Mexico’s rich, vibrant culture is often overlooked by travelers who choose to stay within the confines of their all-inclusive resort. Unfortunately, that means local restaurants and businesses are missing out on those valuable tourism dollars. This guide to ecotourism in Mexico taps into the country’s more authentic side, while also keeping your footprint in mind.
When to go
Avoid the hordes of crowds who escape to Mexico during the winter by planning your trip for November. This marks the beginning of the dry season before tourism starts to ramp up. By going in the shoulder season, you’ll find better rates and more time alone with nature.
Where to stay
Tulum’s Azulik Hotel doesn’t have TVs or electricity, but guests aren’t roughing it when they stay in this eco-luxurious lodge. Built with organic architecture in tandem with the Mayan jungle, the resort inspires travelers to unplug from modern life.
For Tulum travelers on a budget, Harmony Glamping is a hippy-chic campsite built with sustainable materials such as reclaimed pallets. Tents start at just $35 a night.
On the Pacific side, avoid Puerto Vallarta’s mega-resorts and head to Sayulita, a low-key surf town with a more authentic vibe. Stay at Haramara Retreat, a gorgeous off-grid getaway. The hotel was built using traditional construction techniques to minimize environmental impact.
Where to eat and drink
Mexico’s Baja peninsula has no shortage of farm-to-table dining, but Flora Farms sets the gold standard. The sprawling, 25-acre working farm only serves food it grows or raises on-site.
Coffee lovers will be smitten with Finca El Pacifico, an organic coffee farm nestled in the mountains of Oaxaca. Here you can sip a fresh cup of joe surrounded by breathtaking vistas.
If vino is your tipple of choice, take a tour of Casa Madero. It’s the oldest winery in the Americas with philanthropic ties to a local children’s home.
What to do
Venture deep in the jungle to Maya ka’an, where you can fully embrace ecotourism in Mexico. Maya ka’an is a special project that gives travelers a glimpse into authentic Mayan life. Participate in a sweat lodge ritual, listen to stories from a community elder and watch traditional craftsmen at work.
Sneak away to Isla Holbox, nicknamed the “anti-Cancún,” a sliver of paradise with ecotourism ingrained in its DNA. Accessible only by boat, you won’t find plastic straws, reef-toxic sunscreen or even cars on the island. However, you will find deserted beaches shaded by endless coconut palms.
Hike through the Sierra de la Laguna UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, one of the Baja peninsula’s most seldom-explored areas. The reserve balances nature conservation with sustainable human development, with a ranchero culture still very much intact. A visit here will show you ecotourism in Mexico at its finest.
Go off the beaten path to Chiapas and explore colorful colonial towns and majestic Mayan ruins that have yet to be overrun by tourists. Mexico’s mysterious southernmost state has its own distinct culture and language. Consequently, it almost feels like you’re in a different country.
Meander through La Ruta del Tequila, a picturesque valley near Jalisco with roads lined by family-owned distilleries and sustainable agave farms. Here you can observe the centuries-old tradition that goes into crafting mezcal and tequila, while indulging in a sample or two.
-Shannon Valdes Leiderman