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Things to do in Yucatan? Find out the best hotspots!

Updated: Jun 15

Mexico had been on my bucket list for quite some time, last December we finally managed to visit and chose for the Yucatan peninsula.

This region of Mexico is not only quite safe but also the most visited.


If you are looking for the authentic Mexico experience, the best places to visit are Valladolid, Bacalar, and Merida. If you love the beach and the underwater world, make sure to add Isla Cozumel, Tulum, Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox to your list.


view on the ruins in Tulum at the coast of Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Practical Information and Travel Tips for Visiting Mexico

  • Arrival: When you arrive at Cancun airport, you need to fill out an immigration document. Although there is a kiosk suggesting a digital download, the airport's Wi-Fi is unreliable. You'll receive the document at the immigration desk. Keep the paper you receive until the end of your trip!


  • Time Zones: There’s a time difference between Yucatan and Quintana Roo. For instance, Valladolid it’s one hour earlier than Cancun/Tulum, …


  • Wildlife spotting: Bring binoculars to spot the abundant wildlife, especially birds.


  • Tipping: Tipping is customary in Mexico, usually around 10 or 15 % . However, if the service is subpar, tipping is not obligatory.


  • Snorkeling Gear: If you love the underwater world, bring your snorkeling gear. The best places for snorkeling are Bacalar, Akumal, El Cielo and the cenotes.


  • Cilantro: Coriander (cilantro) is added to almost every dish. If you don’t like it, request your meal ‘sin cilantro’.


Traveling Around the Yucatan Peninsula


Car rental: While you could hire a car, it’s best to book in advance with a reputable rental company like Sunnycars. Roads are generally good, but the driving style differs from Europe.

We rented from a local company, and the car's condition was poor.


ADO bus in Yucatan, Mexico

Buses: For intercity travel, we used Adobusses . They offer a reliable and punctual service. Download the app to book tickets in advance, especially during high season. The buses are affordable, air-conditioned (bring a sweater), and have comfortable seats. No extra fees for luggage, but keep valuables with you on the bus.












Bikes: For local travel, we often rented bikes. Avoid hotel rentals as they tend to be pricier. Local rentals are in good condition cost about 50 $ for four bikes for two days in Tulum.


Taxis: Taxis are affordable,, but always agree on the fare before getting in. Prices range from 40 to 120 pesos.


Colectivos: Colectivos are a cheap and popular way to travel. These mini-vans, used by locals, cost around 40 pesos for trips like Valladolid to Chichén Itza . They run frequently and usually have air conditioning.



Recommended Itinerary for 12 Days in Yucatan Peninsula

Route: Cancun – Isla Cozumel – Tulum – Bacalar - Valladolid – Cancun


itinerary map of Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Alternatively, consider Isla Mujeres or Isla Holbox instead of Isla Cozumel. We skipped Playa Del Carmen and Cancun due to their crowds, staying only one night in Cancun upon arrival. If you arrive in the morning, head straight to one of the Islands.


Things to Do in Yucatan


Isla Cozumel


Accessible by a 30-40 minutes ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, choose between Ultramar or Winjet (the latter being faster and cheaper). Sit outside if you arrive early enough.

view from the coastline in Cozumel, Mexico

Stay: The west coast near San Miguel de Cozumel is ideal. Avoid staying near the cruise terminal. Our favorite hotel on Cozumel is Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa.


Playa Palancar, public beach on Cozumel, Mexico

Activities:


  • Island tour: hire a car (with full insurance) and visit Playa Palancar, a beautiful public beach with a bar/restaurant and some resident raccoons. It’s also a starting point for snorkeling or diving tours to El Cielo and the reefs of Palancar & Colombia.









Punta Sur Eco Beach on Cozumel, Mexico

  • Punta Sur Eco Beach park: the entrance fee is worth it for the stunning views, bird-watching, and the crocodile lake. Arrive before the park closes at 4pm.

  • El mirador: Stop here for breathtaking photos.












Dinner in Hemingway's with sunset at the coast on Cozumel, Mexico

Restaurants: Hemingway’s & Sereno offer beautiful views, perfect for sunset dinners and great food.
















Tulum


We stayed in Pueblo Tulum as the beach area was very expensive during the holiday season. Renting bikes made it easy to access the beach area, cenotes and local sights. My favorite place to stay in Tulum is Wakax Hacienda & Cenote Boutique Hotel, check it out here.


Must-Visit Places:

The Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico

  • Tulum Mayan Ruins: Entry is 80 pesos per person. Arrive early to avoid crowds and enjoy the stunning seaside location with its sunbathing iguanas. Tulum Ruins are open daily from 8am to 5pm.








spectacular small cenote Cavalera near Tulum, Mexico





  • Cenotes:

    • Cenotes Cavalera: Small but adventurous, requiring a jump to enter.

    • Cenote Aktun Ha (Car Wash): Near the Tulum-Coba road, it's a crystal-clear swimming spot, home to a turtle and a resident crocodile.

    • Cenote Azul: Popular among locals. It features clear water and a jumping platform.

wearing our swimsuits of byjessicarey in Tulum, Mexico


On this picture my daughter and I are wearing our swimsuits from byjessicarey. We absolutely love these because they are beautiful, comfortable and 100% made from regenerated materials (like rescued fish nets), no sweatshops involved either!













Beaches: Visit beach clubs or the public Paradise Beach. While the famous ‘Ven a la Luz’ statue is no longer at the entrance , Raw Love Café is still worth a visit.


Akumal: a dream spot for swimming with sea turtles. Entry requires a guide and life jacket, costing 400 pesos (about 20$) per person.

We reached Akumal cheaply via colectivo.


Restaurants:


  • Raw love café: Great for vegan breakfast or lunch.

  • Del Cielo: The best breakfast in Tulum Pueblo.

  • Burrito Amor: Heavenly guacamole and burritos.

  • Bonita Tulum’s Burger bar: Excellent burgers and live music.

  • Sabor de Mar: Delicious food at reasonable prices, despite the half-hour queue.


Bacalar


A three-hour Ado bus ride from Tulum, Bacalar offers a quieter, more autenthic atmosphere.


Activities:

  • Lake Bacalar: perfect for sailing, kayaking and snorkeling.

  • Los Rapidos: Known for it’s seven blue shades lagoon and ‘living rocks’. Open daily from 9am to 6pm.

  • Cocalitos: Relax in hammocks or swings in the water.


Restaurant: La Playita offers amazing lake views and excellent food.

relaxing on the terrace of La Playita in Bacalar, Mexico



















Valladolid


Located in central Yucatan, Valladolid has a one-hour time difference from Bacalar. The four-hour drive is worth it for its authentic charm and proximity to Chichén Itza.


Must-Visit Places:
City center park in Valladolid, Mexico

  • Colonial Center: Enjoy Francisco Canton park and the beautiful Calzada de los Frailes street. Don't miss Wabi Gelato for the best ice-cream in town or a Marquesita from a park food stall.














  • Cenotes: Visit Samula, Ik Kil, Oxman, and Suytun.

visiting Mayan temples in Chichen Itza, Mexico
  • Chichén Itza: A new wonder of the world. Hiring a guide is recommended to learn about Mayan culture. Entry is 600 pesos per person (about 30 $). Despite the vendors, it's a must-see. Book a guided tour here.














Accommodation


We stayed at Le Muuch Hotel, which I highly recommend. With excellent rooms, fabulous décor, two swimming pools, cozy relaxation spots, and a great breakfast, it's a perfect blend of luxury and affordability.



Restaurants:


  • Bazar Municipal: Offers great, cheap food stalls.


  • Casa Conato: Serves excellent Mexican food in a lovely garden.


  • Papparazi: Authentic Italian food by a real Italian chef. A medium pizza is ample for two.


You can find the full itinerary of this trip on the app Travogram, check it here.


Plan Your Affordable Luxury Trip to Yucatan


I hope you enjoyed reading about the things to do in Yucatan and discovering its hidden gems. If you need help planning your trip or want more information, feel free to contact me. Yucatan awaits with its blend of affordable luxury, iconic landmarks, and unique destinations!



 *Disclaimer: This post contains affiliated links which means that purchases made through these links reward Destination Explorer a small commission without any additional charge for the purchaser. 


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