Mexico is one of the most colourful countries in the world, with a rich cultural heritage. Cinco de Mayo, an important festival celebrated each year on 5 May, remembers the Mexican army's initial victory over the French army in 1862. Widely recognised throughout the world, this festival celebrates Mexican culture and history with parades, reenactments and parties.
Mexico is so diverse it has an uncanny ability to tune into your preferred pace of travel. Whether you like a chilled out rhythm or love nothing more than getting the adrenaline going, it's all available. Here are four unmissable experiences you must try out, whether it's your first or 50th visit — you can holiday to your own perfect beat.
Just shy of 10,000 kilometres long, Mexico's coastline is vast, so finding the right beach to lounge on is a serious business. Firstly, you should consider how you like your water, as Mexico rests on four stretches of water: the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf's of California and Mexico. Here's a handy guide to the best of the beaches:
Bahía Balandra, Baja California Sur - Shallow and calm waters make this beach popular for families with little ones so arrive at La Paz's city beach early to get your preferred spot on the sand. You'll discover the azure waters are brimming with vibrant tropical fish so be sure to pack a snorkel.
Nuevo Vallarta Beach, Nayarit - If you love a good sunset, this is the beach for it, and this is also a turtle hatching spot so you can watch nature at its best as baby turtles scurry their way to the ocean.
Playa Del Amor, Jalisco - In Puerto Vallarta, at the mouth of Banderas Bay, you will unearth Hidden Beach, featuring a wide, sandy cavern where the Pacific Ocean rushes in. It can only be accessed by swimming or kayaking through a water tunnel which adds extra intrigue to this exotic Eden, which provides plenty of sun, shade and crystal waters.
Playa Mazunte, Oaxaca - Visit for an experience of two halves, with serene beaches and the lively Pacific Ocean waves. With parasols to hire and refreshments available, you can comfortably spend a few hours soaking up the sun to the soundtrack of crashing waves.
Playa Paraíso, Quintana Roo - This beach sits below the Tulum Ruins and there tends to be less crowds. The seemingly endless stretch of beach is bordered by swaying palms and rugged cliffs. The waters here are good for bodysurfing and there are beach clubs in the area for loungers and refreshments.
Playa Maroma, Quintana Roo - This particular playa is one of the top beaches in the Riviera Maya on the beauty front, and it can be found in Cancún. Powder-soft sands and the calm waters make this beach serenity personified.
The Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá are likely to be top of the list for those with cultural yearnings. It is the largest of the Mayan cities on the Yucatán Peninsula, and was the main ceremonial centre of the thriving city from 600 AD until the 1200s.
The stepped temple pyramid, El Castillo, dominates the area and was hailed as one of the new wonders of the world in 2007. The structure was built by the Mayans to represent their calendar, with 18 terraces representing the number of months in the Mayan year, while the four staircases make up 365 steps to denote each day of the year.
But it's not just architecturally impressive, it also has astronomical significance too. Visit on the spring and autumn equinoxes to see a 'serpent' supposedly move up the staircase in a clever trick of light. Outside the equinox, a sound and light show imitates the mystical sight - it's hard to believe that this site was built over 1,000 years ago!
Sometimes it's not all about following the crowds, and there are plenty of other, less crowded Mayan sites to visit. Palenque in southern Mexico is much smaller but you will discover some of the richest sculptures and architecture here. The jungle backdrop and dawn chorus of monkeys and parrots set the ambience of this ancient city, which flourished from 226 to 799 BC but was mysteriously abandoned in 900 BC.
The jungle grew over the city, shielding it from view and it was only excavated and opened to the public until the 20th century. Fortunately the flora and fauna protected the hieroglyphs which helped inform academics on thousands of years of Mayan history, with the writings talking of alliances, trade and wars.
Stop by the on-site museum to view artifacts that were excavated and uncover more of Mayan history, cosmology and the daily life of the indigenous Mayan people.
If you've always wanted to get a good look at life under the waves but don't like the idea of learning to dive or snorkeling, the Sea Trek experience at Xcaret Park in Riviera Maya is perfect. The 40-minute experience involves donning a special helmet and after instruction, you'll gradually descend seven metres underwater using hand rails to aid you as you traverse the sea bed while watching out for resident critters.
Alternatively you can Snuba, a combination of diving and snorkeling. Your oxygen tank floats on the surface giving you more mobility and flexibility underwater.
The wider park boasts underground rivers, caves, tunnels, natural pools and jungle trails, providing guests with the rare opportunity to reconnect with nature both on land and underwater.
Mexico is one of the world's best places to get an introduction to cave diving, with several flooded freshwater caves, known as cenotes, in the Yucatán Peninsula alone. Intermediate and advanced divers should try out Cenote Dos Ojos (Cenote Two Eyes) which extends for more than 50 miles with several dive paths to choose from.
It's considered the most extravagant of all the cenotes as there's more natural light for better visibility, plus the water temperature is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Spectacular shows and entertainment
Mexico knows how to throw a good party - or should that be fiesta? Rhythms of the Night in Puerto Vallarta is one of the country's top ranking dinner shows. Start your evening with a boat ride across the bay before proceeding to a candle and torch-lit hideaway for a beach dinner.
After dining, the latest show, Savia: The Legend of the Five Suns' kicks off in a mystical outdoor amphitheatre, surrounded by tropical rainforest and overlooked by the twinkling stars of the night sky. And if that wasn't enchanting enough, the show was conceived and created by the co-creator of Cirque du Soleil, Gilles Ste Croix, so you're in for a good time with inconceivable acrobatics, pulsating music and vibrant dance and costume which brings to life the Aztec story.
On the subject of Cirque du Soleil, over in Playa del Carmen, JOYÀ also draws on the country's history and heritage in a show which tells the story of an alchemist and his granddaughter on a journey to reveal the secrets of life. As well as featuring the performing arts, this unique show also combines this with culinary experiences with extraordinary foods to help engage the five senses as part of the dinner and live show.
Coco Bongo is a popular nightclub in Mexico with branches in Cancún and Playa del Carmen which feature energetic acrobatic performances, musical tributes and a buzzing party atmosphere. But if this errs a bit too much on the raucous side, you can turn things down a notch at beachside club, The Jazz Foundation in Puerto Vallarta.
Make a reservation here for a romantic dinner at sunset so you can enjoy those golden views as the sun dips into the ocean, before taking your place for one of the music sessions, which vary between performances from pianists to a jazz quartet.
Whatever your travel motivations, Mexico can deliver, from the adventure and thrills of an underwater encounter, to the chilled-out vibes of a beach bar. Simply choose your tempo before you travel and discover the resort which can best tune into your needs.
If you would like to experience all Mexico has to offer, from beaches to cultural delights, click on the RCI Resort Directory button below and select your accommodation.
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