Spend an endless summer vacation in Mexico

Spend an endless summer vacation in Mexico

What to see and do in Mexico: Top Tourist Attractions in Yucatan Peninsula.

Yucatan Peninsula

The Yucatan Peninsula is made up of the states of Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo, where the famous Riviera Maya is located. It is the most touristic region of Mexico, as it has important Mayan archaeological sites, charming colonial cities such as Merida, Izamal and Valladolid, a territory full of cenotes and long beaches facing the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

1. Holbox

Holbox is a small island in Yucatan located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. If you dream of taking a long walk on a fine sandy beach, with your feet in warm, shallow waters: this is the best place in Mexico to do it! Holbox's best beaches are at Punta Mosquito and Punta Cocos, but you can also stay in a hotel or bar and enjoy the main beach in exchange for drinks. Personally, I made the round trip to Holbox Island in one day, but if you want to enjoy it, it's best to spend at least one night there. There are small hotels to suit all budgets and styles.

2. Cancun

Cancun is Mexico's most popular tourist destination, known for its large resorts and long sandy beaches.

What to do in Cancun:

• The Mayan Museum, which offers an introduction to the Mayan civilisation and its history. Outside the museum you can stroll through a garden and see Mayan ruins.

• The Scenic Tower for a panoramic view of the city, the Caribbean and the Nichupte Lagoon.

• El Rey Archaeological Zone is a Mayan site dating back to the 3rd century.

• To party in Cancun, you can go to the mythical Coco Bongo or to Xoximilco Cancun for a Mexican party in a typical trajinera, with food, open bar and mariachis.

3. Contoy Island

This small island paradise of white sand and palm trees is one of the most beautiful places in Mexico. Access is limited to only 200 people per day for conservation reasons, as it is an important nesting area for turtles and seabirds.

The tour to Isla Contoy is by boat from Cancun. It includes snorkelling at Ixlaché reef, free time at Isla Contoy, breakfast and lunch, open bar, and a stop at Isla Mujeres.

4. Underwater Museum of Art

It would be a shame to travel to Mexico and not take the opportunity to explore its underwater world.

One of the best places to do so is the MUSA, the largest underwater museum in the world!

There are 500 underwater sculptures (4 to 8 m deep) spread over 4,200 m² in the Caribbean Sea.

These statues were created by various artists to replace the corals that have unfortunately disappeared due to mass tourism and pollution. This allows the aquatic fauna and flora to retain part of their habitat.

The museum can be explored by snorkelling, scuba diving or on a boat with a transparent bottom. There are 3 exhibition rooms: Manchones (8m deep), Nizuc (4m) and Punta Sam (3.5m).

You can book the Manchones reef snorkelling tour here with snorkelling equipment and boat transport from Cancun, you can see up to 400 statues!

5. Isla Mujeres

Just 13 km from Cancun is Isla Mujeres, the most famous island in the Mexican Caribbean. In ancient Mayan times, it was a sanctuary dedicated to the cult of Ixchel, the goddess of the moon and fertility.

It is said that the Spanish conquistador Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba gave the island its name: the Island of Women, because he saw many statues of women.

Today it's famous for its diving spots, beaches and coral reefs. Here's what you can see and do on Isla Mujeres:

• Playa Norte, which is one of the top 10 beaches in the world with its calm waters and fine sand.

• Punta Sur sculpture garden.

• Garrafon Park with private beach, kayaking, zip line, snorkelling, beachfront pool and restaurant - book your tickets here (including return ferry) the less touristy beaches such as Playa Sol, Playa Pescador, Playa Tiburon, Playa Paraiso, Playa Na Balam, etc.

• Swim with whale sharks.

You can also take a catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres from Cancun with snorkelling, free time on the beach, drinks and lunch. An all-inclusive day trip.

To get from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, there are several jetties:

• Punta Sam, which is cheaper (8 km from the centre of Cancun, 45 minutes by car).

• Puerto Juarez (3 km from the centre, 30 minutes by car).

• In the hotel zone: El Embarcadero, Playa Tortugas and Playa Caracol.

6. Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is a beach resort south of Cancun that tends to be more popular than Cancun: its centre is safer and its tourist offer is more varied than Cancun's, where the activity is concentrated around the big hotel complexes.

In addition, its strategic location makes it a good starting point for visiting the Riviera Maya and other attractions on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Water sports, shopping, nightlife, there is something for all tastes and ages, which is why it is a great option if you are looking for a destination to travel with children in Mexico!

What to do in Playa del Carmen:

• La Quinta Avenida: is the main shopping street of the city, with bars, restaurants, nightclubs and shops. The best of all is that it is pedestrianised.

• Rio Secreto: This is a reserve that was voted best nature reserve in Mexico and Central America at the World Travel Awards! It's a guided tour over 600 metres that takes you through semi-flooded caves and an underground.

• Playacar: is an exclusive place with large residential complexes, a golf course and a beautiful white sandy beach. You can swim, snorkel, kite surf and visit the Mayan ruins of Xaman-Ha.

7. Cozumel

Located just 16 km from Playa del Carmen, the island of Cozumel has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

It was Captain Cousteau, fascinated by the beauty of this island, its seabed and coral reef, who made it world famous. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places in Mexico for diving, as it is home to incredible sea beds, which can be admired all year round. It is also the starting point for Caribbean cruises.

You can book the best tours in Cozumel:

• Jeep tour to Punta Sur (the largest ecological reserve on the island) with snorkelling and lunch at a beach club - Book it here.

• Tickets for Chankanaab Park with access to the whole park and a guided snorkelling session.

• Snorkel tour that takes you to 3 reefs, ideal for families.

• Electric bike tour with cenote, snorkel, beach and tequila tasting.

• Starfish catamaran tour of Playa El Cielo with stop at Palancar reef.

• ATV jungle adventure, cave exploration, cenote and tequila tasting.

8. Tulum

Tulum is an ecotourism destination, known mainly for its long white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and important archaeological site.

What to see and do in Tulum:

• The archaeological site of Tulum: a fortified Mayan city built facing the Caribbean Sea with a beach accessible only through the ruins. Entrance fee 85.

• Several cenotes for swimming, snorkelling and diving such as Cenote Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote, Zacil Ha, Cenote Calavera, etc.

• White sandy beaches like Playa Paraiso, Playa Las Palmas, Chemuyil and Xcacel.

• Xel Há: a great water park and ecotourism park in the Riviera Maya with a river, lakes, caves, a zip line and various activities perfect for the whole.

• Party at one of the beach bars or in town at the Papaya Playa Project.

• Stroll along the Tulum Beach Strip with its shops, restaurants, cafes, etc.

• Visit the immersive Mystika museum.

9. Cobá

About 40 minutes from Tulum, on the road to Valladolid, is Coba: one of my favourite archaeological sites in Mexico! It was one of the most important cities of the Mayan world and a great rival to Chichen Itza. It was a large city of 70 km² strategically located, which developed partly thanks to the 5 small lakes that surrounded it and that allowed it to supply water to its lands and its inhabitants.

Today, you can still feel the wildness and authenticity of Coba by walking through the jungle to access its structures. I also had the opportunity to see animals during my visit: toucans, monkeys, etc.

Here you will find the highest pyramid in Quintana Roo and the second highest pyramid in the whole Yucatan Peninsula: Nohoch Mul, 42 m high.

• Admission: 100 pesos.

• Parking: 60 pesos.

• Bicycle rental: 60 pesos.

• Taxi-bike for 2 persons: 140 pesos for 1h.

10. Sian Ka'an

Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sian Ka'an is the largest reserve in Yucatan and one of the most beautiful places in Mexico.

It is a tropical paradise of 5182 km² with numerous marshes, mangroves, fine sandy beaches, 300 species of birds, several archaeological sites and exceptional fauna and flora.

There are two entrances to visit Sian Ka'an that offer a different experience:

• Punta Allen (1 day): to explore the beach, saltwater lagoons, boat ride (and hopefully see some dolphins!)

• Muyil (half day): to explore the interior of the reserve, the jungle, the swamps, the ruins of Muyil.

11. Ek Balam

Ek Balam, Black Jaguar in Yucatec Mayan, was a Mayan capital ruled by the governor Ukit Kan Lek Tok (8th century).

His tomb is located in one of the 72 halls of the Acropolis. It is not only the most important structure of the site, but also one of the largest and largest constructions in Mesoamerica. I advise you to climb to the top because the view is incredible!

There are also several temples, two palaces and a Mayan ball game.

Ek Balam is much less touristy than its neighbour Chichen Itza, so it is a real pleasure to explore.

Less than 2 km from the entrance to Ek Balam is the X-Canché cenote, perfect for cooling off after a visit with a zip line and hammocks.

• Entrance fee: foreigners 531 pesos, nationals 211 pesos.

12. Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is definitely a must-see in Mexico. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was also chosen as one of the 7 New Wonders of the Modern World in 2007.

This Mayan city was the capital of a large territory of the Yucatan peninsula in the 10th century and was occupied by different peoples.

Although other archaeological sites are more authentic and less touristy, Chichen Itza is definitely impressive for its size, buildings and history.

Here is what you must see in Chichen Itza:

• Temple of Kukulcan: also known as El Castillo, it is the most symbolic building in Chichen Itza. At the time of the equinoxes and the summer solstice, the sun creates shadows that form a serpent on the staircase.

• The observatory called El Caracol from which the "priests" studied the stars.

• The Mesoamerican ball game which is the largest and best preserved ball game discovered to date.

• Cenote Ik Kil: There are two cenotes in Chichen Itza (Xtoloc and the sacred cenote) but you cannot swim in them. I recommend going to Cenote Ik Kil because it is very beautiful and it is only 4km away. It's best to go before 13h, before the tourist buses arrive.

• Kukulcan Nights: an impressive sound and light show at 8pm (510 pesos) with projections all over the site that ends with the pyramid of Kukulcan. Details and ticket purchase on the official website-

Tickets: 571 pesos for foreigners, 283 pesos for nationals, 85 pesos for residents of Yucatán.

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