Mexico in January: Your Local’s Guide

Mexico in January is a great time to travel to this beautiful Latin American country. This is the dry season and most days see sunny, clear blue skies and warm temperatures. 

Mexico in January Weather 

Mexico in January
Mexico in January

Most of us associate January with being a cold winter month. However, this is not true in most places south of the US border. 

As a matter of fact, January is one of the best times to visit Mexico. The temperatures are plenty hot enough to enjoy going to the beach, swimming, snorkeling, and visiting coastal towns. 

Still, they are not as overbearingly hot or humid as they get during the summer months. When looking for an idea of the average temperatures to expect, it is important to keep in mind that Mexico is a vast country. 

Mexico is the 13th largest country in the world. Different states and regions experience substantially different temperatures and conditions.

Mexico boasts over 9,000 kilometers of coastline and regions of arid deserts, tropical jungles, mangrove forests, and mountain peaks. In any given month, weather conditions from one part of Mexico to another differ wildly. 

Mexico in January Sunshine Hours 

Mexico in January
Mexico in January

You can expect an average of 11 hours of sunlight in Mexico in January. Sunrise tends to happen at around 7.15 am and sunset at around 6.20 pm. 

This is pretty good for a sightseeing schedule. Most Mayan ruins and historical sites in Mexico open their doors at 8 am and close at 5 pm. The last admission tends to be around 4 pm. 

Where to Travel in Mexico in January

Mexico in January
Mexico in January

Visiting Mexico in January is a good time to travel to pretty much any part of the country. A few suggestions on places to consider are detailed below. 

Cancun in January 

Cancun in January
Cancun in January

January is a perfect time to visit Cancun and the wider state of Quintana Roo. If you dream of relaxing on paradisiacal Caribbean beaches, you can use Cancun as a starting point.

From there, you can venture onwards to Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla Holbox, and Isla Mujeres. You can also consider heading southwards from Cancun to Tulum. Lake Bacalar and the quaint fishing village of Mahahual are not to be missed.

The average daily temperatures in Cancun in January are between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit, warming up towards the end of the month. The water is plenty warm enough to go swimming and enjoy water sports. 

The Yucatan in January 

Mexico in January
Mexico in January

January is a great time to embark on a Yucatan itinerary. The state capital of Merida has an international airport, however, only limited routes run here.

So, you may find that you need to fly into Cancun and then travel from Cancun to Merida. This journey is easy enough to make and is serviced by the convenient ADO bus that takes you from A to B in under 4 hours. 

Spend a couple of days exploring the gorgeous cultural capital of Merida. You can use it as a base to head out to Yucatan beaches, rural villages, pueblo magicos, and Mayan ruins.

Visiting Chichen Itza, one of the new seven wonders of the world, is not to be missed. You can stay overnight in nearby Valladolid in order to get there early enough to beat the crowds. 

Don’t overlook some of the lesser-known archaeological sites in this area. They may be less famous but they are just as interesting and worthy of your time.

You can take day trips from Merida out to Dzibilchaltun, Uxmal, and Mayapan. The Mexican Caribbean may get all of the attention, however, some of the coastlines and Yucatan beaches in this part of Mexico are beautiful too.

In particular, carve the time out of your itinerary to spend a few days in El Cuyo. This sleepy, idyllic fishing village is reminiscent of what Tulum may have been like 15-20 years ago before all the backpackers arrived.  

There is little here besides a small handful of boutique hotels and restaurants. The wifi and phone signal seldom work here and you will often find that you have the beach almost entirely to yourself. 

The sunrise and sunset here are breathtaking. El Cuyo is your chance to unwind and get away from it all. From here, you can continue onwards to the nature reserve at Rio Lagartos.

The Yucatan is one of the safest parts of Mexico. Its capital, Merida, is the safest city in the country.

Campeche in January

Edzna, Campeche
Edzna, Campeche

Campeche is one of the least visited parts of Mexico. This is a shame as the region is equal parts safe and enjoyable to explore.

It is also very easy to get from Merida to Campeche city and from Cancun to Campeche city. This makes Campeche a nice extension to a wider Mexico itinerary. 

The gorgeous port city is perched on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The pastel-colored old town is a UNESCO world heritage site with vibrant streets reminiscent of Cartagena, Colombia.

Admire the well-preserved baroque colonial architecture. Then, head up to the hilltop fortresses of San José and San Miguel to get a bird’s eye view of the city and check out the museums within. 

From Campeche, you can take a day trip out to the Mayan ruins of Edzna. The site, occupied as early as 700 BC, was one of the most important Mayan cities.

It was eventually abandoned in 1500 AD. Getting around Campeche state is much easier if you are willing to rent a car and drive in Mexico. Public transport options here are limited. 

Campeche state, the Yucatan, and Quintana Roo are all relatively close to each other and situated in the same part of Mexico. So, expect varying temperatures but similar weather conditions in these areas when visiting Mexico in January.

Mexico City in January 

Visiting Mexico in January
Visiting Mexico in January

There is arguably no such thing as a bad time to plan a Mexico City itinerary. January is as good a time as any.

Mexico City sits at a high altitude and has an elevation of 2,240 m. It is important to note that while winters here may be warmer than what you are used to at home, they are cooler than elsewhere in Mexico (e.g. the Yucatan, coastal Quintana Roo, and Oaxaca). 

You can expect average daytime temperatures of between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So, be sure to layer up and bring a jacket or a coat. 

If you want to embark on a cross-country Mexican adventure, this essentially means having to pack for two different seasons. You could easily spend as much as a week (or more) in Mexico City and feel as though you have barely scratched the surface.

Your first stop should be the Zocalo – Mexico city’s main square. This is where the original Aztec city, Tenochtitlan was once located, and at Temple Mayor, you can still see the remnants of this ancient civilization.

Here, you will also see the impressive structures of the Palacio Nacional (presidential palace), and the Metropolitan Cathedral. The Pyramids of Teotihuacán north of the city center are absolutely worth the effort to get to. 

The main path here is called ¨the avenue of the Dead¨. The Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) is the largest of the pyramids at a height of 213ft.

You can climb up to the top for unparalleled views over the ancient city that was once home to 100,000 people. One of the lesser-known facts about Mexico? These pyramids are the largest in the world and are even larger than the Pyramids of Giza!

Chiapas in January 

Visiting Mexico in January
Visiting Mexico in January

Chiapas is a worthy stopping point on any Mexico itinerary. The state remains somewhat off the beaten track and a visit here makes for a rewarding cultural experience. 

The most convenient place to fly into Chiapas is Tuxtla Gutierrez Airport (TGZ). You may have to transfer flights in Cancun or Mexico City, depending on where you are flying in from.

Start your trip with a scenic river cruise or rafting adventure along the Grijalva River towards Sumidero Canon. You will find mostly domestic tourists here. 

The canyon boasts spectacular waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and ancient caves, along with the possibility to spot the occasional river crocodile and other creatures that call this area their home. Along the way, you can stop at Chiapa de Corzo, a pueblo magico and the first city founded by the Spanish in the 16th century. 

The raison d’être for most people to visit Chiapas is to travel to San Cristobal de Las Casas. Take the time to enjoy the city at a relaxed pace and try to dedicate a couple of days to exploring it.

Most residents of the town are indigenous, giving San Cristobal a little more of a cultural flair than a lot of other travel destinations in the country. Take the free walking tour and then enjoy taking the time to get lost among the narrow cobbled streets.

Dozens of picturesque churches are scattered throughout San Cristobal. Look out for Templo Santo Domingo, a former convent that dates back to the 1700s and is unmissable with its pink facade.

Iglesia de Guadalupe and Iglesia de San Cristóbal are two charming hilltop churches. Take the hike up to them to be rewarded with incredible panoramas and photo opportunities over the town.

To go further off the beaten track in Chiapas, head to the indigenous villages of Zinacantan and Chamula.

Weather in Chiapas in January

The climate in Chiapas actually varies significantly from one part of the state to another. This is because some cities (like San Cristobal de las Casas) are located in mountainous regions, have higher altitudes, and get very cold during the winter months.

You absolutely need to layer up to venture here during the winter months. You can expect it to be so chilly by nightfall that you need a thick sweater or a coat and you can see your own breath! The same applies if you are hoping to visit coffee plantations to sample Mexican Chiapas coffee in the Sierra Madre mountains.

Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapa de Corzo, and the southern town of Comitan de Dominguez are all at lower altitudes and see significantly warmer dry temperatures. They are still cooler in January than during other parts of the year but they are warm at this time of year by most people’s standards. Expect temperatures between 77 and 87 degrees Fahrenheit in these areas in January.

Oaxaca in January

Oaxaca can be a safe place to travel to. It is a highlight of any trip to Mexico.

January is the coldest month of the year to visit Oaxaca. However, it is still warm enough to enjoy walking around and exploring Oaxaca city. 

It is even pleasant enough for hanging out by the sea if you decide to take a day trip down to Puerto Escondido.  At this time, you can expect temperatures of between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Oaxaca city is a foodie paradise and a major appeal of visiting here for a lot of people is the chance to experience the region’s unique gastronomy. One nice way to get your bearings is to start your trip with an Oaxaca food tour.

That way, you get to explore with a local, sample all of the region’s best delicacies, and find restaurants, taquerias, and street food stands that you may not have found otherwise. Take a stroll through the labyrinth-like network of stalls at Mercado de Abastos and sample whatever takes your fancy.

Memelitas, fried quesadillas, atole, barbacoa, tlayudas, tostadas, pulque, mezcal, nieves and regional sweets are among the foodie highlights here. People watch and enjoy the markets at Zócalo, the city’s main square. 

Oaxaca is famous for its mezcal – a liquor somewhat similar to tequila but made from agave. Doing a mezcal tasting is an absolute must while in town, even if you don’t consider yourself much of a drinker.

For the best experience, tour a selection of independent producers and mezcalerias. A lot of producers in Santiago de Matatlá will explain the process of making mezcal in-depth, and show you firsthand how the drink is made.

Puerto Vallarta in January

Visiting Puerto Vallarta in January

January is a good time to travel to Puerto Vallarta. The charming beach town is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country and it captures the hearts of even the most well-traveled adventurers.

In January, you can expect daily temperatures of between 77 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit in Puerto Vallarta. This is perfect for enjoying the beaches and islands nearby.

It is plenty hot enough to enjoy swimming and lazing on the sand, but not too hot that exploring or walking around outside for extended periods of time becomes unbearable like in Mexico in the summer months. The humidity is at a minimum at this time too and although Puerto Vallarta has a tropical climate, it is more of a dry heat in January.

Puerto Vallarta is home to several gorgeous beaches and coastlines. Yelapa is a tropical paradise that is accessible only by boat.

This beach sits within a small cove in a fishing village of the same name, backed by trees and greenery. The cerulean waters here are crystal-clear and perfect for swimming in, and the beach is made up of soft, powdery white sand that extends as far as the eye can see.

Las Gemelas is a nice remote beach that is just 20 minutes away from downtown Vallarta, while Los Muertos is one of the most popular in town. The latter is serviced and has all the amenities that you may need for a day at the beach. It is close to the Romantic Zone and some of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.

Since January is a popular time to visit Puerto Vallarta, you may want to consider basing yourself a little out of the city center to avoid crowds. Conchas Chinas is essentially the ¨Beverly Hills of Jalisco¨. It is one of the best places to stay in Puerto Vallarta.

If you would like to pair lounging on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta with a more cosmopolitan city break, you can fly or take the bus from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara.

Cabo San Lucas in January

Cabo San Lucas is a resort city on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. It is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country and arguably rivals Cancun or Tulum as being the favorite destination of most travelers that visit the country.

Cabo is characterized by its jaw-dropping natural scenery, its pristine beaches, and its overall luxury travel vibe. You will find some of the chicest and most sophisticated hotels, resorts, restaurants, and spas in Mexico here.

Countless A-list Hollywood celebrities choose to spend their vacations in Cabo and when you arrive, you see that it is not difficult to understand why. Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are the two cities that make up the ¨Los Cabos¨ area. Both are well worth visiting.

This is one of the best places to go whale-watching in Mexico in January. Every year between November and April, thousands of whales of different species (but mainly the grey humpback) migrate from the Arctic to mate and give birth in the warm waters of Baja California.

It is well worth booking a whale-watching tour. Because the whales are so abundant in this part of Mexico in January, you are almost guaranteed to see a few. You can also go snorkeling and take glass bottom boat tours around the area to better observe the sea life in the area if you are interested.

Sayulita in January

Sayulita is a picturesque coastal pueblo magico in the western Mexican state of Nayarit. Its proximity to Puerto Vallarta makes it convenient to create a travel itinerary that focuses on exploring both Jalisco state and Nayarit.

Sayulita is perhaps best known for being one of Mexico´s premier surf destinations. The wind conditions here are perfect for riding the waves and learning to surf.

Colorful Sayulita is somewhat reminiscent of a hippy commune. Many of the cafes, restaurants and boutiques here have a bohemian air about them that reflects the clientele they attract.

If you want to try your hand at surfing and you are a complete newbie, you can get surf lessons here for as little as $50-70. Meanwhile, surfboard rentals tend to cost around $20 a day.

Check out Patricia’s Surf School Sayulita Surf School and WildMex Surf and Adventure. It’s worth reading past reviews and obtaining a few quotes to find a surf teacher that you are comfortable with, especially if you have never surfed before! Besides the main Sayulita beach, San Pancho, North beach, La Lancha, and Playa Escondida are worth checking out.

Keep in mind that January in Mexico is the high season and this can make Sayulita very crowded, as it is already a popular destination for travelers and Digital Nomads. If you prefer things a little more peaceful, consider traveling in April or May.

Tulum in January

Visiting Tulum in January
Visiting Tulum in January

Tulum is a small coastal town in the state of Quintana Roo, approximately 2 hours south of Cancun. The town doesn’t currently have its own airport so you need to fly into Cancun International and then make the journey from Cancun to Tulum.

Tulum is a very safe travel destination. It is so popular that it is easy to meet other people traveling here, even if you are traveling solo.

10-15 years ago, Tulum was little more than a sleepy beach town. However, word has really gotten out about it in recent years and Tulum has quickly expanded into becoming one of the most popular destinations in the country. January is a particularly crowded month here.

In many ways, Tulum has been a victim of over-tourism, and the vibe here isn’t for everyone. Since Tulum is located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, the beaches here are stunning.

There are many fancy beach clubs here but there are also plenty of pretty public beaches that are completely free. Playa Paraiso, Playa Ruinas (right below the Tulum ruins), Las Palmas, and Sian Ka’an nature reserve beach should all be on your Tulum to-do list.

Due to over tourism, this is one of the most expensive places in the country. There are many eateries that focus on healthy/vegan living or sell international cuisine but expect to pay USA prices to eat there. It is very hard to find good quality, authentic Mexican food here as everything is catered to western tourists.

Mexico in January Packing List

January in Mexico

What you need to pack for Mexico in January will vary significantly depending on where you are traveling to. If you are only traveling to hot, tropical destinations like Cancun, popular places in the Yucatan, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, etc, you can get away with simply packing your summer travel wardrobe. Just maybe pack a light cardigan for the occasional freak chilly evening.

On the other hand, if you are traveling to Mexico City, San Cristobal, or other high-altitude destinations, you should pack Autumn clothes. If your Mexico trip encompasses several different parts of the country with different climates, you will need to pack for different seasons.

A good trick is to pack your suitcase compartments according to the different areas you will be traveling to. Compression bags and packing cubes are great investments for helping you both save space and better organize yourself.

For tropical and coastal Mexican travel destinations, pack clothing that is made from lightweight, breathable fabrics. For instance, cotton, linen, silk, and wool.

Wherever you travel, you will need comfortable walking shoes if you plan on doing a lot of exploring. Furthermore, a lot of roads and streets in Mexico are not well-paved.

If you are traveling to Mexico City in January, consider packing things like jeans or long, tailored pants. Women in Mexico City tend to dress quite modestly and conservatively but things like dresses or skirts with stockings and ankle boots are a good, stylish choice for female travelers.

Pack long sleeves and a couple of cardigans for both Mexico City and San Cristobal. It doesn’t hurt to pack a small, cheap rain mac, just in case there is a downpour while you are exploring somewhere and cannot take cover.

Mexico in January FAQs

January in Mexico

Does it rain in Mexico in January?

The rainy season in Mexico runs between the summer months of May and early October every year. Rain in January is virtually nonexistent in most parts of the country.

However, the occasional downpour can’t be completely ruled out (thanks, global warming!) when you are traveling somewhere tropical. So, it is worth packing an umbrella and/or a light rain mac just in case.

On average, Cabo San Lucas sees just 0.5 inches of rain in January. Meanwhile, Mexico City sees 0.4 inches and Tulum sees 2.5. San Cristobal sees just 0.1 inches of rain.

Is it hot in Mexico in January?

January is the dry season in Mexico and much of the country is hot during this time, with the exception of some cities and towns that sit at high altitudes. Because the country is so vast, it is important to check the specific temperatures in the specific area where you are traveling to.

Are there hurricanes in Mexico in January?

Hurricane season in Mexico runs from June to November. There are no hurricanes in January.

Is it busy in Mexico in January?

January is one of the busiest times to travel to Mexico. The peak season here runs between November and March/April and many people head to places like Cancun, Tulum, and Isla Mujeres in late December/January to avoid the cold weather in their countries and enjoy the holidays in sunnier climes.

As such, everywhere is both more crowded and expensive. Hotel, tour, car rental, and flight prices are at their highest of the year.

It is important to book your accommodation and excursions in advance to secure your place and find somewhere that you like as it is not unheard of for places to sell out. If you are trying to travel on a budget, you may want to consider postponing your trip for a month or two.

You will be surprised by how much prices differ between January and April. Try and book as far in advance as you can. Prices will often increase the closer you get to your departure date.

Is January a good time to travel to Mexico?

January can be a good time to travel to Mexico as long as you are aware of all of the pros and cons that come with traveling during the busy season. You will quickly note that most travelers tend to stick to the same places and so if you are willing to venture somewhat off the beaten path you can avoid the crowds and enjoy a lower-cost trip. (I.e. if you choose Campeche over Cancun).

Mexico is a very safe place for tourists for the most part. Although it does not have the best reputation globally, as a tourist, you are never going to accidentally wander somewhere that is dangerous. If you don’t go looking for trouble in Mexico, trouble won’t come looking for you.

As such, you can travel to lesser-known areas during your January trip. You don’t have to think that you need to confine yourself to your resort.

Festivities and Events in Mexico in January

January marks the start of the New Year and this is celebrated in Mexico just like in any other country. Huge parties take place in bars and clubs across the country for New Year’s Eve.

New Years Day 

New Year’s day in Mexico is known locally as Año Nuevo. It is a public holiday and most people have the day off from work or school.

Most Mexicans will spend the day with their families or nurse their hangovers at home with a michelada. There are a few Mexican traditions that people may participate in, especially if they are superstitious.

For instance, if you drag an empty suitcase around the block it is said that you will have the opportunity to travel in the near future. Throwing buckets of water out of the window is said to guarantee a clean slate and a fresh start. A lot of people go to the beaches on New Year’s Day so they may seem even more crowded than usual.

Three King´s Day

Christmas celebrations in Mexico differ from those in other parts of the world. Some Mexican children open their gifts on the 25th of December like children in most western countries. However, others open them on the 6th of January which is known as El Dia de Los Reyes or ¨Three King´s Day “.

The day is named in honor of the Three Kings that visited Jesus shortly after he was born in Bethlehem, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Mexicans spend this day with their families enjoying huge feasts, playing games, and having fun with their family members.

Most families will bake or purchase a traditional Kings Day cake known as a Rosca de Reyes. This delicious, circular donut-style cake is essentially a sweet bread and is decorated with candied fruit and icing sugar.

If you happen to be in Mexico over the festive period and you don’t have local friends to enjoy a Rosca de Reyes with, you can pick one up from a local bakery. There will be a small plastic figurine inside of the cake. Whoever finds it at a family gathering then has to cook for the entire family the next time they meet.

Dance of the Parachicos

Celebrations take place in Chiapa de Corzo in Mexico in January
Celebrations take place in Chiapa de Corzo in Mexico in January

There are several cultural festivals that take place in different parts of Mexico throughout the year. One of the most famous and elaborate is the Fiesta Grande de Chiapa de Corzo in the little pueblo magico of Chiapa de Corzo.

It runs between the 4th and the 23rd of January every year. Parachico dancers wear traditional clothing and painted wooden masks as they dance and follow a procession route throughout the town.

They pass and stop at several churches along the route and the entire celebration is hosted in honor of three Catholic Saints. Namely, Saint Anthony Abbot, Our Lord of Esquipulas, and Saint Sebastian. The festival was recognized by UNESCO in 2010 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Merida Fest

Merida Fest is a celebration that takes place every year in the Yucatan cultural capital of Merida. It celebrates the city’s history and heritage and 2023 will mark 481 years since Merida was founded.

Throughout the festival, hundreds of musical, theatrical, and dance performances are hosted in more than 30 venues across the city. Most are free to attend and as you meander around the old town, you will often pass makeshift stages filled with dancers or folk singers.

Parting Words

Do you have any additional concerns about traveling to Mexico in January? Have you traveled during the winter months previously?

You may also enjoy reading these Mexico travel tips. Have a wonderful time traveling here! Buen viaje! xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico. She has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.