Yucatan Peninsula Travel Guide

Mexico is always a good idea!

Where is Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula?

The Yucatan Peninsula is a region in southeastern Mexico that consists of three states — Quintana Roo state, Yucatan state and Campeche states. 

Quintana Roo is home to many of the best beaches in Mexico, and some of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico: Tulum, Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Yucatan and Campeche states are known for colonial cities, like Merida, Valladolid and Campeche City, and Mayan culture and ruins including Chichen Itza and Uxmal

From world-class beaches, swimmable cenotes, and Mayan ruins, there’s something for everyone planning a Yucatan Peninsula trip.

Yucatan Peninsula map

Best Yucatan Peninsula Travel Destinations:

Yucatan Peninsula Travel: Tulum sculpture raw love cafe ahau tulum hotel

Tulum, Mexico

Once a sleepy beach town, Tulum is now one of the top Mexico travel destinations. It has some of the best beaches in Mexico, located right on the Caribbean Sea.

Is Tulum worth visiting? Tulum is perfect for travelers looking for a unique experience. It has an interesting mix of bohemian vibes and spiritual seekers, with ultra-luxury Tulum resorts on the beach, Mayan Ruins and swimmable cenotes.

Yucatan Peninsula Travel: Playa del Carmen Portal Maya statute on the beach

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen is located about 45 minutes south of Cancun. It is popular with travelers, expats in Mexico and digital nomads in Mexico alike.

Is Playa del Carmen worth visiting? Playa (as it’s known by locals) has a similar vibe to Cancun, but on a smaller scale. There are still great Playa del Carmen resorts, but it sees fewer tourists than Cancun.

Yucatan Travel: colorful colonial style buildings in downtown merida, mexico

Merida, Mexico

Merida is the capital city of Yucatan state — and considered the safest city in Mexico. Once a Mexico hidden gem, Merida is fast becoming a top Mexico vacation city.

Is Merida worth visiting? Those seeking to experience the “real” Mexico will love Merida. It’s a great place for Mexico culture travel and foodie travel, with plenty of amazing Merida day trips located nearby.

Yucatan Peninsula Travel: cancun beach with blue water in the caribbean sea

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun has been one of the top Mexico travel destinations for decades now. Visitors from all over the world head here to enjoy the beautiful beaches, lively party scene and more.

Is Cancun worth visiting? For travelers who want to take advantage of the great Cancun all-inclusive resorts, kick back on the beach, frozen Margarita in hand — you’ll love Cancun Mexico!

Best things to do in Yucatan Peninsula:

Best Yucatan Peninsula Tours:

Yucatan Peninsula Travel Blogs

Yucatan Peninsula Travel FAQ

Is the Yucatan Peninsula safe for travel?

According to experts, you are statistically quite safe while visiting Mexico. Popular areas, like the Yucatan Peninsula, are known to be heavily moderated by Mexican police to keep these places safe — so visitors continue to return year after year!

• Quintana Roo State: This state is home to all the big destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula — including Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen — three of the biggest Mexico party towns. As is common knowledge, safety goes way down when there’s alcohol involved.

• Yucatan State: This state is considered one of the safest in Mexico, if not the safest. The capital city, Merida, is known as the safest city in Mexico, though other cities like Valladolid and the beaches of Yucatan are also very safe to visit.

• Campeche State: The least visited Yucatan Peninsula state, this off the beaten path Mexico destination is safe. From the Walled City of Campeche to the Calakmul Mayan Ruins — both UNESCO World Heritage Sites — Campeche State has many Mexico hidden gems.

As with traveling anywhere, you’ll need to follow general travel safety measures, like not walking home alone at night and staying aware of yourself and surroundings. For an added safety measure, pack these travel safety items, dress in a way so your Mexico outfits blend in with the locals, and buy a Mexico SIM card.

Want to hear about Mexico travel safety from the experts? Check out my Is Mexico Safe for Travel? article.

☀️ Yucatan Peninsula weather

Weather-wise, this region of Mexico has a tropical climate — meaning you can expect warm and hot temperatures year-round, and heavy rains all summer. If possible, plan to visit from November to May, during the dry season.

Hurricane Season: June 1-November 1 is Atlantic Hurricane Season, and being located on both the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula is highly susceptible.

✈️ Yucatan Peninsula slow Season

If you don’t mind some rain, you’ll often find the best travel deal during the Mexico slow season of April to September. The shoulder season is that magical time when prices are still low and the weather is good. The Yucatan shoulder season is from about late-October to November and February to early-April.

The entire Yucatan Peninsula is quite large, and if you want to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, a Mexico rental car is the way to go.

If you only have a weekend to travel, stick to 1-2 cities near each other — like Cancun and Isla Mujeres, or Playa del Carmen and Cozumel Island. If you have one week in Yucatan, you can visit 3-4 places. To see all the best sites and the entire Yucatan Peninsula, you’d need at least two weeks, if not more!

🏝 Headed to Tulum? Check out this Tulum itinerary, which has options for 3, 4, or 5 days in Tulum Mexico!

The easiest way to get to the Yucatan Peninsula is via Cancun International Airport (code: CUN), as it’s the largest airport in the region. There are several smaller, regional airports in the region; all listed below.

🚙💨 Traveling from Cancun to Tulum? Check out this detailed guide, Cancun to Tulum: The 6 Best Transportation Options.

Realistically, your options are either to 1) fly into Cancun and connect by rental car, the ADO bus or a private transportation service to your destination, or 2) fly into Mexico City International Airport (code: MEX), and take a connecting flight to your destination.

• Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, and Riviera Maya: Cancun International (code: CUN)
• Merida, Valladolid and Yucatan state: Merida International (code: MID)
• Cozumel Island: Cozumel International (code: CZM), or Cancun International Airport
• Isla Mujeres: Isla Mujeres National (code: ISJ), or Cancun International Airport
• Holbox Island: Aerodromo de Holbox (code: HOL), or Cancun International Airport
• Bacalar and Chetumal: Chetumal International (code: CTM)
• Campeche state: Campeche International (code: CPE), or Merida International Airport

🗣 Mexico Language

Mexico Fun Fact: There’s actually no official language of Mexico!

Spanish is the most widely-spoken, so some mistakenly say Spanish is the official language of Mexico. However, the government actually recognizes 68 national languages, including the Nahuatl Aztec language, and the Maya language.

💰 Mexico Currency

Mexican Peso — Exchange rates vary, but have hovered around $18-21 pesos to $1USD for about the last decade. You will find some places that take U.S. dollars, but usually at an unfavorable rate, so stick to using pesos in Mexico.

☀️ Mexico Weather

Mexico is a big country — the 7th largest on Earth, in fact! It’s hard to generalize the weather in Mexico, because it will vary greatly by where you’re traveling.

In general, temperatures are mostly mild everywhere all year long, though summers on the coast are hot and humid, and winters in Central and Northern Mexico are on the colder side. Throughout the whole country, the rainy season runs from (about) April through September.

✈️ Mexico Busy Season & Slow Season

• Mexico Busy Season: The busy season in Mexico runs October to March, as this is the dry season and you’ll get the best weather. December is the busiest month for tourism in Mexico.

Mexico Slow Season: If you don’t mind some rain, you’ll often find the best travel deal during the Mexico slow season of April to September. Do keep in mind that June 1-November 1 is Hurricane Season, and Mexico beaches are all susceptible.

Mexico Shoulder Season: The shoulder season is that magical time when prices are still low and the weather is good. The Mexico shoulder season is from about mid-October to November and January to early-April.

🧳 Download your FREE Mexico Packing Checklist!

Check out this ULTIMATE Packing List for Mexico — so you know what to pack and what NOT to pack for Mexico! This article offers advice on packing for Mexico City (and all cities), and packing for a Mexico beach vacation.

Beyond what Mexico outfits and clothing you’ll want to bring, here are a few extra things to consider:

• Filterable Water Bottle: Mexico is close to the Equator, so you’ll need to stay extra hydrated.

A filterable, refillable water bottle not only keeps you hydrated, but also filters your water so you don’t get sick in Mexico.

The LifeStraw Refillable Water Bottle and Britta Filtered Water Bottle are both great options.

• Mexico SIM Card: Want to be able to use your phone in Mexico?! Of course you do! Pick up a TELCEL Mexico SIM card before your trip, and swap it out on the plane while you’re waiting to exit, so you have phone and data service the second you arrive in Mexico!

• Anti-Hangover Meds: Planning to party hardy?! Make sure you’re not wasting any of your precious travel time with a hangover. Liquid I.V. has about 70,000 reviews on Amazon, and is considered the best defense against a hangover.

• Sun Hat: No matter if you’re headed to the beach or a city, you’ll want to wear a hat to shield yourself from the strong Mexican sun. This cute sun hat is the perfect stylish and practical accessory for your Mexico vacation.

 Sunscreen: As you’ll want to reapply a few times throughout the day, a light, Mineral-Based Sunscreen is ideal. Headed to the beach? Do your part to practice responsible tourism in Mexico by only using an eco-friendly Reef Safe Sunscreen while swimming. You can even ditch the sunscreen altogether and opt for a Long Sleeve Swimsuit instead.

 Bug Repellent: Mosquitoes are common throughout Mexico — especially on the beaches! REPEL Insect Repellent is an eco-friendly brand that’s DEET-free and plant based, with a pleasant lemon and eucalyptus scent. Don’t want to use a spray? Pick up some Mosquito Repellent Bracelets.

No — U.S. passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Mexico. For non-U.S. citizens, head here to see if you need a Mexico travel visa.

When you go through Immigration and enter the country, you’ll receive your Forma Migratoria Multiple, or FMM Tourist Card. If you’re coming by plane or cruise ship, there is no charge; for those driving across the border, the FMM costs about $30USD. In most circumstances, all visitors get a 180-day (six month) visa — so you can legally stay up to six months!

🚨 Have your FMM on you at all times

Keep in mind that though it’s called an FMM card, it’s actually just a small piece of paper. Keep your FMM on you at all times in your wallet, as this proves your legal status in Mexico. It’s rare, but if an officer stops you, they can ask to see your FMM.

🎫 Don’t lose your FMM!

Be sure to keep track of your FMM, as you’ll have to give it back to an Immigration officer at the airport, cruise port, or land crossing when you’re leaving the country.

If you lose your FMM, there is a $600 peso ($30USD) cost to replace it, and some paperwork you’ll need to fill out before you can leave the country. If you’re flying home, plan to arrive at the airport about one hour earlier than you normally would to do the paperwork and pay the fine.

As this question doesn’t have a yes/no answer (I wish it did!), I do my best to answer it in depth in this article, Is Mexico Safe for Women: 20 Mexico Solo Travel Tips You Need. However, for the most part, Mexico is actually statistically quite safe for all travelers — including solo travelers! Check my Solo Female Mexico Travel page for more info.

Mexico solo travel guides

Mexico is a big country, and it has plenty of amazing solo female travel destinations — like the ones featured in this article, Mexico Solo Travel: 20 SAFE Destinations for Female Travelers. In it, you’ll get recommendations of places to visit in Mexico, from solo travelers who have actually been to them.

🎧 solo travel podcasts

• Ep. 34 | Planning your first Mexico solo trip
• Ep. 40 | Tips for safe solo travel in Mexico
• Ep. 31 | Daria talks about her Yucatan solo travel
• Ep. 28 | Marquita talks about her solo travel in Tulum

To answer the question, Is it safe to drive in Mexico?YES, it’s considered safe to rent a car and drive in Mexico. As the country is quite large, road trips are a great way to see a lot in a little time, and especially popular in the Yucatan Peninsula and Baja California Peninsula.

The one caveat to Mexico driving safety is that you’ll be in a foreign country, unfamiliar with their laws and customs. Head here for a complete guide to Renting A Car in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know, where you’ll also get 10 useful Mexico driving tips!

🚙💨 Looking for the best Mexico car rental company? Discover Cars works with both local Mexican companies and international companies to get you the best rates. Not only do I recommend them — I also use them!

As a general rule, you’ll want to know at least a few words of Spanish when visiting anywhere in Mexico. This is both a sign of respect, and will also help you have a better, smoother trip.

If you stick to the more touristic places in Mexico, you should be fine with basic Spanish. For those planning to venture off the beaten path, be advised most people in pueblos (small towns) speak little to no English.

Here are some options:

  • Brush up on your Spanish: Use a language-learning program like Rocket Spanish, so you’re confident, and conversational, before your trip.
  • Download the Google Translate App: For this to work at all times, you’ll need a Mexico SIM card with data — as the app won’t work when you’re off-WiFi.
  • Travel with a Mexico phrasebook: This Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook is an Amazon best seller, and a great non-digital language assistant!
  • Save the infographic below as an image on your phone. This way, you have access to these common words, phrases and questions even when you’re off-WiFi.
List of useful spanish words and phrases