On Mexico's wonderful Yucatan peninsula, you will find dreamy beaches of the azure Caribbean Sea, festive people, great Mexican food, impressive historic Mayan ruins and mesmerising diving and snorkelling opportunities. In Yucatan you can relax in the sun or party till dawn. It’s a perfect stop along the travel for a backpacker in need of something with a bit more familiar, yet absolutely beautiful, vibe.
Cancun is either paradise or hell - depending on how you look at it! This wild and vibrant resort town is filled with bright colours and luxury hotels. In other words, not the perfect place if you are into relaxation and a quiet, romantic vacation. The beaches are amazing, but especially in March they are overcrowded as it is this time of year especially young Americans come for 'spring break'. There are so many of them! Most hotels, shops and nightlife, as well as the best beaches are in the Zona Hotelera.
On the island of Isla Mujeres, a 25-minute boat ride from the mainland you can enjoy the good beach life in a hammock. You can take day trips out here, but we also recommend spending a couple of nights here. Soak up the relaxed atmosphere, perfect beaches with crystal clear waters which are perfect for snorkelling and amazing sunsets.
Playa del Carmen
If Cancun is too much, you might want to visit Playa del Carmen instead. This slightly smaller seaside city 1 hour south of Cancun also has palm beaches and excellent water sports opportunities. The city is continually expanding, but you can still enjoy the cosy atmosphere with lots of shops, restaurants, bars and hotels in the old town.
Diving & Cozumel
Cozumel island is a world-famous diving site, so it goes without saying that there are great experiences to be had under the sea off this tropical island in the Caribbean Sea. There are more than 100 different world class diving spots with colourful corals, massive shoaling of fish, sharks, eels, etc. You get there by boat from e.g. Playa del Carmen (it only takes 30 minutes), but it is generally expensive to stay here.
Tulum is one of the most famous sites in the Yucatan. Here, you can see the beautiful and fascinating Mayan ruins. It is highly recommended to visit the place in the morning or evening, to avoid herds of tourists. Fortunately, there are several good and cheap options of accommodation that specifically caters to backpackers - such as small huts with sand on the floor and a hammock to sleep in.
Mayan ruins on the Yucatan
Yucatan is generally filled with beautiful Mayan ruins. The largest and most important on your itinerary should include Chichen Itza and Palenque. But there is much more to see on the peninsula, so go exploring on your own - you can rent a taxi driver for a day and ask him to drive you and your travel buddies to the various ruins.
Yucatan Cenotes - limestone caves
The Yucatan peninsula is also famous for its many cenotes - freshwater swimming holes in underground limestone caves; perfect spots for snorkelling and relaxing in the sun. These places are very exciting. In several of these places, you may see some rare fish that live in the dark water in the caves. Furthermore, the caves and natural pools are extremely beautiful.