Hermosillo is a true sister city to Phoenix, Arizona, with lots of shared culture, food, and families that share members between both. It is also only a 6 hour drive from the capital of Arizona to the capital of Sonora. This city is also the heart of culture in Sonora, Mexico. But surprisingly, it wasn’t until 2023 that I finally visited this fellow, Sonoran Desert urban area – all thanks to a friend of mine who invited me to her wedding there.
While Sonora has a reputation for being dangerous, among both Americans and Mexicans, I found Hermosillo to be a fun city to visit. There was loads of good food, a very interesting downtown, and the city is also home to some impressive museums. All the good stuff for visitors and locals both. Of course, there are safety considerations (as with all cities), but with some caution, respect for the people who call this place home, and an excitement for the history and culture of this place, Hermosillo can be a lot of fun.
This guide will give you a quick taste of the city and help you figure out what to do in Hermosillo, and whether it is a good fit for you. And if it isn’t, scroll through and enjoy my pictures of this urban heart in the Sonoran Desert.
Why Visit and What to Do in Hermosillo, Mexico
This city isn’t on the top of any list of Mexican must-sees that I have ever seen, but nonetheless, for anyone interested in exploring culture in Sonora, Mexico, it should be on the top of your list. That’s because Hermosillo is the capital of the state, and it is home to lots of museums, food, and even a historic downtown. While it can’t capture all the vibrant diversity of Sonora, it is home to many of the institutions and places to explore that most cities harbor. And if you want to pack a punch into a shorter trip, this city will have you covered for the flavor of Sonora.
When you are talking about what to do in Hermosillo, there is also a little something for everyone. There is a surprising amount of urban hiking in the city. There is historic architecture and big museums for the history buffs. And there is tasty food to satisfy anyone but the pickiest eaters.
Aside from safety considerations, the only immediate thing that I would say to avoid in Hermosillo is the summer. Much like Phoenix, it is extremely hot here in the summer. That makes it hard to enjoy the city, and can even add an element of natural danger if you try to hit the trails.
There is exceptional food all throughout Hermosillo. Almost no matter what you are looking for, you will probably find at least a passable version in the city. So, when it comes to what to do in Hermosillo – you’ve got to explore culture in Sonora, Mexico via food.
Of course, you should indulge in as much Mexican food as you can while in Hermosillo.
In the historic downtown or Centro area of town is chalk-full of restaurants. You can look them up on Google to find one that fits your needs best, but we indulged in brunch, coffee, and dessert several times downtown and we were never disappointed. La Tiznada was our first experience in town. It has a beautiful interior – cozy with lots of pretty faux plants and tasty food. This place can be really busy though, so try to visit early when they open or try to get reservations.
My personal favorite spot downtown, which we went to twice, is Casa Garmendia Café Y Churrería. We went there for coffee, dessert, and breakfast over the course of two visits. The food was ALL good. The staff there was so kind to us as well, baring with us and our Spanish. And the building itself is absolutely beautiful. Each room has its own artistic theme, and it looks like there is also a patio area. Although it was too hot when we visited for us to make use of it.
One thing to keep in mind when visiting El Centro, is that parking can be a really drag. We made it work each time, but at one point we had to valet park. Give yourself some time and patience if you are driving yourself, or consider grabbing a taxi or Uber into this area. Not having taken Ubers or taxis in town, I can’t say how safe they are – so if you are planning to use this transportation, be sure to do some research on how to stay safe while traveling in other people’s vehicles.
Elsewhere in Hermosillo
Outside of El Centro, parking is easier and there is LOTS of variety. When we were on the hunt for dessert, we happened on Honoré Panadería. This place had an impressive array of baked goods and everything we ate was good. It’s also got a really nice, relaxing interior with room to sit and hang out. Our first meal in town was Chilaquiles from Sagrado Remedio Chilaquiles. This little shop was themed around Lucha Libre, and not only was the food good, but the staff was really kind to us as we struggled with our Spanish.
With reviews as your guide, there is so much to taste in Hermosillo. There is so much to try. Including the local specialty dessert – Coyotas, which can be found in specialty bakeries across the city. We missed out on getting them fresh, so we settled on a pack from the airport.
Much like Phoenix to the north, Hermosillo was built up around some of the rolling hills of the Sonoran Desert. And now these hills provide recreation and access to nature right in town. Depending on the season that you visit, and whether you are a trail-buff or not, hiking might have to be somewhere near the top of your what to do in Hermosillo list.
Just on the edge of El Centro is Cerro de la Campana. This is a little hill in the middle of town that has a spiral road that rises to its top. Folks walk this road for a workout (and lovely views) when the weather is nice. This would be a nice morning activity for a day in El Centro, but do try to go when the road is busy with other walkers.
On the northeastern part of town, there is a range of mountains with a variety of trails. I didn’t have the chance to explore this area, but I know that local restoration groups work in these mountains a lot. Consider checking out the reviews on AllTrails to identify a trail that would be a good fit for you. Do not hike at night or when the weather is adverse. Consider volunteering your time with the local environmental groups if you’d like to give back while visiting.
Art and Culture
When it comes to culture in Sonora, Mexico, there is a lot of great spots throughout Hermosillo. This includes architectural beauties and museums, both of which are great additions to the list of what to do in Hermosillo.
El Centro Architectural Wonders
While we mostly ate while in El Centro, there are some architectural stops that we checked out. One was the Antigua Penitenciaria de Sonora, tucked on the slopes of Cerro de la Campana, and next to the Museo Regional de Sonora. While I read that the museum was undergoing some rejuvenation and wasn’t worth visiting, the historic penitentiary is actually very beautiful from the outside. So much so that folks were taking wedding pictures on the steps of this elegant building when we stopped by.
There is also an exceptional church in El Centro – Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Carmen. While we couldn’t enter when we visited because it was in service when we stopped by. But the outside is very worth stopping by to see. This is an ornate building that, in my opinion, rivals the San Xavier Mission in Tucson, AZ. The only challenge to visiting is the every-present struggle of parking downtown.
Sonoran Museum of Art
Near the big Galerias Mall, is the massive art museum – Museo de Arte de Sonora. This modern museum is a must-see on the what to do in Hermosillo list.
Once you pay your ticket to enter, you will find yourself in a multi-story building with a wide staircase that spirals up the hollow interior. On each floor, there are rooms showcasing various local and national artists. I thought that this museum did a great job showcasing unique pieces of art. Everything here was new to me, and they do a wonderful curation job. The Museo de Arte de Sonora was actually my favorite place to learn about culture in Sonora, Mexico. And it was one of the most interesting art museums that I have been to – they just have things that you can’t see anywhere else.
At the time that we visited Sonora, and were thinking about what to do in Hermosillo, the US Government labeled the state as Reconsider Travel. And when I was researching for our trip one blog that I found which had focused on travel through Sonora for years, stopped posting after a horrific tragedy in 2019, in which a family of 9 Americans were murdered by cartels. Due to the activity of cartels and violence like this, which impacts local people far more than tourists, you need to be careful when planning your trip.
Furthermore, Hermosillo is a large city and like most large cities it has its share of crime, violence, and activities that you will want to avoid. I was advised by a friend that lives in Baja Sur/Chiapas to not travel alone in Sonora. I also asked my local friend’s family about where we should and shouldn’t stay, and I listened to them. We did not walk the streets at night. And we did not flash any kind of jewelry or cash. We were also friendly and polite to residents and made sure to be respectful of the local rules and authorities. As with elsewhere in Mexico that I have been, people were very kind to us, and I almost always felt cared for.
Do your safety research; this guide cannot guarantee your safety. Nor are the tips here all you will need.
More to See and Do in Sonora, Mexico
If you are planning on doing and seeing more of the natural and culture in Sonora, Mexico, consider checking out my Visitor’s Guide to this beautiful state. I currently have posts about the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar, and Puerto Peñasco aka Rocky Point.
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