If a Mexico beach vacation is on your radar, the best time to go if you want to get a deal is late summer or early fall. That's according to the travel experts at Expedia, who have combed through its treasure trove of vacation booking data to determine trends and offer helpful, money-saving advice.
Our southern neighbor has always been a prime leisure destination, not only due to its proximity but also because it generally costs a lot less (and takes much less time to get there) than a transatlantic or transpacific trip. And of course the country's beaches are hard to beat, lined with a variety of accommodations ranging from charming boutique hotels and convenient all-inclusive properties to big, busy and action-packed mega-resorts.
While Mexico is almost always a bargain from the U.S., the best month to save money on a Mexico vacation is September, when airfares from the U.S. tend to bottom out, according to Expedia data. The company notes that a Mexico vacation can be even more economical if you book your airfare in a package with your hotel – something Expedia specializes in. "Booking a flight + hotel bundle with Expedia could save you up to $600 on your trip," the company said. You can also pre-book various tours and activities through the site. (Note: Every Monday, Expedia posts its 'Most Loved Destinations' deals for hotels and airfare/hotel packages with savings of 20 percent or more – bargain hunters can check them out here.)
In any case, Expedia's booking experts advise that travelers hoping to snag the best prices on a Mexico vacation at any time of year should: 1) Plan to depart the U.S. on a Thursday or Friday, 2) Search and book hotel rooms on a Friday night, and 3) Search and book flights on a weekend – especially Sunday – at least three weeks in advance.
Of course, summer at Mexico's beaches can be hot and sometimes rainy. But average temperatures run in the high 80s in summer months, compared to the mid-to-low 80s in springtime. Summertime rain typically blows in for a few hours in the afternoon- perfect time for a siesta!
With those tips in mind, here's a roundup of beach destinations that Expedia says are trending for trips this summer, along with suggestions on when to travel, where to stay and what to do:
Cancun. Always a hot spot among spring breakers, Cancun is actually a well-developed year-round resort on the northeast tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Its white sand beaches are lined with big hotels, its tropical temperatures are moderated by sea breezes, and it has all the water and shoreside activities you'd expect in a major beach destination. Expedia says the lowest air fares from the U.S. to Cancun are for travel in September. It recommends staying at the all-inclusive, adults-only Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun, and considering a catamaran ride to the laid-back, nearby Isla Mujeres and/or a dolphin experience.
The Riviera Maya. The stretch of Caribbean coast south of Cancun is known as the Riviera Maya, for its proximity to unusual and historic Mayan ruins. The coast is dotted with a number of all-inclusive resorts, boutique hotels and vacation rentals, and includes the towns of Playa del Carmen on the north end and Tulum to the south. (Tulum is both a town and a nearby Mayan ruin; the remains of other Mayan structures at Chichen Itza and Coba are farther inland.) Expedia suggests flying to the region in August for the best deals. The company recommends a stay at the Fairmont Mayakoba resort, and a tour to Chichen Itza's pyramids or a cool swim in the underground river at Xcaret Park.
The Mayan ruins at Tulum are right along the Riviera Maya's Caribbean coast.
Los Cabos. A destination familiar to many Californians, Los Cabos – at the tip of Baja California – includes the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo and is known for the natural rock formation just off the coast with a big arch in the middle. Expedia notes that Los Cabos has great weather (320 sunny days a year), as well as plenty of beaches, shopping and dining options. The company said airfare to Los Cabos is lowest in September. Expedia's accommodations pick is Welk resorts Sirena del Mar, and it suggests booking a glass-bottomed kayak excursion to the Arch, or a camel safari to the Baja's desert-like "outback."
Puerto Vallarta. Ever see the classic Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor 1964 film "Night of the Iguana?" It put the sleepy Pacific coastal town of Puerto Vallarta on the map, and it has since grown into one of Mexico's premier resort destinations. The old part of town features historical landmarks, and the newer parts have hotels and resorts aplenty for all budgets and tastes. Expedia says the modern Puerto Vallarta also boasts "a vibrant and exciting culinary scene." (It's a lot more than fish tacos!) PVR's west coast location has a very low risk of hurricanes and September is the month to go, with average fares at a low point. The company suggests booking a room at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa or the Almar Resort Luxury LGBT Beach Front Experience. For activities, favorites include a Los Veranos jungle canopy tour with zip-lining and a speedboat ride, or a guided city tour with lunch and tequila tasting.
Cozumel. Located just below Cancun off the Yucatan Peninsula coast, Cozumel is another classic resort town with beautiful beaches, modern hotels and a special attraction for divers: a number of sea caves and sinkholes to explore. Flying there in August is the least expensive time of year, say Expedia. It recommends a stay at The Westin Cozumel All Inclusive resort, and a visit to the Discover Mexico Park & Snorkeling Tour.
The Caribbean resort island of Cozumel is just south of Cancun.
Puerto Escondido. Hidden on Mexico's Pacific Coast, more than 100 miles southeast of Acapulco, Puerto Escondido is more affordable than many other resort destinations in the country and is renowned for the ocean waves that attract suffers from far and wide. "The city has fewer upscale hotels than other Mexican resort towns, focusing on more rustic and casual accommodations," Expedia notes. The average airline ticket prices in September drop to annual lows. Expedia suggests a stay at the Samora Luxury Resort or Vivo Resorts and recommends the popular Manialtepec Lagoon Boat Tour.
Troncones. Travelers who want to stay off the beaten track should consider the Pacific coastal town of Troncones, Expedia says, which is located between Manzanillo and Zihuatanejo. "The beach is uncrowded, and even in peak seasons is relatively uninhabited," the company said. "The beaches are popular with surfers, and hikers eager to explore sea caves in the area." A bonus for eco-tourists: The beach at Troncones is a nesting site for sea turtles. Unlike the other destinations, the best time for lower-cost flights to the area is in May, Expedia said. It suggests a stay at the Stunning Beachfront Luxury Villa on Troncones Beach or the Inn at Manzanillo Bay. For an activity, Expedia likes a ride to Las Gatas Beach, which is protected by a breakwater and offers coral reefs and schools of fish for surface divers and snorkelers.