Mexico. The land of tequila, sombreros, white sandy beaches and a killer exchange rate.
While you weren’t looking your fellow amigos have packed their bags and set off on a Central American Adventure. After Americans and Canadians, there’s more Australians visiting Mexico than any other nationality. They’re bringing back stories and Facebook pics that make you drool.
In 2012 Expedia saw Aussies heading to Mexico in droves, bookings jumped by 45%. It’s not surprising when you think of how many burritos, tacos, nachos and margaritas are on menus around the country. Clearly, we’ve all gone Mexico mad.
Forget doing the day trip from San Diego to Tijuana. That’s the grungy Mexico you’ve seen in the movies. Instead, fly straight from Los Angeles to San Jose del Cabo. In around two hours you can be on the beach in Los Cabos, the stiletto heel at the bottom of the Baja California peninsula.
With roughly seven direct flights a day, half a million people descend on San Jose del Cabo every year. Around half of those people seem to be celebrities.
Hollywood heavyweights love to escape to the white sandy beaches and five-star hotels of Los Cabos.
They settle in for a week and so do I. The exchange rate is a real bonus when you’re travelling from down under. You can afford to splurge on a hotel room because everything else is cheap, cheap, cheap.
All-inclusive hotels are everywhere – keep an eye out for awesome six night package deals like the Riu Palace – but make sure you leave the resort for at least one meal.
Fresh fish tacos are the dish not to miss and the Cabo San Lucas marina is home to Cabo Wabo Cantina, the live music bar owned by Sammy Hagar of Van Halen fame. It serves up the best fish tacos in town, all to retro music blasted into the balmy night sky.
Interested in more than beaches and tequila shots? Cross over to the Yucatan Peninsula on the Eastern coast and check out UNESCO World Heritage Listed Chichen Itza, just two hours drive west of Cancun. It’s a popular day trip from Cancun but you can stay in traditional Haciendas nearby. (See our Top Trending Chichen Itza Hotels)
Stories from Mexico’s ancient Chichen Itza ruins make the gore on The Game of Thrones look tame.
“And right here,” says our guide, sweeping his hand in the direction of chiselled stone walls, “the captain of the winning team was sacrificed.”
Considered THE Mesoamerican ball sport and played from around 1400BC, this ancient game was played out in large arenas. Miraculously the walls are still standing and the high hoops make it look just like Harry Potter’s Quidditch field.
But killing the winning captain?
In Mayan culture to die a hero was an honour. The dead winner was thought to go directly to heaven. Sounds more like “Go Directly to Jail, Do not pass Go,” to me.
I’m really glad I wasn’t good at ball sports.
Cancun has its fill of Spring Breakers but the Riviera Maya is a coastal strip 45 minutes drive south that’s a world away from the pool parties and piñatas. The upmarket resorts are a mix of adults-only and family friendly properties.
The Riveria Maya has become a hotspot for travellers wanting to explore Mexico’s natural assets. In fact, Expedia has seen a 70% increase in travel to this unique destination.
There’s around 10,000 cenotes hidden in lush jungle all over the peninsula that juts into the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The natural sinkholes reach down into underground river systems created by a meteorite millions of years ago. You can swim, dive and go caving deep underground in these fresh water caverns.
Don’t worry, if you’re not Bear Grylls or you’ve brought the kids, the Rivera Maya is home to several eco adventure parks built around the cenotes.
Xel-Ha sprawls over 86 hectares from the Caribbean Sea near the ruins of Tulum. It’s a natural water park made up of cenotes, caves, inlets and lagoons teeming with tropical fish and scattered with loads of fun stuff we’ve come to expect at water worlds.
Explore the waterways on inflatable tubes or head to the zip lines and air bikes if you don’t want to get wet (although the zip line I saw plonks you into the water!)
And the best part? It’s all-inclusive. And I don’t just mean you get a rubber ring and a locker. You get all that AND your food, drinks (alcohol included), towel, snorkeling gear and life jackets (which are mandatory).
So, whether you’re looking for a cabana on the beach, a walk through history’s gruesome moments or an underwater adventure, Mexico is waiting.