The 33 BEST Things to do in Mexico
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Ahh Mexico, what a place to travel! I’ve been here countless times and have been lucky enough to explore most of this amazing country in detail. And I can tell you one thing, there are so many amazing things to see and do in Mexico.
From busing around the Yucatan Peninsula to exploring the cultural center of Mexico City to the surfing the Pacific Coast, it’s been an unforgettable time and one I’d love others to have too.
For that reason, I’ve compiled this blog of the 33 best things I have ever done in Mexico.
I’ve also categorized all of the activities into the three main touristic regions of Mexico as well as one general category (where the activities or attractions aren’t region-specific and can be done almost anywhere in Mexico.) Because let’s face it, not everyone reading this blog is going to skydive in Puerto Vallarta as well as eat tacos in Tulum both on the same trip!
So with that in mind, let’s dive in and hopefully, my time in Mexico can inspire yours! Here is what I think are the absolute best things to do and see in Mexico.
Amazing Things to do in Mexico
Here, I’ve listed some of the best activities in Mexico that you can do in multiple locations all over the country. They’re activities in Mexico that aren’t specific to one particular region and likely things that you can do regardless of the are that you’re actually traveling!
1. Release a baby turtle into the ocean
One of the fondest memories I have in Mexico was releasing a baby turtle into the wild.
Mexico is home to 5 of the 7 different species of sea turtle in the world. However, in Mexico and around the globe, these animals are endangered.
Luckily though, Mexico is making big steps to help these guys out, and many NGO and not-for-profit organizations are working to increase turtle populations. One of the ways these organizations raise money is by charging tourists to release a baby turtle from their hatcheries.
At the turtle release, you’ll learn about the turtles and be able to take your own turtle onto the beach and release it in a controlled environment. This is really one of the best things to do in Mexico!
You can see baby turtles in most places around Mexico including Puerto Vallarta, Tulum, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen. However, the most common place to do tours is in Los Cabos, Puerto Escondido (where I released my turtle) and other locations on the Pacific Coast.
Tip: Most of the programs are there to help the turtles, but before choosing one, be sure to read up on the company so you know you’re making an ethical choice.
2. Go on a food tour
Mexico has amazing food so it’s no wonder you can find it all over the world…well kind of. Mexican food outside of Mexico is never quite the same.
So, while you’re in Mexico be sure to take advantage of the food! And the best way to do that? On a food tour of course!
You can enjoy food tours all over Mexico in just about any city or town that sees tourists. I’ve actually done a food tour in Mexico City, Tulum, and Puerto Vallarta. If you asked me the best place I’ve done one, I’d have to say it was in Mexico City.
Mexico City is home to some of the most famous tacorias in Mexico and due to the competition, the city demands high quality. It’s honestly one of the best things to do in Mexico City. Since many people fly into Mexico City to start their trip, it could be a great activity to enjoy before you head off on your adventure elsewhere!
3. Listen to live Mariachi
To be honest, I didn’t know what Mariachi was before arriving in Mexico, but once I saw the bands dressed in their famous attire I was very intrigued. Luckily, I was in Mexico City at the time and staying just down the road from Garibaldi Square.
Garibaldi Square is the best place in Mexico City to listen to Mariachi and here, lots of bands roam the square hoping to play songs for those enjoying a beer or couples on a romantic date.
Of course, you don’t have to be in Mexico City to enjoy Mariachi and it’s common to find bands around the tourist areas across Mexico. Often there are dedicated bars or shows you can go and watch too.
Regardless of where you see Mariachi, it really is a must if you want a true Mexican experience!
4. Go Dolphin Watching
Mexico’s coastlines are filled with wildlife and one in particular I really wanted to see, was dolphins! Off the coast of Mexico, you can find pods of dolphins in the thousands – which is a bucket list thing to see!
That day we saw hundreds of dolphins, turtles, and even one Blue Marlin. We watched on as the dolphins worked together to hunt fish. But there was another experience that made the tour so much more than just a tour, and that was our encounter with a female turtle.
This turtle actually had a bag wrapped around her neck and was struggling to breathe. So, we jumped into the water and brought the turtle to the boat. We then cut the bag from around her neck before releasing her back into the wild.
This tour was one of the best things I did in Puerto Escondido and Mexico in general. I really enjoyed watching without interacting or disturbing the dolphins (and helping this turtle was my good deed for the day!)
5. Celebrate Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Day of the Dead is quickly becoming one of the most famous celebrations in Mexico. All around the country, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated, but with that said, there are a few places that are better than others for tourists. I’ve celebrated Day of the Dead in Mexico twice now. Once in Merida, and this year (2019) in Oaxaca and Mexico City!
Merida was a cool experience but honestly, the celebration in Oaxaca is said to be the best in the country and I agree! The streets filled with parades and vendors lined the streets painting faces, drinking mezcal and just celebrating the lives of their loved ones.
One of the best tours to do in Oaxaca during Day of the Dead is a graveyard tour. These tours take you to local graveyards to see and get involved with the celebration of the dead.
Mexico City also puts on some really nice parades and the smaller tourist beach towns celebrate it well. But if you want the best experience, I (and most locals) say Oaxaca is the best place in Mexico for Dia De Muertos!
If you do plan on celebrating Day of the Dead in Oaxaca be sure to book your accommodation in advance. I booked 4 months in advance and almost all of the good places were booked up!
6. Enjoy an authentic Mexican cooking class
As I mentioned above, Mexican food outside of Mexico just isn’t the same. The solution to this problem is to learn how to cook it for yourself!
All over Mexico, you can enjoy an authentic Mexican cooking classes that’ll show you how to make amazing tacos, salsas, tortillas and even more traditional dishes such as tamales and mole sauce.
Cooking classes in Mexico usually include making salsa or guacamole, starter, main course, and dessert. It is important to pick the right class for you because they are all quite different.
Some include mezcal or tequila tastings and others include trips to the market to buy fresh food. It all depends on the experience you want! Some best-rated tours from all around Mexico are:
Mexico City – Mexican cooking class with a visit to a market
Oaxaca – Street food cooking class
7. Enjoy a whale watching tour
Mexico is home to many different whale species including Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, and Whale Sharks (but they’re actually a fish).
During the season, it’s common to see whales off the coast. The Pacific Coast in places like Los Cabos (best place for whale watching in Mexico), Puerto Vallarta, and Puerto Escondido are the most popular places for whale watching tours.
The whale season in Mexico (for Blue Whales and Humpback Whales) is short and runs from December to March.
For Whale Sharks, the season begins in June and ends in September. Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the ocean and these beautiful placid creatures are amazing to see. You can also see them off both coastlines and tours are very popular from Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
8. Go sport fishing
Sport fishing in Mexico is a great activity to do especially if you’ve ever wanted to land a Blue Marlin or another huge fish. Off the coast, you can catch a range of fish (some you can even take home to your hotel and eat that night.)
In Mexico, I have been sport fishing in the Yucatan and had an amazing time! It’s an activity I recommend to those who do love to fish.
However, it’s important to understand that in Mexico, fish like Blue Marlin should be caught and released.
Of course this is Mexico so you don’t necessarily have to, but it’s very important you do and that you choose a company that only practices catch and release for these fish. That way, these impressive creatures can continue occupying our ocean for future generations.
Things to do in Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula
The Yucatan Peninsula is the most popular region of Mexico for holiday makers. In fact, this region sees over 10 million visitors a year! Although super touristic, the Yucatan is an amazing place to discover with some of the best activities and attractions in all of Mexico!
9. Visit Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is the most famous Mayan Ruin in Mexico. In 2007, El Castillo (the main temple of Chichen Itza) was voted one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Although appearing to be a simple temple, El Castillo is so much more than that.
In fact, at the Equinox (days of the year both night and day are equal) a snake appears on the pyramid marking this day. Pretty impressive considering the temple was built in 1000 AD.
Chichen Itza is also one of the only ruins that you can wander the ancient ball courts used by the Mayans. This impressive court was used for a ball game called Pok ta Pok. Although a game, it usually ended in someone being sacrificed!
A visit to Chichen Itza can be done on a day trip from Cancun, Playa del Carman, Tulum, or Merida. The day trips are long and leave very early in the morning. This top-rated tour will actually pick you up from anywhere on the Riviera Maya. Another option is to bus to the ruins and stay at a hotel near Chichen Itza.
This is what I did and it meant I could visit the ruins during the Chichen Itza night show which was a really cool experience!
10. Swim in a cenote
One of the biggest attractions on the Yucatan Peninsula is, of course, the cenotes (underground rivers and pools of freshwater.) Around the Yucatan, there are literally thousands of cenotes. But, there are a few that are very special and popular to visit.
Il-Kil is one of the most famous and beautiful. It’s located near Chichen Itza and is almost always visited on a Chichen Itza day tour. This cenote was actually used for sacrifices by the Mayan people who lived in Chichen Itza and bones and pottery have been found on the floor of the cenote.
Many of the other cenotes are located in the Tulum area and also dotted around Chichen Itza. If you’re staying in Cancun or Palya del Carma be sure to join a cenote tour so you too can check out the best cenotes
The best cenotes you should check out include:
Dos Ojos – Beautiful cenote great for swimming
Cenote Calavera – Literally a hole in the ground, great for swimming but just interesting to visit and great for scuba diving.
Suytun Cenote – This is the famous cenote near Cancun with the pathway to the middle where the light shines through.
Sac Actun – The most beautiful cenote but also the most popular in Mexico!
Tak Be Ha – Easily the best cenote for snorkeling, the caves here are simply stunning.
Check out this blog of the best cenotes in Mexico for more information on getting there, entrance fees, and more.
11. Go scuba diving in a cenote
Swimming in a cenote is a cool experience but from Tulum, Playa del Carman, and Cancun you can actually do lots of cool scuba diving tours that take you deep into the cave systems of the cenote. With a flashlight and professional guide, you’ll set off to explore parts of the cenote very few see.
Overall, it can be a daunting experience but that’s why you should only use a reputable company. Even if you don’t have your “cave diving scuba license” there are cenotes that although feel like caves, are technically not.
In fact, my favorite cenote dive was at Cenote Calavera. This cenote has a cave section but much of the cenote isn’t so it’s a great introduction!
You can browse a huge selection of scuba diving tours!
12. Visit an Island paradise
If you think the beaches on the mainland of the Yucatan are amazing then you’re in for a treat if you visit just one of the breathtaking Yucatan islands! There are lots out there but many of them are either uninhabited or simply don’t have hotels on them.
However, there are a few that are already popular tourist destinations anyone can visit including:
The most popular island in the Yucatan is Cozumel. This island has everything thing you need for a beautiful getaway including beautiful hotels, amazing white sand beaches, warm water, and world-class diving on the second largest reef system on the planet.
Another popular island is Isla Holbox. It’s much less known than Cozumel but is still on the typical tourist trail. This island offers a more relaxed vibe with beautiful beaches, fun nightlife, and great places to stay.
Isla Mujeres is another popular island and here you can either day trip to the island or spend a night or two. One of the most famous things to do on Isla Mujeres is to visit the underwater sculpture museum.
Of the four I recommend, this is the least known of them all. Isla Contoy is almost unknown to tourists…yet. But this elusive island plans to stay that way with only 200 guests allowed on the island on any given day. There is no accommodation on Isla Contoy.
13. Stay at an all-inclusive resort
Although I consider myself an adventure traveler, I still don’t mind a bit of pampering here and there. And what better way to treat yourself than at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico? These huge resorts basically include everything you can eat and drink as well as accommodation.
Most of the resorts have amazing private beaches and lots of fun activities and parties every day. Most people spend their entire holiday in an all-inclusive however you can if you want to spend only a few days in the resort to relax and recharge on your Mexico trip.
Some of the best all-inclusive resorts on the Yucatan include:
14. Explore the beautiful Tulum Ruins
Tulum was an important port city for the Mayan people and they protected the coastline fiercely. In fact, if you didn’t already know the Spanish arrived in the Yucatan first but were forced to abandon their attempts to conquer the land because of the Mayan people and other indigenous groups in the Yucatan.
One of the best things to do in Tulum is to visit the Tulum ruins. Aside from the stunning location overlooking a beautiful white sand beach, they’re a reminder of the Mayan people’s wariness of outsiders and the strength of the civilizations trading routes.
The ruins only cost 70 pesos and are located a few kilometers from Tulum town center. This is a good tour that includes an archeologist as your guide so you can learn all about the Mayan people.
15. Visit Xcaret or Xel-ha
If you’re headed to the Yucatan and want to have some fun then the Xcaret or Xel-Ha natural theme parks are awesome places to take the whole family. Xcaret is basically a huge them park with underground rivers, replica Mayan villages, caves, archeological sites and more.
The place is huge and you could easily spend an entire day exploring the park and enjoying the many activities on offer.
Things to do in Mexico in the Cultural Center
The cultural center of Mexico (which in this blog, spans from Oaxaca, Mexico City, Guadalajara and surrounds) is my favorite area of Mexico. Here, you can find the most culturally rich areas filled with history, great food, and amazing architecture.
16. Explore Teotihuacan, Mexico City
The cultural center of Mexico is filled with interesting ruins to visit but in all honesty, the most impressive in the region and Mexico to me was Teotihuacan. This ancient city is said to have once been the home of over 80,000 people!
Although huge, only around 3 to 10% of the ruins have been excavated, including two of the most important temples, the Sun Temple and Moon Temple. They’ve both been excavated and you can climb them.
The ruins are located around 45 minutes from Mexico City. Tours run from the City every day and usually include a mezcal tasting on the way back to the city. This tour is one of the best-rated tours you can book in advance. It includes a tequila tasting, an English guide, and comfortable transport.
17. Eat at the home of the Al Pastor Taco, Mexico City
Did you know the al pastor taco was created in Mexico City? Neither did I before visiting the city and joining a Mexico City walking tour. The restaurant El Huequito in the historical center of Mexico City was, in fact, the first-ever place to make and sell al pastor tacos.
For those who don’t know, al pastor tacos are one of the most popular tacos in Mexico. They’re made from pork and cooked the same way you would donair. They’re often served in a corn tortilla with onion, coriander, and pineapple. Oh, and range of different salsas to choose from!
You’ll find al pastor tacos all over Mexico but the original birthplace of the al pastor is one place to cross off your Mexico bucket list (any they’re really tasty!)
18. Join a Mexico City walking tour
Mexico City is huge! In fact, they estimate its population between 22 and 29 million people. That’s about the same as Australia in one city. For this reason, the best thing to do in Mexico City when you first arrive is to join a walking tour of the historic center.
On the tour you’ll visit many of the best attractions in the city and be able to ask your guide anything you need to know. It’s a great introduction and one I’ve actually done twice.
19. Watch Lucha Libre in Mexico City
Another activity that’s as Mexican as ever is Lucha Libre. This Mexican-style of wrestling is super entertaining to watch and overall one of the best things to do in Mexico.
The best place in Mexico to join a Lucha Libre tour is in Mexico City. Mexico City offers world-class Lucha Libre and it’s where the best stars perform.
Lucha Libre in Mexico City is best done on a tour as the arenas aren’t located in the safest neighborhoods. This Luch Libre tour is top-rated and great value as it includes your tickets to the show!
20. Take a day trip to Puebla and Cholula
Two hours southeast of Mexico City lay the two cities of Cholula and Puebla. From Mexico City, both places make for an awesome day trip or a weekend away from the busy streets of Mexico City. I spent three nights in Puebla and visited Cholula from there (they’re only 10km apart).
There is a huge range of amazing things to do in Puebla including a visit to the revolution museum where bullet holes from the attack can still be seen throughout the building.
In Cholula, the coolest things to see is the Temple of Cholula. Here, you can actually go inside and wander the underground passageways within the temple. This is a really unique experience and one I’d never done before!
21. Explore Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca
Hierve El Agua is a very interesting place to visit in Mexico. Although it appears like a waterfall the “falls” are actually made up of calcium build-up from the rich mineral water that comes from beneath the ground. This water slowly over thousands of years leaves small deposits as it trickles down the cliff leaving behind what you see today.
The tour linked above (as well as many tours to Hierve el Agua) includes a visiting a few other amazing placed around Oaxaca (including the three activities mentioned below!)
22. Mezcal tasting in Oaxaca
If you thought tequila was the most popular spirit in Mexico then you were wrong. As the locals say. “tequila is for kids and mezcal is for men.” Although both drinks still make me just about cry, I do enjoy tasting them in the hopes that one day I find one I like.
But regardless of whether you share “my passion” for mezcal or not, a tasting tour is well worth it. Even if you don’t like spirits, some tours, especially the ones around Oaxaca, also taste mezcal liquors. And with flavors like pina colada, cappuccino, and cherry, they taste delicious!
23. Enjoy an authentic weaving class in Oaxaca
Oaxaca is the home of traditional weaving and around the city, there are entire communities where an estimated 90% of the people who live there make their living from weaving.
The entire process is still done in its traditional way including the way they dye the wool using bugs, lime, and other natural products. This to me is the coolest part of the tour!
Of course, the tour I did (included in the Hierve El Agua tour) just showed you how they do it, but if you want to learn yourself then be sure to join a learn to weave tour instead. These are much more in-depth and you’ll actually get to do some weaving. Don’t expect to take a rug home though as these take weeks to make!
24. Visit the world’s thickest tree, Oaxaca
Did I know the world thickest tree was in Mexico before I was staring at it? The answer is “no”, so you can imagine the shock when I first saw it – it’s huge! The Tule Tree as it’s called (it’s in the town of Tule) is a Montezuma Cypress Tree.
Although huge, it is only the world thickest tree so it’s not that tall. But in circumference its 42m or 138 feet! The tree is estimated to be over 2,000 years old and these days is a UNESCO world heritage site.
To get to the tree your best option is on a tour to Hierve El Agua as this is a common stop on these tours. Otherwise, you can get a bus from Oaxaca to the town of Tule and visit the tree on your own.
25. Eat mole and drink chocolate in Oaxaca
Mexico isn’t the first place that comes to mind when someone asks where to get the best chocolate products in the world. Most people assume Switzerland or another European country, however, Oaxaca in Mexico is famous for their chocolate products and after tasting many of them I can totally see why!
There are a few must-try dishes and one of them is mole. Mole is a savory (mostly) sauce that’s made with cocoa and commonly served with chicken. At first, it was kinda strange, but now I love it! My personal favorite is to have it with a chicken tamale!
Another chocolate product you must try is hot and cold chocolate. There are a few different kinds you can try from the bitter more traditional drink made from 100% cocoa, to the sweeter chocolate drinks made with sugar. You can even add mezcal to them if you want! Both are amazing and in Oaxaca, dirt cheap!
26. Drink Tequila in Tequila
Tequila is considered Mexico’s national drink (according to other countries). But, tequila didn’t get its name from its creator, but rather from the town it was created in… Tequila!
That’s right, the drink tequila was created in Tequila (the town). Tequila is located only an hour’s drive from the huge city Guadalajara. From here, you can either do a day trip to tequila or alternatively, take the bus and stay a night or two.
I decided to stay in Tequila and had an amazing time. I toured the distilleries, drank tequila, and ate lots of tacos! The town itself is very safe and although it mainly attracts local tourists, still caters to the international visitors!
27. Check out the amazing waterfalls in Palenque
Palenque is home to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Mexico. This small rural town located between the Yucatan and the cultural center is a must-visit destination on any Mexico itinerary.
The best waterfalls in Palenque, in my opinion, are Roberto Barrios, Misol-ha (pictured above), and Agua Azul. Most of the waterfalls can be visited on tours except for Roberto Barrios which must be visited on its own tour as it’s in the opposite direction of the other waterfalls.
Things to do in Mexico on the Pacific Coast (Puerto Escondido to Puerto Vallarta)
Mexico’s Pacific Coast is huge and there is honestly so much to and do see there. But for the sake of this blog, I’ve focused on some of the main tourist areas which also offer a ton of incredible things to explore, places to see, and adventures to have!
28. Go Skydiving on the beach
If you’ve ever wanted to tick that huge bucket list activity (skydiving) off your bucket list then Puerto Vallarta is the perfect place to do it. The location is gorgeous and you actually land on the beach right next to all the hotels.
I did a few skydives while in Puerto Vallarta and loved it. It’s still one of the most beautiful places in the world I’ve jumped.
I personally have a skydiving license so I understand the sport and despite being in Mexico, Skydive Puerto Vallarta is a very safe skydive club that follows the USPA (United States Parachute Association) guidelines.
So, what are you waiting for? You can book your skydive!
29. Eat at the best seafood taco restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a very touristic town, but what you may not know is that the local taco scene here is really amazing. All over town there are amazing tacorias selling amazing seafood tacos.
Of course, you can wander the streets and try to find them yourself, however, I highly recommend joining a taco tour in Puerto Vallarta.
I did one on my last visit and loved it! Without a doubt, this is one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta. I ate 10 tacos over the day as well as ice cream! But in all honesty, the seafood tacos were my favorite and included a seafood stuffed jalapeno in a taco!
30. Learn to surf in Puerto Escondido
When I arrive at a surf destination and people find out I’m from Australia, it’s just assumed that I can surf. Now although I have surfed before, I’m going to be honest here, I suck at it!
So whenever I can, I try to learn a little bit more and live up to that Australian stereotype. And in Puerto Escondido, I gave it another go and the learner beach of Playa Carrizalillo.
I always love to get in the water and surf, and on a lesson, you get great tips and a push (my arms aren’t used to paddling that much). On most lessons (even on your first time) you’ll be able to stand up which is really cool.
A surf lesson in Puerto Escondido costs around 300 pesos for an hour and board rentals are included. If you just want the board rental it’s 100 pesos per hour.
31. Swim with bioluminescent plankton
Near Puerto Escondido, there is a thermal lake that is filled with bioluminescent plankton. Although I’d already experienced swimming with them once before, I decided to give it another go in Puerto Escondido.
Although the tour was kinda creepy (it was dark and I’m pretty sure crocodiles live in the lake) it was super fun!
32. Go ziplining in the jungle
Ziplining is one of my favorite adventure activities! And, in Puerto Escondido, you can zipline on Mexico’s longest zipline!
The tours are an amazing way to get away from the beach and into the beautiful vegetation that surrounds Puerto Vallarta. There are a few different tours available but the tour I did was cheap and only included ziplining.
There are other tours that include repelling, ziplining and speed boat rides that are a great option if you want a day filled with a variety of adventure activities.
33. Watch the Rhythms of the Night Show
The Rhythms of the Night show is one of the most interesting and popular shows in Mexico. The founder was actually a co-founder of Cirque du Soleil and the show has 5-star reviews everywhere you look.
It’s basically an acrobat performance with a traditional Mexican twist and the show is one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
The Rhythms of the Night tour is a full evening experience. Starting with a sunset dinner cruise in the Bay of Banderas you can have a drink on board this luxury boat while enjoying the famous PV sunset.
As you can see, the hardest thing about coming to Mexico is choosing the amazing things you want to do while you’re here! This is only 33 of the best things to do but there are likely plenty more. However, this list is a great start to planning the ultimate holiday in Mexico.
If you have any questions we would love to hear from you. So please leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
We have a ton of informative destination guides and inspiring blogs about travel in Mexico. Head over to our Mexico page to check them all out!
May 14, 2020