How to See Monarch Butterflies in Mexico?


If you’ve been wondering about where and how to see monarch butterflies in Mexico, it’s not as difficult as you might think…

Each late summer into fall, millions of monarchs migrate south from Canada and the United States to remote sanctuaries in the mountains of central Mexico.

I recently visited these butterflies at Piedra Herrada sanctuary and the experience was more amazing than I could have hoped for. However, I am 100% certain it would not have been as stellar had we not put a little effort into planning the experience first.

Check out these monarch travel tips on how to see monarchs in Mexico to insure you have a fantastic experience visiting the Piedra Herrada monarch sanctuary…

Piedra herrada monarch sanctuary sign how to see monarch butterflies in mexico

8 tips for to Visiting the Monarch Sanctuaries in Winter

Stay in Mexico City- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 1

We stayed at an airbnb in Mexico City where there were a lot of other activities ranging from city tours, museums, shops of all kinds, and an impossible choice of restaurants.

The best part of this (in relation to how to see monarch butterflies in Mexico) is that the sanctuary we visited was only a 2 1/2 hour drive.

Even better, our tour guide picked us up right in front of our building…


Go with a Tour Guide- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 2

There are a growing number of tour guides to choose from, but after reading up on reviews we found someone who I was confident could make this experience outstanding:

Marisol guide monarch butterflies how to see monarch butterflies in mexico

…and she did! Marisol owns a company called Wanderlust Tours and monarch bookings are easy through airbnb experiences. As the owner of a growing company, she is more involved running the business, so I asked her what days she would be available to personally go on the tour.

No matter what company you choose to go through, do yourself a favor and see which guides have the most glowing reviews.

If we would not have done this, we would have undoubtedly gotten another guide. I’m not saying they would have been bad, but there’s no way they would have been as charming and knowledgeable as Marisol.

For many of you, this will be a once in a lifetime experience, so think about the best ways to enhance your experience for how to see the monarchs in Mexico.


Make sure your tour guide speaks your language fluently- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 3

Regretfully, I only speak a few words in Spanish, so having a guide that didn’t speak english fluently would have put a damper on the entire experience.

As a fluent English speaker, Marisol was able to tell us about the rich culture of Mexico and also share her interesting travel experiences.

She was also very interested in learning more about us…

I’m not usually one for non-stop conversation, but conversing with our guide throughout the trip added multiple layers of interest to this amazing experience.

Marisol also coordinated both lunch and dinner at authentic Mexican restaurants we never would have found on our own. She also shared her recommendations and helped us order from the menu.


Make a DAY of it- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 4

While seeing the monarchs alone is a magical experience, take the opportunity to see other places of interest if it tickles your fancy. After seeing the butterflies, we journeyed to the magic city of Valle De Bravo for dinner and to see its beautiful lake view.

Reschedule if there is inclement Weather- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 5


Gone are the days of planning a date months in advance and then hoping for the best…with today’s digital platforms, your trip doesn’t have to be a gamble.

As a butterfly gardener, I’m fully aware of when butterflies are active, and when they’re not. If you visit any sanctuary on a day that’s cool and cloudy, all you’ll see is a bunch of butterflies hanging motionless in the trees.

When the weather is cool, cloudy, or rainy, most monarchs remain clustered in trees.

If you go when it’s at least mid 60’s°F and sunny, you’ll witness a true monarch miracle as the sky will be filled with butterflies. Make sure to arrive between late morning and early afternoon for best chance at midday sun and an explosion of monarch magic.

Travel platforms like Airbnb experiences and Tripadvisor have typically 24-48 hour cancellation policies for full refunds. This makes it simple to reschedule without losing money.

Go on a WEEKday (non-holiday) if possible- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 6


We went on a Wednesday and there were only a few other groups that were there. We were the last group to reach the peak. As a small group of 6, the park ranger allowed us to go up even further so the butterflies were fluttering all around us.

We would not have had the opportunity to get this close to the butterflies on a busy weekend, or a holiday like Valentine’s Day….a popular way to spend the romantic holiday in Mexico!

Take a phone photography course before your trip

In this day and age, almost everyone has a phone camera and the quality of these cameras keeps getting better.

I wish I had spent a little more time on this because we definitely had the opportunity for better photos and video.

There are some awesome (and really cheap) course on platforms like udemy:

Find a Phone Photography Course Here


Wear Flower Colored Clothing- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 7

Monarchs are attracted to bright colors so if you wear bright colors like red, yellow, or orange, you’re more likely to have them land on you during your visit.


Wear Warm (enough) Clothes- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 8

It can get cool in the forest when you’re walking through shaded areas and it gets colder at higher altitudes where the butterflies are concentrated.

Many people wear pants but I was comfortable in shorts. I did bring a sweatshirt which I could have tied around my waist had I gotten too warm.

This last tips about visiting the monarchs in Mexico will hopefully be removed from the list soon, but in early 2022, US citizens need to read this:


Don’t Let COVID Catch you Off Guard- Monarch Sanctuaries Tip 9 (for Winter 2022)

This tip is relevant for those still traveling to Mexico to see the Monarchs in February or March 2022.

As of post publication, US residents are not allowed to re-enter the US without a negative covid test taken the day before your flight.

So, make sure you have a contingency plan if you aren’t able to get back home:

  • Do NOT get tested at the airport- this will limit your options if you test positive
  • DO ask your hotel or airbnb host the closest location to get a covid test
  • Ask you hotel or airbnb host if you can stay at your current location after a positive test, and what the rates would be
  • Consider Covid Travel Insurance– this can cover an unexpected (and expensive) hospital stay should you get really sick.

We did not do this for our trip, but after hearing a few horror stories (while we were there) about outrageous hospital bills for sick covid travelers in Mexico, we would have opted for this. While US citizens still aren’t allowed back into the country with covid-19, I would research insurance options if you have any concerns about getting sick.

A little planning can go a long way to making this trip fulfill your wildest monarch dreams. I hope these monarch sanctuary travel tips will help you to one day experience this:

If you’re interested in helping to support monarchs and their amazing migration through gardening or raising butterflies through the life cycle, it all starts with milkweed.

Share the Joy of Butterflies

10 Comments

    1. Hi Sandi, they are usually gone by late March and the new season has already started in the southern US (Texas)…the latest I would plan is early March, although in some years they stay later depending on weather conditions. You can always check journey north for updates.

  1. I just got back from traveling in Mexico and I was not required a negative covid test before GOING…but for coming BACK, we were required a negative covid test… I see you flew into Mexico City, but I’m wondering if I couldn’t fly into Toluca? That’s closer to the sanctuaries, isn’t it? I’m hoping to fly in next year… but will keep your info for reference.

    1. sorry for the confusing choice of words Cindy…I changed it to read:

      As of post publication, US residents are not allowed to re-enter the US without a negative covid test taken the day before your flight.

      (There are no covid restrictions for traveling to Mexico…)

      1. Thank you Tony for the easy to follow thoughts on travel to Mexico to see the monarchs…I hope to get there. J. Anderson

  2. Tony, thank you so much for the tips and information..I would love to visit the sanctuary sooner better than later..lol..I’ve had the pleasure of working with Monarchs with my husband for 3 years..this is our fourth spring coming up and we love it..I admire you for all the work and information throughout the Monarch season that you do..you have helped me so much..take care and God Bless..have a wonderful Monarch season..we are in Hyde Park NY..
    Thank you.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here! What a fantastic video you got of the Monarch’s flying all around you Both. Being in San Diego, Ca. this is a must Do! I look forward to hearing more about your trip and photos too!
    Thank you Tony for all you do!

  4. Tony— we took the exact same tour the Marisol’s company via Airbnb in December of 2021. I highly recommend them as well. I’ve been raising monarchs in Chicago for more than a decade and making the trip was truly astounding! Well done on your tips!
    Michael

  5. If you want an entire tour of multiple sanctuaries, I strongly recommend a tour from Monarch Odyssey. The founder is an American but he uses two local guides as well. It’s the only tour we found that visits three different sanctuaries, with days between sanctuary visits spent exploring historical and cultural sites: Mayan ruins, ruins of a hacienda, churches in the small towns where we stayed, a defunct mine, a town known for its Christmas ornaments, a government center with famous murals, a poinsettia farm, etc. It was wonderful, and very affordable.

    1. Patti, sounds great! Can you provide their website or contact info? I’d like to learn more. Thanks!

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