Scenic spots and best times to visit

The Yucatán Peninsula is one of the most remarkable places in all of North America. It’s a large peninsula full of pristine beaches, cenotes (beautiful sinkholes that can be great for swimming), ancient Mayan ruins, lush rainforests, rich biodiversity and much more. The peninsula is not only in Mexico, but also in parts of Belize and Guatemala – although this article is only about visiting the Mexican part of Yucatán.


The Yucatán Peninsula is a place where the Caribbean Sea, ancient history and mother nature come together. The Yucatán is a great place for a road trip – much of Yucatan can be seen in a week on the road. Start planning your trip and take the ultimate trip to Mexico’s legendary Yucatán Peninsula.

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What to know when visiting the Yucatán Peninsula

A temple in Mexico
Photo by Luis Aceves on Unsplash

A temple and the sky at an ancient site in Mexico

The Yucatán is perhaps the most popular place in Mexico to visit. It is a place that dazzles visitors from all over the world.

In Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula is part of three Mexican states (Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Campeche). Of the states, Quintana Roo is the most popular as it is home to the world famous destinations of Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen.

The Yucatán Peninsula is located in Mexico (mainly). Mexico is visa-free for US passport holders as well as all other Western passports. It’s visa-free for up to 180 days (so there should be no risk of overstaying).

But since it’s Mexico, don’t forget to pack your passport.

Related: Heading to the Yucatan Peninsula? Get ready for a tropical wildlife encounter

Best time to visit Yucatan

Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico
Photo by Laurentiu Morariu on Unsplash

A beach in Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico

Yucatán enjoys a tropical climate, so it will be warm or hot at any time of the year. Temperatures rarely drop below 25°C during the day.

  • Best time to visit: December to April

The best time to visit is during the winter and early spring months (not that there really is winter and spring there). From December to April, it is dry and the weather is calm.

This also makes it a better time for snorkeling as well as fishing and diving.

  • Rainy season: June to October (also cheaper)

The flip side of visiting at this time is that it is also peak tourist season, so accommodation and other expenses can be expected to be higher as well.

Worse still, in March, early April, Yucatán can be flooded with American students during spring break.

So, from June to September, go swimming with the whale sharks who come to mate and feed in the waters off the coast.

Related: Ancient Ruins, Temples & Cenotes: Why Merida, Mexico Is So Special

Where to stay in the Yucatan

street building in yucatan mx
by Pixabay, 12019

A street and building in Yucatan MX

The three main tourist destinations on the Yucatán Peninsula are Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. These cities are full of excellent resorts where visitors can crash on cocktail in hand while getting the color of a lobster.

It’s impossible to do justice to the many places to stay in the Yucatán here, but there’s a full range of options – all kinds of resorts, hotels, Airbnbs, homestays, apartments, and more.

Cancun is a fairly new city (it was only built in the last 30 years or so). It is home to an international airport and has some of the most luxurious and largest hotels on the peninsula. Here, visitors enjoy some of the best sandy beaches as well as vibrant nightlife.

To the south are the cities of Playa del Carmen and Tulum (the archaeological sites of Coba and the ruins of Tulum are located near Tulum). These towns are also some of the most popular destinations and offer pristine beaches.

Another city to consider staying (or at least visiting) is the city of Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán.

Related: The Complete Guide to Visiting the Most Impressive Mayan Ruins in 5 Countries

Where to eat in the Yucatán Peninsula

Izamal MX
Photo by Ivan Cervantes on Unsplash

A person walking down a street in Izamal MX

Naturally, the Yucatán Peninsula is a great place to sample some of the most authentic Mexican dishes. The peninsula is a huge area with far too many places to eat and drink to list here.

But visitors are sure to find plenty of great places to dine. With masses of American tourists; there are plenty of restaurants to suit American tastes.

According to TripAdvisor, the top five restaurants in Cancun are:

  • Divina Carne
  • Restaurant Careyes
  • Aboloengo Cancun
  • Nicoletta l Modern Italian Cuisine Cancun
  • Umami

The best beaches in Yucatán to visit

beach in cancun mx
via Pixabay, Michelle_Maria

A beach in Cancun MX

Most of the beaches to visit on the Yucatán Peninsula are on the east coast – where Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum are located. The north coast largely lacks perfect beaches (only the small island of Holbox is remarkable).

The west coast is largely devoid of white sand beaches and even palm trees.

According to TripAdvisor, the best beaches to visit in Yucatán are:

  • Playa Delfines
  • North Beach
  • Akumal Beach
  • Maya Chan Beach
  • Mahahual Beach
  • Playa Norte Celestun
  • Punta Sur Beach Ecological Park
  • El Cielo Beach
  • Paraiso Beach
  • Pez Quadro Beach Club

There is much more to explore along the coast.

Related: 10 Facts About Chichen Itza, One Of The 7 Wonders Of The World

Must-see sites in Yucatan

Chichen Itza, Merida, Mexico
Photo by Marv Watson on Unsplash

Chichen Itza, Merida, Mexico

The Yucatán is full of must-see sites (in addition to the ubiquitous beaches). There is everything from stunning Cenotes to ancient Mayan ritual caves. Some Cenotes like Ik-Kil are an oasis of paradise with hanging vines and waterfalls.

There are dozens of ancient Mayan ruins to discover across the landscapes and hidden in the jungle. Of course, the most famous Mayan city is Chichen Itza (one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World).

Others include the Maya sites of Coba, Tulum, Uxmal, Edzna and Kohunlich.

uxmal yucatan mx
via Pixabay, charlyfer

Uxmal in Yucatan MX

But there are also lesser-known Mayan attractions underground – for the Maya, caves were the subterranean passages to the underworld.

The peninsula benefits from one of the richest biodiversities in the world. So also take advantage of the eco-tours of the coasts and the jungles.

Conversion/Money and Other Tips

Puerto de abrigo Chuburna, Yucatan, Mexico
Photo by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash

Aerial view of Puerto de abrigo Chuburna, Yucatán, Mexico

The currency of Mexico is the Mexican peso. US dollars are widely accepted in some touristy parts of Mexico like Cancun.

Generally, there will be no problem using your credit card, but it is also advisable to have cash on hand. In some situations, US dollars can actually be better than pesos.

  • Conversion rate: 20 pesos to 1 USD

Perhaps the best thing to do is to have a few hundred US dollars on hand in Cancun and exchange a small amount into pesos if necessary.

FAQs

Q: Is the Yucatan safe for tourists?

Unfortunately, Mexico is known for its relatively high crime rates compared to the United States. Mérida, the state capital, and fortunately, is one of the safest cities in Mexico.

Mexico in general can be a safe destination if visitors follow safety advice and stick to safe parts of Mexico. The tourist parts of the Yucatán Peninsula are among the safest parts of Mexico.

Q: Why do people go to Yucatan?

There are many reasons people travel to the Yucatán Peninsula. Its amazing biodiversity, tropical sandy beaches, scenic cenotes, ancient Mayan ruins and bewildering biodiversity are some of the top reasons to visit the area.

Plus, it’s a relatively safe, cheap, and easy-to-reach destination with great Mexican food.

Q: How many days are needed for Yucatan?

The short answer to how much time is needed to experience Yucatán is its complete vacation. While some highlands of the beautiful peninsula can be seen in just a few days, to really experience the peninsula consider spending two to three weeks there.

This will allow visitors to explore at a more leisurely pace and take lazy “days off” to explore Mayan ruins and other attractions. If you have less time, it is possible to do a road trip around Yucatán in a week.