Mexico in December: Your 2023 Insider’s Guide

Mexico in December is generally a great time to travel. At this time, weather conditions across the country are pleasant without being too hot.

This is also the high season for Mexican tourism, which tends to run between November and March every year. That being said, you will quickly note that most people that travel to Mexico tend to stick to the same few tourist destinations.

It is very easy to escape the crowds and venture off the beaten path, even during the high season, if you prefer a less chaotic and crowded travel experience. Alternatively, if you want to visit popular destinations like Tulum, Cancun, and the Riviera Maya but you are not thrilled about dealing with crowds, you may prefer to travel later in the year. This article will help you determine whether visiting Mexico in December is the right choice for you.

Mexico in December Weather

Mexico in December

The weather in Mexico in December is generally dry and warm across the country. Conditions are somewhat cooler than in November and the rainy season has finally subsided.

However, it is very important to note that Mexico is vast. This is the 13th largest country in the world after all!

Exact temperatures and climate conditions vary drastically from one part of the country to another. The coastal destinations and most of Southern Mexico see very hot, balmy conditions.

Conversely, places like San Cristobal in Chiapas, San Miguel de Allende, and Mexico City are all set at higher altitudes and thus see cooler temperatures. It is important to check the specific temperatures for the part of Mexico that you are traveling to in advance of your trip so that you can pack accordingly.

Best Places to Visit in Mexico in December

Mexico in December
Mexico in December

In all honesty, the vast majority of travel destinations in Mexico are enjoyable all year round. However, assuming that you are traveling to Mexico in December in search of some summer sun, certain destinations may be preferable to others.

Merida, Mexico in December

The colorful colonial city of Merida is the cultural capital of the Yucatan state. Merida is the safest city in Mexico and it makes a nice introduction to the country if you are apprehensive about visiting Mexico for the first time.

Nestled in the heart of the Yucatan, encompassed by jungle and ancient Mayan ruins, Merida is also one of the hottest places in the country. The heat and humidity can be almost overbearing here during the summer months but in December, the daily temperature tends to bounce around 82°F to 85°F.

It is hot enough to give you your dose of summer sun and help you escape the winter blues you are feeling in your own country, but it is not too hot that spending long periods outdoors feels unbearable. Many incredible Mayan ruins can be visited on day trips from Merida – including the underrated city of Mayapan, Uxmal, Xcambo, and of course, Chichen Itza.

The city center itself is a photographer’s dream. Once upon a time, during the henequen boom, Merida was one of the richest cities in the world.

This is evidenced in its grand, colonial mansions that still line the cobbled streets and promenades. Calle 59 and the Avenida Del Deportista are particularly scenic. Many of these old buildings have been converted into eclectic coffee shops, sophisticated Merida restaurants, and guesthouses.

Merida is located inland, not on the coast. However, a short 20-minute journey by bus or car takes you to the little beach town of Progreso.

3-4 days is a perfect amount of time for an initial Merida itinerary. You can also visit the city as part of a wider Yucatan road trip. Just like Merida, the Yucatan state is also very safe.

Campeche in December

Visiting Mexico in December
Visiting Mexico in December

The state of Campeche is the least-visited state in the Yucatan tri-state area. In some ways, this is a shame as the state is bursting at the seams with cultural and historical sites and attractions.

Coastal Campeche city is the state capital and it’s a beautiful one at that. Despite the fact that few people have heard of Campeche internationally, its colonial old town is a UNESCO-protected heritage site.

Its narrow streets, piazzas, and passageways have been so well preserved that venturing here feels like traveling back in time. The city thrived during the 17th century, at which point its strategic location right on the Gulf of Mexico made it an important trading port.

Campeche mostly dealt with the trade of dyewood and salt. However, with great economic success came the threat of pirates and attacks.

Several fortresses, fortifications, and bastions still exist in Campeche today. The two defensive fortresses have been converted into museums containing interesting exhibits and boasting incredible panoramas over the Southern Mexican state.

Some of the least visited Mayan ruins can be found in Campeche, including the city of Edzna, remote Calakmul, and Balamkúl. If you like Mexican gastronomy and Yucatecan cuisine, you can also stop by the town of Hecelchakán which is where the beloved dish ¨ cochinita pibil ¨ originates from. (There are also many excellent restaurants in Campeche city).

You can expect daily averages of around 83°F if you head to Campeche in December. While it doesn’t frequently rain, it can be cloudy or overcast around 30% of the time.

Mexico City in December

Mexico City in December

Considering heading to Mexico City in December? While it may seem obvious that Mexico City doesn’t offer the same kind of tropical winter heat as say, Cancun or Tulum, it may come as a surprise to hear that the Mexican capital actually gets quite chilly during the winter months.

If you are planning a 3-4 day Mexico City itinerary during this time, it is good to know that the daily temperatures tend to be between 65°F and 71°F. While this may be warmer than what you are used to in December, it definitely isn’t shorts and t-shirt weather.

If you are planning to visit Mexico City in December as well as coastal areas in the Riviera Maya, Baja California, etc, you will need to pack for different seasons. It does get very chilly in Mexico City in the mornings and evenings. This may be the dry season but it always pays to pack an umbrella just in case.

Regardless, this fabulous cosmopolitan city (the largest in North America) can be enjoyed any time of year. Dedicate plenty of time to exploring Mexico City’s different neighborhoods, each of which is like a little town in itself.

Dine at world-class restaurants in upscale Polanco, visit Frida Kahlo’s house in leafy Coyoacan, and fall in love with the artistic vibes of Roma Norte. Chapultapec Park is a must-visit and it’s a place where you could easily spend an entire day.

At the very least, don’t miss The National Museum of Anthropology set in the center of the park. The museum contains a wide selection of artifacts sourced across the country and it is both the largest and most-visited museum in Mexico.

When choosing where to stay in Mexico City, opt for a relatively central location where you will have everything you need on your doorstep. Polanco, Roma, Anzures, and the historic center are good choices.

Cancun in December

If you are planning on visiting Cancun in December, it is absolutely imperative that you book everything as far in advance as possible. This is one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico, whatever the season.

In December, many hotels and hostels are at maximum occupancy as many American tourists venture here for the holiday season. December marks the beginning of the dry season in Cancun.

The rain and the humidity of the summer season have subsided, the days are hot and sunny and the nights are warm and pleasant. Daily temperatures range between 82°F and 85°F. The water visibility at Cancun’s gorgeous beaches is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

To escape some of the crowds, you can consider using Cancun as a base and then taking day trips out to calmer, lesser-known destinations. For instance, Mahahual, Bacalar and El Cuyo.

Chiapas in December

December is a great time to visit the Southern Mexican state of Chiapas. There are plenty of things to do in Chiapas to keep you entertained and occupied.

This part of the country is massively underrated and overlooked. Yet, it is one of the best places to travel to if you enjoy hiking and culture.

This is one of the greenest and most naturally beautiful states and the geography here is markedly different from Quintana Roo and the Yucatan. The gorgeous mountain city of San Cristobal de las Casas is the raison d´etre for most people’s visit to Chiapas.

However, since it is located in the mountains at a high altitude, December daytime temperatures here are usually only around 55°F – 65°F. Be sure to layer up accordingly!

In the early mornings and at night, the temperatures drop even more. You might find that your hotel has thick blankets and a heater and that you fall asleep watching your own breath!

By contrast, the capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez, along with the Pueblos Magicos of Chiapa de Corzo and Comitan de Dominguez, is located at ground level. They see average daily temperatures between 74°F and 82°F in December.

San Cristobal makes a good base for a large portion of your Chiapas trip. From here, you can take day trips out to coffee plantations or to local indigenous villages such as Zinacantan or Chamula.

Tulum in December

Tulum in December

Weather-wise, December is one of the best times to visit Tulum. Days are hot, clear, and sunny with temperatures ranging between 83°F and 88°F.

Rainfall is at a minimum at this time of year, with an average of just 28mm across the month. This is the start of the dry season and, as with the likes of Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and other locations across the Riviera Maya, it is also one of the most popular times to travel.

If you are traveling alone and want to meet other travelers, or you want to enjoy wild parties on the beach for New Year´s Eve, this may be a perfect time for you to travel. On the other hand, if you are looking for a calmer, more peaceful ambiance, you may prefer to travel later in the season.

For instance, late March, April, and early May see similar weather conditions (albeit it is slightly hotter). However, accommodation, tour, and flight prices drop significantly after January and the crowds disperse.

Cabo San Lucas in December

Cabo San Lucas in December is a great time to travel. This is the start of the whale-watching season in this part of Mexico.

Every year between December and April, thousands of whales (mostly humpbacks and grey whales) flock to the warm waters of Baja California to mate. Countless tour companies throughout Los Cabos offer whale-watching tours and most of the time, you are guaranteed to see at least a couple of whales swimming alongside your boat.

Dolphin sightings are also very common and add to the experience. Although the likelihood of seeing whales is likely slightly greater in January and February, many tour companies offer refunds (or a repeat trip, as you prefer) if you are not fortunate enough to see whales on one particular boat ride.

Los Cabos in December sees mild temperatures. They are not too warm and not too cold.

Expect daily temperatures of around 68°F. Water temperatures tend to be around 72°F-75°F so conditions are warm enough for swimming, even if this is not the hottest part of Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta in December

Mexico in December

Puerto Vallarta in December is the start of the high season for tourism in this part of Mexico. Daily temperatures range between 77°F and 85°F, offering the perfect conditions for enjoying the beaches and exploring the islands off Mexico’s west coast.

Like many other parts of the country, Puerto Vallarta is at its most crowded during this time. To escape the crowds and experience the very best of Jalisco state, you may want to consider dividing your time between the beaches of Puerto Vallarta and other charming towns and villages in this region.

San Sebastian del Oeste is a beautiful Pueblo Magico in the western part of Jalisco state, located around an hour away from Puerto Vallarta. The town residents mostly work in the mining train and the houses and buildings in this little settlement have a distinct architecture.

The cobbled streets are filled with white houses with red tiled gable roofs and terracotta fixtures. Nearby, you can also enjoy adrenaline-boosting ATV rides and incredible panoramas from the mountain of ¨La Bufa¨.

The beaches of Puerto Vallarta are stunning and if you are renting a car and driving in Mexico, it is easy to venture out to more secluded coastlines and coves. The journey to the Marietta islands is particularly worthwhile.

The islands can be reached via a 45-minute boat ride from the mainland. If you want to choose a place to stay in Puerto Vallarta that is away from the majority of the tourist hordes, you can opt to stay in the more peaceful Conchas Chinas district.

Guadalajara in December

The Jalisco capital of Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city, and arguably one of the most underrated destinations in the country. It is a culturally rich city that is recognized as being the birthplace of some of Mexico’s most important traditions.

Notably, tequila, mariachi, and the charreria. Guadalajara sees mild temperatures in December.

It is a little cooler here than in coastal, tropical destinations such as the Yucatan, Baja California, southern Jalisco, and Quintana Roo. However, it is by no means wintry and icy cold.

At this time of year, you can expect average temperatures of 61℉, highs of 75℉, and lows of 50℉. You can pack your typical autumn wardrobe, and carry a coat, a couple of jackets, and an umbrella, just in case.

There are plenty of things to do in Guadalajara to warrant spending 4-5 days here. Guadalajara is safe, provided that you take the same common sense precautions that you would elsewhere.

Be sure to indulge in beloved Jaliscan delicacies such as birria and torta ahogadas at local Guadalajara restaurants. Stop by the Corona and San Juan de Dios markets – the latter o which is the largest covered market in Latin America.

From Guadalajara, you can take a day trip to Tequila – a charming town that is the birthplace of its namesake beverage. You should also dedicate a day to exploring Tlaquepaque – a small city 10km south of Guadalajara where you can see live mariachi performances and shop for artisanal products and souvenirs.

Oaxaca in December

Oaxaca has become an increasingly popular Mexico travel destination in recent years and in 2022, Travel and Leisure magazine recognized Oaxaca City as being the best city in the world. That is quite an achievement!

In December, the days are warm, sunny, and dry. Expect average daily temperatures of between 78°F and 82°F. It is warm enough to enjoy the beaches of Puerto Escondido and coastal Oaxaca, but not so overbearingly hot that walking around the city is by any means unpleasant.

This is a particularly wonderful time to travel to Oaxaca because of all of the Mexican Christmas festivities that are taking place at this time. On December 23rd, be sure to see the carved radish competition at the Plaza de la Constitución for the Noche de Rábanos (night of the radishes).

Several nativity processions known as calendas take place on Christmas Eve. Floats filled with people dressed as angels or various figures from the bible ride through Oaxaca City and head to the churches.

Of course, there are many Oaxaca attractions that are wonderful to enjoy all year round. Be sure to organize a tour of one of the mezcal plantations in the region and to sample all of the gastronomical delights and street-food eats that help make Oaxaca one of Mexico’s best foodie cities.

Festivals and Events in Mexico in December 

Across the world, December marks the start of the festive Christmas period and Mexico is no different. From the beginning of the month, you will start to see many towns, cities, and Pueblo Magicos decorate their zocalos (central squares) with Christmas lights and decorations. 

Huge nativity scenes are set up everywhere from Cancun to Monterrey, and local stores and restaurants start decorating their interiors with garlands and bold signs that read ¨Feliz Navidad!” It can feel quite bizarre experiencing Christmas traditions in the tropical parts of Mexico if you are from a cold country, but it aids in getting you in the festive mood nonetheless! 

The actual dates when Christmas celebrations take place in Mexico may differ from what you are used to. But visiting Mexico in December allows you to get a better glimpse into Mexican traditions and culture than you would have when traveling at other points of the year. 

Guadalupe Reyes holiday season

While Christmas decorations may start creeping up earlier, the festive season in Mexico officially starts on the 12th of December. This is the Día de Guadalupe, one of Mexico’s most important religious holidays. 

On this day, many devout Catholics from across the country embark on a pilgrimage to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City. In the days that follow, more and more decorations pop up around towns and cities, and colorful, sparkling piñatas are hung from store fronts and doorways.

Many processions are held throughout the town including Posadas Navideñas – processions that reenact Mary and Josephs’s search for an inn. There is also the more commercialized desfile Coca-Cola.

An interesting fact about Mexico is that the country is the second-largest consumer of Coca-Cola in the world. In fact, more Coca-Cola is consumed in Chiapas than in entire countries and people drink more Coca-Cola than water!

So, it may make sense that the beverage giant has a keen interest in continuing marketing efforts here. Many countries have an illuminated Coca-Cola truck that tours the country during the festive season.

However, in Mexico in December, there are entire Coca-Cola parades, complete with lots of red, branded, illuminated floats and people dressed like bottles. These parades are held on different dates all over the country – from Tijuana to Sinaloa.

Noche de Rábanos

If you happen to find yourself in Oaxaca in December, you may be lucky enough to catch the Noche de Rábanos (night of the radishes). This weird and wonderful festival is hosted on the 23rd of December every year and dates back to 1897.

People carve nativity scenes, and traditional depictions of Oaxacan life into large radishes. They then enter them into a contest to be judged.

Christmas Eve in Mexico

December in Mexico

In Mexico, Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) is arguably more important than Christmas Day. People usually finish work early to go home and be with their loved ones and many shops pull down their shutters for the festive season.

Most Mexicans attend church masses (Misa de Gallo), before indulging in a feast with their extended family. American and Western influences have led more and more Mexican families to start eating turkey dinners with all the trimmings on Christmas Eve.

However, this is far from the most traditional and typical dish. It is customary to dig into a Christmas Eve salad (Ensalada de Noche Buena) which is a sweet, unique, fruity salad that is prepared with beetroots, hibiscus flowers, guavas, apples, oranges, limes, and other fruits and flavorings.

Every Mexican family likely has a different Ensalada de Noche Buena recipe that has been passed down through the generations. Bacalao (salted codfish) and wrapped cornmeal dumplings (tamales) are also popular things to eat.

If you are traveling to Mexico in December and staying in self-catered accommodation, you may want to consider finding these traditional recipes on Latin food blogs and attempting to cook them yourself. Bunuelos (fried pastries sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon) are popular desserts.

There are also several Mexican drinks that are popular throughout the festive season. For instance, rompope, is an egg-nog-like drink that has rum added to it.

Christmas Day in Mexico

Christmas Day in Mexico is a national public holiday. People spend the day with their families eating good traditional foods, exchanging gifts, and playing games.

The majority of families exchange Christmas gifts on this day, and fathers will present gifts to their children and say that Santa Claus sent them. However, some people in the southern parts of Mexico do not exchange gifts on Christmas Day instead, they exchange them in January for El Dia de Los Reyes on the 5th of January. Meanwhile, other kids are fortunate enough to receive gifts on both days!

Pozole (pork and hominy stew) is a popular Christmas day dish. People often set off fireworks during family celebrations on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

New Year’s Eve in Mexico

New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja or Año Nuevo) is a big celebration in Mexico. Many celebrations, processions, traditional markets, and fireworks displays are hosted in central squares (zocalos) across the country.

A large portion of the evening is often spent having dinner with family. There are also many parties hosted at bars and clubs across the country where people head to see in the New Year.

People are usually drinking and sipping champagne as the clock strikes twelve, after which they greet each other with a ¨Feliz Año Nuevo!¨ There is also a whole range of Mexican superstitions that revolve around the holiday too.

For instance, it is supposed to be good luck to eat twelve grapes as the clock strikes twelve. Similarly, if you run through your neighborhood with an empty suitcase on New Year’s Day, it is said to mean that you will enjoy many travels in the near future.

Mexico in December FAQs

Mexico in December
Mexico in December

Do you have any more burning questions about traveling to Mexico in December? Some FAQs are answered here.

Is December a good time to go to Mexico?

December is a very good time to visit Mexico, particularly if you are planning to visit coastal destinations such as Cancun, Tulum, Yucatan beaches, and Puerto Vallarta. The weather is hot and sunny, but not overbearingly so.

This is the dry season and there is virtually no rain. However, since this is the high season, crowds and costs are at their highest. If you prefer to visit Mexico at a more peaceful time, you may prefer to travel in March or April.

Are there any cons to spending December in Mexico?

Remember that the high season in any country usually means more crowds and higher prices. In Mexico in December, prices for flights, car rentals, excursions, airport transfers, and hotels are at their highest.

If you are on a budget and/or you can be flexible with your vacation time, you may prefer traveling later in the season. By traveling in the shoulder season or out of season, you will be able to save as much as 50% of your trip costs.

May to November is the rainy season in much of Southern Mexico. However, don’t let that deter you.

Showers are usually brief and then the skies quickly clear up. Mexico isn’t London! Choosing to travel during these months may be more enjoyable for you than in December.

Which part of Mexico is best in December?

December is a great time to visit many parts of Mexico. In the popular state of Quintana Roo, you can enjoy visiting Cancun, Tulum, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Isla Holbox, and the lesser-known Mahahual and Bacalar.

If you prefer to immerse yourself in local culture and learn more about Mexican indigenous groups, head to Oaxaca. You can enjoy Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido, and Hierve el Agua (“the water boils”), natural mineral springs.

Ensenada in Baja California Norte is another good choice. So too are Los Cabos, the Yucatan cultural city of Merida, and Puerto Vallarta.

Can you swim in Mexico in December?

Yes. It is very pleasant to swim in Mexico in December.

Keep in mind that the country is very vast and that the exact sea and air temperatures vary from one part of the country to another. However, around Quintana Roo and various places to visit in the Yucatan, you can expect water temperatures of around 80°F to 82°F on average.

How hot is Cancun in December?

Daily temperatures in Cancun in December tend to range between 76°F and 86°F. On average, you can expect it to be around 82°F during the day.

Is Mexico still hot in December?

Yes. Many parts of Mexico are still hot in December.

Keep in mind that although this is technically winter, winter is a very different kettle of fish in the tropics compared to many other countries around the world. Most coastal parts of the country see daytime temperatures between 82°F and 89°F during his time.

Are there mosquitoes in Mexico in December?

Mosquitoes are an unfortunate reality of traveling to Mexico all year round. While everywhere is generally less humid and balmy during the winter months and you are likely to encounter fewer insects, you are never free from the risk of mosquito bites.

Always wear insect repellent, especially at night. Mosquitoes love to hang out near bodies of water such as lakes, pools, and beaches.

Carry some insect-relief cream with you, just in case too, and some anti-histamines if you often have bad reactions to bites. Some mosquitoes in Mexico do carry dengue fever or the zika virus so it is important to be aware.

Parting Words 

Mexico in December
Mexico in December

Have you traveled to Mexico in December? What did you think? What would your recommendations be for other people traveling to Mexico during this time? 

If you are traveling to Mexico for the first time, you might also enjoy reading these Mexico travel tips or this post on safety in Mexico. Have a wonderful trip!

Buen Viaje! xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.