Mexico, or the United Mexican States, is the second most populous country in Latin America with over 123 million people. A stable democracy, it has the second highest GDP in the region, after Brazil. Administratively, Mexico is a federation made up of 31 states. Its capital, Mexico City, is home to 20 million inhabitants.
Mexico is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations with over 20 million foreign visitors a year. Famous for its rich history and heritage, ancient civilizations (think Aztecs and the Mayas), Corona beer and tequila, and the beach resorts on the Pacific and Caribbean, Mexico has something to offer every visitor.
A large beach resort city, Acapulco is situated on a semi-circular bay that is characterized by traditional architecture on one side and luxury high-rise hotels on the other side.
Beautiful beaches are its main attraction and are plentiful along the bay area known as Las Costera, as well as on the ocean-side. Langosta and Caleta are clean and two of the area’s favorite ocean-side beaches.
Acapulco is also famed for a number of historical and cultural sites. Fort San Diego is home to several historical buildings and a museum that details the history of the area. Shaded by palm trees, the city’s main square is where travelers can visit one of Mexico’s must stunning cathedrals, watch street performers, dine in cafes, shop, and experience the local culture.
A must-do in Acapulco is to watch the city’s famous La Quebrada Cliff divers plunge 147 feet into a shallow inlet. A tradition since 1934, the dives can be viewed from a platform on the cliff tops or from nearby restaurants. Acapulco’s buzzing nightlife scene is another of its main attractions, offering a wide variety of bars, nightclubs and discotheques.
Fort San Diego
Address: Costera Miguel Aleman (across from cruise terminal)
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 9:30am - 6:30pm
Admission: 41 pesos (US$2.75) (free on Sundays)
Main City Square and Metropolitan Cathedral
Address: Plaza de la Constitución
Hours: Daily 7am - 7pm
Over the past decade, Tulum has grown into a coveted vacation spot for luxury travelers, although it still attracts bargain-hunters who remember when this out of the way jewel of Mexico’s east coast was more of a secluded getaway. In Tulum, travelers will find some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins in the Western Hemisphere, ruins that have the pristine waters of the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop. About 130 kilometers south of Cancun, Tulum is also home to other natural wonders, including several cenotes (underground water-filled caverns) and bio-reserves. It is an easy day trip by bus from Cancun, but is best seen early in the morning before other tourists arrive.
Tulum’s main attractions are the ruins of a walled Maya city perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the Caribbean in the Yucatán Peninsula. The site was built during the post classic period in the late 13th century when the Mayan culture was in decline. The tropical beach backdrop, however, makes this a unique site that travelers should not miss. The most imposing building in Tulum is the 25 feet (7.5 meter) tall El Castillo (the castle) set above the cliff. A small shrine appears to have been used as a beacon for incoming canoes. On the beach below, where the canoes once came ashore, travelers can combine a visit to the Mayan ruins with a dip in the Caribbean.
Address: Quintana Roo State, Mex 307
Hours: Daily 8am – 5pm
Admission: 57 pesos (US$4.00)
For those who want to experience true Mexican culture, there’s no better place than Oaxaca (pronounced “wah-HAH-kah”). Located in southern Mexico, Oaxaca has become a top spot for food lovers, history buffs, and cultural enthusiasts. The area offers mountains, beaches, caverns, jungles, and architecture for all types of travelers. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Oaxaca is home to the spectacular Macedonio Alcala Theater and a short drive from the spectacular rock formations at Hierve el Agua.
In the stateliest of Spanish colonial traditions, Oaxaca City (population 3.8 million) is an architectural gem, filled with unique museums, magical festivals, colorful handicrafts, pre-Columbian ruins, and baroque churches encrusted with gold. Perhaps more importantly, it is revered as the culinary capital of Mexico, packed with inexpensive markets and elegant five-star restaurants serving some of the tastiest food in the world.
Oaxaca is also famed for its outrageous festivals -- some are worth planning a trip around. The biggest party is Día del los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, officially celebrated on November 2. The festivities start in mid-October, with beautiful altars erected all around the area’s towns.
Address: Av. de la Independencia 900, Centro
Admission: varies depending on performance
Hierve el Agua
Address: Central Valley, Oaxaca (70km east of Oaxaca city)
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Admission: 20 pesos (US$1.30)
Mexico’s hurricane season normally runs from June to November and affects both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Travelers should monitor the progress of any approaching storms.
The U.S., UK, and other countries issue standard travel advisories for Mexico. They note that while most visits to Mexico are trouble-free, the country’s security situation can pose risks to foreign travelers. They suggest that travelers be alert to the existence of street crime as well as more serious violent crime like robbery, assault and vehicle hijacking. In certain parts of Mexico, travelers should take particular care to avoid being caught up in drug related violence between criminal groups. For more details, consult the travel advisories issued by the U.S. State Department and other countries before traveling.