I love Mexico – its culture, beauty, the people. And nothing beats sitting on white sandy beaches that meet clear blue, green waters with gently rolling waves crashing against the shore. That’s one of the many reasons people from all over the globe head to the Yucatan, particularly the area known as the Riviera Maya – every year. Aside from enjoying the beautiful beaches, there is so much to experience, so much to learn, that you can spend a month there and not scratch the surface of things to do. I can’t possibly list everything, so here are my picks for the top 12 of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most exciting places to experience.
1. For thousands of years, Chichen Itza has been known as one of the great cities of Central America. Here, you can view some of the massive ground stone buildings that were on the nearly 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of land full of archaeology and lush forest surroundings.
2. Head to the far corner of the Ria Biosphere Reserve to see the ever-popular Las Coloradas pink salt lakes. These lakes are used for industrial salt production, and as the water evaporates, overwhelming growth of red algae occurs. Plankton and brine shrimp also habitat in these bright pink waters.
3. If you’re fascinated with sea turtles, make your way to Akumal Beach to swim in the shallow waters where three different varieties of sea turtles live. A lifejacket is required, and lifeguards are always on duty since the waters have recently turned into a preserved area to protect the turtles.
4. To fully experience the culture and history of the peninsula, go to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state. The rich culture and history will certainly make your trip memorable. Head to the city center to buy a brightly woven hammock. Hammock weaving has been a tradition on the peninsula for more than 700 years.
5. If sharks don’t scare you, go to Isla Holbox to see the lightly speckled whale sharks. Beware, these whale sharks are named appropriately, weighing up to 20,000lbs and reaching almost 30ft long!
6. The peninsula is no stranger to loud colors, as you may have noticed right away. So if you love color as much as the natives, head to the Yellow Town in Izamal. You will even get to see pyramids.
7. For a quick dip to cool off, visit the Dzitnup cenote outside of Valladolid. This cavernous pool of freshwater is majestic and perhaps the purest water you will ever see since the limestone helps filter it through the underground rivers.
8. While you’re near Valladolid, go into the colonial city built atop ancient grounds to view the colorful (of course) architecture, including the San Gervasio Church. Then go try some of the great eats at the restaurants situated throughout the area.
9. Go to Cozumel to snorkel and scuba dive the second largest barrier reef in the world or to hike through the luscious green jungle areas.
10, If you need to relax for a day, go to Tulum for sunbathing and yoga on the beach, but not before visiting the well-preserved Mayan ruins. The area is full of healthy food options, spas, and other great activities.
11. Grab your sunscreen and rent an inflatable kayak and head out on the Bacalar Lagoon to feel like the pirates of the 17th Century.
12. Last but not least, hike the Calakmul Mayan Ruins that border Guatemala. You certainly won’t miss the two gigantic pyramids reaching 165ft high.
Maybe this should rank #1, but the food! You cannot go to Mexico and not appreciate the delicious, rich flavors of its cuisine. Fish tacos? The best I ever had was at Taqueria La Eufemia in Tulum.
If you are looking for a great destination that has a lot to offer culturally, is family-friendly with something for all ages, and is easy to get to, then consider traveling to the Yucatan for your next trip. As a Mexico Specialist, I’d love to help you out. Contact me today!