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Tulum Cenotes

MexicoTulum › Best Cenotes
Updated: August 3, 2021

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Cenote Cristal in the jungle of Tulum
Cenote Cristal is one of the best cenotes in Tulum and one of the closest to the pueblo.

What is a Cenote?

Cenotes are limestone sinkholes filled with fresh water, formed when bedrock collapses and exposes groundwater below. Most of the Yucatan’s 6000 cenotes are small, underground, and inaccessible, though a notable number are large enough to swim, snorkel, or dive in. Many are crystal blue and open to the air, while others are accessible by stairs leading down into caverns and are connected to large underground river systems. If you do only one thing during your time in Tulum visit a cenote.

Cenote Dos Ojos in Tulsayab, near Tulum
Dos Ojos (Two Eyes) is the most famous cenote, made up of 5 cenotes including the its namesake cenotes: the Blue Eye and the Black Eye.

Tulum Cenotes: Tips & Advice

  • Most cenotes have a charge of 80 to 150 pesos to enter and offer lockers, restrooms, and snack bars. Just take a towel, taxi money, and snorkel-mask (optional), and you’ll have an amazing time at any of these cenotes.
  • Getting to cenotes by bike is easy from Tulum. Pedaling 10 to 30 minutes north from the pueblo along Avenida Coba takes you past Cenote Zacil-Ha, Cenote Car Wash, and Gran Cenote to name a few. Cycling 20 minutes west along the main road through the pueblo Carretera Cancun-Tulum (aka Carretera Cancun-Chetumal) leads to Cenotes Cristal y Escondido; 15 more minutes leads to Kaan Luum Lagoon. Heading east along the same road leads to Caleta and Cenote Tankah in 15 minutes and Casa Cenote in 30 minutes. If you’re staying in the beach zone, visit Virgin Cenote at Clan-Destino restaurant in the heart of the Middle Beach Zone, offering free entrance to the cenote for patrons. These are all open-air cenotes, cheap to enter, no guide required.
  • Some of the farther-flung cenotes (some of which are part of underground cave systems) are easily accessible by driving or taxi. These include Cenote Dos Ojos, Cenote Sac Actun, Jardin del Eden, Cenote Azul, Yal Ku Lagoon, and the Cobá cenotes Choo-Ha, Multum-Ha, and Tamcach-Ha. Taxis in Tulum do not use meters; instead, they charge a flat rate based on what zone they travel through. There is no Uber in Tulum. Reaching most of these should cost between 400 and 600 pesos. It is best to have the driver wait for you at the cenote to take you back, rather than standing on the highway trying to flag one down. The open-air cenotes and Cobá underground cenotes are cheap to enter and don’t require a guide. The cavern cenotes Dos Ojos, Sac Actun, and others listed in the article below will require a guide and gear, and cost 400 to 600 pesos to enter.
  • Do not wear sunscreen. Cenotes are fragile environments interconnected by underground river systems. The chemical agents in sunscreens, even the biodegradable types, can cause irreparable damage to the already threatened ecosystems here. Many cenotes have showers near the entrances, where guests are required to rinse before entering the water.
  • You can easily visit cenotes on your own, but if you don’t want to worry about arranging transportation, I highly recommend this cenote and snorkeling tour with hotel pickup and drop off.
Scuba diving lessons at Casa Cenote in Tankah, near Tulum
Scuba lessons at Casa Cenote.

Tulum’s Best Cenotes – Video

Tulum Cenotes and Lagoons

1. Cenotes Dos Ojos • Tankah, northeast of Tulum • $$$

Snorkeling at Dos Ojos in Tankah near Tulum

Dos Ojos (Two Eyes) is the most impressive cenote group in Tulum, named for its two largest cenotes, the Blue Eye (a sparkling, open-air cenote) and the Black Eye (a pitch-dark cavern with stalactites and stalagmites; you’ll need a guide and a flashlight to see this one). Dos Ojos is a flooded cave system with 5 cenotes total and connecting with Sac Actun (more info on Sac Actun below). Public access is available for its 2 open-air cenotes for 350 pesos (definitely on the high end for cenote rates), while its 3 cave cenotes require a guide (rates vary, but it’s worth the price). Experienced divers can also set up scuba tours through parts of Dos Ojos inaccessible to swimmers and snorkelers. • Map

2. Cenote Zacil Ha • Avenida Coba, northwest of Tulum • $

Cenote Zacil Ha in Tulum

Popular with local families, Zacil Ha is a small, open-air cenote with a zip line, diving platform, and 2 pools. The cenote is only about 3 meters deep, but the zip line is what keeps people coming back (it’s just 10 pesos a zip). There is a small, affordable snack bar on site, but most local families bring their own picnic. At 80 pesos to enter, this is among the cheapest cenotes to visit. • Map

3. Jardin del Eden Cenote • Xpu Ha, northeast of Tulum • $$

The rock islands of Cenote Jardin del Eden in Xpu Ha near Tulum

Enormous, open-air cenote in the jungle with emerald-sapphire water. Jardin del Eden has a cliff at one end topped with a diving platform, and toward the center is a group of flat rocks just beneath the surface of the water (formerly the roof when the cenote was inside a cave), where people tend to sit and hang out. Visibility is excellent and many people bring their masks to snorkel (though there is not much aquatic life to see here), while divers visit to explore the cenote’s deep underwater caves. There are restrooms, life jacket rentals, and a small snack bar here. Entry is 200 pesos. • Map

4. Cenotes Cristal y Escondido • West of the Pueblo • $

Diving into Cenote Cristal in Tulum

Though very close to the Tulum pueblo, these two open-air cenotes with lovely, clear waters are off the tourist radar, so they tend to be pretty quiet. Cenote Cristal is the busier of the two, with a round shape, a diving platform, and a few little hangout spots built around. Across the street, Cenote Escondido is a long, skinny strip of water teeming with fish and with a rope swing at one end. Both cenotes are connected by an underwater tunnel, though you’ll need scuba gear to swim its length. 120 pesos includes entry to both cenotes. Enter and pay at Cristal; park at either cenote. Don’t confuse Cenote Cristal with Cenote Cristalino. Though Cenote Cristallino in Xpu Ha is beautiful, the operators have made life jackets mandatory, which takes the fun out of swimming there. • Map

5. Cenote Azul • Xpu Ha, northeast of Tulum • $

Cenote Azul near Tulum and Playa del Carmen

Cenote Azul is a collection of open-air pools all connected by a network of walkways with a few diving platforms spread throughout. The main cenote is the deepest, though there are a few deep pools mixed with mostly shallow pools radiating out from the central area. This is a popular cenote for families, as there are plenty of shallow areas for younger kids to enjoy. The cenote is shaded by jungle and rocky shelves over the water, letting in dappled sunlight for most of the day. Several flat, partially submerged rocks offer a perfect spot to chill in the water while tiny fish nibble your feet. There is a small store with snacks and drinks for sale. 120 pesos to enter. • Map

6. Casa Cenote (formerly Cenote Manatí) • Tankah, northeast of Tulum • $

Kayaking at Casa Cenote in Tankah near Tulum

This busy cenote is a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba lessons. What makes Casa Cenote so special is its mix of freshwater and saltwater, its lazy-river current (the vast majority of cenotes don’t have a current at all), and its abundance of wildlife. Coati, birds, and butterflies visit its banks, while tropical fish and blue crabs flock around the mangrove roots. Panchito, a solitary little crocodile, lives near the back of the cenote; he’s never bitten anyone in all his years living there, but still, be sure to give him a wide berth. 120 pesos to enter, no guide required. There is a security checkpoint after you turn off the highway on the road Fraccionamiento Tankah leading to Casa Cenote. Tell the guards you are headed to Casa Cenote, and they will let you pass. There are not many services here other than porta-potties and life jacket rentals, but there are a handful of good restaurants in the area (the best is Chamico’s, about 2.5 km north along the beach). • Map

7. Cenotes Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha, and Multum-Ha • Cobá, northwest of Tulum • $

Cenote Multum Ha, near Cobá

On the same patch of land about 6 km from the Cobá ruins are three underground cenotes, each with unique features. Choo-Ha is the most “cavey” filled with stalagmites and stalactites and shallow, jewel blue water. Tamcach-Ha is the largest, deepest, and most popular with 2 diving platforms set at 5 and 10 meters high. Multum-Ha, the quietest of the three, is an almost perfect dome with hanging vines coming down through a small hole in its top. Life jackets, showers, and restrooms are available. The cenotes cost 100 pesos each to enter. • Choo-Ha Map Tamcach-Ha Map Multum-Ha Map

8. Yal Ku Lagoon and Cenote • Akumal, northeast of Tulum • $$

A school of fish at Yal Ku Lagoon and Cenote in Akumal

Yal Ku is a large park with a cenote that flows into a lagoon that flows into the sea. This the best snorkel spot in the whole of Riviera Maya (aside from the coral reef) due to its mix of fresh and saltwater. Snorkelers will find tons of wildlife here with the small colorful fish (angelfish, parrotfish, and more) mostly near the cenote and mangroves and the larger fish, barracudas, rays, and sea turtles near the ocean end of the lagoon. There are two companies sharing control of Yal Ku with two different entrances. The blue and white entrance (cenote end) is the best for snorkelers, as they do not require life jackets, but there are few facilities here and almost no shade. The pink entrance (ocean end) offers palapa rentals, a snack bar, and cabins, but life jackets are mandatory, even for certified divers. Once in the lagoon, you can swim to any part of Yal Ku, no matter where you came in. Both companies charge 280 pesos to enter and both have snorkel masks available to rent. • Map

9. Cenote Chaak Tun • Playa del Carmen • $$$

Cenote Chaak Tun in Playa del Carmen

Two underground cenotes, one with a hole in the top letting in sunbeams and dramatic hanging vines, the other low lit (even pitch black in parts) with impressive stalagmites and stalactites. Chaak Tun is available to visit only as a 2-hour snorkeling tour package, beginning with a shaman’s blessing and ending with a Maya meal and tequila with a little hiking and over an hour spent in the water. Tours in English and Spanish begin every 30 minutes from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; come early or at the tail end of the day to avoid the tourist crowds that flock here on day trips from Cozumel. The 550 pesos admission includes an enthusiastic guide, all gear, a wetsuit, and food. • Map

10. Kaan Luum Lagoon and Cenote • West of Tulum • $

Kaan Luum Lagoon and Cenote in Tulum

Kaan Luum is the only spot on this list that is still more popular with locals than travelers (though that is fast changing). This family-friendly lagoon is ideal for young swimmers with most of it shallower than 1.5 meters. Its pale jade water abruptly turns dark blue where a deep cenote begins. The cenote is also marked off with a rope and buoys; only scuba divers are allowed in. Facilities include a large palapa (where locals picnic), a pier and group of small palapas (where everyone hangs out), 2 overwater swingsets, and an outhouse. 100 pesos to enter; to discourage drones, they charge an extra 150 to bring one in. • Map

11. Cenote and Caleta Tankah • Tankah, northeast of Tulum • $$

Cenote Tankah near Tulum

This hidden gem offers the best of both worlds: an open-air cenote in the jungle and a caleta (small cove) on the beach. The caleta is a nearly circular cove at the edge of a sandy beach with saltwater waves washing in and freshwater heading out to sea from an underground river system; the clash of waters is fun for stronger swimmers. Walking inland along a jungle path leads to a shallow, round cenote ringed with palm trees. The cenote is fairly rocky, better for lounging than swimming. Entry to both is through the beach club at Caleta Tankah Hotel. 150 pesos includes access to the restaurant (good drinks, so-so food) and restrooms there. • Map

12. Cenote Car Wash (aka Cenote Aktun Ha) • Avenida Coba, northwest of Tulum • $

Cenote Car Wash, as seen from the platform

An open-air cenote with crystal clear water, a diving platform, great visibility, and underwater caves popular for diving. This is one of the quieter, less crowded cenotes, known for its natural beauty and tranquility. Its nickname comes from its history as a pit stop for taxis traveling between Tulum and Cobá, who used to wash their cars here. Like Casa Cenote, there is a current (though not as strong) and a small, elusive crocodile living here (just a little baby – for now). Facilities include restrooms, showers, lockers, and snorkel gear. Cenote Car Wash is the cheapest cenote near Tulum, only 50 pesos to enter (200 pesos for divers). • Map

13. Cenotes Sac Actun • Tankah, northeast of Tulum • $$$

Blue water of Sac Actun in Tankah near Tulum

Cenote Sac Actun is part of Sistema Sac Actun, the longest underwater cave system in the world. Archaeologists have found remains of a mastodon here, as well as a skull and partial skeleton of a teenage girl dating back 13,000 years – the oldest skeleton ever found in the Americas. Located near and connecting with Dos Ojos, Cenotes Sac Actun offer a similar feel with its flooded caverns studded with stalagmites and stalactites, but unlike Dos Ojos, Sac Actun’s cenotes are all underground. A guide is necessary here, but advanced reservations are not. 600 pesos includes entrance and guided tour. • Map

Map of Cenotes Near Tulum

Map of Tulum cenotes

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Tulum Nightlife

MexicoTulum › Bars & Clubs
Updated: August 3, 2021

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Tulum Nightlife – Tips & Advice

  • Cash: Most bars in Tulum accept cash only, even the high-end ones. Some accept U.S. dollars, but most require payment in Mexican pesos. If given the option, pay in pesos to get the best rates; you will always overpay if using dollars. Many bars that do allow credit cards add a 3% surcharge.
  • Tipping: Tipping is part of the custom here, and 10 to 15% is the standard rate. But first check bill for the word “propina” (meaning tip) to see if it has already been added to the bill. If so, add the necessary amount to bring the propina total up to 10 to 15%. Tipping in pesos is best, so the staff don’t have to pay a bank to exchange it into pesos.
  • Most of Tulum’s best bars are in the Pueblo or Middle Beach Zone. The Pueblo has more laid back, affordable bars, while the Middle Beach Zone has more chic, upscale spots. Most bars in the beach zones are on the jungle side of the road with outdoor seating.
  • Tulum’s top 5 nightlife take turns hosting the biggest parties, with each bar being the designated party spot on a certain night of each week. All of the bars are open every night, but the biggest parties follow this schedule:

    Tuesdays & Wednesdays: Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar (Pueblo).

    Thursdays: Casa Jaguar (Middle Beach Zone).

    Fridays: Gitano (Middle Beach Zone).

    Saturdays: Papaya Playa Project (Beach Town).

    Sundays: Salsa Night at La Zebra Hotel (South Beach Zone).

The 11 Best Bars and Clubs in Tulum

1. Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar – Pueblo • $

Tables on the street in front of Batey in Tulum
Batey is the soul of Tulum Pueblo’s bar scene, with most other bars built like satellites around it. Best known for their fresh fruit mojitos, be sure to peek inside to watch them press the fresh sugarcane in a converted VW Bug. Live music most nights. Open almost all day with a chilled-out vibe early and a lively crowd later, especially on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

2. Casa Jaguar – Middle Beach Zone • $$$

In front of Casa Jaguar in Tulum
A trendy, Caribbean restaurant through the week, Casa Jaguar hosts wild jungle parties every Thursday night on their back terrace. Parties begin after 11:00 and run late into the night with local and international DJs setting the tone. Casa Jaguar hosts smaller jungle parties on Tuesdays and some Saturdays.

3. Gitano – Middle Beach Zone • $$$

The entrance of Gitano Tulum
With a swanky Mexican restaurant in front and a sultry mezcal bar in the back, Gitano is the place to be on Friday nights. DJ sets start around 11:00 with all night drinking and dancing under the jungle canopy. Gitano also hosts smaller jungle parties on Friday nights. On Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, live bands play earlier in the evening at a more subdued pace.

4. Papaya Playa Project – Beach Town • $$$

Saturday night at Papaya Playa Project in Tulum
The biggest, most hedonistic party of the week is held on the beach at Papaya Playa Project on Saturday nights – especially during the Full Moon Parties, held monthly on the Saturday closest to the full moon. Big-name DJs spin and dancing goes on until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. Cover price varies but generally begins at $25. The largest parties take place in December, January, and New Year’s Eve, with crowds of up to 3000. For these parties, buy tickets in advance and show up early to avoid waiting for hours to get in.

5. Sunday Salsa Night at La Zebra Hotel – South Beach Zone • $

Sunday salsa night at La Zebra Hotel in Tulum
Every Sunday, La Zebra Hotel hosts a free, family-friendly, salsa dance party. Free lessons are offered from 6:30 to 7:30 followed by 3 hours of dancing with a live band. The party is served by the main bar and restaurant and by their beach bar The Mulberry Project, offering an amazing selection of handcrafted, signature cocktails. Free admission.

6. Kin Toh – Beach Town • $$$$

The lounge bar at Kin Toh in Tulum
With the best bar design in Tulum, Kin Toh features outdoor “nests” with sunset views over the jungle and indoor island-like tables surrounded by hanging catamaran nets for lounging. The signature drinks are thoughtfully crafted, while the food served in the main restaurant is experimental – not for everyone. Reservations recommended for sunsets, dining, or groups but not usually necessary for a single or couple visiting the bar. Kin Toh has a 25 USD minimum consumption, which will be charged to a card on arrival.

7. Kiki – Pueblo • $$

The entrance of Kiki nightclub in Tulum
The best (and only true) nightclub in Tulum, the crowd at Kiki skews young and the party starts late (doors open at midnight but things don’t get going until around 1:00 or 2:00in the morning). Good mix of locals, expats, and travelers, plus strong drinks and great DJs. Kiki is always open Wednesdays through Saturdays (check their Facebook page for updates). Usually no cover charge and often 2-for-1 drinks from midnight until 2:00 a.m.

8. Pasito Tun Tun – Pueblo • $

The front patio of Pasito Tun Tun in Tulum
Laid-back bar known for their mezcal cocktails, wide selection of tequila and mezcal, and friendly atmosphere. The bar up front stays busy and buzzing, while the garden patio out back has a slower pace. Live bands and DJ sets usually begin after 10:00 p.m. Popular with locals and travelers alike.

9. I Scream Bar – Middle Beach Zone • $

Night scene at I Scream Bar in Tulum
Hippie-vibe, jungle bar working out of a shack made from VW bus scraps, including working headlights. I Scream is part bar, part vegan ice cream shop, and part taco shop, and their specialty is ice cream shots (scoops of their house-made ice cream with tequila or mezcal poured on top.

10. Mur Mur – Middle Beach Zone • $$

The cozy jungle bar at Mur Mur in Tulum
Mur Mur is best known for its restaurant, serving Baja Mexican cuisine. But it also has one of the best, most romantic, and most underrated bars in Tulum (it’s not even mentioned on their own website). Drinks are creative and refreshing, with inspired combinations of fresh fruits, smoky mezcal, and herbal syrups made in-house.

11. Ki’bok – Pueblo • $

The terrace bar above Kibok in Tulum
Tulum’s best coffee shop, Ki-bok, opens its upstairs terrace at night and becomes a fun, open-air bar. The balcony faces over the street above Batey toward Pasito Tun Tun, for a bird’s eye view of the festive street below. Drinks are simple and affordable.

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Puerto Vallarta Beaches

Mexico Puerto Vallarta › Beaches Near Puerto Vallarta
Updated: August 3, 2021

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Puerto Vallarta Beaches – Tips & Advice

• When To Visit Puerto Vallarta: PV is at its best mid-April to June and October. April through June has the best weather; May and June have the best hotel deals, and October has the best water for snorkeling and diving.

• The best beach for partying is Playa de los Muertos near Downtown PV. The best beaches for quiet and solitude are Playa Conchas Chinas and Playa Palito Verde. For watersports, make for Las Caletas or Las Ánimas.

• Arrival: Puerto Vallarta’s airport lies 10 km north of the Old Town on the coastal highway (Hwy-200). Pay for taxis at the kiosk before leaving the terminal – rates are tied to a zone system: US$17 (roughly 380 pesos) for Marina Vallarta; US$18 (400 pesos) for the Old Town/Zona Romántica; US$25 (550 pesos) for Nuevo Vallarta; and US$30 (670 pesos) for Mismaloya and Bucerías. All the major car rental firms have desks at the airport.

• TIP: Travelers with not much luggage can save money by walking out of the terminal onto the main highway. From here buses (marked “Punta de Mita” going north, and “Olas Altas” or “Centro” going south) run up and down the coast for a few pesos, while normal city taxis charge roughly 50 to 75 percent less than the airport taxis – always set the price before getting in.

• Time Zones: Puerto Vallarta is officially part of the Zona Central (US Central) time zone (GMT-5). Though Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerías, and Punta de Mita officially lie within the Zona Pacífico (Pacific Zone), the equivalent of Canadian and US Mountain Time (1hr behind PV), in practice all of Banderas Bay now uses Central Time.

• Water Taxis: Beaches south of Boca de Tomátlan can only be accessed by boat (or stiff hikes through the jungle). Water Taxis from Boca run to Las Ánimas (around 50 pesos; 10 minutes) and Yelapa (around 80 pesos; 30 minutes), but always check current schedules at the dock. More expensive water taxis depart Playa Los Muertos pier in the Zona Romántica, usually hourly in high season, for the same destinations. Private boats are also available, but these cost a lot more.

Water taxi to Yelapa.
The water taxi from Boca de Tomatlán to Yelapa, Las Ánimas, and Quimixto.
Boat pier from Puerto Vallarta to southern beaches.
The pier at Playa Los Muertos with boats to Las Ánimas (25 minutes), Quimixto (40 minutes), and Yelapa (55 minutes).

• Buses to Mismaloya (20–25 minutes) and Boca de Tomátlan (another 10 minutes) depart from the Zona Romántica every 10–15 minutes.

Bus from Puerto Vallarta to Mismaloya.
The bus from Puerto Vallarta to Mismaloya.

• Tours: Several companies organize boat tours or “booze cruises” to the southern beaches, which are convenient but pricey. Puerto Vallarta Tours (puertovallartatours.net) runs trips to Las Ánimas and Yelapa (US$43–64), while Vallarta Adventures runs to Las Caletas for US$149.

• Best beach near PV for surfing: Sayulita is a hip surfing town with good beginner and moderate waves – and a great place for surf lessons. It’s not covered in this post but Sayulita is an easy 50-minute bus or taxi ride from central Puerto Vallarta.

• Cash is king: Most locally run beach restaurants and bars take cash only – take a wad of pesos to be safe (some places will accept US dollars but invariably at bad exchange rates). You’ll need cash to rent beach chairs and umbrellas.

• Note that beaches – even the remote ones – can get mobbed on weekends, so visit on a weekday for a quieter experience.

• Theft of personal items from beaches does happen – never leave anything of value unattended, even on seemingly empty stretches of sand.

The 17 Best Beaches in and around Puerto Vallarta

The enticing beaches of Banderas Bay, backed by the jungle-covered slopes of the Sierra Madre, stretch for more than 40 km (25 miles) north and south of Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town, Viejo Vallarta. There’s plenty of variety, from fun beaches backed by condos and hotels, to wilder locations accessible only by boat.

Our personal favorite is Playa Caballo, a short water taxi ride from Boca de Tomatlán. A tranquil setting with great sand, palm trees, and wonderful swimming. Playa de los Muertos has a deserved reputation for partying and a vibrant nightlife. While Playa Conchas Chinas (south) and Playa Palito Verde (north) are great for beach lovers looking for a quieter, more relaxed experience.

SOUTH OF PUERTO VALLARTA
Note that beyond Boca de Tomatlán, beaches are accessible only by water taxi and private boats.

1. Playa Caballo (10 minutes by boat from Boca)

Gorgeous and often empty beach backed by shady palm trees. Other than two boutique hotels, there are no facilities or activities, and nowhere to eat or drink, but bustling Las Ánimas (see below) is a short walk around the headland. Water taxis and boats only.
Recommended Hotels: Hotelito Mio (luxury/boutique) • Casitas Maraika (luxury/boutique)

2. Playa Colomitos (5 minutes by boat from Boca)

Tiny, sheltered cove with a small beach of soft, white sand, and a snacks and drinks kiosk. Great for swimming and snorkeling. Has a real “hidden beach” feel, but because of its size, can get packed if a couple of tour boats come in. Note also that high tides can sometimes flood the whole beach. Water taxis and boats only – or an energetic 30–40 minute hike from Boca. The nearby Ocean Grill restaurant offers tasty meals and sea views.

3. Playa Conchas Chinas (2 km south of Old Town PV)

Conchas Chinas near PV.

The most scenic city beach, easily accessible by bus or taxi (or an easy 30 minute walk from Zona Romántica). A series of small sandy coves, backed by condos but rarely busy (there are no restaurants or bars). Good for swimming but rip tides can be strong here. The shallow tide pools along the rocky sections of shore are crammed with marine life.
Recommended Hotels: Quinta Maria Cortez (B&B) • Casa Villa Verde (mid-range) • Hotel Playa Conchas Chinas (budget)

4. Playa Palmares (7 km south of Old Town PV)

Fine white-sand beach just below the coastal highway, popular with locals. Calm and perfect for swimming (it’s warm and relatively shallow), though there are very few places to eat and drink. There is a rare public bathroom here with showers (around 10 pesos), and it’s possible to rent umbrellas with table and chairs. Accessible by bus or taxi.

5. Las Caletas (15 minutes by boat from Boca)

Tiny and isolated beach, run as a watersports hub by Vallarta Adventures. Great for swimming and snorkeling. Water taxis and boats only.

6. Yelapa (30 minutes by boat from Boca)

Yelapa Beach near PV.

Hemmed in by jungle-smothered hills and coconut palms, this beach and tiny village has a rustic, laidback vibe, despite the steady stream of day-trippers. The white-sand beach is good for swimming and is lined with palapa restaurants. From here it’s a pleasant stroll up the Rio del Tuito to cascading waterfalls. Accessible by boat only – it’s the final water taxi stop.
Recommended Hotels: Casa Berita (luxury/boutique) • Pura Vida Wellness Retreat (mid-range) • La Loma (mid-range) • Casa Isabel (mid-range)

7. Playa de los Muertos (Zona Romántica)

The primary (and most fun) city beach lies just south of the old town. It’s crowded, is lined with hotels, features mostly coarser, brown sand and is fairly narrow but it’s by far the best beach for eating, drinking, and partying – swimming is good too. The stylish Playa Los Muertos pier divides the beach in two, with the LGBT section lying at the southern end, opposite the Blue Chairs Resort.
Recommended Hotels: Playa Los Arcos Beach Resort (mid-range) • Almar Resort (mid-range, LGBT-friendly) • Puerto Vallarta Beach Club (luxury)

8. Mismaloya (12 km south of old town PV)

Mismaloya near Puerto Vallarta.

The best-known and most accessible southern beach (take a bus or taxi), made famous by John Huston’s film “The Night of the Iguana”. Today it’s a small, sandy strip dominated by the Barceló hotel, but with a handful of cheap palapa restaurants and local vendors. Good for watersports and wonderful snorkeling trips to Los Arcos, tiny islets just offshore rich in marine life.
Recommended Hotels: Barceló Puerto Vallarta (luxury) • Villa Los Arcos (luxury) • Casa Iguana (budget, great pool)

9. Playa Quimixto (15 minutes by boat from Boca)

Relatively quiet and empty beach backed by a small village. Just a couple of beach restaurants and not much else. Trails lead up river to a refreshing waterfall and swimming hole. Water taxis and boats only.
Recommended Hotels: Xinalani Retreat (luxury)

10. Las Ánimas (10 minutes by boat from Boca)

Las Animas Beach in Mexico.

Long, sandy, but narrow beach crammed with restaurants and bars, just around the headland from Playa Caballo. Haven for fun activities – jet skiing, banana boats and parasailing – but can get very busy. Water taxis and boats only – or a strenuous 2hr hike from Boca.

NORTH OF PUERTO VALLARTA
All the beaches north of Old Town PV are accessible by taxi/car and bus.

11. Playa Palito Verde (34 km north of Old Town PV)

First of the northern beaches free of all development – it’s a gorgeous, shallow bay a short walk off the main road, with no facilities, no shade, and no food. Best place to escape the crowds and great for swimming.

12. Bucerías (25 km north of Old Town PV)

Bucerias near Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita.

Wonderful sand and calm waters for people who like to swim. Bucerías is a busy town but its chalk-white beach is rarely packed and there are plenty of low-key beach restaurants.
Recommended Hotels: Royal Decameron (luxury) • Aventura Pacifico (mid-range) • Unelma Bungalows (budget)

13. Playa Destiladeras (36 km north of Old Town PV)

Wide, sandy beach that’s isolated and rarely busy but offers a bit more in the way of services and food options than nearby Palito Verde.
Recommended Hotels: Marival Armony Luxury Resort & Suites (luxury)

14. Nuevo Vallarta (20 km north of Old Town PV)

Nuevo Vallarta near Puerto Vallarta airport and cruise terminal.

The long stretch of sand that runs along this newer, upscale resort area is flat, calm, and rarely busy, lined with hotels and palm trees. Good for swimming.
Recommended Hotels: Hard Rock Hotel All Inclusive (luxury) • Bahía del Sol Beach Resort (mid-range) • Paradise Village Hotel (mid-range)

15. Playa Camarones (Zona Hotelera, 1 km north of Old Town PV)

“Shrimp Beach” is at the heart of PV’s hotel zone for good reason, with a gorgeous swath of sand (always very clean), plenty of activities, vendors, and relatively pricey dining options. Good for swimming and it’s big enough absorb visitors without feeling busy.
Recommended Hotels: Sheraton Buganvilias Resort (luxury) • Now Amber Resort & Spa (luxury) • Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel (luxury)

16. Playa la Manzanilla (32 km north of Old Town PV)

Small white-sand beach in a sheltered bay perfect for swimming, with several cheap (and excellent) seafood restaurants and beach bars. Always busy at weekends.

17. Punta de Mita (49 km north of Old Town PV)

Punta de Mita near Puerto Vallarta.

Right at the very northern tip of Banderas Bay, the pristine, empty beaches along this headland are mostly reserved for the private “Club Punta Mita” development and its associated properties, but are stunning nonetheless. Day passes available but expensive.

Recommended Hotels: Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita (luxury) • St. Regis Punta Mita Resort (luxury)

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Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

Mexico Puerto Vallarta › Things to Do
Updated: August 3, 2021

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Top 10 Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

  1. Walk the Malecon

    Puerto Vallarta's beach boardwalk, the Malecon.
    Considered the heart of the city, the Malecon is a pedestrian-only esplanade following the shore for about a kilometer from Hotel Rosita in the north to the Los Arcos Amphitheater in the south. By day its most prominent features are its sculptures; “Boy on the Seahorse” being the most iconic. (This one is a replica; the original is further south on Los Muertos Beach). Free walking tours of the sculptures are available Tuesday mornings at 9:30 from November through April. Several shops, galleries, and restaurants line the way. At night, the Malecon lights up with food stalls, buskers, and street performers. Free music and cultural shows are held almost every night at the Los Arcos Amphitheater. Though the official Malecon covers just one kilometer, an extension of the Malecon (the Malecon II), continues along Los Muertos Beach south of the Cuale River through Zona Romantica, with more sculptures, food, nightlife, and the gorgeous Los Muertos Pier lighting the night.

  2. Discover Your New Favorite Foods

    The best food tours in Puerto Vallarta
    Puerto Vallarta is a foodie paradise, thanks to top-notch seafood and produce, the rich culinary traditions of Jalisco, and the hundreds of chefs who have made Vallarta their home. With throngs of restaurants and food stalls to choose from, one of the best ways to get to know the real city is on a food tour. Head off the beaten path into the neighborhoods of the Old Town to experience the variety of foods that make this city so beloved among gourmands. Several companies offer food tours; the best option is the Puerto Vallarta Food Tour of Authentic Local Cuisine (mornings, classic local flavors). The tour lasts around three to three and a half hours with a good deal of walking, so wear comfy shoes and come hungry. Beer is available for purchase at most stops, but if you have a chance, try the raicilla (aka Mexican moonshine) – it never disappoints.

  3. Surf Sayulita

    The best surfing in Puerto Vallarta
    One of the top surfing destinations in the world, Sayulita’s main beach offers consistent surf almost all year round. Just an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, this eclectic little village has been a popular destination for surfers since the 1960s. Waves here are steady but not too wild, making this the ideal spot for beginners. There are several shops for lessons and rentals, but the best is Surf’n Sayulita. David, the owner, is a lifelong surfer and experienced instructor for all ages and abilities. Single lessons or full day trips (with or without lessons) are affordable, and available for individuals or groups. Located on Calle Gaviota, just half a block from the beach. Downtown Sayulita is walkable and filled with casual bars, lively cantinas, and fun local crafts, so plan on spending at least a day here to experience it all.

  4. Explore Marietas Islands

    Exploring the Marietas Islands off Puerto Vallarta
    Sometimes called the Mexican Galapagos, Islas Marietas Islands National Park is a small, uninhabited archipelago recognized by UNESCO as a vital breeding and shelter site for marine birds, most notably the blue footed booby. It’s also home to the most diverse population of reef fish in Banderas Bay and a wide variety of coral. But its main draw is the Hidden Beach, located in a manmade crater, the aftermath of military bombing exercises in the early half of the twentieth century. After becoming a national park in the ‘60s, the Marietas Islands and the Hidden Beach became popular camping spots. However, access to the islands was closed after too many careless tourists damaged the coral and started wildfires. The park has only just been re-opened in Spring 2017, with limited numbers of visitors allowed per day. Guests will need to book a tour to gain access to the Hidden Beach. The closest departure point is from Punta de Mita, though many tours operate from Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita. Punta Mita Adventures, Vallarta Adventures, and Sayulita Entourage are the best tour operators in each respective area.

  5. Get Up Close to Crocodiles

    Puerto Vallarta crocodile tour
    El Cora is a fantastic eco-sanctuary for crocodiles and other native animals and plants. Guided tours are led by knowledgeable local biologists and are fully interactive. Guests are invited inside enclosures to handle the baby and adult crocodiles, while learning about their biology and habits. Several wild crocodiles live in the surrounding Quelele Lagoon, and the guides are usually able to call them closer for guests to observe (though visitors are not allowed to touch the wild crocs). The park is open for drop in tours from 11a-6p every day except Wednesday for a suggested donation of 200 pesos (about US$11). Night tours are offered on select dates and include a performance of the Huichol crocodile legend. For long term travelers, El Cora welcomes volunteers who want to assist in their conservation efforts. Located just north of Puerto Vallarta in Bucerías, on a long dirt road behind Flamingos Golf.

  6. Wander the Old Town

    Best things to do in Old Town Puerto Vallarta
    For a true taste of Vallarta’s Old Mexico charm, travelers should spend a day exploring Old Town, just inland from the Malecon. This highly walkable downtown features several attractions within just a few minutes of each other. The most striking feature of the city is Guadalupe Church (Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), a gorgeous colonial brick church with a wrought iron crown. Services are offered three times a day on weekdays and seven times on Sundays, with bilingual masses available at certain hours, for those who want a closer look. Just to the south, travelers will find the Mercado Municipal, the flea market north of the Cuale River, with great local crafts on the main floor and an array of fantastic, cheap restaurants up above. Cross over the wooden swinging bridge to reach Cuale River Island, a tropical island with a secluded feel, offering a small archeology museum, a cultural center with art classes, and several craft vendors and restaurants. Head south across the river into Zona Romantica and duck into the several art galleries on Basilio Badillo and Lázaro Cárdenas streets. Grab a happy hour drink on Olas Atlas Street and watch the sunset from Los Muertos Pier. Walk back north along the Malecon, if you still have energy left.

  7. Cuddle a Baby Lion

    Vallarta Zoo
    Vallarta Zoo (Zoológico de Vallarta) is unlike any other zoo, allowing guests to pet and interact with almost all of the animals. For US$10 entry plus $5 optional for a bag of food, the animals walk right up to the front of their enclosures for a handfed treat. The giraffe and hippos are especially popular for feeding. For an extra charge, visitors are allowed into a special enclosure to hold, cuddle, and play with the baby big cats, which can be lions, tigers, panthers, and/or jaguars (depending on availability), plus monkeys and lemurs. This hands-on experience costs US$85 and is inclusive of entry, a food bag, two drinks, and a souvenir from their shop. This is truly a unique experience and worth every penny. However, be advised that the zoo here is not like a typical, pristine Western zoo. Though the animals are well-fed and cared for, their habitats are smaller than guests may be used to seeing. Located south of Puerto Vallarta in Mismaloya.

  8. Make Your Own Chocolates

    Puerto Vallarta chocolate making class
    Chocolate is one of Mexico’s greatest gifts to the world, with the first and still highest quality cacao beans cultivated here. ChocoMuseo’s Bean to Bar Workshop takes students through the complete process of chocolate making. Beginning with a brief history lesson in chocolate, the class then provides hands on instruction in roasting and grinding the beans followed by mixing and molding the chocolates. Other classes cover truffles and how to cook a traditional Mexican mole. Its 3-story location includes a chocolate shop, café, and a factory open for tours of the process.

  9. Hike through a Jungle Garden

    Day trip to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
    The Vallarta Botanical Gardens cover 64 acres of the Mismaloya jungle to the south of the city. Unlike a typical manicured garden, the landscape here is largely left wild, with several hiking trails winding their way over steep hills and down to the edge of the Los Horcones River (bring a swimsuit and towel if you want to take a dip). Trails vary from moderate to difficult, and a good pair of shoes is necessary to navigate over the uneven paths. Hike early to avoid the heat, then return to the center of the gardens, a flat area with a huge collection of orchids, the largest in Mexico, as well as an aquatic plants pond and a cactus garden. Birds, butterflies, and iguanas are all found here, plus a fresh Mexican restaurant with good food and even better cocktails.

  10. Sunset Cruise in Banderas Bay

    Best sunset sailing charters in Puerto Vallarta
    Vallarta is known for its colorful orange and purple sunsets and, under the right conditions, the rare “green flash” just as the sun disappears over the horizon. There’s no better spot to see the city’s famous sunsets than from aboard a sailboat, gliding over the calm waters in the Banderas Bay. You’ll have a great vantage point here to see not only an unobstructed view of the horizon, but also dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and in the winter months, maybe a whale or two. Most cruises offer an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and sweets along the way, and last about three hours. The best sunset sailing tours are offered by Ada Sailing, leaving from Marina Vallarta, and Ally Cat Sailing Adventures, leaving from La Cruz Marina near Bucerías.

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Mexico City Jewelry Shops

MexicoMexico City › Jewelry Designers
Updated: August 3, 2021

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  • Mexico City – Travel Guide
  • Mexico City – Best Time to Visit
  • Mexico City – Itinerary for 1, 2, 3, & 7 Days
  • Mexico City – Jewelry Designers
  • Mexico is well-known for its exquisite silver jewelry and intricate designs inspired by a rich indigenous heritage. No trip to Mexico seems complete without acquiring a stunning piece of jewelry to take home. And for every well-established Mexican jewelry designer who has attained international recognition, there are countless emerging designers and craftspeople creating stunning and unique pieces. We took to the streets in Mexico City and perused interesting shops and pop-up markets to compile a selection of the best Mexican jewelry designers to look out for.

    10 Best Mexican Jewelry Designers in Mexico City

    Marcela Lira

    The brand was born at a crossroads in the designer’s life. She had been out of Mexico for 10 years and living in Portland, Oregon, when she felt the need to return to her country, despite not knowing what she’d do when she got there. On a trip to Mexico City, she found a goldsmith shop with a sign that read, “Learn to make a ring in a day.” The first pieces she made were quickly snapped up by her friends, and that’s when she knew she was onto something. Her pieces are produced in Guadalajara and can be purchased at pop-up markets and select stores in Mexico City, like Happening Store.

    Mina de Mar

    In Giovanna Silva’s words, the designer behind Mina de Mar, the brand is imbued with romantic marine airs in every detail. Inspired by the beauty of beaches and reefs, she created a collection that fuses elements of the ocean and minerals of the earth. All the pieces are handmade in a workshop in Guadalajara, carefully crafting the details of each piece. Her collection can be found at her online store or at Tráfico Bazar, a monthly pop-up market in Mexico City’s trendy Roma neighborhood – follow them on Instagram for actual dates.

    Stelröze

    Founded by two sisters (STEL = Esthela and RÖZE = Rocío), the brand’s designs can be described as “wearable art.” Each piece is handmade, with only one to three items per design, and the designers work with different communities throughout the world. Some pieces are designed by the sisters and others are proposed by the communities they collaborate with, but Estela and Rocío always choose the color palettes and the materials that will make their jewelry come alive. Their pieces are currently designed and produced in Mexico, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Milan, and Madrid with high-quality materials to ensure durability. Find their collection online or at pop-up markets in Mexico City.

    Beka Joyería

    Beka is created for people who want to express their identity in a fun, authentic, and graceful way. Rebeca González, the industrial designer behind the brand, creates each piece by hand using different artisan techniques, sometimes enlisting the help of as many as three people at her workshop in downtown Mexico City. Her pieces, which she hopes are small treasures in the life of their new owners, can be found online and at pop-up markets like Vanitas Bazar in the Coyoacán neighborhood and Mercado Escondido in Polanco, both in Mexico City.

    Talía Lanz

    The brand was born with the intention of filling life with color, joy, and good vibes. When designing her collections, Talía searches for inspiration in various cultures to expose herself to different concepts of beauty. She may design a piece based on a stone she comes across or a pattern she finds on her travels. All her products are unique and handmade, with production lines in Mexico, India, and Turkey. Some of her designs are intervened by the craftsmen who produce them, who she believes are the true experts in the field. Find her pieces online, at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, select shops throughout the country, and pop-up markets in Mexico, Texas, and Barcelona. In Mexico City, she frequently has a stall at Tráfico Bazar and Zona Zero.

    Lorena Loza

    Her collections are inspired by the multicultural experience she gained from traveling the world. After her fashion design studies in Guadalajara, she headed to Paris for a diploma in haute couture, where she found her muse among architectural treasures and museum relics. Each design is unique and modeled in wax. When producing her pieces in a workshop by her garden, she likes experimenting with new textures and playing with the shapes of stones. Find her designs on Instagram and at pop-up markets in Mexico City and Guadalajara.

    Azure

    Azure’s philosophy is to make pieces for everyone, regardless of gender, because people are as unique and different as the brand’s limited-edition collections. The design team is made up of Cynthia, who leads the way and dictates the lines for the collections, Joyce, who uses her international vision to determine the markets to target, and Carlos, in charge of marketing and production. The pieces are produced at their own workshop with the help of goldsmiths and jewelers that have been working with them for more than 10 years. Azure jewelry can be found online and in shops throughout Mexico, the USA, Germany, and Spain, among other countries, as well as pop-up markets, museums, and international trade shows. For a full list of retailers, consult their website.

    Lili Carrillo

    A piece by Lili Carrillo is not only interesting on account of its vibrant colors and rich textures but also because it’s committed to fair trade and socially responsible practices. Born in the designer’s native Veracruz, the brand soon made its way to a workshop in Cholula, Puebla, where Lili employs single mothers and pregnant women from the region to make each piece by hand. Part of the proceeds goes towards courses to support the women on topics ranging from nutrition to gender equality. Her pieces can be found online and in Puebla, Veracruz, Chiapas, and Mexico City, as well as in Germany.

    Joyería Urbana

    The brand’s name means ‘Urban Jewelry’ and its silver collections are inspired by daily life in the city. Ariadna, Juliana, and Rodolfo are the design team behind the brand and they aim to create fun, lightweight pieces that accompany the wearer in their day-to-day activities. Their jewelry is produced in Mexico using .925 silver and 100% Mexican materials, and they combine the highest technology with traditional goldsmith practices. They have points of sale at different shopping malls in Mexico City, participate regularly in pop-up markets, and have an online presence.

    Malintzi

    The brand’s philosophy is to materialize dreams into jewels, reinterpreting everything that makes us happy and turning it into pieces boasting authentic design, quality, and social conscience. All the pieces are designed and handmade by goldsmith and jeweler Patricia Zermeño at her workshop in Puebla. The brand participates regularly at the pop-up markets Tráfico Bazar and Mercado Escondido in Mexico City and has pieces at Casa Salt, a store that sells items by emerging Mexican designers exclusively. Check out Malintzi’s latest collection online.

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    Los Cabos Restaurants

    MexicoLos Cabos › Best Restaurants
    Updated: August 2, 2021

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    The 6 Best Restaurants in Los Cabos

    1. Los Tamarindos • $$-$$$ • San Jose, Puerto Los Cabos
      Organic dining in Los Cabos

      Casual, Mexican fine dining on a seventeen-acre organic farm. This gorgeous restaurant is hosted in a nineteenth-century farmhouse with vines growing up the brick walls and a rustic palapa roof. Tables are arranged on the wraparound porch overlooking the farm and orchard, which blooms with local produce year-round. Fresh Baja cuisine with a Spanish flair is served in generous portions; succulent meat and hearty vegetarian dishes both feature prominently on the menu. Cooking classes are available twice a week and conclude with a family-style meal. The restaurant is tricky to find, about 2 km inland from the marina and estuary on a dirt road rife with potholes. Free parking. Reservations strongly recommended.
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    2. Las Cazuelas del Don • $ • San Jose, Downtown
      Cheap eats in Downtown San Jose del Cabo

      Low-key restaurant run by a husband and wife team, serving a rotating menu based on the Seven Deadly Sins. Decadent meat and veggie stews are slow-cooked in traditional clay pots, with three or four different dishes to choose from nightly. Order “quezuelada” style to have them topped with bubbling cheese. Each dish is served over the diner’s choice of tacos, tortas, potatoes, or tostadas. Pair with a cold beer or frozen tequila. The restaurant sits on a residential street downtown with ample street parking.
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    3. Mi Cocina • $$$$ • San Jose, Downtown
      Romantic restaurant San Jose del Cabo

      Romantic, fine dining restaurant, offering a unique Euro-Mexican menu. Mi Cocina is tucked back from the road in the tranquil courtyard of boutique hotel Casa Natalia, lit by candles and fairy lights with flowing fountains muting any street noise. Featuring a creative seasonal menu, a stellar wine selection, and perfectly mixed cocktails, this is easily the best restaurant in Downtown. Do not miss their B.O.B. spoon appetizer, featuring tequila-cured salmon and crab! Centrally located on Plaza Mijares; there is a small parking lot in the main square out front, as well as street parking around the corner on Alvaro Obregon.
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    4. The Hangman (aka Taqueria El Ahorcado) • $ • San Jose, Downtown
      Late night restaurant San Jose del Cabo

      This has long been a favorite restaurant for travelers and locals. The Hangman features flavorful tacos with a variety of fillings, from roasted pork pibil or squash blossom to more traditional flavors, such as huitlacoche or beef tongue in mustard. Its eclectic décor is another stand out feature, incorporating old sewing machine tables, with the foot pedals still attached, along with pots and pans, and of course, a hanged man dangling from a noose at the entrance. This late-night spot opens around seven, and its stellar menu, strong drinks, friendly service, and live music keep this place crackin’ until midnight. Ample, free street parking out front.
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    5. Restaurante Los Tres Gallos • $$-$$$ • Cabo San Lucas, Downtown
      The best restaurant in Cabo San Lucas

      Hands-down, the best restaurant in Cabo San Lucas. Specializing in authentic Baja cuisine, such as conchinita pibil (slow-roasted pork), along with traditional Mexican favorites, like mole poblano, huitlacoche, and carnitas de Chamorro. Mouthwatering dishes come in shareable sizes, and the bar features a wide selection of tequilas and mezcals. Its atmosphere is casual yet romantic, set in a brick-walled courtyard with fruit trees, string lights, and mariachis. Street parking is easy to find here. Bonus: they’ve just opened a taco bar by the marina.
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    6. La Lupita Taco & Mezcal • $$-$$$ • San Jose, Downtown
      Best Cantina in San Jose del Cabo

      Stylish cantina with a wide selection of mezcals and wild variety of tacos. Not just any run-of-the-mill taco bar, creative flavors here include duck mole, miso fish, and pibil suckling pig, alongside classic pastor and barbacoa. Their mezcal menu is extensive, with drinks served in jicaras (hollowed gourd halves) with lime and powdered worm on the side. Tasting flights are available, as is the harder to come by raicilla, an agave-based liquor best described as Mexican moonshine. Décor is shabby chic and artistic, with sculptures of the Virgin of Guadalupe (their namesake), sugar skull wall art, weathered wood, and hot magenta. Live music every weekend night. Street parking can be hard to find.
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    Cancun Tours & Attractions

    Mexico Travel Guide › Cancun Things To Do
    Updated: August 2, 2021

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    The 9 Best Cancun Tours & Day Trips

    Tours near Cancun
    All of the tours below are great but if I could only do one it would be the Cenotes Day Tour. Incredible! And super fun.

    The 12 Best Things To Do in Cancun

    1. Marvel at the Ruins of Ancient Chichen Itza

      Visiting Chichen Itza from Cancun
      The Maya city of Chichen Itza, famous for its pyramid ruins, is both a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The ancient city dates back to the 5th century, though its most impressive structures were built later in the 9th through 12th centuries and are a mix of Maya, Toltec, and Puuc styles. El Castillo (aka the Temple of Kukulkan) is the best-known pyramid, designed according to the astronomical calendar so that during the equinoxes, the sunlight creates a vision of a feathered snake climbing down its sides. Travelers here will also find the Mesoamerican ball court, with its unique audio qualities and intricately carved rings. Several other impressive structures and landmarks are here, including the Sacred Cenote, a place of pilgrimage and sacrifice; the tzompantli, where skulls of captured warriors were displayed; and El Caracol, the ancient observatory, among many others. There are several tour operators running day trips from Cancun to Chichen Itza, many with stops along the way to cenotes, the Tulum ruins, or Valladolid.

    2. Snorkel With Whale Sharks

      How to snorkel with whale sharks in Cancun
      The Yucatan coast near Cancun is the most reliable spot worldwide to see endangered whale sharks. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, about the size of a school bus. Despite their immense size, adult whale sharks are completely docile and harmless to humans, while the youngest whale sharks as playful as overgrown puppies. Whale shark season runs roughly from June through September. Most tours follow similar rules for the safety of the whale sharks; divers are allowed in the water two or three at a time, for around five minutes. That group will exit the water, while the next group jumps in. Typically each guest will get three or four swims over the course of the tour. Snorkel gear is included in the rate. Booking a private tour will allow each guest more time in the water versus tagging along with a larger group.

    3. Swim In The Cenotes

      Cenote tours from Cancun
      Cenotes, sometimes written xenotes, are natural pools formed from collapsed limestone with sapphire, turquoise, and emerald waters. The entire coast of the Riviera Maya is dotted with cenotes, nearly 7,000 in total. Some cenotes are open to the sun and surrounded by tropical trees and hanging vines – great for a swim or snorkel, while others are parts of vast, underground cave and river systems, fun to scuba through on a guided tour. Many cenotes are easy to reach on your own by driving or taxiing, like Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote near Tulum or Ik Kil and Suytun near Chichen Itza. Access is usually granted for a small entry fee, with life jackets and snorkel masks to rent onsite; Dos Ojos even has flashlights for cavern snorkeling and diving. For a more in depth exploration of the underwater cave systems, contact Cancun Scuba Center.

    4. Get Ready to Rumble with Lucha Libre

      Seeing a lucha libre match in Cancun
      Lucha libre is a uniquely Mexican version of pro-wrestling, emphasizing aerial maneuvers, choreographed acrobatics, wild personalities, and of course the famous masks. Each fight, whether one-on-one or tag team, pits the técnicos (good guys) against the rudos (bad guys), often with minis (dwarfs) or exóticos (wrestlers in drag) on either side. Events usually have around five bouts, with each fight lasting for three rounds and always spilling outside the ring. The crowd gets pretty rowdy, so if you’ve always wanted to learn how to swear in Spanish, this is where to practice! In Cancun, fights are held Downtown and sometimes on Isla Mujeres and coordinated by Lucha Libre TWS. Splurge for front row seats; they aren’t expensive, usually only 250 pesos ($12 USD). Beer, soda, and snacks are for sale throughout the event.

    5. Swim the Underwater Museum

      Cancun underwater snorkel museum
      MUSA is an underwater art museum in between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. Over 500 sculptures by six artists were designed and installed to encourage the growth of coral and replenish the habitat of tropical marine life. Subjects include giant hands, naval mines, VW Beetles, and life-sized people modeled after Cancun locals. Already the largest artificial reef in the world, the museum is still expanding; as the older artworks become obscured by wildlife, new installations are added. The Enchanted Wood, featuring artworks blending land animals and trees, will make up the next permanent installation. There are a few ways to visit MUSA, including by glass-bottom boat or snorkeling for the two Cancun locations or by scuba diving in the Isla Mujeres portion. Contact MUSA directly or Aquaworld to schedule a visit.
      Reviews

    6. Get Up Close to Sea Turtles

      Seeing a sea turtle release in Cancun
      The ocean and beaches of Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and the Riviera Maya are some of the best spots in the world to see sea turtles. Loggerhead, green, and hawksbill sea turtles are the most common, though sometimes giant leatherback sea turtles (the largest turtle in the world and fourth heaviest reptile) make appearances, too. From May through October, female sea turtles come ashore every night to dig nests and lay dozens of eggs each. The eggs hatch and the babies swim out to sea in July through December. Most resorts in Cancun are involved in sea turtle conservation efforts, and allow guests to participate or watch in all stages, including gathering the eggs into a protective enclosure and assisting in a sunset release of the babies. Snorkelers and divers visiting Cancun during the summer and fall months may glimpse sea turtles mating in the ocean. Winter or spring visitors will still find plenty to see at Tortugranja, the turtle conservation center in Isla Mujeres. While there, visitors can see, feed, and interact with turtles at all stages of development, along with other local marine life, like conches, horseshoe crabs, and urchins.

    7. Day Trip to Tulum

      Mayan Ruins Tulum Mexico
      Located about an hour and a half south of Cancun, Tulum offers a unique getaway from the city, with a blend of bohemian style, sparkling cenotes, Mayan ruins, and gorgeous beaches. Start with beachfront yoga at Sanará, followed by a healthy vegan breakfast at nearby Raw Love or a filling Mexican breakfast at Taqueria Honorio downtown. Head to the Ruins of Tulum next, before the sun gets too high and hot. The main entry to the ruins is off the highway, near the Artisan Mall, but strong swimmers can reach the ruins by swimming up from Santa Fe beach to the aptly named Ruins Beach. Entry is 65 pesos per person; add 600 for a guided tour. After the ruins, be sure to visit at least one of Tulum’s cenotes. There are three major cenotes in the area: Gran Cenote is the largest and busiest, made up of several small cenotes and filled with fish and turtles. Dos Ojos is two connecting cenotes, one a bright clear blue and the other a deep, dark cavern (they have flashlights to rent). Finally, Yal Ku is more of a lagoon, with a mix of fresh and salt water and tons of colorful, tropical fish.

    8. Speed through the Jungle Lagoon

      Touring the lagoon in Cancun
      Due west of Cancun’s main beach is Nichupte Lagoon, surrounded by a mangrove jungle, cut through with winding canals, and filled with wildlife. Tiny, two-seater speed boats are the most fun way to explore the lagoon once you get the hang of steering. Guests whip through the jungle waterways and make for the reef for a snorkel interlude before turning around. Most tours snorkel at the Punta Nizuc reef, sometimes in view of the underwater museum.

    9. Visit the Maya Museum and San Miguelito Ruins

      Visiting the Maya museum in Cancun
      The Museo Maya and the San Miguelito archaeological site share an 80-hectacre compound in the Hotel Zone. Opened in 2012, the museum holds some of the most important Maya artifacts from the Yucatan region, including many from Chichen Itza, as well as from Comalcalco and Palenque in Tabasco and Chiapas, respectively. Three main galleries cover various topics of Maya history, archaeology, and culture, especially in the pre-Hispanic era. Museum tickets also grant admission to the San Miguelito site, a collection of Maya ruins spread out through a jungle garden. Included in this site are a pyramid, temple, and the remains of family homes. Museo Maya and San Miguelito are open from 9:00am until 6:00pm every day except Mondays.
      Reviews

    10. Learn to Scuba

      The best scuba tours in Cancun
      Cancun is the perfect spot for first-timers to try out scuba diving. It’s adjacent to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest reef system, and with the underwater museum, endless cenotes, and an abundance of marine life, the city has so many aquatic attractions that are really worth the up close attention that scuba gives over snorkeling. Two-hour intro classes are available at several locations in the Hotel Zone and Riviera Maya, and though patrons won’t leave there PADI certified, they will receive a certificate allowing them to join guided scuba tours all over the area. Aquaworld offers a package deal for a morning intro class, followed by an afternoon dive at MUSA, and Scuba Diving Cancun offers a lesson package that includes two reef dives. Children must be at least ten-years-old to attend most dive courses and at least sixteen to attend without parental guidance.
      • Reviews: Aquaworld, Scuba Diving Cancun

    11. Day Trip to Isla Mujeres

      Isla Mujeres day trip from Cancun
      Isla Mujeres offers a laid back change of pace, just a fifteen minute ferry ride away from Cancun. Translating to “Island of Women,” the island’s name comes from it being the historical site if the Temple of Ixchel, the Maya fertility goddess. Now it’s a major destination, known for its main beach, Playa Norte, consistently ranked among best beaches in the world. It’s Downtown area has several amazing restaurants (try Rooster or Ruben’s) and street vendors on Hidalgo Street, while the South End of is home to Punta Sur national park, with Ixchel’s Temple ruins and a sculpture garden, plus Tortugranja, the turtle sanctuary, and Garrafon Natural Reef Park, with snorkeling, ziplining, kayaking, and more. The island is small, less than eight kilometers long and less than one kilometer across, so it’s easy to see the whole thing in a day. The preferred mode of travel here is by golf cart, with several rental shops directly across the street from the ferry terminal.
      Reviews

    12. Explore the Shops and Food at Market 28

      The best street market in Cancun
      Mercado 28 is a huge, maze-like, flea market in Downtown with over 600 vendors and restaurants. Stalls sell tons of trinkets and textiles, like maracas, blankets, and leather goods, with some great bargain prices and some unique handicrafts mixed in with the souvenirs. Salespeople can be a little pushy, but it’s all in the game, so be prepared to haggle and you can walk away with some great buys. The market is also a great spot to try more authentic, local foods at a fraction of the Hotel Zone cost. Try Restaurant Margely here, one of the best spots for local Yucatecan food; ask for the conchinita pibil or the parrillada yucateca. This place is easy to reach by bus from the hotel zone. Take the R-2 bus and ask to get off at Market 28; this is the stop right before Wal-Mart. Then take Avenue Coba to Avenue Tankah headed north. Mercado 28 will be right behind the Super Aki store. There are a few stores in the area that have a similar name to try to fool tourists into stopping there, like Plaza 28 or Market 23, so look for the Super Aki and a sign behind it that says Mercado 28!
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    Where to Go in Mexico

    Mexico Travel Guide › Mexico Best Destinations
    Updated: August 2, 2021

    See Also

    The 11 Best Places To Visit in Mexico

    1. Mexico City

    Best places to visit in Mexico: Mexico City

    Mexico City is a world class destination, a vibrant metropolis teaming with humanity. There is a rich and varied cultural scene, with 185 museums, 9 archaeological sites and 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites, plus fabulous food from fine dining restaurants to abundant street food. There is something for absolutely every kind of traveler.

    2. Guadalajara

    Best places to visit in Mexico: Guadalajara, Jalisco.

    Guadalajara is Mexico’s second biggest city, and the capital of the state of Jalisco. A less frenetic metropolis than Mexico City, it’s full of tree-lined boulevards, and home to both the Mexican institutions of mariachi music and tequilla.

    3. San Miguel de Allende

    Best places to visit in Mexico: San Miguel de Allende

    Located in Mexico’s central highlands, San Miguel de Allende is known for its thriving arts scene and cultural festivals, gastronomy, and baroque architecture. Once known for catering mostly to backpackers and budget travelers, the city now features many luxury and boutique hotels and high-end shopping, with a plethora of quaint bougainvillea filled alleyways to explore.

    4. Los Cabos

    cabo beach bay

    Situated at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is the coastal area encompassing the two popular resort destinations of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The beautiful waters and beaches offer a variety of water sport adventures and marine life, and the surrounding dessert more natural wonders to explore. There’s a pervasive party atmosphere spread out across endless bars and night clubs. Despite its natural beauty, the area is built up with look-alike resorts and all-inclusive hotels, large chain stores and restaurants.

    5. Puerto Vallarta

    Puerto Vallarta waterfront

    Surrounded by lush mountains and stretching around the beautiful Bahía de Banderas, Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s most popular coastal destinations. The malecón promenade runs along the beach downtown, with loads of waterfront restaurants and bars, and a collection of iconic sculptures. Puerto Vallarta is also popular with families and LGBTQ travelers. There are a number of smaller resort towns both north (Punta de Mita, Sayulita, San Francisco) and south (Mismaloya, Boca de Tomatlan, Yelapa) of PV.

    6. Zihuatanejo

    Ixtapa Zihuatanejo beach bay

    Zihuatanejo is a small resort area on the coast of the state of Guerrero, north of Acapulco. The city is slow and quiet but becomes quite touristy when cruise ships are in town. There are narrow cobblestone streets with small restaurants, boutiques and artisan studios, and a romantic waterfront sidewalk. Nearby Ixtapa is also attractive but has larger resorts and less of a local vibe.

    7. Oaxaca

    Oaxaca City street

    Oaxaca City is the gastronomic capitol of Mexico, also known for it’s architecture and natural beauty. The city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Handicrafts, ceramics, and rugs are popular with visitors.

    8. Merida

    folkloric dancers

    Merida is the quiet capital of the state of Yucatan, with a large Mayan population and robust cultural scene. There’s lots to see in the city and plenty of pleasant day trips to ancient ruins and natural beauty in the surrounding area.

    9. Tulum

    tulum beach sand

    Tulum is a small city on Yucatan’s Caribbean coast, known for its amazing beaches and well preserved Mayan ruins on a cliffside above the beach. A hip scene full of boutique shopping, small luxury hotels, and fusion cuisine blending modern techniques with traditional Mexican ingredients. Yoga, bike riding, and visits to cenotes in the surrounding jungle are popular activities, as are large electronic dance music festivals.

    10. Isla Mujeres

    Best places to visit in Mexico: Isla Mujeres

    Isla Mujeres is a small Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea off the Yucatan Coast near Cancun. It’s known for beaches, resort hotels, snorkeling, and scuba diving on the surrounding coral reefs. Golf carts are the main form of transportation around the island – which gives a pretty good approximation of the relaxed vibe on the island.

    11. Cancun

    Best places to visit in Mexico: Cancun, Yucatan.

    Cancun is known for its gorgeous powdery white sand beaches, large luxury resorts, and nightlife. A major tourist destination for decades, the city is divided into the Zona Hoteleria along the beach and Cancun Centro (the city) inland that has more local flavor and flare. Golf, shopping, and day trips to surrounding cenotes, water parks, and cultural sites are easily accomplished.

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    The Best Books about Mexico

    Mexico › Books About Mexico
    Updated: September 15, 2020

    See Also

    Best Books set in Mexico

    The Lawless Roads & The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene

    Greene wrote two excellent books on Mexico after being sent there in the 1930s to investigate the effects of Plutarco Elías Calles’ crackdown on religion. The Lawless Road is his intriguing non-fiction account of his travels, while The Power and the Glory is the tale of a fictional priest, desperately trying to escape the government authorities.

    Under the Volcano – Malcolm Lowry

    Lowry’s classic describes the last day in the life of the British consul in Cuernavaca, spent mostly in an alcohol and mescal-induced haze. See also Lowry’s Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid.

    Log from the Sea of Cortez – John Steinbeck

    Fascinating account of Steinbeck’s sailing trip around Baja California in 1940, though it’s only part travelogue; Steinbeck’s main aim was to chart the incredible biodiversity in the Sea of Cortez.

    Best Mexican Fiction

    The Underdogs – Mariano Azuela

    “The Novel of the Mexican Revolution” from a writer who served under Pancho Villa. The Underdogs follows a group of peasants, led by outlaw Demetrio Macías, as they are pulled into the conflict.

    The Miracle Worker – Carmen Boullosa

    An exploration of Catholicism, corruption, and poverty in Mexico by one of the country’s best contemporary writers – it’s a sort of magical realist allegory about the Mexican political system.

    Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel

    The film was a huge hit, but Esquivel’s original novel is still a great read – the romantic tale of Tita, whose lover marries her sister, and who decides to use her cooking skills to win him back. Each episode is prefaced with a classic Mexican recipe.

    The Death of Artemio Cruz and The Old Gringo – Carlos Fuentes

    Mexico’s best-known writer produced many highly-acclaimed novels but these are two of the best. In the haunting Death of Artemio Cruz, the corrupt hero reviews his life from his deathbed, while the Old Gringo is a fictional imagining of American writer Ambrose Bierce’s last days, as part of Pancho Villa’s army.

    Signs Preceding the End of the World – Yuri Herrera

    A very contemporary tale of Mexican migrants crossing the US-Mexican border from the popular US-based writer. The story focuses on Makina, a young woman who is smuggled into the USA to search for her brother but who is also carrying a package from a Mexican drug lord – the book is loaded with mythological imagery, from Ancient Greece to Mesoamerica.

    Pedro Páramo – Juan Rulfo

    A precursor of magical realism, Rulfo’s novel follows the journey of Juan Preciado to his mother’s home village, now a literal ghost town inhabited by spirits, thanks to the actions of Juan’s malevolent father, Pedro Páramo.

    Down the Rabbit Hole – Juan Pablo Villalobos

    This hilarious first novel from Villalobos concerns the life of Tochtli, the son of a Mexican drug lord, growing up in a luxurious hideout inhabited by gangsters, prostitutes, drug dealers, and corrupt politicians. See also Quesadillas and I’ll Sell You a Dog.

    Best Books about Mexican History & Culture

    A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies – Bartolome de Las Casas

    Dominican priest Las Casas wrote his account of the Spanish Conquista of the Americas after being horrified at the atrocities suffered by the indigenous peoples, as well as the devastation caused by disease.

    Manana Forever? Mexico and the Mexicans – Jorge G. Castañeda

    This former foreign minister writes perceptively about modern Mexican culture in a series of essays that cover everything from the poor performance of Mexico’s soccer team to Mexico’s troubled and complex relationship with the US.

    The Conquest of New Spain – Bernal Díaz

    Díaz accompanied Cortés on his conquest of Mexico and this remains the classic eyewitness account (usually available in a readable, abridged form).

    The Mexican Revolution – Adolfo Gilly

    Though it was published in the 1970s, this book remains the classic account of Mexico’s Revolution (1910–1920), covering Villa, Zapata and all the main political and military participants.

    A Concise History of Mexico – Brian R. Hamnett

    Part of the Cambridge Concise Histories series, this is the best (and most affordable) short history of Mexico from the pre-Columbian era to the present day.

    Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo – Hayden Herrera

    Definitive biography of the celebrated Mexican artist, beginning with her childhood in Mexico City and covering her stormy marriage to Diego Rivera. The book includes numerous color reproductions of her artwork.

    Mexico: Biography of Power – Enrique Krauze

    Easy-to-read but comprehensive history of Mexico from 1910 to 1996, and an excellent introduction to Mexico’s complicated recent past.

    Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés, and the Fall of Old Mexico – Hugh Thomas

    Fabulous and readable history of the Spanish Conquest by the British historian, much of it based on archive material only unearthed in the 1980s and 1990s.

    The Labyrinth of Solitude – Octavio Paz

    The most famous book from Mexico’s Nobel Prize winner in literature. These philosophical essays explore Mexican history, culture and the social and political identity of modern Mexico.

    Best books on Mesoamerican civilization

    Aztecs: An Interpretation – Inga Clendinnen

    Fascinating social history of the Aztecs that sheds light on the meaning of human sacrifice and other rituals.

    The Maya – Michael D. Coe & Stephen D. Houston

    The best general introduction to the Maya civilization, regularly updated to include the latest scholarship. The late Michael Coe was one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Maya, and was Professor of Anthropology at Yale.

    The Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico – Nigel Davies

    The best overview of most of the major Mesoamerican civilizations from 1500 BC to the Spanish Conquest: the Olmecs through Teotihuacán and the Toltecs to the Aztecs, though it doesn’t cover the Maya.

    A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya – Linda Schele, David Freidel

    A history of the Maya kings from two foremost scholars of Maya glyphs, from the earliest pyramid builders to the coming of the Spanish.

    Popol Vuh

    The Quiché Maya book of creation makes for fascinating reading, with two main translations recommended: Dennis Tedlock’s classic version is the most readable, while Allen J Christenson’s approach is more faithful to the original language.

    This Tree Grows Out of Hell – Ptolemy Tompkins

    Tompkins’s enthusiastic attempt to understand Mesoamerican religion, and in particular the gruesome rituals and culture of the Aztecs.

    Best Books on Spanish Language

    Easy Spanish Step-by-Step – Barbara Bregstein

    Easy introduction to the essential structures of Spanish grammar – it’s an interesting approach that really works, allowing you to communicate almost immediately.

    Easy Spanish Phrase Book: Over 1500 Common Phrases For Everyday Use And Travel (Lingo Mastery)

    Handy guide that provides a shortcut to speaking everyday Spanish without having to study all the rules and tenses. The focus is on pronunciation and on learning the keywords and phrases you’ll need to actually get around and hold simple conversations.

    Mexislang – Raúl Jiménez

    Mexican Spanish has its own nuances, accents, and inevitably, slang words. This fun book by a Mexican Spanish teacher (based on his blog, mexislang.com) not only explains the history and use of Mexican slang, but also offers insights on Mexico’s culture and people.

    Lonely Planet Mexican Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary

    Solid introduction to the Spanish spoken in Mexico by the global guidebook publisher, including every phrase you are ever likely to need traveling in the country (the food and dining section is especially useful).

    Best Books about Mexico for Kids

    Off We Go to Mexico – Laurie Krebs and Christopher Corr

    Great introduction for younger kids, with colorful artwork enhanced for easy to read sections on Mexican culture, history, and Spanish words and phrases.

    Let’s Learn About MEXICO: Activity and Coloring Book – Yuko Green

    A good way for kids (ages 6 to 10) to pass the time on the plane and learn about Mexican geography, language, food, arts, sports, and festivals at the same time.

    DK Eyewitness Books: Aztec, Inca & Maya

    Loaded with photos, illustrations, and maps, this is an excellent overview to get kids interested in Mesoamerican culture and civilization.

    Mexico: Travel for kids – Belinda Briggs

    The history, geography, flags and symbols, wildlife, and culture of Mexico are introduced by fictional 12 year-old Gabriella, enhanced with beautiful pictures, photos, and a host of fun activities.

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    Bajío Itinerary

    Mexico › Bajío Itinerary
    Updated: August 2, 2021

    See Also

    7 Days in the Bajío – Traveling the Ruta de Plata

    The Best of the Bajío

    Best Things to Do in the Bajío: Callejóneadas in Guanajuato; perusing the art galleries in San Miguel de Allende; visiting the sanctuary at Atotonilco; lounging in the region’s hot springs; viewing Guanajuato from the Pípila monument; exploring the old mine ruins at Mineral de Pozos
    Best Tours: Bici Burro Cycling Tours of San Miguel de Allende; Coyote Canyon Horseback Adventures; Mexico Street Food Tours (Guanajuato); Catrina Tours (Mineral de Pozos, Atotonilco)
    Best Restaurants: Zibu Allende; The Restaurant; Casa Mercedes; Hacienda La Laborcilla
    Best Place to Learn Spanish: Academia Hispano Americana; Instituto Allende
    Best Nightlife: San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato
    Best Hotels: Casa de la Marquesa (Querétaro)Casa de Sierra Nevada (San Miguel de Allende)Casa de la Cuesta (San Miguel de Allende)Casa Misha (San Miguel de Allende)Matilda (San Miguel de Allende)Mesón del Rosario (Guanajuato)Edelmira Hotel Boutique (Guanajuato)Quinta Las Acacias (Guanajuato)Hotel Layseca (San Juan del Rio)Posada de Las Minas (Mineral de Pozos)

    Planning a Bajío Itinerary – Top 5 Bajío Highlights

    1. San Miguel de Allende

    The most beautiful town in the Bajío, San Miguel de Allende has retained its colonial charm, despite being crammed with posh boutique hotels, art galleries, gourmet restaurants, and thousands of North American expats – strolling its hilly, cobbled streets is likely to the highlight of the trip. The city’s most famous sight is the town church, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel on the Jardín Principal, the sleepy main plaza. Nearby, the Casa de Don Ignacio de Allende was the birthplace of the Independence hero Miguel Allende in 1769 and now operates as an absorbing history museum. The other big draw here is contemporary art – San Miguel has been attracting artists since the 1930s, and the town is known for its high-quality galleries. San Miguel also boasts the best hotels and restaurants in the region.
    Recommended Hotels: Casa de Sierra NevadaCasa de la CuestaCasa MishaMatilda

    2. Guanajuato

    Bigger and busier than San Miguel – it’s a big university town – Guanajuato is a grand colonial city, with a dramatic setting in a deep valley and a cache of stately mansions and churches that recall old Spain. It’s a wonderful place for aimless wandering, though there are plenty of must-see attractions, from Diego Rivera’s birthplace (now a museum dedicated to the artist) to a slightly ghoulish museum of mummified corpses (Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato). The Teatro Juárez is perhaps the region’s most elegant building, while the period interiors and gardens of Hacienda de San Gabriel de Barrera show how the upper classes of Guanajuato once lived. Don’t leave without soaking up the views from the Pípila Monument, high above the city.
    Recommended Hotels: Mesón del RosarioEdelmira Hotel BoutiqueQuinta Las Acacias

    3. Street Food and Local Specialties

    Foodies are in for a treat traveling in the Bajío. In addition to some of the best restaurants in the country, there are plenty of local specialties and street stalls to enjoy. Querétaro is known for its “sopa regional”, a lentil soup with slices of dried fruit, and “enchiladas Queretanas”, fried tortillas stuffed with chili sauce, onions, and cheese. San Miguel is famed for its gourmet restaurants, but Carnitas Bautista is a legendary no-frills canteen serving roast pig in tortillas and gorditas. In Guanajuato, locally celebrated “enchiladas mineras” and birria (goat or mutton stew), is served at stalls in the historic Mercado Hidalgo. Dolores Hidalgo offers wacky ice cream concoctions, everything from alfalfa and beer flavors, to avocado and shrimp.

    4. Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco

    The “Sistine Chapel of Mexico” is one of the most spectacular religious sights in the country and well worth the effort to get here. Constructed in the 18th century, the shrine was founded by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro, and looks relatively plain from the outside. The interior, however, is plastered with murals, sculptures, and paintings, principally by Baroque master Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre. A trip here can be combined with bathing in hot springs at nearby Escondido Place and La Gruta.

    5. Mineral de Pozos

    The semi-ghost town of Mineral de Pozos makes for a fascinating day-trip, with much of the once-booming colonial mining hub now romantic ruins, from low-slung adobe houses and abandoned haciendas, to actual mine workings and crumbling kilns. Standouts include the ruins of the Hacienda de Cinco Señores, an abandoned mine complex, and the three pyramid-like hornos (smelters) of Santa Brígida. It’s not completely dead, though – artists have restored some of the buildings and established galleries here, and there are plenty of atmospheric boutique hotels and places to eat. Many tunnels in the surrounding countryside and not marked, so hikers should take extra care.
    Recommended Hotels: Posada de Las Minas

    7 Days in the Bajío (Ruta de Plata)

    The “Ruta de Plata” or “Silver Route” was pioneered by the Spanish in the 17th century, one of the “Royal roads” that connected Mexico City with the rich silver mining towns of the Bajío. It originally went all the way to Zacatecas, but this 7-day itinerary takes in the picturesque section between San Juan del Río and Guanajuato – much of the route has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Renting a car will allow much more flexibility – the main roads are all well-maintained here – but it’s possible to follow the route via a series of buses.

    Day 1: San Juan del Río

    • Soak up the scene in the twin central squares of the Plaza Independencia and Plaza de los Fundadores
    • Peruse the food stalls at Mercado Reforma
    • Shop for gemstones (primarily local opals), handmade baskets, Hidalgo wine and local cheese
    • Visit the Museo de la Muerte (“Museum of the Dead”) to learn about Mexican rituals surrounding death
    • Eat or drink at colonial-style Café La Parroquia
    Recommended Hotels: Hotel Layseca

    Day 2: Querétaro

    • Begin a tour of elegant Querétaro with breakfast on colonial Plaza de Armas
    • Visit the Museo Casa de la Zacatecana and the Museo Regional de Querétaro
    • Sample a torta (sandwich) at Las Tortugas
    • Visit the Templo de Santa Clara and the Convento de la Cruz
    • Catching sunset over city’s historic aqueduct from the Mirador de los Arcos
    • Dinner at Chinicuil (helmed by chef Alan Rodríguez), followed by cocktails on Plaza de Armas
    Recommended Hotels: La Casa de la Marquesa (Querétaro)

    Day 3: San Miguel de Allende

    • Stroll the Jardín Principal; visit the church and Casa Allende
    • Visit Jardín de San Francisco and its two colonial churches, as well as Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Salud
    • Peruse local art galleries or the handicrafts at the Mercado de Artesanías
    • Dinner at The Restaurant
    Recommended Hotels: Casa de Sierra NevadaCasa de la CuestaCasa MishaMatilda

    Day 4: Atotonilco

    • Drive, take a taxi or catch the local bus from San Miguel de Allende to view the mesmerizing art the Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco
    • Spend the afternoon bathing in the outdoor mineral pools at La Gruta or Escondido Place

    Day 5: Dolores Hidalgo

    • Visit the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, the church where Father Hidalgo issued his famous “Grito de Dolores” in 1810, signaling the start of the Mexican War of Independence
    • Visit the Museo Histórico Curato de Dolores, Father Hidalgo’s home between 1804 and 1810, now a tribute to the “Father of Independence”
    • Visit the Museo del Bicentenario, birthplace and former home of independence hero Mariano Abasolo
    • Visit the Casa Museo José Alfredo Jiménez, which commemorates Mexico’s greatest ranchera singer – Jiménez was born in Dolores in 1926 and is buried here
    • Sample the town’s quirky ice cream flavors around Plaza Principal

    Day 6: Mineral de Pozos

    • Dolores is the best departure point for Mineral de Pozos – day-trips are possible but it’s better to stay the night. Organized tours also run from San Miguel de Allende
    • Start at the central plaza, Jardín Principal, and visit the church, Parroquia San Pedro
    • Explore the streets of the old town
    • Drive out to the hornos of Santa Brígida, on the east side of town
    • Visit one of the old haciendas such as “El Triángulo” and the ruins at Mina Cinco Señores, on the west side of town
    • Eat at acclaimed restaurant, La Fama
    Recommended Hotels: Posada de Las Minas

    Day 7: Guanajuato

    • Ride the funicular up to Monumento al Pipila
    • Drinks on Jardín de la Unión, the main plaza
    • Visit Templo de San Diego and the Teatro Juárez
    • Visit Museo Palacio de los Poderes and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato
    • Eat at Mercado Hidalgo
    • Visit Museo Regional de Guanajuato
    • Dinner at Casa Mercedes
    • Join a traditional callejóneada
    Recommended Hotels: Mesón del RosarioEdelmira Hotel BoutiqueQuinta Las Acacias

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