The Ultimate Guide to Visiting El Cuyo Yucatan Mexico (2023)
Forgo the hustle and bustle of Riviera Maya for the opposite edge of the Yucatan peninsula–a much more serene vacation destination.
Recently, I visited El Cuyo from Playa del Carmen. This small beach town on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico was perfect for our girls trip! After a 2 night stay there, I left feeling completely rested.
From morning beach walks to exploring colorful attractions like Las Coloradas, here’s my ultimate guide to visiting El Cuyo Yucatan.
About El Cuyo Mexico
First, let’s start with some of the basics on El Cuyo:
Where is El Cuyo?
Situated on a long cay, El Cuyo sits along the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.
It’s separated from the continent by a flamingo-dotted saltwater lagoon, joined only by a newly built road.
Sitting at the tip of the coast facing the Gulf of Mexico, its sister tourist destinations include Holbox, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen.
El Cuyo Mexico Map
What is El Cuyo like?
Life goes slow at El Cuyo, Yucatan. Gradual development has seen a small community of locals and expats move in, drawn in by the tranquil and peaceful emerald waters.
The laid-back island vibe echoes strongly in the colorful houses, palm-lined streets, and tropical decor.
The town consists of a few blocks of colorful buildings connected by sandy dirt roads and centered around the main pier. The center of town is mostly walkable, although a car is nice to have if you’re staying on the outskirts.
Why visit El Cuyo?
Like a slice of paradise, El Cuyo boasts miles of empty beaches and shallow water–it’s truly a quiet getaway.
El Cuyo beaches aside, the colorful homes and family-run restaurants offer a sense of close community. Of course, visit for its perfect kitesurfing conditions!
When is the best time to visit El Cuyo?
With El Cuyo weather being tropical, the best time to visit is from December to April when drier winter months offer sunny days and calm waters.
Peak tourist season runs from January to March. For cheaper visits, November and December are the best months to visit El Cuyo.
How long should you stay in El Cuyo?
2-3 nights are just right for an El Cuyo getaway. Stay longer if you really want to unplug but you might get bored with limited restaurants and things to do.
How to Get to El Cuyo
These are the different ways you can get to El Cuyo:
Drive to El Cuyo
The easiest way to reach El Cuyo Yucatan Mexico is by driving or renting a car. While you might lose GPS signal from time to time, it’s fairly straightforward.
It’s best to have an SUV or vehicle with a four-wheel drive as some of the route is on dirt roads and can get quite bumpy after bad weather.
You’ll also want to make sure to have some cash on hand to pay for the toll road along the route.
Driving times from nearby destinations are as follows:
- Cancun to El Cuyo: 2 hours 25 minutes
- Playa del Carmen to El Cuyo: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Tulum to El Cuyo: 2 hours 55 minutes
- Valladolid to El Cuyo: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Tizimin to El Cuyo: 1 hour 35 minutes
- Holbox to El Cuyo: 1 hour 50 minutes
- Merida to El Cuyo: 3 hours 25 minutes
👉 For a hassle-free experience, book your car through my favorite rental service Discover Cars by clicking here!
Take Public Transportation to El Cuyo
There are no direct buses between the main cities and El Cuyo, but you can catch a bus from Tizimin (with NORESTE Bus Company).
Some opt for shared taxis or colectivos, but it may be difficult to arrange and travel times are less reliable. Note that buses are scarce and run at limited times only.
Where to Stay in El Cuyo
El Cuyo, Mexico features vacation rentals, boutique hotels, and AirBnBs or VRBO guesthouses instead of the usual big chains.
LunArena Boutique Beach Hotel
I stayed 2 nights at the Instagram-worthy LunArena Boutique Beach Hotel and absolutely loved their self-catering apartments fit for a cute beach escape.
The airy, minimalistic design keeps the roomy breezy and comfortable while the private terrace or garden offers beautiful views from your private hammock overlooking the garden or jungle.
Each room comes with a kitchen, sitting area, and bathroom for convenience. The plunge pool, inviting common area with a restaurant and bar, and direct access to the beach is a plus as well!
👉 Click here to check rates and availability at LunArena Hotel
Set back behind the town center, Casa Cuyo is one of the top hotels and restaurants in El Cuyo.
With simplistic wooden accents, the rooms are rustic, cozy, and clean, some with balconies and hammocks that overlook wide open green space.
The upper terrace area is a great spot for outdoor dining, yoga lessons, and viewing the El Cuyo sunset.
👉 Click here to check rates and availability at Casa Cuyo
La Casa Cielo
Looking for something more chic and upscale? La Casa Cielo is a luxurious retreat right by the waterfront.
Outfitted with a private pavilion, rooftop lounge, on-site restaurant, pool and everything else nice–it’s truly a slice of heaven on the El Cuyo playa.
👉 Click here to check rates and availability at La Casa Cielo
AirBnB or VRBO
Instead of El Cuyo hotels, you can help yourself to El Cuyo AirBnB or VRBO properties too.
This is best for group travels, extended stays, or if you have specific criteria regarding accommodation.
👉 Click here to search for vacation rentals in El Cuyo
Things to Do in El Cuyo
These are the best activities in El Cuyo:
Relax at the beach
Walking along the El Cuyo beach is one of the most calming morning rituals you can do.
Boxed between Holbox in the south and Rio Lagartos in the north, the beaches are often empty with just a few other visitors. It’s like you have the entire sea, sunrise, and sunset to yourself.
While the beaches in El Cuyo aren’t quite as stunning as the beaches of Riviera Maya, being able to fully relax is a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle.
If you’re planning on chilling at Playa El Cuyo for a while, bring a beach blanket or towel to sit on. Many of the hotels also offer complimentary beach chairs.
Go standup paddleboarding
If you’ve never tried paddleboarding, El Cuyo Mexico is the perfect place to learn.
First discovered by kitesurfers looking for smooth waters, this beach town offers a safe environment to try watersports.
Hit up La Casa Verde (the green house) along the main beach road for paddleboard rentals.
Paddle the shallow coast early in the morning and you may be lucky enough to spot manta rays and dolphins.
Visit Las Coloradas
Nearby Las Coloradas is an incredible attraction: Mexico’s pink lakes. It’s a little under 2 hours drive away from El Cuyo but definitely worth the trip.
My friends and I took a little road trip and had a blast taking photos of the incredible pink lakes!
Of course, it’s not just about the Instagrammable pink. I recommend paying the entrance fee, where a local guide will take you into a protected area for a guided tour.
You’ll receive a brief history of the salt factory and what makes the lakes naturally pink. The entry fee is under $10 USD and supports the locals.
Travelista Tip: Aim to get to Las Coloradas around midday, when the pink color is the brightest.
Visit Rio Lagartos
I also visited the Rio Lagartos Nature Reserve on a boat tour, which is near Las Coloradas and about a 1.5 hour drive from El Cuyo.
Boat tours can be hired from operators directly from the marina upon arrival. What’s great about doing a boat tour is not having to put in the footwork while taking in the sights and observing the wildlife of the nature reserve.
Nature photographers will be able to capture rolls and rolls of flamingos and crocodile shots. Rio Lagartos is also known for its bird population so birdwatchers will love this day trip from El Cuyo.
Learn to kitesurf
El Cuyo grew into the charming town it is because of kitesurfing! Hit up El Cuyo Kite School or Extreme Control Adventures at Casa Mia about rentals and classes to enjoy El Cuyo kitesurfing at its finest.
Typically gentle, you do get the occasional strong current running through the water.
Kiteboarding is a great activity for adventurous or athletic travelers in El Cuyo. We observed some kitesurfing lessons from the beach and it is not for the faint of heart!
Best Restaurants in El Cuyo
El Cuyo restaurants are typically small, cozy, and full of character. I wasn’t able to try everything, but here are a few restaurants in El Cuyo that stand out in both cuisine and vibe.
A local favorite, Naia Café serves breakfast and lunch in the owners’ backyard. Just 2 blocks from the beach, it’s a convenient drop-in spot.
Healthy juices, smoothies, pastries, and a mix of non-vegetarian and vegan dishes make the bulk of the menu.
Unfortunately, they close early at 2PM so make sure to schedule it in for breakfast or lunch!
La Casa Palma Food Truck
For an extra casual bite, La Casa Palma Food Truck is a lovely place that offers pastas, pizzas, and Argentinian empañadas.
A few wooden tables are arranged around a pastel blue food truck, and there’s even a cozy fire pit where you can roast s’mores for an after-dinner treat.
We loved this place so much we went twice! The pizza is unbelievably tasty and the atmosphere is super cute and cozy. La Casa Palma was definitely my favorite restaurant in El Cuyo.
This cute café sits right across the street from the beachfront!
The colorful pops of furniture, décor, and light-bulb drinks are perfect for Instagram but you’ll definitely be back for the delicious breakfast though.
Pet-friendly and serving yoga classes too, make Anahata Café the first stop of your day.
Part of a hotel on the beach, Casa Mate is an El Cuyo restaurant that serves a simple but filling menu.
From Mexican dishes like guacamole to grilled octopus and seafood pasta, the Italian-inspired menu is great for both lunch and dinner.
Try for a terrace seat on the cute upper-level seating area if possible.
Important Tips for Visiting El Cuyo
Vacations in El Cuyo are straightforward, but there are some things to look out for. Here are some important tips to ensure your trip goes smoothly:
- Book your hotel in advance: Most of the El Cuyo Mexico hotels are boutique hotels with just a few rooms which can fill up quickly, especially if you’re visiting during peak season.
- Bring cash: Bring all the cash you’ll need as there are no ATMs and credit cards aren’t widely accepted.
- Fill up on gas: Make sure to fill up on gas before the trip as there aren’t many gas stations along the route.
- Plan out your route: Plan out your travel route or have maps prepped offline as you’ll lose cell signal along the way.
- Be prepared to be unplugged: Don’t expect to have good wifi or cell service. Things move slowly in El Cuyo, including the internet connection.
- Bring bug spray: Bring plenty of bug spray as El Cuyo backs into jungle landscapes and the mosquitos can be extremely intense.
- Bring your own alcohol: I would definitely recommend bringing your own wine or alcohol as there are not many bars or liquor stores. Most of the convenience stores around town just sell beer.
- Bring biodegradable sunscreen: Bring biodegradable sunscreen too, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time at the beach.
- Be prepared for the quiet: El Cuyo isn’t about wild beach clubs and long night outs.
FAQs about El Cuyo Mexico
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about El Cuyo:
El Cuyo is not touristy. This destination is an up-and-coming beach town with gradual development of hotels and restaurants but there are still very few tourists.
Yes, El Cuyo is very safe. El Cuyo is not highly populated and nightlife is pretty much non-existent so you can feel safe walking around during the day or at night.
Yes, there is sargassum (seaweed) in El Cuyo depending on the time of year. It is known to be worse during the summer months but can be present on the beaches during any time of year.
The flamingos in El Cuyo can be found in the lagoons just outside of town. You will likely see them as you are driving along the narrow road into town.
Final Thoughts on Visiting El Cuyo Yucatan
Overall, El Cuyo is an uncomplicated destination made for relaxing. If you’re in need of a work and digital detox, it’s the perfect getaway.
If you’re looking for a beach destination with a little more action, head to nearby Holbox Island.
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