Tourist-Friendly Towns on the Yucatan Peninsula
Are you planning a visit to the Yucatan Peninsula? You have made a great decision. However, to ensure you will have a dreamy holiday, it is better to do your homework first.
The Yucatán Peninsula is a territory made of three main states:
Quintana Roo, Campeche, and last but not least, Yucatan.
This beautiful peninsula in Mexico is not just beaches and coastline but has a rich history, beautifully kept by its towns.
There is a rich history behind these settlements. Actually, the towns were Spanish colonials, starting in the mid-1550s. Yes, you read it right. While most of North America was not explored or occupied by Europeans, the cities here were European colonized.
The three towns we have mentioned are colonial cities you should visit. However, beyond these 3 stars of the island, there are many other beautiful places to explore on the peninsula. As such, be ready to visit the top attractions and to find some tips about the Yucatan Peninsula.
Akumal: The Turtles Home
Akumal is one of the most popular places to visit on the Yucatan Peninsula. Right on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Akumal has a beautiful name that represents the reason for its popularity.
As such, in the Mayan language, Akumal means “Land Of Turtles”, and although it has lots of visitors, it is still one of the best places for these old marine animals to come and make a home.
Akumal is located 104 km south of Cancun. If it is easier to calculate this way, you should know that this area is half-way between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Now, the nearest airport to Akumal is the Cancun International Airport. The easiest way to reach this area is by flying into Cancun, then rent a car to drive directly to Akumal.
Of course, if you are planning your visit with every little detail, then you can book a private transfer right from the airport till the final destination. You just need to book a transfer from the many companies that have this service on the internet.
You can also choose to share a vehicle or take public transport. There are lots of buses and shuttles that will take you up to the front of your accommodation.
However, another reason that makes Akumal very charming and also fascinating is its breathtaking bay. The water here is clear and sparkling, and there are lots of underground rivers.
You can lay out in the sun enjoying the white sands, explore the marine world and the clear, warm waters. Swim with the turtles, and explore the rest of the area.
Right at the north, we recommend you to go to the Half Moon Bay, where you will find a curved beach and the Yal-Ku Lagoon. Bring your snorkel with you and explore the tropical fish, the barracudas, and the stingrays.
Needless to say that you will also enjoy the very fine sand beaches, beautifully overshadowed by the tall palm trees.
If you are curious about the small bay at Akumal, you will discover a very sandy bottom, with fragile sand. During the day, this sand will get stirred up, so you will lose visibility.
Akumal Bay Tip: You will see lots of groups that are coming here for snorkeling, so we recommend you to go early in the morning and enjoy the subaquatic world.
All the water around Akumal Bay is most of the time unpolluted and features beautiful coral reefs. As such, it is impossible not to find a new underwater adventure once you are visiting the Akumal Bay.
Bacalar: Visit the Lagoon of Seven Colors
Bacalar is a must in terms of great destinations to see in the Cancun area. The very first reason that comes through our mind is the Lagoon of Seven Colors. If you already have this idyllic image of the Mexican paradise, well, there are huge chances they will correlate with Bacalar.
I recommend once you reach Bacalar, to make your way down to one of the jetties that can be found all around the lagoon. Book a trip around the lagoon, and enjoy the mixed variety of stops.
You can swim, snorkel, and also relax while laying out under the sun or enjoy the shallower waters. This experience will be one to remember, pure bliss to enjoy once coming to the Lagoon of Seven Colors.
Visit el Pueblo Mágico
Bacalar is also called “El Pueblo Magico”, meaning the Magic Town. There is no wonder why this place has such a name, due to the many natural wonders, and the diverse elements.
Shops, Food, and Souvenirs
In the evening, don’t forget to take a short walk in the city where you can discover more of its wonders. There are plenty of nice restaurants to eat at, as well as fun bars to enjoy a Cuba Libre with Lime. For dinner, you can have seafood, tacos, pizza, or salads.
You will also find great souvenirs and places to do shopping.
El Cuyo, the Fishing Village
Get away from the crowded Riviera Maya and enjoy El Cuyo. This place is definitely an oasis of quietness, tranquility, and peace. You will also meet a community of friendly locals and expatriates, who will make your journey in this paradise even better.
You will learn from them what it means to preserve such beauty and protect the natural ecosystem with a lot of care.
How will El Cuyo Impress you?
Here you will find lots of beautiful sceneries, deserted beaches, pristine waters, as well as the perfect type of wind to enhance the kite lovers. There is no rush here, so it is perfect for those who are planning to do some relaxing.
You have lots of cafes, great gift shops, as well as lots of restaurants with delicious meals.
Here is a joke about El Cuyo that we like a lot: life goes really slow and comforting here, and so does the WIFI. Make sure you will not work during the vacation.
Activities To Check While in El Cuyo
Do Long Walks on the Beach
It’s a pity not to take advantage of the very long beaches. They look endless, safe, and not so spoiled. As such, the beach is stretching from Holbox, which is in the South, until Rio Lagartos, which is in the North.
So it is crystal clear that you can walk endlessly, especially if you enjoy doing sports or jogging in the morning. The sunrise is breathtaking, and we are convinced there are no colors such as the ones in the Caribbean sea.
Do Some WaterSports
The water here is perfect, and the wind perfect for practicing kiting. However, although the water is not that deep, sometimes, you can feel some strong currents.
El Cuyo is a popular destination among the kitesurfers, and it has the perfect conditions for this summer aqua practice.
Here you can experience kiting, rent a paddleboard or a kayak. Go to NAIA CAFE for classes and rentals.
Learn to Protect and Care the Beach
The beach in this area is a protected environment. As such, there will be no setup beaches, chairs or umbrellas, but you will need to bring everything you need from home. However, you will find some “palapas” that will offer you some shadows.
Beach Tips: Here is everything you need to have at the beach to make your stay perfect:
- Come with your SPF, the sun is strong, even though the clouds;
- Respect the environment, collect your waste, do not litter;
- Bring some water with you. You can refill them at the NAIA Cafe and Cafe Local.
Admire The Sunset
Go to the pier, as we see it as one of the best spots to watch the sunset. Don’t forget your camera and shoot some great pictures. In the light of the sunset, you can admire the locals fishing, or, if you are lucky enough, you might find the dolphins swimming. They come relatively close to the pier, and the experience is unique.
Rent a Bike and Go See The Flamingos
There are some places, such as Naia Cafe from which you can rent bikes and go for a ride around town. The weather is warm enough for you to enjoy the colorful houses of the village, as well as the murals on the walls.
If you are looking for a small, photogenic place on the Yucatan Peninsula, make sure you visit this non-touristic colonial city. Espita is a small colonial town, a working village where you can best feel the local atmosphere.
Here you won’t find any tourist infrastructure, but an authentic Colonial village with lots of photogenic spots. The first attraction you will notice is the Cathedral of San Jose, which seems very similar to the cathedral in Valladolid.
If you enjoy walking, take a tour of the town and allow yourself to fall in love with this charming place.
Holbox Island: The Mesmerizing Place
If you are looking for the perfect combination of great weather and bohemian beauty, then Holbox Island will definitely be the best host for you and your family. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this little paradise, perfect for fishing, snorkeling, and bird watching.
Here are the main things to know before reaching this paradise, a lot of information to help you have the greatest stay here.
Is it worth coming to Isla Holbox?
Definitely yes! Maybe you have already explored some similar places, such as Cancun, Tulum or Playa Del Carmen, and you know what paradise looks like. Well, Holbox Island will offer you a mesmerizing experience, and you will fall in love with the colors of the sand and the water.
You will find bright murals that are laying on many of the island’s walls. The bright color of the ocean is unique, and it looks like there has been a lot of saturation on a picture.
Holbox is a quite the popular destination, this is why it might be more touristy than Cancun, for instance. However, it is worth coming here for your dreamy vacation.
Location Of Holbox
If you are looking on a map, Isla Holbox is right on the northwest of Cancun. Just across the water of Chiquila, you will find the Isla Holbox somewhere on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Actually, the island is quite large. Imagine 22 miles long of beaches and clear water.
How to get here?
If you are coming from Cancun, well, the way to Holbox Island is only two hours by car to Chiquila. Once you will be in the town, make sure you find good parking and leave the car.
None of the parking lots looks all set up, however, you will find plenty of yards or garages where you will pay a little fee for your parking.
There is no wonder why this place has this beautiful name. Well, Isla Blanca has gorgeous white beaches. The island is not quite an island, but a peninsula, very close to Cancun.
This beautiful area has the most amazing beaches, with perfectly white sands, and flat sandy stretches right on the lagoon. Everything looks painted, so it is impossible not to fall in love with Isla Blanca.
Tourists can have contact with the locals and learn from them their favorite sport: kitesurfing. Once you lay in the saltwater lagoon, you will have the chance to feel the breeze and enjoy this perfect spot.
Isla Bianca is located in Quintana Roo, and it is the perfect hideaway spot right in the north of Cancun. The name of this island might not sound strange to you, and it is definitely the radar paradise.
Isla Blanca is barely an island, so the Caribbean water will nicely flow directly in the Chacmochuc Lagoon. The coastline has around 12 miles, and it has one of the most amazing views in this entire region.
Beaches like in Paradise
What makes this place truly unique are the beaches in the area. The best part is that there was minimal human intervention in setting up this island. The intense white sand is the star of this place and therefore gives the name to the island.
The waters are as beautiful as in the rest of the Caribbean area. They are blue and have dreamy landscapes all around.
Another thing that you will enjoy is the amazing wildlife. If you love animals and are not scared of insects and island wildlife, you will love to watch the birds, like the frigates, pelicans, flamingos, and toucans. You also have the chance to see some local animals, such as monkeys. If you are brave, then have a look at some reptiles, such as turtles, snakes, and the iguanas.
One of the most touristic attractions in our list, Isla Mujeres is yet very charming. Only 15 minutes north of Cancun, this beautiful paradise is right across the Bahia de Mujeres, or in translation, Bay of Women.
This place is perfect for those ones who are looking for tranquility in their travels. However, if you enjoy relaxing, but also have some fun, we recommend you do some water sports.
Moreover, you have plenty of shops to occupy your time. Do you want to make friends? Then start enjoying the special atmosphere from Isla Mujeres.
White, sandy beaches
Isla Mujeres is popular for its amazing, white sand beaches. The waters are as crystal and blue as you see in pictures. Why has this island become so popular among tourists from all around the world?
Well, because of its diversity. You will find an eclectic community here: artists, chefs, expats, fishermen, and so on. Here are the best things to do once you will reach Isla Mujeres.
MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum
This is a unique project to visit, a sub-aquatic museum to help you understand the effect of climate change. The sculptures don’t look the same, and they change over time, due to the coral growing and the different marine life.
Isla Beaches, or Playa Norte
Playa Norte or North Beach is considered a unique beach in all Mexico. The sand is white and soft, and the beaches are nicely crowded by the palm trees. The water is blue and looks so pale, it’s like inviting you to take a long bath.
Garrafon Park ~ Punta Sur
Garrafon Park is located right on the southern tip of the Isla Mujeres. It is right at the point of the rising sun when it first touches the Mexican soils. Here you can finally discover some natural reefs, and start enjoying some water sports along with your friends and family.
Go visit Hacienda Mundaca once you reach this island. This place belonged to pirate Fermin Mundaca. You can finally visit the ruins of this Hacienda and the winding paths all through the shady grounds.
The Turtle Farm
Are you coming with your kids on the island? Then you should definitely visit the Turtle Farm as well. This is the perfect place to visit a true sea turtle sanctuary.
This aquarium welcomes not only turtles but also a variety of sea life. You will have the chance to see tropical fish, as well as seahorses and manta rays.
Also known as the “The Yellow City” or “The City of Hills”, this is a small colonial town with remnants of pyramids. The yellow city of Izamal is mesmerizing immediately when you enter the area. It is like someone has painted everything around in yellow. The buildings look the same, is what people have done here in unique looking the colonial city in Izamal.
If you are looking for the perfect Instagram spots, come to Yellow City. Izamal is the perfect stopover from visiting anything else. There is definitely a special charm of this small town, and you cannot miss passing by.
Here are some of the highlights of visiting Izamal:
- Kinich Kak Moo Pyramid. The special thing to do while you are in Izamal is visiting the five large remnants that have been the pyramids in Izamal. Don’t worry about the entrance, as it is free and open every day, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The very first part of the pyramid should not be hard too climb, however, the second one might become a little bit challenging. Keep in mind that there are no ropes that can help you balance, so be careful as you will be climbing.
- Rent a bike and start exploring. The Yellow Town of Izamal is a small one, so it will be very easy to explore it. The easiest way to do it is to rent a bike, and you will be able to visit all the little streets.
- Eat at Kinich Restaurant. Don’t miss having a nice meal at Kinich Restaurant. Here you can taste some samplings of the Yucatan food at very decent prices.
Not only is the food great here, but also the atmosphere, the value of the meals, as well as the very friendly staff. Don’t miss tasting the starts of this restaurant, the handmade tortillas.
Last but not least, Merida was a Spanish Colonial City that welcomed the largest population and also the capital of Yucatan. In 2017, Media has been the American Capital of Culture. If you want to feel the vibes of the Spanish colonization, come to Merida.
If you are the kind of person that enjoys partying in a more peaceful, quiet way, Merida will be the perfect place to be. There are lots of bars and restaurants that will be less crazy clubbing areas.
During the day, you have lots of activities to do, such as visiting some museums, doing shopping in one of the many markets, or just admire the unique colonial architecture in this part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Coming to Merida is a great base to start exploring some of Mexico’s Mayan archeological sites.
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If you are a summer person, falling in love with the sand and beaches, don’t miss exploring the ones from the Yucatan Peninsula. It is one factor that makes living here so exciting. From the modern cities to the colonial ones or the Mayan ruins, you will never get bored visiting the Yucatan Peninsula.
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