Mayan Mexico is a hub for culture, history, and flavour. The Mayan people settled along what is now known as Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, and parts of modern-day Guatemala. At one point in time, there were approximately 2 million Maya. Today, this part of Mexico and Central America hosts many visitors wanting a relaxing vacation. But with so many amazing places to go, how will you decide? This article will give you the inside scoop on where to go on an expedition through Mayan Mexico, including beaches, ruins, restaurants, and other must-stops along the way!
A beach and resort town on the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is a dream destination for anyone who wants to be by the ocean! It’s completely different from the busy nearby city of Cancun. There’s abundant Mayan history, delicious food, and endless sandy beaches; some of which are very secluded! One of the prettiest public beaches to visit is Playa Paraiso, or Paradise Beach. This beach is surrounded by crystal blue water and rugged cliffs, making it a picture-perfect spot. Although this beach is popular, it’s also quite big, so it never feels crowded. There are tons of restaurants and bars, and some travel companies even offer boat tours that take you out snorkeling! However, if you’d rather stay on your own, you can relax on the beach and watch the iguanas bask in the sun on the warm sand. If you’re wanting to visit a beach far away from the crowds, I recommend visiting Playa Las Palmas. This beach is perfect for those who want a quiet day to soak up the sun and swim in the gorgeous turquoise water. This beach doesn’t have any restaurants, bars, or shops around it, so make sure you pack a picnic and all your beach essentials. If you want to learn about the Mayan history while you’re here, take a trip to the Archeological Zone of Tulum. The Castillo watchtower and Templo de Las Pinturas overlook the ocean and is home to a partially-restored mural.
When it’s time to eat, there are tons of great options in Tulum with delicious dishes for every price point! If you want a reasonably-priced restaurant serving some of the best local cuisine you can find, head to Antojitos La Chiapaneca. This restaurant is well-known for its tacos, and is open till late. Another restaurant that comes highly recommended is Farm to Table. Rightfully named, this fusion restaurant is making some amazing dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients at affordable rates. Finally, if you’re wanting a fancier night out, I suggest Mexican Experience Tulum. Although it’s pricier, the atmosphere is amazing and you will have the kindest serving staff who are very knowledgeable about the area. You will never run out of places to go in Tulum!
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Just like Tulum, Playa del Carmen is another beach town in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. With warm, sunny weather year-round, it’s easy to see why beach-lovers flock here, especially during the winter months. Playa del Carmen is full of flavour, and is home to tons of great restaurants serving local and international cuisine. First up: El Fogon. This Mexican cantina may be small, but it’s a definite if you’re in the area. The food is amazing, and the prices are just as great! Moderately-priced, Rockas Jamaican Kitchen is also a good place to go if you’re wanting a little break from the traditional local cuisine. This restaurant is putting a fun twist on Jamaican dishes, while still keeping the traditional flavours. Another great way to find places to eat is to ask locals! This will allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture, and avoid the more “touristy” spots.
In Playa del Carmen, there are always lots of things to do! If you’re interested in doing some shopping and partaking in the nightlife, then you have to go to 5th Avenue (called “Quinta” by the local people). Most of the shops, bars, and events are in this area. For all-ages fun on 5th Avenue, you can also check out Parque Fundadores. This park has a great kids play area, Mayan dancers in the evening, street performers, and there is also handicapped access to the beaches by the park. Most of the action here happens in the evening and into the night. But for families with young children, you can easily spend an afternoon here! Another place to go during a trip to Playa del Carmen is the 3D Museum of Wonders. This interactive museum is home to many 3D concept paintings for visitors to view and take pictures with! The admission fee is a bit steep ($30 for an adult), but it’s worth every penny! This is just the beginning of all the fun you’ll have while in Playa del Carmen!
Just off the coast of Playa del Carmen, lies the island of Cozumel. Many travellers flock to this cruise ship port to go scuba diving at the world-class spots, relax on the beach, explore the underwater caverns, and view the abundant marine life! Even though most of the island is undeveloped, there are plenty of places to go. While Cozumel is well-known for scuba diving, it does require having proper training and equipment. If you don’t want to take the time to prepare for scuba diving, don’t worry! There are some amazing places to go snorkeling, which only require flippers and a snorkel mask. Chankanaab is an eco-park filled with underwater caves. In these caves or surrounding, you might see dolphins, manatees, or sea turtles. Most caves are wide open and easy for anyone to explore. However, others are a lot smaller and longer, which may not be suitable for young children, those who aren’t strong swimmers, or those who fear being in tight spaces. You can get into Chankanaab for a small fee on your own, or there are many companies that will take you there! Ticket prices with companies usually include equipment, a snack or small lunch, and the ride to and from the eco-park. While it’s not technically in Cozumel, you can’t miss out on a day trip to Chichen Itza. This massive complex of Mayan ruins, one of the 7 Wonders of the World, features the famous step pyramid El Castillo (or Temple of Kukulcan), the Temple of Warriors, and the Wall of the Skulls. Step back in time at Chichen Itza and witness how the Maya people lived.
Island life on Cozumel is inseparable from the beach. If you’re on the East Coast of the island, head to Playa Chen Rio. This lifeguard-protected beach offers relatively shallow water due to large rocks forming a natural barrier. Outside the rocks, you can try your hand at surfing, and inside, enjoy swimming and snorkeling that’s safe for the whole family. Up next is Playa Azul. This beach is close to many accommodations in the North West, which makes it a good home base for your trip. Beyond relaxing, sunbathing, and swimming, there are plenty of activities you can participate in without even having to leave the beach! You can snorkel, visit one of the many bars, or rent a kayak (for free or a small fee). The beach is free and there are showers you can use. Get ready for some of the most beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen on a trip to Cozumel!
Want to discover more of Mayan Mexico? Acanela Expeditions offers trips to Mexico from 7-11 days where you could spend your days taking a cooking class, visiting Mayan ruins, snorkeling, going to the market, and relaxing at the beach. If you would like for information about our Mexico Expedition, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll gladly answer any questions you have!
Author: Demitria Rounis