A Solo Traveler's Guide to Yucatán, Mexico

Enjoy blissful solitude at Ser Casasandra
Enjoy blissful solitude at Ser Casasandra | © Ser Casasandra Holbox / Expedia
Jo Fernandez

Planning a solo trip to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico? Fringed by the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, home to ancient Maya ruins and colonial cities, the Yucatán Peninsula is like no other part of Mexico. As far as this enticing trio of states – Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatán – is concerned, the all-things-to-everyone cliché applies perfectly here, from the region’s cooling cenotes to colorful towns such as Izamal and Mérida. If you crave crowds, clubs, bars and swanky hotels on your solo trip, the pleasure seeker’s resorts of Cancún, Tulum and Playa del Carmen are right here for you, too. From places to stay, to where to eat and how to make the most of Maya culture, Culture Trip’s handy solo travel guide has you covered.

What’s the vibe?

Yoga on the beach is the order of the day

The Caribbean coast south of Cancún, known as the Riviera Maya, is blessed with the winning combination of white sand and blue sea, with a slight hint of hippy vibes, making beachfront yoga de rigueur. You can party to your heart’s content in Playa del Carmen and Tulum, and be wowed by the pyramid-building brilliance of the Maya throughout the wider region. Effectively, you’re here to soak up the beach and backpacking culture, Maya history and beautiful scenery.

Where to stay in Yucatán, Mexico

1. Ser Casasandra, Isla Holbox

Boutique Hotel

A luxurious double suite at Ser Casandra, Isla Holbox, with a separate lounge area that boasts two cream chaises longues and a long coffee table.
© Ser Casasandra Holbox / Expedia

Staying at this boutique retreat on teeny, car-free Isla Holbox is a great choice for solo travelers. With just 18 rooms, the dreamy rustic-chic spaces are designed with terracotta tiled floors, gnarly beams, beds draped with floaty white fabric and original art, for an authentically Mexican feel. Ditch social media, your emails, Netflix and any other screen for that matter, as this tech-free holistic beach retreat would rather you unwind and de-stress with al fresco yoga and meditation, padding about on the palapa-dotted beach and savoring healthy regional fusion dishes.

2. Gran Real Yucatán, Mérida


Opulent terrace area at Gran Real Yucatán, with marble floor, chandeliers and luxurious sofas.
© Gran Real Yucatán, Mérida / Expedia

The “gran” part of this 19th-century mansion’s name is justified by the ornate columns and courtyard patios furnished as lavishly as the interior spaces, with ceramic floors, fancy sofas, framed paintings and dangling chandeliers giving the space plenty of character. Sturdy dark-wood pieces set a traditional tone in cooling rooms that face either the garden or the pool – both a joyous mix of green foliage and palms. Alone or with your group, you’ll enjoy the 10-minute walk to the laurel-shaded Plaza Grande, with a daily flag ceremony, live music and a Sunday craft market, meaning no thoughtless last-minute duty-free gifts for your cat sitter.

3. Zamas Hotel, Tulum

Boutique Hotel

A thatched cabin at the Zamas Hotel sits directly on a sandy beach and is shaded by tall palm trees.
© Zamas Hotel, Tulum / Expedia
This cute collection of colorful thatched beachfront cabanas with hammocks strung outside are far from the throngs of touristy Cancún, north of the Maya Riviera. If that sounds too rustic, there are also self-catering houses with gardens and pools, which are perfect for groups of solo travelers. Californian-Mexican fusion food will put a smile on your face, as will the pelican sculptures dotted among the coconut trees in the grounds. If you fancy a fresh coconut, just ask – someone will shin up and get you one.

You’ll spend a night at Zamas Hotel as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive nine-day Yucatán Peninsula trip.

Where to eat and drink in Yucatán, Mexico

4. Marakame Café, Cancún

Restaurant, Mexican

A wooden plate at Marakame Café, Cancún, presenting a row of shrimp quesadillas with guacamole and pico de gallo.
© EQRoy / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the best things you can do in Cancún is sample Yucatán flavors in this longed-for Caribbean setting. This breezy treehouse-style cafe features barbacoa, quesadillas and fresh corn tortillas on the menu – with a side order of live music come nightfall. There are French and Italian dishes to try too – and you can get into the groove inside or outside, with their heady array of margaritas, sangrias, Mexican beers and wines.

5. Kinich, Izamal

Restaurant, Mexican

The yellow exterior of Kinich, Mexico, with an arched wooden doorway flanked by potted plants.
© Adriana Rosas / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the country’s “Pueblos Mágicos”, Izamal is home to one of Mexico’s finest and most unassuming restaurants. Step through the butter-yellow facade of Kinich, flanked by vines and plants, and you’ll find a lively atmosphere with local women dressed in traditional huipil white tunics bringing freshly-made tortillas to tables set beneath a cathedral-style palapa roof. Try the rolled tortillas stuffed with diced egg and topped with pumpkin-seed sauce, and the smoky sausage – a conversion starter for any group of friends, whether old or new.

6. Casa Jaguar, Tulum

Restaurant, Mexican

Long dining tables at Casa Jaguar, Tulum, occupy a leafy courtyard area with jungly plants and wood-chip floor.
© Casa Jaguar, Tulum

Let the sea breeze cool the balmy night air at this jungle setting close to the beach. Head there late – after 11pm – and you’ll soon be toe-tapping to live sets from local and international DJs. Well crafted cocktails such as the Crisanto – a mezcal-infused mix of chile serrano, cilantro and pineapple, with spicy salt around the rim – are the main draw, soaked up by grilled seafood hot from the wood-fired oven. Chatty bartenders are happy to share their on-the-ground local knowledge – as well as their impressive cocktail know-how.

What to do in Yucatán, Mexico

7. Admire the architecture and markets of Mérida

Architectural Landmark

A red tourist bus sits in front of the impressive stone carvings of the Monument to the Fatherland in Mérida.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Mérida, the peninsula’s cultural capital, is shaped by a blend of the original Maya civilization and the invading Spanish conquistadors. Colorful Spanish-era architecture painted foodie shades of pink and green lines narrow streets, while the main zócalo (plaza) is home to one of the oldest churches in Latin America. Elsewhere, the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida gives an educational account of the Yucatán’s ancient history and more recent colonization, while the heady blend of crafts, local cuisine and market stalls piled high with spicy habanero peppers is seriously impressive.

8. Cool off in Cenote Azul

Natural Feature

Clear, turquoise waters in a small tree-fringed pool at Cenote Azul, Mexico.
© Александар Тодоровић / Alamy Stock Photo

The Yucatán peninsula is home to a seemingly endless supply of cenotes – natural sinkholes and caves filled with fresh water, used by the Maya for drinking and rituals. Just off the main highway south of Playa del Carmen, rainforest-fringed Cenote Azul is certainly one of the most noteworthy. With shallow parts appealing to less confident swimmers and snorkelers, and a cliff for daredevil divers, the dreamy blue waters will tempt any passerby in for a swim.

9. Climb the 365 steps at Chichén Itzá

Archaeological site

Mayan Temple pyramid of Kukulkan - Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
© Diego Grandi / Alamy Stock Photo

The multi-stepped pyramids and temples of Chichén Itzá are feats of Maya science and astronomy that would be no less impressive if built today. The best-known is the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, with a step for every day of the year. Abandoned before the arrival of the Spaniards, the former city is rightfully bestowed with the double glory of being a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Luckily for visitors today, the Maya people built their complexes close to cenotes – so small tour groups can slip away for a cooling swim after a sweaty day of clambering around.

A trip to the amazing Maya ruins is just one of many authentic activities you’ll experience on Culture Trip’s nine-day Yucatán Peninsula tour, led by our Local Insider.

Stay safe, be happy

Travel within the Yucatán Peninsula is safe and the region has not experienced the levels of crime affecting other parts of Mexico. The Mexican government makes efforts to protect major tourist destinations like Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, where drug-related violence levels are very low. Female travelers may get unwanted attention if they are alone – another reason a small-group trip to the Yucatán makes sense – but on the whole, the further you are from resorts and big cities, particularly in indigenous areas, the less this will occur.

Getting around Yucatán as a solo traveler

The pretty port of Chiquila

From Cancún’s international airport, most parts of the Riviera Maya are accessed by Highway 180, which runs all the way to Campeche, alternating coast, city and countryside. You can hire a car from the airport, although taxis are an easy way to sightsee as you get around. It’s also easy to travel around the entire region by bus, as Cancún is connected to major locations in the Yucatán Peninsula via ADO (Autobuses de Oriente) – the leading bus service in Mexico. Finally, you can hop on the ferry to get to any islands: for example the Holbox Express passenger service goes between Chiquila and Holbox, while Ultramar runs between Cancún and Playa del Carmen, to Cozumel and Isla Mujeres.

Solo traveler who likes to socialize? Immerse yourself in the Yucatán Peninsula when you join Culture Trip’s nine-day Yucatán Peninsula tour. You’ll be glad you chose to experience the blissful beaches, Maya ruins and friendly Mexican culture as part of a small group of like-minded travelers.

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