Hola! What do you picture when you think of traveling to Mexico?
Sipping a real Mexican margarita while soaking up the sun on a laid-back beach in Puerto Vallarta or Cabo?
Sounds good to us.
But there are so many more fabulous things to do in Mexico!
We’ve traveled extensively throughout the country on dozens of trips and written many travel articles on Mexico for various magazines and newspapers.
And yet it feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface.
Along with those alluring beaches, Mexico is home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, colorful colonial cities, ancient Mayan ruins and countless cenotes. (Don’t worry, we’ll tell you what a cenote is in jiff.)
And the food in Mexico? It goes beyond tacos (which we love, by the way).
We’ve already experienced a lot in Mexico, but there are still many more places we want to see and activities we want to enjoy.
Amazing things to do in Mexico
Here, we’ve rounded up an epic list of the 65 best things to do in Mexico.
Next time you go to Mexico, you’ll want to experience some of these fun Mexico activities!
Mexico: Things to do (65 of the best Mexico activities!)
Cultural things to do in Mexico
Adventurous things to do in Mexico
Unique things to do in Mexico
Let’s start with what we think are some of the most interesting things to do in Mexico.
1) Swim in a cenote
Let’s start with those cenotes we mentioned.
Cenotes are natural sinkholes, filled with water, where the cave ceiling has collapsed.
Mexico has thousands of cenotes – most are in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Some cenotes are like small lakes in the jungle, where you can enjoy cliff jumping. Others are wondrous caverns with stalactites and stalagmites.
You can snorkel and even dive in many of these, spotting fish and sometimes small turtles too.
In the past, the ancient Mayans offered sacrifices in cenotes; today, the cenotes are a special part of Mexico’s landscape.
We had a fabulous time swimming in the fresh waters of the cenotes in the Riviera Maya – and can’t wait to splash about in more.
It’s one of the most unique things to do in Mexico!
The chance to experience these cool cenotes may even tip the scales in favor of Cancun and the Riviera Maya if, for example, you’re trying to decide whether to holiday in Puerto Vallarta or Cancun.
2) Marvel at millions of monarch butterflies
Every year, millions of Monarch butterflies make the perilous journey south from the U.S. and Canada – flying up to 3,000 miles – to spend the winter in the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico.
There, the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a huge natural area which protects them.
You can take a day trip from the colonial city of Morelia to see the butterflies in the wild.
It’s quite the sight! The Monarchs swirl around your face, and the trees look like they’re draped in cloaks of orange.
One of the best activities in Morelia we did was this day trip – where we rode horses up the mountains to witness the gathering of these beautiful butterflies.
3) Witness the Day of the Dead
The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a multi-day festival at the beginning of November that celebrates the lives of loved ones who’ve passed away.
It’s a festive and joyous celebration, not a sad one, as Mexicans view death as a natural part of life.
Families clean the graves and build colorful altars with flowers, photos and candles in the cemetery, so they can be with the souls of the departed.
They bring toys for dead children and food to give to the spirits, as well as to eat while having a picnic by the graveyard. Often, they sleep overnight by the gravesite.
If you happen to be in Mexico during this annual occasion, count yourself lucky.
Being part of the Day of the Dead festivities is a totally unique experience – and one of the top things to do in Mexico!
Where to go for the Day of the Dead:
The Day of the Dead festivities in Lake Patzcuaro are known for being especially authentic.
Dances are held in villages around the lake and people dress in elegant costumes, wearing make-up designed to look like skulls.
4) Swim with whale sharks
Mexico is one of the few places in the world where you can swim with whale sharks.
They’re not actually sharks but fish – the largest fish in the world. And swimming with these enormous but gentle creatures should be on everyone’s Mexico bucket list.
You can swim with whale sharks in La Paz on the Baja Peninsula from October to February, and at Isla Holbox (near Cancun) from mid-May to July.
5) Ride a horse to Chamula
In the state of Chiapas, San Juan Chamula is an autonomous town of Tzotzil indigenous people. They’re wary of outsiders and have their own religious beliefs – a strange blend of Catholicism and ancient pagan rituals.
The town’s church, the Temple of San Juan Chamula, is one of the strangest churches you’ll ever see.
The floor of the church is covered with pine boughs and candles (not pews), and shrines to hundreds of saints cover the walls. And families make offerings of Coke and sacrifice chickens to fight evil spirits.
The most thrilling way to get to Chamula is by riding a horse, through fields and forests, from the colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas.
Visiting Chamula this way is one of the most interesting things to see and do in Mexico!
Chamula horseback tour:
Try Chiapas Tours & Expeditions. They offer 7-hour day tours, where you ride to San Juan Chamula.
Most local tour operators in San Cristobal de las Casas also offer horse tours for not much more than $10 USD p.p.
If you’d rather not ride a horse to get there, check out this top-rated guided Chamula day trip from San Cristobal.
It also includes a visit to Zinacantan, where you can see the Tzotzil Maya women make textiles with pre-Columbian waist looms and try their traditional handmade tortillas.
6) Snorkel or dive at the Cancun Underwater Museum
One of the really cool things to do in Mexico is to visit the Museo Subacuatico de Art (MUSA), otherwise known as the Cancun Underwater Museum.
The biggest underwater museum in the world, it has some 500 life-size sculptures and installations submerged underwater in the Cancun National Marine Park.
You can visit by glass-bottom boat or on a snorkeling or diving tour.
7) See the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato
That’s right. Mexico has a mummy museum – in the small colonial town of Guanajuato.
It’s a bit morbid… and sad (and not for everyone).
But as one of the more unusual things to do in Mexico, it’s also quite fascinating.
At the Guanajuato Mummy Museum, see some 100+ real mummies dug up from the nearby cemetery in the 1800s. Some are still wearing their socks.
The museum even displays the “smallest mummy in the world” – a fetus.
8) Float by the flamingos at Celestun
Between November and February, up to 35,000 pink flamingos gather in the Celestun Biosphere Reserve, an hour’s drive from Merida in the Yucatan.
You can go on a boat tour into the watery wildlife sanctuary to see them preening, feeding and taking off in magnificent displays of flight. It’s an awesome sight! (Hotel transfers from Merida are included.)
Tours typically take you into the nearby mangroves as well – spot any of the baby crocodiles?
9) Laugh at a lucha libre match
Lucha libre is Mexican wrestling. But it’s not like wrestling as we know it. It’s more a colorful combination of comedy and acrobatics (and a lot of costume changes).
The masked fighters (luchadores) are either “good guys” or “bad guys” – and they put on a show with rehearsed tricks and moves.
Many of the spectators get into the spirit too and also wear masks.
Even if you’re not a wrestling fan, watching a lucha libre match is a lot of fun. And you have to admit – it’s a pretty unique thing to do in Mexico!
10) Steam up in a Temazcal
Meaning “house of heat,” a temazcal is an ancient Mayan sweat lodge experience and spiritual ceremony.
You sit in a rounded stone hut – steaming hot and completely dark except for a fire – as a shaman chants and clouds of Copal-scented smoke swirl about.
It was traditionally done to purify the mind and body, heal the sick and even help women with childbirth.
Visitors who sweat it out in a temazcal today say it helps release your fears and makes you feel incredibly at peace afterward.
It’s not for the claustrophobic though (or anyone with heart issues).
Where to try a temazcal:
For a modern take on the temazcal, try Ceviarem Temazcal Oaxaca in Oaxaca.
If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, the Hilton Playa del Carmen’s spa has a stone steam bath for a temazcal ceremony.
11) Dip your toes in a petrified waterfall at Hierve el Agua
The cliffs at Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca state look like frozen white waterfalls.
They’re actually “petrified” waterfalls, created by mineral water pushing through the limestone. Bubbling springs have created small pools at the top of the waterfalls where you can take a dip.
(Just be aware these are not thermal waters; the water is actually quite cold.)
12) Browse the Sonora witch market
Looking for a love potion or herbs to cure your fear of flying? Find them at the Sonora witchcraft market (Mercado de Sonora) in Mexico City.
We don’t actually recommend you try any of these lotions and potions. But they’re interesting to see – bottles of bright pink liquids, dessicated hummingbirds and strange powders!
You’ll also discover voodoo dolls, witchcraft books and skulls. For a few pesos, shamans and witches will read your Tarot cards or cleanse your “bad energy” with smoke.
Unfortunately, there’s also a live animal section (which occasionally gets raided by the Mexican police) with frogs, squirrels, puppies and exotic animals crammed into cages.
13) See the Puebla Tunnels
For centuries there were tales of an underground network of tunnels that ran below Puebla city. But they weren’t believed to be anything more than folklore until they were “rediscovered” in 2015!
The tunnels date back to 1531 and connect the city to an old fort.
They’re thought to have been used as escape routes and hide-outs during the Battle of Puebla between Mexico and France in the 19th century. Lots of different artifacts have been found buried in the muddy tunnels.
If you love history and want to get to know one of Mexico’s most well-kept secrets, then visit the Puebla Tunnels – one of the most incredible things to see in Mexico.
Cultural things to do in Mexico
If we haven’t persuaded you yet to explore beyond the beach in Mexico, the following Mexico attractions and experiences surely will.
14) See the sculptures on Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon
Many coastal cities in Mexico have a malecon or waterfront pedestrian promenade.
But none can boast as interesting a malecon as Puerto Vallarta.
More than a mile long, Puerto Vallarta’s malecon is sprinkled with more than a dozen huge and thought-provoking sculptures.
One of the most eye-catching sculptures is the 60-foot-high ladder sculpture by Sergio Bustamante called “In Search of Reason,” showing two figures climbing a ladder to the sky.
Strolling the malecon and looking at the sculptures is a highlight of a visit to Puerto Vallarta.
15) Explore the magical town of San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is probably the best known of all Mexico’s colonial cities.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the most enchanting destinations in Mexico – even voted the “best city in the world” a few times by readers of Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler.
First-class restaurants, fabulous luxury hotels like Belmond’s Casa de Sierra Nevada, oodles of art galleries and an oh-so-pleasant, year-round climate have made it a hot spot for both European and North American visitors.
You won’t lack for things to do in San Miguel de Allende. From a ceremonial mask museum to botanical gardens, there’s lots going on in the city!
If there’s one colonial city you must see in Mexico, it’s San Miguel de Allende. Art lovers and culture buffs, in particular, are drawn to the city.
16) Learn about Frida Kahlo
The famous and flamboyant Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, was born and died in La Casa Azul (the Blue House), located in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City.
The house has now been transformed into the Frida Kahlo Museum (Museo Frida Kahlo).
You can see some of her oil paintings, photos, dresses, beauty products, the bed in which she slept and even her wheelchair – all of which offer poignant insights into her remarkable life.
The museum is one of the most popular places to see in Mexico City, so be sure to book your ticket in advance (and don’t miss your time slot!).
17) Gawk at Chichen Itza
One of the seven new wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is the most famous of the Mayan sites in the Yucatan Peninsula.
A dazzling city, which flourished from 600 to 1200 AD, its pyramids (including the monumental El Castillo or Temple of Kukulcan), Great Ball Court and Temple of the Jaguars continue to wow visitors today.
Tips for visiting Chichen Itza:
The archaeological site is very large and visiting Chichen Itza is one of the most popular things to do in Mexico – so go early in the morning to beat the mid-day heat and crowds.
Having a guide bring the place to life for you on a tour of Chichen Itza is also a good idea.
18) Study Spanish
Enrich your Mexico vacay by learning to speak Spanish. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the culture.
When you can speak the local language, even a bit, your travels will be much more rewarding.
Some programs are geared toward visitors who stay for a week or more; others toward college students or seniors.
You’ll find excellent programs in lovely colonial cities like Guanajuato, Puebla, Morelia and San Cristobal de las Casas, and costs are quite reasonable.
19) Wander the yellow city of Izamal
One of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” (magical towns), Izamal is a jewel of a town, where virtually all the buildings lining its cobblestone streets are painted an egg-yolk yellow.
No wonder it’s known as the “Yellow City”!
Pope John Paul II visited the town in 1993. The story goes that the locals wanted to spruce up the place before his visit – so they decided to paint everything the color of the bright yellow stripe in the Vatican flag.
20) Get psyched at the Sanctuary of Atotonilco
Known as the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico,” the Sanctuary of Atotonilco is renowned for its riot of extraordinary oil paintings and colorful frescoes that cover every inch of its ceilings and walls.
You can easily tour this UNESCO World Heritage Site when visiting San Miguel de Allende (#15 above), as it’s only about a 15-minute drive away.
21) Explore the Tulum ruins
True, Chichen Itza (see #17) is Mexico’s most famous set of ancient ruins.
But their magnificent perch on a 40-foot-high cliff overlooking a beach makes the Mayan ruins of Tulum another stunning site to behold.
Hauntingly beautiful, the ruins are now a popular attraction in Tulum, so visit early in the morning to have the site (almost) to yourself.
Keep an eye out for the huge iguanas that sun on the rocks!
22) Museum hop in Mexico City
Who knew Mexico City is bursting with museums? There are more than 150 museums in Mexico City – after London, it’s the city with the most museums in the world.
The most famous is the National Museum of Anthropology, which exhibits the legacies of Mexico’s different indigenous cultures.
The huge Sun Stone (Aztec calendar), jade death mask of the Mayan king, Pakal, and colossal heads of the Olmec culture are some of the most important pieces in the collection.
Other must-see museums include the National Palace (featuring Diego Rivera’s famous mural “The History of Mexico”) and the Museo Soumaya (displaying a gorgeous collection of art from around the world).
23) Learn about Diego Rivera
One of the great Mexican painters and muralists of the 20th century, Diego Rivera is also famous for his turbulent love affair with (and marriage to) Frida Kahlo (#16 above).
Rivera was born in Guanajuato in 1886 and lived there for six years before the family moved to Mexico City.
The house where he was born is now the Diego Rivera Museum.
Furnished with antiques, it recreates what the house was like at the time Diego lived there. It also displays some of his art works, as well as photos of Diego and Frida.
24) See the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan
She’s no more than 10 inches high. But the statue of the Catholic saint “Our Lady of Zapopan” lives in a gorgeous basilica.
If you’re in Guadalajara, be sure to see the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan in the nearby town of Zapopan.
25) Check out the talavera tiles in Puebla
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Puebla is one of the oldest and best-preserved Mexican cities.
The city is full of colonial buildings adorned with talavera, colorful glazed tiles made by the town’s artisans. Even benches and fountains are covered with ceramic tiles.
Naturally, many stores in town sell excellent talavera pottery and ceramics.
26) Ogle Orozco’s murals in Guadalajara
Look up at the dome in the Hospicio Cabanas, a museum and cultural center in Guadalajara, and you’ll see a man being consumed by fire. The “Man of Fire” ceiling mural is one of Jose Clemente Orozco’s most striking works of art.
Orozco, who lost his left hand in a fireworks accident, is one of Mexico’s three greatest muralists – Diego Rivera (see #22) and David Alfaro Siqueiros are the other two.
And when in Gaudalajara, you must see Orozco’s hot murals.
27) Visit Chapultepec Castle
This old castle was built during the Spanish reign of Mexico, around 1785.
After the Mexican War of Independence, it was derelict for a few decades and later became a Military Academy.
Then around 1864, it became the home of Emperor Maximilian I, an Austrian prince who became the Emperor of Mexico.
This is how the Chapultepec Castle became the only castle in North America where European sovereigns lived.
The palace now houses the famous National Museum of History (Museo Nacional de la Historia), with exhibits showcasing Mexican history from the Spanish Conquest in the 1500s to the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1917.
On your visit you can stroll around Chapultepec Park (Bosque de Chapultepec). This huge urban park is twice as big as New York’s Central Park and surrounds the castle.
It’s the perfect place to stop for a picnic or to escape the hustle and bustle of Mexico City for a few hours!
The Chapultepec Castle and park should be high up on your list of places to see in Mexico City.
28) Admire the art in Puerto Vallarta
Often referred to as “Mexico’s Art Mecca,” Puerto Vallarta is home to dozens of cool art galleries.
During the winter season (mid-October through to May), a free Art Walk is held each week on Wednesday evenings in the Old Town. Galleries stay open late, so you can admire the art and meet the artists, sculptors and gallery owners.
Many galleries offer complimentary wine and nibblies too.
29) Visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The story goes that in 1531 the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego and told him that she wanted a church to be built on the Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City – and so it was!
The old basilica stood for centuries before it became clear that it was falling apart and a new basilica needed to be built.
Both the old and new Roman Catholic churches are on the same square and are considered a National Shrine of Mexico.
These beautiful churches are visited by hundreds of worshippers and non-worshippers each year. They come to admire the architecture, connect with their faith and soak up some more of Mexico’s rich history.
Don’t miss out on seeing the Basilica de Guadalupe if you’re in Mexico City!
30) Watch the Ballet Folklorico
While the name may suggest otherwise, the traditional Mexican dance known as Ballet Folklorico has little to do with classical ballet.
Dressed in traditional Mexican outfits, the dancers swing around their long colourful skirts and show off their wide sombreros.
The best place to watch a ballet folklorico is at the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) in Mexico City. The building’s stunning architecture and beautiful gardens set the scene for the night ahead.
In springtime the jacaranda trees come into bloom, filling the palace’s gardens with bright lilac flowers. It’s also one of our favorite places to be during the sunset!
31) Explore the Palenque ruins in Chiapas
The Palenque ruins in Chiapas are one of Mexico’s most famous attractions. The old Mayan temples and palaces date as far back as 200 BC.
Visiting this incredible UNESCO site is a unique way to travel back into Mexico’s pre-colonial past.
The ruins are a little hard to get to, and the nearest town (also called Palenque) is off the beaten track. But the journey is worth it.
Note that you’ll want to spend at least two nights in the town, and probably even longer to explore the jungle around the ruins!
Fun things to do in Mexico
There’s no lack for things to do when comes to fun Mexican recreational activities. Check these out!
32) Cruise on a gondola in Xochimilco
Just south of Mexico City, Xochimilco is known for its colorful gondola-like boats (called trajineras) which cruise through floating flower gardens.
The atmosphere at Xochimilco is festive – mariachi bands play music on some boats and people drink and enjoy the outing.
The canal system and gardens were built during the Aztec empire (the floating gardens were used for growing corn and other food crops).
Today, Xochimilco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The unique gardens are some of the world’s best gardens – and taking a river cruise in Xochimilco is, without a doubt, one of the most fun things to do in Mexico!
33) Stroll Mexico City on a Sunday
Does your Mexico City itinerary happen to include a Sunday? Then get yourself to the Paseo de la Reforma.
Every Sunday, the chaotic city of millions closes this major street to vehicle traffic from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, so people and families can get out, exercise and have a good time.
And that means one of the most fun things to do in Mexico City on a Sunday is to join the locals! They’re out bicycling, doing exercises, performing yoga, dancing, roller-blading, walking their dogs – and just enjoying life.
You’ll get your exercise too just walking down the whole length of the street, watching all the activities.
34) Listen to mariachi
Stomping cowboy boots. Studded charro outfits. Big sombreros. And fervent guitar and trumpet music. We’re talking mariachi!
Guadalajara is famous for its mariachi bands – the city hosts the International Mariachi Festival each year.
But you can hear mariachi pretty well everywhere in Mexico.
If you’re celebrating a birthday at a restaurant in Mexico, ask the roving mariachi guitarist (there always seems to be one at every restaurant) to play Las Mananitas, Mexico’s traditional birthday song.
35) Take a boat trip to Yelapa
When in Puerto Vallarta, take a boat trip to the tiny village of Yelapa.
Because you can only get there by boat, Yelapa has a very laid-back vibe.
It has just a handful of boutique eco-hotels and local restaurants – it’s definitely not over-developed. Spend time on the beach, have a swim, eat a seafood lunch and enjoy the boat ride back to PV.
It’s a great day trip from Puerto Vallarta!
Don’t miss the “pie lady”!
There used to be just one “pie lady.” Now, a few ladies sell fresh-baked coconut and lemon meringue pies on the beach. But all the pies are totally scrumptious! Be sure to get a slice.
36) Shop for silver in Taxco
Like Izamal (#19 above), Taxco is another one of Mexico’s “magical towns.”
After American silver designer William Spratling moved to Taxco in 1929 and revived the craft of silverwork there, the town developed an international reputation for producing beautiful silver jewelry, tableware and other silver pieces.
Needless to say, one of the most fun things to do in Mexico for shopaholics (and others) is to shop at the many silver stores in Taxco.
Silver from Taxco is one of the classiest souvenirs from Mexico you can bring home.
37) Explore the Botanical Gardens in Puerto Vallarta
Wild tropical forest makes up much of the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens. But therein lies its charm.
Oh, you’ll see roses and orchids and blue agave plants. But what we loved best during our visit was being surrounded by the lush explosion of greenery – nature on steroids – as we walked unmanicured trails.
The birds and butterflies are marvelous too.
38) Visit Xcaret
Is it a Mayan archaeological attraction? A coral reef aquarium? A theme park? Well, it’s all of the above.
Xcaret is where you can snorkel through underground rivers and caverns, check out a butterfly pavilion and zoo, swing in hammocks by a beach and watch cultural dance performances.
A visit to Xcaret Park (near Playa del Carmen) is one of the top things to do in the Riviera Maya – and one of the most fun places to spend an adventurous day in Mexico.
Its grand nightly folkloric show is recognized by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage.”
39) Play golf
With more than 200 courses, Mexico is a popular golf destination.
Designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Greg Norman and Robert Trent Jones Jr., many are world-class and among the most scenic courses you’ll ever get to play.
Some of the best places to tee off in Mexico are found in the resort destinations of Los Cabos, the Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta.
5 Top golf courses in Mexico:
1) Dunes at Diamante – Cabo San Lucas
2) Four Seasons Punta Mita – Punta Mita (near Puerto Vallarta)
3) Mayakoba (El Camaleon) – Riviera Maya
4) Palmilla Golf Club – San Jose del Cabo
5) TPC Danzante Bay – Loreto
40) Ride the Copper Canyon train
The Copper Canyon Railway takes you through 87 tunnels, over 36 bridges and along sheer cliffs up to 8,000 feet high! The views of the Copper Canyon below are spectacular.
There are lots of different trip options available going from Chihuahua to Los Mochis (or vice versa), so whatever your budget, you can comfortably fit the journey in.
The actual ride on the Chepe Express lasts about 10 hours all together and starts at just $35.
But you can spend thousands of dollars too. Most visitors make it a multi-day journey, staying overnight at various stops along the way for sightseeing, horseback riding, hiking, cave explorations, ziplining and more.
Tasty things to do in Mexico
One of our favorite forms of Mexican entertainment is to eat. The food is sooo good in Mexico!
41) Sample the food in Oaxaca
Food, delicious food. That’s what the gastronomic capital of Oaxaca is best known for.
The fruit, nut, spice and chili sauce called mole originated in Oaxaca. Eat it seven different ways – mole verde (pumpkin seeds and green chili) is a popular variety.
Also try stone soup, a seafood broth heated at your table by placing hot river stones in the bowl.
Restaurants serve creative dishes like braised rabbit mole enchiladas, hibiscus-stuffed tortillas, suckling pig tacos and octopus-and-sweetbread tlayudas (flour tortilla).
Are you drooling yet?
3 Best restaurants in Oaxaca city:
Some top restaurants to try Oaxacan fusion food include:
1) Pitiona – A wonderful terrace overlooking Santo Domingo’s 17th century cathedral; beautifully presented and imaginative Mexican food; try the octopus
2) Origen – A contemporary Mexican gastronomic experience
3) Casa Oaxaca el Restaurante – Traditional dining; salsa made fresh at your table
42) Taste tequila in Tequila
Yes, there’s a town named Tequila in Mexico. And it’s where tequila comes from. Surrounding the town are fields and fields of blue agave, the plant used to make tequila.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town itself is picturesque. But you’re visiting to taste tequila, right?
Tequila is an easy day trip from Guadalajara, about an hour away.
The best way to visit is to take a tequila tasting tour of one or more distilleries.
This tequila tour from Guadalajara gets great reviews. You can even do a tour on horseback through the agave fields!
43) Take a Mexican cooking class
Mexico is a great place to take a cooking class – and a class is a great way to learn more about Mexican cuisine.
Many cooking classes start with a visit to the local market, where you pick up fresh ingredients and learn about the culinary significance of Mexico’s staples.
Best Mexico cooking schools:
In Mexico City, Casa Jacaranda gets rave reviews.
Being a foodie city, Oaxaca is also known for its cooking schools. Try Alma de mi Tierra or Que Rico es Oaxaca.
44) Eat tacos
One of the dishes we most look forward to eating in Mexico? Tacos.
You can’t beat the taco trucks and shacks that serve delicious tacos – fragrant freshly-flipped tortillas, filled with stewed meats or fish just hauled out from the sea.
But the taco universe in Mexico is huge, and there are many different types of tacos.
The tortilla is typically made from freshly ground corn (we prefer flour tortillas and so ask for these instead). Fillings run the whole gamut of meats and seafood.
In the Yucatan Peninsula, cochinita pibil tacos (made with slow-roasted pork and topped with pickled red onion) are popular.
Birria tacos in Guadalajara are topped with goat meat mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices.
In Puerto Vallarta, you can find smoked marlin tacos.
Top taco joints in Mexico:
We love the shrimp tacos at Gardenias in Cabo San Lucas.
In Mexico City, El Parnita (in the hip Roma neighborhood) is a popular spot, known for its interesting range of tacos, from duck to grasshopper tacos.
There are also great places to eat in Puerto Vallarta dishing up tasty tacos – like Pancho’s Takos for tacos al pastor and The Blue Shrimp for crab tacos.
45) Bite into exotic Mexican fruit
Red hairy rambutan? The chocolate pudding fruit? Prickly pear?
One of our favorite things to do in Mexico is to try different Mexican fruits for breakfast – a nice change from the “normal” apples, oranges and bananas we eat back home!
We especially love Mexico’s sweet and juicy mangos.
46) Go mezcal tasting in Oaxaca
Also made from agave plants, mezcal is tequila’s smoky cousin.
Traditionally, mezcal is cooked inside fire pits in the earth filled with wood and charcoal, which give it the smoky flavor.
Oaxaca is the home of mezcal – more than 90% of all mezcal in the world comes from Oaxaca. Belly up to any small mezcal bar in Oaxaca city for a mezcal tasting.
Distilleries in the countryside also offer tours and tastings.
Where to get your first mezcal lesson:
To learn about mezcal, head first to Mezcaloteca in Oaxaca. They work with local small-batch producers.
During the course of an hour-long tasting, you’ll learn about the history of mezcal, the different types of agave plants used and the distilling process.
Reservations are recommended.
47) Dine out in Mexico City
You want artful gastronomy?
As the largest city in Mexico (population 22,000,000 in the metro area), Mexico City is your place for fine dining – laying claim to some of the best restaurants in the world.
3 Top restaurants in Mexico city:
These 3 restaurants are worth hitting:
1) Pujol – Zen-like space; choice of tasting menus (perhaps wild herb enchilada with quail’s egg or dried-beef tartare with bean blossoms will be on the menu?)
2) Quintonil – Small minimalist resto in the Polanco district; if on the menu (which changes seasonally), try the crab tostada with habanero chili mayo and the oyster mushroom in puff pastry, topped with caviar
3) Restaurante Nicos – A classic, with 60 years under its belt; mezcal cart; Caesar salad and guacamole made table-side
And don’t miss the traditional Café Tacuba. More than a century old, it’s an institution in Mexico City.
48) Try different margaritas
Margaritas are an iconic Mexican tequila drink. They’re a delicious mix of sweet and salty flavors, with an added zesty kick.
One legend has it they were first made in Tehuacan by a young man whose girlfriend, Margarita, liked salt in her drinks.
Another story says that a Tijuana restaurateur whipped up the cocktail in 1938 for a Ziegfeld showgirl who wanted a nice tequila drink.
Take your pick.
You can enjoy your margaritas sitting on a sandy beach as the sun goes down, or around the pool on a lazy day. Having a margarita (or two!) is a must do in Mexico.
The best part? There are plenty more flavors to try in addition to the original lime margarita! Popular choices include fruity mango and strawberry margaritas. We’re fans of fresh tamarind margaritas.
49) Enjoy a street food tour
You can’t leave Mexico without going on a street food tour. The country is known world-wide for its spicy, fresh and mouth-watering cuisine. Don’t miss out on some tasty tacos, corn tortillas and banana leaf wrapped tamales.
Each region of Mexico has its own twist on traditional dishes and foods that are unique to the area.
You’ll never tire of trying Mexico’s delicious and cheap street food. Taking a street food tour is one of the top activities to do in Mexico.
50) Go wine tasting in Guadalupe
When we think of good wines, we typically think of France, South Africa, New Zealand, California and the like.
But Mexico can really hold its own when it comes to making a great wine. The country’s best-known wine region is Valle de Guadalupe.
Less than a four-hour drive from L.A., the sun-baked valley is full of luxurious accommodations and beautiful vineyards, where you can sip on a glass of crisp Chardonnay or rich Cabernet Sauvignon while enjoying the scenic landscape.
You can put Vena Cava, Casa de Piedra and Finca la Carrodilla on your list of places to sample some of the best Mexican wines. What could be better than a trip where good wine and warm weather is guaranteed?
Adventurous things to do in Mexico
Hey, adventure lovers – these outdoor activities in Mexico are for you!
51) Learn to surf in Sayulita
Sayulita on the Pacific Coast, just north of Puerto Vallarta, is a well-known surfing town in Mexico.
The waves are mellow and the bohemian town, while a lot buzzier now, is still pretty laid-back.
Scores of surf shops offer lessons so you can give surfing a try – and if you prefer to hang out on the beach watching others ride the waves, that’s allowed too.
52) Snorkel or dive in Cabo Pulmo
About a 2-hour drive northeast of Cabo San Lucas, Cabo Pulmo is a national marine park – described by Jacques Cousteau as the “aquarium of the world.” You can see so much underwater life!
We’ve been fortunate to dive with sharks there.
A resident colony of sea lions is also fun to see.
53) Take a balloon ride over the pyramids of Teotihuacan
When it comes to adventurous things to do in Mexico, hot air ballooning over the ancient city of Teotihuacan (near Mexico City) is absolutely thrilling.
Meaning “City of the Sun” (or “City of the Gods”), Teotihuacan dates back to 100 BC.
Once home to 125,000 to 200,000 people, this pre-Aztec city was one of the largest cities in the world. Today, it’s one of Mexico’s most impressive archaeological sites.
You’ll see two enormous pyramids from the air, the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon.
And if you’ve never taken a hot air balloon ride before, it’s quite magical to float dreamily in the sky, filled with other balloons, as the sun rises and paints the earth golden.
54) Swim with sea turtles in Akumal
For nature lovers, one of the most amazing things to do in Mexico is to swim with the sea turtles in Akumal.
Green sea turtles congregate in a relatively shallow area right off the beach to feed on sea grass, which means you see them in their natural habitat (though it is a protected area).
There’s a small fee (about $5 USD) to access the beach, and if you have your own snorkeling equipment, you can just wade in.
Many people like to take a tour, however, which includes snorkel equipment and a guide.
Akumal sea turtle tour:
Check out this top-rated sea turtle tour from Cancun and the Riviera Maya, which combines a visit to the Tulum ruins (#21) with snorkeling with the Akumal turtles.
55) Jump off cliffs in Matacanes
What can you do in Mexico if you’re into extreme sports?
How about jumping off 40-foot-high cliffs in Matacanes!
Matacanes is a spectacular stalagmite-studded canyon in Cumbres de Monterrey National Park, near Santiago in northern Mexico. It’s the place to go in Mexico for “canyoneering.”
Start by rappelling down a 100-foot waterfall, then spend the next 8+ hours on your guided tour jumping off 30 cliffs, rappelling into a cave, bouldering and sliding down steep rocky chutes into lagoons waaay below.
To us, this sounds like one of the most crazy things to do in Mexico. But if you’re a thrill-seeker, you probably won’t think it crazy!
Fair warning: Matacanes is a wild and little-visited area. You have to spend the night before in a nearby camp or cabin. And you’ll likely end the day with a few scrapes and bruises. (Confession: We haven’t done this!)
Matacanes canyoneering tours:
You want to go?
Try GaiaXtreme.com or Aventurs.mx.
56) Snorkel with sea lions at Los Islotes
About an hour’s boat ride from La Paz, the rocky outcroppings of Los Islotes are home to about 400 sea lions. Snorkelers can swim with them. Because the depth is shallow (25 to 50 feet), it’s easy to do.
The big bulls and adult females are habituated to the sight and sounds of the pangas (local open boats) that take visitors out to Los Islotes, so they usually stay on the rocks and observe all the goings-on.
It’s the boisterous juveniles who like to interact with you. They’re curious and playful, circling around you in high-speed flybys and zooming in on you, then suddenly darting away.
When to go to Los Islotes:
The best time to snorkel with the sea lions is from March to June and October to November, when the waters are warm and tranquil.
We went in early January, and the water was freezing cold – so cold we could only stay in the water for a couple of minutes (we wouldn’t recommend going at this time).
July and August is the mating season. You’re not allowed to get in the water then, but you can still take a boat trip to see the sea lions on the rocks.
57) Go white-water rafting in Veracruz
If you crave more adrenalin-spiked activities in Mexico, why not hurtle down the rapids of narrow fast-flowing rivers in Veracruz?
More than 40 rivers in the state of Veracruz offer world-class white-water rafting with Class II, III and IV rapids. Bordering the Antigua River (Rio Antigua), the quaint village of Jalcomulco is the rafting capital.
Two other well-known rivers in the area are the Rio Filobobos and Rio Actopan.
Jalcomulco river rafting tours:
Mexico Verde combines rafting with staying in a unique safari-style base camp (glamping).
Or try this Pescados River rafting adventure – a 6-hour day tour from your Veracruz or Boca del Rio hotel.
58) Watch whales
There’s something special about watching whales, the largest creatures on earth. They elicit a sense of wonder. And Mexico is one of the best places in the world to see them!
Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas is popular from December to April. That’s when thousands of whales (mostly gray whales and humpbacks) migrate down from Alaska to the warmer waters off the Baja Peninsula to mate and give birth.
On our latest whale watching excursion, we were thrilled to see one humpback breach at least eight times – an extraordinary show!
Puerto Vallarta’s Bay of Banderas is another great place for whale watching between December and March.
About 700 humpbacks travel to the bay each year to mate and give birth to calves, which can start their lives in the relative safety of the bay’s protected waters.
59) Go scuba diving in Cozumel
The island of Cozumel, six miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, woos scuba divers with its warm waters, great underwater visibility, coral sites teeming with tropical fish, cool caverns and walls made for drift diving.
You’ll see turtles, nurse sharks, rays, barracudas, lobsters and much more. If you love blowing bubbles underwater, you’ll love diving in Cozumel.
Chill things to do in Mexico
We’re not finished yet with all the great must-do things in Mexico!
60) Go on a sunset cruise in Cabo
Carved by wind, tide and time, the massive rock “Arch” at Land’s End is an iconic attraction in Cabo San Lucas.
You can’t walk to the Arch – the only way to see it up close is from the sea.
One of the top things to do in Cabo San Lucas is to take a sunset cruise out into the bay and past the Arch (the romantic way to go is by sailboat).
And what are those giant slug-like things barking loudly and lying on the rocks by the Arch? Oh, they’re the sea lions that live there.
61) Kiss in a beautiful beach hotel
One of the best things to do in Mexico for couples is to stay at a romantic adults-only resort.
In Zihuatanejo, we love La Casa Que Canta (“The House That Sings”). Turndown service includes lit candles in your bathroom.
Many suites even have private pools. It’s one of our favorite Mexican hotels with private pools!
In Cabo San Lucas, the sophisticated Pueblo Bonito Pacifica hugs an almost-private beach and the vibe is chill.
Then there’s eco-chic Tulum in the Riviera Maya.
We’ve sussed out 30+ of the best luxury hotels in Tulum. Most are adults-only boutique hotels, where going barefoot in paradise is real.
62) Hang out on the beaches of Zihuatanejo
Okay, so you want to know about great beaches in Mexico.
You’ll find some of Mexico’s best beaches in Zihuatanejo.
The main beach, Playa La Ropa, is a mile-long crescent of powdery sand, lapped by gentle waters. The water is warm and calm, so it’s perfect for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding.
We also really like Playa Las Gatas – you can rent recliners under umbrellas from little beachside restaurants and spend an idyllic day reading, napping and swimming.
63) Relax at Bacalar
Near the Belize border, Bacalar is a town on Mexico’s second-largest freshwater lake, the “Lagoon of Seven Colors.”
Off the tourist radar (for now!), Bacalar is a great place to simply chill and relax. Docks jut out into the lake, with thatched palm huts and hammocks for lounging.
But the gorgeous blue lake is so enticing, you’ll also want to enjoy SUP boarding, kayaking and boat tours exploring the channels pirates used centuries ago.
64) Stroll the sands of Lover’s Beach
You’ve probably seen Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach) on Instagram.
A sweet cove of golden sand, protected by soaring rocks on either side, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Cabo San Lucas.
But you must take a water taxi to get to Lovers Beach. (Or you can kayak or paddle a SUP board over.)
Stroll about – have a look at Divorce Beach on the other side – then sit for a while and enjoy this lovely beach.
65) Escape to Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a beautiful and easygoing island, located just off the coast of Cancun.
You can visit for the day, as it only takes about 15 minutes by ferry from Puerto Juarez.
Then you might just want to hang out at Playa Norte. The main beach, Playa Norte is picture-perfect, with soft white sand, cute beachside bars and hammocks.
If holidaying on the small island, MUSA or the Cancun Underwater Museum (#6) is offshore – this is where you can snorkel or dive around the underwater art sculptures.
Where to stay on Isla Mujeres:
Casa Oasis Caribe is a luxury seaside 2-bedroom home (each master suite has a king bed) with 3 bathrooms and a private pool.
Or see other top-rated Isla Mujeres condos or villas available through Premier Hosts on Vrbo).
Now you know what to do in Mexico!
As you can see, there are so many incredible things to do in Mexico – you’ll want to plan plenty of time to visit this amazing country!
To experience the best of Mexico in one vacay, we suggest combining a beach destination with a cultural one (like San Miguel de Allende or Mexico City).
Adios, and have a great trip!
More information on Mexico
Lonely Planet Mexico is, in our view, the best and most comprehensive travel guide to Mexico.
Also see the other Mexico travel guides available on Amazon. (As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)
Our top travel tips and resources
Here are our favorite travel resources:
Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)
Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).
Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out GetYourGuide and Viator.
Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.
Travel insurance: World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities, as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
Vaccines and meds: We follow CDC travel guidelines to see what medications and vaccines are needed for trips. You can get vaccines at your pharmacy, travel medical clinic or doctor’s office.
Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)
Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.
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Photo credits: 4, 10, 14, 24, 31 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 7 to 9 MUSA | 34 to 36 Xcaret
About the authors
Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.
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