There’s nothing better than finding a wonderful location, and having it all to yourself. However, those virgin beaches that used to be relatively easy to come across if you didn’t mind driving a bit further or walking off the beaten track, have become popular tourist sites since the Internet allowed everyone to share recommendations and access information that only the locals used to know.
In any country, the remaining spots along the coasts that are free of tourists are so hard to reach they’re almost not worth it, or have very little attraction. You may need to camp out for a night since hotels and restaurants will be few and far between, or lower your standards in terms of accommodation to enjoy the crickets in the night and the sound of the ocean lapping on the shore. If you’re OK with wooden huts or “cabañas” on the beach or in the rainforest, you’re golden. In all fairness, the quality of many cabañas have soared, but you need to be a fan of creepy-crawlies for them to be a sensible choice.
If you feel like you have exhausted the things to do in Yucatan and already ticked the popular cities of Merida and Valladolid off your list, there are still some locations in the warm climate of Yucatan and Quintana Roo that you can visit without disappearing off the map, nor venturing too far from the hotel zones. When we say “unexplored,” we mean that the crowds haven’t found them yet! There are people living in these 3 towns, and other tourists do stop by, but their more remote nature makes them less touristy than Cancun for example, or the pyramids at Chichén-Itzá and Tulum.
Things to Do in Yucatan and Quintana Roo
Starting with the capital of Quintana Roo, Chetumal is located right on the Caribbean coast, and is a travel hub between Belize and Mexico. Fortunately, it is home to many quiet tourist attractions, such as a Mayan Cultural museum and a 3 km coastal walk along Boulevard Bahía. Here, you can visit several Mayan ruins, among them is Oxtankah, an ancient city of temples and palaces, which is beautifully weathered by the sea breeze thanks to its proximity to the coast.
Chetumal was originally home to a Mayan leader, Nachan Ka án. He was given two Spanish slaves following the conquest, one of whom assimilated well to his captors’ culture, learned the Mayan language and helped Nachan Ka án’s army defeat the Spanish by sharing battle tactics. The Spaniard was awarded with one of the governor’s daughters Zazil Há, with whom he had many children, now known to be the first mestizos born to a married couple in the Americas.
Photo by holachetumal
This small city is mostly Mayan, dotted with the remains of pyramids, but also has a large colonial convent atop one of them, making it the second highest monument in the world at the time it was constructed. Izamal is one of the few places where the Spanish conquerors didn’t completely demolish the existing structures, but rather mounted them with churches and convents. It was and remains a pilgrimage destination, though now its visitors arrive to pay homage to Our Lady of Izamal instead of the Creator God and Sun God, respectively Itzamna and Kinich Ahau.
The city center has shops selling handicrafts and unique objects made by the locals, which you can peruse without the usual crowds that surround these kinds of businesses. Around the whole downtown, almost all the buildings are painted yellow, a deep-rooted tradition in Izamal.
If you’re looking for that white beach sensation, the small coastal town of Mahahual is the perfect spot. This is where you can find the largest public beach in Quintana Roo, though with a population of no more than 1,000. All of the inhabitants are kind and relaxed, which is contagious for those arriving on cruise ships to what is known as the Costa Maya, along the same stretch of beach.
While this isolated location is quiet, especially in low-season, you have access to the Costa Maya’s attractions nearby, from where you can take tours into dive pools, caves and the lagoons.
Where to Stay
If you need somewhere central to spend the evenings and not worry about finding restaurants in between days of exploring, there are all-inclusive hotels in the area that can even help you get to these isolated locations for the day, before returning to an exclusive accommodation, also well away from the crowds. Between the Caribbean Sea and a wildlife preserve, you can find a modern all-inclusive luxury resort in Cancun: Finest Playa Mujeres. This resort can advise you on times and places to make the most of your time there, without standing in queues at tourist attractions.
For a more information, visit the tourism board’s website. This is preferable than looking on Lonely Planet or somewhere that will have heavily promoted the locations it features. Visit Mexico has been making a special push to get people away from the crowded Cancun beaches to discover the true beauty of the county in nature and its fascinating history. If none of the 3 above options grab your attention, check out their Where To Go section and choose whether you want to see Yucatan’s white beaches, heritage cities, or the famous magic towns.
The tourism board can also advise you should you want to extend your visit to include Campeche, the neighboring state which has more business destinations than Yucatan and Quintana Roo, but which is also home to expansive nature reserves.
Have you discovered any unexplored towns in the area? What are your suggestions for things to do in Yucatan and Quintana Roo?
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