The Top Six Tourist Destinations in Mexico
The second most popular destination for travelers in the Americas, Mexico offers a diverse range of landscapes and activities to enjoy. The country is home to roughly 10,000 kilometers of coastline that runs along the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and the Pacific. It is here where many of the world’s most famous beach resorts are situated. Heading into the country’s interior, you find jungles filled with wildlife and ancient Aztec and Maya archaeological sites.
Each year, Mexico attracts not only millions of tourists, but millions of monarch butterflies as well, as they head to special breeding sites between November and March. Much like the butterflies which travel thousands of miles to escape the cold northern winters, tourists too flock to the Mexican coastline to enjoy warm weather, deep sea fishing, water sports, scuba diving, and lounging on white sand beaches. Let us take you from the Baja Peninsula to the Yucatan Peninsula as we introduce you to the top six Mexican tourist destinations. Whether you’re looking for fascinating colonial cities, rich culture, or a simple beachside holiday, and whether you’re with a group or visiting as a solo female traveler, Mexico has something for every type of traveler.
Playa del Carmen
One of Mexico’s fastest growing cities, Playa del Carmen sits along the Caribbean Sea in Quintana Roo. This popular tourist haven offers abundant water based recreation including windsurfing, jet skis, and sea kayaking. Playa Del Carmen also provides access to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System which protects areas such as the second largest barrier reef in the world, Belize Barrier Reef. Dive beneath or snorkel the turquoise waters to discover all kinds of colorful fish, rays, and sea turtles.
Playa Del Carmen offers a wealth of accommodations including luxury seaside villas like Casa Los Charcos with its exceptional views of the Caribbean, five bedrooms, private lagoon pool, and rooftop hot tub. The city has definitely come a long way since it began as a small fishing village.
The city is known for its shopping along 5th Avenue (Calle Quinta Avenida) and its world class golf courses. You may even recognize some locations as it has been a popular filming location for numerous movies and TV shows. The city also makes a great base for exploring nearby Cozumel, Tulum, and Cobá.
Mexico’s largest Caribbean island, Cozumel sits just off the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. The island can be easily accessed from numerous U.S. cities as it has its own international airport, or you may wish to take a ferry from nearby Playa del Carmen on the mainland. While Cozumel may be just a short ferry ride from Playa Del Carmen, it’s a world away.
With many areas of the island largely undeveloped, Cozumel is home to a number of endemic species and subspecies of birds and mammals, which include endemic dwarf varieties of raccoon, fox, and coati. You’ll find exceptional hiking and wildlife spotting opportunities in places like Chankanaab National Park. Those looking for even more adventure can book a glass bottom boat or mini submarine tour.
The island is very safe and offers blend of contemporary world class resorts and culturally authentic neighborhoods to explore. The island’s main drawcard is its exceptional diving and deep sea fishing, but there are also historically significant Mayan ruins to visit as well.
You’ll find many dive and cruise tour operators in the island’s main town of San Miguel, or you may wish to rent a car or scooter to explore the more undeveloped eastern side of the island to get off the beaten path. There is definitely no shortage of beaches to find relaxation and grab quick tan. Cozumel is also one of the most popular stops for cruise passengers, catering to roughly 3 million tourists annually.
It may be known as a top spring break location for Americans and for its abundance of beach hotels and resorts, but Cancún doesn’t lack culture or natural and historical attractions of you know where to look. The city is located on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, north of Playa del Carmen. It is one of Mexico’s easternmost points.
You’ll find over ten miles of powdery white sand beaches in Cancún’s Hotel Zone which includes an all inclusive Hard Rock Resort, and many more less crowded beaches to the north and south of the zone. Of course it’s easy to escape the crowds and commotion to explore the area’s more natural side if that’s what you’re after.
Take a day trip to nearby Isla Contoy, a national park that is home to over 150 marine birds and nesting site for four different species of sea turtles. Another great day tour is Chichen Itza, one of the largest Maya cities and most visited archaeological sites within Mexico. The site can be reached by an easy 2.5 hour drive. You’ll also want to explore other historic Maya sites which can be found in Tulum and Coba. Climbing the 130 steps of Coba’s giant Nohoch Mul Pyramid is definitely a highlight. You’ll also find Maya sites within Cancún including the San Miguelito archaeological site and Museo Maya de Cancún with its hundreds of ancient Maya artifacts on display.
Don’t miss rappelling into a cenote, swimming with dolphins at Xcaret Ecological Park, or simply getting a treatment at one of the area’s world class spas.
Cabo San Lucas
Located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, the second-longest peninsula in the world, Cabo San Lucas is a resort city that is consistently ranked as one of the top 5 destinations in Mexico. The city offers beach parties, raucous bars, and slices of quiet coastline and natural areas.
Those wanting to avoid the party scene will want to check out the area’s famous rock arch formation known as El Arco. The natural landmark can be reached via a boat tour which can also drop you off at Lovers Beach or the adjacent Divorce Beach. The beaches are aptly named as you’ll find calm waters off Lovers Beach and treacherous waves and undertows off Divorce Beach.
Cabo San Lucas offers plenty of adrenaline pumping fun including ATV tours, Sea-Doo rentals, surfing, parasailing, and horseback riding. You can also readily spot dolphins and whales migrate through the area from January to March. Sea lions can also be found swimming in the local waters.
Those looking for some real authentic Mexican culture as opposed to the trendy beach resorts should check out Oaxaca City which is the capital of the state going by the same name. Located in Southwestern Mexico, Oaxaca is a place where you can taste authentic Mexican cuisine and discover indigenous peoples and cultures such as the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs.
Oaxaca is one of the country’s most biologically diverse states, packed with all kinds of reptiles, mammals, and plants. You can spot many of the area’s birds and plants in the Ethnobotanic Garden, where you’re bound to see numerous species of cactus.
Oaxaca City has many fascinating colonial buildings and a must visit is one of the state’s finest churches named Templo de Santo Domingo. Another highlight is simply taking in the atmosphere of the city center known as Zocalo.
Day trips can also be arranged to explore important pre-Columbian archaeological sites such as Monte Albán, Yagul and Mitla. The state is also home to some of Mexico’s least crowded beaches along the Pacific. Other outdoor adventures include trips to natural mineral springs and horseback tours in the surrounding mountains.
The largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, Mexico City is a fantastic place to vacation in Mexico for those looking for something completely different than the beach resort cities. The city is the country’s capital and Greater Mexico City is home to well over 20 million people, making it North America’s most populous city. The city offers one of the most important cultural centers in the Americas and provides more than enough attractions and activities to keep you busy for a lifetime. And with over 40,000 restaurants to choose from, you’ll most certainly never go hungry or be lacking variety of cuisine.
Visit Catedral Metropolitana, the oldest cathedral in Latin America, or the Basílica de Guadalupe which has become one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world and location of the cloak containing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The city is also home to Mexico’s largest museum called the Museo Nacional de Antropología. Here, you’ll find a wealth of pre-Columbian artifacts that include the iconic Aztec calendar stone. You also don’t want to miss the 1,600 acre urban park known as Bosque Chapultepec. Twice the size of New York City’s Central Park, it was once a retreat for Aztec rulers. Highlights of the park include Chapultepec Lake, Alfonso Herrera Zoo, and Chapultepec Castle.