Mexico is well known for its Caribbean and West Coast beach resorts, ancient Maya ruins, and diverse cultural and physical landscapes. Visitors can explore the cenotes, white sand beaches, eco-friendly resorts, and ancient ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean side. Jungle waterfalls like Cascadas de Agua Azul and Las Poaz as well as the train through Copper Canyon lure travelers to explore Mexico’s interior.
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Hidden Beach, also known as Playa del Amor (Love Beach), is located in the Marieta Islands off the Pacific coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The islands of this archipelago were formed by volcanic eruptions underwater. Hidden Beach is inside an island cavern where visitors must swim from an offshore anchored tour boat through a tunnel to the beach that is hidden inside. It was opened to the public for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and kayaking when it was named a national park in 2005. However, excessive tourism began to damage the ecosystem, which was countered by conservation measures. Now, the beach receives a limited number of people on authorized boats per day.
2. Arch of Cabo San Lucas
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At the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, two beaches meet. One is Playa del Amor, roughly translated as Love Beach. The other is Playa del Divorcio, translated as Divorce Beach. Between the two stands an organic archway carved out by the Pacific Ocean’s relentless winds and tenacious waves. It’s called simply, El Arco – The Arch. It’s also referred to locally as the Arch of Cabo San Lucas and Land’s End. The natural arch can’t be reached by land, so those who want to see it for themselves and take their own epic photos will need to go to the Cabo San Lucas Marina to get a boat taxi.
3. Plaza de las Tres Culturas
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Plaza de las Tres Culturas is the intersection of 100 years of architecture in one place. Pre-Hispanic culture is represented by Tlatelolco, the archaeological ruins of the biggest market in all the Americas. In 1609, the conquering Spanish built Templo de Santiago at the site during the colonial period using materials from the ruins. The church includes the baptismal font of the first indigenous Catholic saint, Juan Diego. The third era is represented by the Tlatelolco Cultural Center, which has temporary and permanent exhibition halls. The most significant is an installation dedicated to the Memorial del 68, remembering 300+ victims of a government massacre of protesting students the eve of the Mexico Olympics in 1968.
4. Acuario Inbursa
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Acuario Inbursa in Mexico City is the largest aquarium not only in the city but in the entire country. At five stories, four of which are underground, there is plenty for visitors to marvel at. The aquarium displays more than 14,000 examples of marine life from over 300 species in 48 exhibits. Guests will want to check out the five species of sharks at the Sunken Ship exhibit and the rays and manta rays from the Striped Lagoon exhibit. From mangroves to coral reefs to kelp forests and beyond, nearly every ocean habitat is available for examination. In fact, the entire fourth floor is a dedicated penguin habitat.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 386, Col. Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +52-55-53-95-45-86
5.Cascadas de Agua Azul
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Cascadas de Agua Azul and the Misol-Ha waterfall are located near the town of Palenque in the state of Chiapas in southwestern Mexico. The waterfalls are tucked away in mountainous jungles and can be reached from the Ocosingo-Palenque Road or on an organized tour from nearby Palenque or San Cristobal de las Casas. Agua Azul is a series of cascading waterfalls and tiny turquoise pools formed over limestone “steps” that make for stunning scenery. A web of easy paths along the cascades offers lots of photo opportunities. The Misol-Ha waterfall plunges 115 feet into a beautiful pool. Travelers taking the tour from San Cristobal should be aware that it is a 3.5-hour drive away.
Xanil River, Chiapas, MX, Phone: +01-80-02-80-35-00
6. Museo Subacuatico de Arte
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MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), the Cancun Underwater Museum, is part art installation, part environmental project. The museum includes more than 500 permanent exhibits in the form of life-sized sculptures. They’re spread across three underwater locations near Isla Mujeres, Cancun, and Punta Nizuc. Travelers can visit the museum via glass-bottom boat, snorkeling, or scuba diving. Because the installations are at different depths, one method of observation will work better at one site than at the others. Salon Manchones, near Isla Mujeres, is the deepest at 26 feet and is best seen by scuba diving. The other two are at a depth of 13 feet and 11.5 feet and are perfect for snorkeling.
Kukulcan Boulevard, Hotel Zone, Cancun, MX, Phone: +52-1-99-82-06-01-82
7. Cenote Xkeken
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In Maya tradition, cenotes were regarded as gateways to the afterlife. To modern day geologists, they’re sink holes. However, travelers want to look at it, the cenotes of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula are nothing short of dazzling. Cenote Xkeken is among a number of naturally formed cenotes; it is the most popular and arguably the prettiest. This gorgeous cenote is easily accessible and waiting to be explored. Visitors can expect to swim in beautiful blue-green water that is crystal clear, floating under a domed canopy of ethereal stalactites and curious rock formations. Rays of sunlight peek through the dome, changing the ambience with the shifting light of day. Cenote Xkeken is a 20-minute taxi ride from Valladolid.
Dzitnup, Yucatan, MX, Phone: +52-99-88-81-90-00
8. Chapultepec Castle
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Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City is a must-see attraction situated in the urban forested park of Bosque de Chapultepec. It is the only castle in North America where royalty have actually lived – in this case, Mexican Emperor Maximillian I and Empress Carlota. It is also home to the National History Museum. Visitors will notice a large mural of a boy wrapped in the Mexican flag painted on the ceiling above the staircase. It is in honor of six teens who defended the castle against U.S. troops during the Mexican-American War in 1847. There is also a memorial dedicated to the six cadets. Fans of the 1996 incarnation of the movie Romeo and Juliet may recognize the castle as the setting of the movie.
Chapultepec Park, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-40-40-52-15
© Hacienda Chukum
Hacienda Chukum is one of the Yucatán's newest attractions, spanning 131 acres around the newly-discovered Chukum-Ha cenote sinkhole. The charming park, which is conveniently located near the colonial town of Valladolid and the famed ruins of Chichén Itzá, is operated by Aventuras Mayas and serves as a model of eco-tourism for its sustainability-focused natural adventures. Guests can enjoy ziplining, diving, and rope-swinging experiences within the cenote, along with a 50-foot rappelling experience traversing the cavern's opening. Three natural openings within the cenote flood the cavern's pristine turquoise waters with natural sunlight, making for gorgeous photo opportunities. After adventures, guests can dine at the attraction's open-air restaurant, which serves up local Yucatán cuisine, or browse local artwork at its gift shop.
Yalcobá, Yucatan, Mexico, Phone: +984 8032551
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Coba is a Maya ruin on the Yucatan Peninsula near Tulum that is reputed to once have been the largest Mayan city, with around 100,000 inhabitants. The archaeological site represents a Mayan community from 600 to 900 AD. Experts estimate that the site originally consisted of 6,500 structures, although only a few are visible now. The Nohoc Mul pyramid is 126 feet tall, making it the tallest in the area. Visitors willing to climb the 120 steps of the Grand Pyramid will be rewarded with views of unexcavated temples dotting miles of jungle canopy. There is a small temple atop the pyramid.
Km. 47, Carretera Federal, Tulum, Quintana Roo, MX, Phone: +01-98-42-06-71-66
11. Copper Canyon
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The best way to explore the vast regions of Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico, is by train. El Chepe chugs across the Sierra Madres, stopping at various small towns along the way. Visitors will enjoy visiting the Tarahumara people, cowboys, family restaurants, and artisan craft shops of Creel, the biggest tourist draw on the trip. Then there’s the mind-blowing landscape of Divisadero. There are 37 bridges, 87 mountain tunnels, sheer drop-offs, dense forests, and plunging waterfalls. Other stops along the Copper Canyon train route include Bahuichivo and Temoris, of which Temoris would be the one to see. Those traveling the whole length of the line will add another 130 miles to the Pacific Ocean for a total 400-mile trip.
Ferrocarril, Viejo, Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, MX, Phone: +01-80-01-22-43-73
12. El Tepozteco
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Those with a penchant for spiritual mysticism or cultural history will want to make sure El Tepozteco is on their Mexico travel bucket list. This mountaintop Aztec pyramid is dedicated to the god Tepoztecatl and is located in the Mexican cloud forest of Morelos just outside the mountain town of Tepoztlan. Getting to the pyramid from town involves a hiking a path through the mountainous rainforest past dramatic waterfalls, mischievous coatis, an ancient stairway, and a rock canyon. The journey is its own reward, but the pyramid is icing on the proverbial cake. Trekkers taking the stairs to the top of this archaeological site will find two interior chambers to explore, plus panoramic views of the countryside and Tepoztlan.
Morelos Avenue, Morelos Sur No. 187, Las Palmas, Cuernavaca, Morelos, MX, Phone: +52-77-73-14-38-72
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13. Frida Kahlo Museum
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Frida Kahlo’s 1904 Blue House in the beautiful Coyoacán neighborhood of Mexico City was where she lived and worked for most of her life and, in the end, where she died. The house was turned into a museum that celebrates the works and lives of both Kahlo and Diego Rivera in 1958, 4 years after her death. Visitors can expect to see her workspace, where she recovered from a bus accident, the traditional kitchen, the dining room where she and Rivera entertained famous guests, and artwork of both artists. There are also numerous other works of art in the museum that were gifts to Kahlo from other renowned artists.
Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-55-54-59-99
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English poet and artist Edward James was a patron of surrealism in Great Britain. He brought his passion for art and love of surrealism to the jungles of San Luis Potosi when he bought a coffee plantation and turned it into his own “Surrealist Xanadu.” Located outside the town of Xilitla, James began to create a concrete surrealist sculpture garden that grew to 32 pieces spread across the 80-acre former plantation. This one-of-a-kind sculpture garden includes fascinating works like The Bamboo Palace, The Three-Story House That Might Have Five, and Road of the Seven Deadly Sins. They’re intermingled with pools, waterfalls, and gardens, which will surprise and intrigue visitors.
1477 20 de Noviembre, Xilitla, MX, Phone: +0-44-48-93-65-04-38
15. Memory and Tolerance Museum
© Memory and Tolerance Museum
The Memory and Tolerance Museum is dedicated to the remembrance of victims of genocide around the world. The museum has permanent “Memory” exhibits that recount crimes against humanity in the Holocaust, Armenia, former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Guatemala, and Darfur genocides. The museum’s other purpose is to teach tolerance. The “Tolerance” permanent exhibit tackles tolerance, human rights, discrimination, diversity, and other topics in numerous rooms, culminating with the Commitment and Indifference Room. In all, there are 55 halls to view. There is a section of the museum dedicated specifically to LGBT tolerance. Temporary exhibits have focused on such subjects as the Torreón massacre of Chinese residents as well as migrants and refugees, Mexican femicide, and others.
Avenida Juárez 8, Col. Centro, Cuahtemoc, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-51-30-55-55
16. Museo de Arte Popular
© Museo de Arte Popular
Museo de Arte Popular is dedicated to the preservation of Mexican folk art and handcrafts. The museum is housed in a 1927 repurposed firehouse in Centro Historico, Mexico City’s historic district. Considered a major collection of Mexican folk art, the museum is divided into five permanent themed exhibition halls: Mexican art, Mexican crafts, everyday things, religious items, and fantasy/magic things. There is also a temporary exhibit hall that has featured past collections like Mud, Paper, Scissors. The museum provides children’s craft workshops on weekends. Visitors will also appreciate the museum gift shop, which offers traditional to contemporary artisan products from across Mexico.
Calle Revillagigedo 11, Col. Centro, Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-55-10-22-01
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17. Museo Soumaya
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Museo Soumaya on Plaza Carso in the Miguel Hidalgo neighborhood is a fine art museum that opened to the public in 2011. The six-story modern museum architecture is reflective of the Auguste Rodin sculptures that dominate the collections. Covered with 16,000 aluminum hexagons, visitors can’t miss it. Inside, the museum houses the largest Rodin sculpture collection outside of France in addition to an impressive collection from surrealist Salvador Dalí. There are 18 themed collections at the museum and six exhibitions. Other must-see highlights include murals by Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Sisqueiros, plus the impressionists located in Room 4. The museum prides itself on premier accessibility to the arts with an array of inclusive services.
303 Cervantes Saavedra Boulevard, Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-11-03-98-00
18. National Museum of Anthropology
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Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is arguably the premier museum of its kind in all of Latin America. The collections of pre-Columbian cultures like the Aztecs, Maya, and Zapotecs are vast and admirable. Visitors can take free guided or self-guided tours of the museum as they explore exhibits that include everyday objects, ceremonial objects, and significant finds like the “sun stone” from archaeological sites. Other highlights include exhibits on Teotihuacán, cultures of Oaxaca, and the Toltecs. The museum is accessible and there is a museum store in the lobby with reproductions of museum items for sale.
Avenida Paseo de la Reforma & Calzada Gandhi, Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-40-40-53-00
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19. Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City
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Palacio de Bellas Artes, adjacent to Alameda Central Park, is a striking art nouveau building that will wow guests before they even enter. The stunning building itself is a work of art and has been dubbed the “Cathedral of Art in Mexico.” This artistic center has been host to premier events in dance, music, opera, and theater. Beloved murals by Mexico’s top muralists enliven its permanent collection. It houses some of the best sculpture, painting, and photography exhibits in the city and is home to the National Museum of Architecture, which is on the fourth floor. The National Theater also makes its home here.
Juárez Avenue, Corner of Eje Central, Centro Histórico, Mexico City, Phone: +01-55-86-47-65-00
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20.Pyramid Kukulan Chichen Itza
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Not only is the Kukulan Pyramid a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Located in the Maya ruins of Chichen Itza, it is an example of mathematical genius. The 365 steps to the temple at the top represent the days of the year, and the nine stages of the pyramid represent the Mayan calendar year, which is 18 months. It is situated at precise angles to create the illusion of Kukulan, a god in the form of a feathered serpent, returning to earth on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Visitors can watch the brilliant phenomenon artificially recreated each night in a sound and light show.
Chichen Itza, Tinum, Yucatan, Phone: +01-98-58-51-01-37
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21.Six Flags Mexico
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Visitors to Mexico will find an oasis of pure fun at Six Flags amusement park in Mexico City. This is one of Latin America’s favorite amusement parks with something for every member of the family. There are 14 extreme rides for adrenaline seekers, like the Boomerang roller coaster, Sky Screamer, or X-Flight. For those who prefer their rides a little calmer, there are 16 rides for the whole family. There are even 15 rides for the littlest adventurers. Six Flags is more than just rides. There are seven shows too, like Dancing with the Looney Tunes and This is Pop. The Magic Light Parade is a nighttime favorite.
Carr. Picacho-Ajusco Km 1.5, Tlalpan, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-53-39
22.Templo Mayor Museum
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Mexico City was once Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital of Mexico, and Templo Mayor was its most significant temple. The Templo Mayor Museum was built and opened to the public in 1987 as a place to display the 7,000 objects recovered from the archaeological excavation of Templo Mayor. The museum is at the site of the excavation and is included in the general admission. Visitors will see a model of Tenochtitlán along with the recovered artifacts. The excavation is ongoing and surprising finds are still being uncovered, like a tower of human skulls found in 2017. The museum primarily houses objects from the initial 1978-82 dig.
8 Seminario Street, Downtown, Cuahtemoc, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-40-40-56-00
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High atop a cliff overlooking the sparkling Caribbean, the Maya ruins of Tulum’s ancient walled city have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the only seaside Maya archaeological site in Mexico, providing visitors with unusual photo opportunities. The significance of Tulum is apparent by the convergence of roads coming from surrounding Maya communities, even today. Highlights include the “castle,” temple frescoes, and God of the Wind Temple. Below the cliffside ruins, travelers will find Paradise Beach, one of the area’s biggest and most spectacular Riviera Maya white sand beaches. The ruins are 15 minutes outside Tulum proper and can be reached by taxi, colectivo, bike, or car.
Tourist Info: Weary Traveler Hostel, Calle Polar Pte. 36, Tulum, Mexico, Phone: +0-44-98-48-71-23-90
24. Xcaret Park
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Xcaret Park is Riviera Maya’s original eco-archaeological park, where visitors can appreciate both nature and Maya culture. Highlights include archaeological sites, underground caverns and rivers, the Maya Village, a butterfly pavilion, an aviary, a coral reef aquarium, a lagoon, and a beach. Their nightly show, Xcaret Mexico Espectacular, is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It portrays Mexican history, tradition, dance, and music and is included in the entrance fee. Visitors also get the use of everything from inner tubes to lounge chairs to enjoy the park. “Plus” tickets also include the use of snorkel equipment, a buffet lunch, and a private shower/changing area.
Carretera Chetúmal-Puerto Juárez Km 282, Playa del Carmen, MX, Phone: +01-80-02-92-27-38
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Xel-Há is a self-described natural outdoor aquarium. This eco-friendly all-inclusive park is a model of sustainability, earning top honors from EarthCheck. There are tons of water activities here, including snorkeling and swimming in an inlet teeming with colorful tropical fish, floating the river, exploring caves and cenotes, ziplining and rope-swinging over water, cliff jumping, and many, many more. Guests can walk or bike the park’s jungle trails and explore the rich abundance of fauna and flora in nature’s paradisal habitat. The park has four Mexican restaurants where visitors can indulge in traditional foods, drinks, and cocktails.
Carretera Chetúmal-Puerto Juárez Km 240, Tulum, MX, Phone: +01-80-00-09-35-42
25 Best Things to Do in Mexico
- Hidden Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Emelianov Evgenii - Fotolia.com
- Arch of Cabo San Lucas, Photo: Courtesy of emperorcosar - Fotolia.com
- Plaza de las Tres Culturas, Photo: Courtesy of diegograndi - Fotolia.com
- Acuario Inbursa, Photo: Courtesy of dj_mono - Fotolia.com
- Cascadas de Agua Azul, Photo: Courtesy of NoraDoa - Fotolia.com
- Museo Subacuatico de Arte, Photo: Courtesy of Martin Fiedler - Fotolia.com
- Cenote Xkeken, Photo: Courtesy of Simon Dannhauer - Fotolia.com
- Chapultepec Castle, Photo: Courtesy of NoraDoa - Fotolia.com
- Hacienda Chukum, Photo: Hacienda Chukum
- Coba, Photo: Courtesy of CL-Medien - Fotolia.com
- Copper Canyon, Photo: Courtesy of jerdad - Fotolia.com
- El Tepozteco, Photo: Courtesy of NoraDoa - Fotolia.com
- Frida Kahlo Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Byelikova Oksana - Fotolia.com
- Las Poaz, Photo: Courtesy of Barna Tanko - Fotolia.com
- Memory and Tolerance Museum, Photo: Memory and Tolerance Museum
- Museo de Arte Popular, Photo: Museo de Arte Popular
- Museo Soumaya, Photo: Courtesy of qojoo - Fotolia.com
- National Museum of Anthropology, Photo: Courtesy of Rafael Ben-Ari - Fotolia.com
- Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Photo: Courtesy of J A Nicoli - Fotolia.com
- Pyramid Kukulan Chichen Itza, Photo: Courtesy of javarman - Fotolia.com
- Six Flags Mexico, Photo: Courtesy of maqzet - Fotolia.com
- Templo Mayor Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Alexander Sánchez - Fotolia.com
- Tulum, Photo: Courtesy of olivier - Fotolia.com
- Xcaret Park, Photo: Courtesy of siempreverde22 - Fotolia.com
- Xel-Ha Park, Photo: Courtesy of froland83 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Premium Collection - Fotolia.com
Chapultepec Zoo is an urban zoo located in the vast, forested Bosque de Chapultepec. Visitors can expect over 1,236 examples from 222 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. The zoo houses animals from all over the world as well as from all parts of Mexico. Visitors can expect to see interesting species endemic to Mexico like the volcano rabbit, the second smallest rabbit in the world behind the pygmy rabbit, or the axolotl, a salamander currently facing extinction. Other zoo inhabitants facing extinction, and which are the focus of the zoo’s research and conservation, are the giant panda, the Mexican wolf, and the California condor. Guided tours are available.
Chapultepec Park, Col. Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico City, MX, Phone: +01-55-55-53-62-63