North America

8 Must-See Places on the Yucatan That Aren’t Cancun

Once you arrive at the Cancun airport and fight your way through potentially long immigration lines,  you can start to feel the enchantment of the Yucatan.   I certainly don’t mean hitting a conga line at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.  But I’m talking about one of the most unique areas, full of cenotes and Mayan culture, ready to be explored by YOU! Let’s head to Playa Del Carmen…

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1. Playa del Carmen – Get off 5th Ave!

Arguably becoming the tourist-packed destination like Cancun, PDC still has great experiences to be had.  Just stay off 5th!  Sure, you should go down to 5th and people watch but, if you’d like your Peso to go further… avoid it.  The beach there is generally really nice but the seaweed can take it over depending on the day.  And that can stink! Literally.  So head over to the rooftop pool at Hotel Reina Roja.  It’s free to use and doesn’t require a minimum purchase, unlike most pools.  Plus it’s one of the strangest hotels (in a good way) that I’ve seen.  It has a good view of Playa and if you’re lucky, you’ll have the whole pool to yourself.   Now for the food, keep it cheap and delicious at any of the El Fogon restaurants around town. You’ll eat more al pastor tacos than you ever knew you could.

Find a hotel near the beach in Playa Del Carmen

beautiful Mexico

 2. Cozumel – Keep heading east

It’s easy and it’s worth it!  Tons of ferries service Cozumel all day from Playa del Carmen.  You’ll likely be greeted with gorgeous blue water followed by hordes of people from the cruise ships that dock for the day.  Go ahead, let them shop in town while you rent a car and head east to the other side for the day.  Make sure to grab a cooler and fill it with your favorite beverages before you go. Not much out there.  But that’s the point!  Beautiful beaches await you and often, just YOU!  Return to town in the evening when all the cruise people have left and unwind with a drink at one of the many outdoor bars.  Feel free to indulge cause accommodations for the night are very affordable. Check out this affordable hotel with a rooftop pool in Cozumel

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3. Tulum – Still paradise, but it’s changing

GO! and GO NOW!!  Tulum is absolutely wonderful.  But recent developments will be seeing big hotels dominate the current jungle boutique ones tourists love.  OK….  Rent a bike immediately.  Bike paths are everywhere and you’ll be able to get to the ruins, the town, or the beach very easily.  The beach is so beautiful in Tulum that you’re probably going to find yourself there all day.  And the best place to park it?  La Eufemia.  A Bohemian style taqueria that has day beds or seats with umbrellas to spend the day relaxing on.  The reggae music sets the vibe and the fish tacos are some of the best.  It won’t break the bank either, 40oz caguama beers are only 50 pesos!  This modest price hotel is on the beach and near La Eufemia!

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4. Coba ruins – Better than Chichen Iza

About an hour by bus from Tulum, Coba is a hidden Mayan gem.  You’ll want to rent a bike for the day once you enter the site.  It’s a blast to be riding through dirt paths, covered by the dense jungle, making stops whenever you see a new ruin.  The main attraction is the Nohoch Mul Pyramid.  It stands 137 feet tall and remains the only ruin people are still able to climb on the Yucatan.  The view is awesome!               Book a private tour of Coba and the Tulum ruins here!

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5. Valladolid – Xkeken cenote

Heading inland you’ll start to see “real” Mexico.  Valladolid has some of the most stunning architecture Mexico can offer.  Cobblestone streets are lined with old Spanish style buildings, painted vibrant colors and they all seem to have the most amazing doors for some reason.  You’ll know what I mean when you see it.  Don’t miss the Cathedral of  San Servacio.  Built in the 1500’s, it’s quite spectacular.  Just a bike ride away from Valladolid is the Xkeken Cenote.  One of the most amazing geological marvels to see.   You’ll climb into a small opening and descend into a big cave. A beautiful freshwater filled pool and a funnel of sunlight await you.  Take a swim and relax.  This hotel is walkable from the center and they will also provide bikes to ride to the cenotes!

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6. Isla Holbox – Golf carts and whale sharks

A lesser-known island off the north coast of the Yucatan but certainly not a lesser experience.  This island is very laid back with that Caribbean style slow pace of life. Golf carts and mopeds are the typical methods when getting around but the town is so small you can easily walk it.  For many, this is the closest destination to be able to swim with the massive yet docile, whale shark.  They roam the waters off the island from June to September and you’ll find no shortage of people selling the experience.  This tour company can book whale watching, fishing or kayaking on Holbox

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7. Izamal – The yellow city

Izamal isn’t very big so it’s easy to understand why it is often missed.  But this isn’t one city you are gonna want to pass on.  It’s called the yellow city for obvious reasons, the whole city is painted yellow!  It’s really cool to see.  The modern city was built around the massive San Antonio de Padua convent.  But if you walk just outside of the center you can climb up the ancient pyramid of Kinich Kak Mo, the oldest piece of history in town.  From the top, you can view the whole city!  This is the Best place to stay in Izamal! You can watch the sunset on the convent from the rooftop!

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8. Bacalar – All the best of Mexico

Bacalar is well off the beaten path for tourism.  Which has fortunately allowed it to remain authentic and affordable.  A multi-colored freshwater lagoon is what it’s all about here.  Outside of the South Pacific, this is one of the few places that have the iconic over-the-water bungalows.  But nowhere near the cost!  Kayaking and snorkeling are a very popular activity during the day for most people, but just hangin’ out at a restaurant and swinging on the over-water swings can be just as fulfilling.  Go and enjoy the peace and quiet.  This is the place you want to spend your days. Look at the swings!


Cheap Roundtrip Flights to Mexico!

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