
The best things to do and see in Mexico
1. Explore Mexico City!
Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, is one of the liveliest and most exciting capital cities in the world! You definitely cannot miss a weekend here off your Mexico bucket list. Not only is it full of art, culture (there’s a whole district that is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site!) and wonderful food, but it’s also pretty affordable considering it’s a capital!
Founded in 1325 as Tenochtitlan, the city was colonised by the Spanish in 1521 and later renamed “Mexico.” However, as you explore you’ll see and feel the pre-colonial history shining through.
From exploring the street art throughout the city or the architecture in San Miguel de Chapultepec, to the 150 museums including the Museo Nacional de Antropología, there are so many fun things to do in Mexico City. Mexico City is also a really good base for day trips to National Parks or to visit some of the Aztec, Toltec and Mesoamerican ruins.
2. Go diving in the cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Mexico, diving in a cenote is an absolute must.
Cenotes are really common throughout Mexico, particularly on the Yucatan Peninsual. They are natural sinkholes, filled with water, where the ceiling of a cave has collapsed. Some are like lakes and you can go cliff jumping; others are still cavern-like and great for exploring!
Diving in cenotes in Mexico definitely needs to be on your bucket list! Check out our guide to the best cenote diving on the Yucatán Peninsula here.
3. Visit the gorgeous Mayan mountain town of San Cristobal de las casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is definitely one of those hidden gems in Mexico, a destination that should feature on your Mexico bucket list even if you’re all about the bigger cities, beaches and diving!
4. Drive the Chiapas coffee route
The Chiapas coffee route runs through the farms and coffee plantations in the mountains and rainforests of southern Mexico. If you love good coffee, like I do, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Mexico!
The route follows the Tapachula-Nuevo Alemania highway, across the mountains of southern Chiapas. Here you can visit the some of the 13 farms in this area, enjoying a guided tour and trying the final product – coffee! Some farms even have museums, shops, restaurants, and offer cool activities such as trekking and ziplining!
The most visited farms (as they are most accessible and open to the public) are Finca Hamburgo, Finca Irlanda, Finca Argovia, Finca La Chiripa and Finca San Francisco.
5. Go surfing in Puerto Escondido
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Puerto Escondido, never mind one of the best things to do in Mexico, is to get in the water and surf!
If you’re a beginner, head to the La Punta end of the beach and book a surf lesson. The waves are a lot more mellow on the south end of Zicatela.
The wave that Puerto Escondido is famous for is Playa Zicatela, though this is absolutely not for beginners. Rarely flat, Zicatela is one of the venues for the worlds best big wave surfers and bodyboarders to test their skills. The waves break pretty close to the shoreline here, an amazing chance to see some epic surf up close.
6. Watch a sunset on the Pacific Coast with a margarita, cerveza or michelada
One of the best things to do in Mexico is to enjoy golden hour and watch the sun turn the sky from bright blue to beautiful shades of red, orange and pink, with a Mexican drink of your choice!
7. Adventure for a dip at Hierve el Agua
Anyone who loves a cold dip in the water should definitely add Hierve el Agua to their list of best things to do in Mexico!
The waterfalls here are actually petrified, meaning that mineral water is pushing through limestone. The springs above the waterfalls ahve created small pools that you can take a dip in!
8. Take Spanish classes
Wherever you are, unless you’re in a hotel in Cancun, you’ll find knowing even a little Spanish will help you get by and connect with the locals.
There are classes everywhere in Mexico, and they’re fairly cheap!
Another way to learn Spanish on the road is to download the Duolingo app – it definitely helped me! See more useful travel apps here.
Some basic phrases to get you started…
- Hola = Hello
- Adiós = Goodbye
- Por favor = Please
- Gracias = Thank you
- Lo siento = Sorry
- Sí = Yes
- No = No
- Disculpe = Excuse me
- ¿Dónde está …. ? = Where is …. ?
- Yo no comprendo = I do not understand
- ¿Habla inglés? = Do you speak English?
- Quisiera … = I would like…
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? = How much does it cost?
9. Go swimming at El Chiflon waterfalls, Chiapas
The Cascadas El Chiflon are on most people’s bucket lists and definitely one of the best places to visit in Mexico. Tucked away in Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico, this natural beauty is a must do on your Mexican adventure.
Whether you want to go hiking, swimming or simply enjoy the view… El Chiflon offers everything! Within this valley you’ll find 5 waterfalls and countless swimming pools all filled with turquoise water and connected by a hiking trail. The main waterfall is almost 120m high, so be preapred to get covered in mist as your jaw drops at its beauty!
10. Take part in a Mayan Temazcal Ceremony
This is one of the best things to do in Mexico for your wellbeing, and to experience a real part of Mayan culture.
Temezcal means “house of heat,” and you can get invovled in a sweat lodge experience and spiritual ceremony. Here, in complete darkness other than a fire, you’ll sit in a round, stone hut which is steaming hot while a shaman chants and you soak up the smells of the Copal smoke.
It’s good for purifying the mind and body, healing the sick, releasing your fears and feeling at peace.
11. Discover the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque
The Mayan Ruins of Palenque are a UNESCO World heritage site (see number 16) but worth of their own special mention. Located 400 miles (650 km) from the Riviera Maya in the Tumbalá mountains, Palenque holds the secrets of the mythology and resources of the Maya. It is one of the most studied and documented Mayan archeological ruins, so it’s very important, and it is still being studied to understand more about Mayan history.
Make sure you don’t miss the 8 Temples of the Crosses and the Temple of Inscriptions and you walk around and soak up the tranquility in one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
12. Eat all the tacos
You cannot come to Mexico without eating tacos. It’s one of the best things to do in Mexico and a must on any Mexico bucket list!
You can find taco trucks and shacks on every street, selling fresh tortillas filled with yummy meat and fish.
What I didn’t know before I got to Mexico was how many different types of tacos there are! There’s everything from the traditional pork, goat or beef to shrimp or crab, as well as vegetarian options, and even more unique fillings such as grasshopper!
13. Visit one of the local indigenous villages
San Cristobal is not an indigenous town, but there are lots of indigienous villages in teh Chiapas area, as well as in Oaxaca, Yucatan, Mexico City and other areas of Mexico. In these villages you can learn local traditions and crafts and more about the indigenous culture in Mexico.
Some indigenous towns and villages in Mexico that you might want to visit include…
- Near San Cristobal, which is home to the Tzotzil community:
- Zinacantán, where you can see how scarves, shawls and clothing are made
- San Juan Chamula where lots of indigenous rituals take place.
- In Puebla, you can visit a traditional market in Cuetzalan
- Papantla to see the Totonacs’ traditional dance of the flyers.
- Zitacua – the Huichol community who live off their art, such as “yarn paintings”, wooden masks and animal sculptures
- Batopilas – the Tarahumaras are known for their woodwork
- Pátzcuaro – fantastic Day of the dead celebrations, famous for Purépecha community art and food
- Capulálpam de Méndez – traditional medicine and spiritual healing from the Zapotec community
It’s absolutely paramount that you respect the rules of these local communities who have held onto their ancestral ways as much as possible. Be friendly, don’t assume they speak Spanish (there are over 100 indigenous languages in Mexico), be kind, and leave no trace. Ask permission to take photos.
14. Go on a boat tour of Cañón del Sumidero
A boat tour through the Canon del Sumidero in Chiapas in a must! You’ll notice that the walls of the canyon are over 1km high as you enjoy the boat tour along the Rio Grijalva. On your tour, as well as the majestic canyon, you’ll get to see crocodiles, monkeys, caves, waterfalls and birds, as well as learning about the history of the canyon and the local area.
It’s about 1 hour from San Cristobal, so you can book a tour from there.
15. Rent a car and surf the Pacific Coast
The Pacific Coast road trip route is a favourite among travellers and surfers alike, and definitely one of the best things to do in Mexico! While you’re on this Mexico road trip, make sure you don’t miss Mazatlan, Xtapa, Aculpoco, Puerto Escondido and Chiapas.
Some of the best surf spots on the Pacific Coast are Puerto Esconido, Chihuahua, Mazunte, and Barra de la Cruz (to name a few)
Note: Do this road trip with caution and only with research. It has the chance to be an absolutely epic road trip, but make sure that you have up to date information on which areas you should and shouldn’t drive in, and avoid driving at night.
16. Visit one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Mexico is home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so if you’re lookin for fun things to do in Mexico, there is plenty to keep you busy! Some of our favourite UNESCO world heritage sites in Mexico are…
Not only is this a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it’s one of the seven new wonders of the world. You can explore this ancient city to see the pyramids (including the monumental El Castillo or Temple of Kukulcan), the Great Ball Court and the Temple of the Jaguars.
San Miguel de Allende
This historical Mexican city looks like something out of a fairytale. Explore the colourful cobbled streets to really soak up the art, culture and food that Mexico has to offer.
This town is coverd in talavera, colourful glazed tiles made by local artisans. Expect to see them on buildings, fountains, benches and more! You can also buy talavera pottery and ceramics to take home with you.
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Every year millions of Monarch butterflies migrate south from the USA and Canada to the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico. Make sure you to a day trip to this protected area to see them in the wild!
Here you can ride on a gondola style boat through floating flower gardens as mariachi bands play music.
Yes, the town where tequila is from is also called Tequila and it is a beautiful UNESCO world heritage site! Take a trip to one of the distilleries to go tequila tasting.
17. Check into a hotel in Cancún and explore the Riviera Maya
Lying along a beautiful stretch of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico are the resort destinations of Cancún, Playa del Carmen, the island of Cozumel, and beyond. Collectively these are known as the Riviera Maya. Known for the beautiful white sand beaches, and for being the place where the lush jungle and warm Caribbean Sea meet, Riviera Maya and Cancun are two of the most popular places to visit in Mexico. It’s definitely somewhere you want to go for a luxury, switch-off kind of holiday!
Here you can do everything from relaxing on the beach to swimming in cenotes and underground caves, sightseeing in the towns, sailing to the island of Cozumel, wandering anceint ruins, and more.
While you’re there, one of the most fun things to do in Mexico is to visit the Museo Subacuatico de Art (MUSA) – the Cancun Underwater Museum. With 500 life-size sculptures and installations submerged underwater in the Cancun National Marine Park, it’s the biggest underwater museum in the world, and you can visit by glass-bottom boat or on a snorkelling or diving tour.
18. Visit Copper Canyon: Mexico's Grand Canyon
Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre) in the Sierra Madre Mountains in the state of Chihuahua is a canyon system in Mexico. It’s another one of Mexico’s world heritage sites!
Did you know that the group of canyons at Copper Canyon is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States?! But, the Grand Canyon is larger than any of the individual canyons in the Copper Canyon group. The Copper Canyon is over 1 mile deep in places, which is also deeper than the Grand Canyon!
Once you’ve seen the Copper Canyon (best done on the Copper Canyon train), spend some time in the area exploring the small towns and discovering the hidden waterfalls and hot springs.
19. Spend a few days exploring Oaxaca: a taste of real Mexico
Fantastic street food, brightly-coloured architecture, the bustling markets, day trip options, stunning surrounding nature… What’s not to love about Oaxaca?! And despite it’s increasing popularity, it still feels authnetic – not a toruist trap like Cancun.
Spend a few days here exploring the indigenous cultures, history, food, art and architecture… we guarantee you won’t want to leave if you put this on your Mexico bucket list!
20. Have a holiday in Tulum and time it with a festival
I dare you to take a look at some pictures of Tulum’s beaches and not book tickets to Mexico now… Tulum is one o fthe best places to visit in Mexico if you love a bit of everything. This coastal town on the Yucantan peninsula boasts stunning beaches, waterfalls, exotic wildlife and jungles, Mayan ruins, a fantastic food scene and wellness facilities. Literally everything!
Tulum also hosts some of the best music festivals in the world, so time it with one of those for a musical adventure!
What, in your opinion, are the best things to do and see in Mexico?
Where are your favourite things to do in Mexico? Anything you’d add?
Love as always and happy adventuring…
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