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  • Writer's pictureLena Claeys

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico: A Guide To The Yucatan & Quintana Roo

Updated: Mar 5

Yucatan Peninsula is located in the east of Mexico. It consists of 3 states: Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche. This area has everything you need from tropical weather, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Mayan ruins, stunning nature, cenotes, and amazing cities. In this article, we'll highlight everything you need to know before going and the 11 best places to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula.

best things to do yucatan peninsula mexico
Sunset on Isla Mujeres


Check out our video on Yucatan Peninsula to get a sense of what it's like there!

Table Of Contents

Important Things To Know

Best time to travel to Yucatan Peninsula

The best time to travel to Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is between November and April. The weather will be warm, the raining season is over, and the sea is more predictable which makes it ideal for snorkeling, swimming, and diving.

Cost & currency in Yucatan Peninsula

This area is pretty affordable, but it is more expensive than the rest of Mexico. In the area itself, you'll find affordable hotels, restaurants,... But of course, in the cities it is more expensive. Cancun, Tulum, and Playa Del Carmen are more expensive than other places in the Yucatan but they are definitely worth it! In Mexico they use Mexican pesos, so if you plan on going, keep an eye on the exchange rates to save more money.

Safety in Yucatan Peninsula

Yucatan Peninsula is the safest travel destination in Mexico. This doesn't mean that there's no crime here. Pickpockets are common in this area, especially during the winter months. So even though it is a safe place, use your common sense and keep an eye out for your belongings. There are also many people who try to sell drugs in the streets. Simply ignore them and you'll be fine!

11 Best Places To Visit In Yucatan Peninsula

The Yucatan Peninsula has so many places to explore and things to do. After spending 2 months in this beautiful area we have made a list of our favorite places.

11. Rio Lagartos

Rio Lagartos is a small fishing village located along the Gulf Coast. It is an untouched and less touristic area filled with wildlife and pristine nature. You can explore its protected biosphere by taking a boat tour where you will observe hundreds of flamingos, alligators, and pelicans. We visited this town on a day trip from Valladolid, which is about 1.5 hour away. However, you can also spend more time in the area and combine a tour of the biosphere reserve with an excursion to the nearby Las Coloradas, which are pink water lagoons formed by salt mines.

Rio Lagartos yucatan peninsula mexico
Flamingo at Rio Lagartos!

10. Playa del Carmen

While Playa del Carmen itself is very touristic, it is a great base to visit nearby cenotes and attractions. There are tons of unique cenotes, Mayan ruins, and gorgeous islands at your fingertips. We recommend visiting the nearby cenotes Sac Actun and cenote Azul. And while you’re in Playa del Carmen itself, make sure to enjoy the beach and walk around 5th Avenue to take in the international vibe. A vibrant nightlife, delicious food, and lots of entertainment are awaiting you! If you want to get to know more about Playa del Carmen, definitely watch our video on the things you must do when visiting Playa del Carmen.

Playa del carmen yucatan peninsula mexico
Playa del carmen

9. Cozumel

Cozumel is only a 30 minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen. It’s known for its white sand beaches and excellent diving and snorkeling. Home to the second-largest reef system in the world, there is extensive coral and sea life with incredible visibility. Whether you’re a beginner or expert diver, there’s something for everyone around Cozumel. We did a snorkel tour to the famous El Cielo where we spotted stingrays and starfish. But the highlight was relaxing at El Cielito, which was the most beautiful beach we’d ever seen in our lives.

Cozumel yucatan peninsula mexico
Swimming at Cuzumel

8. Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is located right across the shore from the bustling city of Cancun. This island is a beautiful, peaceful paradise known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and the friendliest locals in the Mexican Caribbean. We explored this laid-back island for about three days and chose to ride bikes for our transportation, which is perfectly doable considering its size. Make sure to visit the ancient Mayan ruins and cliffs at Punta Sur and watch the sunset at North Beach. Watch our video on the best things to do in Isla Mujeres for more inspiration!

north beach isla mujeres yucatan peninsula mexico
The beautful sunset at North Beach

7. Mérida

What attracts most visitors to Mérida is its thriving food and cultural scene. With an interesting mix of Mayan and colonial culture, Mérida is encircled by ancient temples, sacred cenotes, and colorful streets with colonial mansions. Spend at least a few days experiencing this fascinating culture and visiting its nearby attractions. The city offers a lot of cultural performances. Our favorite was a ball game named Pok Ta Pok. We also highly recommend visiting the Uxmal Ruins and Celestun which is the perfect destination for a day trip. In Celestun, you’ll find the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve, which is home to flamingos, crocodiles, and many other birds. If you don't have a car we recommend you take a guided tour to Celestun which will make it a lot easier. Check out our Mérida video if you want to see this beautiful city through our lens!

Merida yucatan peninsula
Mérida, Mexico

6. Bacalar

Famous for its immense deep-blue lake, Bacalar is located in the south of Quintana Roo near the border of Belize. The lake boasts seven brilliant shades of blue, formed by cenotes of all different shapes and sizes. But besides that, this lake is also home to an ancient population of stromatolites, the earliest fossil evidence of life on Earth. We spent a few days in Bacalar and enjoyed the lake to the fullest. We highly recommend exploring the lake by motorboat, sailboat, or kayak. There are tons of interesting sights such as los rapidos, pirate’s channel, and cenote Azul. We have a video with 4K drone footage over Laguna de los 7 Colores if you want to see more of this beautiful place.

pirate’s channel bacalar yucatan peninsula mexico
Pirate’s Channel

5. Akumal

Situated between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Akumal is the perfect day-trip destination. To find out the best itinerary of Akumal for a day trip watch our Akumal video! Akumal means "place of turtles" in Mayan and this is where hundreds of turtles arrive to lay their eggs every year in the summer months. Although summer is the high point, you can still see many turtles year round in the shallow bay. To protect this fragile habitat, there are only 200 people allowed to swim in the protected area each day. You have to hire an official National Park guide who will take you to the turtle viewing spots and tell you about the history of this place. It’s absolutely worth it as you’ll see so many turtles close up!

turtles Akumal yucatan peninsula mexico
One of the turtles we encountered!

4. Chichen Itza

As one of the most important city-states in pre-Hispanic America, Chichen Itza was a vibrant city with a diverse population of Mayan people extending well into the tens of thousands. Today, Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. The “El Castillo” pyramid in the site’s center is the most spectacular and well-preserved Mayan Ruin of the archeological site. Located 45 minutes outside of Valladolid, you can easily visit Chichen Itza during the day. But it is also possible to arrange a day trip from Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun. You can book your guided tour from Cancun to Chichen Itza, Cenote Saamal, and Valladolid here.

chichen itza yucatan peninsula mexico
Chichen Itza

3. Tulum

With a spectacular coastline, Tulum has become one of the most popular tourism destinations in entire Mexico. And even though we don’t really like how crowded the town is, we do like the many activities that the area offers. From the interesting Tulum Ruins to the unique Kaan Luum lagoon and multiple stunning cenotes that are a short bike ride away, this place has it all. We absolutely fell in love with all the natural attractions and highly recommend swimming in the Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera. If you're planning on visiting Tulum, watch our Tulum video with the best hidden gems in Tulum to make the most out of your trip!

tulum yucatan peninsula mexico
Ruins at Tulum

2. Valladolid

Located deep in the Yucatan Jungle, Valladolid is authentic Mexico at its best. From wandering its colorful streets, to exploring the most beautiful cenotes of the Yucatan, and immersing yourself in the Mayan culture and history, there are so many things to do here. To find out the best things to do in Valladolid take a look at our Valladolid video highlighting them all. And as we’ve mentioned before, it is the ideal base to visit Chichen Itza from. We spent about 4 days in the town and highly recommend visiting the cave cenotes, such as cenote Suytun, cenote Xkeken, and Samula.

mayan ruins valladodid yucatan peninsula
The Ek Balam Ruins nearby Valladodid

1. Isla Holbox

This car-free island between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico is truly unique. Isla Holbox has a rich marine life and a laid back vibe. We spent a few days on the island and wished we had stayed longer. Make sure to indulge yourself in the delicious food, walk the sandbars of Punta Mosquito, and watch the sunset and bioluminescence at Punta Cocos. And if you are visiting from June to September, you will also have the opportunity to swim with the whale sharks! Check out our Isla Holbox video for the best look at this beautiful island.

Isla Holbox Yucatan
Punta Mosquito on Isla Holbox


Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To Yucatan Peninsula


Free Giveaway

Did you enjoy our article on the best things to do in Yucatan Peninsula? Download our free giveaway, which includes our summer travel packing list so you know perfectly what to pack when going to Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

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Hi! We are Ine & Zac. An international travel couple from Belgium and the US. We created World Wild Hearts to inspire new adventures and help you plan your next trip. Use these tips, stories, and guides to inspire your next adventure of a lifetime!


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