For those of you that have been following along, you know I’ve been having the absolute time of my life in Mexico. I’ve been to Mexico five or six times before this latest trip, but never have I fully immersed myself so deeply into the Mexican culture and way of life. I’ve spent the last six months living and traveling through Mexico, which is by far the most consecutive time I’ve spent in one country since I started traveling. I flew to Mexico due to a work opportunity in Tulum, something that had become very hard to find during the global pandemic. Never did I expect to spend six months here, and still find myself wishing that I had more time.
After a pretty rough 2020, Mexico really turned things around and set 2021 off to an amazing start. So here are 21 of the best things I did in this incredible country.
Ate A Shit Ton Of Street Food in Oaxaca
Let’s start this post with where my heart really lies. Mexican food ranks highly as one of my favorite cuisines in the world. Oaxaca alone solidifies it as a top gastronomical destination globally. What’s crazy is that I’m not talking about Michelin star restaurants and fine dining. I’m talking about the greasy, cheesy, grimy, good-timey food that you’ll find on the streets. The street food scene in Oaxaca is unmatched by anywhere else I’ve been in Latin America. The only complaint about Oaxaca is that the longer I spend there, the tighter my clothes get.
From 48-centimeter long tlayudas to esquites sprinkled with chapulines, I was eating pretty damn well in Oaxaca. Some of my other favorites were the sizzling memelas, the juicy pumpkin flower quesadillas, and enchiladas amarillos. Of course, you have to try the mole in Oaxaca, although I’d recommend going to a restaurant for that one. Have a tasty marquesita for dessert, and wash it down with a tejate for good measure. Do you know what any of the shit I just name dropped is? Probably not, but the point is you’ll never go hungry in Oaxaca, for better or worse.
Went Cenote-Hopping in Tulum
I’ll admit, Tulum wasn’t my favorite place in Mexico. I spent a little over a month there, and have grown to look back on it a little more fondly since I left. Objectively, Tulum is incredible. It was really just the crowds and short-term drunken vacationers that I didn’t really vibe with. I can imagine that before the big tourism boom, Tulum must have been one of the most magical places in Mexico. They have amazing ruins, stunning beaches, and of course, plenty of mystical cenotes to visit. What are cenotes? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure Mexico is the only place in the world that has them.
The cenotes were the highlight of my time in Tulum. I mean, I lived in a hippie community right next to a sparkling turquoise cenote, so I had it pretty good. There are plenty of them to see, and if you can make it further out of Tulum, you’ll find some more magical ones with fewer people there. Of course, the main ones close to town like Gran Cenote and Cenote Calaveras are still worth the visit, but the further off the beaten path you can go, the better. I recommend making the trip over to Valladolid in Yucatan, which is a bit closer to some of my favorite cenotes in the region.
Chased Waterfalls in Chiapas
Chiapas still stands as my favorite state in Mexico. It felt so untouched and undiscovered. It felt like I was exploring Jurassic Park, sans the carnivorous behemoths. The landscapes were simply otherworldly. The waters were a sparkling shade of turquoise, and the mountains were covered with lush rainforests and dense jungle. The stunning El Chiflon Waterfalls pictured below are definitely my favorite that I’ve seen in Mexico, so far. These towering waterfalls cascaded down into turquoise pools, making for some of the most jaw-dropping swimming spots you could imagine.
Tripped Balls in Xilitla’s Surrealist Garden
Wow, what a wild ride this adventure was. Having a surplus of psychedelics that I acquired throughout Mexico, I made the questionable decision of taking them all at once. I was staying in a teepee village in the magical jungly mountain town of Xilitla. Across from my accommodation was one of the most mystical attractions in Mexico, the Edward James Surrealist Sculpture Garden.
This huge garden contains the remnants of the eccentric English architect Edward James. It feels like entering a different world, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the acid. The sculptures make little sense, and the adventure feels a little like Alice in Wonderland meets Lord of the Rings. This is a place that you have to see to believe, and my few hours here will likely remain as the most magical psychedelic journey of my life.
Hitchhiked my way through La Huasteca Potosina
La Huasteca Potosina is easily one of the most beautiful regions of Mexico, and one that I wish I was able to do properly. Without a car of my own, I was left to the mercy of public transportation and hitchhiking while I was here. Regardless of time wasted waiting for buses or cars to pick me up, my time in La Huasteca Potosina was incredible. International tourists don’t really know about this region of Mexico yet, although it is a hugely popular destination among Mexican travelers. El Naranjo, Tamasopo, Xilitla, and Platanito are some good spots to check out, with each boasting natural wonders like waterfalls and cenotes hidden in the jungle. A car would be ideal, but you can check out my guide to exploring La Huasteca Potosina without one by clicking here.
Lived the Slow Life in Chacahua
As much as I love adventure, I love doing nothing just as much. Chacahua was the perfect place for that. This untouched island about two hours away from Puerto Escondido was one of my favorite stops in Mexico. Despite not being much of a beach person, I totally fell in love with Chacahua. The boat ride there from mainland Oaxaca was magical enough, white white herons guiding our way through the lagoons and mangrove forests. A hike up to an abandoned lighthouse made for one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, with views of the mountains, jungles, ocean, lagunas, and the village of Chacahua.
The fishing village itself feels lost in time. My days were spent either surfing or doing nothing, and I loved every moment of it. I spent five days here, which might be more than most people recommend, but damn did it still feel like not enough time.
Roamed Through the Colorful Streets of Guanajuato
I don’t think there’s anywhere that’s stolen my heart as quickly as Guanajuato did. As soon as we exited the underground tunnels and emerged into the historic downtown, I knew I was going to love it here. I have no doubt that I’ll go back to live in Guanajuato someday. There’s just so much to love about this lively city filled with art, music, and nightlife. From nightly sunset sessions at the big statue to countless gelatos in the bustling plazas, Guanajuato was always a good time. I feel like I did very little while I was here, but I was more than content. I have no doubt that Guanajuato will steal your heart, too.
Randomly Ended up in Taxco, Guerrero
I actually shed a tear as my bus rolled into the stunning, all-white mountain town of Taxco de Alarcon. Having gotten used to Mexican time, I was running late to catch my original bus to Toluca. I left Tepoztlan and arrived in Cuernavaca half an hour late. Realizing that I missed my bus, I decided to book the next bus going anywhere. I hardly ever travel with set plans, so I just figured yolo. If no one has laid claim to this, I would like to stake my claim as the inventor of Bus Roulette.
Bus Roulette took me to Taxco de Alarcon, a place that I was completely unfamiliar with. It ended becoming one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations of Mexico. I didn’t meet any other travelers while I was there, and most of the time, was the only guest at both hostels I stayed at. Roaming through the narrow alleyways and winding stairs made Taxco feel like a labyrinth at times. However, getting lost in this city is a rite of passage. Dodging Volkswagen Beetle taxis and working your calves out is the best way to explore this hidden gem and former silver mining town.
Partied it up in Guadalajara
Talk about a spicy good time. I decided to give up drinking for the month of February as I waltzed my way through Central Mexico alone. My friends had congregated in Guadalajara, and I tried to time my trip perfectly to arrive in Guadalajara on a Friday night. It was the end of February, so just in time for me to start drinking again. My two weeks in Guadalajara were a blur, but in the best way possible. Every night was different. Some were spent in trashy dive bars where everything on the menu was $1. Others were spent grooving to house DJs at private rooftop parties on downtown high rises. The only constant that I could count on was getting my heart broken each night. I fell in love with a different girl every night, so needless to say, the Tapatios lived up to their reputation.
Witnessed the Monarch Butterfly Migration in Michoacan
I don’t think I’ll ever forget this day. Perhaps one of the most unique experiences in Mexico is paying a visit to the winter home of the monarch butterflies. Millions of butterflies settle in the mountainous forests of Michoacan during the winter. I was prepared to see a lot of butterflies, but wow, I never expected what I actually experienced. Just watch this video because honestly, no words I can muster would ever do this experience justice.
Settled down in San Cristobal de las Casas
These days, I’m a pretty slow traveler. I like to spend at least a week in each place I visit. San Cristobal de las Casas was different, though. I took it really, really slow. I spent nearly two months in this magical city nestled in the mountains of Chiapas. It was the perfect storm at the time. I met some amazing people, and with the pandemic still raging, I felt like I needed a home base to settle down in for a while. San Cristobal had everything I could ask for. A beautiful town full of great restaurants, bars, and activities, and plenty of escapes to nature when I needed to get away. Sancris will always hold a place in my heart. It was full of big turning points and epiphanies during a time when I felt like I had lost myself and forgotten who I was after nearly a year in lockdown.
Made a Religious Pilgrimage to the town of Tequila
For ~ the partying traveler ~, a visit to Tequila was by all means a religious pilgrimage. As we strolled into the lively city center of this pueblo magico, it felt like I had just waltzed into Mexican Disney World. Everyone was drinking, dancing, laughing, and just all around having a good time. That’s what Mexico is about, after all. Tequila took it to an entirely new level. I had an obscene amount of fun here, but thank god I was only here for the day. I made enough of a fool of myself in just a matter of hours.
A Psychedelic Evening at Punta Cometa, Mazunte
I did a lot of psychedelics while I was in Mexico, and I’ll admit sometimes I took it too far. Mazunte was not one of those moments, and was perhaps one of my favorite psychedelic journeys I’ve ever done. I first visited Mazunte three years ago, before it became the tourist hot spot that it is now. Punta Cometa stole my heart as my favorite sunset spot in Mexico, something which still remains true to this day. We leisurely strolled along the cliffside around golden hour during our trip. Whales jumped out of the water in the distance and the cliffs began to turn red with the setting sun. We came for sunset and didn’t leave until 2 AM, eventually making our way back to the cabin guided by the light of the full moon.
Indiana Jones-ed my way through Palenque’s ruins and waterfalls
Mexico is home to a lot of ruins. I’ve been to quite a few of them, and Palenque easily ranks as my favorite. Others, like Chichen-Itza, Teotihuacan, and Tulum, feel over commercialized and lose their magic. Palenque still felt relatively untouched and undiscovered. A local guide told me that as little as 2% of the archaeological site has actually been excavated. Deep in the jungles of Chiapas, it is amazing to imagine what else remains to be unearthed of this mystical Mayan archaeological site.
Small-Town Hopping around Oaxaca City
One of the best things to do in Oaxaca is to hop around the little villages surrounding the main city. The state of Oaxaca still maintains a strong indigenous identity, and many of the villages still follow centuries-old traditions. From weaving to pottery to pre-Hispanic cuisine, a visit to the villages of Oaxaca gives you a glimpse of what life used to be like centuries ago.
One of my favorites is Teotitlan del Valle, home to Zapotec artisans who excel in weaving. It’s also home to pre-Hispanic ruins, a cool museum, and one of my favorite hikes in the region. No trip to Oaxaca is complete without the sensory overload that is Tlacolula Sunday Market. Of course, people also come to Oaxaca to visit the neighboring mezcal distilleries. No trip to Mexico is complete without realizing that mezcal is way better than tequila. The state of Oaxaca is the home of mezcal, so you can’t miss that while you’re here.
Paid A Visit to The City Where Men Become Gods
Mexico has seen a lot of civilizations throughout its long human history. For centuries, Teotihuacan was a constant presence in a country that was ever-changing. This city was once the largest in the Americas, and potentially the sixth largest in the world at some point. Crazy, right? I’ve been here a couple times now, because I always end up going back to Mexico City and dragged there by a fellow traveler new to Mexico. It’s something I never get tired of visiting or seeing, and honestly, it should have gotten the world wonder nod over the Chichen-Itza.
Saw the Big Rock in Bernal, Queretaro
This was one of the most random things I encountered in Mexico. The Peña del Bernal is one of the world’s biggest monoliths, basically meaning stand-alone mountain. The vibe in the town of Bernal was amazing, as well. Like many of Mexico’s pueblos magicos, Bernal is a popular weekend destination for Mexican tourists. It reminded me of my visit to Tequila, with everyone drinking on the streets and musicians playing in every alleyway. Hiking to the top of the rock is a must, especially since you know you’ll be celebrating with a few micheladas once you’re done.
Roamed through the Pink City of Zacatecas
I actually hadn’t heard of Zacatecas until some of my videos started blowing up on Tik Tok. I was listing off some of the most beautiful places I’d been to in Mexico up until that point, and Zacatecas kept coming up. Having some friends in Aguascalientes, I figured I’d make the little detour and check out those two lesser-visited Mexican states. Aguascalientes was a beautiful city, but Zacatecas was unlike any other city I’ve seen in Mexico. The architecture was so unique, particularly because of the pink stone used in many of its historic buildings. Take a walk through the colonial city center of this old mining town and you’ll be surrounded by shades of pink. Zacatecas has beauty everywhere you look, and being relatively unknown to international tourists, is another excellent destination off the typical Gringo trail.
An Epic Boat Ride Through Sumidero Canyon
This was the first thing I did when I got to Chiapas, and I knew right away that this state was going to be special. I describe far too many things as similar to Jurassic Park, and I’ll fkn do it again. A boat ride flanked between the thousand-meter-tall walls of Sumidero Canyon was nothing short of epic. I didn’t get a sunny day when I went, but the fogs and mist honestly made the experience that much more mystical. This is one of the most breathtaking places you can visit in Mexico.
Smoked a poisonous frog native to the Sonoran Desert
Oof. First of all, I don’t recommend this for everyone, as it is by far the most intense psychedelic thing I’ve ever done. Mexico is home to a lot of psychedelic medicine, from peyote to magic mushrooms and more. However, the most intense one I’ve ever done is smoke the skin of the Bufo Alvarius toad native to the Sonoran Desert. The entire trip lasted about 10-15 minutes, but like, I could have just been dead forever and not noticed. You can read more about my Bufo trip here, but let’s just say it was unlike anything I’ve done before. Mexico has a long history of using psychedelics for medicinal or spiritual purposes, from Maria Sabina and her magic mushrooms to the peyote cactus and Bufo Alvarius. So you know, I was just partaking in the culture.
Cruised Through Parque La Huasteca in Nuevo Leon
Monterrey was my last stop in Mexico before crossing the border back into the U.S. Since I hadn’t heard too much about Monterrey from other travelers, I was expecting a boring stop over of a few days. Who knew Mexico’s second largest city could be such a hidden gem? A friend I met in Cusco happened to live in Monterrey, and picked me up one morning for an action packed day of adventure. Our first stop was the breathtaking Parque La Huasteca, home to arguably the most breathtaking mountains in Mexico.
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Also, be sure to check out my complete backpacking itinerary for magical Mexico, a jam-packed 60-page guide covering 25 of my favorite destinations in Mexico.