Mexico has earned its status as one of the most-visited destinations in the world. Nailing down the best time to visit Mexico completely depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. This is a giant country with microclimates and a staggeringly diverse topography. There are golden beaches and rugged canyons, sultry cities and high-altitude colonial towns. You may bask on a jungle-backed beach by day and cosy up to a fireplace in the mountains by night. By Anne Olivia Bauso
Whether you’re seeking balmy beaches, cheap flights and hotels, stunning wildlife, or colourful fiestas, these are the best times to visit Mexico for every type of getaway.
Mexico’s Seasons at a Glance
- High season (December through April, when most of the country experiences its driest weather)
- Shoulder seasons (July and August)
- Low season (May, June, and September through early November)
The Most Affordable Times to Visit Mexico
Airfare and accommodation prices tend to mirror the high and low seasons. Flights, hotels, and other travel expenses can surge starting in mid-December, when visitors from the USA escape the frigid winter weather and take advantage of the holiday break. However, you can reliably save on travel costs by booking during the low season when demand is lower.
The low season is dominated by the rainy season, which runs from June to October. Central Mexico receives the most rainfall, but it might not be as bad as you think: beach areas are less crowded than the winter peak and rain usually comes in the form of short afternoon storms before the sunshine cracks back out. These brief bursts might just be a welcome relief to the heat and humidity, and offer a nice time for a siesta. August, September, and October are the wettest months (September is the eye of the hurricane season, with lashing rains on both coasts), and airfare and hotel costs should reflect this.
Best Times to Visit Mexico for Great Weather and Reasonable Costs
The dry-season months of November to March promise the nicest, balmiest weather, though airfare and lodging prices are higher and crowds are more intense during this time. Dry, warm November may be the most ideal month to visit overall, offering a sweet spot between the heavy fall rains and the beginning of the high season. (Other November pros: Depending on your timing and whereabouts, you might catch Día de los Muertos festivities or the magnificent monarch butterfly migration.)
The high-season month of January is another great option for travel, as there are often good deals to be found after the New Year holiday and before the winter and spring break frenzy, which begins in February.
Best Times to Visit Mexico for Whale Watching
At various points in the year, migrating whales spend time in the warm waters of both Mexican shorelines. From December to March, travellers to Baja or elsewhere on the Pacific might spot humpback, grey, and even enigmatic blue whales on their epic ocean journeys. Humpbacks love sheltered Bahía de Banderas off Puerto Vallarta; the best times to see them are January and February. Between November and April, you can snorkel with whale sharks off Espíritu Santo or dive the protected waters of Cabo Pulmo (the only coral reef on the west coast of North America).
On the opposite coast, whale shark season lasts from mid-May to mid-September. Boat tours depart Cancun for Isla Holbox and Isla Contoy, where travellers can swim with whale sharks and other sea creatures such as manta rays, turtles, and dolphins. June and July are the best months for this.
Best Times to Visit Mexico for Surfing
The Southern Ocean drums up fantastic swells along Mexico’s Pacific coastline all year long. More experienced surfers will find the biggest, most consistent waves from May to October (peak surf season, coinciding with hurricane season), especially June and August.
Some of Mexico’s best waves pound the breezy Baja Peninsula, but waters are quite nippy here in the winter months. Further south, Nayarit, Barra de Nexpa, Troncones, and Puerto Escondido (home to the world-famous Mexican Pipeline) benefit from the Pacific’s powerful barreling surf, but their waters remain warm all year.
Best Times to Visit Mexico for Birding
January is the best month to see migratory birds wintering in the jungles, lagoons, mangroves, wetlands, and mountains of the Pacific Coast. San Blas hosts the International Migratory Bird Festival in January and into early February.
Best Times to See Mexico’s Butterfly Migration
Every fall, millions of monarch butterflies migrate to central Mexico, where they winter in pine and fir trees in the state of Michoacán. Brilliant golden-orange butterflies covering the mountain forest and fluttering against the bright blue winter sky is a truly magical sight and something to plan a trip around.
To witness the yearly phenomenon, visit one of many sanctuaries within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve between November (ideally mid-November, once more butterflies have settled in) and March. At nearly all of the sanctuaries, you can hike, horseback ride, or bike to see the butterflies in their wooded habitat. At some, you can even zip line back down the mountain. The afternoon, when the air is warmer and the butterflies dance among the trees, is the perfect time of day to visit the sanctuaries.
Best Times to Visit Mexico’s Canyon Country
The wild, rocky landscape of northwest Mexico’s Copper Canyon — one of the deepest canyons in the world, and bigger than the Grand Canyon — is among the country’s most spectacular sights, but the elements can be unforgiving. March and fall (October and November, after the wet season) are the best bets to time a trip, with flowing rivers and waterfalls and mild temperatures throughout the canyons. Book seats aboard the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico in advance.
Best Times to Visit Mexico for Festivals
Mexico offers countless celebrations and events to plan a trip around. Here are just a few:
- Come February 2, Candelaria (Candlemas) is a big deal in San Juan de los Lagos and Tlacotalpan, a colonial town on the Gulf.
- Carnaval is the major February (or early March) event in Mexico, with the biggest parties in Mazatlán on the Pacific Coast and Veracruz, Mérida, Cozumel, and Campeche on the Caribbean and Gulf coasts.
- Mexico City’s Festival de México in March is a cultural blowout celebrating national and global artists.
- Mexico’s most important holiday, Semana Santa (Holy Week), occurs in March or April; expect crowded hotels, transit, and processions.
- Foodies will love Puebla’s Festival del Mole Poblano in June.
- A colourful celebration of indigenous dance and music, the Guelaguetza festival occurs in Oaxaca City and neighbouring villages in late July.
- Mexico’s Independence Day in September is toasted with dancing, parades, and fireworks.
- October sees several big annual events: the Cervantino arts bash in vibrant Guanajuato, the Morelia International Film Festival in Michoacán’s UNESCO-listed capital, and the all-month extravaganza of Fiestas de Octubre in Guadalajara (Mexico’s second-largest city).
- For many travellers, Day of the Dead (November 1-2) is the crowning jewel of the Mexican calendar. Festivities across the central and southern regions (and especially in Pátzcuaro) honour the departed with picnics, graveyard vigils, papier-mâché skeletons, and intricate dress and makeup.
Best Times to Go to Mexico City
To experience Mexico City’s weather at its best, time your trip in March, April, or May, right between the chilly winter and rainy summer. Temperatures linger in the 20s on average, with cooler evenings dipping as low as around 12 degrees Celsius. The city will be busy with fellow travellers this time of year, but hotel rates are still good.
Best Times to Go to Oaxaca
Spring and fall are the best times to head to the enchanting southern city of Oaxaca. April to May and September to October are blessed with idyllic weather (average temps in the low 20s and high 10s into September) and lighter crowds than other times in the year. June through August and the Christmas/New Year holiday season are the busiest periods for tourists. In late July, the Guelaguetza festival celebrates folk music and dance. If you’re there around Christmastime, you’ll coincide with Oaxaca City’s yearly radish-carving competition, Noche de los Rabanos (Night of the Radishes).