A local's guide to the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

Local expert and Insight Guides trip planner Veronica shares local knowledge to help you plan a memorable trip to the Yucatán Peninsula
Beach beds among palm trees at perfect tropical coast on Holbox island in Mexico
Beach beds among palm trees at perfect tropical coast on Holbox island in Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

Beach beds among palm trees at perfect tropical coast on Holbox island in Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

Whether you're looking to spot dolphins or chill out on the area's best beaches, a trip to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula is a must. Local expert and Insight Guides trip planner Veronica explains when, where and what to visit on your trip

When should we plan our holiday to the Yucatán Peninsula and why?

Mid-June to late-August is whale shark season and the Yucatán Peninsula is one of the few places in the world where you can take a tour to swim with these magnificent creatures. It is a very busy season, though. For those looking to avoid the crowds and spend less on accommodation, September through November is ideal.

Where would you recommend we stay?

If you are travelling around Yucatán, Merida or Valladolid you should stay at a local Hacienda. Hacienda Sotuta de Peon is a perfect example of what a typical Yucatan Hacienda looks like.

The all-inclusive resorts thrive at Cancun and Riviera Maya, there are many options to choose from and there’s sure to be one that suits all your needs. If you don’t like big resorts then you can try small boutique hotels like Hacienda Paradise at Playa del Carmen or Holbox Dream at Holbox Island.

Where is a great place for dinner?

At Playa del Carmen you can choose from a variety of restaurants on the 5th Avenue. Alternatively, Como Como on 10th Avenue between 12 and 14 street is a restaurant which combines Italian and  Mexican traditions and ingredients for a reasonable price. High-end diners will have a wonderful time at Alux on Juarez Avenue.

For a romantic dinner, I would recommend the Columbus lobster dinner cruise at Cancun’s Nichupte Lagoon. If you want to have fun, dance and eat traditional Mexican dishes, sweets and snacks then Xoximilco is the place for you.

Veronica is Insight Guides' trip planner and local expert for Mexico. Explore her trip itineraries here

Chichen Itza snake and Kukulkan Mayan temple pyramid Mexico Yucatan. Photo: ShutterstockChichen Itza snake and Kukulkan Mayan temple pyramid Mexico Yucatan. Photo: Shutterstock

Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we’re in this region of Mexico?

Cochinita pibil, seasoned shredded pork served with purple onion, habanero sauce, and tortillas. It is a typical and very popular dish from this region; you can find it in most restaurants and many taco stalls all around the peninsula. A word of advice: go easy on the habanero!

Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience while we’re in this region too?

A tour to Chichen Itza, the most significant archaeological site on the peninsula and one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World.

Where is the most romantic spot on the peninsula?

Holbox Island with its beautiful sky and colorful ocean. You can watch the sunset from an isolated beach at Punta Cocos while you enjoy the quietness of the ocean and the refreshing breeze.

Where can we hang out with locals?

Downtown Playa del Carmen is the perfect place to socialise with locals and people from all over the world. There are many restaurants, bars, art and craft shops just a couple blocks away from the beach. Mamitas beach is one of the locals’ favourites.

Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips?

If you are going to take public transportation to move around be sure to pay in pesos, the local currency, to save money. Watch out for people trying to sell you a time share: they are everywhere! If someone offers you very cheap or free tours and/or gifts just tell them you are not interested and move on.

What souvenir should we bring home from our trip to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula?

Most tourists bring home a bottle of tequila, although if you want to awe your friends and family you should bring a bottle of Xtabentun instead. Xtabentun (good luck trying to pronounce the word) is an anise liquor made only in this part of Mexico.

A hand-made hammock, if you have somewhere to hang it at home makes for a relaxing and comfortable place to take a nap too.

Now it's your turn to explore: Veronica has created an adventurous holiday around Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Review the full itinerary here

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