Winter in Mexico: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Mexico City Skating Rink
Skating Rink in Mexico City. Sean Caffrey / Getty Images

Winter is the most popular season to visit Mexico as many travelers come to escape the colder weather that prevails farther north. Besides being the perfect time to seek out south of the border sunshine and warmth, during the winter months you can witness unique holiday celebrations and see some natural phenomena that you might miss other times of the year, such as migrating whales, birds and Monarch butterflies. 

You may find better deals and fewer crowds if you choose to travel in the spring, summer or fall, but there are some very good reasons why winter is generally the busiest time of year. If you’ll be visiting Mexico in the wintertime, read on to learn more about the weather, what to pack, and some special events you may see. 

Winter Weather

Folks from northern climes often like to flee the frosty weather and seek out the sun and warmer climate Mexico has to offer during the winter months. Mexico's winter weather is not uniformly hot, however. Mexico's weather varies a lot from region to region, and especially according to elevation. Wintertime can see chilly temperatures in some areas - so do your research! In general, temperatures dip lower down during the winter months, although you’ll still be able to enjoy long days, as unlike more northern locations, most of Mexico enjoys around 10 hours of daylight during the wintertime. Beach destinations will generally be warm unless you catch the occasional cold front. Destinations at higher altitudes such as Mexico City and San Cristobal de las Casas can get quite cold in winter, especially at night and in the mornings, while afternoons are still generally sunny and warm. Check our Mexico weather guide and forecasts before your departure. 

What to Pack

Since there can be a big difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures during the winter months, it’s best to dress in layers. That being the case, be sure to put some lightweight pants and t-shirts in your suitcase along with your bathing suit, as well as a long sleeve shirt, and a sweater and a light fleece or jacket, so you can adjust as the day goes on.

Winter Events in Mexico

This is a great time of year to visit Mexico if you would like to experience some traditional Mexican festivals. The holiday season kicks off with the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 and it may seem like there are non-stop fiestas from then until el dia de Reyes on January 6. If you visit during this time, you can experience some of Mexico's varied Christmas traditions such as the Posadas, taste special Christmas foods, and otherwise join in the fun. Even after that marathon of festivities has passed, there are still celebrations going on in many parts of the country through January and February, one example is the Fiesta Grande, also known as the Fiesta de los Parachicos in Chiapas state, and Carnival celebrations usually take place in February, although the dates vary from year to year.

Find out what's on in Mexico during the winter months:

Wildlife Viewing

Animal lovers, take note: it's not just people who head south of the border for warmth and sun. There are many migratory animal species that make the trip for similar reasons, making winter a great time for wildlife observation. Here are just a few animals you'll be more likely to spot in the winter months: 

Monarch butterflies are in their wintering grounds in the butterfly reserves of Michoacan and Estado de Mexico from November through February, so if you've dreamed of being surrounded by millions of fluttering orange winged monarchs, this is the time to go.

Whale watching excursions are offered in Los Cabos from December 15 to April 15. These giant marine mammals can put on quite a spectacle. It's well worth seeing, so if you're traveling during the whale watching season, do schedule an excursion.

Birds are plentiful in Mexico year-round, but the winter months offer the best chance to see both migratory and endemic species, so it's the favorite time for birders to plan their trips.

Winter Travel Tips

Since this is the busiest time of year, it's best to plan your winter getaway in advance and make air and hotel reservations a few months ahead of your trip. However, it's still possible to plan a last-minute getaway in the winter, but not as easy as the shoulder seasons, and you'll probably pay more. Depending on the specific dates, you may find tourist sites and attractions somewhat crowded. See our list of Mexican national holidays to get an idea of busiest times for traveling and plan your trip accordingly: long weekends and school holidays are the most popular travel times for Mexican families on vacation. And if you're looking for inspiration as to where to go and what to do, you're sure to find it in this list of winter escapes.