11 Crazy Things You Have to Do in Mexico Before You're 30

Baja Carl / flickr
Baja Carl / flickr
Photo of Lydia Carey
8 May 2018

Before you get any older and wiser, before the kids and the mortgage and the steady job, make sure you spend some time in Mexico. There are wild adventures, intense urbanscapes and surreal experiences all to be had within the borders of a single country. Here are a few things you won’t want to miss.

Cliff diving

Cliff diving is one dangerous sport – an incredible adrenaline rush and high-energy adventure. Mexico is home to three incredible diving locations. La Quebrada is where the professional divers jump in Acupulco, and if you chicken out you can always just watch the show. There is also Cenote Ik Kil, a 90-foot deep sink hole filled with water in the Yucatan and the oceanfront outcroppings in Mazatlan.

Mazatlan Cliff Divers Lisa Andres / flickr

Scuba dive the Underwater Art musuem

The MUSA is Mexico’s underwater art musuem in Cancun, near Isla Mujeres. The threatened sea life in the area gave birth to the musuem’s mission of integrating art and the natural environment and as time goes on their exhibit of underwater sculpture supports more and more aquatic life. You can take a glass-bottom boat trip out to see it but wouldn’t you rather be up close and personal? The musuem offers a scuba diving class in order to certify you to go out and if you are already certified all you gotta do is jump in!

Join a protest or parade in Mexico City

The 28 million residents of Mexico’s capital love to get out in the street – and march! Whether protesting new government policy, celebrating gay pride or making a pilgrimage to see the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s millions will impress with their sheer quantities and the energy in the air will be contagious for anyone swept along in the movement. Don’t worry about mob mentality, 90% of the time Mexico’s manifestaciones are totally peaceful.

Mexico City protest Montecruz Foto / flickr

Dance to Son Jarocho in Veracruz

Son Jarocho, a combination of various indigienous and imported musical traditions is one of Mexico’s most delightful shows. Dancers stomp on a wooden platform while a dozen or so musicians frantically strum tiny guitars, a small metal piano-type instrument and maybe even a old jawbone or two. We promise that you will get swept away in the music and be unable to stop your feet from moving.

Roadtrip through Baja California

One of Mexico’s most underappreciated states, Baja California is also one of the most desolate in the country. At the state’s northern and southern tips you will find plenty of people, places and palate-pleasing food, but the middle of the state is a wasteland of desert, wild-shaped cactus and a vista that goes for miles and miles. Make sure you gas up before you plunge into the middle unknown of Baja and then just enjoy the savage solitude.

Baja Carl / flickr

Visit the Central de Abastos

Mexico’s biggest bulk market is a choatic and crazy place that sits just outside of the capital’s city limits. Want to be completely overwhelmed by mountains of mangos, piles of peanuts and tons of tomatoes? Make a visit to the Central de Abastos. We recommend that you go with a guide, since it’s easy to get lost in this market labyrinth, and that you leave the camera at home – vendors are serious and not fond of gawking rubberneckers – just try to blend in while you gape.

Recharge at the Teotihuacan pyramid

Every year on the spring solstice thousands of visitors climb the Pyramid of Sun in Teotihuacan at dawn to “recharge” for the coming year. Pilgrims come dressed in white, with red headbands or belts, lift their hands to the sun god and take in its energy. It’s not all serenity and calm, the vibe is more party than ritual, but it will be an unforgetable memory to take back with you from your trip to Mexico.

Teotihuacan Armando Sobrino / flickr

Hike Pico de Orizaba

The highest mountain in Mexico and third highest in North America is an intense journey through high-altitude ice, snow and volacnic rock. Taking an alpine start (starting somewhere between 2 and 3 am) will allow you see the sunrise at the summit and check out the glorious shadow the mountain casts over the plains below. Make sure you plan in advance, as this isn’t your regular walk in the woods.

Swim with whales in the Sea of Cortez

Each year the California Grey Whales migrate to the Sea of Cortez for mating and birthing rituals. This is an incredible time to get up close and personal with these magestic animals. The waters here are so safe from predators and the whales so accustomed to being around humans that not only can you take a boat trip out to see them but many guides will take you right out into the water, face to face with this marine beauties.

Sea of Cortez Zach Dischner / flickr

Take a guided trip through the Lacandon jungle

In Mexico’s deep south of Chiapas is the Lacandon Jungle, home to indigenous Mexican communities that hold fast to their traditions and ancestry. This is also the base for the Zapatista movement of the 1990s and is home to many autonomous communities. Take a tour through this incredibly rich natural and cultural region by kayak, raft, or hiking.

Ride the rapids in Veracruz

Veracruz’s Rio Actopan is not for the faint of heart with Class 3 and 4 whitewater rapids to take on. There are approxiamately 40 or so rivers that run through this central coastal state with varying degrees of adrenaline-producing rapids, breathtaking scenery and lots of side trips for hiking and seeing ancient ruins. It’s the perfect vacation for an adventure traveler.

Veracruz Lara Danielle / flickr