25 Adventurous Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

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Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has an incredibly rich history and is blessed with more than just beaches. In this article, we’ve put together a list of the top things to do in the Yucatan, including everything you need to help you plan your trip.

Empty Cenote near Airbnb

You might not know the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico by name, but you definitely have heard of places like Cancun and Cozumel. Spring break, anybody?

Yes, the Yucatan is probably better known for the resort-dotted beaches in the Mayan Riviera, but there are TONS of amazing experiences outside of resort life for the adventurous traveler.

The Yucatan Peninsula has an incredibly rich history and is blessed with more than just beaches (as is the rest of Mexico). It’s actually made up of 3 Mexican states: Quintana Roo, Yucatan, and Campeche. 

You can walk amongst ancient ruins, get lost in the jungles of Sian Ka’an and experience the region’s vibrant culture in cute colonial towns. Not to mention the food…Yucatecan food is way more than just tacos!

Along with our Director of Content, Amanda, we have the combined experience of spending nearly 3 years in this region of Mexico. With her help we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula for those adventurous travelers who want to go beyond the beach. 

Yucatan Peninsula Travel Guide

For more tips and advice for planning your trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, jump to the following sections (or just keep scrolling to see it all!).

Be sure to download our complete packing list for Mexico! It’s packed with good suggestions and insider tips to help plan your Mexico vacation. And it’s completely FREE, so why not!?

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Top things to do in Yucatan

Whether you have just a couple weeks, or months to spend here, there are plenty of adventures to be had in this region of southern Mexico. Below are our top picks for the very best things to do in Yucatan, Mexico . 

  1. Get lost in ancient ruins
  2. Take a dip in a cenote (or two!)
  3. Soak up the culture in Merida
  4. Eat Cochinita Pibil and other Yucatan specialties
  5. Explore the Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve
  6. Go sailing on Bacalar Lagoon
  7. Venture to Isla Holbox

Keep reading for more detailed information on each of these, and more ideas for fun things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula. 

1. Get lost in ancient ruins

Muyil Ruins Castillo

Known as the most advanced civilization in ancient Mesoamerica, the Maya people were the original inhabitants of what we now know as southern Mexico and Central America. These days you can find hundreds of Mayan ruins that are scattered throughout the Yucatan and open to the public for exploration. 

Exploring ruins is probably one of the most popular things to do in the Yucatan region outside of visiting beaches, so try to get there early and be prepared for crowds. 

Chichén Itzá

El Castillo, the largest pyramid of the Chichen Itza ruins

Probably the most well known of all the Maya ruins in Mexico, and for good reason! Chichén Itzá is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World

The most prominent Mayan ruin of the site is the iconic El Castillo, an ancient Mesoamerican step-pyramid. Built by the Mayans and later utilized by the Toltec, the pyramid is perfectly aligned to the movements of the sun and was used as a calendar of sorts. 

You’ll want to get there early as the site gets very crowded with tourists and there is very little shade to protect you from the midday heat. 

If you’d prefer to tour the ruins with a guide, you can hire one at the entrance as there will be numerous guides waiting for work. Additionally, you should have no problems finding souvenirs as the entire site is lined with vendors that sell a wide range of items. 

Entrance Fee: 614 MXN (~$35 USD) per person

Tip: After you’ve worked up a sweat wandering around Chichen Itza, venture to nearby Cenote Ik Kil for a refreshing dip in a unique setting (see #2)! 


Uxmal Ruins | Image by Lindsay from Bright in the World

Everyone will want to see the legendary Chichen Itza, but there is an even more impressive site that too many travelers overlook. 

Located near Merida, Uxmal is one of the few remaining Mayan ruins where you can still explore inside the temples Indiana Jones style. This makes a big difference because you get to see the well-preserved details in the stonework up close.

You will feel like you’ve gone back in time standing atop the pyramids imagining what the city must have looked like. 

Entrance Fee: 499 MXN (~$26 USD) per person

Ek Balam

Ek Balam Ruins Yucatan Mexico

If you’re looking for ruins that are much more off the beaten path than Chichen Itza, Ek Balam was one of our favorites. Located not far from the famous World Wonder, this much smaller complex sees far fewer visitors and is easy to roam on your own. 

We liked that it was small, so we could see the whole thing in about an hour and didn’t feel rushed or bored. 

The best way to experience the site is to walk all the way to the back and start at the tallest ruin—which you can climb to the top and see above the treetops in every direction. Then make your way back through the ruins to the start. 

Entrance Fee: 531 MXN (~$30 USD) per person

2. Take a dip in a cenote (or two!)

Cenote Azul

Throughout the Yucatan there are thousands of natural freshwater sinkholes known as cenotes. From the moment you first lay eyes on one you will be captured by their magical aura. It is easy to understand why the Maya people believed cenotes to be sacred.

You can find cenotes scattered all over the region open to the public for swimming, scuba and freediving. It’s one of the best things to do in the Yucatan, so you won’t want to miss a chance to explore one of these swimming holes. 

We personally went scuba diving in Cenote Dos Ojos and El Pit Cenote. We could not recommend them more if you dive! There is no underwater wildlife, but experience diving in a freshwater cave is unbelievable.

We put together an entire article that breaks down the details of all the best cenotes in Mexico by area so you can decide which ones to visit and what to expect. But here are a few stand outs…

Cenote Azul

Cenote Azul Mexico with a baby

Our top recommendation for first-time visitors to Riviera Maya would be to head to Cenote Azul, just outside of Playa del Carmen. This open air swimming hole is a popular destination for locals and travelers alike.

They have life jacket and snorkel gear rentals, bathroom facilities, lockers and a small concession stand with stacks. 

Entrance Fee: 140 MXN for adults (~$8 USD)

Gran Cenote

Located just 10 minutes outside of Tulum, this cenote offers stunning turquoise water and beautiful rock formations, both above and below the water. 

Gran Cenote is one of the best snorkeling and scuba diving spots in the area, with cool stalagmites rising from the ground below and spectacular light beams shining through the crystal water. 

Entrance Fee: 300 MXN (~$17 USD) per person

Cenote Suytun

Cenote Suytun Mexico

Cenote Suytun is one of the most beautiful and recognizable cenotes in Mexico, thanks to Instagram. Especially since there is a unique platform stretching out into the center where you can stand and pose for photos.

Located just outside of Valladolid, Cenote Suytun has a circular shape and has a small opening at the top of the cavern, which allows sunlight to come in. Even if you don’t feel like swimming, the views from above are so worth it! 

Entrance Fee: 150 MXN (~$9 USD) per person

3. Soak up the culture in Mérida


A sprawling city with lots of charm, there are so many fun things to do in Mérida, you could stay occupied for days exploring all the beautiful parks and squares.

On Sunday mornings the city really comes to life. The downtown streets shut down for parades of cyclists, and the streets around the Plaza Grande are filled with craft markets, food vendors, bandshells, and throngs of locals enjoying their weekend.

To top off the night, the large avenue of Paseo de Montejo holds a night of cultural performances and music from around the country, all for FREE on Sunday nights.

4. Eat Cochinita Pibil and other Yucatan specialties

Cochinita Pibil in Yucatan Mexico 2

While it may be lesser known than other foodie hotspots like Mexico City and Oaxaca, we think the Yucatan is a seriously underrated food destination in Mexico

The indigenous Mayan culture has a strong influence on the cuisine here, along with the European influences from settlers. As the capital and largest city in the Yucatan state, Merida has tons of great restaurants to experience classic Yucatan dishes. 

Must-try foods in the Yucatan

  • Cochinita Pibil: slow roasted pork, traditionally cooked in an underground oven
  • Queso Relleno: edam cheese stuffed with pork
  • Sopa de Lima: lime soup traditionally made with turkey or chicken
  • Huevos Motuleños: Mayan-style eggs for breakfast
  • Panuchos: Fried and stuffed open-faced tortillas
  • Marquesitas: Crispy rolled crepes stuffed with sweet and savory fillings

5. Explore the Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve

Sian Ka'an Mexico

Just south of Tulum you’ll find 1.3 million acres of protected land and sea in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Teaming with wildlife, including some rare and endangered species like the black-handed spider monkey and the West Indian manatee, the reserve was given UNESCO World Heritage status and is the largest protected area in Mexico.  

The diverse jungle ecosystem offers one of the most unique experiences in the Riviera Maya. Hire a boat to take you out into the lagoons of Sian Ka’an where you can float effortlessly down along ancient waterways surrounded by lush mangroves. 

On the coastal side you can go on an ocean safari and spot dolphins and sea turtles in the wild while you get a chance to snorkel over the protected reef system. 

We’ve written in detail all about how to visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve without a tour.

6. Go sailing on Bacalar ‘Lagoon of Seven Colors’

Bacalar Lagoon Mexico

Located in the southern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula near the Belize border is the small town of Bacalar. This town is probably best known for the Bacalar Lagoon, aptly dubbed The Lagoon of Seven Colors as it appears in seven miraculous shades of turquoise blue

The small town hasn’t felt the rush of mass tourism yet, and is more popular among backpackers than resort goers, so the vibe is pretty relaxed. Still, there are plenty of things to do in Bacalar to keep you occupied!

Note on the lagoon colors: Because of the Yucatan coast repeatedly getting hit by hurricanes due to climate change, the turquoise blue colors of the Bacalar Lagoon have dulled slightly in certain areas to light blue and shades of green. Growing tourism in the area has also affected the water’s colors as more people pollute the lagoon.

7. Venture to Isla Holbox

Another island off the Yucatan Peninsula that is gaining in popularity is the peaceful, car-free island known as Isla Holbox (pronounced ‘hole-bah-shh’). Located in the north between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, the island is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve and is only accessible by ferry.

The only way to access Holbox Island is by ferry, which we’ve described in detail in our guide on how to get from Cancun to Holbox that outlines everything you’ll need to know.

We also have a complete guide to visiting the Isla Holbox Mexico, including all the fun things to do, where to eat and where to stay. But if you want a quick run down, here are some of our top suggestions.

8. Check out the beaches in Akumal

Akumal Beach Mexico

The small town of Akumal is home to some beautiful white sand beaches, as well as a robust offshore reef. It’s a great place for snorkeling or lounging in the sunshine, away from the crowds of nearby Playa del Carmen and Tulum. 

You can rent snorkel gear at the beach, or ask your accommodation for help in renting as they may be able to find you a better deal. We rented our gear in the town of Tulum before heading out. 

If you’re going for a day trip from Tulum or Playa del Carmen, pack a lunch and some sunscreen and get a colectivo or taxi to Akumal Beach. 

How to get there

Enter the Akumal Beach near the Lol-Ha Restaurant or Akumal Dive Center. You can also enter the beach from the CEA Center building which will charge you $5 USD for the use of their restrooms and locker facilities. 

The beach is free to the public under Mexican law, however, the businesses in Akumal have organized to privatize nearly all public access points to the beach. This is why you’ll likely see access fees at many “official” beach entrance points. 

From the beach you can jump right in, but read below to know what NOT to do in the water. Walk further south to get closer to the off-shore reef.

Important note about swimming with the sea turtles

Sea turtle in Akumal, Mexico

You may have also heard that Akumal is famous for its populations of Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead sea turtles. You can rent snorkel gear at the beach and dive right in to experience the wonder of swimming alongside these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

However, we think it’s important to call out that tourism overtime has scared away many of these gentle sea creatures and where there used to be many, you are now able to see just a few. 

For this reason, we do not recommend coming to Akumal to swim with the turtles. 

Responsible tourism in Akumal

If you should decide to go on your own, there are a few things you need to be aware of…

Swimming at Akumal Beach and viewing the turtles has caused a contentious issue between authorities, nearby hotels, and local tour guides who may be aggressive in insisting you cannot swim there without a tour. 

We found out that this is because the sea floor here where the turtles graze is a protected area. You are not allowed to go under the surface of the water or touch the ocean floor while swimming in this area. This is why all the tours will be using life jackets and insist you cannot go without a tour.

You can learn more about the ecosystem management and sustainability efforts from the Centro Ecological Akumal.

As with any animal encounter in the wild, it is important to be respectful of the natural habitat. 

Keep a safe distance as you observe, NEVER touch a wild animal, and do not try to feed or otherwise lure the animals to you by any means. Remember you are a guest in their world and you should never disturb the natural order. 

Related: Check out all of our resources on traveling responsibly and sustainably around the world.

9. Post up in Playa del Carmen

Things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula | Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen makes an excellent hub for exploring the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. 

It’s a large enough city to offer a diverse range of accommodation options, plenty of delicious restaurants (including international cuisine and lots of healthy and even vegan options!) and lots of fun things to do.

While it’s become pretty popular with the resort-going tourists, there is so much more to the city and it’s pleasantly less crowded than its northern neighbor, Cancun. 

Will you be traveling from Cancun? There are several options for transportation between the two cities, and we have a detailed guide on how to travel from Cancun to Playa del Carmen which outlines all of your options.

10. Take the ferry to Cozumel

Cozumel Mexico

The large island of Cozumel in the Caribbean Sea is just an hour ferry ride from Playa del Carmen and makes for an exciting day trip. Known as a popular cruise ship destination, the majority of the island is actually undeveloped and therefore can be a great place to explore via scooter.

While there isn’t much to do on the island other than lounging on beaches and scooting around, the main reason most travelers come to Cozumel is to discover the underwater playground lying not far off its coast. 

Protected by the government as Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, the Cozumel reef system is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (which connects to the barrier reef in Belize), the second largest coral reef system in the world.

This is one of the best places for scuba diving in the world and well-worth the visit if you are a certified diver. 

If you are someone who is curious about the sport but has never done a dive before, no worries! Dive shops in Cozumel offer “discovery dives” which include an introduction to the equipment, breathing underwater, and have trained guides who will accompany you on your very first dive.

How to get to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen

You can catch a ferry to Cozumel just about every half hour or so* from the ferry terminal in Playa del Carmen, at the southernmost end of 5th Avenue, near the Portal Maya. 

We’ve written in detail about how to purchase your ferry tickets and what you need to know in our Playa del Carmen article (just scroll down to #20!). 

11. Learn about Mayan culture from a Netflix-featured chef

Chef Rosalie cooking experience in Yutacan Mexico

If off the beaten path cultural experiences are your thing, you will not want to miss this opportunity.

Chef Rosalie is a Maya woman living in the small town of Yaxuna (about 1 hour drive from Valladolid). She is passionate about sharing her culture and the traditional ways of the Maya people to all who are interested. 

She was featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table: BBQ edition for her exceptional cochinita pibil, which she cooks the traditional way in an underground oven and serves with hand-pressed tortillas. 

Chef Rosalie cooking experience in Yutacan Mexico

Ever since, Chef Rosalie has been hosting cultural experiences at her home in Yaxuna where you will have the opportunity to learn about Mayan culture first-hand and see the traditional methods of cooking. She and her family then prepare a delicious feast, where you can try her famous cochinita pibil and other delicious specialties. 

This experience is one of the stand-out highlights of my travels around the Yucatan and I cannot recommend it more highly. 

Book your experience online and note that you will need to arrange your own transportation as the location is quite remote. 

12. Wander the colorful streets of Valladolid

Valladolid Mexico

Valladolid is a charming colonial town in the Yucatan Peninsula that offers a glimpse into the region’s rich history and culture. 

Visitors can explore the well-preserved architecture of the historic downtown, on a free walking tour. Highlights include the San Servacio Cathedral, the colorful facades of Calzada de los Frailes and a tour of the local markets (with tasting opportunities!). 

The town serves as a gateway to nearby Mayan archaeological sites, such as Chichén Itzá and Ek Balam, as well a plethora of unique cenotes such as Suytun and Zaci (which is right in the center of town), making it an ideal base for those interested in exploring. 

Valladolid’s central location makes it easily accessible by ADO bus or car from popular tourist destinations like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

4. Lounge for Days in Tulum

Where to Eat in Tulum | Burrito Amor in Tulum

You might be surprised to find Tulum is more than just all-inclusive resorts. We stayed in an eco-friendly geo dome treehouse in the jungle outside of Tulum and had a very different experience than what we’ve typically seen of Tulum on social media. 

Spend your days here lounging on lengths of the spectacular Tulum Beach. There are tons of public beach clubs, run by locals in town, where you can pay a small fee for lounge chairs, bar service, and a taste of paradise.

Tulum is also a fun town with a great backpacker culture. Every night you can walk up the main drag to find quirky bars, and lively hangouts. I dare you to not get sucked into the beach bum lifestyle while visiting here!

Tip: At the northern end of Tulum’s public beach there is an abandoned lighthouse. Officially, it is off limits, but locals know it as a great hangout spot for viewing the endless ocean and beautiful sunsets over the Yucatán jungle.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the oceanside Tulum Ruins and rent a bike to explore the Town and Tulum Beach Road. Soak up the cafe culture and unique architecture Tulum is known for and consider planning time to visit the stunning Kaan Luum Lagoon, a massive circular lagoon with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. 

14. Discover Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos, Mexico

A small fishing village in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, this hidden gem has not been overrun by tourism and retains much of its authentic charm. Situated about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, this sleepy coastal town is the perfect place to stick your toes in the sand while enjoying a good book with a margarita in hand. 

Don’t be fooled by the relaxed Caribbean vibe, there is still plenty to keep you occupied here during your stay…

Go snorkeling or diving with a Marine Biologist, visit Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín, Mexico’s most biodiverse botanical gardens, and eat plenty of fresh seafood (Katie and Ben recommend the seaside restaurant at Merkadito del Mar). 

15. Spend a day on Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres Mexico beach

Just a short 30-minute ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres boasts pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life. The island’s highlights include Playa Norte, a stunning beach with calm turquoise waters, ideal for swimming and relaxation. 

Renting a golf cart or scooter is a popular way to explore the island, covering landmarks like Punta Sur and the Mayan Temple of Ixchel. Snorkeling at Garrafon Natural Reef Park offers a chance to witness colorful marine species. 

For a cultural touch, stroll through the vibrant streets of the town center and savor local cuisine. Ferries operate frequently from Cancun, and day trips are common for those looking to experience the best of Isla Mujeres without an extended stay.

16. Visit an underwater museum (MUSA)

MUSA Cancun Underwater Museum diving in Mexico 2

The Museo Subacuático de Arte (Underwater Museum of Art), commonly known as MUSA, is a non-profit organization in Cancun, Mexico, dedicated to the fusion of art and conservation. 

The museum, which is entirely submerged at depths between 3-6 meters (about 10-20 ft), features 500 sculptures in three distinct galleries, created by a diverse group of international and local sculptors. They offer tours by glass bottom boat, snorkeling and scuba diving to appeal to all visitors. 

MUSA Cancun Underwater Museum diving in Mexico

Located in the Cancun National Marine Park, MUSA was conceived by Marine Park Director Jaime González Cano. The initiative aims to safeguard the nearby coral reefs by providing an alternative attraction for divers. Established in 2009, MUSA officially opened its submerged galleries in November 2010.

Entrance fee: Depends on the type of tour

  • Snorkeling tours start at $50 USD
  • Scuba diving tours start at $50 USD
  • Glass bottom boat tours start at $95 USD

17. Take an underground river tour at Rio Secreto

Rio Secreto Playa del Carmen Mexico

In this surreal location, just a 15 minute taxi ride from downtown Playa del Carmen, you can embark on an underground river tour unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before

Popular with locals and tourists alike, Rio Secreto is one of the coolest things to do in Playa del Carmen that you won’t find anywhere else. 

You’ll navigate an underground river through a labyrinth of caves*, marveling at the stalactites and stalagmites that have evolved over thousands of years. 

The guided tour provides an educational and immersive experience, highlighting the delicate ecosystem and the geological significance of the nature preserve. Wade through waist-deep waters, sometimes swimming for short stretches, donning life vests and helmets with headlamps as you explore the cave system. 

See our Playa del Carmen article for more important information about Rio Secreto and what you need to know before you go (scroll to #24!). 

18. Marvel at the pink lakes of Las Coloradas

Las Coloradas Mexico_STOCK-U (Zyanya bmo)
Image by Zyanya BMO via Unsplash

Nestled within the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, approximately 3 hours from Cancun, Las Coloradas reveals a captivating spectacle where a vast lagoon appears in a brilliant shade of pink. 

The ‘pink lakes’ are a phenomenon resulting from large-scale sea-salt production. The evaporation process leads to increased salinity, fostering an environment rich in red algae and other organisms that collectively impart a reddish-pink hue to the water. 

Accessible by car, visitors can explore the lakeside capturing surreal photographs of the vibrant pink water. Afterwards, check out the nearby town of Las Coloradas, as well as the tiny fishing village of Rio Lagartos (also part of the bio reserve), which is known for an impressive gathering of flamingos and other bird species. 

Important Note: It is important to note that entry into the water is now restricted due to over tourism of the site. This means you can no longer swim or float in the pink lakes. 

19. Swim with whale sharks

Whale sharks_STOCK-U (Jeremy Bishop)
Image by Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

This is something we’ve been itching to do ever since we started traveling. The thing is, the whale shark experiences that are “guaranteed” are not always ethical (aka they are baited), and the places where you can see them in the wild are very much dependent on their migration. 

The good news is, the warm waters of the Mexican Caribbean attract these gentle giants during their annual migration during the summer months (mid-June to mid-September). They are particularly seen around places like Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres (just off the coast of Cancun). 

Guided tours offer a unique opportunity to snorkel alongside the world’s largest fish, witnessing their majestic presence and distinctive spotted patterns. Strict regulations ensure a respectful encounter, allowing visitors to marvel at the sheer size and grace of these magnificent creatures while contributing to their conservation.

We were lucky enough to be traveling to Mexico in June of 2022 when we had the opportunity to go snorkeling with these ocean giants. While our actual encounter in the water with them was (very) short, it was really fun being able to finally see them in real life!

20. Go scuba diving with bull sharks

Shark Diving in Playa del Carmen with Bull Sharks

If you’re one of those divers chasing macro species such as sharks and rays, you’ll find your luck in Playa del Carmen. 

During winter months, when the Caribbean Sea experiences a slight temperature drop, a significant population of pregnant bull sharks gather in the waters just off shore. As the water temperature rises, these sharks migrate further south to the shallower mangroves, where they will likely give birth. 

Taking advantage of this migration, eager scuba divers have the chance to safely dive (without a cage!) with the bull sharks that gather there every year.

Bull shark season is from November through March, but each year is a bit different. The best chance to dive with the bull sharks is in the middle of the season in January, but that’s also the busiest time of year. 

As a local dive shop in Playa del Carmen about bull shark diving to get more information. 

21. Check out Mexico’s yellow city: Izamal

Izamal, Mexico

You will know without a doubt that you have arrived in the city of Izamal when the streets become lined with bright buildings painted in a golden-yellow hue. Nicknamed Ciudad Amarilla (Yellow City) for obvious reasons, just being present in Izamal has a way of lifting your spirits. 

The reason for the sunny color varies depending on who you ask. Some say it was painted yellow in preparation for the visit from Pope John Paul II in 1993. Others say it was already yellow by then, and was in fact painted to honor Kinich Kakmo, a Mayan manifestation of the Sun God.

Regardless of the reason, a trip to Izamal is worth a spot on your Yucatan bucket list, even if it’s just for a few hours to wander the streets and snap some cheerful photos. 

22. Hit the beaches in Progresso

Things to Do in Merida, Mexico | Visit the beach in Progreso
Image by Michael Anderson from Passport Explored

Nestled along the Gulf Coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Progreso is a laid back port town with expansive sandy beaches. A popular retreat for those living in the big city, you can reach the beach in just 45 minutes from Merida. 

Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the iconic Malecón, a seaside promenade dotted with vibrant shops and restaurants, offering a taste of local flavors. Relax on Progresso Beach with a drink in hand, or explore the bustling local markets and historic pier. 

If you’re looking for a more natural setting, El Corchito Ecological Reserve offers a reprieve from the port. Accessible only by lancha (small boat), this nature reserve boasts 3 open air cenotes woven together by a system of boardwalks throughout the park. 

23. Wander the streets of Campeche

Campeche Mexico_STOCK-U (Dominika Hesounova)
Image by Dominika Hesounova via Unsplash

Situated on the western side of the Yucatan Peninsula, Champeche is a hidden gem steeped in history and colonial charm. 

The city’s historic center, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, boasts vibrant colored facades, cobblestone streets, and the well-preserved walls of the original Spanish fortress. 

Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage by exploring ancient Maya ruins at Edzná, walking along the city walls for panoramic views, and savoring local cuisine in the lively Plaza Principal

With its unique blend of history, architecture, and coastal beauty along the Gulf of Mexico, Campeche offers an authentic experience for those seeking a less-traveled destination in the Yucatan.

24. Go scuba diving in Xcalak

Xcalak Mexico

Located at the southern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, the tiny town of Xcalak offers an unspoiled underwater experience. This remote fishing village provides access to the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve, the largest coral atoll in the Northern Hemisphere.

Its remote location means the adventurous few who make the journey are rewarded with an unparalleled diving encounter. Among the vibrant coral reefs you’ll find sharks, rays, sea turtles and even manatees! 

Book your dives at XTC Dive Center, a local-run shop committed to sustainable practices and excellent instruction. They are a one-stop shop with an onsite hotel and restaurant, and dives leaving directly from their pier. Don’t forget to tell them Two Wandering Soles sent you!

25. Go ziplining at Xcaret

Xcaret Park (GYG)
Image source: Get Your Guide

Unlike any other theme park you’ve ever been to, Xcaret offers a diverse range of attractions, combining nature, culture, and adventure. 

Highlights of the park include a vast network of ziplines, underground rivers for snorkeling, cultural performances, and a vibrant wildlife display. Visitors can explore archaeological sites, swim in cenotes, and enjoy water activities. 

If you go, plan to spend a full day to make the most of the park’s more than 50 attractions. Entrance tickets start at around $120 USD per person depending on the package.

Map of the Yucatan highlights

Things to Do in Yucatan Mexico Map

The map above has all the things to do in the Yucatan from this article. Click on the image to be taken to Google Maps for an interactive experience. 

How to get to the Yucatan Peninsula

The largest airport in the Yucatan region and your best bet for finding flights is undoubtedly Cancun International Airport (CUN). You can find cheap direct flights to Cancun from many U.S. cities and elsewhere around the world. 

Which brings us to step #1 for exploring the Yucatan… Leave Cancun!

Just leave. 

As you can see by this list, other than flying in, there really isn’t anything that we would 

recommend staying in Cancun for. 

Note: In December 2023, the Tulum International Airport – Felipe Carrillo (TQO) opened up near Tulum Town. Compare prices to both airports to see which is the best bet for your arrival.

How many days do you need in the Yucatan Peninsula?

Cenote Azul Mexico with a baby

How much time you decide to spend in the Yucatan really depends on what type of traveler you are and what you want to do there. 

We recommend a week to 10 days minimum if you want to get a good taste of some of the highlights listed above. However, if you really want to dig your feet in to experience all the Yucatan has to offer, you could easily spend months here. 

Ultimately, the duration of your stay in the Yucatan should align with your interests and what you hope to accomplish during your visit. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a mix of both.

Best time to visit Yucatan, Mexico

Yucatan Mexico

In our opinion, the best time to visit the Yucatan peninsula would be in February when the weather is at its finest and there is a short lull in between the holidays and spring break.   

The weather in the Yucatan Peninsula is best during the winter months—from mid-November through March you can enjoy mild daytime temperatures in the mid-70s and low 80s (F). It also tends to get cooler at night with less humidity than the hot summer months. 

Temperatures begin to rise as early as April and by June/July the humidity is high and daytime temperatures can reach triple digits (especially inland away from the coasts)! The good news is, accommodation prices plummet during these months, and you can find decent places for a fraction of the peak-season costs. 

Another major factor to keep in mind is hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin. Hurricane season runs from June 1 – November 30 annually

Psst! For an in-depth guide on the seasonal weather patterns and other factors, check out our complete guide on the best time to visit Mexico.

How to get around the Yucatán Peninsula

How to get around the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is very large and you could easily spend weeks exploring just this specific region of Mexico. There are a few good options for getting around, depending on your travel style and where you want to go. 

By car

One of the easiest ways to get around Mexico is by driving a rental car. We like this option because it gives you the flexibility to explore on your own and make last minute changes to your travel schedule if you happen to fall in love with a place and decide to spend an extra night or two there.

Renting a car in Mexico is safe and crazy cheap when you compare costs to average US prices. We use Discover Cars to search for the best deals on rental cars around the world and we even have an entire guide to getting a rental car in Mexico including tips for driving and safety.

Search & Compare Rental Car Prices

  • Discover Cars: We personally use this aggregate site to compare rental car prices from all the big name companies and get the best price possible. 
  • Booking.comWe’ve had good experiences finding rental cars with this site (formerly RentalCars.com) in the past. 

A note about tolls

If you are planning a Yucatan road trip, you should know that many of the major highways are just 2 lane roads and charge tolls. The tolls can get expensive (ex. 321 MXN to get from Playa del Carmen to Valladolid), but they are very worth it as the alternative is a single-lane road that you cannot drive very fast on. 

The toll stations are cash only, so be sure you have some Mexican pesos on hand before setting out on your Yucatan road trip.

By bus

ADO bus Mexico

Another great option for traveling around the Yucatan region is by bus. The ADO bus company connects all of the major cities in the region (and around elsewhere in Mexico as well). It’s very affordable and actually quite comfortable with air conditioning and power outlets. The best part is you can purchase your tickets directly from the station on your day of travel. 

While ADO services all of the larger cities in the area, there are plenty of second class bus terminals that run shorter routes between the smaller towns. 

Check out this guide to using the ADO bus system in Mexico for more information. 

By colectivo

colectivo from Cancun to Playa del Carmen

Colectivos are Mexico’s version of a shared taxi bus. These run all over the country in short distances and are by far the most affordable method of transportation. If you are going a short distance, like from Playa del Carmen to Tulum for example, a colectivo is a great way to get there for a much more reasonable price than a taxi cab. You may have to make a few stops along the way though.

What to pack for traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula

We know it can be overwhelming packing for a trip to a new destination. That’s why we spent hours creating this super helpful PDF just for you.

In this free Mexico packing list PDF download, we’ve provided packing checklists for everything from clothing and toiletries (for both women and men!) to what shoes to pack and extra medicines you may want to have on-hand just in case.

Plus, we’re sharing tons of packing hacks and tips for traveling in Mexico that you won’t find anywhere else!

Round up of the best things to do in Yucatan, Mexico

Here’s a recap of all the best things to do in Yucatan so you can see everything in one place.

  1. Mayan ruins
  2. Cenotes
  3. Merida
  4. Yucatan foods
  5. Sian Ka’an Bio Reserve
  6. Bacalar
  7. Isla Holbox
  8. Akumal
  9. Playa del Carmen
  10. Cozumel
  11. Mayan culture & food experience
  12. Valladolid
  13. Tulum
  14. Puerto Morelos
  15. Isla Mujeres
  16. MUSA Underwater Museum
  17. Rio Secreto
  18. Las Coloradas & Rio Lagartos
  19. Whale sharks
  20. Bull sharks
  21. Izamal
  22. Progresso
  23. Campeche
  24. Xcalak
  25. Xcaret Park

Are you planning a trip to Mexico?

We have lots more resources on travel in Mexico and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Mexico Travel Guide for all the important travel information, or read some of our favorite articles below.

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Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula | Two Wandering Soles
Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula | Two Wandering Soles

We want to hear from you!

Have you been to the Yucatan Peninsula? What was your favorite place to see? Do you have more adventures to add to this list? Please leave comments and questions in the comment section below. 

Comments (7) on “25 Adventurous Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

  1. David Swashbuckler says:

    A hidden gem that I am reluctant to mention is Mahahual, Mexico. Between Tulum and Bacalar. Snorkeling, diving and beach activities. It is a port for cruise ships, but after 5p.m or so, it dies down just a bit, and the locals or long term travelers come out.

    I usually rent a tent on the beach for about a week or so,,,

  2. Brian says:

    Great tips! I am planning a trip driving around the Yucatan next month. Do you recommend buying tickets in advance to Chichen Itza or Uxmal? I plan on arriving at Chichen Itza very early in the morning as I will be staying at a hotel nearby. Do you have any other tips in regards to safety? Thanks again!

  3. aloapkim@gmail.com says:

    Thansk for your tips, just a couple of things. In the restaurant in Playa del Carmen the name is "El fogón" not "El fagón".
    Some of the restaurants that you mentioned in Tulum and Playa del Carmen, are not exactly low budget. Thanks for the recommendations but it will be great that you mention more local places like Honorio

    • Amanda Pointer says:

      Thanks for catching my spelling error! Do you have any local recommendations for Tulum? We have much more local and affordable restaurants listed in our Playa del Carmen guide.


    Thanks for the great tips and ideas

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