Deciding where to go on vacation is a huge part of the fun! Researching all the flavors, activities, nature to explore, and plans to be made can get you even more excited to hop on a jet and fly far away.
If you’re caught between Mexico or Hawaii for your beach getaway, there are so many stops worth making!
7 Great Places to Visit in Mexico and Hawaii will include the top touristic locations which are safest in Mexico, and the 7 largest islands in Hawaii.
You don’t want to miss the cenotes in Mexico, or a visit to a tequila factory where it originated, playas and ruins are worth the trip alone.
While in Hawaii, there are 15 islands but the major 7 worth stopping at will include the best National Parks, volcanoes to explore, chasing waterfalls and more.
Doing your research beforehand is the best way to travel. You don’t want to arrive with the plan of ‘let’s just be spontaneous!’ And end up missing all of the good stuff.
It’s a balance between knowing the best that a place has to offer you and leaving enough down time for the magic to ensue.
This guide will walk you through the major places to visit in both Mexico and Hawaii, with all the top-rated activities in each!
7 Great Places to Visit in Mexico
First, I will cover the 7 major spots in Mexico and then the top 7 in Hawaii. Ending with tips to make either of your choices the most safe vacation it can possibly be. I hope this guide will inspire you to not choose between Mexico or Hawaii but dream even harder of seeing both!
Below you’ll find yhe top 7 places to visit in Mexico
With some of the best beaches in all of Mexico, Tulum tops our list with sugar sandy beaches and shimmering turquoise water.
Read this article where we choose our favorite city in Mexico between Tulum or Cancun.
This is also the home of some of the most stunning ruins in all of Mexico. Positioned on a cliff that overlooks the Caribbean Sea, this is as jaw-dropping as you’re imagining.
Tulum is famous for tall walls which give a feeling like a fortress! Used for military and religious purposes, these walls were built around the city around the 13th century.
NOTE: The town was taken over by the Spanish in 1544 and there is so much history to soak in while getting lost in the streets of Tulum.
The top things to do in or nearby Tulum include:
- Temple of the Frescos – located beside the Castilla, this temple will take you back in time to how they tracked the sun in the 13th century. There are so many 13th century frescos and history that surrounds. Add this to your list when visiting the Mayan ruins nearby. You’ll see the Rain god, Chaac and Ixchel embody powerfully through their art.
- Visit a Cenotes – Perhaps my favorite thing to do when visiting Mexico is to dive and snorkel in the breathtaking cenotes. Some of the best are Cenote Yokdzonot near Chichén Itzá, Cenote Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote near Tulum and Cenote Azul near Playa del Carmen.
- Akumal – this word means ‘The Place of the Turtles’ in Mayan! A nesting place near Playa del Carmen and Tulum where you can see where the sea turtles lay their eggs each year. Many come to swim with the turtles and enjoy the crystal-clear waters as they soak up the animal kingdom bliss!
Relax with the locals and Tulum is sure to be a time of relaxation, fun, and adventure!
#2 Isla Cozumel
Rated #1 by many travel blogs for best destination in Mexico, Cozumel is an island just off the Playa del Carmen with some of the best snorkeling and diving in the hemisphere.
With crystal clear waters, weather that never goes below 75-degrees Fahrenheit, it’s no wonder that travelers and beach revelers choose this spot to find bliss in.
Cozumel is considerably safer than other towns in Mexico, and your best bet will be to stay where there are high numbers of tourists.
These are more heavily patrolled by the police force and protected because Mexico needs the income from its tourist industry.
Cozumel is one of the top tourist locations and therefore one of the safest places in the entire country.
Some of the best things to do in Cozumel include:
- The Hotel Zone or “Zona Hotelera”– this is the primary tourist area, known for resorts, catamarans, wild nightlife, and beaches. It’s a 15-mile strip of sand shaped like the number seven. This is where most people stay.
- Snorkeling and Tanning at the Beach – the obvious resort go-to activity. Some of the most popular beaches include Playa Delfines, Playa Tortugas (known for being great for family and children because of the smaller waves), Chac Mool Beach, and Playa Forum.
- The MUSA Underwater Museum – this is a stunning attraction to dive underwater and see 500 sculptures that were created to encourage protecting the reef. A very eerie sight, the statues are gathered underwater, and MUSA continues to add statues to the exhibit. This underwater museum is a once in a lifetime experience and very affordable at only around $30 a person. Very creepy but also fascinatingly amazing and unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else.
Swimming in Cenotes – you must Check Out the Cenote Route near Cancun! entire Riviera Maya is covered with thousands of these Cenotes, and dozens can be swam in near Cozumel. Some of the best cenotes are located along the Ruta De Cenotes (Cenote Route) which is near Puerto Morelos, about a 30-minutes away by car.
My top picks near here are the Cenote La Noria, Verde Lucero, Cenote Mojarras, and Cenote Selvatica. A popular favorite is the Verde Lucero, which even has a zipline into the falls!
This island is a wonderful place to start in Mexico to get a feel for it if you’ve never visited before. It’s really a beautiful introduction to the country but do keep in mind that it is heavily touristic and therefore has more American influence than more authentic and quieter cities.
Mazatlán is a Mexican resort town along the Pacific side of the country. With a 21k-long boardwalk, this town is known for its big-game fishing. Some of the top things to do in Mazatlán include:
Explore the Centro Histórico or Old Mazatlán – 19th-century landmarks include the performance hall Teatro Ángela Peralta and the towering Immaculate Conception basilica. The modern district of Zona Dorada is known for nightlife and hotels.
The Mexican culture is richer and more vibrant in Old Mazatlán, and the prices are significantly lower than the Golden Zone (i.e. where all the tourists are).
- Sandy beaches – Some of the best beaches which are top-rated are the Playa Los Cerritos, Playa Bruja, Playa las Gaviotas, Playa Olas Altas and the Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island).
- Teatro Ángela Peralta – designed by the engineer Andrés Librado Tapia and it was inaugurated on February 14, 1874. A beautiful sight from the outside, this is the place for a cultural event! Zarzuelas, dramas, and operettas used to be offered and then circus functions until becoming a cinema in 1943. The theatre is named after the great Ángela Peralta who died in 1883.
- Explore the Casa Canobbio – this is the house which is believed to house the infamous, ‘Fountain of Youth.’ Locals tell legends of the former owner casting spells which rejuvenated hundreds of people. Believe it? Take a dip and find out.
- Plazuela Machado and the Municipal Market – this is the way to immerse yourself and not just dine at cafes or expensive restaurants. Shop through the market for fresh products and experience new flavors while being surrounded by an Art Nouveau style.
- Visit the Many Museums – some of the best are El Rincon de Pedro Infante Museum, the Mazatlan Art Museum, the Mazatlan Archaeological Museum and the Museum and School of Arts.
- See the Basilica of Immaculate Conceptions – there’s a debate over if this is the most beautiful cathedral in all of Mexico. I’ll let you decide.
#4 Los Cabos
How could you have a list on Mexico and leave out Los Cabos? This is the desert town that touches the sea and shines with sunlight almost every day of the year!
The perfect getaway especially if you’re on the West coast for easiest access. The must-do’s while catching rays in Los Cabos include:
- Land’s End – this is the thing you absolutely cannot miss while in Los Cabos. If you Google pictures you may recognize this from movie scenes depicting stunning cliffsides that feel eerily abandoned or haunted. With giant rock formations where the Sea of Cortez hits the Pacific, these rock formations were created from the rough winds and seas of the southern Baja Peninsula. This is a stunning place to sail through the eponymous arch (if the tides will cooperate with your boat). Known as the window to the Pacific, you may even catch a sea lion sun-bathing on the rocky ledges.
- Surfing & Diving – known for their infamous waves as many Pacific coast towns are, this is the place for Surfers and divers that want to play in the water and be active.
- Cabo Pulmo National Park – This is a place created to protect a chain of Coral Reefs. A national park you can snorkel through, this is the place to experience rich colors and an entire underwater world that you may not have known exists! Swimming in a sea of fish will either terrify you or make your mermaid dreams come to life.
- Playa Del Amor – Lover’s Beach! You’ve found it, and it’s right near the Land’s End rock formation. Near downtown Cabo, this is easily accessible and based on the name, obviously romantic for couples to take in the crystal waters as they soak up vitamin D.
Getting into the less touristic towns, there may be less to do on paper, but this also means they are quieter towns. If this appeals to you and you despise crowds, the next few options may be go-to’s for your taste.
#5 Puerto Vallarta
Another of the most popular beach destination, Puerto Vallarta is a place I’ve visited many times and absolutely recommend.
Many parts remain untouched by modern society, and this is the perfect balance for touristic safety, clean water, but a somewhat authentic experience.
- Water Sports – this is a popular destination to see beach revelers parasailing, paragliding, jet-skiing, surfing, and snorkeling. Mexico has no shortage of these activities so invest in a pair of goggles before you hop on a plane! Some of the best beaches are Playa Camarones, Playa Los Muertos, Playa Las Gemalas.
- Vallarta Botanical Gardens – If you love nature, be sure to plan a day trip to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Here you can see a wide variety of plants, and also take a hike or swim in a river. Enjoy lunch while soaking in your scenic view of the surrounding mountains.
- Zip Lining in The Jungle – this is one of the most popular things to do in Mexico. With sweeping jungles and amazing nature options, you can go to the cenotes, selvatica, xplor adventure park, and more.
- Bahía de Banderas – set on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, Bahía de Banderas is known as the largest bay in the nation. There is so much to do in this area, but the most popular activity is to sail around the bay. One of these boats, known as the Marigalante, is a replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria, and it features an on-board museum. There’s also fantastic snorkeling in this area with tons of tunnels and coral reefs.
- Take a food or drink tour – this is one of the best ways to get to know any new destination. Sign up based on good ratings and what appeals to your taste buds. Make ‘em sing with that shot of tequila before you begin!
Mexico’s second largest city has a great mix of culture form the mariachi music that rings through the streets, festivities, and people dancing like you’re in a sunny-side up kind of movie dream, and plenty of great food.
The best of Guadalajara will include:
- Plaza de Armas – a wonderful starting point when you arrive with lots of history surrounding it including the 17th-century Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno) and the beautiful Baroque Guadalajara Cathedral (Catedral de Guadalajara), built between 1558 and 1616.
- Tequila tour – Guadalajara is the birthplace of tequila. Try some. Enough said.
- Watch a Chivas Game – Guadalajara has two football teams. Catch a game with the popular Chivas or the underdog Atlas for a great time.
- Catch a Lucha Libre – this is an arena like Jack Black’s ‘Nacho Libre,’ film to enjoy a night of Mexican wrestling. Grab a colorful mask and crack open the guacamole.
#7 Mexico City
Lastly, welcome to the capital of Mexico. Enjoy the food, architecture, colors, bars, and food while here because the list could go on for all the aspects that make this city wonderful.
The best of Mexico City includes:
- Historic city center (Centro Histórico de la Ciudad) – a 15-square-kilometer UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting more than 1,400 important colonial buildings from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
- Enjoy the Volcanic views – with the backdrop of volcanic mountains which overlook the city in a kind of haunting way, each is over 5,000 meters tall and will make your jaw-drop. You may want to get out of the city and explore the Mexican Highlands.
- Amazing Nightlife – I can’t leave out the nightlife as it attracts millions! Dance the night away at the top favorites which include, Sens, Zinco Jazz Club, Mama Rumba, and more.
The city is also known for its wonderful museums so explore the downtown areas in any location to be surrounded by the historical sights they have preserved.
7 Great Places to Visit in Hawaii
Now! Time to dive into the best of Hawaii. I’ll get right to it by jumping to one of the most popular destinations through the islands, Oahu.
This is a town that draws surfers from all over the world. Some of the best activities to take part in are:
- Surfing – This is the state for the most radical waves in all of the U.S. Some of the best waves can be caught at spots like Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Banzai Pipeline (Ehukai Beach).
- Lanikai Beach – known as paradise on earth. This is on the eastern coast of Oahu, about a 30 minute drive from Honolulu. This heavenly sea is a half-mile place to lose yourself. Google pictures, and thank me later.
- Hop on a boat – some of the best ways to see Hawaii are by getting off the islands and really looking at them. You’ll be able to see the huge cliffs and mountains volcanos surrounded by turquoise blue water. Stop off at a couple of nearby islands like Moku Nia or Moku Iki.
- Diamond Head walk – the top of many visitors list and recommended to start early. The park opens at 6:30am, and you can take in stunning views of the island.
- Tour Pearl Harbor – take a quiet moment to pay your respects at the Pearl Harbor Museum. It may be difficult, but it could also be the most profound part of your trip.
Kaui is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth. This coastline isn’t just the best place for beaches but also a bulk of Hawaii’s rich history.
This was some of the Hawaiian Ali’i (royalty) and known for its lavishly flowing waterfalls and freshwater rivers.
Things to do in Kauai include:
- Na Pali Coast State Park – this is where part of Jurassic Park was filmed. Extra points for spotting a dinosaur but if you remember these sweeping green valleys, you’ll know why it’s worthy of your exploration.
- The Queen’s Bath – this is a unique tide pool in the North Shore Kauai. It’s actually a sinkhole, that is surrounded by igneous rock surrounding, surrounded by the splashing of happy Pacific Ocean waves. Take caution in the cooler months for the tide changes, but this is a beautiful place for a swim!
- Watch the sunset on Hanalei Bay – this crescent-shaped shoreline located on the north shore of Kauai. Grab your picnic or tiki-shaped drink and head down to Black Pot Beach.
- Explore the Caves – Kauai is the place for striking cave exploration. has an amazing collection of dry and wet caves on the island. A wet cave is filled with water while the dry caves are formed the same way but no longer have water moving through it. Some of the best are Waikanaloa Cave, The Blue Room, and Maniniholo Dry Cave.
If visiting the island of Maui, you’ll be in for a treat! The island may take a few days to explore so set aside some real time to enjoy the island and get the most out of your travels.
Some of the best activities Maui has to offer (besides the beach which will be in all), include:
- Haleakala National Park – Haleakala is a shield volcano that forms more than half of the island of Maui. With the summit reaching 10,000 feet in the air, this part is a giant crater that is comparable to the size of a lunar landscape. A vast and eye-opening experience. You can get guided tours here or even camp for the night!
- Hike the Pipwai Trail – several pools to be found here and cool off with a refreshing swim.
- Find the Waimoku Falls – you’re in Hawaii, of course, you’re looking for waterfalls! This one can be found at the end of the Pipiwai Trail and will be the most rewarding treat at the end of your hike.
- Hana Highway – The road to Hana is one of the most popular activities in all of Hawaii and a favorite for even the locals. Just take your car and drive the highway for the most beautiful drive of your life.
- Moloka’i’s Kalaupapa National Historical Park – This park pays homage to the Kalaupapa and Kalawao Settlements and Hawaiian history. A remote and spiritual land that serves as a place to contemplate and reflect.
No trip to Hawaii would be complete without Honolulu. This is the largest city in the chain and the state capitol. Some of the highlights of Honolulu include:
- Waikiki Beach – this is a popular spot so expect some crowds. This is actually a string of many beaches, and the most popular would be Duke Kahanamoku Beach. This stretch is infamous for it’s surfing and used by tourists and locals alike.
- Diamond Head Crater – this is where you should climb to for the best views. Head up to the summit of the Diamond Head Crater, which overlooks Waikiki for the best views you may ever see in your lifetime.
- Kapiolani Park – this is an ideal quiet place to enjoy. Located on the same side of the island as Diamond Head Crater, this park is 300-acres and named after the Hawaiian Queen Kapiolani. Pack a picnic and make a day of it.
- The Honolulu Zoo – located just around the corner as is the Waikiki Aquarium, there are weekly shows here and fantastic wildlife. Take the whole family, and the kids will lose their minds for it. Also, there is a beach nearby so you can start here and end there!
Lovingly nicknamed, “Pineapple Island,” Lanai is beloved by many and at one point was entirely used for pineapple plantation.
Now the fifth most visited island and has 140 square miles. Most of the island remains undeveloped, but there are resorts and golf courses to be enjoyed. The best of Lanai includes:
- Golfing – If you’re looking for a peaceful time on the green, there are many golfing resorts to be found on Lanai. Some of the most popular are the Manele Golf Course, Cavendish Golf Course, and the Four Seasons.
- Swim with Dolphins – a Hawaiian gem of an activity, swimming with dolphins is a very popular option on any island. The pictures of underwater coral diving look especially beautiful here, and there are tours to swim with dolphins in the wild as well!
- Garden of the Gods – This is not the lush land you would imagine by the name. More like a barren desert, this is a fascinating place to visit and imagine you’re on mars! According to Hawaiian legend, the dry landscape occurred as a result of a challenge between two priests who were tasked with keeping a fire burning on their respective islands longer than the other.
- Hulopoe Bay – one of Lanai’s most popular spots to sunbathe and enjoy the reefs as a snorkeler or diver. Many unique fish species that are so colorful and elegant exist here. If here during winter, you can often spot dolphins and humpback whales from the shore as they pass through the bay each season when it’s growing cold.
If you have time to go to the smaller islands, they are a more intimate look at what Hawaii has to offer without the tourist-packed resort beaches.
Some of the smaller islands nearby here to consider checking out are:
- Molokai – least developed and most scenic of all the islands. Check out the Kalaupapa National Historical Park or the Pala’au State Park.
- Papohaku – a beach where there are rarely more than a few families at any given time.
- Kahoolawe – this is the smallest of the major eight in Hawaii. Only 45 square miles, this is a smaller one worth riding by for the views alone.
- Niihau – You may not get the chance to stop here as much of it is privately owned, but if you’re going past theses smaller islands or on your way to a larger one, take note of this beauty which is now mostly used to raise animals.
#7 The Big Island
Lastly, I’ll finish with the big island herself. Known simply as, Hawaii, the big island is known for its powerful volcanic landscape.
The best things to do while on the Big Island include:
- Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park – opened in 1916, this park is the essential stop while on this island. Learn more about how they’re formed here and what made Hawaii what it is today. Without these volcanos, the island wouldn’t be here at all. What a way to appreciate the land beneath your feet, right?
- Visit Kona Coffee Farms – I’ve almost moved to Hawaii just to work on these farms. A stunning way to see the island and drink your way through it. Like a wine day in Napa, the coffee day might be 100% necessary while on the Big Island.
- Enjoy a Luau – your trip to Hawaii would not be complete without a firey luau of Tiki heads, dancers, and a pig with an apple in its mouth. Enjoy the culture and the way Hawaiians celebrate. They really know how to party so just take their lead on this one.
No matter which island you’re on, there will be so many activities to do and beaches at every stop.
I hope these tips and activity recommendations have been useful to you, Ohana. And Adios as you depart for your big adventure! Or two big adventures, I hope!