A few years ago, I did an exchange program in Mexico. Even though the purpose of my trip was initially to study, I also took advantage of this opportunity to explore the country. We didn’t have much vacations but I would usually go away on weekends and discover different regions; but then, a few months after my arrival, I got the chance to take my Mexican escapades to a whole other level. What locals called “Semana Santa” had finally come and it was time for Spring Break, in other words. While most of my foreign friends decided to head to Cancun, I picked the opposite option. I wasn’t very keen on spending my vacation money on overpriced plane tickets and hostels rooms (this time of year is by far the most expensive to explore the Yucatan region), just for the sake of having fun in Cancun and so, I decided to head west with a friend. For those looking for an alternative Spring Break, look no further than the west coast of Mexico!
1. Explore the Peninsula of Baja California
Our first stop was Baja California Sur, where we stayed with some friends for a long weekend. The region is a perfect mix of beautiful places, amazing food and breathtaking nature. From sailing on little wooden boats surrounded by dolphins to driving across the desert and scuba diving in turquoise water, everything was perfect from beginning to end. If you decide to stop there, I highly recommend Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Balandra. While the two first ones are beautiful cities surrounded by the sea, Balandra was a place I will never forget. Never, when we started driving in an arid desert land would I have thought we would ever come across such a large bay in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by sand dunes, Balandra looks out into the sea of Cortez and its water is extremely pure and transparent. A little piece of heaven on earth that I never thought existed before.
2. Move on to the Mexican Riviera
The second place we discovered during “Semana Santa” was the city of Mazatlan, located in the state of Sinaloa. The Pearl of the Pacific, as many locals call it, is home to the busiest seaport between Los Angeles and Panama and is one more great spot located on the Mexican Riviera. While in Mazatlan, walk along the beach on the Malecón (boardwalk), and pay a visit to the Centro Historico, which is the equivalent of the Old Town. There, you’ll discover the beautiful Catedral Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción. But if there’s one place I particularly recommend during your stay in the city, it is El Faro, the lighthouse from which you’ll be able to enjoy an astonishing view on the ocean. Try to go there at sunset, as the colors of the sky make that place look absolutely perfect.
3. Head South and Enjoy Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta was, by far, my favorite stop. This place is just special to me and I loved getting lost in the little streets of the old city when I was not enjoying my time on the beach. We had a found a beautiful hostel on the top of a hill (the city is extremely hilly, get ready!), and even though getting there with our huge backpack was a hassle, I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world. Puerto Vallarta has also its own Malecón, another beautiful Cathedral (Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe) and what is called a “Romantic Zone”, which is part of the Old Town. This is the traditional Mexico at its best, and you will just love strolling around the cobble stones streets and the colonial side of the town. Last but not least, is the Botanical Garden, looking more like a beautifully arranged jungle in which you will be able to relax away from the sand.
4. Live the Best of “Semana Santa” in Ixtapa
Our experience in Ixtapa was not at all what we expected it to be and that’s probably why it turned out to be so amazing. Though we ended up not seeing much of the city itself, we ended up having a great time with the new friends we had just made. One day, on a jet ski, we got invited extremely randomly to a Yacht party. We eventually found out that the man who had invited us was actually the owner of the yacht and we ended up spending the next three days with him, his friends and his family. From delicious meals to relaxing in his infinity pool overlooking the ocean, we simply got to live something that only happens once in a lifetime. Therefore, I don’t have much tips when it comes to Ixtapa, but more of an advice useful for the whole “Semana Santa:” you never know who or what you will come across during your trip so don’t try to stick to the plan, say yes to new opportunities and go meet new people, it will completely change the course of your vacation!
5. Last Stop: Acapulco
What best way to end your West Coast trip than to get to know Acapulco for a last dose of sun and beach? If you’re sick of the sand already, know that unlike Cancun, Acapulco is a real Mexican town and in this regards, it has its own Zocalo (main Public Square). Plaza Juan Alvarez is a great place to stroll around in the evenings and on weekends. Not too far from it, you’ll be able to buy a last stock of fresh fruits at Mercado El Parazal, walk one last time along the Malecón, and watch the sun set in the Marina. And before you know it, it’ll already be the end of “Semana Santa.”
I will never regret to have traded Yucatan to the West for my Spring Break vacations. Not only was it a lot cheaper but it was just as enjoyable. I went to Cancun on other occasions and though the color of the ocean is truly special, it didn’t become as memorable as my adventures on the Mexican West Coast, where I had discovered so much, from North to South. Plus, I am not a big party animal so I didn’t really feel the need to mention it, but there are just as many options to have fun in all the places mentioned above than there are in Cancun. For all of these reasons, I really advise you to head west for your next Mexican vacations. And though the Yucatan Peninsula is truly worth a trip, I would choose any other time in the year than Spring Break!
3 Tips Before Heading to Mexico:
What to Pack:
Here are some items that should definitely appear in your suitcase when packing for your Mexican vacations: mosquito repellent, sunscreen, bathing suit, Spanish dictionary, and also some medicine because you might learn sooner or later what “Moctezuma” means!
There are many ways to travel around Mexico but I would recommend flights for long distances and buses for shorter ones. Mexico has a great bus system with different classes depending on the level of comfort you are looking for (check out Busolinea for more info). There are also a few low cost airlines covering the country, which often offer very good deals (Volaris and Interjet, for instance).
Getting to the Good Stuff: Food!
Though you’re probably looking forward to enjoying Quesadillas, Margaritas and Tacos in Mexico, know that other options exist and that there’s a particular place not to miss: 100% natural restaurants are all over the country and this was definitely my best “food discovery”!
Are you headed to Mexico soon? Have you been? Share you stories, questions and comments below; and stay tuned for more Mexico content coming soon!