Mexico

5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter

Mexico is an absolutely fascinating country. It’s obviously a major destination for beach vacations, for one thing. However, Mexican and Hispanic culture are one of my favorites in the world to learn about. There are so many beautiful, unique, and intriguing things about it! Every country or city certainly has its dangers, but with each passing year Mexico becomes more heavily shrouded in stigma, at least in the United States. So, if you haven’t thought of Mexico as a place to travel to outside of a five-star resort, I would encourage you to take another look. Below are just a few things I drew me in, so hopefully, they work on you too.

5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter | truelane

1.    Rooted in history

As I get older, my interest in cultural history grows by the day. In fact, learning about history is one of the main reasons that I travel now. Ancient history specifically dazzles me—particularly Mayan history—and getting to visit the ruins at Tulum last year was the icing on the tip of my Mexican vacation cake. I don’t love guided tours, so I always recommend exploring on your own and seeing what you want to see, and then doing some library or even just Internet research when you get back home or just to your hotel room. It helps maximize the experience.

5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter | truelane
5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter | truelane

2.    Beautiful beaches

For vacationers, the first thing that comes to mind when you mention “Mexico” is the pristine coastline, and for valid reasons. Turquoise waters and white sands that span from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean have enticed tourists for decades, and kept them coming back. It makes water sports like kayaking, sailing, parasailing or even just swimming that much more magical. Or, you can just enjoy looking at it from your lounger at the beach. No matter how you experience them, Mexico’s beaches are some of the best in the world, and the just about the easiest for American travelers to get to.

5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter | truelane

 

5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter | truelane

3.    Tacos & Tequila

Everyone’s two favorite things to come out of this North American paradise. Many cities like Mexico City and Tequila itself offer unique tequila tours and tastings, or if head down to Oaxaca for an inside look at the world of mezcal—it’s the scotch to tequila’s whiskey. But really, you’ll find these Mexican staples anywhere without even trying. Same with tacos—now that’s my kind of paradise. Try a variety of fish tacos in the cities by the sea and other meat (or veggie) varieties inland. But you can guarantee they’ll be authentic—skip the lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream but don’t forget the squeeze of lime juice.
 

4.    Monarch Butterflies

You might have heard once about the magnificent Monarch butterfly migration that takes place each winter, when those beautiful little flashes of orange flap their wings from Canada to Mexico and set up camp on the oyamel fir trees, just a few hours outside of Mexico City. What a once-in-a-lifetime sight to see millions of these striking beauties basking in the midday sun! There’s a ton of research out there on how to put this trip together, and it’s easily made its way onto my bucket list.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

5.    Dynamite cruise ports

Whether you’re on the Caribbean side (Cozumel, Costa Maya) or the Pacific side (Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Acapulco), cruise ports were built to handle thousands of people coming in and out each day while giving them a taste of the culture in every region. After the recent hurricanes around the Caribbean, ports were built back up to be bigger and better and they’re all welcoming new visitors. Cruising is a great way to see a new side of Mexico by land and sea alike.

5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter | truelane
5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter | truelane
5 Reasons to Visit Mexico This Winter | truelane

Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel

I was supposed to visit Cozumel on my first cruise ever, but the itinerary was changed last minute for the eastern Caribbean. When I was finally offered the chance to visit Cozumel in November, I jumped at the chance. I’m a Mayan history nut, and the idea of finally seeing some ruins face to face was thrilling. And, I’m so excited to be sharing this post at the beginning of a new year—there’s no better time to encourage all of you out there to visit a place you’ve always dreamed of!

Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane

The Crown Princess docked in Cozumel at seven o’clock in the morning, and my friend and I were booked for a 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. excursion—eight beautiful hours out and about in Mexico. We were to spend the morning at the popular Mayan ruins of the ancient city of Tulum, followed by a few hours at a local beach club where we could enjoy the powdery white sand and stunning blue waters that have made Tulum a such popular tourist destination. As soon as we stepped onto the pier, we knew we were in for quite a day.

From the pier, we made our way to the ferry that runs from the island of Cozumel to the mainland, Playa del Carmen. It’s a quick ride, but the smoothness of it depends on the weather. The waves were definitely not with us on the way out. Make sure to come prepared with saltine crackers and medication for seasickness, just in case.  Thankfully, Michele and I were fine, but I can’t say the same for everyone else!

I’m a huge nerd about Mayan culture, so I was very excited to absorb everything our day would hold. (If anyone else has played Secret of the Scarlet Hand, you get my drift.) But one of the most fun parts of the day was also the most unexpected—a plethora of coatimundi surrounded us at the entrance to the ruins! They were so cute, and I’d never seen anything like them. And, there were just as many iguanas surrounding the ruins. It’s a place just teeming with wildlife.

Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane

The ruins themselves were wonderfully impressive. I felt like I had stepped back in time, save for the other tourists running around and ropes sectioning off the visitors from the ancient structures. Walking through, I knew I would need to pick up a library book on Mayan civilization from the library—visiting for two hours just wouldn’t be enough to satisfy my history-loving soul.

After exploring the ruins and the nearby cliffs and beach area, we were finally underway to part two of our day: the beach club. On the way, Michele and I realized we had neglected to bring towels, but there was no way we weren’t going for a dip in those stunning blue waves. As enchanting as the ancient city of Tulum had been, the beach was the most magical part of our day. I’ve been to Mexico a few times, but I’ve never seen such peaceful, crystal clear aqua waters and perfectly powdery pink and white sand. The area we got to visit was truly special. The beach club offered us fish tacos for lunch on the beach, and even some live music.

Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel | truelane

After our first stop on this cruise, Costa Maya, I didn’t think it could get any better—but just as one would expect from Mexico, our next port showed us beautiful beaches and friendly locals. And our rough sea crossing kicking off our day? The ride back to the island of Cozumel was as smooth as silk. Fair winds and following seas indeed.

Thank you to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post.

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane

It doesn’t take long to turn a sleepy little fishing village into a full-blown tourism hub, and no place knows that more than Mahahual, Mexico. To put this place into perspective, they didn’t even get electricity until the early 2000s. Unheard of, right? Well, as soon as the cruise ship port was built, this place was willing and able to welcome thousands of guests per day to fall in love with Mahahual as much as I did. And it's not as hard to say as it looks.

The cruise port itself is officially titled Costa Maya—it’s about a ten minute drive south into the fishing village of Mahahual, which is refreshingly small when you’re coming off of a gargantuan cruise ship. I felt immediately like I was being welcomed into someone’s hometown. Our guide was from Mexico City, but had been living in Mahahual for quite some time, and his love of the town made me love it even more.

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane

I’m not much of an underwater swimmer, so the shore excursion my friend Michele and I chose was kayaking in clear-bottom boats, allowing you to see and watch everything you’re paddling over. It sounded to me like the next best thing to snorkeling, which I’ve always been a little wary to try. As soon as we stepped in the boats, Michele and I were screeching—no joke—with pure delight. It was fascinating to see the sea life below us, and the first thing we paddled over happened to be a sunken sailing ship. I was so dazzled that I could hardly believe Mahahual is a real place—it is truly a hidden gem. Michele and I absolutely loved our Moana moment as we guided our boats toward the reef. There was so much beautiful coral and so many tropical fish to gaze at that we were the last two in our group back to shore. We couldn’t resist paddling back and forth for just one more look.

Although we stayed near shore, anyone who has been kayaking will tell you it’s quite an arm workout. We were very ready for fresh fruit and cervezas afterward! I love Princess’ organized shore excursions for taking into consideration that we would need some relaxation time after an hour-long workout. The beach club was wondrously quiet, perfectly situated along the beach and in the sunlight that for a full two or three hours, I had zero complaints. The watermelon was fresh, the Pacifico was cold, and the views were outstanding.

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane

Costa Maya had quite a different feel than any other cruise port I’ve been to. I will say it has to be one of the more recently developed ones—it was just reopened in 2009 after hurricanes devastated the town in 2007. Thankfully, it was unharmed by the recent hurricanes this fall and is in tip-top shape to welcome visitors, like dozens of other Caribbean destinations. The people at Costa Maya are so warm, and excited to share their stories and culture. Our tour guide Jose is one amigo I’ll never forget!

The photogenic port is perfectly clean and tidy, with lots to look at without even heading into town. There is beach access and pool access, drinks and restaurants galore and tons of souvenir shopping. You could spend the whole day there if you didn’t feel like venturing out. It felt a little like a Mexican theme park: some of the most exotic and exciting bits of the country rounded up for you to enjoy in one place. Personally, I recommend getting out and exploring. There is so much more to a country than what it offers tourists at face value—and Mahahual is a wonderful welcome to the beautiful country of Mexico.

Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane
Caribbean Cruise: Costa Maya & Mahahual | truelane

Thank you to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post.