The 4 Best Places to Spend Christmas in Mexico
It’s getting down to the wire for planning a Christmas vacation, but if you are still looking, I’m here to help. Christmas is the most celebrated time of the year in Mexico! You can expect grand events and festivals, affordable prices, and warm weather. Whether you are looking for a family vacation, chill time on a warm beach, or lots of festivity, Mexico has something for you. And the temperatures are primo!
Besides getting a summary of each location, I have provided information on the Christmas celebrations taking place, and the average December temperatures. What are you waiting for? Read on.
Cabo San Lucas
December is a great time to go to Cabo, since the temperatures are near perfect, and the whales are rolling in from their long journey from the Bering Sea.
Once an old fishing village, Cabo San Lucas is now a bustling tourist destination located at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez.
Cabo is known for El Arco de Cabo San Lucas, a natural rock arch off the tip of the Baja, the defining natural landmark of the area. It is also known for its magical beaches, hip bars and restaurants, luxury accommodations, world-class sport fishing, whale watching, and championship golf courses.
There is so much to do in Cabo! You can snorkel, scuba dive, parasail, surf, stand up paddle board, boat, whale watch, deep sea fish, ride horses, wind surf, wing foil, golf, and shop, either in Cabo and/or the nearby surrounding areas.
Cabo is a popular beach destination, and there is a plentitude of beaches, each with its own flavor and attractions:
- Lovers Beach - secluded, requires a water taxi, no amenities, calm waters.
- El Medano Beach – calm waters, 2-miles long, located in the downtown area.
- Chileno Bay Public Beach – popular snorkeling spot, few shops & restaurants.
- Santa Maria Beach – calm waters, good for swimming, snorkeling, and possibly whale watching in winter/spring months. No amenities.
- Playa del Divorcio – 10 minutes from downtown, this beach is more for walking than swimming, as the waters are very rough.
- Playa Costa Azul – popular surfing beach on the Sea of Cortez, north of Cabo.
- Playa Empacadora – this is where some people go to learn how to deep-sea dive. Located in the heart of downtown.
- Playa Monumentos – best for experienced surfers, and a great place to see the famed El Arco rock arch.
- Playa Coral Negro – the less crowded, locals beach, is located at the Marina.
Outside of the standard Christmas celebrations of Dia de la Virgen of Guadalupe, Las Posadas, and Christmas Eve, there are numerous activities that take place at hotels, restaurants, the Malecòn, and other spots throughout Cabo San Lucas during the season.
Average December High: 80 degF
Average December Low: 60 degF
There is no shortage of Christmas celebrations in the nation’s capital. Along with lights that garner every building, tree, and light pole, an enormous Christmas tree adorns the city center or zócalo, as well as a giant ice (or sometimes roller) skating rink.
- You don’t want to miss the Christmas lights, often accompanied by street performers at the famous zócalo. They will be present throughout December and the beginning of January (until Three Kings Day).
- Go ice skating or roller skating on the giant rink on the zócalo.
- Go to one of the amazing markets. Mercado de Jamaica has many Christmas poinsettias (aka Noche Buenas) and other flowers too. At the Christmas street market (tiangis) you can find ornaments, souvenirs, and piñatas. Other markets to visit include Mercado Artesanal de Coyoacàn, Mercado de la Merced, and the Xochimilco Market.
- Make sure you drink some Ponche Navideño or Christmas punch.
- Navidalia is a gigantic immersive Christmas Carnival / Festival.
- Religious Christmas activities begin with the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe Day. According to the legend, the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec peasant, and spoke to him in his native language in the desert, outside Mexico City. She asked him to request that a church be built there in her honor. When the Bishop requested proof, Juan returned from the hill with the imprint of the Virgin on the back of his robe. On December 12th people from around the world visit the Basilica built in her honor on that same hill in what is now the northern part of Mexico City.
- Las Posadas begins on December 16th and lasts until the 24th. These re-enactments of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to birth the baby Jesus involve street processions where people hold candles and sing carols (Villancicos).
- You can also find various Pastorelas, funny and satirical Christmas plays that involve the struggle between good and evil.
Average December High: 70 degF
Average December Low: 40 degF
Oaxaca is the capital of the Oaxaca state in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountain range. The city centro (center) has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has a high number of colonial Spanish structures, as well as archeological sites. Festivals and celebrations in the city melt traditional and indigenous traditions and are very colorful.
Food is part of the Christmas celebrations and Oaxaca is no different. This city is popular for its mole, a Mexican sauce created with chocolate. You can even take classes to learn how to create traditional mole dishes.
Oaxaca has a rich history, that includes art, culture, and food. There is so much to do there it cannot all be described in this post, but here are a few must-dos.
Abastos Market (Central de Abastos) is the largest local market in Oaxaca City. You will find food from all over the state, as well as a colorful array of merchandise. The more expensive Benito Juárez Market is a great place to find souvenirs and handmade items. At 20 de Noviembre (20th of November) market, close to the city center, you will find great food, especially at the pasillo de humo (or smoke corridor) where you buy your food by the gram.
Archeological finds from the Monte Albàn Zapotec ruins are found at the Museum of Cultures, the most important being Tomb Number 7 of the Treasure of Monte Albàn. Nearby, you can also visit the Monte Albàn archeological site, one of the most important sites in Mesoamerican history.
Get a guide and visit the warm pools and massive rock waterfalls of Hierve El Agua (“the water boils”). These amazing formations are well worth the drive, and you get to soak while viewing them and the surrounding valley.
During this time of the year the city is elaborately decorated and the zócalo (city center) and surrounding areas are full of vendors selling handmade crafts, clothes, and food. Just strolling through the city is a holiday adventure on its own.
- December 8 – Feast of the Virgin of Juguila. This celebration begins at midnight and continues throughout the day including masses, music, carnival rides, food, and fireworks.
- December 11 – The celebration before the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe takes place in the Church of Guadalupe. It includes plays, carnival rides, and food stands.
- December 12 – Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe is the final day of a nine-day prayer series in honor of the patron saint of Mexico. This day is highly celebrated in Oaxaca, and throughout Mexico, with religious processions, music, fireworks, carnival rides, and more.
- December 16 – Las Posadas begin. Mary & Joseph’s search for a place to birth the baby Jesus is re-enacted every evening through Christmas Eve. After the re-enactment, the “breaking of the plates” takes place near the cathedral.
- December 18 – Feast of the Virgin of Solitude or La Virgen de Soledad, the patron saint of Oaxaca.
- December 23 is when Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes), the largest radish carving contest in the world, takes place. Locals create different flowers, animals, and nativity scenes from radishes and display them throughout the zócalo.
- December 24 – Called the ninth Posada, includes a parade around the zócalo, before participants go to their church and celebrate Mass.
Average December High: 80 degF
Average December Low: 45 degF
Puerto Vallarta (PV) sits on the Bahía de Banderas (Bay of Banderas) on the Pacific Ocean, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. It encompasses nearly 40 miles of coastline on the western edge of the jungle of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Direct flights to PV are affordable and easy to find, making it a great last minute Christmas getaway.
PV is a much-visited tourist spot and the most popular things to do are touring the old cobblestone streets of the city center and Malecòn, site seeing 20th-century churches and buildings, playing at one of the many incredible beaches, enjoying amazing food, art, music, and clubs, zip-lining, surfing, snorkeling, and sometimes even whale watching.
There are great seaside booths and stores on the Malecòn. And it is only a short walk to reach the Artesanias Malecòn 2, and the historic Cual Island Flea Market which opened in the early 1900s. You’ll find local made arts and souvenirs, as well as great food.
Don’t miss the Papantla Pole Flyers on the Malecon. Los Voladores de Papantla is a ritual ceremony practiced for centuries in pre-Hispanic Mexico. It involves five people climbing up a 30-foot pole. One of “Voladores” remains at the top of the pole, playing a flute and drum while the others, attached to ropes, spin around the pole slowly descending until they reach the ground.
For adrenaline junkies there are zip lining adventures found deep in the nearby jungle where you can rappel off waterfalls, fly above ravines, speed down giant slides, and more. When I was there, we traveled by boat across the bay, and then hiked for a quarter mile to reach the place where our adventure began.
The humpback whales start arriving in December to mate and birth their calves in the bays around Puerto Vallarta. It is an incredible site to see the males sparring be the mate of a young female or watch a newborn calf swim next to its mother. If they are around (they don’t always show up at the same time) make sure you go see them. What better Christmas present could you ask for?
You will find many of the same religious holiday events taking place in Puerto Vallarta, as you do in the rest of Mexico. The one thing that is different is the Puerto Vallarta Christmas Parade.
December 13 – The Puerto Vallarta Christmas Parade begins with a procession that starts at 5:00pm at the Sheraton Buganvilias Hotel, but moves to the Agustín Flores Contreras Sports Unit by 6:30pm, where the parade really begins. It winds through the streets of PV, highlighting different areas and focusing on various Christmas themes before the grand finale on the Playa Los Muertos boardwalk.
Average December High: 85 degF
Average December Low: 65 degF
There is so much to see and do in Mexico, and even more so during Christmastime with so much tradition and so many reasons to celebration. Don’t miss your chance to get the most out of your Mexico trip and visit now. And no matter where you go, have a wonderful Christmas!