Love it, hate it—or can’t remember it—there’s no denying that Cabo San Lucas is a town that’s fueled by fun. Partygoers flock to the oceanfront beach bars and resorts all lining the strip, and carry the party deep into the night at the thumping downtown discotecs. Anglers spend the day slathering on sunscreen and listening for zinging reels, as they troll the waters for trophy fish that leap from the cobalt sea. On the outskirts of town, surfers race across peeling waves from Zippers to Todos Santos, and snorkelers explore the rocky reefs of Playa Santa Maria. At Land’s End—where the 1,100 long Baja Peninsula finally submits to the sea—stand on the sands of “Lover’s Beach,” where jagged rocks embrace a cove that’s completely hidden from view. Watch as sea lions splash on the rocks and tour boats cruise the “tip,” and head back towards town for an afternoon meal of seafood served on the sand.
Even though this spot is named for the pelicans that clumsily land on the rocks, it’s the animals and action beneath the water that warrant all the attention. Here, at this protected swimming spot by “Lover’s Beach” and the famous rocks of “El Arco,” snorkelers, swimmers, scuba divers, and cliff jumpers all play together in the tropical sun outside of Cabo San Lucas. The rock is popular with Los Cabos snorkeling tours, and snorkelers have the chance to see frogfish, goatfish, lobsters, nudibranchs and even some white tipped sharks. Strap on a tank and head 60 feet down to find schools of silvery jacks, or climb up 15 feet up the side of the rock before splashing in the waters below. A small, protected section of shoreline is exclusively reserved for swimming, and colonies of sea lions bark and lounge on the craggy rocks offshore.
The water may be wild elsewhere, but at Medano Beach - or Playa el Medano - there’s miles of safe, calm swimming and beach fun for all the family. Los Cabo’s most popular beach is a long, long stretch of beach towels, sun umbrellas, beach volleyball, pleasure boats and beach bars. Resorts and high-rise apartment buildings line the sands, offering beachfront restaurants and bars. Beach vendors stroll the sands selling everything from sombreros to jewelry, and when the sun goes down the beach turns into Los Cabo’s nightlife hub.
Secluded, sandy, sunny, and serene, Santa Maria Beach is one of the nicest beaches in all of Los Cabos. If beachfront bars with thumping music are the Cabo scene you’re hoping for, then it’s best to stay back in Cabo San Lucas within walking distance of the resorts. If, on the other hand, an isolated beach without any resorts is what you had in mind—where snorkeling with schools of colorful fish is just a short swim from the sand—then load up the car, pack some sunscreen, and make the short drive to Santa Maria Beach for a dose of Baja tranquility.
This horseshoe shaped bay is a darling of snorkel cruises that ply the Los Cabos coast, but it’s also accessible as a short drive via a well-marked stop off the road. The middle of the week has fewer crowds, and mornings offer better conditions and calmer waters for snorkeling. For what it boasts in beauty, however, it definitely lacks in shade, so consider packing a beach umbrella to provide an escape from the sun.
This beachfront park has seemingly endless options for activities on the Caribbean Sea. From swimming in the warm ocean and playing in the sand to splashing around the water park or floating in one of the many pools, there are a variety of ways to enjoy a day in and on the water.
Day passes offer access to the many facilities, including beachfront lounge chairs and hammocks, reef tours and snorkeling, and options for massage, photos and scuba diving. Get there early to grab a chair closest to the water. There are dozens of beach games and water toys, themed pools and slides and even an underwater Mayan city to explore.
When you get tired from all the splashing, there is a buffet and full bar to keep you going, as well as a Mexican cooking workshop and shopping center with handicrafts, clothes and jewelry to take home with you.
The Patron Saint of Mexico, and of all the Americas, is the Virgin of Guadalupe. According to legend, she appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on December 9, 1531. In his vision, she was a teenage girl of indigenous complexion, and spoke to the recently baptized Aztec in his native Nahuatl. There, atop Tepeyac Hill, she asked him to build a shrine in her honor. When the Spanish priests refused to believe Juan Diego's tale, she gave him a sign: Roses in December, and the miraculous painting, echoed all over the world, and still revered today.
Today, the Shrine of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic religious site on Earth, and pilgrims attribute to her image all manner of miracles. They pack the enormous basilica, designed to offer a fine view of her image from anywhere within, asking her help with everything from relationship woes to healing terminal cancer.
The ancient Mayans believed hidden cenotes were sacred portals to the underworld. Given the dark, eerie surroundings and stalactites dripping from above, it’s easy to see how these subterranean caves inspired the paranormal awe. At Cenote Chaak Tun outside Playa del Carmen, venture inside an enormous cave where early Mayans once roamed, and splash in the cool, almost secret waters that are hidden back in the forest. Unlike some of the larger cenotes on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Cenote Chaak Tun is still relatively unknown and has half the amount of crowds. Follow the beam of your powerful headlamp into the twisting cave, where the faint squeaks of bats on the ceiling add to the spooky soundtrack. Cool off in the refreshing waters that twist their way through the cave, and hear traditional Mayan tales of the legends, myths, and sacred beliefs towards this mysterious and powerful place.
The Island of Cozumel was first incorporated into the Mayan Empire around 0 AD, and was apparently a thinly populated backwater, primarily important as a ceremonial island for women from the mainland. Although 24 archaeological sites have been identified, most are small and as yet unexcavated. The San Gervasio Ruins, dating to around 300 AD, are by far the largest and best developed for tourism, but still won't impress tourists hoping for the grand pyramids of the Mayan Imperial Cities. Adjust your expectations, however, and the sacred gardens of Ixcel, the Goddess of Fertility and Rainbows, are a serene escape. Most of the low, stone structures cluster around a central plaza, which archaeologists suspect was enhanced with wood and adobe building. The main temple, however, was probably the large Ka'na Na building, located close to the cenotes, or natural wells. There are several other intriguing ruins scattered throughout the jungle, all awaiting your personal interpretation.
International restaurants, popular nightclubs and trendy bars line the shaded streets of Condesa, an up-and-coming district in the Cuauhtemoc Borough of Mexico City. Just west of Zocalo, this youthful neighborhood is known for its attractive residents, fashionable businessmen and innovative artists. Its quiet cafes, unique galleries and stylish boutiques offer an ideal way to spend a leisurely afternoon in the city, and Art Deco architecture dating back to the early 20th Century makes for picturesque strolls.
Stop by the Trolleybus Theater, where abandoned trolleys provide a creative space for inventive theater and art shows, or wander over to the well-known Parque Mexico. Previously a racetrack, this green space has since become the center of the district and is recognized by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, as an important part of Mexico City’s unique charm.
The culture of the plaza, or town square, is central to Mexican life: the plaza is a community gathering place where school kids flirt, couples promenade, and everyone catches up on the latest gossip. Guadalajara contains many plazas, but the heart of Guadalajara’s historic downtown is the Plaza de Armas. The Plaza de Armas has all the trappings of a classic Mexican jardin: wrought iron benches, prim topiary, strolling vendors, and the requisite Sunday social scene.
Classical statues that represent the seasons of the year preside over the four corners of the square, which is ringed with historic buildings, including the Palacio de Gobierno, a baroque monster that houses two famous murals by the social realist artist Jose Clemente Orozco.
The centerpiece of the scene is a belle époque bandstand. A gift to the city from the dictator Porfirio Diaz, the gazebo was built in Paris in 1909, and features a hardwood ceiling that enhances sound quality.
This pride and joy of the historic district of Mazatlan has been through a tumultuous history. Built in the late 1800s, it was named after a famous singer who contracted yellow fever upon traveling here to perform and died. After a period of glory the building served as a movie theater, boxing arena, and eventually an abandoned ruin. Renovated and restored to its former glory, it reopened in 1992. You can tour the neoclassical structure for a nominal fee with a guide or catch a performance at night. Except for big-name concerts, the ticket charges are nearly always a bargain and this is a center for student performances of dance, music, or theater.
An art gallery near the entrance shows off temporary exhibitions by local and international artists. Tours also visit a museum upstairs shows the building in ruins and at different stages of restoration.
Traveling families who roll with the younger set will love the variety of options Mexico’s KidZania offers. A one-day pass grants access to unlimited opportunities for fun, learning and entertainment. Kids can choose from educational experiences that include scientific learning, business practices, food prep and history. KidZania has an opportunity for every interest.
Families can pick from a tour of the Antibacterial Headquarters, where children learn how to prevent the spread of germs. A real-life archaeological site allows youth to literally dig deep into the past, and bank and beauty salon options showcase the other side of commerce for the business-minded set. Aspiring chefs can learn to prepare hamburgers and fashion lollipops at one of KidZania’s food-themed attractions.
One of the largest stadiums in the world and home to the professional football club America, the Azteca Stadium (Estadio Azteca) is a soccer (fútbol) stadium and is the official stadium of Club America and Mexican national football team. Located in the Santa Ursula neighborhood of Mexico City, this massive architectural structure was built to accommodate the legions of stalwart football fans that Mexico City is known to foster. One of the most highly regarded and notable football stadiums in the world, Azteca Stadium is the first in the world to have hosted two FIFA World Cup Finals, as well as the 1986 quarter-final match between Argentina and England, where both the “Hand of God” goal and the “Goal of the Century” were scored.
Little known fact about Azteca Stadium – now owned and operated by Televisa, during a brief stint in the late 1990s, Televisa was worried about its prized stadium sharing a name with its rival Azteca Television.
Credited with making peace, ending plagues, healing broken bones, and raising the dwindling waters of Lake Chapala, the Virgin of Zapopan is the official patroness of Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco, defender “against storms, lightning, and epidemics.” The tiny painted statue is crafted of wood and hardened corn husks. Brought to Jalisco in 1541 by a Franciscan missionary, she was the first Catholic icon to gain widespread acceptance from the region’s native tribes. In times of need, the virgin is removed from her sanctuary and paraded through the city. “The Queen of Jalisco” is credited with hundreds of miracles and civic accomplishments. When Mexico achieved independence from Spain, the new government named her “General of the Army of the State,” and, with due pomp and ceremony, dressed her appropriately in a tiny general’s sash.
Built in 1910, this iconic monument commemorates the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the nation’s War of Independence. Its towering stone column stretches high into the Mexico City skyline and both drivers and pedestrians can see its golden angel statue as they move about the popular Paseo de la Reforma.
Once a monument of commemoration, travelers will now find that the Angel of Independence has become a common meeting place for locals and the gathering spot for protests and celebrations—particularly after the Mexican national soccer team wins a match. The base of the monument also serves as a mausoleum and final resting place for a number of Mexican war heroes.
Helping to define Cancun as more than just a tourism spot for dedicated beach lovers, the Cancun Underwater Museum is an attraction unlike any other in the world. While almost all of us have, invariably, at one point or another, been to a museum, few if any of us have been to an underwater museum. Until now, that is.
Essentially a bountiful series of sunken sculptures, the Cancun Underwater Museum is an ongoing project aimed at inspiring a love of art as well as Cancun’s magnificent coral reefs. Soon over 400 original sculptures will lie between depths of 9 to 20 feet, and so make for excellent viewing when either snorkeling or diving.
How does something this wonderful and unique come about? By simple artistic inspiration. Jason deCaires Taylor was the artistic brains behind the operation, and people have responded well to the idea.
Xel-Há Park is a large aquatic theme park south of Cancún with 22 acres (8.9 hectares) of lagoons and underwater caves for swimming and snorkeling. Named after the Mayan archeological site of Xelha, the theme park offers a variety of land and water activities and ecological attractions. Keep busy by swimming with dolphins, kayaking, crossing the Floating Bridge or diving off the Cliffs of Courage. More daring visitors will want to try Trepachanga, where crossing the rope-joined platforms is a feat of balance and strength to avoid plunging into the water below. The park uses admission fees to fund conservation efforts. Getting around Xel-Há is easy with the jungle train, and bikes are also popular to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Intrepid travelers can test their limits—and their nerves—while navigating the channels of Sac Actun Cenote System—the longest underground river network in the world. Located in the jungles of Tulum, visitors descend into the river via an ominous looking rock well, complete with a well-worn wooden ladder. Because it’s rather remote and difficult to access, Sac Actun proves an ideal destination for travelers looking to explore the beauty and mystique of Mexico far away from the crowds.
Known by locals as the Pet Cemetery because of the large number of animal fossils, Sac Actun Cenote holds a spiritual place in Mayan tradition and offers travelers spectacular views of hidden waterfalls, dark caverns dripping with stalactites as they swim through fresh water streams. Snorkeling options are also available for those looking to check out the scene even further below the surface.
The two towns that make up “Los Cabos” are fraternal—not identical—twins. They both have long, sandy beaches with crystalline turquoise waters, and they both offer a luxurious escape on the Baja Peninsula’s tip. Whereas Cabo San Lucas is a wild, however, and teems with non-stop partying, San Jose del Cabo is more than happy to drift at a slower pace. Here, 20 miles east of Cabo San Lucas on the road heading towards Los Barrilles, colonial architecture and lazy afternoons replace the thump of beach clubs.
That said, San Jose del Cabo is anything but lazy; grab a snorkel and head north to Cabo Pulmo to explore Baja’s only coral reef, or wax up your surfboard to race along of the numerous world-class waves. The fishing here in San Jose del Cabo is as legendary as Cabo San Lucas, with the main difference being celebrating the catch in Colonial Plaza Mijares—rather than a crowded, oceanfront bar full of travelers all ready to party.