Skip to Content

Home / Mexico travel guide

Mexico travel guide

Mexico travel guide

Ahhh! Mexico. One of our favorite countries to visit!

There’s so much to discover when you travel to Mexico – and the country offers many different vacation experiences.

Beaches? You bet!

For many people, sipping lime margaritas on a beautiful white sand beach is the main reason to visit Mexico.

Go beyond the popular Mexico beach destinations, though, and you find there’s lots more to this alluring country.

From colorful colonial cities and ancient Mayan ruins to warm and friendly locals, Mexico knows how to show you a good time.

And let’s not forget about chowing down on fresh shrimp tacos and other delicious Mexican specialties!

Mexico travel guide

We’ve visited Mexico dozens of times over the years and know the country like the back of our hands.

We’ve chilled out on beaches everywhere from Cozumel to Cabo San Lucas.

We’ve explored the museums of Mexico City and Guadalajara. Hiked the mountains near Morelia to see where Monarch butterflies migrate to in winter. Climbed up Mayan temples. And gotten lost in fairy-tale colonial cities like San Miguel de Allende.

This Mexico travel guide will help you discover the country’s diversity – from the best vacation spots in Mexico to delightful non-touristy towns.

We bet you’ll end up loving the country just as much as we do!

Beaches: Places to visit in Mexico

Fast facts: Travel to Mexico

About
Located in the continent of North America, Mexico covers 761,610 sq. miles (1,972,550 sq. km), making it the world’s 13th largest country

Capital city
Mexico City

Population
128+ million

Language
Spanish, though English is widely spoken in tourist places.

Currency
The official currency is the Mexican peso, but U.S. dollars are accepted in most places. 1 USD is about 21 pesos.

Plugs
The power plugs and sockets are type A and B. The standard voltage is 127 V and the frequency is 60 Hz. You won’t need any adapters or converters if coming from the U.S. or Canada, as the plugs are the same.

Visa
Citizens of the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and most European countries don’t need a visa to go on holiday in Mexico.

5 Fun facts about Mexico:

1) Color TV was invented in Mexico (by Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena)

2) Mexico has the oldest university in North America (National University of Mexico)

3) Jaguars live in Mexico’s southern jungles

4) The largest pyramid in the world is the Great Pyramid of Cholula in Mexico

5) Mexico City has 150+ museums – it ranks second after London as the city with the most museums in the world

Mexico Travel Guide

9 Cool experiences in Mexico

1) Chill on the beaches of Zihuatanejo.

2) Visit the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato (a little macabre, this goes on the list of “unique things to do in Mexico”).

3) Go scuba diving in Cabo Pulmo, described by Jacques Cousteau as “the aquarium of the world.”

4) Sample exquisite regional cuisine in Oaxaca, an international culinary destination. Braised rabbit mole enchiladas, anyone?

5) Swim with whale sharks in La Paz.

6) Experience the joyful Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos) festival, when Mexicans celebrate the lives of their loved ones who have passed. The colonial town of Patzcuaro is especially well-known for its authentic and colorful celebrations.

7) Explore the beautiful Mayan ruins of Tulum.

8) Ride the Copper Canyon Train over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels.

9) Swim in a cenote in the Riviera Maya. Cenotes are natural freshwater underground pools, dream-like places often filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

More experiences? See our post on 55 amazing things to do in Mexico

Places in Mexico: Where to go?

Mexico Travel Guide

Because it’s such a big country – almost three times bigger than Texas or 12 times as large as the U.K. – it’s difficult to narrow down the list of top places to see in Mexico.

But certain beach destinations, cities and towns stand out for their popular appeal or charm.

Here, then, are some of the best places to visit in Mexico:

Mexico City

The capital, Mexico City, is well worth a visit.

In fact, you may be surprised by the oodles of cultural sights and attractions the city has! Did you know it has more museums in the world than any other city?

On Sunday mornings, the city’s grandest boulevard, the Paseo de la Reforma is closed to traffic so locals can ride bicycles and do other outside exercises and activities.

Be sure to join them if there on a Sunday! It’s a hoot watching the roller-bladers, dancers, clowns and pretty well everyone else who lives in the city having fun and keeping fit.

Don’t miss in Mexico City

The grand-daddy of Mexico city museums? | Yep, it’s the National Museum of Anthropology.

Best café in Mexico City? | Over 100 years old, Café Tacuba is a charming traditional restaurant, located in the historic Zocalo district.

Guadalajara

Known for tequila and mariachi music, Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city – but it’s more relaxed and easy-going than Mexico City.

The historic center is sprinkled with colonial buildings and great museums.

What to do in Guadalajara?

Explore Tlaquepaque:

Wander around lovely Tlaquepaque (technically a separate city), brimming with antique stores, art galleries, furniture shops and funky restaurants.

Visit Zapopan:

Attracting a million pilgrims each October for a special celebration, the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan is eye-popping. And it’s home to a tiny revered Virgin statue.

See the Orozco murals:

You’ll gape in awe at the fiery murals painted by Jose Clemente Orozco.

Colonial Mexican cities

San Miguel de Allende Mexico

Mexico is full of beautiful colonial Mexican cities, with mansions and buildings from the 16th century era of Spanish colonization.

Many of these towns and cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

San Miguel de Allende:

A favorite with expats and out-of-towners, San Miguel de Allende (SMA) has a cool artsy vibe.

Very visitor-friendly, it also boasts a range of excellent accommodation, including ultra-deluxe hotels and delightful boutique inns.

What to do in SMA?

Have fun at the Toy museum:

Get in touch with your inner child at the playful San Miguel de Allende Toy Museum.

See Mexico’s Sistine Chapel:

Don’t miss the Sanctuary of Atotonilco!

Enjoy lots of other things!

Check out these 15 awesome things to do in San Miguel de Allende.

Guanajuato:

About an hour away from San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato is another colonial city with a silver mining history.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Guanajuato has a large university student population, so there’s plenty going on in terms of restaurants, bars and theater.

One of the most unique features about the city is its network of underground tunnels used as roads for cars – making the narrow streets above very pedestrian-friendly.

What you must see in Guanajuato

The ornate Juarez Theater will blow you away with its Greek columns and gorgeous bronze statues of the Greek muses.

And there’s lots of cool art at the Diego Rivera Museum. The museum was once the home where Diego (Frida Kahlo’s lover and husband) was born.

Morelia:

Unlike some other colonial cities, Morelia is quite non-touristy.

But there are still lots of tourist attractions in Morelia… Like the candy market – yes, it has a sweet candy market!

Morelia is also the jumping-off-point for visiting the Monarch butterfly sanctuaries in the Sierra Madre mountains.

Other great colonial cities? See our post on the 11 most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico

Beach vacation spots in Mexico

Los Cabos:

Mexico beach

The place where the desert meets the sea…

Where celebrities like Jennifer Aniston like to holiday. Where the weather is always (well, almost always) sunny and dry. Where you can do everything from scuba diving at Cabo Pulmo to whale watching.

Say hello to Los Cabos!

For lots of great travel information: See our ultimate Los Cabos travel guide

Zihuatanejo:

There are some beautiful beaches in Zihuatanejo (like Playa La Ropa).

A laid-back resort town, close to big sister Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo has a range of good restaurants and excellent boutique hotels.

Puerto Vallarta:

You may be initially drawn to Puerto Vallarta (PV) for its beaches.

But wait until you check out its art scene!

Unlike some beachy places, it’s a real thriving city – and Puerto Vallarta is a hot spot for art and culture.

Cancun and Riviera Maya:

Cenote in Mexico

Cancun dazzles with its beaches, resorts and nightlife.

But the beaches don’t stop there. The 100-mile stretch of beachy coastline south of Cancun is known as the Riviera Maya.

For adventurous fun, get out and explore Chichen Itza and other Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Other totally awesome things to do in the Riviera Maya include snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal, floating down a lazy river in Sian Ka’an and taking a dip in one of those magical cenotes we mentioned earlier.

Where to stay in Mexico

Luxury hotel in Mexico

We’ve stayed at all of the following hotels in Mexico – and have reviewed them all.

(For most hotels, clicking on the link will take you to our detailed review of that hotel.)

Top hotels in Mexico

Red Tree House | The #1 bed-and-breakfast in Mexico City, located in the leafy Condesa neighborhood (Mexico City)

Four Seasons Mexico City | Urban luxury boutique hotel in a great central location (Mexico City)

Villa Ganz | Beautiful villa hotel, with a garden, right in the city (Guadalajara)

Casa de Sierra Nevada | Gorgeous colonial-style hotel with 37 rooms in various casonas or mansions (San Miguel de Allende)

Quinta Las Acacias | A 19th century French-style mansion (Guanajuato)

Cantera 10 Boutique Hotel | Hip 5-star boutique hotel in a 300-year-old building (Morelia)

11 Best hotels in Los Cabos | Our reviews of the best hotels, from the uber-luxe One & Only Palmilla to the artsy Hotel El Ganzo (Los Cabos)

La Casa Que Canta | Romantic boutique hotel in Mexican style, with stunning pools and sea views (Zihuatanejo)

5 Beautiful boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta | Reviews of the best smaller PV hotels, from Casa de Mita (a true beachfront gem!) to Hacienda San Angel (heavenly suites in the heart of the city) (Puerto Vallarta)

Grand Velas Riviera Maya | Sophisticated all-inclusive resort with deluxe suites and superb restaurants (Riviera Maya)

Banyan Tree Cabo Marques | Seductive hideaway with 45 villas, all with private pools (Acapulco)

Food and drinks in Mexico

Don’t think just tacos and burritos.

Mexican food can be very creative, especially in Oaxaca, which is renowned internationally for its complex cuisine.

Tortillas are a staple, however.

Mexican tortilla

A type of pancake, they’re traditionally made with corn and eaten with pretty well everything!

They can be stuffed with veggies and chicken or beef. Or turned into enchiladas (stuffed with cheese and meat, topped with sauce, then baked).

We happen to like our tacos made with flour tortillas, and so we order them made with flour.

Mexican fruits:

Have you heard of the chocolate pudding fruit? No? Well, it’s delicious! Check it out in our post on 17 delicious types of fruit in Mexico.

Where to eat in Puerto Vallarta?

See these 5 best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta for foodies.

Go Italian in Cabo:

When you’re craving pasta and pizza, these 3 Italian restaurants in Cabo hit the spot.

Best tacos:

The best shrimp tacos you’ll ever bite into are found at Las Gardenias, a hole-in-the-wall taco joint in Cabo San Lucas.

Farm-to-table dining:

A 25-acre organic farm, Flora Farms dishes up yummy farm-to-table eats in a magical setting.

Margaritas:

Fresh lime margaritas are the most popular. But we also love tamarind margaritas and mango margaritas.

Lime margarita

How to get around Mexico

One of the biggest surprises for us was the first-class bus service in Mexico.

Think business class on an airplane. That’s what it’s like.

The first-class buses are clean, comfortable, inexpensive and a very convenient way to travel between cities.

Taking the deluxe buses makes getting around the country easy – and it’s less of a hassle than flying.

Mexico itinerary by bus

Not keen to rent a car in Mexico, we rode the bus from Guadalajara to Guanajuato, then to San Miguel de Allende, Morelia and finally Zihuatanejo.

Within the cities, we took taxis when distances were too far to walk.

Other Mexico travel tips

Bargaining:

Yep, it’s expected. It’s part of the shopping fun! Here’s how to bargain like a pro in Mexico.

Can you drink the water in Mexico?

In most places, tap water is not okay to drink straight from the tap.

An eco-friendly solution to buying throw-away plastic bottles is this cool water bottle with a 2-stage carbon filter. Just fill up the convenient travel bottle with ordinary tap water – and let the heavy-grade filter remove bacteria and parasites as you drink.

Is Mexico safe?

Most of Mexico is safe for visitors. Millions of tourists visit every year with no problems. The areas affected by drug cartel crimes are places tourists don’t visit.

That said, you should check the latest travel advisories for Mexico before you go: US Travel Advisory and Canada Travel Advisory.

More on Mexico

Mexico trip planning: Find crazy-useful flight, hotel booking and other tips in our Resources guide.

See: All our Mexico posts

Mexico guide books:

Adios amigos! And enjoy your Mexico vacay!

NEVER MISS AN ADVENTURE!

Sign up to get our monthly e-newsletter with the latest travel lusciousness!

No thanks, I don't want my travel fix