Looking for some outdoor adventures in Mexico? This guide covers an awesome selection of activities that are perfect for an active vacation in Mexico.
We all know and love Mexico for it’s relaxing beach destinations, dreamy resorts, and cultural cities, but Mexico is also an incredible destination for nature and adventure lovers.
Home to some of the tallest mountains in North America, and over 60 National Parks and Biosphere Reserves, Mexico has a huge range of nature-oriented experiences to enjoy.
You can spot whales in the wild, hike volcanoes, explore cave systems, catch waves at world-renowned surf breaks, and so, so much more.
I teamed up with some fellow travel bloggers to show you a wide range of experiences Mexico has to offer.
Mexico Outdoor Travel Experiences
Whether your thing is mountains, beaches, or somewhere in between, your sense of adventure is sure to be ignited in Mexico. Check out these incredible outdoor activities!
1. Kayaking with Whales in Loreto, Baja California Sur
By Lizzie of Lizzie Lau Travels
Mexico is so much more than tacos and tequila, and Loreto may be the best kept secret in Baja California. The Sea of Cortez has been called a whale nursery, and it couldn’t be more true in the warm, clear waters of Loreto Bay National Marine Park in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.
January – March is peak whale migration season when there are grays and humpbacks spouting and breaching as far as the eye can see. Dolphins, Fin Whales and occasionally Sei Whales, and endangered massive Blue Whales can be seen here.
The islands off the coast are rugged and beautiful, and provide habitat to sea lions, frigates, pelicans, and blue-footed boobies. The crystal clear water is teeming with tropical fish, rays, dolphins, and whale sharks. It’s a perfect place for winter kayaking and snorkeling.
Make sure you have a waterproof camera or dry bag for your phone, it’s a photographer’s dream! You can rent kayaks in Loreto Bay, or if you want to get out to the islands, you can get on a catamaran equipped with kayaks for a 4 hour tour for about $80 US. We took a kayak from the beach and after paddling for less than 10 minutes we were bumped by a 20’ whale shark!
2. Birdwatching in Rio Lagartos, Yucatán
By Soumya from Stories by Soumya
After finishing up an exciting half-day trip to Ek Balam, we decided to visit this sleepy little town called Rio Lagartos. Situated on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Rio Lagartos is located in the midst of a large biosphere reserve and is every birdwatcher’s paradise. It is home to the largest number of pink flamingos in the whole of Mexico. Plus, there are other exotic birds such as snowy ibis, red egrets, and tiger herons.
The name Rio Lagartos literally translates to the Alligator River. So, you can imagine that this place has its fair share of alligators as well. We spotted quite a few during our boat tour. The scenery surrounding the nature reserve is amazing. Opulent mangroves, shallow backwaters, and white sand beaches make Rio Lagartos extremely picturesque.
You can easily take a day trip to Rio Lagartos by car from Playa del Carmen or Valladolid. Since there are no direct buses from Valladolid, you have to change buses in Tizimin. Once you get here, you can roam the quaint streets of the village or directly head to the jetty where you can book a boat tour with the locals. If you still have some time, visit the Instagram-famous Las Coloradas Pink Lake which is only 20 minutes away from Rio Lagartos.
3. Hiking Around Lagos de Montebello, Chiapas
By Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan
In the remote southern state of Chiapas, right next to the border with Guatemala, awaits a beautiful landscape of dozens of lakes colored turquoise blue and emerald green and every shade in between. This area of lakes and forested mountains was the first national park in Chiapas, established in 1959, and is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In total, there are about 50 lakes, and 15 of these can be easily accessed either by car or on foot.
While some people visit Lagos de Montebello as a day trip from Comitán or even from San Cristóbal de las Casas, I recommend staying overnight in one of the rustic cabins inside the national park. This will give you time to hike from one lake to the next and explore a few different ones.
Dotted around the most visited lakes are some food stalls and basic restaurants serving simple Mexican dishes, but if you’re planning a longer hike it’s a good idea to bring some food with you. One thing to keep in mind is that, due to low rainfall, a few of the lakes have started to dry up in recent years, so check the latest situation when planning your visit. Lagos de Montebello is one of many alluring attractions in Chiapas, so don’t overlook this southern state– especially if you’re drawn to outdoor adventures!
Related Reading: 14 Incredible Things to do in Chiapas, Mexico
4. Boogie Boarding in Sayulita, Nayarit
By Nicole of The Passport Kids
One of the great outdoor things to do in Sayulita, Mexico is to go surfing or boogie boarding in the ocean! The waves on this beach are the perfect size to learn how to surf from a local instructor or try a go at it on your own. Nice easy rolling waves that give you a great chance of surfing on a few waves without it being too strong of a riptide in this area. They have options for group surfing lessons or individual lessons at the beach where you rent the board for no-fuss to try this sport.
If surfing isn’t your thing or for a family outdoor activity in Mexico, boogie boarding is so much fun too! You can rent these right at the beach and will let you enjoy a fun day of riding the waves over and over again! Our entire family loved the boogie boards so much and it provided a fun-filled day on the beach.
Regardless of your choice, either surfing or boogie boarding in Sayulita is a perfect way to spend the day outdoors in Mexico. Sayulita is an easy, great day trip from Puerto Vallarta or Nuevo Vallarta.
5. Climbing Nohoch Mul, Quintana Roo
By Michael of Passport Explored
One of my favorite outdoor adventures that I’ve had in Mexico was climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid within the Mayan ruins of Coba. At 137 feet (43 meters) tall, Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the entire Yucatan Peninsula. Visitors are able to climb this incredibly steep pyramid, which consists of 130 individual steps, until they reach the top and can admire the magnificent views of the surrounding jungle canopy. The climb is rather tiring and the atmosphere is incredibly humid but the experience is well worth it, especially when you reach the top and gaze out into the endless expanse of trees in every direction.
Aside from the views, you can also admire the sophistication of the ancient Maya civilization that built this structure alongside other impressive pyramids located within Coba. Additionally, Coba isn’t nearly as crowded as the more famous Chichen Itza, which is crawling with tourists. In Chichen Itza, you can’t climb or even hardly touch most of the structures. This is why visiting Coba and climbing to the top of an ancient pyramid is one of the best outdoor adventures that you can have in Mexico.
6. Las Caletas Beach Hideaway, Jalisco
By Holly of Four Around the World
We recently spent a week in beautiful Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and while enjoying our resort was a great perk, the stand out from our trip was our day spent at Las Caletas Beach Hideaway.
The private island is reached by boat as part of a fun-filled day trip. Right from the moment you get on the boat you know it will be a great day, with hilarious entertainment from the crew.
The island itself is the ultimate outdoor day out, whether you want to laze around in an over-water hammock and drink cocktails from one of the many garden bars. Or if you want to load your day up with adrenaline-filled fun.
Las Caletas has everything from a zip line into the ocean, to a giant jumping pillow. There are non-motorised water sports to use, a massive slide into the water for teens or a kid’s adventure climbing zone.
There are also some really cool wildlife encounters on the island – macaws, squirrel monkeys, seals and flamingos.
Pretty much you won’t have enough time to fit everything into your day but you will have so much fun doing it. This was one of the best days we have spent in any destination.
7. Surfing in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
By Michele of A Taste for Travel
One of the top outdoor adventures in Mexico is surfing the Mexican Pipeline, an epic wave break on Zicatela Beach in Puerto Escondido, on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca.
Although there is generally surfing available year-round in Puerto, there are two main surfing seasons. The rainy season from May to October sees enormous swells with rib-busting waves and several high profile international surfing tournaments. This is not a time for the inexperienced surfer to get in the water at Zicatela Beach.
Fortunately, there are other more sheltered bays — such as Playa Carrizalillo — to choose from. Surfing in the dry season which takes place between November and April is more beginner-friendly but it’s still wise to learn to surf or get an introduction to the Pacific waters with one of the pros at the local surf schools. They’ll soon have you up on a board, riding a wave at sunset and discovering why surfing is not just a sport – it’s a way of life.
8. Visiting Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Quintana Roo
By Allison of Viva La Travelista
One of the best nature explorations I’ve experienced in Mexico was visiting Sian Ka’an. Officially recognized as a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage site, Sian Ka’an is located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, just south of Tulum. Due to its remote location, the easiest way to explore Sian Ka’an is through a guided eco-tour, which offers a full-day wildlife expedition including a boat tour, snorkeling, and nature observation.
When you arrive to Sian Ka’an, you’ll be amazed at the beauty of the wide-open blue water and the undeveloped natural landscape. Sian Ka’an is home to thousands of different species of flora and fauna, and you can expect to see many different types of marine animals, wildlife, and plant varieties. On our Sian Ka’an tour we got to see a crocodile, dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays, and massive starfish—all in their natural habitat. We also visited Isla de Pajaros (Bird Island) where you’ll see a large population of pelicans, frigates, and other native birds.
Visiting Sian Ka’an is such a unique experience and offers an exclusive way to experience the untouched natural beauty of the Mexican Caribbean. It’s perfect for the nature lover and those looking for a different kind of adventure.
9. Swimming with Whale Sharks off Isla Holbox, Yucatán
By Hannah & Adam of Getting Stamped
Lying just off the northern coastline of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula you will find the tiny island of Isla Holbox. It’s home to some beautiful beaches and amazing Caribbean waters. Beneath the surface, whale sharks can be found, especially during the warm summer months. Summers in Holbox are best known as peak Whale Shark season.
Swimming with these magical creatures was one of the most incredible things we’ve ever done and we highly recommend it if you ever get the chance! There are several local tour operators that offer tours and know all the good spots to go. These sharks can reach up to 40 feet in length and weigh up to 30,000 pounds! But don’t worry, they aren’t dangerous, as they are toothless fish that would much rather eat plankton. Get ready to swim around in awe at these huge creatures.
Seeing the whale sharks up close and personal in their natural habitat is truly a once in a lifetime experience. As for the destination of Holbox, it’s still very much an under the radar destination, so we recommend booking a trip to this paradise soon before it grows in popularity.
10. Bioluminescence Tour in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
By Erin of Curiously Erin
One of the most memorable tours I have been on during my travels was a bioluminescence Tour from Puerto Escondido. Upon pickup, we were transferred 16 Km west to Laguna Manialtepec.
We boarded the waiting boat and took off across the smooth black waters of the lagoon. This is when we first noticed how dark the sky was. There was no moon and the further from the dock we got the more obvious the millions of visible stars were.
When the captain decided we were in the right place, he slowed down and ran his hand through the water. Which is when we first saw the pretty blue twinkles. We had found the bioluminescence. Now it was our turn to run our hands through the phosphorescent plankton. We tried to take some very unsuccessful photos and when prompted to jump in, we did as we were told.
After jumping in and swimming through the plankton I felt like I was swimming through the universe. It was hard to tell where the sky met the water and such was one of the most magical tours I have ever done. The water was a perfect temperature and after 30 minutes of swimming through this magical setting, it was time to return to our hostel.
There are a few companies that run this tour and all are very similar. The best option is to price shop them and if possible, time your trip to coincide with the new moon or before the moonrise.
11. Hiking in Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park, Puebla
By Becky of SightDOING
If you’re looking for an escape from Mexico City’s bustle, hiking Iztaccihuatl volcano is a great way to spend a day. The Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park is about two hours away from the capital and has great views of a volcanic landscape and even the chance to climb Iztaccihuatl for views of the active Popocatepetl volcano erupting in the distance.
The park is at a high altitude, so hiking is harder than it otherwise would be at sea level unless you’re well acclimated to the elevation, but there are options from short strolls near the visitor center with beautiful vistas of the peaks or you can take more strenuous climbs of 1-2 full days. To get there, you’ll likely want a tour or rental car, but public buses go to Amecameca, where you can get taxis to the park if you’re on a budget.
If you’re staying in Mexico City, this hike would make an excellent addition to your itinerary!
12. Explore Cave Systems in the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, Guerrero
Grutas de Cacahuamilpa is a National Park in Mexico featuring one of the largest cave systems in the world. The caves extend for over 1km into the mountains and have many spacious chambers with ceilings ranging from 20 to 80 meters high.
Some of them are even used for events or weddings from time to time! Can you imagine?
Within the caverns, you will see all kinds of incredible limestone formations. But don’t take my word for it; Check out this video from the Kinetic Kennons:
The Grutas de Cacahuamilpa are easy to visit as a day trip from Taxco, Guerrero. You aren’t permitted to explore the caves on your own, but (free) guided tours take place every hour. The guide will shine a light on the most impressive structures within the caves, but for the best experience, bring your own flashlight or headlamp.
13. Hiking Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca
By Rose of Where Goes Rose
A day spent hiking around Hierve El Agua is one you’re bound to remember. This giant ‘petrified waterfall’ is in actual fact, an enormous stalactite, one of two in the world to be found outside of a cave.
If that wasn’t interesting enough, it’s flanked by a series of blue and green water pools, full of mineral-rich waters that petrify objects and small animals that fall into their grasp. This whole area outside of Oaxaca city is an example of mesmerising Mexican nature. If you get the chance, you should spend a day exploring the area and learning about its natural features.
Surrounding Hierve El Agua is a dense forest filled with wildlife and cacti. You’ll also spy fields full of agave plants which are known for producing mezcal, a spirit native to Oaxaca. You can choose to visit Hierve El Agua during a short trip or alternatively spend the day in the area finding hidden gems like cave swimming holes.
Many Oaxaca tour companies visit Hierve El Agua or you can go independently if you have your own transport. It’s advisable to go early in an attempt to beat the crowds!
14. Cycling on Cozumel, Quintana Roo
By Thea of Zen Travellers
Cozumel is a small, picturesque island off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. While the island is famous for its large marine conservation areas and amazing SCUBA diving, there is plenty of beauty to discover on land. You can get to Cozumel by ferry from Playa del Carmen or fly into the island’s international airport.
One such way of taking in Cozumel’s natural splendor is by using the island’s dedicated cycle roads to take a two-wheeled cruise around the island.
There is a 65km (40mile) route that circles the whole island and meanders along beautiful sweeping coastlines, past ancient Mayan ruins, and beside lush marshes where you may even be able to spy the odd crocodile.
Many migratory birds spend their winters in Cozumel so keep an eye out for them as you ride around and pack a snorkel for pit stops at the beach. You can do this trip in a day or spread out over two if you rent a room in one of the hotels along the eastern coast.
There are plenty of places to eat and drink along the way, as well as lots of spots to stop if you want to enjoy a picnic with a view.
In the end, cycling in Cozumel is an excellent way of taking in the island’s natural beauty, seeing more of the island than if you were to just stay at the resort and support the local economy.
As you can see, Mexico has nature-oriented adventures for every type of traveler! Which of these outdoor activities are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments.
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