Narrowing down the list of the best things to do in Mexico is quite the challenge. After all, Mexico is a vibrant, multi-cultural country filled with an incredible diversity of landscapes, cultures, cuisines, and activities.
But, with the help of some of the world’s best travel bloggers, I’ve put together this list of 33 absolutely amazing activities to do in Mexico that you definitely won’t want to miss!
What’s in store? Think hot air balloons over ancient ruins. Or diving in underground rivers. Or taking a train through a canyon bigger than the Grand Canyon.
But, first, two important tips on what NOT to do in Mexico:
- Tip #1 – don’t visit without checking if you need Mexico travel insurance.
- Tip #2 – for me, do not use restroom doors labeled with an “M” (to learn why see my full post on travel tips for Mexico).
⚠ IMPORTANT TIP FOR USA TRAVELERS TO MEXICO IN 2021 ⚠
Covid tests are now mandatory to fly back to the USA. Even vaccinated travelers can test positive, and if you do you’ll put into expensive mandated quarantine instead of flying home (just read the horror stories in this USA Today article). My top Mexico travel tip is to always make a backup plan for quarantine and consider travel insurance. While not legally required yet, I feel like I’d be tempting fate without it during a pandemic. Plus, it’s actually pretty cheap! World Nomads is my personal go-to during covid times. But do your own research and stay safe out there!
#1 Soak in the Stunning Beaches of Tulum
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Tulum has recently become one of the trendiest places to visit, not just in Mexico, but in the entire world. Why?
Well, there’s one reason really: Tulum beach is arguably one of the best on the planet!
In recent years, the alabaster white sand and turquoise water of Tulum’s stunning beaches have attracted hip visitors from all over the world. Although the secret is out about Tulum, there is still time to visit before it becomes the most popular thing to do in Mexico. You’ll be treated to a relaxed town with a hippie feel, the beach-side Tulum Mayan ruins, and amazing beachside resorts that you may never want to leave!
#2 Wander the Yellow City of Izamal
One of the most amazing things to do in Mexico is to visit and wander the streets of Pueblo Magico, or Izamal Magic Town. The entire city, located in the Yucatan peninsula, is painted head to toe in yellow.
Wander through the streets in this picture perfect city and even check out the giant Mayan pyramid that overlooks the magic yellow city. The highlight of the city and most picturesque spot is the Convento de San Antonio de Padua. While there aren’t a ton of touristy activities to do here, that’s part of the charm: the best part about visiting Izamal is just enjoying the slow life of strolling through the streets and admiring the happy color of yellow everywhere you look.
-Megan and Scott of Bobo and Chichi
#3 Ride a Hot Air Balloon Over the Ancient Ruins of Teotihuacan
One of the best things to do in Mexico City is seeing the ruins of the sprawling site of Teotihuacan from the air. It is an absolute must-do when you visit Mexico City. Take off up into the sky as the sun is rising and look down over the Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Avenue of the Dead stretching down to the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
You will be amazed at just how peaceful it is floating along in the air with only the occasional interruption as the burners fire. Teotihuacan is situated in a basin between two mountain ranges and the early morning view is crisp and clear, so you’ll be able to see for miles in every direction!
-Michelle of Walking on Foreign Chels
#4 Swim in a “Petrified Waterfall” at Hierve el Agua
One of the absolute coolest things to do in Mexico, and perhaps the whole world, is to check out the stunning mineral formations of Hierve el Agua.
Located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, this unique natural phenomenon creates calcified “waterfalls” that look like they are from another planet. There’s even a set of springs where you can go swimming, or pose for a photo over the unique formations (this is one of the most popular Instagram spots in all of Mexico!).
Its remote location means you’ll need to take a tour or rent a car to get there, but the journey will be well worth it!
#5 Ride a Train Through Copper Canyon
Our next top experience in Mexico is traveling on the “el chepe” train through the breath-taking Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) in northern Mexico.
Starting in Los Mochis on the Westcoast of the state Sinaloa, the historic train will take you all the way to Chihuahua, passing through small towns and the incredible landscapes of northern Mexico. From the train, you’ll have awesome views of the wild nature and you should certainly plan some stops along the way to explore the incredible canyon. The village Divisadero is a particularly great base: from there, you can visit several viewpoints as well as a fun adventure park with ziplines through this enormous canyon!
-Patrick of German Backpacker
#6 Or Take the Tequila Train from Guadalajara
One of the best things to do in Mexico is to ride the Herradura Tequila Train. The tequila train departs from Guadalajara and takes you to the agave fields of Jalisco to visit the gorgeous Herradura hacienda. The entire ride you are treated to craft tequila cocktails, or you can sample straight tequila if you prefer…. 😉
Once you arrive, you’ll tour the expansive property and learn about the tequila production process before attending a tasting where you are taught the “proper way” to drink tequila. Next, you’re treated to a gourmet lunch and cultural presentation while you have, you guessed it, more tequila drinks. Back on the train to Guadalajara the drinks are still coming- you’re like to have a drink in your hand the entire day!
Pro tip: book well in advance if you want a seat in the coveted Club Car, which is the first to sell out.
-Nathan of Foodie Flashpacker
#7 Relax at Bacalar, Mexico’s Lake of Seven Colors
Laguna Bacalar is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Mexico (just watch the above video to see why!). Popularly known as the Lake of Seven Colors, Bacalar Lagoon is home to innumerable shades of blues and greens.
Thanks to Mexico’s subtropical climate, Bacalar is warm and lovely year round, perfect for swimming or enjoying the water in a float nearly every day of the year. Here you can try stand-up paddle boarding at sunrise, which gets you a great workout and culminates in the picture-perfect Pirate’s Channel, where you can jump from the form of an old ship several meters into deep blue water pools below. Other great activities to enjoy in Bacalar include kayaking, boat tours, and exploring the Fort San Felipe in town. But, whatever of the many things to do in Bacalar you choose, it should definitely be on your lists of the top things to do in Mexico!
-Allison of Eternal Arrival
#8 Go Diving in a Cenote
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to more than 6,000 cenotes, or sinkholes thought to be formed by the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. Cenotes are great not only for swimming and snorkeling but diving too. If you go with a licensed instructor you only need a basic diving certification.
Wondering what you’ll see on a cenote dive in Mexico?
While there are some fish in the cenotes, diving here is more about the structure and stunning limestone cave formations. Other highlights include the amazing light beams that come into certain cenotes like El Pit and Cenote Calavera, where the sun lights up the cenote through a small opening at the top leaving beams of dancing lights.
Also, keep an eye out for the fog at the bottom of some cenotes which is actually a cloud layer of acid that looks super creepy but beautiful at the same time. Another thing you might not know about cenotes is that all the water isn’t fresh water, under 12-15 meters you’ll find saltwater, and where the waters meet you get a mixed layer with a really cool effect. While the cenotes are great to swim and snorkel in, they really come to life with SCUBA gear on!
-Hannah of Getting Stamped
#9 Or Swim in An Underground River at Rio Secreto
Just outside of Playa del Carmen lies the Rio Secreto Nature Reserve, home to five magical caverns connected by an underground river that you can explore as part of guided tours. The mineral formation in these caves are out of this world, and you can even witness a light show projected upon them.
But the best part of exploring Rio Secreto?
Swimming in the underground river cave! This is a unique and awesome thing to do in Mexico that you shouldn’t miss if you’re in the Yucatan!
#10 Visit Chamula by Horseback
One of the best things to do in Chiapas Mexico, is going on a day trip to Chamula, an indigenous village not far from San Cristobal de Las Casas. And what better way to get there than by leisurely experiencing nature from the back of a horse? On your way to Chamula, you’ll pass green fields, traditional village, and you’ll get a glimpse of the daily life in rural Chiapas.
Once you get to Chamula, go shopping in the very colorful market and don’t miss visiting the Temple of San Juan Chamula. People here mix Catholic and Pagan beliefs, and pray on hay surrounded by hundreds of candles, offering chickens and Coke to their Gods. It’s a mesmerizing sight to experience.
-Stef of EverySteph
#11 Marvel at Chichen Itza, One of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Chichen Itza, one of the new wonders of the world, is definitely one of the top attractions in Mexico. Located about 2 hours from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, it serves also well as a day trip, and there are several guided tours you can join to get there.
If you prefer to do things on your own, you can rent a car and then also visit some nearby attractions and a beautiful cenote called Ik-kil. If you only visit one historical site in Mexico, Chichen Itza is a great choice since it’s well-preserved and intensely interesting.
And, do yourself a favor and go here early in the morning to get the full experience without the crowds!
-Alex of Swedish Nomad
Pro Tip: Plan your visit with our guide to the 10 Best Chichen Itza Tours (From Cancun, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen).
#12 Explore The Magical Town of Valladolid
Although its just a couple hours from Cancun to Valladolid, and although many tourists pass through it on their way to Chichen Itza, far too many people are missing out on one of Mexico’s best kept secrets!
The magical town of Valladolid is not only home to some of the most remarkable cenotes in Mexico (there’s even a few in the town’s center), but its historic core is filled gorgeous architecture and incredible culture. Best yet, its under-the-radar status means that it’s the perfect places to experience authentic Mexico free from the throngs of tourists. For more information on visiting, check out our huge guide to Valladolid, Mexico.
#13 Learn to Surf in Sayulita
Sayulita sits on the Pacific Coast of Mexico just north of Puerto Vallarta. The once sleepy fishing village turned into a Boemian surfing town on the 60’s when roving surfers discovered the ideal conditions for riding the waves and living a peaceful life.
Although mainstream tourism has now started to come to Sayulita it is still a somewhat off-the-beaten-tourist-path destination appealing to backpackers and hippies. Surfing remains a big draw here and there are numerous surf and board shops offering the opportunity to practice your skills or even take lessons with the pros.
If surfing is too extreme for you paddle boarding is also a big activity in Sayulita as there are spots of calm waters away from the waves. Outside of the water sports this laid back town also has plenty of cafes, boutiques and art galleries to keep you occupied and of course a lovely beach for relaxing with a cold cerveza.
-Sarah of Live Dream Discover
#14 Hang Out with Flamingos in the Lagoons of Celestun
Just an hour away from Merida lies the tiny fishing village of Celstun, home to some incredible mangroves filled with some of the most interesting wildlife in all of Mexico.
Most famously, Celestun plays host at the beginning of each year to flocks of thousands of flamingos. Taking a boat tour to witness these majestic birds is definitely one of the top things to do in Merida, and a unique experience in Mexico that should not be missed. For more information on visiting, check out our full guide to Celestun.
#15 Swim with Whale Sharks
Swimming with the whale shark is certainly one of the most amazing things to do in Mexico, and perhaps anywhere in the world. You’ll swim so close to these gentle giants of the sea that you may feel like you’re practically inside of them. These enormous animals are actually neither whales nor sharks: they are the largest fish in the ocean. And, from about mid-May through July, it’s possible to swim with these beasts from Cancun, Isla Mujeres, or Isla Holbox.
Protip: wear a wetsuit, which will let you avoid a life jacket and swim more freely with these amazing creatures.
-Isabella of Boundless Roads
#16 Get Cultured in Mexico City
For some reason, many people still have the most misconceptions misconceptions about Mexico City. But whatever your preconceptions, prepare to have your mind totally changed when you visit this incredibly cosmopolitan city. From incredible history, to amazing food, to some of the best nightlife on the planet, Mexico City is a world class city with so many things to do. It deserves to be considered in same league as New York, Paris, London, and Tokyo.
Your itinerary in Mexico City should include visiting Chapultepec Park (which rivals Central Park), wandering the upscale neighborhoods of Condessa and Roma Norte, visiting the famous Zocalo public square, or exploring the National Museum of Anthropology. Just be careful about booking a return ticket, because you may never want to leave once you spend just two or three days in Mexico City.
#17 Catch Rally Mexico in Leon
Leon is a small city that tourists often overlook unless they’re looking for leather goods and shoes. However, for one weekend every March, the World Rally Championship descends on the city and the noise of rally cars echoes through the nearby Sierra de Lobos.
The event begins with ceremonial start and a race through the streets and tunnels of Guanajuato on Thursday evening. From there, they head to the mountains to tackle the rough and dusty mountain roads, returning to Leon twice a day for service. Going quickly over such loose surfaces often involves sideways driving and high-speed jumps. It’s spectacular to watch …. especially when the cars are often only metres apart!
Tickets for these sell out quickly, though, and it’s easy to see why. No matter where you go, you’ll be surrounded by passionate Mexican spectators who go absolutely berserk when someone keeps the pedal planted through a tight corner. With such fans, it’s hard not to be intoxicated by the race (or by something else…)!
-Nicholas of Rambling Feet
#18 Learn Some Spanish
Studying Spanish in Mexico is an awesome way to have fun, make new friends, and connect more deeply with the culture!
Mexico’s long-standing tradition of excellent Spanish immersion programs makes it a great location for studying the language. Mexican Spanish is rich in slang and incorporates many indigenous words, adding to its color and diversity. Being able to communicate effectively with the locals will make your travels so much easier as well as more rewarding.
You can study in gorgeous colonial cities in Mexico’s highlands such as Guanajuato, Puebla, or Morelia; soak up some culture in Mexico City; or escape the northern winter by heading south to Mérida in the Yucatan. Interested in indigenous culture? Check out programs in Oaxaca; San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas; or Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. Costs are very reasonable by North American and European standards. Try a homestay arranged by the school; it will deepen your connection with the culture and give you more conversation practice opportunities.
-Ingrid of Second-Half Travels
#19 Witness a Lucha Libre Match
Lucha Libre is one of the craziest things to see in Mexico. This spectacle of masked fighters leaping around a ring is unlike anything you’ll have seen before, and it is impossible not to be swept up in the atmosphere.
All around Mexico you will find arenas where the luchadores (fighters) perform, and we say perform because it is a carefully choreographed performance, where the luchadores throw punches and each other all around and outside the ring. These men and women put on one hell of a show, and need to have a combination of skill, stage presence and a character that people will love or hate.
Luchadores are usually either Tecnicos (good guys) or Rudos (bad guys) who are often more popular as their fans scream and yell all kinds of obscenities at the tops of their voices. Shows are more fun if you have a few beers beforehand, to really get in the swing of things, and you can buy your own masks to wear during the show, or afterwards you can choose the mask of your favourite luchador. Lucha Libre is an essential Mexican experience and is a great thing to do in Mexico!
-Claire from Tales of a Backpacker
#20 Dance the Night Away in Merida
Every Wednesday night one of the trendiest bars in the colonial city of Merida offers an ultimate local experience – you can learn to salsa dance – for FREE. If you’ve always wanted to learn the basics of heating up the dance floor when those sexy salsa tunes start playing (which in Merida is every night) then check out this very funky bar called Fundacion (also known as La Mezcaleria).
The class lasts for around an hour and then it’s time for the live band to get started and you can put those newly learned dance moves to the test with a real live band. Everyone in Merida is out to have a good time, and if locals see you trying to salsa – they will love you forever! (No matter how badly you suck at it).
-Meg and Tom of Food Fun Travel
#21 Explore the Mayan Ruins of Palenque
Set deep into the jungle of Chiapas, a day’s bus ride away from any other major tourist towns in Mexico, the ruins of Palenque are just waiting to be explored. Sprawling and enormous, these ruins see far fewer crowds than hotspots like Chichen Itza or Tulum, and as a result, visitors still have much more access to them!
While you’re in Palenque, you’ll be free to enter some of the structures to explore them from the inside (no guide necessary!), to wander through the complex without any set path laid before you, and to climb up to the temples set high above the rest of the city, giving you an amazing birds eye view of what was once the city of Palenque. Even more than the ruins themselves (which were definitely impressive!), the laid-back experience of visiting Palenque will solidify it among your favorite things to do in Mexico.
-Kate of Our Escape Clause
#22 Chill Out at Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a beautiful and tropical island located outside Cancún. It’s one of the coolest places to visit in Mexico, with its white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, and lush palm trees. It is truly a beautiful and peaceful island with a laid-back atmosphere, offering its visitors a relaxing experience.
This island can easily be reached from Cancún via the ferry that departs from Gran Puerto Cancun in Puerto Juarez (just a couple of minutes away from central Cancún), and it takes around 15 minutes. Isla Mujeres is a must to visit if you ever travel to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico!
-Christine of Christine Abroad
#23 Stroll the Streets of San Miguel de Allende
A century ago, it nearly became a ghost town after a pandemic ravaged the town. But today the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende is one of the hottest addresses in all of Mexico.
The star attraction here is the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, a shockingly gorgeous pink church which is one of the most photographed sites in all of Mexico. But don’t just stick to the main square: San Miguel many colorful streets are crying out for you to wander and soak in the vibes of this artsy town.
#24 Survive the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato
If you like things a little bit edgy with a touch of the macabre, then the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato should be at the top of your list of things to do in Mexico. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s surprisingly popular and considered a must see in Guanajuato.
What makes it so awesome is that it all happened by accident. Way back in 1865, cemetery workers were exhuming some remains and were astonished to discover a mummified body. Over time more bodies were found. No one seems to know what caused the mummification. But, it’s thought some funky thing happened to the bodies in the soil and high altitude.
People were fascinated with the phenomenon and workers started displaying the bodies in a nearby building. They charged a fee as more and more people flocked to see the mummies. And eventually it turned into the museum we see today.
The museum itself is basic and it only costs a few dollars to enter. It’s a totally awesome thing to do in Mexico, but it’s not for the squeamish!
-Audrey and Andrew of Gumnuts Abroad
#25 Try Some Street Food
If you are planning on visiting Mexico City make sure you take the time to check out and try any of the amazing street food you’ll find in the streets of the city (and elsewhere in Mexico). What you’ll find with many street food vendors here is fresh ingredients, poultry, meat and other ingredients prepared carefully and cooked to order.
It’s easy enough to check the ingredients and see the crowds lined up at all times of the day and night at the more popular stands in different neighborhoods. The food is cheap, fresh and oh-so-delicious when it’s prepared in front of you. You can find street food throughout Mexico, but one popular place to visit with many choices is the Garibaldi square area in Mexico City. With restaurants and fast pick up food venues, it’s definitely the place to hang out in Mexico City at night.
-Noel of Travel Photo Discovery
#26 Look a Croc in the Eye at Ixtapa
Want to look a crocodile in the eye just a few feet away from you?
Then Popoyote Lagoon, commonly known as the crocodile refuge, on the shore of Playa Linda in Ixtapa is the place to go. Only a tiny portion of this natural reserve is easily visible to the public, but you can still see an amazing diversity of beautiful birds, iguanas, and of course crocodiles hiding in the dense foliage.
The entire reserve offers protection to about 5,000 crocodiles, and though you can see only a fraction of them, it is likely to be more wild crocodiles than you will ever see in one place anywhere else. Sometimes they even escape onto the beach!
-Shara of SKJ Travel
#27 Experience a Festival
“Mexican culture” is actually made up of a bunch of different cultures, and there is no better way to immerse yourself in them than by taking in a festival or special event. Wherever you are in Mexico, you likely won’t wait long to find a regional festival, holiday, or special event.
The most famous (and one of the most interesting things to do in Mexico) is the annual Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) holiday. This colorful observance, in which many participants paint skulls on their faces, is celebrated at the end of October and is most popular in the central and southern regions of Mexico.
#28 Take in the Colors of Guanajuato
The cities and towns of Mexico may be some of the most Instagramable in the world, but perhaps the most photogenic of them all is the stunning city of Guanajuato.
The Spanish colonial architecture of Guanajuato is painted with some of the brightest and vibrant colors imaginable. Best yet, because the city is set in the middle of a valley, there are countless viewpoints for intentness the town’s colorful majesty.
#29 Ride ATVs Through the Jungle
ATV tours and trail rides are one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of the Mexican jungle.
Once you start getting the feel for your ATV, lay on the throttle to speed up and let loose a little and get your adrenaline flowing. Depending on what part of Mexico you are in, the jungle will have different features. When booking, try to find a tour that includes going by a cenote. That will allow you to take a break and a quick swim along your route. Don’t bother avoiding the bumps and rocks in the road: just plow right through them, possibly getting yourself some air! Going on an ATV tour is sure to be an amazing experience and a highlight of your trip to Mexico.
-Dan of Honeymoon Always
#30 Zipline Over a Cenote
We already covered diving in a cenote, but while others are going low, consider going high. What are we talking about?
Well, many of the more popular cenotes in the Yucatan have ziplines over them, allowing you to soar through the trees and over these natural springs. It’s a great adventure activity in Mexico for those looking for something a little more exciting to do. Oh, and many cenote ziplines let you to drop from a decent height into the centre of the cenote!
-Sally of Our 3 Kids v the World
#31 Swim with Sea Turtles in Akumal
Akumal, Mexico is one of the best places is the world to go swimming with sea turtles!
You’re virtually guaranteed to find a few of these magical creating swimming about just off the shore of this tiny outpost on the Riviera Maya. And you don’t necessarily need a fancy tour to get there: it’s easy to just rent or buy a snorkel mask and set out from the beach to swim with these majestic creatures. It’s definitely one of the more unique things to do in Mexico!
#32 Go Mezcal Tasting in Oaxaca
Oaxaca, one of the lesser visited Mexican states, is the home of mezcal, a smokey liquor made from the agave plant. As soon as you leave Oaxaca City, you will see one agave plantation lined up next to the next. They all have one thing in common: they will be more than happy to welcome visitors and show off their best products. Most distilleries offer short tours where you can witness the whole mezcal making process and try a sample (or five) while you learn about the making of this smokey spirit.
-Mike of 197 Travel Stamps
#33 Watch the Sunset on Isla Holbox
Just a couple hours away from Cancun lies an island with an entirely different vibe. You won’t find any cars here: just golf carts and bicycles. And you won’t find crazy crowds of tourists: just relaxed island vibes and beaches calling your name.
But what you will find is one of the best kept secrets in all of Mexico. If visiting the island of Holbox isn’t on your list of things to do in Mexico, just watch the above one minute video and tell me that you can resist the urge to book tickets right away….
That’s it for this list of the best things to do in Mexico!
What did we miss? Scroll down and leave a comment to let us know what activities are at the top of your list of awesome things to do for your Mexico vacation.
And if you’re headed to Mexico, be sure to check off out our Mexico Packing List.