Mexico is a vast country and has different types of climate, however, it is generally arid on the west coast and in the central-northern highlands, it is moderately rainy in the mountain ranges and in the southern plateaus, while it’s very rainy in some tropical southern areas. Summer is the rainiest season almost everywhere.
The temperature increases gradually from north to south, to the point that the south has a purely tropical climate. Altitude plays an important role as well: there are many cities located at high altitude, including the capital, where the climate is cooler.
During winter, the “Norte”, a cold wind from the United States, able to cause sudden drops in temperature, can blow, especially in the centre-north. Because of this wind, the northern inland areas (and a little less the northern coastal areas), during winter may experience cold waves, especially in hilly and mountainous areas.
The mild coast
Baja California, coast
In the peninsula of Baja California, practically a continuation of California, the climate is very mild on the west coast, where daytime temperatures range from 19/20 degrees Celsius (66/68 °F) in winter to 24/25 °C (75/77 °F) in summer in the northern part. The sun shines throughout the year, and the rare rains fall from November to March; rainfall totals around 200/250 millimetres (7.8/10 inches) per year. Here too, as in California, a cold current flows, which makes the sea cool and causes a bit of fog, but in return, it provides a lot of suns, little rain and a pleasant climate. However, when the wind blows from the interior, the temperatures can suddenly increase, even surpassing 40 °C (104 °F). A city that is located in this area is Tijuana, just south of the border with the United States and a short distance from the greater San Diego area.
Moving towards the south, the sea becomes progressively warmer. In the southern part of the state of Baja California, the sea temperature reaches 21/22 °C (70/72 °F) between August and October, while in the state of Baja California Sur, the sea is decidedly warmer.
Cabo San Lucas is located at the southern tip of Baja California. Here, as in the rest of the peninsula, the climate is arid; winter is sunny, with cool nights, around 12/13 °C (54/55 °F), and pleasantly warm days, around 26/27 °C (79/81 °F). Spring is warm and sunny: daytime temperatures reach 29 °C (84 °F) already in April. Summer is hot, with highs around 32/34 °C (90/93 °F), but in the second part, from mid-July to October, owing to the little monsoon, there’s some chance of showers and thunderstorms, sometimes intense, especially in September.
In the plateau of the centre-south above 1,800 meters (5,900 feet), there is a considerable difference in temperature between day and night, especially in the dry season. The tropical sun’s rays are very strong, even if the temperature is not so high. As for the rains, there is a dry season from November to April and a rainy season from May to October.
The huge federal capital, Mexico City, is located in the southern part of the plateau, at an altitude of 2,200 meters (7,200 ft); administratively it belongs to the Federal District. Winter is dry and sunny, with cold nights. In January and February, lows are around 6/7 °C (43/45 °F), but sometimes they can drop a few degrees below freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), while days are pleasant, with highs around 21/23 °C (70/73 °F). In spring, the temperature rises gradually until April and May, which are the months with the highest daytime temperatures, around 27 °C (81 °F), while night-time temperatures are still pretty cool, around 11/12 °C (52/54 °F). In June, owing to the summer monsoon, which brings clouds and rains from June to September, the daytime temperature does not increase any further, in fact, it drops by a few degrees, to around 23/24.5 °C (73/76 °F). In a typical year, 710 millimetres (28 inches) of rainfall, with a maximum of 160 mm (6.3 in) in July.
The Mexican capital is polluted, and it’s wrapped in an almost constant haze.
In the east, in the Yucatán Peninsula (in the states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo), the climate is generally warm to hot all year round, but winter is not as dry and sunny as on the south coast: the months of December and January, when highs are around 28/30 °C (82/86 °F), are quite rainy; in addition, from December to March, sometimes the cold wind from the United States, the Norte, can blow, and in these cases, the minimum temperature can drop to 10 °C (50 °F) or even below.
In Cancún, the least rainy period runs from February to April, and the driest month is April, so it is an advisable destination for the Easter holidays when the Norte is less likely to blow.
The best periods to explore the northern regions of Mexico (coasts and deserts) are spring and autumn, in March-April and September-October, and in particular, you can choose October.
In the tierras frìas too, spring and autumn are the best periods, even though the main purpose in this area is to avoid the summer rains; therefore, you can also avoid the month September, which is still a rainy month. You can go to the tierras frìas in winter as well, bearing in mind that it can get cold at night.
You can go to the tierras calientes from December to February, to avoid both the heat and the rains of summer, and because in some areas the months of October and November are still very rainy. In spring, in April and May, the rains have not arrived yet, but the weather is usually hot.
As regards to the sea, the southern coast (see Acapulco) is warm and sunny in winter (eg Christmas and New Year), with a warm sea, around 28 °C (82 °F), so it’s recommended for a beach holiday. The good season in Acapulco is long, from November to April.
The coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and Yucatán (see Veracruz, Cancun), do not have an ideal climate in winter, at least for a beach holiday: the sky is often cloudy, sometimes it can rain, and the Norte can bring a bit of cool weather. Spring is a better season, from March to May, with a preference for April: in March, sometimes a bit of cool air can still arrive, especially in the first half of the month, while in May it begins to get hot, with the first thunderstorms.
Spring is fine also in Cabo San Lucas and the southern part of Baja California. On the northern coast of Baja California, where the air is mild even in summer, you can sunbathe, even though the water is quite cold.
What to pack
In winter: for the Chihuahuan desert and the mountains, bring warm clothes, a jacket, a hat, gloves. For Baja California, the eastern plains and the tierras templadas, bring clothes for spring and autumn. For Mexico City and the tierras frìas, bring clothes for spring and autumn during the day, but also a warm jacket and a hat for the evening. For the highest mountains, bring warm clothes, such as a down jacket, gloves, a beanie.
For the tierras calientes, light clothing, a sweatshirt for the evening in Yucatan and Riviera Maya. When going to the reef, you can bring snorkelling equipment, including water shoes or rubber-soled shoes.
In summer: bring light clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen, a light raincoat. For the Chihuahuan Desert, add a sweatshirt for the evening. For Mexico City and the tierras frìas, add a sweatshirt or sweater for the evening, a jacket and an umbrella. For the highest mountains, warm clothes, a warm jacket, a wind jacket, gloves, a hat, hiking shoes.
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