One of Mexico's most stylish destinations, the city of Puerto Vallarta mixes cosmopolitan cool and Mexican warmth. We love strolling along the bustling waterfront malecón, an esplanade lined with street artists, sculptures and fountains. Stop at the Los Archos amphitheatre for live music, dip in and out of the eclectic shops on Vallarta's cobbled side streets, then unwind with dinner and cocktails overlooking the yacht-filled marina.
Puerto Vallarta has a thriving arts scene, second only to Mexico's capital. The city is home to everything from traditional indigenous art and crafts to contemporary Mexican works by national and local artists. Join the Puerto Vallarta Art Walk (October to April) for a tour of the best galleries.
Every good night out starts with dinner, and Puerto Vallarta's restaurant scene is among the best in Mexico. You will find succulent seafood, creative Mexican cuisine and flavourful international dishes on the menu, in restaurants ranging from glamorous to low-key. After dark, head to the malecón for fashionable clubs, salsa joints and chilled-out bars. Vallarta is refreshingly gay-friendly too, so there's something for everyone.
This remote enclave deep in the Sierre Madre Mountains is a popular day trip from Puerto Vallarta. Once a gold and silver mining town, today San Sebastian feels like an untouched glimpse into colonial Mexico. Go for the breathtaking views, locally-grown coffee, charming cobblestoned plaza and 18th century haciendas.
If you're brave enough to zip line through the jungle 100 metres above the ground, there are several canopy tours around Puerto Vallarta. Perhaps the most popular is Los Veranos, an exhilarating two-mile course above the Orquideas River. Not for the faint-hearted, the 14 zip lines include a double line where you can race each other at speeds of over 30 miles per hour.
Every year from December to March, humpback whales come to Banderas Bay to mate and give birth. Take a trip (by boat or even light aircraft) to encounter these gentle giants in their natural habitat. The sight of these magnificent creatures tail-slapping or breaching the water's surface will stay with you forever.
There are two main carriers offering flights to Cancun with two more going via the States, and one main carrier to Mexico City with another going via the States.
Direct Carriers: Direct carriers from the UK are British Airways and Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick to Cancun and British Airways from London Heathrow to Mexico City. Thomson also offer a direct charter service to Cancun from most regional airports from May to December.
Indirect Carriers: British Airways offer flights from most other regional airports such as Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh with a connection via London Gatwick or London Heathrow. Continental offer an indirect service to both Cancun and Mexico City via the states from most regional airports, and American Airlines offer an indirect service to Cancun via the States, making flying out on your Mexico holidays flexible and convenient.
Please note: Exit Tax approx 42 pounds per person (720 pesos) payable locally on departure.
None for British citizens
The official Mexican currency is the Peso. You can buy Mexican Pesos before you leave the UK. If you need cash when you're there, go to a currency exchange (known as a Casas de Cambio), bank, or large hotel.
UK debit and credit cards are widely accepted and can be used at most cash machines. When paying smaller businesses, though, you may need to pay in cash. Travellers' cheques can be converted at currency exchanges throughout Mexico. Although the Peso is Mexico's national currency, many tourist establishments quote prices in US Dollars. You'll see the abbreviation DLLS used for Dollars and MN or MXP for Mexican Pesos.
In Mexico, a tip is always appreciated as a reward for good service. Many workers rely on your tips to supplement their basic pay, so it’s a good idea to keep some loose change in your pockets. In restaurants, 10 to 15 percent is normal. In taxis, it is customary to round up to the nearest five to 10 Mexican Pesos. In your hotel, it is nice to tip the bellboys around five to 15 Mexican Pesos per bag.
May, June, September, October and November
Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid immunisation and malaria tablets are recommended.
Mexico holidays are hot, hot, hot, with a tropical climate all year round. So pack to keep cool and protect yourself from the blazing sun. Despite the daytime heat, evenings can get a bit nippy in some parts of the country, like Mexico City. You're also more likely to get caught in a rain shower from May to October.
lightweight clothing in natural fabrics like cotton or linen;
A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face;
High factor sunscreen;
An electrical adapter (the power supply in Mexico is 115 volts at 60 hertz);
Comfortable walking sandals for exploring;
An underwater camera for snorkelling;
PADI and medical certificates if required for scuba diving.
lightweight clothing in natural fabrics like cotton or linen;
Forget the heavy, overcooked dishes that sometimes pass for Mexican cuisine. The real thing is made with love, packed with flavour, and is a big part of the Mexican experience.Corn and beans are two of the main ingredients in Mexican cooking, with staples like tortillas and frijoles (refried beans) regulars at the kitchen table along with fresh tomatoes, chillies, and avocados.
Number one contender for Mexico’s national dish, this rich red sauce contains around 20 ingredients, including a mix of chilli peppers and a small amount of chocolate to counteract their heat. You will usually find it served over chicken or turkey.
Mexico just wouldn’t be Mexico without them. Traditional corn tortillas are made from corn cooked in water and lime, ground into dough, pressed into thin cakes, and cooked on a hot griddle. Tortillas are used to make main dishes like quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas.
Served with most meals, Mexican salsa comes in many forms, from the smoky salsa chipotle to the fresh green flavour of salsa verde. The most common, pico de gallo, is made with raw tomatoes, chilli peppers, onions, lime juice, and cilantro leaves.
Chillies cross the spectrum from fiery to mild and feature in most traditional dishes. If you find a chilli too hot to handle, put out the fire in your mouth with milk, yoghurt, banana, or cucumber.
Sometimes food just tastes better without a knife and fork. You’ll find plenty of food stalls and carts on your Mexican holiday, and they’re cheaper too. Hit the street for a taste of real Mexico, and take note of where the locals buy their lunch – they’re the experts after all. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
Dished up from huge steaming pots, tamales are cooked and served in a banana leaf or corn husk wrapper. Inside you’ll find spongy corn dough usually filled with pork or chicken in a spicy salsa or mole.
You’ll see taquerías everywhere you look in Mexico, selling these hot folded tortillas filled with endless combinations of meats, cheeses, fish, beans, and garnishes like guacamole and salsa.
Your spending money should stretch quite far on holiday in Mexico. You can buy a litre bottle of water for around 10 Mexican Pesos, a beer in a bar might set you back 25 Mexican Pesos, and you can expect to pay an average of 150 Mexican Pesos per person for a three course meal and a bottle of wine.
The average modern Mexican dresses much as we do -- shirts, trousers, skirts, suits for the office, jeans and T-shirts on days off. Traditional clothing is more distinctive though, especially in its vibrant colours and decorative embroidery. Women may choose garments like the quechquémitl, a colourful poncho worn on special occasions. Men may have a sarape, a large blanket cape, in their wardrobe. Mexican costume comes into its own during celebrations and festivities, when men dress up in iconic wide-brimmed sombrero hats or embroidered Mariachi suits.
As a close neighbour of the USA, it's hardly surprising that Mexico has been westernised in numerous ways. But many aspects of its culture remain traditional. At the heart of this are the country's strong family values. Families are generally large and very traditional, with the father as chief decision-maker. Throughout Mexican culture, people have a great respect for authority.
When it comes to etiquette, it’s worth keeping the following in mind:
• Acknowledge and greet people individually rather than as a group
• Use titles of respect - address people as señor, señora, and señorita
• Women pat each other on the right forearm or shoulder, rather than shake hands
• Men shake hands until they know someone well, when they’ll move onto the more customary hug and back slap
Holidays in Mexico give you the chance to explore one of the most ecologically diverse countries on Earth. Get back to nature in Mexico's 22 biosphere reserves, 47 national parks, and nine protected areas, all home to an abundance of flora and fauna. The exotic national wildlife includes monkeys, jaguars, pumas, iguanas, wolves, bears, lynx, tapirs, ocelots, crocodiles, lizards, and snakes. There are over 1,000 species of birds, including flamingoes, parrots, toucans, macaws, and humming birds. And the sea is home to dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and whales, not to mention the colourful fishes that make snorkelling one of Mexico's great pleasures.
Dolphin and whale watching
Visit Mexico between November and April and you can take a boat out to see some of the thousands of grey whales (and their offspring) that migrate to the Mexican coast every year, in particular the stunning shores of Los Cabos.
Or watch dolphins swimming playfully together in the wild.
Sea Turtle Sanctuaries
Every year, endangered sea turtles come to Mexico’s shores to lay their eggs in the sand. Make a trip to one of the sanctuaries or protected areas to see how conservationists are working to prevent poaching and help the vulnerable hatched turtles into the sea.