Yucatan Peninsula: the 10 best things to do!

A trip to Cancun can definitely resume in a week at an all-inclusive resort, but if you like to make the most of your travels and to live as many experiences as you can, bear with us in this post. Here we will show you that besides chilling out at a resort and beautiful beaches, Cancun and the whole Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico can offer way more things to do and to see, such as: visiting Mayan ruins, caves, cenotes, pink lakes, swimming with whale sharks, trying out local food and more.

Before we jump into a list of the 10 best things to do in Yucatán Peninsula, here are some things you shall know about it:

Where is Yucatán Peninsula located on a map?


The Yucatán Peninsula is a region in the southeast of Mexico and it is made up of three States: Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Campeche. See the map below:

Yucatan Peninsula Map
Photo: Worldatlas.com

When to travel to Yucatán Peninsula?

As the Yucatán Peninsula has a tropical climate, I honestly would go there at any time of the year. Here is a detailed list of the seasons that will help you out:

High Season: From December till April and from July to August the Yucatán Peninsula gets more crowded and more expensive.
Low Season: May, June, September, October and November are the cheapest months to travel in Yucatán Peninsula.
Cool Season: From November to February the temperature may go down to 15°C but during the day it has an average of 28°C.
Hot Season: From March till May the temperature can go up to 40°C.
Rainy Season: Goes from June to October.
Hurricane Season: From June to November with greatest risk from August till October.
Whale Shark Season: From mid May to September. July and August are the peak, so your chances to see them increase.

How to get around the Yucatán Península?


By car: You may rent a car at the airport. Make sure you have cash (Mexican Pesos) with you to pay the tolls though.
By bus: ADO has very comfortable buses and they have several stations in Mexico, including at some airports.
By colectivos: This is the cheapest way to get around in Mexico but you can’t bring too much luggage in them. They aren’t comfortable and may not be the safest option.

What to pack for Yucatán Peninsula?


Biodegradable Sunscreen
Biodegradable Bug Spray
Lip Balm
Body Lotion
Hat
Sunglasses
Swimwear
Comfortable Shoes

10 Best things to do in Yucatán Peninsula:


Visit the Mayan Ruins

Coba Maya Encounter Tour Alltournative
Coba Ruins
Photo: Elaine Villatoro

The Mayan culture is definitely fascinating! Once we are in Mexico we definitely should visit some of the Mayan ruins and learn about the Mayas.

From Cancun you are able to visit Chichen Itzá, Coba, Ek Balam , Tulum.

I’ve taken the Chichen Itza + Cenote Maya and the Coba + Maya Encounter tours with Alltournative. They are extremely well organised, the guides know a lot about the Mayas, and the company do a beautiful work with the local communities.

Get 10% off in any tour with Alltournative!

Swim with whale sharks in Cancun

Whale Shark in Cancun
Whale Shark
Photo: Elaine Villatoro

One of my favorite experiences in Mexico was to swim with whale sharks near Contoy Island.

Bear in mind that we shall research a lot before deciding which company we will book this type of tour. We need to ensure that they really care about the animal welfare and work to protect the biggest fish of the ocean.

After a lot of research and asking for recommendations, I came across Blue Caribe. My experience with them was great as they were very clear in mentioning that:

  • We shall not touch the whale sharks.
  • We shall not use selfie sticks while swimming with them.
  • We shall not use sunscreen, body lotion and/or other chemicals.


Explore the Cancun caves

Cave Tours in Mexico
Cave Tour in Mexico
Photo: Elaine Villatoro

Did you know that there are several underground caves in Cancun?

Some people are aware of the existence of Rio Secreto but very few know about Río Escondido, a different area which is also called Sac Pool.

Río Escondido is a cave complex that connects cenotes and is located near Playa Del Carmen.

Important: We shall be very careful to not break anything whenever we walk inside caves. The stalactites and stalagmites grow only about 0,13mm per year.

Get 15% off when taking a cave tour with Nova Aventura Viajes

See flamingos and the pink lakes at Las Coloradas

Flamingo at Las Coloradas
Flamingo at Las Coloradas
Photo: Elaine Villatoro

It takes about 3 hours to get to the pink lakes in Las Coloradas (Rio Lagartos) from Cancun.

I didn’t find day trips so we rented a car and drove up there.

When you get there you can join a tour to see the pink lakes and to see flamingos in a private property. We did go around on our own in the public areas and we were lucky enough to see it all for free.

Enjoy the cenotes

Cenote Calavera near Tulum
Cenote Calavera
Photo: Diego Imai

The cenotes are wells connected with groundwater currents and the Yucatan Peninsula has thousands of them.

They are considered sacred by the Mayans for being a connection between life and death.

Some of the cenotes you can visit are: Cenote Suytún, Cenote Calavera, Cenote Dos Ojos.

Cenote Suytun Light
Cenote Suytún
Photo: Diego Imai

Important:

We shall not use sunscreen or repellents during our activities in the cenotes and we should take a quick shower before going to the water to eliminate some chemicals from our bodies. 

When a cenote is contaminated, it prejudices the water that is designated to the people.

Even though the government treats the water before distributing it to the population, the water of the local Mayan communities aren’t treated.

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A day at Contoy Island

Contoy Island, one of the best attractions in Yucatán Peninsula
Contoy Island
Photo: Elaine Villatoro

If you like to visit places which are almost untouched by man you will love to visit Contoy Island.

Contoy is well preserved because the local community and the government works together to do so. They have implemented some rules that are keeping this place pristine, some of the rules are:

  • It is forbidden to take plastic bottles to the island and to smoke there.
  • We are not allowed to use sunscreen.
  • Only 200 people can access the island per day and for the maximum of 3 hours.

I took a tour that goes to Contoy and Isla Mujeres with Blue Caribe and I got amazed by all the information the guide gave us, instructing us on how to be responsible travellers. Check it out the Instagram Stories we made that day.

Visit Holbox Island

Holbox Island, Yucatan Peninsula
Sunset at Holbox Island
Photo: Elaine Villatoro

Holbox is a beautiful island, with hammocks at the beach, surrounded by nature: birds, flamingos, and even whale sharks and bioluminescent planktons.

I would recommend you to stay there for at least one night.

Accommodations and Tours in Holbox Island with up to 30% discount!

Eat the local food

Mexican food is absolutely great, and while visiting Mexico we definitely should look for some local places to eat.

Near Cancun Hotel Zone, Parque das Palapas has some options.

We were lucky to meet Nadia, an amazing lady who took us to eat tacos with her whole family. Check it out the video we made for IGTV about this experience:

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🇧🇷 PESSOAS! Cada vez mais o toque, o olhar, o abraço caloroso são fontes que nos trazem muita energia… e quanto mais nos envolvemos com celulares, computadores entre outros eletrônicos mais necessitamos de algo real em nossas vidas. São as pessoas, com suas personalidades e essências que são capazes de transformar as experiências em algo bom ou ruim e até mesmo nos surpreender com atitudes, conhecimento e vibe! Ficar hospedada num resort de luxo no México não seria tão bom se lá eu não tivesse conhecido a Nadia, garçonete que me convidou para jantar com ela e sua família e ainda me hospedou em sua casa uns dias depois… Ficar hospedada em um eco-hotel em Cancún não seria a mesma coisa se a dona Araceli não tivesse parado pra conversar comigo, pego uma caneta para pra fazer uma estrela em torno de uma picada de pernilongo que tive na perna e me falasse que a tal da geometria terapêutica ajudaria a melhorar… Se pessoas tem esse poder todo de nos ajudar, melhorar nosso dia, melhorar nossa vida… isso significa que cada um de nós como indivíduo temos um papel muito importante para com a sociedade… E aí vem umas perguntas pra gente se fazer, acredito que suas respostas poderão nos guiar nessa jornada… – Que tipo de pessoa somos hoje? – Que tipo de pessoa queremos perto da gente? – Que tipo de pessoa queremos ser? A gente adora cobrar dos outros que eles sejam e ajam de determinadas maneiras… mas o quanto a gente se dedica pra ser alguém que de fato vai fazer diferença na vida dos outros?… ⠀ 📸🎥 @godiego

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Party in Cancun

Cocobongo Cancun
Cocobongo Cancun
Photo: Bianconero Photography

The nightlife in Cancun is quite famous, I’ve been to Cocobongo in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen in my first trip to Mexico in 2011.

In this last trip though (July, 2019), I didn’t feel like partying but it is still a popular and fun thing to do if you are into it.

Other night clubs to hang out in Cancun Hotel Zone at night are The City, Señor Frogs, Mandala Night Club.

Chill out in Bacalar

Best things to do in Yucatán Peninsula
Bacalar Lagoon
Photo: Elaine Villatoro

This beautiful turquoise lake called Bacalar or Lake of Seven Colors is located in the south of Quintana Roo State, almost in Belize.

It takes about 4 hours drive from Cancun to the “Mexican Maldives” and about 5:15hrs by ADO bus.

There is an airport in Chetumal as well, which is 40km away from Bacalar’s town.

I fell in love with this place, I supposed to stay there for 2 nights and stayed for 4.

If you look for a small and calm village to rest, surrounded by nice restaurants, and to connect with nature, you will fall in love with Bacalar as well.

If you have any questions or have experienced something amazing that is not in this list, please leave a comment below.

Enjoy your time in Mexico!

Take care.

Elaine Villatoro


Read also:

Sustainable hotel practices in Yucatan Peninsula

Best practices in wildlife tourism

Tips to stay healthy while travelling


*.* Some activities in this trip were sponsored by Sustentur, Quintana Roo Tourism Board, Alltournative and Blue Caribe.