Mexico bucket list items that you must check off (2023)
Mexico is a vast and varied country, with something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience, some beautiful beaches to relax on or to explore some ancient Mayan ruins, Mexico has it all. In this post, we are sharing our top picks and favorite Mexico bucket list items!
There is so much to see and do in this bucket list destination, from exploring the ancient ruins of Palenque to swimming with sea turtles at Akumal Bay, and more, Mexico is sure to leave you speechless!
Ultimate Mexico bucket list things to do
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Before we get started, here are our top tips for traveling in Mexico:
1. Renting a car is one of the popular ways to explore Mexico. However, if you do not drive, no worries. There are guided tours, and public transport (ado, colectivos) available to take you around.
2. Go beyond the beaches, and pay a visit to the ancient Mayan ruins. These ruins are truly breathtaking and a must-see for anyone traveling in Mexico.
3. Go scuba diving or snorkeling in Mexico’s stunning waters. Mexico is home to some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world, so make sure you take advantage of it!
4. Soak in Mexico’s gorgeous beaches. With over 9333 km (5797 miles) of coastline, Mexico has no shortage of beautiful white sandy beaches. So whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or a party beach to let loose, you’re sure to find it in Mexico.
5. Experience Mexico’s vibrant culture. From the traditional music and dance of Mexico’s indigenous people to the modern art and cuisine of Mexico City, there is so much to explore when it comes to Mexico’s culture.
6. Explore the country’s vast natural beauty. From the stunning beaches of the Riviera Maya to the picturesque mountains of Chiapas, Mexico is a country with endless natural beauty. Be sure to take some time to explore all that this country has to offer.
So get out there and start exploring!
Explore Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Chichen Itza is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The ancient Maya city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and is now one of the most popular archaeological sites in Mexico.
Chichen Itza was built by the Maya civilization and it was one of the largest cities in the Mayan world. The city is home to a number of remarkable buildings, including the famous El Castillo pyramid.
El Castillo is the main pyramid at Chichen Itza, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico. The pyramid is 30m high and has 91 steps on each of its four sides, making it a total of 365 (for the number of days of the year).
Visitors could climb to the top of the pyramid in the past, but it is no longer allowed. You can explore the site with a guide or on your own.
We took a guided tour of Chichen Itza to check off this item from our Mexico bucket list, and absolutely loved it!
Chichen Itza is located in the state of Yucatan and is easy to reach from Playa del Carmen or Cancun by car, tour, or public transport.
Hang out in Tulum, the coolest Pueblo Megico
Tulum is a beautiful magic town, located on the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. It is home to one of the best-preserved Maya sites, and it overlooks the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Tulum’s unique position by the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef makes it a gorgeous spot for relaxation by the white sand beaches, and also to explore historical sites, and participating in water activities like snorkeling and diving.
Historically, Tulum was the last great city built and inhabited by the Mayan people between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. And it has served as an important port for sea trade, especially the obsidian trade.
In addition to the ruins, there are also many beaches in Tulum that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. You can also take a dip in a cenote (natural sinkhole) located in and around Tulum.
It is easy to get to Tulum once you are in the Yucatan Peninsula – it is about 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen and 90 minutes south of Cancun by car.
Enjoy at the Cenote Dos Ojos
The Cenotes are a huge network of underground caves and sinkholes, formed over millions of years by the collapse of limestone bedrock.
Mexico is home to some of the best cenotes in the world and Cenote Dos Ojos is one of the most popular.
Cenote Dos Ojos is located in the state of Quintana Roo, close to the popular tourist town of Tulum (about 20 minute drive). The cenote is open all year round and is a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike.
Cenote Dos Ojos means Two Eyes (cenote) and it is one of the best cenotes for swimming and snorkeling, with crystal clear waters and an abundance of marine life.
The cenote is also home to some of the world’s most beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
A visit to Cenote Dos Ojos is a must-do for any Mexico bucket list and should not be missed.
Stay at an all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen
Located in the Yucatan Peninsula is Playa del Carmen. Although PDC has no airport, it is an amazing spot to stay in an all-inclusive resort and enjoy all the fun like unlimited food, sun and sand, and a pool!
We stayed at the beautiful Gran Porto Real, but there are tons of other options too! You can enjoy the beach and also go on day tours to the various attractions in the Riviera Maya.
There are plenty of things to do in Playa del Carmen, from shopping, sightseeing nearby, dining to swimming and sunbathing.
Playa del Carmen is home to 5th Avenue, which is a shopper’s and tourist’s paradise. There are tons of pretty shops and restaurants to explore here. You will find affordable and delicious Mexican food and souvenir shops too.
Want to be a little active? Then explore PDC on a bike. You will find a ton of bike rental shops for use, to explore the city!
Take a dip at Cenote Choo-Ha
Choo Ha is one of the prettiest cenotes in Mexico. This cenote is located near the famed Coba ruins in Yucatan Mexico, which makes it super easy for a day trip from the popular resorts of Riviera Maya.
You can get to the cenote by car, or on a guided tour.
To access the cenote, there is an entry fee, which is $100 MXN pesos per person. Parking is available near the cenote.
At the entrance, you have a few showers so that you can wash and change into your swimsuit to get down. There are a series of steps that leads into a cave.
The real magic is underground. This cenote has no natural light other than a small speck of sunlight that beams through the cracks.
You can go swimming here, or just sit down by the steps to enjoy the view inside. Enjoy time admiring the stalactites and stalagmites that are formed inside the cenote over the centuries.
The name of the cenote refers to ‘water that drips’ aka ‘choo-ha’.
Enjoy the best island life in Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a small island off the coast of Mexico, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
The island is home to a number of beautiful beaches, and it is a great place to relax and enjoy the Mexican sun.
Playa Norte is the most famous beach on the island, known for its white sand and clear waters.
Isla Mujeres was a revered Mayan site in the past, and today you can explore their remnants at the eco-park – Punta Sur. It has Mayan ruins, trails, cliffs, and more.
Visitors can also take a boat trip to see the Isla Mujeres turtles, or go snorkeling in the clear waters of the island. It is easy to visit on your trip to Cancun, as it is located directly across the water. You can buy tickets here
Go on a Copper Canyon Train Tour
By Daniel from Layer Culture
Taking the Copper Canyon Train Tour from Chihuahua is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences you can have whilst you explore Mexico.
This mountainous train adventure which starts in Northern Mexico takes you to new heights and gives you the opportunity to visit some local off-the-beaten-path villages along the way.
El Fuerte, Guachochi, Creel, and Barrancas are just a few of our favorites and the majestic Cusarare Falls which are surrounded by nothing but luscious pine forests was one of our highlight attractions.
If you decide to stay a night in the town of Guachochi and do one of the excursions with a local guide, there you will find places to stay such as Hotel Melina which offers international tourists an onsite restaurant and rustic accommodation to be able to explore the nearby region.
Along this route, you can also encounter the indigenous Tarahumara tribe who offer their unique Mexican handicrafts and souvenirs to passersby.
A ride on the El Chepe train along the Copper Canyon makes a memorable experience on any trip to Mexico.
Especially if you are interested in having a cultural experience and learning more about the areas surrounding this special region of Mexico and its indigenous communities.
Whale watching in Baja California
By Isabella from Boundless Roads
If you love watching wildlife in their natural environment, whale watching in Baja California will be one of those life experiences that you will never forget.
The sea of Cortez and the Pacific ocean become home to those giant yet graceful creatures during winter from January through the end of March precisely.
In these months Blue, gray, sperm, and humpback whales migrate from Alaska to the Baja California coast to give birth and mate in the safe bays of the Mexican coastlines.
Local companies offer whale watching tours in the most respectful way for those beautiful creatures in order not to disturb their routine and environment.
Humpback whales can even be spotted from the room of your hotel in Los Cabos or Todos Santos, but it’s much better to see them at a close distance from a boat. Many tours are available in the area.
The best place to see Gray whales is from Alfonso Lopez Mateo further north. The gray whales are very playful and get so close to the boat and let you pet them, sometimes even kiss them. They are fearless and super cute.
The blue whales can be spotted from Loreto, on the Sea of Cortez where you can also enjoy a wide range of activities such as boat tours, kayaking, and hiking, to name a few. Those spectacular giant creatures will show up rhythmically to breathe and then dive in again flipping their giant tail in the air.
Watching them is indeed an amazing experience that is a must add to your Mexico bucket list. It will be most likely if you see dolphins around during the boat ride.
Learn about Frida Kahlo’s fascinating life in Mexico City
By Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes
Frida Kahlo is a famous Mexican painter from 1925 to 1947 and an iconic figure of Mexican culture, known for her self-portraits emblematic of her existential and emotional struggles.
In fact, one of her paintings just broke the record for the most expensive Latin American artwork at a whopping $34.9 million.
Frida lived a bold and enthralling life. When she was just 18 years old, she was in a tragic bus accident that broke her pelvis, ribs, collarbone, and spinal column.
During her slow recovery from her childhood home, she developed her passion to paint. Her resilience and progressive views of politics and female sexuality have made her a feminist icon today.
One of the best things to add to your Mexico City itinerary is a visit to The Blue House (or Casa Azul), the residence where Frida lived most of her life and learned how to paint.
Also called the Frida Kahlo Museum, you will get to walk through the beautiful gardens and inside the house which exhibits her personal belongings and artworks, as well as artwork by her husband Diego Rivera.
Since the museum is located far south of Mexico City, it’s recommended to take an Uber there. Ubers are a great value in the city.
Stay in the hip neighborhood of Roma at La Valise Mexico City to have access to tons of quirky shops and happening restaurants within walking distance.
Admire the large pyramids at Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan is a city located 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Mexico City. One of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Latin America, Teotihuacan is home to one of the most fascinating ruins in Mexico.
The historical importance of the site, as well as its breath-taking architecture that still exists today, make Teotihuacan a must add Mexico bucket list item!
Teotihuacan was a major Mesoamerican city located near modern-day Mexico City. With a population of about 125,000 people, Teotihuacan would have been the sixth-largest city in the world at the time.
Although there are numerous fascinating features to see at Teotihuacan, the two huge pyramids – known as the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Teotihuacan is easily accessible from Mexico City, and you can use a taxi, tour, or drive to get to this heritage site.
Explore Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a renowned beach destination and certainly one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Situated on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Puerto Vallarta enjoys some of the best weather with warm temperatures all year round and very little rainfall.
The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is between April and June when the weather is pleasant, and the city is not crowded.
Although the town is a renowned resort destination, it has managed to retain much of its old Mexico charm and you’ll find a great mix of luxury hotels and restaurants, as well as more authentic Mexican bars and cafes.
Puerto Vallarta is most famous for its stretches of golden sand beaches and there are plenty to choose from. El Malecón is a beachside promenade and is one of the popular attractions in the city.
If you’re looking for a beach where you can simply relax and soak up the sun then head to Playa Los Muertos, which is situated just south of the old town.
Whale watching is also possible from Puerto Vallarta. If you’re interested in it, then plan a trip around December to March.
For those looking for something a little more active, there are plenty of water sports on offer at beaches such as Yelapa and Sayulita. And, of course, no trip to Puerto Vallarta would be complete without a boat ride to the nearby Islas Marietas, which is one of the unique places to visit in Mexico.
The islands are home to a number of secluded beaches that can only be accessed by swimming through a small cave – definitely one for the adventurous types!
Book the Rhythms of the Night experience in Puerto Vallarta
By Bailey from Destinationless Travel
One of the absolute best things to do in Mexico is a one-of-a-kind experience located in Puerto Vallarta – the Rhythms of the Night experience! This tour is a full-on cultural experience mixed with a catamaran cruise and dinner. It often is rated as one of the top tours available in all of Mexico.
The Rhythms of the Night experience starts at 7 pm at the Marina in Puerto Vallarta. Here, you’ll jump on a catamaran where you’ll enjoy finger foods and drinks.
For an extra $10 USD (paid on arrival at the marina) you can enjoy an open bar too! They play music and you’ll cruise into the sunset, and if you’re lucky, spot whales or even dolphins too!
The cruise will take you to an isolated beach where you will then enjoy an acrobatic performance. The show has a Mexican theme with music and dancers. There are also plenty of “Cirque du Soleil-style” stunts that are sure to impress.
After the show, head for a romantic candlelit dinner – it’s delicious!
This entire experience costs $149 USD and lasts for about 5 hours. It’s consistently rated as one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, and once you do it for yourself, you’ll see why!
Go surfing in Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is Mexico’s most famous surf town located on the country’s Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca. This laid-back beach town has a relaxed vibe and is filled with great waves, nightlife, cheap eats, and friendly locals.
The main surf break in Puerto Escondido is called Zicatela Beach which is considered to be one of the best and most challenging waves in the world. This beach is definitely not for beginner surfers but if you’re up for the challenge it is an incredible experience.
If you’re not a surfer, Puerto Escondido is still a great place to relax on the beach, go on jungle hikes, try fresh seafood, and explore the surrounding countryside.
Mezcal Tour in Oaxaca City
By Gabriel from Chef Travel Guide
Located in the picturesque Sierra Madre mountains in southern Mexico is the historic city of Oaxaca. This region is known as the culinary and cultural heart of the country and is renowned for its textiles and ancestral crafts.
Oaxaca’s historic center is filled with beautiful plazas, baroque cathedrals, cobblestone streets, and an endless array of delicious restaurants and street vendors.
You could easily spend a week just visiting the Centro Historico but you would be amiss if you didn’t make a trip into the stunning countryside.
Oaxaca is known for being the Mezcal capital of the country and its best distillers are located in the Oaxacan valley which is just a short drive outside the city.
The ultimate way to get to experience this important traditional spirit is to take a tour of a Mezcal distillery. These family-run operations are run on a farm called a palenque that is connected to their home where they live and make the mezcal.
During the mezcal tour, you will learn about the entire process from the plant to the bottle. You will walk the hills hunting for wild agave, learn how they cultivate the plants, experience the step-by-step process of how they make the mezcal, and follow it all up with a tasting of the mezcals they produce.
Tip: Make sure to pick a tour that visits a small palenque, as many tours focus on the large distillers that are more about volume production than traditions and heritage.
Go snorkeling with whale sharks in Isla Holbox
By Cynthia from Travel Your Memories
If you go to Mexico, snorkeling with whale sharks should be on your bucket list!
Every year, whale sharks come to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. If you want to go snorkeling and swimming with whale sharks, it is recommended to do this via Isla Holbox.
There are a lot of things to do in Isla Holbox because Isla Holbox is closer located to where the whale sharks swim it’s the #1 activity to do here.
This island feels relaxed and besides snorkeling with whale sharks, you can relax here for a few days. You can also do some nice walks here. The best place to stay is Mystique Holbox because it’s closely located to the beach and the rooms are neat.
The whale sharks arrive in the waters around Isla Holbox from May to September and only during this period are the trips offered. The best period is in June, July, and August.
The tour starts early in the morning with a pick-up at the beach. After this, the guide will explain the tour and what the rules are for when you go swimming with the whale sharks.
After +/- 60 minutes you arrive at the location where the whale sharks are. You always go in pairs into the water with the guide.
The guide makes sure that safety is guaranteed and supports you to swim faster to get to the whale shark but always at an appropriate distance from the animals.
It is a special experience to see these animals in their habitat and to see what kind of gentle creatures they are. An experience you will never forget!
Discover the region of Huastecas Potosina in San Luis Potosi
San Luis Potosi is a state located in northeast Mexico. The state is home to a large region of lush rainforests, rivers, and waterfalls called the Huasteca Potosina. This area dates back to pre-hispanic times.
In Huasteca Potosina, you can enjoy the outdoors, go hiking and camping opportunities in the region. There are also a number of different waterfalls that you can visit, including the Tamul waterfall, which is the tallest in the state.
Also located in this area is the stunning surrealist garden created by British artist Edward James called Las Pozas, which is a must visit!
If you want to experience Mexico’s natural beauty, Huasteca Potosina is the place to go. With its lush rainforests, rivers and waterfalls, the region is a nature lover’s paradise.
Visit the ancient ruins of Palenque
The ancient ruins of Palenque are a must-see for anyone visiting Mexico. These ruins are from ca. 226 BC to ca. 799 AD and are a great way to learn about the country’s history and culture.
Palenque is one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Mexico and is located in the state of Chiapas, in the southern part of Mexico. The pyramids are said to be larger than the ones in Chichen Itza.
The site is made up of a number of temples, palaces, and other buildings, all of which are set in a beautiful jungle setting. Visitors can explore the ruins at their own pace, and there are a number of guided tours available if you want to learn more about the site.
You can easily spend one day at the Palenque ruins, and the National Park of the same name. There are separate entrance tickets for the park and the ruins (the ruins are located inside a dense forest in the national park).
Enjoy wine tasting around Querétaro
By April from April Veralyn Travels
If you ever visit the state of Querétaro we would highly recommend taking a few trips to visit some Mexican wineries. The wine in this region is very unique.
Many of the wines you can taste are quite sweet or sparkling. In fact, cava, a kind of Spanish sparkling wine made with a double fermentation process, is made in the region.
To taste this unique wine you can visit Finca Sala Vive by Freixenet. Make sure you also book a tour of this winery to see where and how cava is produced. You can book tours in English or Spanish.
Finca Sala Vive by Freixenet is located quite close to Bernal which is also a great place to visit especially if you like hiking.
Other wineries in the state worth checking out include Viñedos Los Rosales and Viñedos La Redonda. These two are quite close to Tequisquiapan which is a beautiful small town full of flowers and streets lined with papel picado.
When we went to Querétaro to go wine tasting, we stayed in Santiago de Querétaro. And if we were to go back we would probably want to stay at the Morazul Hotel Boutique instead since the rooms and views look so lovely.
Check out the town where Tequila was born
One of the Mexico bucket list items is to explore the birthplace of tequila (drink). Yes! If you didn’t know this already, Tequila (place) is located in the state of Jalisco in Mexico, and this is where the blue agave plant is grown.
When in Tequila, go on a guided distillery tour to learn all about its history, and process. Many tours also include a few samplings.
The town and its surrounding area are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tequila is also designated as a Pueblo Magico or Magical Town.
So there you have it! We hope this post has helped you to kick start your bucket list for Mexico.
We love this beautiful country, and its close proximity to the US and Canada (and the plethora of flights and holiday packages) makes Mexico an amazing getaway for solo travelers, couples, and families alike.
More Mexico travel guides:
- Getting from Playa del Carmen to Tulum
- Best Airbnb in Cancun