Cancún, Cozumel & Yucatán
Few Mexican destinations can dazzle you with ancient Maya ruins, azure Caribbean waters and colonial cities all in one fell swoop. Actually, there's only one – the Yucatán. Why I Love Cancún, Cozumel & Yucatán By John Hecht, Writer Above all, I love the colors.
Central Pacific Coast
Gigantic aquamarine waves provide the backdrop and pulsating rhythm to any visit to Mexico's central Pacific coast, a land of stunning beaches and giant sunsets. You can indulge in all the tropical clichés here: eating sublime seafood under simple palm-frond roofs, drinking chilled coconut water while lounging in a hammock, enjoying poolside cocktails at an upmarket resort.
Yucatán State & the Maya Heartland
Sitting regally on the northern tip of the peninsula, Yucatán state sees less mass tourism than its flashy neighbor, Quintana Roo. It is sophisticated and savvy, and the perfect spot for travelers more interested in cultural exploration than beach life.
Much-maligned Mexico City is cleaning up its act these days. Revamped public spaces are springing back to life, the culinary scene is exploding and a cultural renaissance is flourishing. On top of all that, by largely managing to distance itself from the drug war, the nation’s capital remains a safe haven of sorts.
Eastern Yucatán State
Scrub jungle, intact colonial cities, cenotes aplenty and Yucatán’s largest coastal estuary are but a few of the attractions in the eastern portion of this state. There's also none other than one of the 'new wonders of the world,' Chichén Itzá, as well as a smattering of less-visited (but nonetheless impressive) Maya ruins.
Parts of the state Baja California Sur (southern Baja) look like a Dr Seuss illustration: no plant more so than the funky boojum tree (cirio), which looks like a giant inverted parsnip with some yellow fluff at the top. You can’t help but smile. Cardón cacti, ocotillo, cholla and other desert marvels thrive in areas that sometimes don’t receive any rain for a decade.
The state of Oaxaca (wah-hah-kah) has a special magic felt by Mexicans and foreigners alike. A bastion of indigenous culture, it’s home to the country’s most vibrant crafts and art scene, some outstandingly colorful and extroverted festivities, a uniquely savory cuisine and diverse natural riches.
Northern Central Highlands
From cobbled lanes to pretty plazas, deserts to cloud forest, the northern central highlands region is as varied as its history, cuisine and cultures. It was here that former mineral wealth created colonial cities and revolutionary activity left ghost towns in its wake.
Around Mexico City
With its daunting size and seemingly endless sprawl, the megalopolis of Mexico City might seem like a challenge to escape from, but even if you’re in Mexico’s capital for only a week, the ancient ruins, pueblos mágicos (magical villages) and stunning mountain landscape of the surrounding area should not be missed.
The Riviera Maya, a tourist corridor of white-sand beaches, scenic ruins and fun-filled cenotes (limestone sinkholes), was made for road-tripping. Yes, it's growing fast, too fast some will say, but despite all the development, you can still find that small fishing town or head inland to catch a glimpse of the Mexico that tourism forgot.
Taking up much of Mexico's Gulf coastline, the long and diverse state of Veracruz is where the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs began. It was also the cradle of the aptly named Veracruz Mesoamerican culture at El Tajín and is home to Mexico's highest peak – soaring, snowcapped Orizaba.