Spectacular wildlife, stunning beach resorts, immersive cultural experiences and increased airlift make Mexico a hot prospect for 2020.

Whale of a time

An ethereal song floats up from the depths, as the boat dances on gentle waves rolling over a deep-blue sea in Mexico’s Bay of Banderas. While I’m not well-versed in whale, the haunting call is answered from somewhere within, as happy tears rise and run down my face.

Up to 60% of our bodies are water and some believe we evolved from the sea, so perhaps unconscious connection isn’t surprising after all.

The humpback whales migrate here each winter to mate, give birth and nurse their young in Riviera Nayarit’s warm, Pacific waters. My guide draws the hydrophone back onto the boat and we head to land, as the giants breach and fall around us and dolphins ride the bow.

Later, we drive on winding roads into the Sierra Madre Mountains and eat enchiladas in the colonial town of San Sebastián del Oeste, while real-life cowboys clip clop by on cobbled streets.

The evening sees us sipping margaritas on the sand at boho surf town, Sayulita, and dining in style at the not-so-hippy Iberostar Selection Playa Mita, which stands right on the shore of a beautiful bay.

Just one day a world away – a world of memories in a day.

Big player

Like Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, many of Mexico’s key tourist destinations offer a dazzling mix of diverse attractions and experiences with broad appeal.

“Mexico is a huge country and whether you ride the rails of El Chepe through Chihuahua’s Copper Canyon, trek to remote mountain villages in Oaxaca, join the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City, or take a dip in a cenote (underground cave) in Yucatán, there are plenty of holiday styles to suit every type of traveller,” says Rafe Stone, Product Manager for Mexico at Journey Latin America.

The oldest capital in the Americas, Mexico City frequently features on holiday destination hotlists, with ancient Aztec ruins like the Templo Mayor sitting alongside spectacular Spanish-era cathedrals, exciting museums and galleries to explore, and a vibrant gastronomical scene offering everything from sizzling street food to world-class restaurants like Mexican chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol.

The evocative Mayan temples of Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and Tulum, and the colonial charm of Mérida, draw culture lovers to the Yucatán Peninsula, while the offshore Mesoamerican reef is a paradise for divers, and families and honeymooners will enjoy the sandy beaches of Riviera Maya.

“Cancún and Riviera Maya have become a consolidated destination in the UK market because of their great connectivity via BA and TUI,” says Lupita Ayala, Regional Sales Manager for Europe at Velas Resorts, which has three properties in Mexico. “Meanwhile, Los Cabos is an up-and-coming destination due to its stunning coastline and good connectivity via AeroMexico and American Airlines, plus a new weekly TUI flight from Gatwick that launched in November.”

Oaxaca is also a rising star, with three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, vibrant cultural festivals, notable cuisine, a Mezcal discovery route and top-quality beaches at Huatulco and Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast.

“We’ve seen a real increase in bookings from customers wanting to travel extensively through Central America,” says Sam Dance, Sales Manager at Tucan Travel, which offers multi-country itineraries.

“Customers are booking Mexico, Belize and Guatemala and, if they have more time, travelling on to Costa Rica or Cuba.”

Selling solutions

A Luxury stay: “For the ultimate in luxury, I’d recommend booking a five-star, all-inclusive property such as The Grand at Moon Palace in Cancún,” suggests Heather Owen, Product Executive for The Americas and Caribbean at Travel 2. “With all guests’ food and drink catered for, there’s plenty of time to enjoy Mexico’s spectacular beaches, history and culture.”

A cultural escape: “Mexico is a fabulous cultural destination, rich with history, ruins, food, music and more,” says Amanda Dunning, Brand Manager for National Geographic Journeys. Jalisco is the birthplace of cultural treasures including tequila and mariachi, while Oaxaca hosts the La Guelaguetza festival in July, one of Latin America’s most important cultural celebrations.

A fitness or spa break: Mexico’s resorts offer some excellent spas and wellness programmes, and sporting holidays are popular too. “Up-skill retreats, where guests hone a current skill or learn a new one, are a growing trend in Mexico,” says Lupita Ayala at Velas Resorts.

A family holiday: “Riviera Maya is one of Latin America’s most popular beach destinations. For those in search of a quieter alternative, car-free Holbox island, a couple of hours from Cancún, offers pristine beaches and low-rise hotels – a great option for families,” suggests Journey Latin America’s Stone.

An active adventure: “Mexico caters for a huge variety of demographics, offering a wide range of exciting adventure activities,” says Heather Owen at Travel 2. From swimming with whale sharks in La Paz to snorkelling with turtles in the Caribbean; to speeding through the desert in Los Cabos to surfing on the Pacific coast, thrill seekers will never be bored in Mexico.”

What’s new?

Flight: Tui has added new flights to Los Cabos for winter 2020, making it easier for families to escape during the Christmas and February half-term school holidays.

Accommodation: A new Hard Rock Hotel has opened in Los Cabos, featuring a kids’ club and music lab.

Eco-hotel Awakenings will open in 2020 in San Manuel in the Yucatán Peninsula, offering wellness programmes that also support the local Mayan community.

Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort and Spa and TRS Coral Hotel in Costa Mujeres opened with a Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre and luxury spa in early 2019.

The 200-room Nobu Hotel Los Cabos has opened with a golf course and spa. AM Resorts will open Dreams Vista Cancun Resort and Spa and Now Natura Riviera Cancun at the start of 2020.

Four Seasons Tamarindo will open in Jalisco’s Costalegre in 2020 with 160 rooms.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Cabo San Lucas at Cabo Del Sol will open in 2022 with a private beach club, spa and mountain adventure park, La Montaña.

Located in the UNESCO World Heritage blue agave fields of Tequila in Jalisco, La Cofradía’s Matices Hotel de Barricas is opening 20 new accommodations set in giant tequila barrels.

Located in the UNESCO World Heritage blue agave fields of Tequila in Jalisco, La Cofradía’s Matices Hotel de Barricas is opening 20 new accommodations set in giant tequila barrels.

Tours and packages: Andante Travels is launching its Mexico – The Maya archaeological tour in 2020, exploring remote ruins and jungle sites by river and 4WD with archaeologist David Drew.

National Geographic Journeys and G Adventures have added a nine-day Cultural Wonders of Mexico tour to its portfolio, visiting Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca.

Where to book it

Journey Latin America has a 14-day Signature Mexico: Cultural Heartlands to Caribbean Coast tour includes stops at Mexico City, the Teotihuacan pyramids, the ancient city of Monte Albán, Oaxaca, the Mayan site of Palenque and the Yucatán Peninsula. Priced from £3,059pp B&B, it includes international flights, transfers, excursions and hotels.