There are many things to do on the Yucatan Peninsula, including beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins and cenotes. It is one of our favorite places to travel. We love exploring the Yucatan’s unique towns and seeing its amazing sights.
We’ve compiled this list of 25 top things to do in Mexico for those who are planning their own Mexico adventure.
25 Things You Should Do in Yucatan
These are the top 25 things to do on the Yucatan Peninsula. To help you squeeze these things into your Yucatan adventure, check out our Yucatan itinerary.
Soak up the beach town vibes in Tulum
Tulum is a vibrant beach town that’s known for its incredible restaurants and party scene. It also has white sand beaches and cliffside ruins. There is also a thriving wellness community. It is the most fashionable town in Yucatan, and many tourists base themselves there for the duration of their vacation.
One of Tulum’s most notable features is its 13th Century Mayan ruins perched high on a cliff with stunning views of the Caribbean. These ruins are the only ones that face the oceanfront in the Yucatan. Another must-do in Tulum is to swim in a cenote: Cenote Dos Ojos Cenote Carwash Gran Cenote are our favorite cenotes close to Tulum.
Swim in a Cenote
Cenotes are amazing swimming holes that have crystal-clear waters due to the geological conditions of the Yucatan Peninsula. You can swim in cenotes in the Yucatan, which are scattered throughout the region.
It doesn’t matter where you live in Yucatan, it is easy to locate a cenote.
Cancun: Ruta de Los Cenotes is a collection of cenotes in Puerto Morelos. They are the closest Cenotes from Cancun.
Tulum: Gran Cenote is an open-air cenote that’s immersed in underground caverns and caves. The Cenote Dos Ojos sinkhole and Cenote Calavera double sinkhole are two of the most famous cenotes in Tulum. Other excellent swimming areas include Cenote Zacil and Cenote Carwash. Casa Cenote is another great option.
Chichen Itza: With its clear waters and cascading vines Cenote ik Kil is the most beautiful Cenote in the Yucatan.
Playa Del Carmen: The open-air Cenote Azul in Playa Del Carmen is one of the most beautiful Playa Del Carmen Cenotes
Valladolid: Cenote Suytun is a Valladolid landmark. Cenote Oxman, Cenote Xkeken, and Cenote Samula are all instagram favorites. Cenote Samula and Cenote Hubiku are also popular cenotes close to Valladolid.
Merida: CenoteXlacah is an open-air cenote located on the Dzibilchaltun Ruins. It is the most visited Merida site.
Go back to nature at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Yucatan is a stunning sight. This reserve contains an ancient Mayan ruin, mangrove swamps, a tropical rainforest, a coral reef and secluded beaches.
Sian Ka’an is responsible for protecting over 800 plant species as well as more than 300 bird species and other animals, including turtles and land crabs.
Seeing is believing at the Las Coloradas pink lakes!
Las Colorados, a sleepy fishing village, became famous for its pink lakes. The salt mine that is adjacent to the lakes controls the lake’s color. It also breeds algae, which gives the water its pink hue. There is no need to filter the water when the sun shines on them.
The salt mine adjacent manages the access to the lakes. It costs 300 pesos for a walk along the cement path that circles the lake. A visitors center has been added by the owners with a lookout tower, so that you can see the lakes from up above.
5 | Stop by Playa del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen, with its many resorts and hotels, is one of the most visited towns on the Yucatan Peninsula.
- It is home to beautiful cenotes, idyllic beaches and a bustling nightlife.
- Gaze upon New Wonder of the World at Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is among the most iconic ancient sites in the Yucatan. The Mayan ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Chichen Itza was established sometime between the 4th to the 6th centuries. It was one of the most important Maya cities, and a centre for political and economic activity. The site contains 26 ruins, including El Castillo (Temple of Warriors), the Great Ball Court and the Observatory. One of the most prominent sights in the Yucatan is the El Castillo pyramid.
Enjoy the Island Vibes on Cozumel
Cozumel, a laid back Caribbean island is just a short ferry ride away from Playa Del Carmen in the Riviera Maya. It is known for its amazing snorkelling and scuba diving. The west side of the island has idyllic white-sand beach. You can also explore the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio or El Cedral.
Explore the jungle ruins of Coba
Coba is one of the most significant Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. Coba is believed to have been settled in 50 BC, 100 AD, and had a peak population of approximately 50,000.
Highlights of the Coba tour include a bike ride through the jungle and Nohoch Mul, Coba’s 137-foot tall pyramid. Also, a visit to nearby cenotes Cenote Tamcach Ha and Cenote Choo Ha. These three cenotes are located near the Coba Mayan ruins.
Watch the turtles swimming in Akumal
The quiet Yucatan beach town of Akumal lies between Tulum, Playa Del Carmen and Playa Del Carmen. Akumal is known for its beautiful beaches and warm Caribbean waters. It also has a coral reef home to resident turtles.
10 | Have fun in Cancun
Cancun is the most popular destination for Yucatan visitors. It is a vibrant resort town that is known for its beaches and lively nightlife. You can easily find impressive archaeological ruins in the area, including El Meco with its 40-foot pyramid, and the 13th Century San Miguelito.
Escape to Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres, one of our favorite spots in the Yucatan is just a 20-minute ferry ride away from Cancun. Isla Mujeres, along with the Yucatan icons such as Chichen Itza is one of Cancun’s most popular day trips.
Isla Mujeres’ laid-back island vibes make it a wonderful escape from the bustling mainland. There are many things to do in Isla Mujeres, including the beautiful Playa Norte beach and the rugged coastline with small Mayan ruins at Punta Sur. For more information on how to reach Isla Mujeres, please refer to our guide.
Walk the cobbled streets of Valladolid
Valladolid, third largest city in Yucatan is lively and charming with cobblestone streets and the 16th Century Convent San Bernardino de Siena. It also has a bustling plaza.
Enjoy a piece of paradise on Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox can be found just north of the Yucatan. The short ferry ride from Chiquila, on the Yucatan Peninsula, to the idyllic island is well worth it. A stay on Isla Holbox is one of the most memorable things to do in the Yucatan. Its colourful streets, turquoise waters and laid-back vibes make it a unique experience. We recommend that you visit Isla Holbox, a slice of paradise!
Take a stroll around Izamal, ‘The Yellow City’
The 2,000-year old Mayan city of Izamal was once known as the Yellow City. The Convento de San Antonio de Padua is the most impressive building and walls are all painted yellow. Although it was believed that the city was painted yellow ahead of the Pope’s visit, some believe it was already yellow prior to his visit.
Izamal is home to some amazing Mayan ruins. Kinich Kak Moo, the largest of its ruins, is home to a 10-story pyramid that can be climbed for spectacular views of the city. Another great Mayan ruin is the Itzamaltun pyramid.
Flamingo heaven at Rio Lagartos and Celestun
Flamingos migrate so depending on the time of year, you can see them in Rio Lagartos and Celestun.
Rio Lagartos (March-June)
Rio Lagartos, also known as Alligator River in Spanish, is a quiet northern fishing village. It is well-known for its large flamingo population. The best way to see them, however, is to go on a boat trip during mating season, which runs from March through June.
The lagoon, which is mangrove-lined, can be found in the Reserva De la Biosfera Ra Lagartos. It hosts snowy egrets and pelicans as well as tiger herons. You won’t find any alligators in Rio Lagartos despite its name. There are only crocodiles here and a lagoon.
Celestun (mid September to March).
Celestun, a small fishing village, is home to Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestun. Here the flamingos dominate! Sea turtles nest on the Celestun beaches between April and July. The eggs usually hatch two months later.
Discover Ek Balam and Cenote Xcanche
Ek Balam, one of the Yucatan’s lesser-known ruins, is a striking sight. It was once home to almost 20,000 people and was in operation for nearly 1,000 years. The Acropolis, a magnificent 6-level structure, is the main attraction.
Visit Ek Balam to see the Cenote Xcanche and Ek Balam Cenote. Accessible from the Ek Balam archaeological site, it requires a separate ticket. You can enjoy swimming, zip-lining and swing jumping in this open-air cenote. There is also a waterfall that cascades into the cenote while you swim.
Snorkel in the turquoise waters in Isla Contoy
A 40-minute speedboat ride takes you to Isla Contoy, a tiny Caribbean island. Isla Contoy, a paradise for snorkelling, is home to the Mesoamerican Barrier reef. This incredible coral reef stretches all the length of Honduras. You can combine your trip to Isla Mujeres with Isla Contoy.
Climb the Great Pyramid at Uxmal
The ancient Mayan city Uxmal, founded over 1000 years ago, was once home to 25,000 people. The majestic Pyramid of the Magician, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a highlight. So is the climb up to the Great Pyramid.
Admire the stunning architecture in Merida
Merida, the capital of Yucatan State is bustling with life. It boasts stunning architecture, great food, amazing museums and a rich cultural heritage.
Merida has many things to offer: The city’s Grand Plaza is the historic heart of Merida, while the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya contains more than 1,100 artifacts. Its extravagant architecture can be found along Paseo de Montejo.
Mayapan was located about 40 minutes from Merida and was once one of the most important Mayan sites until it was abandoned in 15th century. It was constructed around a large cenote, and over 4,000 structures are visible to show an Aztec influence.
The Dzibilchaltun ruins, which are located nearby, are older than Chichen Itza’s and include an open-air cenote called Cenote Xlacah.
See the 7 shades of blue in Bacalar
Near the Belize border is Bacalar, which is known for its amazing lake, Laguna de Bacalar. Bacalar is known for its seven-colored waters. This earned it the title of “Lake of the Seven Colors”. Its turquoise and blue waters are stunning. In fact, Bacalar’s main attraction is the lake where Bird Island, Pirate’s Channel and Witch’s Cenote are just a few of the highlights.
Have fun at an Adventure Park
A few miles from Playa Del Carmen is the Xcaret Eco Park, which offers a great day trip to the Riviera Maya. Xcaret offers a unique mix of a waterpark, cultural attractions and thrill-seeking experiences. There are three underground rivers and an aquarium. A butterfly garden is also available. Traditional Mexican cemeteries, reenactments and Mayan ruins can be found at the cemetery.
Visit the UNESCO city of Campeche
Campeche, a charming colonial town founded in the 16th century, is one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city walls that were built to protect Campeche from pirates are still a part of its beautifully preserved historical centre. It is a far cry from the bustling Yucatan resorts with their pastel-colored buildings and cobblestone streets.
Campeche is an hour away from the ancient Mayan ruins of Edzma. Incredible to see is the Piramide de Los Cinco Pisos five-story building, which was inhabited as early as 500 BC.
Discover the up and coming El Cuyo
El Cuyo, located between Rio Lagartoss and Chiquila is a new beach town on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It was once a paradise for kitesurfers. Now it is a place to retreat from the more crowded resort areas. El Cuyo is separated from the mainland by a seawater lagoon. It has an endless beach and island vibe.
24 | Snorkel in Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos, a small fishing village just south of Cancun, is known as “Puerto Morelos”. You can snorkel off the coast of Cancun to see the Mesoamerican Barrier reef, which is second in size.
Puerto Morelos is home to some amazing cenotes. Ruta de Los Cenotes has more than 10 cenotes scattered along the 20km road near Puerto Morales. Cenote Las Mojarras is our favorite open-air cenote, with ziplines and a diving platform.
- Explore the ancient sites of Kohunlich, Balamku, and Calakmul
- In the South of Yucatan are the three Mayan sites Kohunlich and Balamku.
Calakmul is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located deep in the jungle, and is home to 6750 structures. The great pyramid, which is 148 feet high and one of the largest Maya pyramids, is the highlight.
Balamku, a smaller site located near Calakmul, has elaborate plaster facades that date back to the Early Classic period. The amazing example of ancient Maya is the frieze made of polychrome and moulded stucco. It dates back to at least the 6th or 7th century.
Kohunlich was built around 500 AD. It is known for its Temple of the Masks pyramid, which has a central stairway flanked with huge stucco masks. It is still not well-excavated.