From the beaches of Baja and the dramatic coastline of the Pacific to the resort towns and jungles of the Yucatan, Mexico is a daydream of warm weather, white-sand beaches, and turquoise waters. Traveling in Mexico offers an alluring blend of 21st-century beachfront comfort and vibrant traditional culture—brightly-colored woven textiles, wood-carvings, paintings, and delicious cuisine are just a hint of the local heritage. The ruins of ancient civilizations rise up out of the encroaching jungle across the Yucatan Peninsula, and offer an incredible glimpse of Mexico’s past. Explore the coastal mangroves of Tulum, scuba dive amidst the vast coral reefs and vivid-hued marine life of Cozumel, go parasailing in Cabo San Lucas, or surf the waves of Sayulita. In Mexico, there is no end to the possibilities to make each adventure distinctly your own.
Cabo San Lucas
Set on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, Cabo San Lucas has been a paragon of luxury for decades. While the corridor connecting Cabo San Lucas and Cabo San José boasts five-star hotels, golf courses, and world-class restaurants, the cities retain a more authentic atmosphere alongside its array of beach resorts. The coast is a beautiful expanse of white-sand beaches and rocky outcroppings that form an incredible backdrop for aquatic adventures like parasailing, snorkeling, kiteboarding, and diving. Cabo San Lucas has a well-earned reputation for having lively nightlife and incredible seafood, you will find everything from trendy bars and restaurants to traditional taquerías.
Perched on the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancún is a glamourous beachside city with nature reserves, tranquil islands, and Mayan ruins all within easy reach. The city’s famous 15-mile stretch of the Zona Hotelera was once a quiet coastline used mostly by local fisherman, and is now a glittering expanse of sugar-white-sand beaches, all-inclusive hotels, and exquisite seafood restaurants. Eat, shop, party, and swim along the beaches of the Zona Hotelera, or for a change of pace head inland to the nearby ruins of Chichén Itzá or Cobá. Just off the coast you can visit the unpopulated Parque Nacional Isla Contoy, a small island brimming with colorful birds, or the quieter haven of Isla Mujeres with its crushed-coral beaches and renowned snorkeling and diving. Cancún is a warm-weather paradise of palm trees and turquoise waters, and is a picture-perfect vacation destination with endless options to explore.
Stretching along the sun-drenched east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, the Riviera Maya offers boundless Caribbean adventures. From the palm-lined beaches and coral reefs of Playa del Carmen to the Mayan ruins and white sands of Tulum, the Riviera Maya is a coastal paradise of turquoise seas, coral reefs, and marine life. Explore the caves and cenotes—natural limestone sinkholes exposing the groundwater below—of Aktun Chen Parque Natural near Akumal Beach, or the coastal mangroves of Parque Nacional Tulum. Akumal offers more of a family atmosphere than the sophisticated scene of Playa del Carmen, and has excellent diving and snorkeling. Along with its idyllic beaches, the Riviera Maya is also home to the world’s largest underground river system which boasts crystal-clear waters—diving in a cenote offers a unique window into this surreal ecosystem.
Only a short ferry ride from Playa Del Carmen, Isla Cozumel is a charismatic gem wreathed with coral reefs, beaches, and crystal-clear aquamarine seas. Though the island is easily accessible for a day trip, life moves at a more relaxed pace than on the mainland and makes Cozumel its own idyllic little universe. It’s a premier scuba diving destination where you can explore the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world’s second most extensive coral reef system. Snorkel or dive with dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles at Chankanaab eco-park, replete with technicolor marine life and underwater caverns. Enjoy the pleasant mix of San Miguel de Cozumel’s family-owned hotels and restaurants, and the quieter roads and wilder beaches that ring the southern half of the island.
Set between the Sierra Madre and the Pacific Ocean, Ixtapa is the west coast cousin of Cancún with a hassle-free, family-friendly resort atmosphere and beautiful beaches. The area offers an incredible array of outdoor activities—swim with dolphins, scuba dive among the white granite rocks of Los Morros de Potosí, play a round of golf, or hop on a boat for some deep-sea fishing. Ixtapa provides all the comforts of an all-inclusive resort, and just down the road you can get a taste of local culture in Zihuatanejo, a more authentic but equally welcoming beach town.
Wrapping along the Bahía de Banderas on the Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta is an enticing blend of beachside luxury and local culture. An atmosphere of welcome and warmth pervades the city and makes wandering through the historic cobblestone center or along the malecón waterfront boardwalk a true pleasure. The city is packed with boutique shops and restaurants offering a full spectrum of local and international cuisine. Renowned for its fabulous beaches, there are seaside activities and inland adventures galore—scuba dive, horseback ride, tour palm-covered mountains, stroll along Isla Río Cuale, or stretch out in relative solitude in Yelapa. Watch the sunset with dinner and a margarita along the malecón, and then dive into the city’s thriving nightlife scene. Puerto Vallarta is comfort and culture with a view.
The Riviera Nayarit, stretching along 200 miles of Mexico’s Pacific coast between Puerto Vallarta and San Blas to the north, has an eclectic array of magnificent beaches. From the laid-back barefoot surf paradise of Sayulita to the exclusive resorts of Punta Mita, the Riviera Nayarit has a beach destination for everyone. Head out to the Marieta Islands off the coast from Sayulita for a chance to see marine life like dolphins and seasonal pods of humpback whales. Stroll the historic port city of San Blas, where you can find ruins from the original Spanish settlement, for a more authentic atmosphere. All along the Riviera Nayarit the jungle tumbles toward the ocean and hides lesser-known beach hamlets like San Francisco, and makes this region a delight to explore.