Mexico

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Mexico
Mexico

Finding your way to Mexico—whether to the warm beaches of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, the spas of Cancun or the meeting rooms of Monterrey—can’t possibly get much easier than when flying with Delta Air Lines. The mix of cultures, landscapes and flavors that make up this country is more accessible than ever as Delta continues to expand its services in Mexico while enhancing the travel experience for passengers, from the moment of check-in to the minute of landing.

This past December, Delta added new daily nonstop flights from Atlanta and Los Angeles to Leon’s El Bajio International Airport in the state of Guanajuato, allowing for travelers to enjoy easier connectivity to this major manufacturing hub. Leon is an engaging city with plenty of attractions to fill your days, and its proximity to the cities of San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato allow for a visit to some of Mexico’s most beautiful and historically significant destinations.

The airline has also expanded service with daily year-round flights from Los Angeles to three important cities in Mexico: Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Guadalajara (plus two daily flights to Guadalajara from LAX during the summer peak). It’s no wonder that these destinations are so popular among travelers—Cancun is a sun-and-sea paradise of fun and relaxation, while Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta show two beautiful and culturally rich sides of the state of Jalisco.

There are also seasonal flights, through Aug. 30, from Salt Lake City to Puerto Vallarta; from Salt Lake City to Cancun through Aug. 16; and from Salt Lake City to Los Cabos International Airport in San Jose del Cabo through Sept. 31.

In addition, travelers to Mexico now enjoy Delta eBoarding Pass service, available to passengers who check-in online for travel from select cities. A barcode sent to their mobile devices allows for speedier access through security checkpoints and boarding gates. Whether flying for a diving adventure in Cozumel or a mix of fun and business in Mazatlan, printing your boarding documents is now one less thing to worry about before a vacation getaway or business trip.

And what about perks while traveling to Mexico’s astonishing capital? Delta has introduced a new menu for Business Class flights to and from Mexico City as part of its regional menus initiative launched in 2012. Created by chef Michelle Bernstein, the menu features standouts such as huevos a la Mexicana and braised short ribs with mole sauce, along with other dishes representative of beautiful Mexico—a no-holds-barred, “whole enchilada” destination, now more accessible than ever.

 

CANCUN
North Americans’ top international travel destination is a city of fancy hotels and white-sand beaches that impress and revive even the most world-weary of road warriors. Cancun brings sun-filled adventure in turquoise waters during the day and late nights of music and peppy cocktails—but if there is ever time away from Cancun’s charm, a must-do experience is embarking on a day trip to Chichen-Itza.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
The Ritz-Carlton,
Cancun still leads the way with fun amenities such as sunrise yoga, baby turtle releases, gastronomic journeys in its oceanview Culinary Center and the brand’s legendary service. For a more casual feel, there’s Villa Rolandi in Isla Mujeres, with just 35 suites, a thalassotherapy-based spa, and its own private yacht and dock.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Tiny Isla Holbox welcomes thousands of pink flamingos and many other bird species each year. Arrange a swim with the gentle whale sharks who stop by during the summer, and look for sea turtles and dolphins during your time on the beach. Garrafon Natural Reef Park in Isla Mujeres is a 25-minute ferry ride away and offers fantastic snorkeling, dolphin swims, ziplines and other activities. For an otherworldly experience in the Mexican Caribbean, swim over the quiet sculptures that form part of the Cancun Underwater Museum.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Spend a day at the beach and a late night at The City, said to be the largest nightclub in Latin America. Take a bus to downtown Cancun, away from the glitter of the hotel zone, and visit the less tourist-filled markets. For an even more culture-filled choice, take a day trip to the ruins of Tulum, the only Mayan ruins by the sea, or Coba, which is hidden away in the Riviera Maya jungle. A few smaller Mayan sites, including Pok ta Pok and El Rey, are found within Cancun.

BEST SPORTING LIFE
Despite plenty of signature golf courses, watersports are the main event here. Hop on a kayak and explore the mangroves of Nichupte Lagoon.

BEST KEPT SECRET
The area’s Cenote Trail, where you can explore and swim in underground natural pools and streams.

Diving in Cozumel
Diving in Cozumel

 

COZUMEL
Just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, the island of Cozumel is home to part of the Mesoamerican Reef, the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Rent a Jeep, a bike or a moped and explore this Mayan sanctuary, spending almost as much time underwater as you do on land.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort Spa
has its own dive center, making underwater discovery that much easier for novice and expert divers. There are also many activities for kids, including ceramics painting and learning about the local flora and fauna, while adults can sign up for a temazcal experience at the spa.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Under the sea, it’s all about the reef, where you can frolic amid sea turtles, fish of almost all colors and coral outcrops that tower above you. Punta Sur, on the southern tip of the island, is a vast ecological reserve with a beautiful beach from which you can go on a snorkeling excursion or go bird or crocodile watching from a safe distance. You can also hike up to the Celarain Lighthouse to enjoy panoramic views of Cozumel and the Caribbean Sea around it. There is also Chankanaab Park, a conservation area with its own lagoon that sees fish coming in and out of the ocean via underground caves. Besides a lovely beach for snorkeling, there are additional family attractions such as snuba, dolphin swims and sea lion shows.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Cozumel is home to several important archaeological ruins—San Gervasio, the largest, is also the most famous. Women hoping to bear children would visit San Gervasio to worship Ixchel, the goddess of love and fertility. Each spring, the Maya’s ancient annual pilgrimage to pray to Ixchel is recreated in the Mayan Sacred Journey, with participants rowing to the island on wooden canoes from the famous eco-park Xcaret. Cozumel Island Museum offers a comprehensive glimpse of the island’s past and present through exhibits encompassing its history and natural attributes.

BEST KEPT SECRET
El Cielo—a movie-worthy, crystal-clear shallow area accessible only by boat.

Degollado Theatre in Guadalajara.
Degollado Theatre in Guadalajara.

 

GUADALAJARA

When you dream of Mexico, it’s probably Guadalajara that comes to mind. Mariachi music, tequila and charros—colorfully dressed horsemen—have put this city on the worldwide map and bring its history to life. A trolley ride along Guadalajara’s historic center, departing from Guadalajara Square, reveals some of the city’s architectural and historic landmarks, including its stately cathedral and the Rotunda of Illustrious Jaliscans, with busts of the state of Jalisco’s most famous. A more traditional option: Touring the city by carriage, here called calandrias.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
The Quinta Real Guadalajara is among the best in town—an elegant hotel with classically posh accommodations, ivy crawling up its stone walls and an inviting pool area and gardens. This February will see the opening of the hip and uber-modern Aloft Guadalajara, with an outdoor pool, the re:charge gym and re:fuel, where you can get a bite to eat.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Barranca Oblatos Huentitan Park
encompasses a 2,000-ft.-deep canyon with a waterfall and hiking trails steeped in greenery. Mirador Independencia Park borders the canyon and offers beautiful views as well. Another option: Visit Lake Chapala, about an hour’s scenic drive from the city, for a sail or a swim in Mexico’s largest natural lake. Then take a dip in the hot springs of San Juan Cosala, not far from the lake.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Step into the Government Palace and Cabañas Cultural Institute, a former orphanage designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, to take in the magnificent murals by Jose Clemente Orozco that reveal the country’s history. Go for a stroll along the small Plaza de los Mariachis (next to the Libertad Market), where bands of local musicians look for their next gig. Then head to the Guadalajara Regional Museum, with artifacts and both European and Mexican artwork spanning centuries. Outside of the city, tour the Tequila Route, where you’ll find some of the world’s most famous tequila distilleries and blue agave crops; one option is to take the Tequila Express, a tourist train that travels the area. For another day of sightseeing and shopping, head to Tonala and Tlaquepaque, both known for its artisans and locally made goods.

BEST KEPT SECRET

The tortas ahogadas—sandwiches prepared in a special bread and “drowned” in a tangy tomato sauce—and the sweet jericallas for dessert.

 

IXTAPA/ZIHUATANEJO

Just a few miles apart, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are often lumped together as a grand 2-in-1 destination, but they’re in fact a bit different from each other. Ixtapa is home to the more modern hotels and golf courses, while Zihuatanejo holds its laid-back lifestyle a bit closer to heart. This stretch of Pacific coastline is among Mexico’s most scenic, with sun-and-sea activities available year-round.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
Built onto the cliffside, Capella Ixtapa presents the luxurious side of the destination, with a world-class spa, swimming pools that look out to sea and personal assistants at your call. No less charming but more casual is La Quinta Troppo in Zihuatanejo, just a couple of minutes’ walk to La Ropa Beach, where coffee makes it to your room each morning and margaritas and guacamole find you in the afternoons.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Spend a day at La Ropa Beach, a one-in-a-million spot protected by green hills and one of many beaches along Zihuatanejo Bay, to zone out by the shore or parasail. For a leisurely swim, head to Ixtapa’s Quieta Beach, from which you can spot Isla Ixtapa. Take a panga to Las Gatas Beach or Isla Ixtapa for several hours of snorkeling and diving; Isla Ixtapa also has a few beaches that are great for swimming.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Walk along Zihuatanejo’s shores for a good couple of miles and indulge in just-caught seafood served under a palapa. Zihuatanejo’s downtown area is a fun maze of tiny stores and down-home fondas. Walk the municipal market for baked goodies right out of the oven, fresh fruit juices and the most typical of lunch dishes at incredible prices. The small Costa Grande Archaeological Museum has pre-Hispanic artifacts and other relics that tell the story of the region.

BEST SPORTING LIFE
Fishing aficionados should head to the Ixtapa marina to charter a day’s worth of angling excitement; fishing is tops here, with sailfish, wahoo, roosterfish and other species among the prize catches in Pacific waters.

BEST KEPT SECRET
The gorgeous colonial town of Patzcuaro is just three hours away.

The Arch of Leon.
The Arch of Leon.

 

LEON

This colonial city is also a bustling business center with more than a few claims to fame. It’s famous for its production of agricultural products and leather goods—hence the “Shoe Capital of the World” moniker bestowed upon it some years ago. Make sure you pencil in some shoe shopping, as well as time to visit its historic center.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
With comfortable and updated rooms, onsite restaurants and proximity to local attractions, Enterprise Inn is among the most popular in the city among business and leisure travelers alike.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Metropolitan Park
features more than 740 acres of protected area for outdoor recreation and bonding with nature. It’s a perfect spot for birdwatching, as hundreds of migratory species stop by throughout the year. Boat rides on the man-made lake (which has the ruins of a hacienda in its center), bike rentals and other activities are available—even trolley tours. Each fall, Leon makes headlines around the world when it hosts the International Hot Air Balloon Festival from the park. Make sure to hop on a bike—Leon is among the most bike-friendly cities in Latin America, with many paths available.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
A walking tour of Leon reveals various monuments and notable buildings that are worth a stop. The city’s Plaza de los Fundadores and its famous fountain with imposing bronze lions is a jumping-off point from which to visit the Municipal Palace and its neoclassical facade, the Parish of San Sebastian and Martyrs’ Square, flanked on three sides by neoclassical archways. Not far is Our Lady of Light Basilica, which dates back to the middle of the 18th century. Leather goods are also part of the cultural experience in Leon. The Zona Piel, or Leather Zone, is the place to feast your eyes on shop after shop of footwear, bags and belts. If you have time, take a day or overnight trip to the city of Guanajuato and to San Miguel de Allende.

BEST KEPT SECRET
A guacamaya—a local sandwich filled with pork rinds and a special sauce.

Parasailing in Los Cabos.
Parasailing in Los Cabos.

 

LOS CABOS

The magic of the Sea of Cortez is enough incentive to head to Baja California Sur, but the beauty and creature comforts of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, sister towns connected by the Transpeninsular Highway, make a visit that much sweeter. Take in the famous Arch, get tickled by a spicy margarita at Medano Beach, book a spa treatment and go art gallery-hopping in San Jose, as this destination is all about fun and play.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
One&Only Palmilla, a celebrity favorite with its own yacht, beach concierge and 24-hour butler service, is the place to be. Another top choice is the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf & Spa Resort, which offers a full roster of activities ranging from tequila tastings to Spanish classes for the kids. Award-winning dining is a common trait—try Pitahayas at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar, and Market at One&Only.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Take a boat ride along the Sea of Cortez to spot sea lions frolicking about, dolphins putting on a show and, during the winter, eight species of whale swimming in from Arctic waters. Go on an ATV or dirt bike adventure along mountain trails and desert dunes. Explore the underwater beauty of the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park and its ancient coral reef from glass-bottomed kayaks or on a scuba jaunt.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Pencil in an additional day at sea to fish for marlin, tuna, yellowtail, dorado and other species, with expert guides and vessels available from two modern marinas. Keep a dorado for yourself, as there are a few “you catch it, we cook it” spots that will prepare it to your liking and serve it with a side of your favorite libation. Make sure you take in some after-hours culture, too—complete with rowdy college folk and the occasional celebrity—at the Giggling Marlin or El Squid Roe.

BEST SPORTING LIFE
Perfect your golf swing at more than a dozen championship courses designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson and others.

BEST KEPT SECRET
The weekend live music sessions at Hotel El Ganzo.

The Queen of the Seas mermaid in Mazatlan.
The Queen of the Seas mermaid in Mazatlan.

 

MAZATLAN
Last year, The Financial Times’ FDI Intelligence magazine named Mazatlan among the top 10 mid-sized “American Cities of the Future 2013-2014” with the greatest cost effectiveness, and the first one of its size in Mexico. With the new Mazatlan-Durango Highway providing a safe land route from the city to the southwestern U.S., a revamped tourism corridor and even more hotels in the pipeline, this colonial port city is set to shine for a long time.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
Stay close to the culture-heavy historic center in Casa Lucila, an elegant 8-room boutique hotel in a restored 19th-century mansion in the Olas Altas area.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Mazatlan is home to miles of beautiful beaches made for banana boats and swimming. Some, like Playa Bruja, are popular among surfers. More excitement is found offshore; a day in the protected natural reserve of Deer Island, one of three islands visible from Mazatlan’s boardwalk, means hours of kayaking and snorkeling in crystalline waters. For an up-close adventure with nature (and a side of thrill), try a raft or kayak ride down the Presidio River outside of the city, floating past the natural scenery of the state of Sinaloa.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Hop on a pulmonia, or open-air local taxi, along the long, busy boardwalk of this romantic Pacific city to El Mirador to admire the cliff divers jumping into tide pools, then stroll along the boardwalk for a bit to admire the statues and sculptures that celebrate Mazatlan. Then head to the historic center, home to almost 500 national landmarks that date back to the 19th century. Among the standouts: the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Angela Peralta Theater and Plaza Machado, the heart of Old Mazatlan. Stop by a nearby cafe for a lunch of aguachiles—shrimp cooked in lime and chiles—and local vanilla cola ToniCol or Pacifico beer, brewed in Mazatlan.

BEST SPORTING LIFE
Mazatlan is known as a top sportfishing destination, with Pacific waters heavy with sailfish, yellowfin tuna and other species. There are also several championship golf courses by the likes of Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and David Fleming.

BEST KEPT SECRET
Las Labradas
, an archaeological site 40 minutes north of the city.

The city's picturesque Roma neighborhood.
The city’s picturesque Roma neighborhood.

 

MEXICO CITY

Also known as the Distrito Federal, Mexico City is a beautiful maze of architectural knockouts, cultural experiments and the chilangos who love their city. The visual experience alone is a sensual shock, as art deco lives with colonial, art nouveau and Aztec alike. But besides the centuries of history, there are the armies of avant-garde and the tomorrow-ready painters, chefs, musicians and transformers taking on this challenging but majestic capital. Mexico City’s much too big to see in a few days, so you might want to sign up for a couple of day tours or hop onto a double-decker—and don’t forget to take a day trip to Teotihuacan, home to the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.

BEST PLACE TO STAY

The St. Regis Mexico City, right on Paseo de la Reforma, pampers visitors with a daily Champagne Ritual, butler service, an indoor pool with views of the city, and from the hotel you can admire the Angel of Independence landmark on the Paseo’s roundabout.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Chapultepec Park
, one of the world’s largest, is the green lung of the city and holds both the former residence of Emperor Maximilian I and Mexico’s largest zoo. There is also a lake in the park with paddleboats, as well as botanical gardens and a mini train to take in the sights. You must also ride aboard the traditional trajineras along the canals and floating gardens of the protected area of Xochimilco, where many migratory birds and other creatures hide while mariachis sing away in a nearby boat.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
The best experience is the simplest one: a walking tour of the city’s historic center starting at the huge Zocalo and stopping at the National Palace, the cathedral and the ruins of the Templo Mayor, among so many other standout structures. The other way to soak in the culture of the city is through its many museums. The newest kid in the block is the Jumex Museum in Polanco, which exhibits a great selection of contemporary art. The National Museum of Anthropology is a world gem, holding collections from various pre-Hispanic cultures. The National Museum of Art is another stunner, with works dating back to the 16th century. Other necessary visits include the Rufino Tamayo Museum with renowned artists from all over the world, the Dolores Olmedo Museum and the Leon Trotsky Museum.

BEST KEPT SECRET
La Botica
, the go-to place to celebrate and learn about the oft-overlooked mescal.

Memorial statue of Monterrey.
Memorial statue of Monterrey.

 

MONTERREY

Those who visit the “Sultan of the North,” a major center of economic activity, quickly discover that it’s also heavy in cultural and entertainment options. Although business oriented, Monterrey has a vibrant arts scene, great shopping and multiple opportunities for outdoor fun, all framed by Cerro de la Silla, or Saddle Hill.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
The Gran Hotel Ancira is a national landmark packed with modern conveniences. More than 100 years old, it was inspired by Paris’ Ritz and has hosted everyone from Marcel Marceau to the former king of Belgium.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
The Cumbres de Monterrey National Park is a beautiful protected expanse with waterfalls, pine tree forests, caves and peaks, including Saddle Hill, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. In the mountain of El Fraile are the Grutas de Garcia, a series of caves with ancient stalactite and stalagmite formations reachable via cable car and only a short drive away from the city-center. The national park’s most accessible area from Monterrey, however, is Chipinque Ecological Park, which offers multiple opportunities for immersion with nature through mountain biking and hiking.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Among the most representative of Monterrey experiences is a meal of cabrito al pastor—kid goat cooked on a spit—found in any number of restaurants, but done superbly at the Gran San Carlos. Once that’s out of the way, embark on a trolley ride to view some of the city’s historic sites and monuments, including the Government Palace and its cathedral. Another highlight is a narrated motorboat ride on the canal of Paseo Santa Lucia, home to several restaurants, fountains and gardens. Paseo Santa Lucia, which twinkles with lights at night, is connected to Fundidora Park, a vast area designed on the grounds of an old steel company that is considered an open-air industrial museum of sorts and pays homage to Monterrey’s economic background. Within this park are amusement rides, a steel museum and cultural venues.

BEST KEPT SECRET
MARCO, Monterrey’s Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the leading repositories of its kind in Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta's malecon.
Puerto Vallarta’s malecon.

 

PUERTO VALLARTA

Snuggled between Banderas Bay and the southern portion of the Sierra Madre Mountains, Puerto Vallarta is a vision of pitched roofs covered in red tiles, stone walls adorned with bougainvillea and artistic expression everywhere you turn. This is a city whose rise as a tourist hotspot is often attributed to a Hollywood movie, but its natural beauty is better than anything you’ll see on the big screen.

BEST PLACE TO STAY
The Westin Resort & Spa, Puerto Vallarta
offers its own private stretch of beach, plus a beautiful beach club and access to several area golf courses.

BEST NATURE EXPERIENCE
Conquer the jungle of the Sierra Madre Mountains on a well-planned hike, on horseback or on a 4×4, and don’t forget the binoculars for a bit of bird-watching. Skim the treetops on a canopy tour to spot blue-footed boobies, snorkel around the Marietas Islands and, during the winter months, get an eyeful of humpback whales breaching. Swim the waters around Los Arcos, visible from the mainland. Conquer the sea on a fishing expedition for marlin and sailfish.

BEST CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
Mix culture with Hollywood magic by spending a few hours in Mismaloya and its romantic cove, hugged by the jungle. Much of the 1963 movie “The Night of the Iguana” with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner was filmed in this area. They all fell in love with Puerto Vallarta; Burton purchased a home for Elizabeth Taylor here and director John Huston lived in the area known as Las Caletas, accessible only by boat, toward the end of his life. Once back in downtown Vallarta, walk along the promenade that showcases the Pacific Ocean on one side and beautiful bronze sculptures on the other. Lose yourself in the city’s streets, stopping to admire the “crown” of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shopping its art galleries and having a drink in one of the Romantic Zone’s restaurants before waiting for the sunset in Los Muertos Beach.

BEST KEPT SECRET
Puerto Vallarta’s Botanical Gardens
, recently voted as one of North America’s Top 10.

 

BEST TIME TO GO: Year-round. It might get chillier during the winter months, especially in Mexico City and Monterrey, but it’s nothing a jacket won’t fix

FUN FACT: There are more than 60 indigenous languages and, to date, 32 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mexico

GETTING THERE: From its hub in Atlanta, Delta flies to Cancun, Cozumel, Guadalajara, Leon, Los Cabos, Mexico City, Monterrey and Puerto Vallarta; from Boston to Cancun; from Detroit to Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Mexico City, Monterrey, and Puerto Vallarta; from Los Angeles to Cancun, Guadalajara, Leon and Puerto Vallarta; from Minneapolis to Cancun, Cozumel, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Los Cabos, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta; from New York (JFK) Delta flies to Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta; from Salt Lake City to Cancun, Guadalajara, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta; and from 10 additional gateways to Cancun

ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport

CURRENCY: Mexican Peso

MUST-TRY NATIVE FOOD: Anything wrapped in a homemade tortilla, especially seafood; chilaquiles, a breakfast dish of tortillas with white cheese, onions, sour cream and a red or green sauce, often served with chicken; pozole, a hominy-based soup; anything with huitlacoche, corn smut or “Mexican truffles”; and different types of moles, which should be thick and smothering chicken or other protein

BEST BUYS: Talavera pottery; tequila and mescal; Huichol art in Puerto Vallarta; Yucatecan huipiles for women; and sterling silver, but make sure it’s purchased from a reputable store

INFORMATION PLEASE: Mexico Tourism Board—visitmexico.com