Traveling to Mexico during shoulder season -- the periods between the high and low tourism seasons -- is an often-overlooked win for travelers. Hotel rates and flights tend to be lower than normal, there are fewer crowds, and everything is a little less hectic in general. As a rule of thumb, the high season for travel in Mexico tends to run from mid-December through mid-April -- from just before Christmas through Spring Break to around Semana Santa (the “Holy Week” surrounding the Easter holiday). Of course, there are peaks and valleys during this period for occasions like local festivals or big sporting events. Also, Mexico is large, and specific seasonal timings can vary by region thanks to differences in elevations and climates. This means it’s hard to pinpoint a single month or time period for shoulder season that covers the entire country. To help you figure out how you can benefit from a money-saving shoulder-season trip to Mexico, we broke it down by popular destination: Mexico City, Cozumel, Cancun, Veracruz, Puerto Vallarta, Oaxaca, and Cabos San Lucas. Read on to find out when shoulder season is for the Mexican destination you’re heading to -- and take advantage of major vacation savings.
Not sure where you want to visit? Check out our cheat sheet to Mexico's destinations.
Mexico City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, with tourists flying in from around the world for delicious food, beautiful architecture, and an intriguing cultural scene. But think twice between booking over holidays: Christmas and Easter are extremely popular times to visit, and given that it’s the capital city, hotel room prices really spike over these holiday periods. The rainy season from June through September in Mexico City puts a damper on the sun (and good weather) — though travelers on a budget can save some cash by visiting during this time.
November — per the general rule of thumb in Mexico — tends to be the best time to make a shoulder-season trip to the city. The rain has largely abated, and hotels aren’t nearly as full or expensive as they will be in the coming December weeks. Day of the Dead, at the beginning of November, can correlate with a short-term spike in hotel prices, but if you’re coming for a longer stay, it’s worth a small surge for a couple of nights to be able to take in this incredible cultural festival. At almost 7,400 feet above sea level, nights in Mexico City can be cool in November, so be sure to pack warmly.
The Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico is a historic property packed with Art Nouveau charm and character. The stunning Tiffany stained-glass lobby ceiling is a tourist attraction of its own. The 60 rooms are elegant and traditional but offer such modern amenities as 50-inch flat-screen TVs, minibars, and coffeemakers. The rooftop restaurant has impressive views of the square, and there’s another restaurant near the lobby, as well as a piano bar with live entertainment. The hotel is situated the zocolo, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and attractions. You can’t go wrong here.
Cozumel and Cancun
One of the most popular areas for tourism in Mexico, particularly with Americans, is the Yucatán Peninsula’s destination of Cancun. It’s a hot and humid region for most of the year, but that doesn’t keep the crowds away. In fact, that’s why they’re here. December and January attract those wanting a bit of winter sun (and who want to make the most out of holiday vacation days). Mid-February through April is Spring Break for U.S. college students, who flock to the resorts for a week of partying. If you want to go to Cancun or the nearby island of Cozumel during this time, you’re going to have to plan way ahead to make sure you get the hotel and flights you want. The other high season in this area tends to be July and August when both domestic and international tourists tend to go on vacation, though it can be rainy. In that vein, keep an eye out for hurricanes during the summer. The worst weather tends to hit the area between July and October — and while the prices bottom out during these months, it may or may not be worth the weather risk.
The shoulder seasons tend to be November (primarily), as well as April and May. Going to Cancun and Cozumel during these months means you avoid the Christmas, Spring Break, and winter-sun crowds, while still getting great weather, sunny days, comparatively low humidity — and lower rates on hotel rooms. It’s a particularly ideal time if you’re considering a destination wedding or honeymoon, with rates at popular resorts and luxury hotels much lower than they typically are during high season. Just keep an eye out for Thanksgiving, a popular time for Americans to head south of the border to give thanks.
Want to go the all-inclusive route in Cancun? Here are the 15 best all-inclusive resorts in Cancun.
This stunning, all-suite luxury property has 103 incredibly spacious rooms with huge outdoor spaces. Though many units have full kitchens, there’s only one restaurant, El Faro, which serves international and Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — but the menu can get repetitive, especially for those on the all-inclusive plan. Still, the food is delicious. There are three beautiful pools, including one for children and one for adults that has a swim-up bar. The beach is superior to many in the area, with soft white sand, calm waters, and a lack of seaweed. Did we mention the welcome bottle of tequila?
Known for its gastronomy, culture, art, and mezcal, Oaxaca hits its high-season stride between June and August and then mid-December and early January, with tons of local festivals and Christmas all providing excellent reasons to pay this city (and eponymous surrounding state) a visit. The summer high season, which includes the area’s celebrated folk dance festival in July, tends to have a bit higher chance for rain. And Oaxaca is particularly popular with American tourists over Christmas, when many seek to make the most out of limited vacation days by visiting when offices are closed down for the holidays.
That being said, the fact that the area is fairly temperate all year means that there’s less of a difference between tourism seasons here. Late September and October make for great shoulder-season months to visit if you want to experience the culture and food scene without the heat. Temperatures tend to extend from the high 50s to high 70s, making it an ideal time to explore Oaxaca city’s colorful streets without breaking a sweat or needing an escape from the sun. Hotel rates also tend to be a little lower, at least until the days surrounding Día de Los Muertos.
After the Christmas rush, late January and February make for excellent, shoulder-season-like times to visit — even though they’re technically considered low season. The weather tends to be in the 80s, with lots of sun, little rain, and cool nights that feel wonderful after the hot days (you’ll likely want a jacket). Tourism in Oaxaca tends to taper off during these months before picking back up for Easter, and this mini-shoulder season makes the perfect shoulder season time to soak up all the sun you’d like, with fewer crowds and more options for hotels and holiday apartments. The beach areas just over the mountains surrounding Oaxaca City — Mazunte, Zipolite, and Puerto Escondido — are a little more low-key than the major resort areas. The weather tends to be hot during this time (low 90s are usual), but a dip in the waves makes for a great way to cool back down. Plus, Carnival takes place at the end of February. While rooms over this celebratory weekend do get booked up quickly, there are still hotels to be had — and it’s the perfect time to take in the spirited music and vibrant costumes of Oaxaca’s indigenous cultures.
April and May also make for a good shoulder-season time to visit: The temperatures are climbing again, and while hotel rates aren’t as low as they might be in the months prior, they’re still not at their high-season peaks.
Located in the historic city center, a two-minute walk from the Zocalo — the mid-range Hotel Boutique de la Parra has 13 colonial-inspired rooms set within a hacienda-style, formerly private residence. The intimate, open-air restaurant serves authentic Oaxacan flavors (you gotta try the grasshoppers), and the lovely courtyard pool, gardens, and alfresco bar are a wonderful surprise. The property’s boutique size, private internal courtyards, and solid brick construction, maintain a fortified sense of calm. Spacious rooms are elegantly decorated — with lightly stocked mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and coffee- and tea-making facilities.
July and August are traditionally popular times for both Mexicans and international tourists to go on vacation in Veracruz, so prices can jump there during those months — despite the rain that tends to fall in this humid area. December and April are also prime months for tourism, thanks to extra vacation days over Christmas and Spring Break. While you might want to avoid the crowds, a low season trip is best avoided here: Although the prices can drop dramatically, hurricane season in Veracruz runs from June to October (though keep an eye out for late storms).
November makes for an ideal time to visit Veracruz. Hurricane season has blown through, and the prices remain low. Plus, the weather gets particularly good toward the end of the month, with temperatures staying mostly in the 80s. The crowds are still thin, too, so you’ll have more options for hotels, tours, and other bookings — just get ready for prices to start creeping back up if your trip crosses quite far into December.
One of the most modern hotels in Veracruz, the Hilton Garden Inn has everything from an ocean-facing pool to a tasty restaurant. The rooms are updated and comfortable, they come with Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and some have full sitting areas and kitchenettes. Note that you can see the ocean, but there’s no proper beach.
A popular destination for many tourists to Mexico — especially LGBTQ+ travelers — Puerto Vallarta is an ideal spot in Mexico to travel to if you want to escape to a resort or just hit the beach. Its high season kicks off in November, earlier than elsewhere in Mexico thanks to U.S. tourists taking advantage of a Thanksgiving week off, and it goes just as long. While Cancun might be more known for spring breaker crowds, Puerto Vallarta has its fair share of those coming to cut loose during a mid-semester respite. July and August are popular months for those who need to stick to school calendars for vacations, though rain is common during this time.
If you want great weather without the crowds, head to Puerto Vallarta during October. The rain has mostly passed, but the November tourist swarms haven’t yet descended. As expected, you can get deals on flights and hotels.
Leave the kids at home. Secrets Vallarta Bay is a luxe, adult-only, all-inclusive resort right on the beach in tourist-friendly Puerto Vallarta. With 271 suites, it’s not the biggest resort in town, and the smaller size means shorter lines and faster service. This property does a lot of things right: lovely rooms with butler service, unlimited premium alcohol, and gorgeous pools. The atmosphere can get rowdy, but it’s pretty tame overall. If you’re in Mexico to have a good time, this is your spot.
Cabos San Lucas
Another popular resort town for vacationers heading to Mexico, Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of Baja California, is known for beautiful beaches, stunning resorts, and a fun nightlife scene. Low season brings low rates during August and September, along with rain; high season mirrors that of other destinations in Mexico with most crowds flocking to the beaches between mid-December and Easter.
Luckily, beyond those summer storms, the weather in Cabo is generally hot and dry. Shoulder season brings excellent weather and fewer crowds, meaning you can find a spot on the beach that’s all yours without being elbow to elbow with your neighbor. This period in Cabo San Lucas runs from May through June — before the rains starts — and then after the stormy summer, from October to November. The summer shoulder season is particularly good for finding great hotel rooms for much less than they’d normally be. If you’re splashing out on a vacation (or a room upgrade), this is the time to do it. Besides, the weather’s excellent: May is the area’s driest month (April doesn’t see a lot of rain either), and you can expect sunny weather and temperatures in the mid-80s. If you’re traveling with your family, the April to May period is also ideal. Fewer crowds on the street make navigating with a toddler a bit less hectic, and more rooms available mean you can more easily get a configuration that suits your needs (versus fighting for family rooms booked by students splitting with friends). Another bonus? Some of the best rates you’ll find all year are available during May. With all that in mind, it’s a pretty ideal time to get a great deal on your shoulder season vacation to Cabo.
During the late autumn shoulder season, the area is starting to rev up for its high season. Hotel rooms get pricier the further into winter you wait, but if you’re into fishing, it’s a fine time to go and still get a great deal on a room rate as plenty of tournaments are held. It’s also a wonderful time to spot some whales, which cruise Cabos this time of year. Just book early — the longer you wait, the pricier the room.
Can’t decide if Cabos is your kind of town? Check out, Cabo vs. Cancun: which Mexican vacation is right for you?
The Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos is an upscale all-inclusive resort situated along a pretty beach (you can’t swim here, which is common in the area) near San Jose del Cabo. This family-friendly property has a fresh and modern style plus a luxury-hotel-worthy spa and tons of dining and entertainment options, including a theater with nightly entertainment. Pools form the heart of the resort, and there are pool options for families, kids, and adults, plus a lovely pond dotted with fire pits for late-night romance. Rooms are attractive and feature whirlpool tubs, rainfall showers, and furnished balconies. For Los Cabos all-inclusive resorts, the Hyatt’s a rare find.
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