El Cuyo is located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and it is a charming coastal village that was originally discovered by kite surfers who enjoyed the flat emerald water and endless beach.
Located on the northern coast of Mexico, around 180 kilometers east of Merida. It is a peaceful and beautiful hidden gem in Mexico that is a little off the beaten path in terms of tourism, making it an ideal location to explore.
Known for its pristine beaches, soft white sand, turquoise waters, and picturesque environment, tourists will enjoy sunbathing, relaxing, swimming, and water sports.
This is the ideal location for those who want to experience authentic Mexico and avoid the overpriced and touristy Riviera Maya. El Cuyo offers boutique hotels, authentic cuisine, relaxing beach experiences, and the hospitality of the local Yucatan people.
We put together this El Cuyo travel guide to help plan your trip. When planning our trip, there wasn’t much out on the internet, so we hope we can solidify your itinerary and travel plans.
How to Get to El Cuyo
Getting to El Cuyo isn’t hard necessarily, but it isn’t easy either. This is what makes it somewhat of a hidden gem. Most tourists want to travel to places that are easy to get to.
When looking at a map, you may think you can take a boat from Isla Holbox or drive from Rio Lagartos. If it were only that easy…. Well, if it were that easy, it would be way busier.
There are three ways you can travel to El Cuyo: rent a car and drive yourself, hire a private driver, or take the bus.
Driving to El Cuyo
The best way to get to El Cuyo is by renting a car and driving yourself. This is what we did. There is one paved road to El Cuyo that connects to Colonia Yucatan. The drive is easy. When driving in Mexico, always watch out for potholes, speedbumps, and animals/people on the roads.
There is technically another “road” that isn’t really a road that connects El Cuyo to Las Coloradas. It is a sandy path that isn’t always accessible. In the photo above, that is us and our rental car on the dirt road to Las Coloradas.
We drove this road one day to check it out and see how far we could drive and if we could see flamingos. We did see them, but the road was rough, and I would not recommend it if you don’t have a 4WD car and it hasn’t rained in a few days. The road is known to be washed out after rain and a mess.
You can easily rent a car online here. Prices are reasonable and having a car will give you so much freedom to explore on your own time.
Driving to El Cuyo Distance From:
- From Cancun – 100 miles/162 km via toll road 2.5 hours
- From Playa del Carmen – 90 miles/146 km via toll road 2.25 hours
- From Tulum – 112 miles/181 km 3 hours
- From Valladolid – 85 miles/137 km 2 hours
- From Merida – 163 miles/262 km 3.5 hours
- From Chiquila (where the Holbox ferry comes & goes from) – 69 miles/111 km 2 hours
- From Rio Lagartos – 60 miles/96 km 80 minutes
The easiest way would be to hire a private driver and take a private transfer. We always use this company for our airport transfers to and from the Cancun Airport.
NOTE: This is not the cheapest option at all. We highly recommend renting a car in Cancun and driving yourself.
Getting to El Cuyo by Bus
If you have taken the ADO bus in Mexico to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum or Playa del Carmen, you should know there is no ADO bus to El Cuyo. You must take an ADO bus to Tizimin or Colonia Yucatan and then transfer to another local bus called Noreste.
The Noreste bus is relatively comfortable. It has air conditioning, which is key. You can buy a ticket at the bus station around the corner from the ADO Bus station, or you can pay the driver when you get on the bus.
Where to Stay in El Cuyo
There is a good range of accommodation options, from budget to small boutique hotels. Very few hotels have a pool. We wanted a swimming pool because we were traveling with kids.
We had our three-year-old son with us, so we stayed at a more expensive hotel. We stayed at this hotel, Cucu Hotel, on the edge of town.
Recommended El Cuyo Hotels:
- Cucu Hotel & Kite El Cuyo – Luxury with a pool – This is where we stayed
- LunArena Boutique Beach Hotel – Midrange
- Tropicana House in El Cuyo – Budget
FAQ El Cuyo
What is El Cuyo Known for?
El Cuyo is known for a variety of different things, making it the perfect peaceful location to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the untouched natural environment and authentic Mexican village atmosphere. El Cuyo is known for the following:
Pristine Beaches: El Cuyo Beach has Soft white sand, an endless natural beach with clear turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and an uncrowded coastline are what make El Cuyo such an appealing travel destination.
Eco-Tourism: El Cuyo is a small town located in the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, which is home to thousands of animals and bird species and has the largest nesting colony of Pink Flamingos in the world.
The coastal towns located in this Biosphere focus on providing nature and relaxation activities that preserve the unique ecosystem of the area. There is a focus on promoting eco-tourism and sustainable tourism practices while showcasing the natural beauty of the environment.
Fishing: Being a small coastal village, it is known for great fishing, including fly fishing and deep-sea fishing. There is an opportunity to fish from the local pier, a chartered local boat, or simply any small watercraft such as paddle boards.
The waters of the Yucatan are perfect for catching tarpon, grouper, and snapper. Most fish are caught by live bait such as sardines.
Kite Surfing: Kitesurfers originally founded El Cuyo. It is a very popular activity, and the area is well known for offering multiple kiteboarding lessons and rental locations to allow tourists to try kite surfing. El Cuyo waters are often calm with a consistent wind, making it the ideal environment for kitesurfing.
What is the Best Time to Visit El Cuyo?
There are three different unique seasonal weather changes that can impact the activities and experiences you can explore, so the best time to visit depends on your preferences.
The dry season occurs between November and April and offers more sunshine and a decreased chance of rain, which is ideal if you want to enjoy outdoor attractions and the beautiful pristine beaches. Temperatures range from the mid-70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (mid-20s to high 20s Celsius).
The hurricane season generally occurs between June and November, which can bring weather advisories and weather events that would close many attractions. The peak time for hurricanes is between August and October. The summer months can also bring extreme heat and humidity, making some outdoor attractions unbearable.
The wet season occurs between May through October, which typically brings rain showers for a few hours but doesn’t last all day. The rainy weather often cancels outdoor activities such as kitesurfing, which is highly influenced by wind and rain. However, during these months, the landscape of El Cuyo is lush and green, and there are fewer visitors.
You can definitely visit El Cuyo all year long. However, the most popular months are December to March. We visited in March.
Make sure to check out my packing list to help you decide what to pack and what to skip.
Is El Cuyo Safe?
El Cuyo is a welcoming and safe environment where all the locals know each other, as the community has been built by a group of expatriates who work together to create a community for locals and visitors.
The locals enjoy the paradise of the land and make it their mission to preserve and protect all aspects of the environment by respecting the tranquillity of the natural surroundings and expect visitors to do the same.
When exploring, you will experience sandy roads, cute little houses, and locals who will smile or wave and greet you as you walk by, as they want you to feel welcome.
How Many Days Are Needed in El Cuyo?
El Cuyo is a hidden gem of the Yucatan Peninsula that many people miss out on exploring.
El Cuyo is somewhat of an out-of-the-way destination that does not offer a ton of activities in addition to the beach, so it can easily be seen in a few days (2-3) or a weekend. Still, you can also easily stay and disconnect and enjoy the relaxed beach atmosphere for a week.
Can you Drive to El Cuyo?
Yes, you can drive to El Cuyo. The drive is relatively easy. We did it with a toddler in the car coming from Playa del Carmen. There isn’t much to see or stop and do along the way.
What is the Closest Airport?
The closest airport to El Cuyo is Cancun, which is approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes away. Once you arrive at the Cancun International Airport, you can take public transport, a taxi, a private transfer (we recommend this company), or renting a car and drive yourself.
What State is El Cuyo in?
El Cuyo is a small coastal village that is part of the state of Yucatan, which is located in southeast Mexico.
Why You Should Visit El Cuyo NOW
There are three major reasons you should visit El Cuyo as soon as you can: it offers tranquility and serenity as it is a hidden gem in terms of tourism, value for money, and it offers an authentic Mexican experience exploring the natural beauty of the environment through outdoor attractions.
If you are looking for a relaxing vacation to rest, recharge, and reset, then visiting El Cuyo is perfect for this. The laid-back atmosphere and friendly local establishments will allow you to unwind and enjoy the surroundings of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Spend some time sunbathing, swimming, having drinks, and eating authentic Mexican cuisine – what more can you ask for on vacation?
As El Cuyo is a small coastal town and not a popular tourist destination yet, the cost of dining, activities, and accommodation are much more affordable compared to other parts of Mexico. Take advantage of the great prices before this destination becomes more popular.
Known for its natural beauty, you will want to explore multiple outdoor activities such as kitesurfing, fishing, paddleboarding, boat tours of Rio Lagartos Natural Reserve, kayaking, biking, or taking out a Quad ATV.
Since it is a hidden treasure, you will not experience busy activities, long waits, or any of those traditional annoyances when traveling to tourist destinations.
Pro Tip: The locals prefer Cash, so I highly suggest bringing cash rather than relying on credit cards.
What Not to Expect
El Cuyo is a chill beach environment for the laidback traveler and has limited tourist attractions. Unlike the Mayan Riveria, El Cuyo does not have wild beach parties or clubs, chain restaurants, or bars and instead has small local hotels, boutiques, and restaurants.
Do not expect large developments or buildings as most of the town is sandy dirt roads that connect the pier and walkable town together. A car would be helpful only if you are staying in the outskirts.
Things To Do in El Cuyo
There are a variety of things to do in El Cuyo, whether you want to go on an adventure, enjoy the natural environment and culture, eat authentic cuisine, or enjoy some relaxation. El Cuyo offers activities for every type of traveler to enjoy:
The water in El Cuyo is shallow, and the wind conditions are often favorable to try out kitesurfing. Kitesurfing is a challenging water sport; however, in El Cuyo, there is an opportunity for both beginners and advanced kitesurfers.
It is recommended to book in advance during the high season from November to April when the wind conditions are ideal, as there are different sizes for different wind conditions.
2. Chill on El Cuyo Beach
The beach is spacious and deserted, and there are not many chairs on the beach, so you will want to bring your own towel or picnic blanket to sit on. While you are chilling on the beach, you may enjoy exploring the shoreline for treasures and seashells.
The soft white sand is perfect for basking in the sun and soak up the Mexican sunshine. The calm turquoise waters and gradual depth are perfect for all to enjoy a refreshing swim.
3. Search for Flamingos in El Cuyo
There is something spectacular about seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, which is why you will want to come to El Cuyo and find the beautiful flamingos. Elegant Flamingos can be found on the Yucatan Peninsula in various locations.
If you want to see flamingos, you can explore the Pink Lakes or hire a local boat tour to take you through the mangrove caves that surround El Cuyo, which is the local habitat for flamingos. You can also go on a kayaking adventure through these coastal ecosystems, where you may see Flamingos resting in shallow waters or in flocks feeding.
Pro Tip: The best time to spot Flamingos is early in the morning when they are the most active or the late afternoon when they are feeding.
4. Go on an ATV tour to Las Coloradas
Las Coloradas is an incredible attraction to explore, but it is about a 2-hour drive away from El Cuyo. However, the Pink Lakes are worth the drive. The main attraction at Las Coloradas is the vibrant pink lakes, which create a beautiful landscape that is ideal for photography.
While at Las Coloradas, you will want to take an ATV tour to explore the mangrove forests that are part of the coastal ecosystem that is home to unique flora and fauna. Along the tour, you will see a variety of bird species, marine life, and the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, and if you’re lucky, you may spot a flamingo.
Pro Tip: The pink hue is the most intense during the middle of the day due to high concentrations of salt.
5. Climb El Cuyo Climbing Tower
If you enjoy adventure, then you must try this vertical outdoor experience at the Cuyo Climbing Tower located in the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. The climbing tower is a fun experience for beginner to advanced rock climbers as you can start on a simple route and work your way up to more advanced climbs.
Instructors will teach the top rope method, as well as belaying, so you can enjoy the experience in pairs. The climbing tower is located outdoors between the beach and the palm trees, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and get in a workout.
6. Rent a Bike and Explore
Renting a bike and exploring El Cuyo allows you to truly discover the hidden gems, natural beauty, and local culture while enjoying an active excursion. This coastal village is great for biking as the village has many narrow dirt streets that are easy to ride and take you to unique spots to visit.
Start the journey by admiring the colorful houses of local residents, visiting the town square that has many local shops, experiencing daily life in the market, and enjoying the colorful mural creations that you will find on walls along your route.
Once you have explored the main areas of El Cuyo, you may want to ride along the beachfront promenade, enjoy the scenic views of the water, and enjoy the refreshing cool wind by the water’s edge. Head to the lagoon by the pier to catch flamingos in their natural habitat.
If you’re in shape and up for a longer full-day bike ride, then consider going to visit Las Coloradas, which is a 20km scenic route from the center of El Cuyo. The route will take you to the unique pink lakes, which is a great spot to take a rest, rehydrate, and take some photos.
Pro Tip: El Cuyo can be very humid, so be sure to pack a water bottle, sunscreen, and a hat to make your cycling adventure more enjoyable. Grab a GPS or mobile map app to plan your route so you don’t miss any points of interest.
Pro Tip: Be prepared that since life is so laid back in El Cuyo that locals don’t work a lot, so many shops and restaurants have limited hours. While there is Wifi in El Cuyo, be prepared. It isn’t very fast, so it fits well with the easy going lifestyle.
8. Take a Photo with the El Cuyo Letters on the Pier
Everyone loves to take photos on vacation to remember their trip, so why not head to the pier and take the classic photo with the El Cuyo letters? The beach offers the perfect backdrop for a postcard-worthy photo spot.
10. Watch the Sunset
El Cuyo offers stunning sunsets and sunrises that provide a stunning display of color, and there are a variety of great spots to enjoy this popular activity for visitors.
The natural beauty of sunsets along the coastline can be experienced on the beach over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, from the elevated pier, rooftop patios, and bars, on a guided boat tour, or during a sunset horseback riding experience.
11. Explore the Street Art in El Cuyo
El Cuyo has an artistic side in addition to its natural beauty and outdoor activities. It has some unique yet vibrant street art to view, including photo spots, murals, and community art projects.
The vibrant colors of the murals add a lively atmosphere to the village of El Cuyo as you wander the streets and offer great spots for photos. You can either wander the streets and find murals on your own or ask a local who will be happy to point out the murals that depict nature-inspired local scenes and cultural motifs.
12. Walk the Beach with no one in sight
The beaches in El Cuyo are quiet and relaxing to stroll, especially in the morning when there is no one in sight, and you can enjoy the sounds of the sea, soft white sand beaches, and beautiful sunsets and sunrises on your own.
El Cuyo is located between Holbox and Rio Lagartos and offers pristine beaches to enjoy without all the visitors like you would find in Riveria Maya. Many hotels have complimentary beach chairs that you are welcome to enjoy!
13. Enjoy Paddleboarding
El Cuyo offers the perfect atmosphere for paddleboarding, as the water is calm and inviting.
Paddleboarding at sunset or sunrise is one of the most beautiful times of day to enjoy the tranquil waters. You may even be lucky and see dolphins, rays & turtles.
Best Restaurants in El Cuyo
El Cuyo is a small fishing village along the Gulf of Mexico with limited dining choices. However, local restaurants serve fresh seafood and authentic Mexican flavors that you will not want to miss!
You will definitely want to try guacamole, ceviche, and many other fresh seafood dishes.
However, there are some amazing restaurants that stand out, including:
- La Casa Palma Food Truck
- Zapote Bar Asador
- El Chile Gordo, which is open for Dinner Only.
If you are looking for lunch or breakfast in El Cuyo, you will want to check out:
- Casa Mangle
- Nai Cafe & Restaurant
- Anahata Cafe & Bistro
- Loncheria El Amigo Willy
If you are interested in learning more about these unique restaurants, then come check out our Guide to Restaurants in El Cuyo for all the details, including menus and recommendations on what to try!
Pro Tip: Take into consideration that many restaurants close by 9 PM, so you will make sure you plan to have dinner at an earlier hour.
If you love exploring Mexico and are looking for other places to visit, make sure to check out some of our other articles. We travel to Mexico with kids several times a year, visiting our favorite places and new places too.
- Bacalar – Lake with crazy blue waters; the photo above is from there.
- Izamal – Yellow City
- Cenotes in Mexico – Skip the snorkel tours and check out local cenotes
- Valladolid – Super cute town with tons of cenotes and Mayan ruins nearby
- Kaan Luum – An easy, fun day trip from Tulum
- Xpu Ha – Gorgeous beach between Playa del Carmen and Tulum
- Merida – Not a hidden gem, but a great place to visit
When planning your next visit to Mexico, make sure you consider El Cuyo, which has beautiful sunsets, quiet sandy beaches, turquoise waters, engaging attractions, and amazing food – offering something for every traveler to enjoy!