Mexico: Make it more than a beach break

Mexico: Make it more than a beach break

San Miguel de Allende

The beaches of Mexico’s Caribbean coast are stunning. So stunning, in fact, that’s it’s easy for tourists to get stuck on them. With BA’s new flight to Cancun hogging the headlines, there’s a danger the natural and cultural delights on offer in the rest of this vast country could be forgotten.

To draw attention to the country’s sightseeing wonders, the Mexico Tourism Board is basing its promotional activities on 10 routes, which connect different areas of the country around a series of themes including tequila and music, Mayan culture, and wine and watersports.

Whether it’s a day trip, a short excursion or an entire tour, clients can inject some extra flavour into their holiday by going beyond the beach and seeing some of Mexico’s other sights.

Mexico highlights

Mexico City: This is one of the world’s largest cities, with masses to see, including the largest cathedral and the largest zocalo (main square) in Latin America, and artworks by famous Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

More unusual experiences include cruising the Aztec-era Xochimilco canals in a brightly coloured boat, or seeing a highly-entertaining Lucha Libre wrestling match – the Mexican version of WWF. An hour’s drive north of the city is the pre-Aztec site of Teotihuacan.

Archaeological sites: While Europe was still in the Dark Ages, the Mayans built huge jungle cities without metal tools or even the wheel. Their stupendous pyramids and statues are a big tourist draw, and famous sites include Chichen Itza, Tulum and Uxmal on the Yucatan Peninsula, and Palenque in Chiapas.

Colonial cities: Mexico is dotted with picturesque towns and cities full of colonial buildings, brightly coloured markets and wonderful Mexican atmosphere. In San Miguel de Allende, north of Mexico City, a new Rosewood resort opened in January, with a luxurious spa and activities such as hiking and horse riding.

The town is home to the Casa de Sierra Nevada, an Orient-Express hotel with an acclaimed cooking school. South of Mexico City, Oaxaca is known for its culinary delights and local arts and crafts. Other pretty choices include San Cristobal de la Casas, Campeche and Merida.

Copper Canyon: The best way to see the breathtaking scenery of these 20 canyons in northwest Mexico is by taking the Chepe, the Copper Canyon railway, which runs 375 miles daily between Los Mochis and Chihuahua City. The views are amazing, and many tourists stop off at some point to explore local villages.

Baja California: This peninsula of land stretches 775 miles from the border with California in the north down to the tip of Cabo San Lucas. It’s separated from the mainland by the Sea of Cortes, a whale breeding ground. There are deserts and mountains but most tourists come for the beaches and world-class golf. Luxury resorts abound, including the One & Only Palmilla, Rosewood’s Las Ventanas al Paraiso and Capella Pedregal (pictured below).

Pacific Coast: The jungles of the Sierra Madre back Mexico’s Pacific beach resorts, which include Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco.

Caribbean Coast: The Brits' favourite. Clear waters, white sands and a wide range of accommodation make this the perfect winter-sun location. From lively Cancun itself to the quieter, more upmarket Riviera Maya, there are options for most budgets.

Pool bar at Capella Pedregal, Baja California
Pool bar at Capella Pedregal


For those who simply want a few opportunities for activity and sightseeing on their beach holiday, day excursions are simple to book.

All operators, hotels and add-on specialists have a wide range, including day trips to Chichen Itza and Tulum, visits to Xel-Ha and Xcaret Eco-Waterparks, catamaran cruises to Isla Mujeres, and swimming with dolphins and snorkelling with whale sharks.

Attraction World has added a range of dolphin experiences at the Wet’n Wild waterpark in Cancun, with a Dolphin Swim package starting from $115. This includes time in the water, a ‘dorsal tow’ or a ‘foot push’ ride, plus a food and drinks plan.

Tours and twin-centres in Mexico

For a lovely taster without too much travelling around, suggest a few days in Mexico City followed by time on the Caribbean Coast. This way, clients can explore the vibrant and exciting capital before relaxing, incorporating days out to see Mayan ruins. Kuoni offers a 13-night break, with three nights in Mexico City, 10 in Cancun and international and domestic flights, from £1,705 in September.

Or combine a Caribbean coast beach stay with time exploring the area’s historic sights. Travel 2 offers a range of beach hotels, plus a five-day Discover Yucatan’s Mayan Ruins tour. The latter costs from £829 land-only.

Tours usually start in Mexico City and most commonly venture south, curving down through Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas and then heading for the Yucatan Peninsula. Cox & Kings’ 12-night Highlights of Mexico tour starts from £2,639 and covers these bases, and clients can choose add-on options including the Copper Canyon and the Pacific or Caribbean coasts.

Of the tours that head north instead, some concentrate on Copper Canyon. W&O Travel offers a six-night package exploring the canyon by the Chepe train, from £595, including accommodation and excursions.

Others venture to the colonial cities north of Mexico City. Journey Latin America’s new self-drive itinerary, Colonial Cities and the Pacific Coast, costs from £1,902 excluding transatlantic flights, while Page & Moy offers an escorted tour called Butterflies and Mexican Culture from £1,855, including flights.,

Specialist operator Cathy Matos Mexican Tours covers every inch of the country and tailor-makes trips to clients’ specifications.

Adventure operators have plenty of options in Mexico. Exodus has a new family trip called Magic of Mexico suitable for children aged eight and above. It centres on the Yucatan peninsula and includes visiting Chichen Itza on horseback, swimming in natural pools, visiting a working hacienda and seeing the sights in the colonial city of Merida. The tour costs from £1,499 (£999 child), including flights.


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