Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Yucatan Travel

The Yucatan region in Mexico is one of the most geographically blessed regions I’ve seen anywhere in the world!  From the towering beach resorts of Cancun, to the party town of Playa del Carmen, to riding in golf carts on Isla Mujeres & chilling with whale sharks on Isla Holbox, to swimming in secret cenotes & diving in Cozumel’s world-famous waters, to everyone’s new favorite boho retreat, Tulum ~ there’s something for everyone in the Yucatan.  And it’s one of my favorite destinations for female travel.  Find out why in this “Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Yucatan Travel!”

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl Who Travels the World

Welcome to the “Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Yucatan Travel!” Photo taken at the Pink Sea; click on photo to find out how to get there!

What to Pack for the Yucatan

Map of the Yucatan

Cancun, Mexico

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico

Merida, Mexico

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Rio Lagartos, Mexico

Uxmal Ruins

Pink Sea

Isla Holbox

Ek Bala'am Ruins

Is the Yucatan Safe for Female Travel?

Mexico has a bad reputation for travel in certain areas, namely because of drug & cartel violence, combined with notorious government corruption.  That said, Mexico is a HUGE country.  Not all of it is scary!  In my opinion, the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest areas of Mexico for female travel.  Statistics back that up, too.  Merida, the capital city, has the least crime of any of Mexico’s major cities.  And because the Yucatan is so popular with tourists, both the government & local businesses have a strong interest in keeping tourists safe here.

Personally, I traveled all over the Yucatan for two months ~ by myself & with friends, & I have no qualms recommending it to other female travelers.  There’s significant police presence in nearly all tourist areas (particularly in Playa del Carmen, where armed officers ride around in trucks)!  I felt the safest in Cozumel, & exercised the most caution in Playa del Carmen & Cancun, particularly at night (mainly because of annoying drunk guys & aggressive touts).  Use caution or avoid walking alone at night, don’t wear flashy jewelry, & trust your gut always.

Highlights of the Yucatan

These are a few of my favorite things to do on the Yucatan Peninsula.  Click on any photo below to get more information about that  specific activity or place…

Chichen Itza

Yucatan Travel, Chichen Itza

The Pink Sea

Yucatan Travel Guide, Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel

Bohemian Tulum

Yucatan Travel Guide, Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Tulum, Mexico

Explore Cenotes

Yucatan Travel, Cenotes

Cozumel Sunsets

Yucatan Travel Guide, Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Cozumel

Playa del Carmen


Yucatan Travel Guide, Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Playa del Carmen

Yucatan Travel Overview!

  • Cancun = Big Hotels 95% 95%
  • Playa del Carmen = Party Town + Touristy 100% 100%
  • Tulum = Bohemian + Relaxed 95% 95%
  • Cozumel = Diver’s Paradise 100% 100%
  • Merida = Authentic Mexican Culture 100% 100%

Overview of Cities in the Yucatan

No “Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Yucatan Travel” would be complete without an overview of the major cities & attractions in the Yucatan ~ so you can find out exactly where you want to be…

Yucatan Travel Guide, CancunCancun:  Big hotels & beautiful turquoise water are what Cancun is all about.  And partying.  This is where it all starts ~ as nearly everyone flies into Cancun International Airport.  The “Hotel Zone” is one long strip of sand with virtually every major hotel chain: JW Marriott, Westin, & Kempinski.  There are tons of activities for kids at these big hotels, like big pools, slides, etc.  Cancun is Best For: Families with kids, big groups looking to party, & anyone looking to relax all day by beach or pool.  Cancun is very touristy though, & the town itself isn’t that charming ~ so if you’re looking for more authenticity: head elsewhere.  Search for hotels in Cancun here.  

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Isla MujeresIsla Mujeres:  Tropical island vibes, crystal blue water, & golf cart transport means you’re in Isla Mujeres!  A short ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a small island: just 4 miles long.  It’s more relaxed than Cancun, less expensive & a little less touristy, with lots of snorkeling & diving ~ plus a sea turtle farm.  If you want a slower-pace than Cancun ~ Isla Mujeres is your closest option.  Best For: Families, couples, & solo travelers who want a more relaxed, island vibe while enjoying plenty of water activities.  Make sure to check out the underwater “sculpture” garden too!  Search hotels in Isla Mujeres here.

Playa del CarmenUltimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl Who Travels World, Playa del Carmen:  An hour south of Cancun lies the party town of Playa del Carmen.  It’s quite touristy (5th Ave is where it’s all happening) ~ but it’s also a ton of fun, with nightlife galore.  Accommodations are wide-ranging: you can stay in ritzy all-inclusives right on the beach, party hostels, or cute, budget B&B’s.  And it’s a great place to shop!  The one bummer: the beach here isn’t as pretty as those in Cancun or Tulum.  It’s narrow & is typically packed; I personally didn’t find it relaxing at all.  But, if you like to drink, party, & be merry ~ then Playa is your place.  Best For: Big groups, young people, & anyone looking to party & shop.  If it’s idyllic beaches you’re after, keep moving towards Tulum.  Search hotels in Playa del Carmen here.

Yucatan Travel Guide, Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, TulumTulum:  Tulum is THE new “it” place in the Yucatan.  The beach here is exquisite.  All the best hotels in town can be found right along the beach “Strip,” which runs along the sand.  Across this small, sandy road are restaurants & shops galore.  The whole vibe is bohemian & relaxed.  There are no high-rise hotels, & the beach is long & wide ~ perfect for strolling.  Best For: Tulum is best for true beach lovers, who want less “chain,” more unique & boutique.  It’s currently also a hot spot for Instagram all-stars ~ & the Azulik Resort in Tulum is one of its most photogenic spots, perched like little tree houses above the surf.  Search all Tulum accommodations here.

MeridaUltimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Merida:  Three hours west of Cancun lies the beautiful city of Merida.  If you’re looking for authentic Mexican culture: head here.  I used it as my base for exploring the Uxmal Ruins, which are an hour south of Merida.  In between Cancun & Merida, there are literally hundreds of hidden cenotes (secret underground swimming holes) to cool off in ~ so there’s sooo much exploring to be done here!  Best For: Solo travelers, older couples, & anyone looking for authentic Mexican culture & architecture.  Search hotels in Merida here.

CozumelUltimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Cozumel:  Just a 45-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen is my FAVORITE spot in the Yucatan: Cozumel.  Great food (the tacos!!), phenomenal sunsets, & world-famous snorkeling define this pretty little island.  Beaches here aren’t great ~ it’s all about the diving.  As for nightlife, there’s some ~ but you’ve got more options in Cancun or Playa.  Best For: Cozumel is perfect for true water lovers, & is great for solo travel, with a relaxed, safe vibe.  For better beaches & nightlife: head to Tulum, Playa, or Cancun.  Search for gorgeous oceanfront Cozumel hotels here.

Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Yucatan Travel

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl WHo Travels the World, Whale Shark HolboxIsla Holbox:  Want to swim with whale sharks??  Then head to the quaint, car-free island of Isla Holbox.  Because it’s harder to reach, it’s one of the least touristy places in the Yucatan.  To reach it, you’ll need to drive about three hours from Cancun, to the small town of Chiquila.  From there, take a ferry to the island.  From May through September, you can swim with whale sharks here, a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Search for gorgeous beachfront hotels in Isla Holbox here.

The Pink SeaUltimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl Who Travels the World, Pink Sea:  One of the Yucatan’s newest hot spots is a little off-the-beaten path, but sooo worth it!  This is a place my friends & I had to see.  It’s near Rio Lagartos, in the northern Yucatan.  My article on the Pink Sea is at the top of Google, & can be found here ~ it tells you how to get there & everything you need to know about visiting.  We visited on the same day as Chichen Itza, which is about two hours away.  A long day ~ but amazing! 

Ancient Mayan RuinsUltimate Girl's Guide to Yucatan Travel, Girl WHo Travels the World, Chichen Itza:  One of the greatest thing about the Yucatan Peninsula is the abundance of Mayan Ruins.  From the most famous one, Chichen Itza (two hours west of Cancun), to Ek Bala’am (north of Valladolid), to Tulum’s coastal Mayan Ruins, & one of my favorites, Uxmal Ruins (by Merida) ~ wherever you stay in the Yucatan: chances are, there are ruins nearby.  And nearly all of them have cenotes (underground swimming holes), which provide cool relief after walking around in the Mexican heat.

Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Yucatan Travel

 Thanks for reading this “Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Yucatan Travel!”  I hope it has helped you figure out which places in the Yucatan you really want to see….because it can be overwhelming trying to figure it all out!  My favorite spots are Merida & Cozumel ~ how about you?  Let me know in the comments below…

xoxo Noelia 

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Ultimate Girl's Guide for Yucatan Travel in Mexico, Girl Who Travels the World