COVID-19 (coronavirus) update: Though the land border between the US and Mexico is closed to non-essential traffic until November 21, Mexico is open to visitors from around the world. Read the latest travel restrictions and how they may affect you. Keep in mind that this article was written before the pandemic, and take appropriate steps to stay safe.
Cancun is one of Mexico's most popular destinations, but if you're interested in more than flopping on a beach or hanging out at an expensive resort, take some time to see the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The best way to explore the Yucatan Peninsula is by car. You can rent one in Cancun for only $200 pesos (
The major draw to Tulum are the Mayan ruins on the beach. There are also some beautiful and accessible cenotes in the area, some of the best on the Peninsula.
Tulum is the antithesis of Cancun. Most of the accommodation at Tulum Playa is eco-friendly – many
It’s a cheaper base than Cancun or Playa del Carmen for exploring the ruins and cenotes of the Yucatan. To get the most out of your visit to the Tulum ruins (north of the playa), go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to miss the day-trippers.
On the southern end of the coast is a town that was once a sleepy fishing port. In the northern end of Mahahual, a cruise ship jetty dramatically changed the town, which now caters to tourists with restaurants, bars, quad bikes,
South of Tulum, this well-preserved natural reserve is great for camping, with pristine beaches, cenotes, and diverse wildlife. Here, you can see dolphins, manatees, crocodiles, turtles, take a bird-watching excursion, or go scuba diving to see diverse coral beneath the water.
Travel 31mi (50km) south from Tulum to see the small fishing village of Punta Allen. Located in the Si'an Ka'an Biosphere, there are a number of walking trails and natural swimming holes to be explored. Visit the ancient ruins of Muyil by boat, hop on board a launcha to tour the mangroves, or go
Bacalar Lagoon is a 26mi (42km) long, narrow lake, no more than 1.2mi (2km) at its widest point. You can go diving, kayaking, swimming
Valladolid is a small, colonial city between Cancun and the state capital Merida. It’s the closest town to Chichen Itza, the most popular Mayan archaeological site (about 28mi/45km away), and a great place to base yourself to explore other historic sites.
On the famous Calzada de los Frailes (Friars’ Road) you’ll find a Cocoa museum, where they’ll teach you the process of making traditional Mayan chocolate. Try a free sample at the end of the tour. On that same
Just a few miles from Valladolid is Ek-Balam. While there are countless archaeological sites in the Yucatan, Ek-Balam is one of the most beautiful, and far less well known than Chichen Itza.
A mile (1.5km) away from Ek-Balam, check out the X'canché cenote. Here, you can swim inside the cenote, or zip or rappel down the walls of the well.
The small town of Rio Lagartos is well worth including on your journey through the Yucatan Peninsula. The main attraction here is the Rio Lagartos Biosphere, where keen bird watchers will enjoy the variety of species flying about. Rio Lagartos is also famous for being a primary nesting ground for flamingos in Mexico.
In the early evening, as fishermen begin to bring their boats back to shore, try asking a fisherman if they'll take you around the lake at sunset. Usually, they'll ask how much you're willing to pay, but these guys always know where the best places are to see local wildlife.
If you take a river tour, go as early in the morning as you can, as this is the best time to see crocodiles in the wild (from the safety of a boat, of course).
Don't leave without visiting the Las Coloradas Salt Mines, a 25-minute drive from Rio Lagartos. The pink waters and tall mountains of salt are an incredible sight to see.
Located at the southern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, on the border with Belize, Xcalak is for those who want to really disconnect. Activities at this tiny, off-the-grid fishing village include world-class diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding/kayaking, and sport fishing.
Mexico is an large country with so much to see so how do you get around? We take a look at how to stay safe while on the road.
Chelsea Gregory makes a one-of-a-kind connection that lets her experience Muyil's El Castillo in a way few others can.