You want to eat your way around the Yucatán Peninsula? Say adios to any preconceived notions of Mexican food you might have in your head. Sure, you can find quesadillas, tortas, and tacos al pastor here, but the regional stuff is markedly different from elsewhere in Mexico—even if you stick to the well-traveled coast, the focus of our content here. A product of the area’s Mayan-territory past, tropical climate, and geographical position as an important land and coastal trade route, Yucatecan cuisine combines ancient Mayan agricultural staples and proteins—such as maiz, beans, pumpkin (and pumpkin seeds), chiles (particularly habaneros), tomatoes, naranja agria (sour orange), annatto seeds, eggs, turkey, fish—with global influences from the Caribbean to Europe to the Middle East. Recados, the complex ground spice/herb blends that form the basis of many dishes, are as likely to include cumin as locally grown oregano. This food reflects an eclectic, uncommon collection of cultures and ingredients, brought together in a most delicious way.Read More
Coastal Yucatan Food + Travel Guide
What to Eat in Coastal Yucatan
How to Burn It Off in Coastal Yucatan
WALK, SWIM, DIVE
Exploring on foot is always the best way to get to know a place, and the beach hamlets of coastal Yucatan are no exception. But while Playa del Carmen’s Quinta Avenida and, to a lesser degree, Tulum’s main drag are thronged with visitors and shops, the sands of Isla Mujeres are quiet in the early hours—perfect for a morning jog—and a stroll among the fishing boats of Puerto Juarez in the late afternoon affords a whole new look at Cancún. For swimmers, Tulum’s beach tends to get the most wave action (see kiteboarding, below), making a Caribbean dip a bit more of a workout.
Tulum’s picturesque ancient Mayan ruins, of course, are a must in this area too, and combine a lot of walking and swimming, if you wish, as the archaeological site abuts the stunning coastline, offering visitors a staircase down the cliffside to the shimmering sea below (pictured at top). (Don’t expect to climb steep, crumbly pyramids here, though—you’ll have to go to the Coba ruins, about 30 miles northwest of Tulum, for that.) Skip the tram from the ticketing area to the ruins for more exercise, and don’t forget sunscreen and water. Mornings are the best time to visit independently, as it’s less crowded and less scorching-hot.
Where to Stay in Coastal Yucatan
On Playa Norte, we enjoyed the condos at Nautibeach (from US$90 in low season; map), which combine a degree of independent apartment living—kitchens, living room, terrace—with those essential resort amenities of pristine swimming pool, private slice of gorgeous beach (with chairs and umbrellas), and a beach bar within easy reach. Staff can help arrange everything from providing a travel crib to booking a golf cart or a snorkeling trip, and you’re within walking distance of many places to eat.
In the quieter northeast part of the island, try the 32-room Rocamar (from $65 in low season; Calle Nicolas Bravo & Entre Abasolo, map), celebrated for its sunrise views over the Caribbean. It’s not fancy, but hammocks hang on porches, there’s a nice pool, and you can hear the waves from the front rooms. It’s an easy walk to the Cancún ferry, lots of restaurants, and Playa Norte (there’s no proper beach by the hotel).Read More