Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
When it comes to things to do in Mexico, many people immediately envision all-inclusive resorts where you never have to leave the property. That’s a shame because while there’s plenty to love about those properties, this country has a wealth of unique destinations and things to do, along with some of the friendliest and most hospitable people you’ll ever meet. Consider venturing outside of those bounds and putting some of these fabulous options on your must-experience list.
What Is It? Between mid-January and mid-March, gray whales come to breed and calf in the lagoons off the Baja peninsula, and a tour from La Paz provides the opportunities for close encounters with the majestic creatures. So close that oftentimes you can even pet them.
Why Do It? If you love marine life, and particularly whales, this is a rare opportunity to come face-to-face-to-face with the gentle gray giants. Referred to as the “friendlies,” the mothers often bring their newborn calves right up to the small boats called pangas, perhaps as a way to introduce them to humans. Although the experts aren’t certain why it can be a transformational experience.
Good to Know: Baja Sur Tours will pick you up from your accommodation in La Paz for a comfortable ride to the lagoons with breakfast, lunch, and professional marine biologists included to get the most out of the experience.
What Is It? An experience through Cabo Sky Tours that provides an exciting aerial view of Land’s End and many other points along the Cabo coast from a powered hang glider.
Why Do It? While the area is spectacularly beautiful from the beach or the water, there may be no better way to see it than from a bird’s eye view. Your skilled and friendly pilot will capture photos of your adventure of a lifetime, the perfect souvenir.
Good to Know: During the winter, you can even see humpback and gray whales in the water below. Anytime time of the year, you’re likely to spot sea lions and possibly leaping manta rays too.
What Is It? Cenotes are natural sinkholes and on the Yucatan Peninsula, there are around 7,000 of them, including many near Tulum. While all are unique, most feature pristine aquamarine water that’s ideal for swimming, snorkeling, or diving.
Why Do It? As cenotes are enclosed and sheltered within caves, they’re protected from the elements, keeping the beautiful waters calm while providing an especially tranquil swimming experience.
Good to Know: Cenotes are often quite deep, so it’s best to join a tour with a local outfitter that will bring you to the best for safe swimming with personal floatation devices included.
What Is It? While Mayan society collapsed well over a thousand years ago, there are still Mayan people living in Mexico who speak indigenous languages, particularly in the Yucatan. Some have opened up their communities to visitors who can meet the people and marvel at remarkable ruins.
Why Do It? It’s one of the best ways to get to know Mexico, its history, and its people.
Good to Know: The El Rey Archaeological Area is an underrated spot with far fewer crowds, providing an evocative look at the rich past of the Yucatan peninsula while being one of the most accessible to Cancun resorts.
What Is It? Chichen Itza is a Mayan site that includes the iconic Kukulkan Pyramid, or “El Castillo,” which translates to “the castle” along with other sites that reveal centuries of history in Mexico.
Why Do It? While it’s one of the most popular of the Mayan ruins, it’s truly a place not to be missed most prominent Mayan centers on the Yucatan peninsula. In addition to the pyramid, visit Warrior’s Temple, the observatory known as El Caracol, and The Great Ball Court.
Good to Know: By visiting on the vernal or autumnal equinox, you’ll get a fascinating view of the phenomenon between the sun’s light and the edges of the stepped terraces on the pyramid. This very brief shadow display appears on the sides of the northern stairway in a serrated line of seven interlocking triangles that give the impression of a long tail leading downward to the stone head of the serpent Kukulka.
What Is It? Who doesn’t like delicious eats? Sampling some authentic street food is a must whenever you’re in Mexico and some of the best can be found in Mexico City.
Why Do It? You can try everything from the foodie favorite, tacos al pastor, to churros and chicharron de queso.
Good to Know: As one of the world’s greatest cities, there is practically an endless amount of street vendors along with tiny independent eateries and world-renowned restaurants. Street food is just as much a part of the culture here as it was n pre-Hispanic times, with makeshift stalls on every corner and enough local delights to keep anyone busy trying them for days or even weeks.
What Is It? Hotel California is located in the charming colonial town of Todos Santos, just an hour’s drive from Cabo, where countless people come to capture a photo out in front thanks to its reported connection to the iconic Eagles song.
Why Do It? While you’re here, not only can you get that perfect shot, but you can enjoy the town’s eclectic mix of artists, New Age spiritualists, fishermen, surfers and expats. It also boasts nearly an endless stretch of soft golden sands where there are rarely more than a handful of people strolling. In the winter, it’s a great place to watch for whales and baby sea turtle releases are held here too.
Good to Know: According to the band members, the Eagles did not write about this particular hotel that’s been here well before it became a hit. Still, that hasn’t stopped the flow of visitors from enjoying the rumored connection and the fun of taking an Instagrammable photo.
What Is It? San Luis Potosí is emerging as one of the new hot destinations in Mexico, popular among nature lovers for its proximity to many cascading waterfalls.
Why Do It? Stunning waterfalls that spill into surreal turquoise pools provide an unforgettable dip.
Good to Know: San Luis Potosí is also home to impressive cultural centers and historic architecture, providing plenty of things to do when you’re not immersed in the natural world.
What Is It? One of the world’s most fascinating museums, located beneath the sea just off the coast between Cancun and Isla Mujeres.
Why Do It? Snorkelers and divers can marvel at ghostly figures that sit at the bottom of the ocean.,with sculptures placed here to lure visitors’ attention away from the nearby natural reefs that can be damaged by too much tourist traffic. Over 450 of them are resting at a depth of between 13 and 30 feet, made from a cement mix that facilitates reef growth, uniting the causes of art and environmentalism.
Good to Know: This is one of the largest underwater art attractions in the world, with two galleries suitable for snorkelers.
What Is It? Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with colorful colonial architecture, including spectacular baroque buildings.
Why Do It? There is a long list of things to see and do, and the center of the city is pedestrian-friendly with only a few streets where cars are permitted. Set in the heart of the highlands, the leafy plazas, vibrantly painted architecture and elegant theaters give it a European feel, but it’s decidedly Mexican, with a rich history and culture to explore.
Good to Know: The labyrinth of walkable streets is especially idyllic without exhaust fumes, loud horns, and vehicles to watch out for as you discover delights around every corner.
What Is It? Mexico City is home to many top attractions and world-class museums, more than 150 of them, that make museum hopping especially enjoyable.
Why Do It? It’s one of the best ways to learn about Mexico’s history, art, people, and more.
Good to Know: The top museums include Frida Kahlo Museum, Museo Jumex, the Natural History museum, and Palacio de Bellas Artes, but if you only have time for one, make it the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, a modern temple to the amazing Mesoamerican cultures of the past, holding the largest collection of pre-Columbian artifacts in the world. The building itself, designed by Pedro Ramirez Vasques, is the centerpiece of the Chapultepec museum district and holds a great deal of symbolism.
What Is It? Set within a national park of the same name, the soaring walls of Sumidero Canyon are home to a range of endangered species, including ocelots, spider monkeys, and crocodiles.
Why Do It? A two-hour river cruise through this incredible wonder is unforgettable.
Good to Know: Instead of signing up for an expensive guided tour, you can buy tickets right on-site at the Embarcadero Bella Cahuare.
What Is It? The Jose Cuervo Express invites guests to ride the so-called tequila train for an immersive journey through the spirit’s home region of Jalisco with all-you-can-drink tequila onboard.
Why Do It? If you’re looking for the ultimate tequila experience, there’s no better place for a tasting than its ancestral home, and this opportunity is highly acclaimed by agave enthusiasts from across the globe.
Good to Know: You’ll take an 11-hour journey through the state of Jalisco, between Guadalajara and the actual town of Tequila, with sightseeing, cocktails, and some amazing experiences along the way. The landscapes are impressive too, dominated by the blue and green hues of the agave fields.
What Is It? Street art is a whole lot more than graffiti these days, with many impressive works spread throughout Mexico’s cities that are fun to explore.
Why Do It? With street art, there’s something for just about everyone, and it can be a lot of fun to simply wander the streets to find your favorite and perhaps capture some photos for your Instagram feed at the same time. Plus, it won’t cost you a thing, except maybe some calories while you’re walking.
Good to Know: Great street art can be found in many cities throughout Mexico, including La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. Here, the brilliant turquoise water, beaches, marine life like whales, and mountains, provide artists with inspiration to create works that tell stories and reveal myths and legends.