Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Mexican Riviera

Best Time to Visit the Mexican Riviera

Pacific hurricane hovers near Acapulco, which experience high rainfall every summer and fall. Credit: NOAA
Pacific hurricane hovers near Acapulco, which experience high rainfall every summer and fall. Credit: NOAA

The best time to visit the Mexican Riviera is November through May because rainfall averages one inch a month or less for most major destinations. The worst time to visit is July through September during the peak months of the Pacific hurricane season.

The Mexican Riviera is a region of resort cities and cruise ports along the west coast of Mexico. It is sometimes confused with Riviera Maya, a resort region on the east coast of Mexico.

Cruise ships that visit the Mexican Riviera often embark from ports on the west coast of the United States such as San Diego or Los Angeles. From there, they go on to such cruise ports as Ensenada, Cabos San Lucas, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and sometimes Acapulco.

Although the Mexican Riviera climate produces warm weather throughout most of the year, it also has an annual hurricane season that brings drenching rains and high winds.

Popular and Unpopular Months

A random search of Mexican Riviera cruises by month on a major travel booking site over a one year period showed a wide variety in the number of cruises based on the time of year.

They clearly show the impact of the hurricane season. It often brings heavy rains to ports such as Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta but not Catalina, Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas.

As a result, longer cruises to the major ports are common from October through May and drop off steeply from June through August. During the summer, the great majority of cruises are only three or four nights.  They have more appeal to people living in California or nearby states and less appeal to anyone living elsewhere.

The following list from a major travel booking site shows the number of cruises by month.

  • January: 32 cruises with a mix of short and long cruises
  • February: 23 with a mix of short and long
  • March: 41 with a mix
  • April: 38 with a mix
  • May: 28 with a mix
  • June: 23 with only four cruises longer than four nights
  • July: 24, nearly all three- and four-night cruises
  • August: 24, nearly all three- and four-night cruises
  • September: 28 with some longer cruises
  • October: 50 with many more lasting seven nights or longer
  • November: 35 with a mix of three- to seven-night cruises
  • December: 42 with a mix

Average Temperatures

Mexican Riviera temperature chart
© 2019 Scott S. Bateman

The average high temperature for seven major cruise ports is 83 degrees Fahrenheit or 28 degrees Celsius over the course of a year, according to historical records from the U.S. National Weather Service and Mexico Ministry of Tourism.

That average ranges from a low point of 78 Fahrenheit or about 26 Celsius in January and February to 89 Fahrenheit and about 32 Celsius in August.

The averages represent the entire region, but they vary even more depending on the destination. The distance from Ensenada to Acapulco is nearly 1,500 miles from north to south.

Catalina Island and Ensenada have the coolest temperatures throughout the year because they are the northernmost destinations of the Mexican Riviera cruise region. So for warm weather, the best time to visit Catalina Island and Ensenada are late spring to summer.

Acapulco, Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta have the warmest temperatures because they are farthest south. The best times for those ports are winter and spring. They get uncomfortably hot at times during the summer.

The popular ports at Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlán are best in the spring months. Like the southern ports, they also get uncomfortably hot at times during the summer.

Rainy Season

Mexican Riviera rainfall chart
© 2019 Scott S. Bateman

The northern destinations are cooler, but they also don’t have the same spikes in rainfall as the southern destinations.

As a region, the average rainfall is one inch or less from November through May.

Catalina Island and Ensenada have the most rain during the dry season. Acapulco, Los Cabos, Manzanillo, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta have virtually no rain during many of those same months.

The situation is much different during the annual Mexican Riviera hurricane season. It officially begins May 15 and ends Nov. 30.

Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta average more than 10 inches during most months from July through September. Manzanillo also gets hit hard, especially in September. This is the worst time to visit any of the southern ports of the Mexican Riviera.

Again, Catalina Island and Ensenada have little rain during hurricane season because they lie too far north of most hurricanes and related weather.

Anyone planning a Mexican Riviera cruise during the summer might want to visit Catalina Island, Ensenada and Los Cabos on shorter cruises. They should think about avoiding Acapulco, Manzanillo, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta during this time.

Pacific Hurricane Season

The Mexican Riviera has a hurricane season because the eastern Pacific Ocean has one.

Hurricanes and tropical storms usually hit the southwest coast of Mexico much harder than the northwest coast.

For example, the eastern Pacific had 23 named storms in 2018. Out of the 23, 13 became hurricanes, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was the fourth most active season on record.

Eastern Pacific hurricanes rarely hit land, but they bring heavy rainfall. Vacation planners who are tempted to visit the southern part of the Mexican Riviera might look at last-minute vacations and weather forecasts rather than making a long-term commitment without knowing the weather in advance