25 Best Places in the Yucatan Peninsula: Ruins, Beaches, Cenotes

Looking for the best places in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico?

The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is located in southeastern Mexico, half along the Caribbean Sea, and half bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

It is one of the most visited areas of the country, and spanning three states — Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche — there’s no shortage of places to explore. From cenotes to Mayan ruins, pueblos magicos (magic towns) to Mexico UNESCO World Heritage sites, there’s so many things to do in Yucatan.

So how do you pick the can’t miss places to see in the Yucatan!? You turn to the experts, of course! 

Below is a compilation of the must see Yucatan Mexico cities, nature, archeological sites and more. This list, lovingly curated by 25 travel bloggers who have visited and vetted these places for you, highlights all the must see Yucatan travel destinations.

Ready to find out what they are?

Keep scrolling to see the full list of 25 amazing places, and make sure to check out the Yucatan map below so you know where everything is. This map will help you create the most epic Yucatan itinerary for your Mexico trip.

Pin this article for later

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Yucatan Peninsula Map

For your convenience, all 25 places to see in Yucatan mentioned in this article have been pinned to the map below. It is the perfect way to plan the most amazing Mexico travel itinerary — whether you’re doing a Yucatan Mexico road trip, or just sticking to one area, the map will help plan your Yucatan trip.

🗺 Pro Tip: When you’re driving, or just in the more rural parts of the Yucatan, your cell phone signal will go in and out. Make sure to also download an offline map via Google Maps or Maps.me… as well as some Dream To Destination travel podcasts 💁‍♀️🎙

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Yucatan Cities

1. Tulum

Contributed by Alanna of the Great Ocean Road Collective, who recommends Tulum because it has everything you need for a wonderful vacation: white sand beaches, natural wonders and cultural sites. 

Tulum, Mexico is a tropical paradise, known for its soft, white sand beaches, turquoise waters and bohemian vibe. Nicknamed “the Bali of Mexico,” Tulum is a great place to visit for a beach escape, especially for U.S. travelers, as it’s so much closer than Bali, Indonesia!

Tulum also has one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico and the entire Yucatan Peninsula, the Tulum Ruins (seen in the photo below ⬇).

This 13th Century Mexican archeological site sits on a cliff overlooking one of the best beaches in Tulum, Playita Tortuga AKA Tulum Ruins Beach. At only $80 pesos ($4USD) for entry, a visit to see the impressive buildings at Tulum Ruins is one of the most inexpensive and best things to do in Tulum on a budget.

✈️ If this will be your first visit to Tulum, check out The Ultimate Tulum Travel Planning Guide for First Time Visitors

The Tulum Ruins, located right on Tulum Beach, is among the best Yucatan Peninsula Mayan Ruins.

Besides its famous beaches, the gorgeous Tulum cenotes are among the best things to see in Tulum on your trip. Cenotes are natural waterholes, located both above ground or in underground caves, each unique in their own ways.

Considered among the best cenotes in Tulum, you’ll no doubt want to spend some time swimming at some of these: Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera, Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Zacil-Ha. If this will be your first cenote visit, check out this Cenote FAQ to ensure you’re practicing sustainable tourism in Mexico.

After a day out, check out these Instagram worthy Tulum places. At Azulik Tulum, spoil yourself with a spa treatment; check out the famous Ven a la Luz sculpture at Raw Love/Ahau Tulum Resort; and relax while sipping sunset cocktails at the best beach clubs in Tulum, Casa Malca and Coco Tulum.

RELATED ARTICLE ✈️ Is Tulum Open for Travel Right Now?

Best Tulum Beach Hotels

The one-lane Tulum Beach Road has beach houses and villas, as well as Tulum glamping options, and all the best resorts in Tulum — including the four hotels listed below.

If you’re headed to Tulum on a budget — check out these amazing $99 and under Tulum Airbnbs.

The white beach swings at Coco Tulum Beach Resort.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

2. Merida

Contributed by Daria of The Discovery Nut, who recommends Merida because of its amazing history, culture and friendly people. 🎧 Check out her Yucatan podcast episode below!

The capital of Yucatan State, Merida, Mexico, has stayed under the travel radar for many years. This is, however, quickly changing — as the city offers a taste of Mexico’s rich history and authentic culture, without being too touristy.

Mexico’s 13th largest city boasts many cultural landmarks, world-class museums, nearby Mayan ruins and much more. For those who do visit, there’s no end to the amazing things to do in Merida.

✈️ If this will be your first visit to Merida, check out The Ultimate Merida, Mexico Travel Guide (Written by a Local)

RELATED ARTICLE ✈️ 12 Stunning Airbnbs in Merida Mexico You Need to Book Now

In Merida, you’ll find many local artisan shops selling goods including Mayan hammocks, huipil dresses and guayabera shirts. There’s also local mercados (markets) where you can try cochinita pibil, a Yucatecan food specialty, and street vendors selling marquesitas (crepes).

While traveling to Merida, don’t miss the city’s must see places: Paseo de Montejo (Montejo Street), and also the Catedral de Merida (Merida Cathedral) and Museo Casa Montejo (Montejo House Museum), both located in Plaza Grande (Main Plaza) in downtown Merida.

Located just outside of downtown, head to the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya (Merida Mayan World Museum), with the largest collection of Mayan artifacts in any Merida museum. For those with more time and a rental car, visit the Mayan ruins on a day trip from Merida to Mayapan, Dzibilchaltun and Uxmal.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

3. Playa del Carmen

Contributed by Holly from Globeblogging, who recommends Playa del Carmen as an equally beautiful, but quieter alternative to nearby Cancun.

An alternative to the busier tourist hub of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Mexico is a picturesque beach location in the Riviera Maya. While Cancun is an easy day trip at just an hour away, Playa del Carmen teems with life of its own.

From its humble beginnings as a small fishing town, to a top Mexico beach destination, visitors flock to Playa del Carmen and its bustling Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue). This main street is the centre of Playa del Carmen activity, and features spectacular shopping, restaurants, cafes, and great bars. 

✈️ If this will be your first visit to Playa del Carmen, check out Traveling to Playa del Carmen: The Ultimate First-Timer’s Guide

Portal Maya, the iconic Playa del Carmen beach sculpture, located in Parque los Fundadores (Founders Park), just off 5th Avenue.

Want to take one of the many Playa del Carmen day trips? Head to the southernmost end of 5th Avenue to the Muelle Playa Del Carmen (dock), and book your ticket for the fast ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. You’re also not far from Tulum, Chichen Itza pyramids, and numerous cenotes near Playa.

Want to treat yourself to a beachfront Playa del Carmen resort? Acanto has beautiful, secure apartments with private rooftop villas looking out over the Caribbean Sea. There are also many amazing Playa del Carmen all inclusive resorts.

For a fun night out, book a reservation at Alux Restaurant, a Playa del Carmen restaurant located inside an actual cave. From there, end the night at Coco Bongo, a Cirque du Soleil meets Moulin Rouge meets nightclub experience.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

4. Cancun

Contributed by Roshni of The Wanderlust Within, who recommends Cancun because it’s more than a party destination, and has plenty of nature and adventure spots to explore.

One of the most recognized places in Mexico, is the coastal city of Cancun, Mexico. It is the entry point to the Yucatan Peninsula for many, and is well known for its white sand beaches, turquoise blue waters, year-round warm weather, and bustling nightlife. 

All these things make Cancun one of the top tourist destinations in the world. However, there’s so much more to Cancun than just beaches and partying.

✈️ Traveling solo to Cancun? Find out why Cancun is one of the Top 20 Mexico Destinations for Solo Female Travelers

Home to all the best Cancun all inclusive resorts, the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone) is located on one of the best beaches in Mexico.

Cancun is surrounded by nature and biodiversity that is often underrated, and also, under-visited.

From the Cancun Underwater Museum, nearby cenotes to swim and dive in, majestic mangroves and seven incredible lagoons at Laguna Nichupte — ideal for everything from fishing, kayaking and canoeing, to scuba diving, snorkeling and jet skiing — there’s no shortage of unique things to do in Cancun.

If you’re not planning to stay at an all inclusive resort and want to experience the off the beaten path side of this Mexico travel destination, opt for one of these affordable Cancun Airbnbs.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Pueblos Magicos in Yucatan

5. Isla Mujeres

Contributed by Daniel of Layer Culture, who recommends Isla Mujeres for its safe, welcoming culture, and a nice escape from the more crowded beaches of Cancun. 

When looking for the best places to visit in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, you can’t miss out on Isla Mujeres — which means Island of Women, though men can go too!

Isla Mujeres is one of the best beach towns in Mexico, and one of the 140 or so pueblos magicos (magic towns). It is considered “magical” for both for its unique folkloric ties to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon, medicine and happiness, and for its immense tropical beauty.

What is a pueblo magico? The name translates to “magic town,” and Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism awards this honorary designation to small towns in the country with certain characteristics including amazing natural beauty, unique cultural history, rich folklore and more. Mexico’s pueblos mágicos are similar to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site designation — just limited to Mexico 🇲🇽

Known for its world-class beaches and welcoming tourist scene, Isla Mujeres is one of the safest places in Mexico to visit. It makes the perfect getaway spot from more popular and crowded beaches Cancun. In fact, Isla Mujeres is one of the most popular and best Cancun day trips.

Arriving at this island paradise is easy, as it’s located only about 10 miles east of Cancun by ferry.

From the Cancun Hotel Zone, head to your closest ferry port, Playa Tortugas, El Embarcadero or Playa Caracol, and take the short ferry ride over. Depending on where you catch on the ferry, the ride is just 15-30 minutes — meaning definitely incorporate an Isla Mujeres day trip in with your Cancun itinerary.

Whether coming to Isla Mujeres to get a PADI scuba diving certification and visit the Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA Museum), or to photograph the instafamous colorful homes of Isla Mujeres, there is plenty to do for all types of travelers on this laid-back Mexico island.

For those who just want to relax and drink beers on the beach, head to Isla Brewing Company on the north side of the island. This is one of the best bars in Isla Mujeres Mexico, and the perfect place to sample Mexican craft beers in the Yucatan.

The 4.5-mile-long island of Isla Mujeres Mexico, located in the Caribbean Sea.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

6. Valladolid

Contributed by Lozzy of Cuppa to Copa Travels, who recommends Valladolid for its easily accessible cenotes.

Valladolid is a pueblo magico bursting at the seams with charm. Located in Yucatan state, Valladolid is easily visited as a day trip from Cancun, Tulum or Merida — but an overnight stay in one of the best hotels in Valladolid is recommended to be able to soak up all this town has to offer.

In the centre of town, La Calzada de los Frailes, is known for its bunting-filled beauty and quality souvenir boutiques. This street, along with Calle 50 (50th St.), are two of the prettiest streets in Valladolid.

Following La Calzada de los Frailes will lead you to the next must-visit attraction, El Convento de San Bernandino. This fort-like convent was hugely important to European missionaries as they spread their religious doctrines to Mexican natives from the 16th Century onwards. 

But the place to head to first is without doubt Cenote Zaci, an incredible semi-covered cenote right in the middle of Valladolid. Here, you can dive into the 300-foot (100m) depths from the rocky sides of the cave and float in the beautifully cool waters before walking up to the restaurant above for a bite to eat.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

7. Izamal “The Yellow City”

Contributed by Marjut of The Smooth Escape, who recommends Izamal because of its magnificent yellow streets.

Located in the heart of Yucatan State, Izamal is a small colonial town and pueblo magico (magic town), known as the “Yellow City.” Due to its location, it’s makes the perfect place for a day trip from Merida, or even a day trip from Valladolid.

What makes Izamal, Mexico, special is the fact that all of its buildings are the same shade of yellow. It is one of just a few monochromatic cities on Earth!

There’s an abundance of charming historical houses with beautiful doorways, courtyards and yellow facades which create a truly unique ambience. Walking around, those picturesque streets will make you feel like you’ve taken a journey back in time.

The San Antonio de Padua Convent, located in the Yellow City of Izamal Mexico.

One of the most famous buildings in Izamal is the Convent of San Antonio de Padua. There you’ll find a church, monastery and a huge courtyard surrounded by arches and columns. It’s definitely one of the most instagrammable places in the Yucatan, so make sure to bring your camera!

There’s no clear answer to Why is Izamal, Mexico painted yellow? Some say it’s because the Mayans used the site to worship their sun god; some say it was painted yellow like the Vatican flag in honor of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the city in 1993; while others say it’s due to locals’ affection for corn…

One thing, however, is certain — No visit to the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico is complete without seeing the Izamal pueblo magico.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

8. Bacalar Lagoon

Contributed by Annick Lenoir-Peek of The Common Traveler, who recommends Bacalar because of the water’s mesmerizing shades of blue.

Located near the Belize border, lies Bacalar, Mexico, a hidden gem discovered by few so far. Bacalar Lagoon, located in the pueblo magico (magic town) of Bacalar, has long been a favorite spot for escaping the crowded Yucatan beaches by in-the-know Mexico travelers and those who like venturing off the beaten path!

Laguna Bacalar hotels and resorts located along the shore entice guests to relax with over-the-water hammocks and swings. For non-guests, day passes can be purchased or are available to those who order food and drinks at lakeside restaurants.

✈️ If this will be your first visit to Bacalar, check out Bacalar Lagoon Mexico: How to Plan the Ultimate Trip

The lake is nicknamed the Lagoon of Seven Colors, as the waters vary in shades of blue throughout. The best way to explore this large lagoon is on a boat tour, to see its cenotes, stromatolites formations, and best snorkeling spots.

What are stromatolites? The large disc-shaped rocks you see below are the stromatolites of Bacalar. These ancient rocks function like coral to filter the water and keep it so blue! When swimming in Bacalar Lake, use eco-friendly reef-safe sunscreen to practice sustainable tourism in Mexico.

Enjoy a mud facial, using the rejuvenating white sand at the bottom of Bacalar Lagoon — a popular activity in the Canal de los Piratas (Pirate’s Channel). This channel is one of the stops on most Bacalar boat tours, in addition to the popular Bacalar cenotes like Cenote Esmerelda and Cenote la Bruja

Even after the sun goes down, you still have tour options. Catch a sunset boat cruise that stops at the Isla de Pajaros (Bird Island), where the birds migrate at the end of the day. This migration is a truly magical sight, even for those who are not usually bird watchers.

As Bacalar is located only about 30-45 minutes from the Belize border, many visitors to Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye in Belize also also include a Bacalar day trip as part of their Belize itinerary.

a sail boat in the middle of the blue waters of bacalar lagoon mexico

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Yucatan Off the Beaten Path

9. Holbox Island

Contributed by Rose of Where Goes Rose?, who recommends Isla Holbox because it makes for a peaceful and unspoiled island getaway.

The picture-perfect Mexican Caribbean island of Holbox (pronounced hole-bosh), has the kind of chill, bohemian feel you won’t find in the more popular Mexico beach destinations.

The town’s roads, “paved” in beach sand, can only be explored by bicycle or golf cart; one of the many charming quirks of Isla Holbox. There are no chain hotels in Holbox or restaurants either, only local businesses. Treat yourself to margaritas and a lobster pizza, a Holbox delicacy, with a clean conscience!

🚗💨 Pro Tips: Cars are not allowed on Holbox Island. If you’re driving your rental car, you can leave it at the Holbox Island ferry dock in the town of Chiquila Mexico for about $100 pesos ($5USD) per day. If you’re now wondering, How do I get to Holbox Island? Head to this article to discover all your Holbox travel options.

Better yet, the perfect Holbox Island beaches are fringed with palm trees and there’s little trash or pollution to speak of. Beautiful both during the day and at night, head to Punta Cocos beach for sunset, and then stick around to see the bioluminescence light up the water and sand.

There’s so many things to do in Holbox — kayaking through the mangroves, snorkeling, swimming with whale sharks in Holbox (seasonal from June 1-September 15), and cycling around the whole island by bike. On foot, stroll around Holbox to see its many colorful street art murals painted all over the island.

Isla Holbox, Mexico is colorful, beautiful and brimming with fresh, delicious cuisine. Based on that, what’s not to love about this off the beaten path, hidden gem Mexico beach town?!

small beach town with big palm trees and sand roads
One of the funky streets of Downtown Holbox Island.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

10. Hacienda Yaxcopoil

Contributed by Katja of Globetotting, who recommends Hacienda Yaxcopoil as one of the best haciendas in Yucatan, and a real step back in time.

Once upon a time, Hacienda Yaxcopoil (pronounced yash-coh-poh-eel) was one of the most important haciendas in Yucatan. In its prime, the hacienda, whose name means “the place of the green alamo trees” in Mayan, covered 22,000 acres.

It operated first as a cattle ranch, and later as a henequen plantation, only stopping production in 1988 when Hurricane Gilbert wiped out the entire henequen crop. Henequen, a plant fiber used to make rope twine, was once the most important cash crop in the Yucatan Peninsula.

🏰 Want to stay in a Yucatan hacienda? Here are all the best haciendas in Yucatan!

The hacienda is open to visitors today, although unlike many estates in the area, it hasn’t been restored. What this means, is that you can really step back in time and imagine what it must have looked like in its heyday.

Tours of the Casa Principal (Main house) and Casa de Maquina (Machine house) are available to visitors. The machine house is where the henequen-shredding machines removed fibres from the henequen plant — and with workers expected to pick 2,000 leaves a day, the machine house was always busy.

Looking for a hotel hacienda? Yucatan state has a few! In fact, there is a guest house on the Hacienda Yaxcopoil property for overnight stays. Nearby Hacienda Petac is another great Yucatan hacienda, available for rentals and stays.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

11. Las Coloradas (Pink Lakes)

Contributed by Michelle of Wander Eat Write, who recommends Las Coloradas because it’s the only pink lake in Latin America, and one of just 30 in the world.

The vibrant and unusually colored pink waters of Las Coloradas have grown in popularity over the years, thanks to social media, and have since drawn admirers from all across the globe. Nowadays, many say their trip to the Yucatan Peninsula isn’t complete without a stop at these famous pink lakes of Mexico.

💖 Pro Tip: The best way to see Las Coloradas is on a tour. If you’re coming from Merida, book the Chichen Itza & The Pink Pools Tour, and see both Las Coloradas and Chichen Itza in one day.

RELATED ARTICLE 📸 6 Epic Solo Travel Photography Tips + 5 FREE Presets

The pink lakes in Las Coloradas get their signature shade from the water reflecting off red and pink colored marine life such as plankton, brine shrimp and algae. These organisms all thrive in highly concentrated saltwater, which is produced by the nearby salt production factory.

Although visitors can no longer swim in the pink lakes, there are still opportunities to get up and close to the colorful waters by hiring a local tour guide in Rio Lagartos, the town closest to Las Coloradas. If you’re coming from Merida, you can also book your Las Coloradas tour online.

Those headed to the prismatic destination should be warned that there’s not much protection from the elements around Las Coloradas. When heading there, double-check the weather and make sure to wear a hat and eco-friendly sunscreen!

Las Coloradas FAQs

Where can I book a Las Coloradas tour?

As Las Coloradas is quite remote, the only tours you’ll find will leave from Merida, which is still abut 3.5 hours away.

If you’re coming from Merida, book the Chichen Itza & The Pink Pools Tour. This amazing tour goes to both Las Coloradas and Chichen Itza, so you can cross two places off your bucket list in one day!

There’s also the Live the Pink Sea and Exotic Beaches Tour, which goes to Las Coloradas and some nearby off the beaten path beaches and destinations.

Why is the water pink at Las Coloradas?

Las Coloradas has pink water because of the red algae, plankton and brine shrimp that live in this salty water. The salt content in this water is so high, this area has been used as a natural salt mine by the native Mayans for centuries.

What is the best time to visit the pink lakes in Mexico?

The pink color of the lakes shows brightest on very sunny days, and at midday. Keep this in mind if you plan to make the trip from Tulum or Merida, or the surrounding areas, as Las Coloradas is quite far! On overcast and non-sunny days, the water will not be vibrant pink.

Can I swim in Las Coloradas?

A few years back, the Mexican government stopped allowing swimming. The reason for this is that the salt content can actually be toxic on the skin. While there’s no one around monitoring if you go in or not, there’s also not a hospital close to Las Coloradas — so don’t break the law, and risk your health and safety, just for a photo.

How do I get to Las Coloradas?

The easiest way to get to Las Coloradas is via rental car. If not, you’ll take a bus to the town of Tizimin, then a second bus to Rio Lagartos, Mexico, then a taxi to the boat docks. From there, you’ll hire a boat captain to take you over to Las Coloradas.

The easiest way to see these pink lakes in Mexico is to book a tour of Las Coloradas, departing from Merida.

Chichen Itza & The Pink Pools Tour

Live the Pink Sea and Exotic Beaches Tour

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Best Yucatan Cenotes

12. Calavera Cenote

Contributed by Hannah of That Adventurer, who recommends Cenote Calavera for its crystal clear waters and unique skull shape.

Cenote Calavera is one of the most Instagram worthy and best cenotes in Tulum, and also one of most unique and best cenotes in Mexico.

Getting to Cenote Calavera from Downtown Tulum is easy, as it’s just 1.5 miles (3km) north of town. You can drive your rental car or hire a taxi for the day since you’ll want to visit the rest of the cenotes near this one, like Cenote Zacil-Ha and Gran Cenote.

What are cenotes? Cenotes are swimmable sinkholes containing freshwater. They are located in only a few places on Earth, with about 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Cenote Calavera, which means “skull” in Spanish, has three holes — one larger one, and two smaller ones that look like eyes — so it’s easy to see where it gets its name from!

The larger hole has a ladder and a rope swing, which is perfect for lounging on while the little fish in the cenote nibble at your toes.

You can jump into the refreshing waters from all three holes, but be careful jumping into the smaller holes.

After jumping in, swim around and look up to see if you can spot the bats that frequent this cenote.

As with most Yucatan cenotes, make sure to arrive early because they can get busy. Cenote Calavera is quite small and does fill up fast; it’s definitely more enjoyable when it’s quieter. This cenote is open from about 9am-4pm and costs around $100 pesos ($5USD) per person for entry.

Tulum Cenotes Tours

best places in the yucatan peninsula

13. Ik Kil Cenote

Contributed by Bailey of Destinationless Travel, who recommends Cenote Ik Kil because it is a magical place to swim!

Hands down, one of the most impressive and famous cenotes in Mexico is Ik Kil in the Yucatan Peninsula near the pueblo mágico of Valladolid. It is located only 3.5 miles (7km) from Chichen Itza, so many people opt for a Chichen Itza-Cenote Ik Kil combo trip.

This massive sinkhole of Cenote Ik Kil is unique in the fact that its walls are completely vertical and form a circle around the swimming hole. On top of that, vines hang from the walls and roof into the water, making it look almost magical. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Mexico!

Ik Kil Cenote is open daily, from 9am-5pm. Tour groups heading to Chichen Itza often fill the cenote between the hours of 11:30am-3:30pm. For those who want to visit Cenote Ik Kil when it’s less busy, go outside of these peak hours. It is open daily, from about 9am-5pm.

There is a large parking lot at the cenote for those driving, and the Cenote Ik Kil entrance fee is $80 pesos ($4USD). Locker rentals are an extra $30 pesos ($2USD). As with many places in Mexico, Cenote Ik Kil is cash only.

underwater sinkhole called a cenote to swim in with blue water and vines going into the water - day trips from Merida
One of the most instagrammable places in Mexico and the Yucatan, Cenote Ik-Kil.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

14. Dos Ojos Cenote

Contributed by Alya of Stingy Nomads, who recommends Cenote Dos Ojos because it offers unreal scuba diving or snorkeling in the middle of the jungle in one of the largest underwater cave systems in Mexico.

Located right underneath the Mexico Yucatan Peninsula, flows an immense underground river system, with thousands of cenotes, or sinkholes. The cenotes serve as access points to these cave systems.

In the area near Tulum, home to some of the best cenotes in Mexico, these holes in the jungle floor form amazing dive sites. Cenote Dos Ojos is one such site. It is also one of Mexico’s best cenotes for diving, and among the most popular snorkeling cenotes, with numerous divers and snorkelers exploring it daily.

The name Dos Ojos, meaning “two eyes” in Spanish, refers to the two large cenotes connected by a 1,320-foot-long (400m) cavern. You can snorkel independently or with a tour, or do a Dos Ojos Cenote diving tour through the caverns, where you’ll see bats, stalactites and the cenote’s famous blue water.

There’s incredible visibility, plenty of natural light and warm water temperatures of about 77°F (25°C) year round, which makes the “Two Eyes Cenote” an ideal place for diving and snorkeling all year long. This cenote is open daily, from about 9am-5pm, and costs around $200 pesos ($10USD) per person for entry.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Best Mayan Ruins in Yucatan

15. Chichen Itza

Contributed by Mayuri from ToSomePlaceNew, who recommends visiting Chichen Itza as one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and a great learning experience for history and culture lovers.

Chichen Itza is the largest and the most impressive of the Yucatan Mayan ruins sites. Its main pyramid, El Castillo (The Castle), is one of the most photographed historical sites on Earth. This ancient Mayan pyramid dates back to 600AD — making it more than 1,420-years-old.

Dedicated to the Mayan feathered serpent deity, Kukulcan, this Mayan temple was the most important pyramid at Chichen Itza. It was central to religion and commerce, meaning all residents and business thrived in and around it.

Like most important places, Chichen Itza was reserved for the upper echelon of society. Nowadays, everyone can tour the site; in fact, about two million people visit Chichen Itza annually.

The Equinox at Chichen Itza, when Kukulkan, the most important Mayan god, slithers down the side of the El Castillo pyramid (AKA the Pyramid of Kukulkan).

Every year, during both the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, thousands flock to Chichen Itza to see a very special astronomical phenomenon. On these two days, when the sun shines at the exact right point, the shadow cast on El Castillo (AKA Kukulkan Pyramid) makes it look like this feathered serpent god is slithering its way down the pyramid steps! 

Other than this Chichen Itza pyramid, there are other historically-significant things to see, including Cenote Chichen Itza, the Ball Court, Temple of the Warriors and the Wall of the Skulls. When visiting, plan to spend 3-5 hours exploring. Chichen Itza entrance fee is $481 pesos ($25USD), and it is open daily, 8am-5pm.

Chichen Itza is located right near Valladolid pueblo magico, and makes for the perfect day trip from Merida, though you can access it from anywhere in the Yucatan Peninsula. There is a large parking lot on site for those who are driving their rental car; Chichen Itza parking costs $30 pesos ($2USD).

💡 Pro Tip: You can not climb the pyramids at Chichen Itza! If you want to climb the Mayan pyramids in Yucatan, head to Uxmal, Coba and/or Ek-Balam.

chichen itza, a mayan pyramid and wonder of the world - day trips from Merida
El Castillo (AKA Kukulkan Pyramid) at Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

16. Coba Pyramid

Contributed by Eva Milano of Elevate Calm, who recommends Coba because visitors are allowed to climb its Mayan ruins.

The Coba Mayan ruins offer a unique insight into the life of this ancient civilization. If you’re debating Chichen Itza vs Coba, know that Coba is easily accessible, but see a lot fewer tourists than Chichen Itza and the Tulum Ruins.

The Coba Yucatan archaeological site is also not as curated as other Mayan ruins sites, but kept rather natural. At times, you might see a structure getting “devoured” by the jungle, or get a glimpse of an unfamiliar animal roaming around… like this adorable coati.

🦟 Pro Tip: The Coba ruins are deep in the jungle; don’t forget your eco-friendly bug spray!

Around 500AD, Nohoch Mul, the main pyramid in Coba was also the centerpiece of a vibrant city boasting 50,000 inhabitants. Standing at 138-feet-tall (42m), it is the tallest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula still standing today.

The thing best about this site is you can climb up to the top of the Nohoch Mul Coba pyramid! Going up the 120 stone steps is challenging, especially towards the top, because they are narrow, somewhat worn out and can be slippery — but don’t worry, there’s a rope to hold on to. 

This temple and Mayan pyramid was only meant to be climbed by the priests, who made sacrifices to the gods. It is incredible to think that these days, everyday people can enjoy this majestic view, once reserved for nobles only a few centuries ago.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

17. Uxmal Ruins

Contributed by Faith of XYUAndBeyond, who recommends Uxmal because of its importance in understanding the Mayan people.

Uxmal (pronounced yoush-mall) is an ancient Mayan city, and one of the most important Yucatan archaeological sites in Mexico. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Uxmal is considered the best representation of Mayan culture and architecture still standing today.

As you enter Uxmal ruins, you’re greeted by the 115-foot-tall Pyramid of the Magician, the tallest Uxmal pyramid. It is also known as the Pyramid of the Dwarf, and both of these names derive from a legend about a magical dwarf who was hatched from an egg, grew to adulthood in a single day, and built the pyramid in one night. This is the one building you cannot climb at Uxmal.

The Governor’s Palace Uxmal rivals the Magician’s Pyramid as the masterpiece of the Uxmal Mayan ruins. With its incredible carvings of the stone masks of the Mayan god Chaac slithering across the façade, and its two-headed jaguar throne, this was the once-Palace of Mayan Chiefs!

The Uxmal site dates back before 10BC, and is full of Mayan symbols and legends. There is even a hidden garden, the Temple de los Falos, said to be dedicated to the dwarf’s goddess mother.

🚙💨 Pro Tip: Uxmal makes the perfect day trip from Merida — especially if you’re renting a car — so you can explore all five Mayan sites on the 19-mile-long Ruta Puuc to see the neighboring ruins.

Best Hotels in Uxmal

If you’re coming from the Cancun/Tulum/Playa del Carmen area, Uxmal is quite remote and you’ll want to book a hotel. Even if you’re coming from somewhat nearby Merida and Valladolid, the hotels in Uxmal Mexico are surprisingly nice — they are actually more like resorts than hotels!

Booking a hotel in Uxmal means you can venture off the beaten path to leisurely explore one of the most underrated cities in the Yucatan Peninsula. Besides Uxmal pyramids, there’s four other Mayan ruin sites on the Puuc Route, the Choco-Story Chocolate Museum and Uxmal Mayan Planetarium.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Best Yucatan Beaches

18. Cozumel

Contributed by Janine of Janine in the World, who recommends Cozumel because it is home to one of the best beaches in Mexico, El Cielo, which is also her favorite beach.

Cozumel Island sits off the coast of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. There’s the small Cozumel Airport, but it’s also easily reachable by ferry from Playa del Carmen. In fact, this is one of the most common and best Playa del Carmen day trips.

The thing that makes Cozumel Mexico a must-visit destination is that it offers such an incredible cross-section of the very qualities that draw visitors to Mexico.

From delectable food and Mayan ruins, to luxurious resorts, white sand beaches and world-class diving and snorkeling — Cozumel has it all! 

Cozumel reefs are part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world’s second largest coral reef system, behind the Great Barrier Reef.

Cozumel Snorkeling Tours

When packing for Mexico, don’t forget your eco-friendly reef-safe sunscreen to help preserve the natural ecosystem 🐠🐟🐡🐬

To make the most of your visit to Cozumel, plan to spend at least 48 hours exploring because there are so many amazing things to do in Cozumel.

On Day 1 of your Cozumel itinerary, tour the island and stop off at some of the main attractions. Punta Sur Eco Park is a fantastic spot to visit some of the best beaches and learn about the local flora and fauna. Next, head to the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins, where you can learn about the role Cozumel Island played in Mayan culture.

On your Day 2, schedule a diving or snorkeling excursion so you can check out the famous Palancar Reef, which lies just off the coast of Cozumel. You’re sure to spot all kinds of marvelous sea life, including reef sharks, colorful tropical fish, rays, and even sea turtles! 

The best way to get around on Cozumel is by renting a vehicle. There is public transportation on the island, but you’ll appreciate the convenience of having your own wheels. You can rent scooters or cars when you walk off the ferry, but it’s wise to reserve in advance so you can secure the best rates.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

19. El Cuyo

Contributed by Isabella of Let’s Travel to Mexico, who recommends El Cuyo because it’s a peaceful beach destination, with laid back vibes and reasonable prices.

Picture this: Endless white sand beaches, an emerald green sea, dolphins doing flips off in the horizon, and manta rays coming close to the shore…

While this does sound like the Mexican Caribbean coast, it’s not. This is El Cuyo Yucatan, Mexico’s most up-and-coming beach destination, and as some would say, the perfect alternative to the more pricey Riviera Maya.

Located about two hours from Cancun on the Yucatan coast, El Cuyo Mexico was originally discovered by kite surfers. However, beach lovers and peace seekers soon discovered this laid back town, located far enough from the crowds to disconnect from everything and simply enjoy the beach.

El Cuyo is a small town with mostly boutique hotels; unlike other top Mexico beach destinations, you can stay right on the beach for just a few extra bucks. As tourism has increased, new hotels, great El Cuyo restaurants like El Chile Gordo, and cute breakfast spots like Naia Cafe, keep popping up.

There is a lot to love about El Cuyo, starting with the colony of wild pink flamingos that welcome you as you enter the village. There’s also kitesurfing schools, ATV tours to the pink lakes of Las Coloradas Mexico, paddle boarding, kayaking, birdwatching and yoga classes.

El Cuyo Yucatan really does have all you need for a perfect Mexico beach vacation!

best places in the yucatan peninsula

20. Mahahual

Contributed by Nicole Hunter of Go Far Grow Close, who recommends Mahahual to anyone who wants to experience Mexico and the Caribbean Sea away from the crowds.

Mahahual (pronounced ma-ha-wall) is a beautiful, small beach town on the Caribbean Sea. It is a popular destination for Mexico cruises and visitors who want to venture off the beaten path to one of Mexico’s best beaches that has far less people than bigger travel destinations like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Mahahual Mexico used to be simply a quaint fishing village, though is now on the map as one of the best beaches in Yucatan Mexico.

Today, it retains a lot of the same small town fishing village feel, but without any large all inclusive Mexico resorts or chain restaurants. Instead, there are small boutique hotels in Mahahual just off of the beach, restaurants and bars scattered on the beach, and a beautiful promenade next to the beach.

Colorful Mahahual Beach, Costa Maya Mexico

Mahahual Beach is one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, thanks to its soft white sand, and warm, crystal clear blue waters. One of the best things to do in Mahahual is take a half day boat cruise to fish or snorkel on the nearby reefs. There are plenty of fish and sea life you’ll encounter, including turtles and nurse sharks.

The closest international airport to Mahahual is Cancun International Airport. After arriving, you’ll need to drive your rental car four hours south to reach it.

You can also travel to Mahahual easily from the Puerto Costa Maya cruise port. From there, you can drive or catch a taxi just outside the entrance gate, and for $USD1 per person, be dropped off at Mahahual Beach 10 minutes later.

Located in southern Quintana Roo state, many combine a visit to Bacalar Lagoon, known as “the Maldives of Mexico,” with their Mahahual trip.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

21. Akumal

Contributed by Jessica of Unearth the Voyage, who recommends swimming with the turtles at Akumal Beach because it’s a once in a lifetime experience where you can interact with amazing sea creatures in their natural habitat. 

Of all the amazing places to see in the Yucatan Peninsula, one place you absolutely can’t miss seeing is Akumal Bay. Akumal is a small town located 27 miles north of Tulum, and 23 miles south of Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Akumal, Mexico gained notoriety as a scuba diving oasis, with its easy access to a large Caribbean Reef just off the shore. It is also one of the best places to snorkel in Mexico. When packing, don’t forget your eco-friendly reef-safe sunscreen to help preserve the natural ecosystem 🐢💙

Akumal Snorkeling: Swim With the Turtles

Today, the most popular activity to do in Akumal is snorkel with the abundance of sea turtles that live in the shallow waters just off-shore. The Akumal turtles love this area because the reef blocks the incoming tides, creating calmer waters and allowing a plethora of seagrass to grow.

There are a few different ways to see the turtles, the easiest being an Akumal snorkeling tour. When booking your tour, make sure it’s with a licensed tour guide. Licensed tour guides should, first and foremost, protect the turtles and make sure that people aren’t getting too close and invading their space.

When swimming, make sure to stay at least 10 feet away from the turtles at all times and only watch one turtle feeding for a maximum of five minutes. This ensures the turtles don’t feel threatened — and ensures you practice responsible and ethical tourism in Mexico.

Snorkeling with these amazing sea creatures in their natural habitat is a once in a lifetime opportunity! Akumal is one of the must see Yucatan Peninsula travel destinations, and visiting the Akumal Bay beach to swim with the turtles is something you don’t want to miss!

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Yucatan Lagoons

22. Sian Ka’an

Contributed by Claire Summers of Claire’s Itchy Feet, who recommends Sian Ka’an because it is the best way to observe some of the most majestic marine life in Mexico in their natural habitat.

Visiting the Sian Ka’an UNESCO biosphere reserve, located close to Tulum, had been at the very top of my Riviera Maya bucket list for some time. It’s not an easy place to get to, which is why it took me some time to finally get there.

Access to it is difficult because of the road. Some days, you can get lucky and it’s clear, but most of the time it’s washed out and damaged, which can cause massive issues if you attempt to drive it without a 4X4 and knowledge of how to change blown out tires!

What is a Biosphere Reserve? Biosphere reserves are learning places for sustainable development. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. —UNESCO

Sian Ka’an Tour: Take a boat tour of Sian Ka’an lagoon in the Yucatan! | Photo by Kay Tours

Why visit Sian Ka’an? It was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) because of its outstanding natural beauty and fragile ecosystem. At Sian Ka’an, you will see dolphins, manatees, turtles, and a lot of birds — all where they should be — out in the wild!

Head here for a full, in depth article on how to get to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, but in short, there are feasible two options, take a tour from Tulum, or stay in a Punta Allen hotel for at least one night, and take the tour from there.

sian ka’an tours

best places in the yucatan peninsula

23. Xel-Ha

Contributed by Sarah of In Search of Sarah, who recommends Xel-Ha Park because it’s the world’s largest natural aquarium and offers something for everyone with its all-inclusive ticket price.

Xel-Ha (pronounced shell-ha) is located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, just south of Playa Del Carmen. It is easily accessible from some of the best adults-only resorts in Mexico.

If you purchase tickets through your resort, your Xel-Ha transportation is included, as well as a visit to the Tulum Ruins Mayan archeological site. Opt to visit the ruins first, and then cool off in the waters at Xel-Ha Park after. If you don’t stay at a resort, you can buy Xel-Ha tickets here.

🎟 Buy Your Xel-Ha Tickets Here 🎟

This eco-park, not to be confused with Xcaret Park, though they’re owned by the same company, offers endless opportunities for outdoor, Mexico adventure travel.

Whether you want to swim in cenotes, snorkel, zipline through the jungle, jump off a cliff, explore caves, or simply relax in a hammock and go tubing down a lazy river, there’s something for everyone.

One of the best things about visiting is that your entrance ticket covers everything inside the park! That’s right — between all the things to do at Xel-Ha Park, drinks at the bars, food in the restaurants, and a rental locker — you get your money’s worth out of those Xel-Ha tickets!

best places in the yucatan peninsula

24. Kaan Luum Lagoon

Contributed by Allison of Viva La Travelista, who recommends Kaan Luum Lagoon because this Mexico lagoon is a true hidden gem and off the beaten path natural attraction.

Meaning “Yellow Earth” in the Mayan language, Kaan Luum Lagoon is a hidden swimming hole, located just 15 minutes south of Tulum. In fact, it’s one of the easiest Tulum day trips you can take.

Once you arrive, you’ll find a long wooden dock where you swim, relax, and sunbathe in the shallow water. Keep in mind that you’ll want to wear a flowy coverup and large sun hat, and bring eco-friendly reef-safe sunscreen and a refillable water bottle, as there’s no shaded areas on the dock.

✈️🧳 Wondering what to pack for Mexico? Download this FREE printable Mexico packing list now!

Kaan Luum Lagoon, and its deep-water cenote. | Photo by Falco Ermert

At the end of the Kaan Luum dock, there is a deep cenote, almost perfectly centered in the middle of the lagoon. While swimming in the cenote is prohibited, it’s still amazing to see the sharp contrast in the color of the water.

There aren’t many activities or amenities at Laguna Kaan Luum, making it the perfect place to cool off and spend a leisurely afternoon. It can get crowded with locals, so it’s best to visit on a weekday, and you’ll want to arrive early to beat the crowds. 

Visiting Kaan Luum Lagoon makes for a fun excursion from the Riviera Maya, as it takes you off the beaten path in Mexico. This is the perfect place to really enjoy the natural beauty of the Mexico Yucatan region.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

25. Celestun

Contributed by Julien of Cultures Traveled, who recommends Celestun because it is an opportunity to see wild flamingos in their natural habitat.

The Celestun Biosphere Reserve is one of the most beautiful places in the Yucatan, and one of the best places for birding in Mexico. As a natural wetland, Celestun Mexico is a haven for birds, and many migratory species use it as a resting place along their journey.

To see these birds up close, visit Celestun, Mexico during the winter months when the lagoons of Ria Celestun attract thousands of pink flamingos. In fact, the Celestun flamingos put this UNESCO World Heritage Center on the map of must see Yucatan travel destinations.

flock of over 100 pink flamingoes in Celestun, one of the Best Mexican Beach Towns
Thousands of flamingos flock — pun intended 🦩 — to Celestun Mexico each winter!

To see these beautiful birds up close, do a Celestun tour and hire Jose from Guardianes de Los Manglares de Dzinitun. This group focuses on rebuilding and preserving the mangroves so birds continue to call this area home. This eco-tour takes visitors by canoe through the mangroves to the open lagoons, where it’s possible to see hundreds (or thousands!) of flamingos feeding in the shallow waters.

🦩 Wondering just how many flamingos are in Celestun?

According to some sources, as many as 35,000 flamingos visit during the height of mating season, November to February. The Celestun Yucatan flamingos nest from November through March; though December through February is the best time to see them on a Celestun trip.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

Mexico Travel FAQ

Is Mexico safe for travel?

Let’s start this FAQ with the most commonly asked questions: Is Mexico safe for tourists? Is Mexico safe for solo travel? Is Yucatan safe for travel?

The short answer to all three questions is: Yes!

Longer answer: Safety is a tricky subject. One, safety is a feeling — not a fact. Two, people consider themselves “safe” when nothing bad happens, and “unsafe” only when something bad does. However, as a general rule, the Yucatan Peninsula is considered quite safe.

As no place on Earth is 100% safe, you’ll want to follow the general safety guidelines below; the same as you would when traveling anywhere. There are some general and Mexico travel safety tips below in the accordion menus that will explain how, and also a Mexico travel podcast about safety below.

Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?

Want an added level of security and peace of mind during these strange travel times? Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health while traveling.

I’ll be honest, when I first started traveling solo, I wasn’t insured. However, after years of solo traveling, I wised up… now, I even have a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important!

If Mexico and Yucatan travel safety are on your mind, get your free quote below now!

Register for the STEP Program

Make sure you enroll in the free STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

After you’ve registered, a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Mexico can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in the event of an emergency while abroad.

10 General travel safety tips
  1. Always listen to your intuition — because your intuition is always right.
  2. If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place asap. Don’t worry about making a kind, nice or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away fast.
  3. Don’t walk home alone at night.
  4. Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
  5. Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
  6. Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
  7. Speaking of bar neighbors… don’t take drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended.
  8. Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
  9. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
  10. This should be a no brainer, especially in the current travel climate — but get Travel Insurance from World Nomads, one of the biggest names in Mexico travel insurance. Get your free travel insurance quote below.
best places in the yucatan peninsula

Is driving in Yucatan Safe?

With 25 amazing places highlighted in this article, and many more amazing places to visit in this part of Mexico, a Yucatan road trip is definitely the way to go.

For this, you’ll of course need a Mexico car rental from a company like Discover Cars. They have competitive pricing and car rental locations throughout the Yucatan.

When renting, be sure to opt for full coverage insurance because U.S. companies don’t cover you in other countries.

While the Yucatan Peninsula is considered quite safe, and driving in Yucatan is also known to be safe, there is one obvious caveat here: You’ll be driving in a foreign country.

Since you will be driving in another country, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with Mexico’s driving laws, or ask the agent at your car rental company for Mexico driving tips and advice. Below in the accordion menus, you’ll also find some useful tips for driving in Mexico.

12 Mexico driving tips

1. Rent with a reputable company! I’ve tried cutting corners with rental car costs, but as they say, “you get what you pay for.” For a reliable Yucatan rental car, I recommend Discover Cars.

2. Avoid driving at night, if you can. After several years traveling and living in Mexico, and hearing this same warning over and over, I’ve had to accept that there’s truth to it. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and highways.

3. Always use the couta, or toll, roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. Pro tip: Bring cash for the tolls.

4. Download any offline map you’d need for travel. I recommend Google Maps or Maps.Me’s offline maps. Pro tip: Your signal will go in and out as you travel through the rural areas. You’ll also want to download some podcasts and music while you’re downloading your map.

5. Mexico’s speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You don’t have to worry about conversion math here; just make sure the speed limit sign number matches your speedometer number.

6. Do not use your cell phone while you’re driving! Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. In fact, even having your phone in your hand is a ticket-able offense, so try not to even hold your phone while driving.

7. The rumors are true about the cops expecting bribes! If the cops pull you over, and they only will if you give them a reason to, they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.

8. Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). Make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as topes don’t always have signs alerting you to them.

9. Mexico’s gas stations are not self-serve. When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and rely on tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1).

10. Mexico’s traffic lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.

11. Make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance. You are generally not covered in any way through your U.S. company when you drive in any other country.

12. Most travel insurance policies cover driving. In case you’re wondering Should I get Travel Insurance?… The answer is hell yes! I have a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important.

Is there Uber in Yucatan?

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula consists of three states — Quintana Roo state (where Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen are located), Yucatan state (home to Merida, Valladolid and Chichen Itza), and the lesser-visited Campeche state (with colorful Campeche City).

Of the three, there’s only Uber in Yucatan state.

Uber: For Yucatan state travelers, Uber is a great option, as is costs much less than in the U.S. Of course, rates will vary, but figure about $3USD for a 20 minute ride.

Taxis: Taxis are always an option, anywhere in the Yucatan Peninsula. The few things you need to know are 1) You will need pesos/cash for the taxi, 2) Have small bills because they often won’t give change, 3) You negotiate and agree on the price before getting in the taxi.

Colectivos: In all states, colectivos (small shared vans) make great transport options. Taxis are quite inexpensive, but colectivos even less so… you might just have to ask a local for assistance taking a colectivo, as most companies don’t post route and fare information online.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

What’s the best time to visit Yucatan?

Weather-wise, November-March is the best time to do your Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico travel. Located in the tropics, Yucatan weather is hot year-round; however, there’s much less humidity during these cooler months.

Keep in mind that in the tropics, it will likely rain for a few hours each day from April-October — and don’t forget June 1-November 30 is Hurricane Season. While the rains tend to end by mid-October, there’s still a chance of rain, and technically even hurricanes, through the end of November.

For those who don’t mind risking the rains, April-October is the off-season in Mexico, so you’ll find a lot of great travel deals.

📆 Pro Tip: December is the busiest month for tourism in Mexico, and spring breakers start coming in March, so if you like nice weather and not-so-crowded beaches — January and February are the best months to visit Mexico.

Yucatan Peninsula Weather

best places in the yucatan peninsula

What do I include on my packing list for Mexico?

The Yucatan Peninsula has a tropical climate. As you can see by the average yearly weather chart above, this part of Mexico is hot (and humid 😥) for most of the year, so definitely pack a LifeStraw Filterable Water Bottle to stay hydrated — and filter your water to help prevent getting sick in Mexico.

Mosquitoes can also be an issue, so don’t forget your eco-friendly bug spray, and bring reef-safe sunscreen so you practice responsible tourism in Mexico. Particularly in spring, summer and fall, you’ll also want an anti-frizz hair product.

As far as how to dress, think flowy, tropical, breathable, cotton, and light-colored clothing; bonus points for anything that doesn’t show sweat! Besides all your summer-wear, you may use a light cardigan at night, but the Yucatan is largely a place for sundresses, sun hats, sunglasses and bathing suits.

👙 Head here for some Yucatan outfit inspo!

FREE Printable Packing List for Mexico

Need a more detailed Mexico packing guide? Download your FREE printable packing list for Mexico below — it covers both Mexico beach packing and Mexico city packing. This multi-page Mexico packing checklist covers everything you’ll want to bring, and more importantly, what not to bring to Mexico.

best places in the yucatan peninsula

How do I get to the Yucatan Peninsula?

As you may have noticed from the Yucatan Peninsula map at the top of this article, this part of Mexico covers quite a large geographical area. In fact, there are three states in the peninsula, Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatan states.

Depending on where you’re headed, here’s the best Yucatan airport to use:

Cancun/Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya/Tulum

The easiest airport for accessing most of the Yucatan peninsula is Cancun International Airport (code: CUN) because there are direct flights to Cancun from so much of the U.S. From Cancun, you can rent a car, arrange for a private airport transfer, join others in shared transport, or take an ADO bus.


The closest airport to Tulum is Cancun International, and this Cancun Airport to Tulum guide covers everything you need to know — from Cancun car rentals, to driving directions from Cancun to Tulum.

Merida and Valladolid

There is an airport in Merida called Merida International Airport (code: MID), which has direct flights from a few U.S. cities, like Miami and Houston. If you aren’t coming from either of those, there are plenty of connecting flights through the Mexico City or Guadalajara International Airports.

For those traveling to Merida and/or Valladolid, MID is a great option.


For those traveling to Cozumel Island, considered to have the best diving in Mexico, there’s Cozumel International Airport (code: CZM). Need more information about all the best things to do on this island paradise? Check out this podcast about all things Cozumel travel.


Located all the way south in the Yucatan Peninsula, near the border of Belize, there’s Chetumal International Airport (code: CTM). For those traveling to Bacalar Lagoon, AKA “the Maldives of Mexico,” Mahahual or Chetumal, this airport is an option — though many just drive down from Cancun.

Do I need a visa for Mexico travel?

No, U.S passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Mexico from the U.S. This is another reason why Mexico is one of the best travel destinations from the U.S.

When you arrive in Mexico and go through the Immigration line, you’ll receive a 180-day (6 month) FMM tourist card. This is a small piece of paper that you need to hold on to so you can give it back to Immigration at the airport when you leave the country. 

There is no charge for the FMM, but if you lose yours, there is a charge of about $600 pesos ($30USD) to replace it. You’d also need to get to the airport about an extra hour earlier than you’d normally have to in order to do the lost visa paperwork… the bottom line: Don’t lose your FMM!

Do I need to learn Spanish to travel to Mexico?

If you stick to the most popular places in Yucatan, the on the beaten path places — then no, you can get by with just English. If you’re heading to any pueblos (small towns), however, there will be little English spoken.

Either way, it is always good manners to know at last some basic Spanish when you visit Mexico. Check out Episode 13 of the podcast as travel blogger Elizabeth talks about how she learned 8 languages, and gives great tips for how to learn language basics in easy, fun ways.

If learning Spanish isn’t in the cards for you, #NoJudgement! Pin and/or save the infographic above on your phone so you’ll always have the words and phrases you need, even if you’re off-WiFi.

List of useful spanish words and phrases
best places in the yucatan peninsula

Final Thoughts: Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most popular Mexico travel destinations. The entire area is considered safe for travel and road trips.

In fact, since it covers about 1,000 miles, a Yucatan road trip is one of the best ways to see all the on- and off-the-beaten path places in one trip. While visiting Yucatan, don’t be afraid to check out the hidden gems and lesser visited places to see the things few visitors do.

🚗💨 Renting a car in Mexico? Head here to book your Mexico car rental.

Even if a road trip isn’t the plan for your next Yucatan trip, you’ll still enjoy all the well known Mayan ruins beach towns. Whether you’re road tripping in Yucatan, or headed to a beachfront resort to kick back with a margarita in hand, this part of Mexico has something for everyone.

Did we miss any of the best places in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Have any Yucatan Mexico recommendations? Which place on the list caught your eye? Please join the conversation in the comments below!

Enjoy these related blogs!

Please join me on my Solo Travel & Mexico Travel adventures

¡Hola Chicas!

I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

I started this Blog and Podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel and Mexico travel off your bucket list… READ MORE

podcast cover-woman on a colorful colonial street

A solo travel podcast

meets Mexico travel podcast

🎧 Click to Listen Now


Affiliate disclosure

This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you make a purchase, I make a small commission. Affiliate links cost you nothing, and help keep my content free! It’s a win-win for us both 👯‍♀️ READ MORE

Best Solo Female Travel Podcast: Dream To Destination

Best Solo Female Travel Podcast: Dream To Destination

Looking for a Solo Female Travel Podcast?  You’ve found it — the Dream To Destination podcast is a solo travel podcast meets Mexico travel podcast… and sometimes, a podcast about solo travel in Mexico. Tune in each Monday, when host Shelley and guests discuss...

I’d L❤️VE to hear from you!


  1. Taylor

    So helpful planning a trip to Mexico in February thanks love this!

  2. Disha Smith

    The Yucatan Peninsula has been on my bucket list for a long time now. Your photos are beautiful and now I have serious wanderlust!

  3. Taryn S.

    I love how thorough this is, thank you! I’ve been to Mexico several times, but not so much the Yucatan Peninsula. We have a wedding next summer in Playa del Carmen and are hoping to tack on a few days for ourselves – this will be very helpful!

  4. Savannah

    Wow, I’d never even considered visiting the Yucatan Peninsula before, but after reading this and seeing those incredible photos: definitely adding it to my bucket list!!

  5. Cristina

    Your blog and pictures really make me want to visit Mexico soon. I’m adding some of these places to my bucketlist 🙂 Thank you for sharing all this useful information.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest