35 Incredible Things to Do in Mexico (that aren’t beaches!)

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There are so many things to do in Mexico that are not beaches or all-inclusive resorts. Spend a couple weeks in Mexico, get off the beaten path and dig deeper than Señor Frogs, we’re here to introduce you to some amazing things to do. Hint: Not even one of them is lounging on a beach!

Things to Do in Mexico El Chiflon Waterfalls

People often think the only reason to visit Mexico is to stay in an all-inclusive resort in Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. And while that’s one part of Mexico, that is far from what this country is about.

I’m not gonna lie, we sort of put off traveling to Mexico for a while – not because we were worried about it being unsafe (more on that later) – but because we honestly didn’t know much about what Mexico had to offer besides cocktails on the beach.

And we’ll be the first to tell you, we were missing out. Big time.

Yes, Mexico’s beaches are beautiful, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to kick back at an all-inclusive if that’s what your heart desires. But that’s not all there is to Mexico.

There is so much adventure to be had, food to be eaten, friendly people to meet and culture to be experienced, that we’ve created a list of incredible things to do in Mexico that have nothing to do with the beach.

We only wish it hadn’t taken us so long to discover the depth of this incredible country. And we’ve only just scratched the surface… Since our first trip, we’ve returned to Mexico again and again to experience more of what this country has to offer.

In this article we’re giving you our rundown of the best things to do in Mexico to help you experience the parts of the country we fell in love with. Plus we’re also including lots of insider tips and helpful information to help you plan an epic trip!

Mexico Travel Guide

For more tips and advice for planning your trip to Mexico, jump to the following sections (or just keep scrolling to see it all!).

Psst! You’ll need a place to stay while on all these adventures and we’ve got your covered. We’ve put together a detailed list of the best Airbnbs in Mexico for every type of traveler. This list includes Airbnb stays all across the country, so be sure to bookmark it before your next trip.

Top things to do in Mexico

If you’re looking for quick answers for the very best things to do in Mexico, here are our top recommendations: 

  1. Go museum hopping in Mexico City
  2. Take a dip in a cenote
  3. Go scuba diving in Cozumel
  4. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca City
  5. Fall in love with San Cristobal de las Casas
  6. Eat ALL the tacos
  7. Learn how cook Mexican Food

Keep reading for more detailed information on each of these things and more ideas for fun things to do in Mexico.

1. Go museum hopping in Mexico City

Things to Do in Mexico Museum Tours Sun Stone

Among other Mexico City activities, there are some of the best museums in the world there. In fact, the city has over 150, and recently held the title for most museums in a city in the world. 

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “museum person,” there are a few we’d recommend popping into. 

Be sure to check out these other fun things to do in Mexico City while you’re there!

2. Take a dip in a cenote

Cenote Azul near Playa del Carmen
Cenote Azul near Playa del Carmen

These natural sinkholes are created when limestone ground collapses and groundwater fills the gap, creating a crystal clear pool. They were once a source of water for the Mayan people, and today are a popular spot for visitors to swim and dive. 

The Yucatán peninsula is the only place in the world where you can find these unique pools.

Fun fact: There are just about 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatán

We put together an entire article that breaks down the details of all the best cenotes in Mexico by area so you can decide which ones to visit and what to expect. 

Our top recommendation for first-time visitors to the Riviera Maya area is to head to Cenote Azul, just outside of Playa del Carmen.

Diving Cenote Dos Ojos
Diving Cenote Dos Ojos
Diving Cenote El Pit
Diving Cenote El Pit

Another plus: cenotes offer unique and incredible diving experiences that vary from one sinkhole to the next. Whether you’re an avid scuba diver (like we are!) or into freediving, we’d highly recommend seeking out a diving experience in a cenote. 

Recommended cenote dives for your first time: Choc Mool, Kukulkan, or Dos Ojos. If you have your advanced divers certification and can go 30 meters deep, we recommend El Pit as a deep dive!

3. Go scuba diving in Cozumel

“The Cozumel Wreck”, the Felipe Xicotencatl or C-53

Cozumel is a large island located about 12 miles off the coast of Playa del Carmen. The island is a much quieter and more tranquil destination than its mainland neighbors and tends to offer better beaches. 

That and Cozumel happens to boast some of the best diving in the world. The island has quick access to part of the Mesoamerican Reef which is the second largest reef system on earth after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. 

If you are a scuba diving enthusiast, you’ll want to add Cozumel to your bucket list. We speak from experience when we say it is that good.

In our experience, the dive sites off the east coast of the island have more of a wow factor than the sites we’ve visited on the west coast (in between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel). Keep this in mind when booking your drives. 

4. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City Dia de los Muertos Mexico
Oaxaca City Dia de los Muertos Mexico

If you’ve ever seen the Pixar movie Coco, you’ll understand what we mean when we say visiting Oaxaca City during the Dia de los Muertos celebrations is magical. (If you haven’t seen the movie, we highly recommend!)

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead as it translates in English, is a significant cultural celebration in Mexico on November 1st. The celebrations often take place in the week leading up to the holiday and Oaxaca City is the quintessential place to experience it. 

The city comes alive with vibrant colors, intricate altars, and the sweet aroma of marigold flowers, as families honor and remember their departed loved ones. The streets are adorned with papel picado (decorative paper banners), and markets burst with sugar skulls, candles, and traditional foods. 

The highlight is a visit to the cemeteries after dark, where families gather to decorate graves, eat and drink together, creating an atmosphere of both reverence and joy. 

5. Fall in love with San Cristobal de las Casas

San Cristóbal de las Casas

If you’ve never heard of San Cristóbal de las Casas, it’s time you learn…

This laid back mountain town in Southern Mexico has a way of making those traveling through fall in love and often stay longer than expected. Packed with rich culture, cute cafes, colorful textiles, and nearby nature, it’s easy to see why. 

The colorful town in the Mexican state of Chiapas reminded us a bit of one of our favorite towns in Colombia: Salento, and we knew right away we would have a hard time leaving.

From learning about the unique history to trying the local spirits, there are so many fun things to do in San Cristóbal de las Casas.

6. Eat ALL the tacos

Things to Do in Mexico Eat Tacos

Synonymous with Mexican cuisine, you can’t visit this country and NOT try a taco (or 72!). 

There are many different kinds of tacos, and each region has its specialty. Try tacos al pastor (pork and pineapple) in Central Mexico, fish tacos on the coast and carne asada in the north. You’ll even find a wide selection of vegan tacos in Mexico City.

And the beautiful thing about tacos is you’ll find them everywhere – from street vendors (our favorite) to fine dining restaurants – there is a taco for every budget and palate.

Go out and eat as many as you can, because it’s hard to match Mexico’s tacos anywhere else in the world. 

Here are some of the types of Mexican tacos you should try to find:

Types of tacos in Mexico

  • Al Pastor: This tacos consists of marinated pork cooked on a slow-turning vertical rotisserie and traditionally topped with pineapple, onion and cilantro. 
  • Carnitas: The literal translation of this word means ‘little meats’ which is a cute name for what is basically the Mexican version of pulled-pork.
  • Barbacoa: Traditionally these tacos would be prepared with goat or sheep meat that is slow cooked over an open fire, but it’s most commonly found with beef these days.  
  • Birria: Similar to barbacoa tacos, but birra includes an extra step of letting the meat simmer in a spicy guajillo-chili broth.
  • Chorizo: Influenced by the Spaniands, Mexicano chorizo is typically made with seasoned minced pork and makes an excellent taco filling.
  • Suadero: Slow cooked beef marinated in citrus is what defines the suadero tacos, most commonly associated with street food in Mexico City.

7. Learn how cook Mexican Food

Things to Do in Mexico Cooking Class Food

Mexican cuisine is one of our favorites, so we were super excited to learn how to make some dishes ourselves. We’re kind of obsessed with taking cooking classes on our travels, and when researching the best place to take a cooking class in Mexico it was hard to choose.

Each region has their own style and flavor, and you could easily take cooking classes all around the country and have completely different experiences.

We ended up choosing to take a cooking class in Oaxaca, since this region is known to have some of the best food in Mexico. Plus, the cooking classes here are far cheaper than in Mexico City.

We had a blast going to a local market and shopping for ingredients before going to a local’s home where we learned how to cook several different dishes. Our host even made us perfect margaritas to enjoy with our meal. Salud!

8. Cheer on the wrestlers at a Lucha Libre show

Things to Do in Mexico Lucha Libre wrestling

Lucha Libre is to Mexico what WWE is to the US. While not “real” wrestling at all, seeing one of these comically choreographed “fights” is one of the best things to do in Mexico City if you’re looking for a fun way to spend the evening.

Head to Arena Mexico, grab some beers at the concession booth, get comfy in your seats and be prepared to be entertained.

Lucha Libre is deeply embedded in the culture of Mexico City and the shows are popular amongst locals. It’s fun to watch them cheer for their favorites.

While you can join a tour group to see a Lucha Libre match, it is completely safe and easy to do it yourself (plus, it’s much cheaper). We’ve even put together all the directions and tips you’ll need to see Lucha Libre in Mexico City without a tour.

9. Sample the best Mexican dishes on a food tour

Things to Do in Mexico Food Tour Tamales

There is so much more to traditional Mexican food than tacos and burritos. The food in Mexico varies by region, flavors and ingredients. In fact, Mexican cuisine is the first ever to receive UNESCO’s culinary cultural heritage status.

Mexico City is a foodie paradise, but where do you begin? With a cuisine as diverse (and delicious!) as you’ll find in Mexico, it’s difficult to know where to start.

Just like taking a cooking class, a food tour in Mexico is a great way to get the inside scoop on the country’s cuisine and learn about the culture from a different perspective. Typically, you’ll try street food as well as restaurants. And you’ll be let in on some of the local hotspots and hidden gems that you’d never find on TripAdvisor.

We like taking food tours during our first days in a country, so we get acquainted with the cuisine and learn some tips for finding the best food during the rest of our trip.

Read up on our Mexico City food tour experience.

10. Float down the colorful canals of Xochimilco

Xochimilco Mexico City

The colorful neighborhood of Xochimilco is an UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its canals and floating gardens. As one of the most touristy things to do in Mexico, it’s also a popular place for locals to celebrate special occasions, like birthdays and quinceañeras.

Some love it and others hate it, but no matter where you stand, there’s no arguing Xochimilco is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. 

The waterways are filled with trajineras, which you can rent by the hour and ride through the canal way, past mariachi bands and food vendors. This activity is best enjoyed in large groups (the boats can carry up to 15 passengers!) but you can still get a private boat if you are only a few. 

There are tours to this famous spot, but it’s easy to visit Xochimilco on your own. It is just a 45 minute Uber ride from downtown Mexico City. Once you arrive, you will see the trajineras lined up and ready for boarding. Just walk up and negotiate a price for you and your group based on how long you want to float. 

You can easily spend about half your day floating down the canals in trajineras, the colorful, hand-painted traditional boats. 

Bring your own alcohol and snacks or wait until you get there to fill up on local favorites (like Micheladas!). There will be boats selling all kinds of snacks and drinks along the canals, so come hungry! 

Tip: Bring your own speaker to enjoy your favorite music (though you may be competing with other boats and mariachi bands passing by!)

11. Bike around Mexico City

Things to Do in Mexico Bike Around Mexico City

There is a certain stigma about Mexico City: It’s unclean and unsafe. You’ve heard that, right? Well, we had too.

But we were surprised to find it neither dirty nor dangerous. (Actually, we like to think of Mexico City as a cleaner, greener and friendlier version of New York City.) 

Our hotel had free bike rentals, so we hopped on and found it to be a fantastic way to explore the city.

We rode past beautiful architecture, hip cafes and cobblestone streets shaded by flowering trees. We found wide bike lanes and parks with people walking dogs and families enjoying the afternoon.

If your hotel doesn’t have bikes to use, you’ll find bike rentals all around the city, including a few bike share projects where you can rent them for a very reasonable price.

The Fine Arts Palace (Palacio Bellas Artes) Mexico City

Sure, there are places that are unclean and unsafe, just like any city. Stick to neighborhoods like Coyoacan, Roma Norte and La Condesa, and you’ll feel perfectly safe.

Some of the highlights you should check out are:

  • The Centro Historico (look for the Templo Mayor, Palacio Bellas Artes, National Palace & Diego Rivera murals, Metropolitan Cathedral and La Merced market)
  • Make your way down to Coyacan and the San Angel neighborhoods (our favorite area in Mexico City!)
  • Go cafe hopping around Parque de Mexico in Roma Norte and La Condesa
  • Be sure to check out Chapultepec Park and Chapultepec Castle (see more below!)

If you’re looking for a way to fit it all in, we put together the perfect 3-day itinerary for Mexico City covering all of our favorites (including a lot of the highlights covered in this article!).

12. Discover Chapultepec Castle

Things to Do in Mexico Chapultepec Castle

The Chapultepec Castle will make you swear you’ve been transported out of Mexico City and straight to the south of France (or somewhere else in Europe).

Set atop a hill in Chapultepec Park, visitors are rewarded with unparalleled views of Mexico City. And inside the castle itself, you’ll be wowed with immaculate murals, lavishly decorated royal rooms and manicured gardens.

Insider Tip: Riding through the park on bike is a great way to get to Chapultepec Castle.

13. Learn about Frida Kahlo

Things to Do in Mexico Frida Kahlo Painting

You can’t travel far in Mexico without seeing paintings of this beloved artist. Known for her incredible artistic talents and her outspoken personality, Frida Kahlo is an iconic symbol of feminism and hope; and Mexicans are proud to call her their own.

The Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City is incredibly interesting, and describes a life of pain, beauty, fame and struggles. This museum is set in Casa Azul, the house where Frida was born and later shared with her famous husband, painter Diego Rivera.

Read all our top things to know before visiting Museo Frida Kahlo.

14. Explore the Yucatan Peninsula

Cenote Yucatan Mexico

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is the “hook” at the bottom of the county where you’ll find some incredibly rich history and geographical wonders alongside some of the country’s most popular spring break destinations. 

Our first tip: Leave Cancun in your rearview mirror and branch out to discover everything else this region has to offer. 

Together with our Director of Content, Amanda, we have a combined 2+ years living in this part of Mexico and we’ve come up with tons of adventurous things to do in Yucatan.

4. Spend the night in an eco dome treehouse

Mexico Airbnb Geodome Tulum

We’ve gotta be honest with you… we didn’t love Tulum. That’s not to say it’s not worth a spot on your Mexico itinerary. It’s just that we found other places in Mexico to be more to our personal taste. 

That being said, the absolute highlight of our time spent in Tulum was staying in this incredibly unique Airbnb.  

This off-grid geo dome treehouse isn’t for everyone but if you have an adventurous spirit and are looking for a unique experience, we think this stay is totally worth it!

The dome is very well equipped and the amazing hosts have seemingly thought of everything you need during your stay. This is a glamping experience, so be prepared to feel pampered with a few eco-friendly touches, like a composting toilet (it’s not as bad as you think, we promise).

We were a bit nervous about not having air conditioning in the heat of Mexico, but the dome is pretty shaded and the powerful fan is actually very comfortable.

One of the best parts about staying here is it is located very close to a little known cenote. During our visit there, we had it all to ourselves and it was one of our favorites in all of Mexico.

Another highlight was the breakfast at this place. We don’t want to spoil the surprise too much but it is magical and changed everyday!

Good to Know:

  • It is highly recommended that you have a vehicle to drive yourself here, as it is about a 15 minute drive from the actual town of Tulum. On that note, the road there is pretty bumpy and wild, but you can get there in a regular sedan rental car if you drive slowly.
  • We’d recommend spending a minimum of two nights here, as one night wouldn’t be enough to experience the location.

16. Soak up the culture in Merida

Merida, Mexico

A gem in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Mérida is often overlooked by tourists who flock to nearby Cancun and Tulum, meaning this exciting city has fewer crowds and offers a more authentic glimpse into the “real Mexico”.

With a population of about 1 million, nearly 60% of the residents of Mérida are Mayan and of indigenous origin. This is why there is a richness of Mayan culture throughout Mérida. 

One of the best ways to experience this culture is by attending a free event in the Plaza Grande. Mérida’s Plaza Grande hosts free events almost every single night including live musical performances, sound and light shows, theatrical performances, and Pok-ta-Pok reenactments. 

Another great idea is to take a free walking tour of the city to get your bearings and learn more about the interesting history. In fact, there are so many unique things to do in Mérida, you could easily spend your entire vacation there!

17. Float effortlessly through a lagoon in Sian Kaan

Sian Ka'an Bio Reserve in Mexico

Teaming with wildlife, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is made up of 1.3 million acres of protected land and sea just south of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula. 

The reserve was given UNESCO World Heritage status and is the largest protected area in Mexico and is the only place in the country to find endangered species like the black-handed spider monkey and the West Indian manatee.  

One of the best ways to explore the diverse jungle ecosystem is by water. On the coastal side you can go on an ocean safari and spot dolphins and sea turtles in the wild while you get a chance to snorkel over the protected reef system. 

However, the inland side of the reserve (accessed through the town of Muyil) offers a real unique experience. 

Hire a boat to take you on a tour of the lagoons where you’ll have the opportunity to get out and float effortlessly along ancient waterways surrounded by lush mangroves. It’s like a natural lazy river!
We’ve written in detail all about how to visit the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve without a tour.

18. Discover ancient ruins

Muyil Ruins Castillo Mexico

The Maya people were the original inhabitants of Mesoamerica, what we know today as southern Mexico and Central America. The ancient civilization is said to have been the most advanced and sophisticated of the time. 

Mexico is packed with hundreds of Mayan ruins, varying in size and popularity, that are scattered throughout the south and open to the public for exploration. 

Exploring ruins is probably one of the most popular things to do in Mexico outside of visiting beaches, so plan to arrive early and be prepared for crowds. 

Chichén Itzá 

Chichén Itzá pyramid Mexico

Named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, crowds flock to Chichen Itza like moths to a light. The main event is El Castillo, a giant step-pyramid that was built as a calendar and is one of the largest remaining Mayan structures in the world. 

If you go here, be prepared to share the sight with plenty of other people, and read up on what to expect at Chichen Itza.

How to get there: 

There are multiple options for getting to Chichen Itza if you don’t have your own rental car

You could take a first class ADO bus from Mérida or Playa del Carmen. This option should take an hour or 2 depending on which city you depart from and will cost somewhere in the range of $8 USD. 

Alternatively, you can take a second class bus through the Oriente bus terminal in Mérida. These buses leave more frequently and the cost will be closer to $5 USD. However, these buses stop along the way so you’ll need to allocate extra time if you choose this option.

Entrance Fee: 614 MXN (~$35 USD per person)


Uxmal Ruins Mexico (Michael Anderson)
Image by Michael Anderson

A lesser-visited Mayan ruin located not far from the famous Chichen Itza. The cool thing is, Uxmal is one of the few remaining Mayan ruins where you can still explore inside the temples and pretend you are Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.

How to get there: 

To take the bus from Merida, buy a round trip bus ticket to Uxmal from the ADO TAME bus station between Calle 68 & 70. (This is a second class bus terminal across the street from the first class ADO CAME station.) Ask for the arrival times for your return because you will need to wait for the bus outside the site.

Entrance Fee: 499 MXN (~$26 USD per person)


Small and not quite as impressive as the others on this list, but the carvings are well preserved and there are some incredible intricate details. Plus, it is part of many Hierve el Agua tours, and is easily accessible from Oaxaca.

How to get there: Probably your most comfortable option for getting to Milta from Oaxaca is by taxi. Most Oaxacan taxi drivers will take you to Mitla for the right price, just be sure to negotiate so you don’t get ripped off. 

Entrance Fee: 90 pesos (~$5 USD)

Palenque (our favorite Mexican ruin!)

Things to Do in Mexico Palenque Ruins

If you want to get off the typical tourist path and see one of Mexico’s best ruins, keep reading…

If you are seeking a truly unique and off the beaten path experience, head to Chiapas where you’ll find the Mayan ruins of Palenque tucked away in the jungle. Instead of being caught up in a crowd of sweaty tourists clutching selfie sticks, you’ll hear howler monkeys screeching and spot exotic birds flying overhead.
Though it can be a bit difficult to get to, exploring Palenque is worth the effort. Read up more about this lesser-traveled area of Chiapas for our top tips.

19. Go sailing on the Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar

Bacalar Lagoon Mexico

Situated at the southern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, just north of the Belize border, the small town of Bacalar hasn’t been hit by mass tourism yet. 

Instead this town is more popular with backpackers and has a quiet and relaxed vibe. In fact it’s one of the best places to visit in Mexico for off-the-beaten-path destinations.

The real draw to this small lake-side town is the Lagoon of Seven Colors, named such as it appears in seven miraculous shades of blue. 

Sadly, with the effects of climate change and growing tourism, the once brilliant lagoon has begun to fade. As such the only way we’d recommend experiencing this natural wonder is by eco-friendly sailboat. 

sailing on Bacalar lagoon Mexico

Take a sail boat tour around the lower portion of the lake starting near Xul-Ha. This section of the water is still turquoise blue and sailing allows you to get close to the water to see the stromatolites, or living rocks, up close from the boat.

Yes, you read that right, living rocks! 

Stromatolites are prehistoric (really, really old) rocks that have the special ability to photosynthesize and therefore filter the water using sunlight and release oxygen. These rocks have gained this ability over millions of years and can be ruined by one step of a tourist. 

Do not touch or walk on these unique rocks that are helping regenerate the Lagoon of Seven Colors. 

There are lots of fun things to do in Bacalar when you’re visiting. We’d recommend making it a long weekend trip if you have the time. 

20. Peddle your way around Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox Mexico

Isla Holbox (pronounced ‘hole-bah-shh’) is an island off the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve and is only accessible by ferry. This car-free island is a unique place to explore on foot or better yet, with a bicycle!

Once you’re there, you can check out the street art, shops and eateries all over town. Or peddle to the beach where you’ll find a mile-long sandbar to stroll down. 

Just park your bike just past Hotel de Nubes and follow the small trail at the end of the road to the water. You’ll have the wade into chest deep water for about 50 feet until you reach the sandbar. 

We have an entire guide to visiting Isla Holbox, including all the best things to do, where to eat and where to stay.

Other highlights of the island include:

  • Kayaking through mangroves in the nature preserve
  • Viewing bioluminescent plankton at night
  • Swimming with whale sharks (if you’re on the island from June – Sept)
  • Taking a boat tour to see the flamingos in the Yalahau Lagoon

Psst! If getting to Isla Holbox is a bit too far, Isla Mujeres is an island just off the coast of Cancun and a short ferry ride away. While not as “quaint” as Holbox, Isla Mujeres makes for a beautiful island getaway closer to the airport. 

21. Dive with bull sharks in Playa del Carmen

Shark Diving in Playa del Carmen with Bull Sharks

If you’re one of those divers chasing macro species such as sharks and rays, you’ll find your luck in Playa del Carmen. Just a short boat ride from shore, Shark Point is where you can safely dive (without a cage!) with bull sharks that gather there every year.

Bull shark season is from November through March, but each year is a bit different. The best chance to dive with the bull sharks is in the middle of the season in January, but that’s also the busiest time of year. 
Read up on all the fun things to do in Playa del Carmen before you plan your trip!

22. Go chasing [El Chiflon] waterfalls

Things to Do in Mexico El Chiflon Waterfall

While traveling through Mexico and Central America, we saw our fair share of waterfalls. Big, small, crowded, tranquil. And one of our favorite waterfalls from our 3 months of travel in this region was El Chiflon, which is not far from San Cristobal.

The aquamarine water is such a brilliant blue, you’ll wonder if your mind is playing tricks on you. Follow the trail and stop off at all the little paths that lead to secluded spots you’ll have all to yourself.

El Chiflon Waterfalls | Two Wandering Soles

And when you finally make it to the main falls, you’ll be sprayed with mist of the many tons of water pounding down.

Find out everything you need to know about visiting El Chiflon without a tour group.

23. Cruise past crocs in the Sumidero Canyon

Sumidero Canyon boat tour Chiapas, Mexico

Set within a national park of the same name, the towering walls of Mexico’s Sumidero Canyon are home to a range of endangered species such as crocodiles, spider monkeys and ocelots. 

A two-hour river cruise through this magnificent wonder is one of the top adventurous things to do in Chiapas, Mexico

Instead of signing up for an expensive guided tour, the easiest and most affordable way to experience the canyon is the way the locals do. All you have to do is show up at the Embarcadero Bella Cahuaré and buy tickets on-site. 

Tickets cost 200 MXN for the boat tour + 50 MXN for the National Park wristband (~$13 USD in total). 

Boats leave as soon as they are full, and the tour will be all in Spanish. But you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy the ride and spot the animals that everyone will be aiming their cameras at. 

Tip: Bring sun protection as it can get extremely hot during parts of the cruise where there is no shade. A water bottle is also a good thing to have, but there will be an opportunity to purchase drinks and snacks from a snack boat while on the tour.

24. Visit Iglesia de San Juan Chamula: The most interesting church in the world

Things to Do in Mexico Iglesia de San Juan Chamula

After a while, churches (or temples or mosques) start to blend together. But San Juan Chamula is different.

Located in a small village just outside San Cristobal, visitors are allowed to enter this church. But once you’re inside, photos are not allowed, and what you’ll see is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Unlike typical churches, there are no benches to sit on. Instead, pine needles are spread out on the floor and churchgoers sit on the ground. Thousands of candles flicker and traditional rituals are performed. 

You’ll hear chants and people praying frantically aloud. You’ll see chickens being sacrificed and liquor being drunk.

It’s something you have to see to believe. We would highly, HIGHLY recommend going with a guide, as you would never understand half the things in front of your eyes on your own. We are wary of tours, but this one was incredibly good and one of the best things to do in San Cristobal.

25. Get in touch with your spiritual side in a Temazcal Ceremony

Things to Do in Mexico Tezmecal Ceremony Sweat Lodge

If connecting with your spiritual side is something you seek, this ancient Mayan ritual might be an interesting experience during your travels through Mexico.

Temazcal is a ceremony that takes place in a heated dome and involves being “whipped” with herbs paired with special massage techniques.

While this experience isn’t for everyone, it’s one of the most interesting things to do in Mexico for those with an open mind. In fact, it was one of the highlights of our time in San Cristobal. 
Read more about our Temazcal experience so you know what to expect so you can determine if a Temazcal ceremony is for you.

26. Go trekking in the Sierra Norte Mountains

Things to Do in Mexico Sierra Norte Mountains

If you think Mexico is just about sand, sun and cocktails, we’re about to change your mind.

High up in the Sierra Norte Mountains lie 8 small autonomous villages. They are not controlled by the government, so they have their own laws, justice system and way of life. 

It is a fascinating place, and the best way to experience these Pueblos Mancomunados is by hiking between them with a local guide.

Things to Do in Mexico Sierra Norte Mountains

Insead of palm trees, you’ll find pines. And the heat of the coast will be replaced with crisp mountain air. Spend your days where few tourists venture, meet the villagers who proudly call this place home and give back to their community.

Expediciones Sierra Norte has a big focus on eco-tourism, and we had a fantastic hiking experience in the Sierra Nortes. It was one of our favorite things to do in Mexico.

27. Take a dip at Hierve el Agua

Things to Do in Mexico Hierve el Agua

This petrified waterfall in Oaxaca, Mexico is a sight to behold. 

There are two cliffs that make up this attraction; the larger of the two is a white rock formation that looks just like water flowing over the edge of a waterfall. The second, smaller cliff has man-made pools that are perfect for swimming or snapping photos for Instagram.

Hierve el Agua was created by a mineral-rich spring, and is one of only two petrified waterfalls in the world. And although the name means “the water boils over” in Spanish, the pools are deceivingly cool (but refreshing on a hot day).

Fun Fact: Find out where in the world the other petrified waterfall is!

Hierve el Agua Oaxaca Mexico

Located not far from Oaxaca City, many tour operators offer a popular day trip that includes seeing this waterfall along with a handful of other activities (world’s widest tree, ruins of Mitla, traditional weaving village, mezcal farm).

The tour is quite cheap and basically consists of a van that will drop you off at all the sights above. Read more about our Hierve el Agua experience.

Insider Tip: If you’d prefer to spend more time at the waterfall and go at your own pace, consider renting a car. This region is actually a very easy place to drive.

28. Explore the largest indigenous market in Latin America

Things to do in Mexico Tlacolula Market

Exploring local markets is one of the best ways to get a glimpse into the everyday lives of locals.

Just a 45-minute drive outside of Oaxaca City, the town of Tlacolula grows exponentially in size each Sunday when they hold their weekly market.

We’ve been to our fair share of markets around Asia, Europe and South America, so I guess you could say it takes a bit to impress us. But impress us it did.

At this market, you’ll find mangoes next to DVDs, and bras next to potatoes.

But the most interesting part of this market is that it draws indigenous peoples from all around the region. They come here to sell their own goods or to stock up for the week, and you’ll see a variety of colorful and intricately designed traditional clothing.

Read up on our tips for visiting the Tlacolula Market during your time in Oaxaca (including how to get there).

29. Visit a traditional weaving village

Things to Do in Mexico Weaving Village

Supporting local artisans is a wonderful way to give back to the place you’re visiting while coming home from your travels with a unique souvenir. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, learning about the process of making handcrafted rugs is really interesting

Not far from Oaxaca City, there is a collection of small villages where the main trade is weaving rugs and wall hangings using natural materials and dyes. They are made completely by hand on a loom, and it is quite interesting to see the work in action.

If you do want to take one of these beauties home with you, be prepared to spend at least $50 USD (for a small piece) and upwards for larger rugs. Once you see the process and the natural materials that are used to craft these pieces by hand, you’ll understand the pricing.

30. Float in a hot air balloon over Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán Ruins near Mexico City

Just about an hour and a half drive from Mexico City, Teotihuacan is a massive archeological complex with notably intact ancient ruins. Pronounced “tay-oh-tee-wah-KAHN”, these ruins are all that’s left of what was once a thriving Mesoamerican metropolis. 

The highlights here are the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, both of which you can climb up to get a view of the whole ruins. 

While climbing the pyramids can be entertaining, the best way to see Teotihuacán is from the sky! 

A hot air balloon tour of the ruins at sunrise is one of the top things to do in Mexico. You can find tours on Get Your Guide to include transportation to and from the city, plus breakfast, a 1 hour balloon flight and entrance to the park on foot afterwards. 

Insider Tip: To avoid the crowds, try to arrive at the site as early as possible (the site opens at 9 a.m.). Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and wear sun protection, as there isn’t much shade at this archeological site.

31. Go whale watching in Cabo San Lucas

Whale watching Cabo Mexico

Cabo San Lucas is renowned as a premier destination for whale watching due to the convergence of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez (aka the Gulf of California) at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula. 

Typically taking place between December and April, you’ll have a front-row seat to witness gray whales as they migrate to warmer breeding grounds in the gulf. These majestic marine giants are known for their playful breaches and tail slaps—which you’ll be lucky enough to see up close. 

Depending on timing (and luck!), visitors might also encounter humpback whales, orcas, and even blue whales during their migratory journey. 

Tip: Another popular spot for whale watching is just a bit further north on the Baja Peninsula in La Paz. You’ll get a more local feel here than in the expat-heavy resort town of Cabo. 

32. Taste mezcal

Things to Do in Mexico Mezcal and Orange

While many people think tequila is the most popular drink in Mexico, they’d be wrong. The Mexican alcohol of choice is mezcal, which is also derived from the agave plant.

While traveling in Mexico, it would be pretty difficult to not try the stuff (unless you don’t drink, of course).

You can find mezcal around the country, however, the best place to try it is in Oaxaca, as this region is famous for producing high quality spirits.

You can visit a mezcal farm where you’ll get to see the process of how it’s made, or you can pop into a little mezcaleria and do a tasting and choose your favorite. If you don’t like to drink the stuff straight, you can go to a restaurant that specializes in creative mezcal cocktails.

Lucky for you, we did our research and tried all three. Read up on some of the best places to taste mezcal in Oaxaca.

33. Try chilaquiles for breakfast

Food in Mexico | Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles is a beloved Mexican staple that you’ll find on breakfast menus all over the country.

We have lovingly dubbed this dish “breakfast nachos” as it typically consists of crispy tortilla chips smothered in red or green salsa, queso fresco (Mexican cheese), crema and avocado. Common variations include a fried egg or shredded chicken, but we’ve seen some unique flavor combos such as cochinita pibil chilaquiles

34. Get serenaded by a mariachi band

Things to do in Mexico Mariachi Guitar Player

This style of music is ubiquitous in Mexican culture, and it’s likely you’ll hear the catchy melodies of stringed instruments and cheerful voices without searching hard.

Mariachi Square in Mexico City (Plaza Garibaldi) is a surefire way to see a singing quartet in their signature suits.

35. Try some strange food

Things to Do in Mexico Huitlacoche Quesadilla

If tasting tacos and mole sauce sounds a little boring to you (you might be crazy!), there are plenty of foods for the adventurous foodie to try.

  • Mezcal worms: These little guys typically put in a bottle of mezcal for a bit more flavoring.
  • Huitlacoche: Somewhat of a delicacy, this fungus that grows on an ear of corn–also know as corn smut–can be quite tasty in a quesadilla. Don’t knock it ‘til ya try it!
  • Crickets: Do you like your crickets, spicy, salty, with a little garlic, or just plain? Because you can get all these flavors at many markets around Mexico.
  • Bone marrow: Found often in stews, this interested ingredient has been rumored to be a secret to living a long life. With a rich and buttery flavor, sign me up if this is what longevity tastes like!
  • Beef tongue: Try it on a taco, you’ll be surprised. You’ll see it on the menu as taco de lengua.

How many days do you need in Mexico?

Hierve el Agua Mexico

The fantastic part about visiting Mexico is you can pack in a ton of adventure, culture, food (and beaches if you’d like) in a short amount of time. We did many of the activities above (except for some of the adventures in the Yucatan) in just 2 and half weeks.

The ideal amount of time you spend in Mexico entirely depends on what you plan to see and do while you’re there. 

If you are just planning a visit to one city, a week is usually a good amount of time to see the highlights and experience the culture. If you want to see more of the country like we did, but are okay with moving pretty quickly from place to place, you can pack a lot into just 2 weeks.

Mexico itinerary

Mexico was the starting point of our 3 month journey through Central America. So we tried to budget our time wisely and only visited 3 areas: Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. 

We wished we had more than 2 weeks in Mexico, and have already been back many times to explore more of this diverse country!

If you have 2 weeks and you’d like an adventure-packed trip in central Mexico, this is the route we’d suggest:

  • Mexico City: 3-4 days
    • Get a feel of the city, see some museums and major attractions, catch a Lucha Libre show, eat all the tacos
  • Oaxaca: 5-6 days
    • Eat your way through the town, check out Hierve el Agua, a traditional weaving village and the largest indigenous market in Latin America, maybe squeeze in a 2-day hiking trip in Sierra Nortes
  • Chiapas: 5-6 days
    • Start in Palenque and check out the ruins, make your way down to San Cristobal, adventure to El Chiflon waterfalls and Sumidero Canyon

Check out our video from our 2-week backpacking trip through Mexico for inspiration…

(Hint: if you don’t see the video, you’ll need to disable your adblocker first)

Have more time? If you have more time, head up to the Yucatan, and catch a cheap flight out of Cancun, or add more time in the state of Oaxaca to get to the beautiful beaches in Puerto Escondido.

Best time to visit Mexico

Isla Holbox Mexico

The best time to visit Mexico is generally during the dry season, which runs from December to April. This timeframe is your best chance to enjoy sunny days and avoid rain (for the most part, anyway!) during your trip. 

Mexico is a massive country—the 13th largest in the world—so as you might expect, the climates and seasons vary quite a bit in different parts of the country

While the dry season is the best time to visit overall, deciding when to go will also depend very much on where you plan to visit and what you want to do while you’re there.

For a breakdown of regional weather patterns and other factors, check out our complete guide to the best time to visit Mexico

How to get around Mexico

driving in Mexico

As we already mentioned, Mexico is a very large country with lots to see! The good news is, there are plenty of safe and reliable ways to get around that work for all kinds of budgets. 

Domestic flights

The most efficient way to hop from one region of the country to another is going to be by domestic flights. There are lots of airports scattered throughout the country and in all of the major hubs. 

We like to use Skyscanner to find the cheapest option, but you can also check AeroMexico and VivaAerobus, the country’s two biggest airlines, for rates. 

Flying is going to be your best option if you are traveling from say Mexico City to the Yucatan, but it’s not your only option…

Public buses

bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen

Mexico is well-connected by public bus, even for longer distances. The ADO bus service is one of the cheapest and most convenient ways for getting around Mexico. 

They operate everywhere south/east of Mexico City. Specifically, the Yucatan peninsula, southern Mexico, and Mexico’s East Coast. The buses are comfortable coaches with reclining seats, A/C and oftentimes onboard wifi. 

Lucky for you, we’ve traveled by ADO a lot in Mexico and put together a complete guide to using the ADO bus service

While ADO services many of the larger cities and destinations in Mexico, there are plenty of second class bus terminals that run shorter routes between the smaller towns. The best way to find out more is to visit the bus terminal in your area to find out about routes and pricing. 


Colectivos are Mexico’s version of a shared taxi bus. These run all over the country in short distances and are by far the most affordable method of public transportation in the country. 

If you are going a short distance, like from Playa del Carmen to Tulum for example, a colectivo is a great way to get there for a much more reasonable price than a taxi cab. You may have to make a few stops along the way though, and it’s certainly not the most efficient route. 

Renting a car

Car rental in Mexico

Renting a car in Mexico is much cheaper than it would be in the United States. Plus it’s a great way to get around at your own pace and explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations.

We’ve rented a car many times in Mexico and found driving there to be easy as well as the roads are easy to navigate. 

If you are interested, we put together a complete guide to getting a car rental in Mexico. This guide will go over everything you should expect from a rental car, where to get the best rates and tips for saving-money and driving in Mexico.


Taxis are always an option for transportation within cities/towns or between destinations that are nearby. The price of taxis, however, is high in Mexico. 

Often places have set-rates that are non-negotiable. And even without a set price, drivers are notorious for overcharging tourists and not turning on the meter. 

Usually airport taxis have set rates that are much higher than the typical mileage rate. That said, there is no arguing. The airport taxi rates are published at the airport and they will not budge. It’s important to understand the rates in your area if you plan to rely on taxis. 

Also, don’t expect taxis in Mexico to accept credit card payments—most don’t have this ability and only take cash.


There are a number of rideshare apps that work in various destinations around Mexico. However, it’s important to note that not every destination has this offering. 

Uber operates in several cities in Mexico, including Guadalajara, Merida, Mexico City, Monterrey, Puebla, Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende and Tijuana (among others). It works just like in any other city and is usually quite affordable for getting around town. 

Other rideshare apps that work in Mexico City include Beat, DiDi and Cabify.

Is Mexico safe?

Things to Do in Mexico Beautiful Architecture

Mexico has a reputation for violence and travelers often question whether this is a safe destination to visit.

We never once felt unsafe during our time in Mexico and we met several women traveling solo who felt the same.

That said, the reputation for violence is not unfounded. Before your visit, research the destinations you intend on visiting and see the current, up-to-date news.

Also, read up on our top tips for traveling safely, no matter where you are in the world.

Tips for visiting Mexico

Pool with baby Mexico

Here are our top tips for making the most of your memorable trip to Mexico:

  • Learn some basic Spanish. Mexicans are known for their warm hospitality. While many people in tourist areas speak English, learning a few basic Spanish phrases can enhance your experience and make communication easier, especially in more remote or local areas. A simple “Hola” (hello), or “Gracias!” (thank you) can go a long way. 
  • Stick to bottled or purified water to avoid waterborne illnesses. That being said, it is fine to brush your teeth and wash your face with tap water. 
  • Be cautious with street food. While it can be delicious, choose vendors with good hygiene practices to minimize the risk of stomach issues.
  • Explore beyond the beach. Mexico offers diverse landscapes, from beaches to mountains, jungles to deserts. Explore different regions to experience the country’s cultural and geographical richness (afterall, that’s what this article is all about, right!?).
  • Embrace the local cuisine. Mexican cuisine is renowned worldwide. Don’t miss the opportunity to try authentic tacos, tamales, mole, and other regional specialties. Be adventurous, but also be mindful of your tolerance for spicy food.
  • Bargain smart. Bargaining is common in markets and street markets in Mexico, but do so respectfully. Knowing some basic negotiation skills can be helpful, but also be aware of fair prices.
  • Respect historical sites: Mexico boasts an impressive number of historical and archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan. Respect the rules at these sites, and consider hiring a guide for a deeper understanding of their significance.
  • Pack accordingly: Mexico’s climate varies across different regions, so pack accordingly. Sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes are essential. If you plan to visit during the rainy season, a rain jacket is a good idea as well.

What to pack for traveling to Mexico

biking around Isla Holbox

We know it can be overwhelming packing for a trip to a new destination. That’s why we spent hours creating this super helpful PDF just for you.

In this free Mexico packing list PDF download, we’ve provided packing checklists for everything from clothing and toiletries (for both women and men!) to what shoes to pack and extra medicines you may want to have on-hand just in case.

Plus, we’re sharing tons of packing hacks and tips for traveling in Mexico that you won’t find anywhere else!

Round up of the best things to do in Mexico

Here’s a recap of all the best things to do in Mexico so you can see everything in one place.

  1. Mexico City museums
  2. Cenotes
  3. Scuba diving in Cozumel
  4. Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca City
  5. San Cristobal de las Casas
  6. Eat ALL the tacos
  7. Mexican cooking class
  8. Lucha Libre
  9. Mexican food tour
  10. Xochimilco
  11. Bike around Mexico City
  12. Chapultepec Castle
  13. Frida Kahlo
  14. Yucatan Peninsula
  15. Eco dome treehouse
  16. Merida
  17. Sian Kaan
  18. Ancient ruins
  19. Bacalar
  20. Isla Holbox
  21. Playa del Carmen
  22. El Chiflon waterfalls
  23. Sumidero Canyon
  24. Iglesia de San Juan Chamula
  25. Temazcal Ceremony
  26. Trekking in the Sierra Norte Mountains
  27. Hierve el Agua
  28. Largest indigenous market in Latin America
  29. Traditional weaving village
  30. Teotihuacán
  31. Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas
  32. Mezcal
  33. Chilaquiles
  34. Mariachi
  35. Try some strange food

More resources for traveling in Mexico

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, we’ve got loads of helpful resources for you! Start with our Mexico Travel Homepage, where you’ll find general info, and be sure to check out the articles below. Leave us a comment if you have any questions!

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Things to Do in Mexico | Two Wandering Soles
Things to Do in Mexico | Two Wandering Soles

We want to hear from you!

Which of these exciting things to do in Mexico is at the top of your bucket list? Do you have more questions about traveling in Mexico? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments (30) on “35 Incredible Things to Do in Mexico (that aren’t beaches!)

  1. Chika says:

    Amazing piece! Please can you share details of your various tour guides as well as hotels you stayed at during your visit?

  2. Blissmersion@gmail.com says:

    I enjoyed this article so much! I libe in central Mexico (mountains, not beaches), so I do tend to vacation in areas with beaches. However, I have been around central Mexico some and I love to see all the amazing things to do here. Like the petrified water falls – I didn’t even know of their existence! I did try grasshoppers at the cave restaurant outside of Teotihuacan and brain street tacos. I highly recommend the amazing food in Mexico, too.

  3. ambertatton1@Aol.com says:

    I hate the idea of just staying in a resort for my whole holiday, you barely experience a place! The chocolate looks the best part of this list for me, as a complete addict, but I also love street art and I think I would be in my element in Mexico!

    • bwzweber@gmail.com says:

      I think we think alike, Amber. We’re not really "sit by the beach" type of people. The street art is super cool in Mexico, especially in Oaxaca!

  4. anjalilakhwani@hotmail.com says:

    Wow! Mexico does have so much to do! Would love to make a visit there! Thanks for the informative and resourceful guide! The pictures are amazing too!

  5. aroadiscalling@gmail.com says:

    Wow, so many beautiful pictures and amazing suggestions in this post that I just want to buy a ticket to Mexico. I have been planning to visit this country for a long time and it never worked out for me. Hopefully one day I’ll get there too!

    • bwzweber@gmail.com says:

      Exactly, and there is so much to see in Mexico. It’s such a beautiful country and the Mexican people are amazing! Highly encourage anyone to travel throughout Mexico!

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