Things to Do in Mexico
Running 5 kilometers where the town meets the sea, the Malecón is a main road of La Paz. Lined with restaurants, bars, and shops, it is an energetic center of tourist activity. Its wide, clean boulevard is dotted with small sculptures, benches, and beachgoers, all with views of the sand and palm trees. It is a great place to take a peaceful stroll, though often you’ll be joined by those cycling or jogging the path.
The presence of vendors, musicians, and fisherman make it a lively hotspot to gather and take in the local culture. Often artists have their work on display by the small pier. It’s an especially good spot to grab a seafood lunch made with fresh ingredients from the surrounding waters. The Malecón also comes alive at night, beginning with the sunset that many come to view from the edge of the sand.
On a peninsula along the Baja California coast, the blowhole ‘La Bufadora’ is a marine geyser that shoots ocean water straight up into the air. It occurs naturally from ocean waves that push water into a sea cavern, which causes the pressure to build and then explode when the water recedes. Depending on the level of the tide, the water can climb as high as 60 feet from the sea.
It’s often seen after a short scenic drive from nearby Ensenada, and has become well known as a natural phenomenon of the area. Legend explains that one of the many grey whales that migrate off the coast here swam too close to shore, and that the geyser is reminiscent of the whale’s spout while waiting to be discovered. There are always beautiful views of the coast here, and a small local square with shops and restaurants nearby.
Opened to the public in 2013, the Xihuacan Museum and Archeological Site offers a unique look at a pre-Columbian temple site as archeologists uncover it. Located in the area around Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the archeological site include a religious pyramid about 45 feet tall and 300 feet square at the base, which remains only partially uncovered, and an ancient ball court that is one of the largest ancient courts in Mexico, second only to Chichen Itza’s. The nearby museum houses around 800 artifacts uncovered at the site, including ancient pottery, tools and art works, along with exhibits about the people who inhabited the area across more than four millennia.
The Sea of Cortez (or Gulf of California) lies between the Baja California Peninsula and mainland Mexico. This stretch of the Pacific, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most diverse seas in the world and home to more than 3,000 marine species, including hammerhead sharks, sea lions, and sea turtles.
Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba, is one of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, in tandem with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Highlights of this archaeological site include the Temple of the Frescoes, which has spectacular figurines of the 'diving god.'
Acapulco's iconic attraction, made famous in Elvis flicks, Ray Austen stunts, and every cheerfully scrawled holiday postcard sent home ever since, are La Quebrada Cliff Divers. Beginning in the 1920s, these brave young men and women began leaping for the crowds some 45 craggy meters (150 terrifying feet) into a wave-crashed inlet just 4 meters (13 feet) deep. And that's if they time it just right.
The ritual begins with a prayer at the shrine to La Virgen de Guadalupe, carved into the cliff-top platform. Then, the divers carefully calculate when their target will have enough water to soften their fall. Finally, they leap. First in the afternoon, and as the sun sets, again. The final dive of the night plunges past torches into a sea of fire (lit with flaming gasoline), no easy feat.
Rio Secreto, or the “Secret River,” is a series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river in Mexico. While the reserve is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern—a popular diving spot—you can also explore eerie passageways, swim in the river, and admire dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and colorful mineral formations.
A signature landmark of Los Cabos, El Arco de Cabo San Lucas—known locally as simply “El Arco” or “the Arch”—is a limestone arch carved by time, tide, and wind. The natural attraction runs runs down to the water’s edge at Land’s End, the southern tip of Cabo San Lucas (which itself is at the southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula) and into the Sea of Cortez. From a distance, the rock formation looks like a dragon; up close, the arch frames sky, sea, and sand for prime photos.
In 1998 this national park, which spans tens of thousands of acres of Oaxaca countryside, was declared a protected area and later designated as a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. As a result, Huatulco National Park has become a destination for travelers looking to get back to nature and spot rare species of animals and birds that exist nowhere else in the world.
Exhaustive conservation efforts have preserved the ecosystems of the tropical forests, mangroves, coral reefs and wetlands that make up this park. Visitors agree the park’s untouched beauty makes it worth a trip and easy access from nearby Cruz Huatulco means it a breeze to get to. Despite easy access this crystal blue bay manages to remain untouched. So whether it’s charting a boat to snorkel, dive, or fish in the pristine surrounding waters, or lounging on one of the deserted beaches, Huatulco National Park offers visitors a chance to experience the country as it used to be.
Love it, hate it, or can’t remember it, there’s no denying that Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas is a town fueled by fun and firewater. From deep-sea fishing to fishbowl sipping, Cabo always delivers on its reputation as the Baja Peninsula’s favorite resort town thanks to its combination of kid-friendly water sports, whale-watching opportunities, world-class beaches, and raging nightlife.
More Things to Do in Mexico
Founded by Father Jaime Bravo in 1723, the mission sits against the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Todos Santos on the Pacific Baja coast. Originally developed as an outpost of a larger mission in nearby La Paz, it became the principle mission of the Jesuits in the area upon its closure. With colorful stained glass surrounding the altar, the interior contains the statue of the Virgin of Pilar that the town celebrates annually with a festival in October. It has become a religious and historic landmark of Todos Santos.
Perched high on the hills above town, a visit to the mission offers views of the ocean and the Valle del Pilar. The structure is surrounded by colorful flowers, clean and simple in its design. The Virgin of Pilar is considered the patron saint of Todos Santos, and the mission remains a symbol at the heart of the area.
High in the rugged mountains of the northern state of Guerrero, the city of Taxco de Alarcon was once an isolated Spanish stronghold. Today, it is known for its silver mines and the generations of artisans who create some of Mexico's most beautiful jewelry. In addition to the silver shops, take in the town’s architectural and natural attractions.
Looking for a quaint escape from the hustle and bustle of Mexico City? Queretaro is the place for you. With the full name of Santiago de Quertetaro, this town is the capital of the small but diverse Mexican state of Queretaro.
A step back into colonial times, Queretaro is known for its history, culture and pink stoned walls. See the Art Museum, the Regional Museum or the odd but pleasurable Mathematics Museum. The city center has some affordable street vendors selling local arts and crafts, and the colonial center of the city has two bullrings. Not too far from Mexico City, here you can find not just stimulating history and good shopping but also great traditional Mexican food as well. Memos, Che Che, and Los Compadres all serve up great traditional Mexican fare at a fair price all in the historic city center.
Visit this museum to see Diego Rivera's early childhood home, which has been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and work. Alongside original artworks and the personal effects of Rivera—one of Mexico’s most influential muralists and artists—you may also see temporary exhibits from other artists.
The second oldest cathedral in the Americas, the Mérida Cathedral (Catedral de San Ildefonso) was built atop a Mayan temple in the 16th century. Notable for its relatively austere façade and surprisingly stark Moorish interior, Mérida Cathedral also houses some of Mérida’s most significant religious artifacts, including the Christ of Blisters statue.
Known as the City of the Gods, Teotihuacán was the metropolis of a mysterious Mesoamerican civilization that reached its zenith around AD 100. Once the largest city in the region but abandoned centuries before the arrival of the Aztecs, Teotihuacán boasts towering pyramids and stone temples with detailed statues and intricate murals.
One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Monte Albán—an ancient Zapotec capital—is perhaps the most important archaeological site in Oaxaca and among the largest in Mexico. Head to Monte Albán’s flat mountain top for views of the city, then explore the vast site’s temples, tombs, underground tunnels, and ball court.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza—meaning "at the mouth of the well of the Itza"—is Mexico's most-visited archaeological site, a magnificent display of the advanced civilization of the Maya people and the ceremonial center of the Yucatan.
Thought to be the highest lighthouse in the Americas, El Faro in Mazatlán sits 523 feet above sea level and has been in operation since 1879. Now a Mazatlán landmark, visitors can walk along the glass lookout platform, admire panoramic views over the port city of Mazatlán, and catch some of the city’s best sunsets.
The star attraction of Cozumel Reefs National Park (Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel), Palancar Reef is a rich underwater landscape ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Aquatic species thrive amidst these colorful corals, including sea turtles, rays, nurse sharks, barracudas, moray eels, and a kaleidoscope of colorful fish.
Set on a private stretch of white sand, Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club Cozumel allows you to avoid the island’s beachfront crowds and offers amenities for a relaxing seaside experience. Here you can swim in the Caribbean ocean, sample all you can eat from the restaurant and bar, float in the infinity pool, and relax in shaded cabanas.
Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park encompasses the island’s best-known diving and snorkeling spots, including the Palancar, Columbia, and Paradise reefs, as well as the Devil’s Throat at Punta Sur and the shipwreck ofFelipe Xicoténcatl—a minesweeper ship used in WWII. The park houses up to 26 species of coral and 300 species of fish.
Like most boardwalks, Puerto Vallarta’s promenade, known as El Malecon, is dotted with sightseeing opportunities, cafes, shops, galleries, and performers. Overlooking the Bay of Banderas, the mile-long stretch offers scenic views during the day. And in the evening, the waterfront nightclubs and discos open their doors to party-seeking locals and visitors.
The heart of every Mexican city is its cathedral, and Guadalajara is no exception. Officially known as the Basílica de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Virgen María, the Guadalajara Cathedral towers over the city’s central plazas. A mishmash of Gothic, baroque, Moorish, and neoclassical styles, the building is atypical for a Mexican cathedral, and its unusual design has made it an emblem of the city.
Since 1561, the massive cathedral has weathered eight earthquakes, two of which did serious damage. An 1818 quake demolished the central dome and towers. The distinctive tiled towers you see today date back to1854. The interior is awesome in the original sense of the word; the stained glass windows are reminiscent of Notre Dame, and 11 silver and gold altars were gifts from Spain’s King Fernando VII. But it’s not all just finery --- the cathedral also has its share of macabre relics. Under the great altar you’ll find the crypts of bishops and cardinals, which date back to the sixteenth century. And to the left of the main altar you’ll see the Virgin of Innocence, which contains the bones of a 12-year-old girl who was martyred in the third century, forgotten, and rediscovered in the Vatican catacombs 1400 years later. The bones were shipped to Guadalajara in 1788.
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