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Where to cruise in Mexico - six of the most alluring ports of call

Author: Sue King

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Mexico, one of the world’s most vibrant and colourful countries, is perfect for cruising. These are six of the best ports of call in the country.

Mexico cruise holidays offer the works; whether it’s the Pacific or the Caribbean coast, there are a plethora of beautiful beaches, deserts, jungles and volcanoes to explore.

Beyond the stunning landscapes are enchanting colonial towns and ancient Mayan ruins. With delicious cuisine made with the freshest of ingredients, accompanied by margaritas galore and a soundtrack of mariachi music, and it soon becomes clear why Mexico is such a captivating destination.

Here, we take a look at some of Mexico’s most alluring ports of call for cruises.

Whether you want to party the night away in style, be transported back in time to Mexico’s ancient past, wander through charming pueblos or swim with whale sharks, Mexico offers a diverse range of memorable experiences which will last a lifetime.

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Puerta Vallarta

Puerta Vallarta is located along the Pacific shores of Banderas Bay on the foothills of the lush Sierra Madre mountains. Despite its popularity, the city has managed to retain a traditional vibe, especially in Zona Romantica. The historical area brims with small, cobbled streets lined with elegant colonial buildings, galleries, cafes and colourful street art.

Of course, the main attraction is the beaches. Whether you want to chill with a cocktail or partake in water sports, Playa de los Muertos is the place to be.

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Those seeking to escape the crowds should head to the more peaceful beaches in the north and south zones of the city. Snorkelling and scuba diving tours explore colourful coral reefs teeming with tropical fish. In winter, humpback whales can be seen in the nearby waters and taking a whale-watching tour is a magical and memorable experience.

Check out the Malecon, with its shops, street performers and funky street art or Gringo Gulch, a beautiful area developed for rich ex-pats back in the fifties. The surrounding mountains are an adventure playground where you can zip-line over the treetops or soak up the natural beauty of the area on an ATV adventure through jungles and remote villages.

Mexico cruise: Puerta Vallarta is located along the Pacific shores of Banderas Bay. Credit: Shutterstock

Merida (Progreso)

Not only is the port of Progreso situated close to the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, but it is also a gateway to the magnificent city of Merida, just an hour away by road.

A city crammed with impressive colonial architecture, music is an integral part of life in Merida and can be heard on plazas and street corners throughout the city. Due to its location, Merida also makes a great base from which to explore the surrounding area, including the Mayan ruins at nearby Uxmal.

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The heart of the city is fascinating to explore, with a sprawling zocalo where stalls set up at weekends and live music fills the air. Grand buildings and museums flank the square and the bordering streets are full of enticing shops, bustling markets and cute restaurants serving typical Yucatan dishes. The plaza is also where the open-top city sightseeing buses leave from.

Another highlight of Merida is Paseo de Montejo, a wide avenue lined with resplendent buildings, among them the Museum of Anthropology and History. On Saturday nights, live music and dance takes place and on Sundays, the avenue closes to traffic, so that pedestrians, cyclists and skaters can enjoy the area.

Mexico cruise: Merida is a city crammed with impressive colonial architecture. Credit: Shutterstock

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas, situated at the tip of the Baja peninsula, is known as a party town, but it also happens to have some amazing beaches and is close to one of the most delightful colonial towns in Mexico.

El Arco, Cabo’s famous landmark, is a natural rock formation in the shape of an arch. You can hire a boat to view the arch at close quarters and perhaps spot some seals and pelicans on the nearby rocks. In winter, whale-watching or swimming with whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez are unmissable experiences.

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Cabo is chock-a-block with bars and restaurants which surround the harbour and downtown area. For a great night out, check out Cabo Wabo or El Squid where you can dance into the early hours fuelled by tequila. If you want to sample mouth-watering Mexican cuisine, it’s worth the short walk from downtown to Maria Jimenez, a tiny restaurant with oodles of ambience.

Take a day trip to the lovely town of Todos Santos, a desert oasis an hour away by road. where you can peruse the galleries and indie shops selling locally made crafts and jewellery before heading back to Cabo on the desert highway.

Mexico: El Arco, Cabo’s famous landmark, is a natural rock formation in the shape of an arch. Credit: Shutterstock

Manzanillo

The lively fishing enclave of Manzanillo lies on the Pacific coast. Surrounded by pristine white beaches, rambling mango plantations and tiny pueblos, it’s a fabulous place to disembark for a couple of days exploration.

Wander along the Malecon, taking in the diverse array of sculptures, including the huge Blue Sailfish and the colourful ‘Manzillo’ sign. Sample the excellent seafood at the restaurants and if you enjoy fishing, Manzanillo is one of the world’s best destinations to go sportfishing for marlin, red snapper and tuna.

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The towns of Colima and Comala can both be visited in a day trip. Colima offers shopping opportunities galore while Comala is a picture-postcard perfect historical town. With its white-washed buildings and cobbled stone streets, Comala transports you to Mexico of yesteryear. In the distance, the active Colima Volcano is visible, occasional plumes of smoke emerging from within.

For those who enjoy an adrenaline rush, ATV tours, which explore the mountain paths and forest trails, are a fun way to experience the local terrain. There’s no shortage of beautiful uncrowded beaches stretching for mile after mile. Many of them are suited to beginner/intermediate surfers, while others have easy access to superb snorkelling.

Mexico cruise: From Comala, the active Colima Volcano is visible, occasional plumes of smoke emerging from within. Credit: Shutterstock

Cozumel

The island of Cozumel, situated on the Yucatan Peninsula, is where cruise ships dock for access to Playa del Carmen, Cancun and a wealth of nearby attractions. From incredible Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza and Tulum to wildlife reserves and jungle adventures, there is an abundance of exciting things to do in the area.

In Playa del Carmen, stroll down the main drag of 5th Avenue which runs parallel to the oceanfront. It’s full of tempting shops, restaurants and bars with colourful papel picado (Mexican bunting) fluttering overhead.

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Alternatively, chill out on the white sand beach or indulge in a cold beer or two at one of the many beach bars. The dining scene in Playa del Carmen is outstanding, with every cuisine covered from Turkish to Japanese. Try Pik Nik for traditional Mexican cuisine or Plank for the best brunch in town.

Head north to glitzy Cancun with its high-rise hotels and resorts, where you can lay on the beach by day and party by night. The city’s nightlife is legendary and there are an abundance of clubs and bars to choose from including the original Coco Bongo, Cancun’s most flamboyant nightclub experience

Mexico cruise: The island of Cozumel, situated on the Yucatan Peninsula, is where cruise ships dock for access to Playa del Carmen. Credit: Shutterstock

Acapulco

In its heyday in the fifties, Acapulco was a playground to Hollywood stars who came to party by the Pacific Ocean. The glamour may have faded, but Acapulco still packs a punch with its breath-taking location on a huge crescent-moon bay and a wide variety of fun things to do.

There’s nothing like buzzing around the city in a VW bug taxi, taking in the sights. Most of the action takes place along La Costera, where the majority of shops, restaurants and bars are located.

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The Zocalo, a leafy square in the old city, is where both locals and tourists congregate during the evenings and weekends. Take a ride on a glass-bottomed boat to Isla de Roqueta, where you can swim and snorkel on the beach and take a hike up the hill to the lighthouse for sweeping views of the bay.

Head to Hotel Los Flamingos, once owned by ‘The Hollywood Gang’ and perched on a 450-foot clifftop, it’s a glorious spot to see the sun sink over the ocean whilst sipping on a Coco Loco cocktail. Next, make tracks to La Quebrada to watch the death-defying cliff divers who plummet into the ocean below, spectacularly illuminated at night by torches.

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