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Top Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula

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The Yucatan Peninsula is one of Mexico’s most treasured regions and visited by travelers from all over the globe. With its sun-kissed beaches, tropical rainforests, Mayan ruins, and diverse marine life, it’s no surprise that millions flock here every year.  

Whether you have an explorer’s spirit or need a place to unwind, the Yucatan has it all. Adventure, relaxation and delicious food all rolled into one unforgettable destination.

Start planning your trip and check out the top things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula!

Kayak in Laguna Bacalar

Laguna Bacalar

Searching for a laid-back vacation? Trying to escape the overcrowded and overpriced tourist traps? If so, make a beeline for the ‘Magic Town’ of Bacalar to experience one of the most relaxing things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Around four hours south of Cancun, Bacalar is home to possibly the most beautiful freshwater lake in the world. Laguna Bacalar feels worlds apart from the rest of the Yucatan and provides unmatched serenity.

Nicknamed “The Lake of Seven Colors,” Laguna Bacalar lives up to the hype. If you have doubts, wander upstairs and capture an aerial view. Dynamic shades of blue swirl against each other like a melting pot of hues. Forget about those Instagram filters when sharing its pristine beauty with your friends.

The limestone bedrock lining the floor of the lake is responsible for its crystal-clear waters. Although you won’t find lots of fish here, always keep your eyes peeled for roaming alligators. Not to worry though, the gators normally stay on the undeveloped side of the lake that’s filled with mangroves.

Kayaking is the best way to experience Laguna Bacalar and is possibly my favorite thing to do in the Yucatan Peninsula. The morning provides the best environment with cooler temperatures, calmer waters, and a gorgeous sunrise if you’re up early enough.

Explore Mayan Ruins

History buffs will have a field day discovering the archaeological sites of the mysterious Mayan civilization. Hidden within the dense jungles, you’ll find awe-inspiring pyramids and ancient cities from this riveting pre-Columbian culture.

Chichén Itzá steals the spotlight being named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The sacred ceremonial site thrived roughly 1,000 years ago and is a great example of the Mayans’ architectural brilliance. The centerpiece of Chichén Itzá is the iconic El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, and the step-pyramid’s design was heavily influenced by the Mayans’ interest in astronomy.

If you’re hoping for a less-crowded alternative, Ekʼ Balam and the Coba Ruins are two you should add to your bucket list. Both sites venture further off the typical tourist trail, and you’ll feel like a true explorer trekking through the Mayan jungles.

Best of all, you can climb the ruins here and capture a sensational panorama overlooking the jungle.

Another site I’d recommend is the Tulum Ruins! Although lacking the grandeur of other sites, this is the only Mayan ruin that sits alongside the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Swim in the Cenotes

The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was a cataclysmic event, but it left behind the Yucatan Peninsula’s most mesmerizing natural wonders. These sinkholes create a magical swimming experience and are easily one of the most unique things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Cenotes were sacred in Mayan culture since they were the only source of fresh water in the area. Many rituals and ceremonies were carried out as the Mayans believed the enchanting pools to be an entrance to the underworld. It’s possible to find artifacts such as jewels, gold and pottery within the thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan.

Today, cenotes are famed for their shimmering blue waters and the geologic formations surrounding them. Many of the cenotes are entrenched underground and reveal a mystical network of caverns.

Located just a few kilometers from Chichén Itzá, Ik Kil is one of the most famous cenotes in the Yucatan. Lush vegetation lines the jagged walls, vines hang above the pool’s turquoise water, and the opening gives you a glimpse at the adjacent jungle.

Tulum is the best base location for serious cenote hunting as there are well over a dozen just a short drive away.

Snorkeling Paradise

The Riviera Maya offers a whirlwind of aquatic exploration for snorkelers and scuba divers. Not only are the dive sites in the Yucatan some of the best in Mexico, they’re among the world’s best. The abundance of marine life you’ll discover is off the charts!

Akumal is the crown jewel for its colorful barrier reef, sea turtles and stingrays visible in its translucent waters. The island of Cozumel is teeming with snorkeling sites with exceptional visibility.

Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox are other spots featuring a cornucopia of vibrant marine life just offshore. If you visit the Yucatan from June-September, this is a fantastic time to also swim with whale sharks!

Indulge in Authentic Mexican Food

Two words always made me salivate in the Yucatan, Mexican seafood! Once you cross the border from the United States into Mexico, the cuisine is taken to another level with rich flavors and traditional cooking methods.

My first gastronomic experience in Mexico was at the charming fishing village of Puerto Morelos.

*Tip – For a quieter vacation in the Yucatan, Puerto Morelos is perfectly situated between the more energetic Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

El Merkadito is my personal recommendation for an enticing meal of fresh seafood with picturesque views of the white-sand beach. Our starter was Pico de Gallo, and Tuna Tartare steak and Tacos Baja were the main courses. Maybe not a meal for a backpacker budget, but absolutely worth the price.

Of course, you’ll find mouthwatering food all over the Yucatan and foodies will be living a dream. Tulum was another stop on this trip and searching for the tastiest meals was one of my favorite things to do in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Soft-shell tacos filled with shrimp, flank steak, marinated pork, and topped with tantalizing sauces made for a delicious dinner. Fresh margaritas and lime-infused Sol Beer provided a fantastic pairing with the meal.

Make sure to venture off the main strip of town and get a better sense of how the locals shop. Markets with fresh produce, flavorful street food, and refreshing machacados will have your taste buds dancing.

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