12 Bucket List Excursions in Mexico for 2019

12 Bucket List Excursions in Mexico for 2019

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Mexico is an alluring vacation destination where you can soak up the sun at a picturesque beach, swim in an oceanfront resort pool and sip a sugary tequila cocktail—preferably all in one day. For 2019, take your vacation vibes to the next level by also exploring the country’s most spectacular natural wonders, from plunging waterfalls and Mayan ruins to beautiful cenotes and pink lagoons.

Offering memorable inclusions to your vacation itinerary, these are the top bucket list excursions and thrilling side trips in Mexico for 2019.

1

Swim With Whale Sharks Off Isla Holbox

Can you imagine swimming with a 45-foot-long aquatic species? In Isla Holbox off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, you can come face-to-face with whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world. Swim alongside these harmless creatures from June to mid-September in their natural habitat in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Join a tour with Holbox Whale Shark Tours to swim with these gentle giants and snorkel the “cuevones” reef, then indulge in fresh ceviche from a local fisherman. Don’t worry, the whale sharks are carnivorous but prefer plankton to snorkeling tourists.

2

Try Surfing in Puerto Escondido

Courtesy of Chris Osmond

Surfing (and non-surfing) enthusiasts should make a beeline for Puerto Escondido, where the Mexican Pipeline produces some of the biggest and fastest waves in the world.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be Kelly Slater to have a great time, as nearby La Punta offers a significantly softer point break. Sign up for surf lessons with Puerto Surf Lessons, then stroll down Zicatela Beach to Punta Zicatela to explore another laid-back surf community. For budget-friendly accommodations, stay at Frutas y Verduras, which features colorful rooms, an inviting pool and the on-site Cafe Ole restaurant with hearty breakfast options.

3

Dive Into a Cenote

Courtesy of Flickr

Dotted all over the Yucatan Peninsula, the thousands of cenotes in Mexico are an alluring destination for nature lovers. These underground caverns form when limestone caves in, leaving a hole in the earth with a pool of often mesmerizing turquoise-colored water. Ik Kil features a 60-foot pool and well-lit limestone staircase, while Zaci in Valladolid is an in-town cenote with a 260-foot-deep cave. Dos Ojos is a renowned diving destination and Gran Cenote boasts a remote tropical beach in an underground cave, but Calavera in Tulum takes the cake for the coolest nickname—it’s dubbed the “Temple of Doom”.

4

Explore the Waterfalls of Roberto Barrios

Courtesy of Luis Medina

Near the city of Palenque, the Cascada de Roberto Barrios is not quite as popular as Aqua Azul in Chiapas, but that’s a good thing. Escape the tourist crowds at this stunning waterfall, where you’ll spend hours soaking up the serene atmosphere and exploring the falls and swimming holes that spill down the mountainside. There are five different waterfalls, including the third that is often used as a relaxing spa, while the surrounding area is filled with lush vegetation. After a long day of soaking and swimming, retreat back to Palenque and enjoy the perks of Chan-Kah Resort Village, which has an outdoor pool, open-air bar and spacious suites surrounded by the Chiapas jungle.

5

Take a Train Through Copper Canyon

Courtesy of Alexorsc

All aboard! Copper Canyon is a massive canyon system in the northern state of Chihuahua, spanning more than 25,000 square miles, making it bigger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. You can hike, bike or travel by horseback, but one of the most scenic ways to explore this area is by riding “El Chepe” through the Copper Canyon, one of Mexico’s greatest natural treasures. This first-class railroad takes you across the rugged terrain and chugs along the desert before climbing into Mexico’s spectacular Sierra Madre mountains. You can also stop along the way to explore the canyon and small villages, like Creel with its colorful craft shops, family-owned restaurants and local cowboys.

6

Snorkel the Palancar Reef in Cozumel

Just off the coast of Cozumel, Palancar Reef is a diver’s paradise showcasing one of the most incredible coral formations in the world. Along with Columbia Reef, Palancar Reef is a must for snorkelers with crystal clear water teeming with starfish and stingrays. Drift effortlessly with the current as you watch marine life like sea turtles and eagle rays swim by, as well as an array of tropical fish. Sign up for a tour with Cozumel Cruise Excursions, where professional and certified dive masters guide you to the best places to see the colorful underwater formations and sea life. Many of the tours also stop at El Cielo, an alluring swimming area that’s famous for starfish gardens.

7

Marvel at the Pink Lagoon at Las Coloradas

Courtesy of Walter Rodriguez

A destination that has become Instagram-famous, Las Coloradas boasts a captivating collection of sparkling pink lakes. Visit this natural attraction and admire spectacular scenery dotted with long-legged flamingos, then take a tour around the nearby biosphere of Rio Lagartos, a protected wetlands area that covers around 150,000 acres, home to a variety of birds, horseshoe crabs, sea turtles and crocodiles. You can stay overnight in nearby Rio Lagartos 30 minutes away, then drive to Las Coloradas in the morning. Hotel Villa de Pescadores is a luxury hotel with private balconies and spacious Family Rooms, while Hotel Tabasco Rio is more suitable for budget-conscious travelers.

8

See Hierve el Agua for Yourself

Courtesy of Flickr

Hierve el Agua is the type of natural wonder you have to see for yourself, as this beautifully-deceptive landmark is hard to describe in words. Only a 90-minute drive from Oaxaca,it resembles a frozen waterfall tumbling down the side of a mountain, something that seems impossible in the region’s hot temperatures. The formation was actually created by mineral deposits on top of a limestone mountain, which has created two mineral pools at the edge of a cliff. The area is also dotted with mineral springs that are ideal for swimming and soaking, while hiking paths offer scenic views of the titanic formations and surrounding mountains.

9

Explore a Hidden Beach on Marietas Islands


While there are plenty of beaches in Mexico, Playa del Amor, known as “Hidden Beach”, is truly an island paradise. Located on the Marietas Islands 22 nautical miles west of Puerto Vallarta, the beach looks like something out of a movie set with a wide, sandy cavern and aquamarine waters of the Pacific Ocean rolling in a huge crater. You have to traverse through the water tunnel that links it to the ocean to reach Hidden Beach. The Marietas Islands are a part of the Parque Nacional Islas Marietas, which means they are uninhabited and an ideal place to enjoy swimming, kayaking and beachcombing without the tourist crowds.

10

Eat Regional Flavors in Oaxaca

Courtesy of William Neuheisel

Oaxaca is known for offering a flavorful array of local specialties, characterized by delicious moles, crispy grilled tlayudas and huitlacoche quesadillas. The city offers access to fascinating archeological sites like Monte Alban, colorful festivals and beautiful handicrafts, but we won’t judge you if you make the trip for the food alone. Los Pacos Oaxaca is known for their mole sampler and La Casa de la Abuela is a great place to try traditional Oaxacan cuisine, while dessert lovers can satisfy their sweet tooth with “cascada de chocolate” at Los Danzantes. Celebrating something special? Visit Casa Oaxaca for upscale Mexican cuisine or the elegant La Olla for locally-sourced ingredients.

11

Explore Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Courtesy of Flickr

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is an enthralling natural attraction just south of Tulum, home to 23 archeological sites and some of the most pristine beaches on the Riviera Maya. The UNESCO World Heritage site boasts 1.3 million acres and a variety of ecosystems, from lowland forests and savannah grasslands to mangroves and coastal barrier reefs. Take a guided tour into the lagoons and coastal wetlands of the natural reserve with Sian Ka’an Tours, with the option to snorkel along the Mesoamerican Reef, learn about the ancient culture of the Maya and float in the Sian Ka’an canal. There’s also an evening Birdwatching at Sunset Tour.

12

Hike Lion Desert

Courtesy of MontseA19

Lion Desert, officially called Desierto de los Leones, is one of Mexico City’s most attractive hiking spots. This spectacular national park plays host to a variety of historical and cultural events throughout the year but is best known for its craggy trails that lead to impressive countryside views and a 400-year-old monastery. There’s a range of moderate to difficult trails to choose from, with one of the most challenging hikes leading to the park’s highest peak, Cerro San Miguel, which stands 12,400 feet above sea level. The views here are worth the effort, representing 15% of the total green space in the Valley of Mexico and home to more than a hundred bird species.

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