Mexico is a country with a long cultural history and relaxed lifestyle that has long been the envy of North Americans; in many ways they mirror the lifestyle of Portugal and Spain, not to mention other Latin American countries. Bordered by the United States to the North, and Guatemala and Belize to the south, this nation sits right in between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean and contains some of the most beautiful waters and beaches in the world. From the surf of Baja and the Yucatan Peninsula, in old and small towns both, to the sprawling Mexico City, there is something for everyone here. The sophistication of the big cities mixes with the rustic charm of small and hidden towns, you can spend a lifetime getting lost on the back roads here (and indeed many do). Here are the highlights of where not to miss:
Baja – Baja is the section of Mexico that sits off like an arm on the left side of the country. On the far West side is the Pacific Ocean, and on the East side of Baja is the Bay, which leads to mainland Mexico. This spot, long known for U.S. expatriates looking for a slower pace of life and hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches, is capped off by Cabo San Lucas. You could go in and out of coves, world-class resorts and amazing fishing. More than enough to ever tire of. There are little-known gems like a church designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) in the small town of Santa Rosalia, which was originally built as a prototype for missionary churches in France’s tropical colonies (rumored to have been rerouted here from the Congo when the French occupied Mexico). Rosarito Beach and the Lobster Village of Puerto Nuevo are all not to be missed. There is also a Fox movie studios that was built specifically for the movie Titanic, and a secret restaurant on the side of a cliff where they filmed all of the internal dining scenes for the movie.
Guadalajara – Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco. It is the 10th largest city in Latin America, but it is also a town that feels like a good old-fashioned small town village. To walk around the cobblestone streets is to be taken back to another time that reminds you of Europe with a South American twist. Stunning buildings, architecture, and the arts community all come together to form a unique vacation experience. Plus, this is the best place to get a café de olla, which is a special type of coffee served in their own native ceramic-ware that makes it unique.
Puerto Vallarta – Located nearby in Jalisco is this iconic beach town long known for its draw of foreign tourists by plane and cruise ship alike. This is worth checking out if only for a glimpse of an early version of Mexico tourism. The first airplane arrived in 1932 and by the 50s it was a hotspot for tourists of all types. This has the best of beachfront dining and a huge horseshoe cove that protects the surf from rougher waters further out. It is a (slightly dated) tropical paradise.
Mexico City – Mexico City is the densely populated capital city (8.5 million people), located in the high-altitude center of the country. Often overlooked by those just looking for a quick beach vacation, it nevertheless remains a cultural hub that should not be missed. There is a deep history here of both local and international writers and painters, and artists of all types, that took their notes from the Paris version of same a few years prior, adding a distinctly Mexican flare on the way. Plus, if you have never seen their central plaza, known as the Zocalo, you haven’t lived. It’s got the expansiveness of Moscow’s Red Square if you replace the cold-world feeling with more of a new-world rustic charm. Not sure just how big it is? In 2012, a concert put on in Zocalo by Paul McCartney drew 250,000 people. For reference, that is nearly 4-times as many people as fit within Jaber Al-ahmad stadium. The roads here can give Kuwaiti drivers a run for their money! Rent a car, you may just feel at home here!
The Yucatán Peninsula – If you have been to the eastern U.S. city of Miami, or further south down to the Caribbean Islands, consider this the exact middle point of latitude in between. From early society ruins and monuments found at places like Chichen Itza and the watering holes (or cenotes) left over from the early Mayans (and which you can still swim in!), there is both history and fun at every turn. There is nightlife in Cancun, where water on one side is lagoon, but the other side is actually a beach made of crushed coral. The sand is literally like baby powder on your feet. It is worth going for this alone.
For more information or to start planning your trip , visit www.visitmexico.com.