Our list of Places to Stay in Mexico goes well beyond the famous beach resorts. We explore the small captivating towns with their one of a kind Mexico inns as well as the better known Mexico resorts. Our travels throughout Mexico have produced 8 wonderful itineraries exploring the many fascinating towns, rich archaeological sites, remarkable natural wonders, and delightful beach resorts. Mexico is an incomparable destination, a stunning country that includes such a wealth of wonders that, whatever your interests, you are bound to have your dreams fulfilled. There are marvelous Mexico hotels, archaeological treasures beyond belief, breathtaking beaches, soaring mountains, deep canyons, fascinating 16th-century Colonial towns, cosmopolitan cities, quaint Indian villages, colorful markets, fine golf courses, divine snorkeling, whale excursions, outstanding bird watching, butterfly reserves, tropical forests, dense jungles, superb deep-sea fishing, chic boutiques, cute shops featuring native handicrafts, and, for all of us who love to eat, culinary delights. To add the final touch of perfection, the weather in Mexico is excellent. However, Mexico is not for everyone. If it bothers you when service isn’t instant, if you are upset when everything isn’t totally tidy, if you are disappointed if your hotel doesn’t have internet access, then perhaps you should consider another destination. But the things that may seem like faults to some are, in our estimation, exactly what make Mexico so special. Here you step back into another time where people are not rushed, where friendliness prevails, where cultural differences enrich your travels. We have always loved Mexico. Now, after spending an extended period of time there, we are more captivated than ever by its charms. We know that our readers who are young in heart will share our enthusiasm for this fabulous country with its extraordinarily warm people and amazing culture.

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  • Laurent Bugnion

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  • Stefan Rechsteiner

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General Info and Resources


We have put together itineraries covering Mexico’s many fascinating towns, rich archaeological sites, remarkable natural wonders, and delightful beach resorts. These itineraries tie in with suggestions for romantic places to stay. If possible, try to combine one or more itineraries. As an example, top off a week climbing pyramids in the Yucatán Peninsula with several days stretched out on a hammock on one of the unsurpassed beaches of the Riviera Maya. For those who are apprehensive about driving, we begin our selection of itineraries with Colonial Gems: Charming Towns by Car or Bus, designed for those who want to get off the beaten path but prefer not to drive. This itinerary gives two ways to get to each destination: one by car and one by bus. Contrary to the situation in Europe, deluxe or first-class bus transportation is the preferred means of public transportation between towns within Mexico. In addition to Colonial gems, our itineraries cover Mexico City and the surrounding valley, Oaxaca and its nearby archaeological sites, the Yucatán Peninsula with its Mayan ruins, the natural wonders of whale-watching, the Monarch butterfly, and the Copper Canyon. For those whose idea of a holiday is to head for the beach, we also offer itineraries that feature places to play in the sun, including beach resorts on both coasts of Mexico and on the Baja Peninsula.

Car Rental:

Many major U.S. car rental companies operate in Mexico. It is best to stick to well known companies, as many of the lesser-known franchises are not properly supervised. Rental fees are, in general, higher than in the United States, Canada, and Europe. A compact car will cost about $85 per day and the car will probably not be delivered to you with a full tank of gas. You must return the car only to the office where you rented it or an additional fee will be added. Often during high season there are not enough cars to meet demand, so it is best to make reservations in advance.


The monetary unit is the peso. Please note the rate is subject to daily fluctuations. The peso is the unit of currency in Mexico. The nuevo peso (new peso) was introduced in 1993 and comes in 10-, 20-, 50-, 100-, 500-, and 1,000-peso notes. The symbol for the peso is the same as the dollar sign used in the USA, which can be a little confusing. In the information given for each hotel, the dollar sign represents U.S. dollars. In our other guides, we show the hotel rate in the currency of the country, but Mexican hotels are so geared to the American tourist that their rates are always quoted in dollars.

ATM MACHINES: It is very quick and easy to get money through one of the ATM machines that are found throughout Mexico, often even in small towns. They are usually located at a bank or on one of the main shopping streets. Try to use ATM machines inside banks and avoid using them at night. Note that some U.S. banks are now charging an exchange fee for obtaining money abroad.

MONEY EXCHANGE: Contrary to the situation in many countries, in Mexico you can usually get a better rate of exchange at a casa de cambio (money-exchange booth) than at a bank. Also, banks are usually crowded and frequently closed, making the money exchange even more user-friendly. Most hotels will also usually exchange your money, but the rate is generally not as competitive.

Many establishments accept one or more credit cards. If possible, pay using your credit card as the exchange rate is usually quite favorable. Paying by credit card reduces the need to carry large sums of cash and thus reduces potential loss in the case of theft. Keep a record of your credit card numbers at home as well as with you separately from your cards in case of loss or theft. Also, it is a good idea to contact your card issuer and inform them of your travel plans.



BORDER CROSSING: Allow at least an hour to cross the border from the United States into Mexico. On your return from Mexico into the United States, it can take even longer, often several hours. Since September 11, the time has increased due to security. Expect delays, especially during peak hours of the day or holidays, when traffic is more intense. If you are driving across the border, be aware that there are several requirements. These are listed below: 1) Proof of Ownership: A visitor bringing a car into Mexico must have proof of ownership (title or registration). If your car is financed, you must have a notarized letter from your financing institution on the company’s letterhead giving you permission to drive into Mexico. You may not take someone else’s car into Mexico. 2) Forms: You need to fill out two forms: a Temporary Vehicle Importation permit, and a Promise to Return Vehicle form. These forms are available at the border or at AAA club offices in Arizona, California, or Texas. 3) Administration Fee: At point of entry, an administration fee of $29 plus tax must be paid with a credit card. The credit card must be in the registered owner’s name and issued by a U.S. or Canadian bank or lending institution. Cash or checks are not accepted. A sticker is applied to your windshield after you pay the administration fee. If you do not have a credit card, you must purchase a bond valid for 6 months (based on the value of your car) from a bonding company at the border. 4) Mexican Insurance: You must have Mexican car insurance. You can buy insurance at the border or in advance from AAA clubs in Arizona, California, or Texas. 5) Additional documents that must be presented at the border: Proof of citizenship Valid driver’s license A tourist permit Current vehicle license/registration receipt 6) Children under 18 years of age, if traveling with only one parent, must have a notarized letter from the other parent allowing them to travel. If traveling without either parent, children need a notarized letter from both parents allowing them to travel (see Entry Requirements below). After crossing into Mexico, there are two stops where inspectors will check to be sure you have the proper permits and the stickers. Note that there are certain “free zones” that do not require all the permits listed above. These are generally border towns (within 25 kilometers of the border), the Baja Peninsula, and the state of Sonora. You will encounter checkpoints south of these free zones so do not try to cross without the proper paperwork if you plan to travel farther south. CUOTA: (TOLL HIGHWAY) Mexico has developed an extensive system of new toll highways, designated by the letter “D” following the route number. Although tolls can be expensive (Mexico City to Acapulco is approximately $125 one way), we recommend taking these toll roads whenever possible. They are very fast and efficient with very little traffic (trucks usually take the free roads). Non-toll roads are usually slow two-lane roads, which might not be in good condition. Toll roads also have the added bonus of solar-powered emergency telephones every 2 kilometers. Most toll roads are four-lane, greatly resembling U.S. interstate highways, though sometimes they have only two lanes. (The roads are privately financed and therefore can vary from region to region.) Tolls are calculated by distance and number of axles on the vehicle and usually only cash (pesos and sometimes U.S. dollars) is accepted. You enter through a control gate and are given a ticket then at various points along the highway you come to toll stations where money is collected. Be sure to keep your receipt—it is your insurance against the cost of road repairs if you get into an accident. DRIVER’S LICENSE: You need a valid driver’s license issued by your home country to drive in Mexico. A Mexican driver’s license is not required. DRIVING AND ALCOHOL: Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal in Mexico. You can be arrested and taken to jail for drunk driving. If you are involved in an accident and found to be under the influence of alcohol, your insurance will become invalid and you will go to jail. EMERGENCIES: If you have an emergency while driving, the equivalent of “911” in Mexico is “060.” You can also call the Green Angels (see below) for help: (01) 800-903-9200. Toll roads have solar-powered emergency phones for your convenience.

Driving Summary:

GASOLINE: Gasoline in Mexico is expensive. There are gas stations along all the highways, but be aware that they rarely accept payment by credit card. Also, many gas stations are closed at certain times of the day or on holidays, so be sure you always have plenty of gas in the tank. Gasoline is sold by the liter. Remember to have the attendant “zero” out the pump (meaning starting from zero) to be sure you are not overcharged. It is customary to give the attendant one or two pesos as tip. You should always tip the attendant who washes your window about two pesos. GREEN ANGELS (Angeles Verdes): These are trained, bilingual mechanics traveling the nation’s highways from 8 am to 8 pm in 275 green trucks to provide emergency service and first aid. They carry car parts and gasoline and charge only for the parts; their service is free, thanks to Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat. Just open your hood all the way and hope one drives by or call their toll-free number (in Mexico only) (01) 800-903-9200 or (01) 55-250-8221, ext. 130. Tips are greatly appreciated. INSURANCE: U.S. insurance is not valid in Mexico—you must obtain insurance from a Mexican insurance company, either on the internet or at the border. Mexican liability insurance is not required by law, but highly recommended. Insurance companies are a wealth of information and can help you with all the paperwork required for crossing the border. Be sure your insurance includes claims adjusters who will come to the scene of the accident and an attorney. Mexican insurance is not valid if you are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Mexican law follows the Napoleonic Code, which means you are guilty until proven innocent. Also note that theft and vandalism are usually not covered by insurance. NIGHT DRIVING: We recommend that you avoid driving after sunset whenever possible, unless on a toll road. The danger of driving greatly increases at night due to poor street lighting combined with donkeys, dogs, children, potholes, and unknown objects that are commonly in the road. Also, be aware that it is not unusual for cars to have broken tail lights, etc. PARKING: When in cities, it is always safest to leave your car in a parking lot with an attendant or in a parking garage. The cost is reasonable and worth the extra expense for peace of mind. If you are driving, when you make your hotel reservation, ask them if they have parking available and the cost. Many hotels have their own parking lot or, if not, they usually have an arrangement with a nearby garage. RESTRICTED DRIVING DAYS IN MEXICO CITY: In an effort to reduce pollution, vehicular traffic is restricted in Mexico City on certain days of the week. The restriction is based on the last digit of the vehicle license plate (see following page). Since Saturday and Sunday are the only “free” days for access into the city, if you are driving, plan to arrive on a weekend. Note: Our suggestion is not to drive into Mexico City at all—wait until the day you leave before picking up a rental car. You will find a car a nuisance while in the city. The best way to get around is to walk or take a private taxi that is recommended by your hotel. Prohibited Days & Corresponding License Plate Numbers Monday: no driving if license plate ends with 5 or 6 Tuesday: no driving if license plate ends with 7 or 8 Wednesday: no driving if license plate ends with 3 or 4 Thursday: no driving if license plate ends with 1 or 2 Friday: no driving if license plate ends with 9 or 0 Saturday and Sunday: all vehicles may be driven. ROAD SIGNS: Road signs are a mix of international picture symbols and signs in Spanish. Signs on smaller roads are often poorly maintained or absent so it is easy to get lost. Make sure you have a good map. The major roads and toll highways will have good signage displaying the highway number, kilometer marker, and mileage for upcoming cities. SEATBELTS: By law everyone in the car must wear seatbelts.


The standard voltage in Mexico is 110. For those traveling from the United States, no converters or adaptor plugs are needed.


ITEMS TO BUY: Mexican handicrafts are very popular and various regions or towns excel in one or more crafts. These items have often been made for generations and are great gifts to bring home. Woven goods such as ponchos (woolen blankets worn by men), serapes (woolen shawls worn by women), rugs, colorful tapestries, and blankets are easy to find in assorted styles, qualities, and prices. Silver jewelry is sold almost everywhere in Mexico, but Taxco is the most famous town for beautiful designs by skilled craftsmen. Hand-blown glass is made in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City. Wooden furniture, guitars, and beautiful copper items are commonly found in the Colonial areas. Oaxaca and the Copper Canyon are noted for their woven baskets and leather goods. Pottery is one of Mexico’s biggest craft industries. The most famous is gorgeous Talavera pottery, which principally comes from two places, Puebla near Mexico City and Dolores Hidalgo near San Miguel de Allende. Archaeological artifacts: At some archaeological sites, you may find people selling objects they have supposedly found. Refuse these offers. Mexican law states that it is illegal to export antiques or items that can be described as national treasures.


If you have questions not answered in this guide, or need special guidance for a particular destination, the Mexican National Tourist Offices can assist you. If you have access to the Internet you may want to visit their websites, www.visitmexico.com. The Mexican Tourist Office’s general information line, toll-free from the United States and Canada, is (800) 446-3942. For electronic (print-ready) information, send an email to contact@visitmexico.com. In an emergency, contact the Mexican Ministry of Tourism’s 24-hour hotline: within Mexico, toll-free (91) 800.90.392; from the United States, (800) 482-9832.


Los Angeles: Mexican Tourist Office, 1800 Century Park East, Suite 511, Los Angeles, CA, 90067, USA, tel: (310) 282-9112, ext. 23, fax: (310) 282-9116, email: contact@visitmexico.com.

New York: Mexican Tourist Office, 375 Park Ave., Suite 1905, New York, NY 10152, USA, tel: (212) 308-2110, fax: (212) 308-9060, email: contact@visitmexico.com.

Montreal: Mexican Tourist Office, Place Ville Marie, Suite 1931, Montreal, Quebec H3B 2C3, Canada, tel: (514) 871-1052, fax: (514) 871-3825, email: turimex@cam.org

London: Mexico Government Tourist Office, 41 Trinity Square, Wakefield House, London EC3N 4DJ, tel: (207) 488 93 92 or (207) 265 07 05, fax: (207) 265 07 04, email: visitemexico@over-marketing.com

TOURIST OFFICES IN MEXICO: Almost all towns throughout Mexico have a local tourist office. We strongly recommend that, during your travels, you make a beeline for the closest office for current information on local events. The tourist offices, which are generally located on, or near, the central plaza, usually have maps and information on what to see in the town and the surrounding area.


Spring and fall are lovely times to travel throughout Mexico, but each season has its advantages. At the beach resorts, both on the east and west coasts, the hottest months are September and October. Although the thermometer doesn’t read significantly higher than the rest of the year, the days seem muggier since this is the tail end of the rainy season and the humidity has had time to build up. If you want to miss the crowds (and frequently higher hotel costs), avoid traveling during Mexican holidays: Christmas, Easter, and school vacation (mid-July to mid-August). During these periods hotel space is at a premium and the resort areas crowded. November through June is usually lovely at the beach resorts and summer is very nice there also—although you might have some tropical showers, which commonly happen in the late afternoon. The east coast faces the Caribbean where hurricanes occasionally occur between mid-August through October. If your target is one of the major cities, really any time is a great time to travel.

Long Term:

Many of the hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts we recommend in Mexico, in addition to rooms rented on a nightly basis have an apartment, a cottage or even a villa that they offer on a long term vacation rental basis.  Often these accommodations do not offer the same services as the traditional overnight rentals.  Many, for example, are termed “self-catering” which basically translates to “limited service”: breakfast may or may not be included; maid service may be provided once a week as opposed to daily; heating charges may be additional based on your usage, and in some cases it may even be necessary to provide your own linens.

Historically our research in Mexico has focused our evaluation of properties based on their traditional overnight accommodation. Since, there is so much information you will want to consider before committing to a long term vacation rental that we have encouraged the hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts that we recommend in Mexico to share information on long term rentals. It almost seems more important to understand just what you are renting when you commit to a rental of a week as opposed to a one or two night reservation.