Tucked away on the so often underrated Yucatan coast, El Cuyo is a cute little beach town full of charm and beauty.
It was initially discovered by kitesurfers who found here the perfect setting for their practice, both for beginners and professionals, an endless deserted beach and emerald water rough at times, flat most of the days.
Things to do at El Cuyo: an overview
Over the past few years, it became more and more popular among locals and tourists alike, that wanted to escape from the touristy and overpriced Riviera Maya.
Here at al Cuyo in Yucatan, we found the genuine hospitality of the Yucatan people, a laidback relaxed beach life, and cute boutique hotels for every budget, besides the delightful cuisine of the newly opened restaurants and cafes.
El Cuyo has been built by a community of expatriates and locals who found their home here and never left. Together they are striving every day to maintain a safe and cozy nest for themselves and those who want to visit, in respect of the community and the overwhelming nature that blesses this beautiful corner of paradise.
You will find a safe and welcoming environment where all the inhabitants know each other and strive to keep it that way.
Here at El Cuyo, life goes slow, and the WIFI too, but that’s probably why we love it. So, if you are planning a Yucatan itinerary, make sure you will include El Cuyo. You won’t regret it. Here below I will explain why.
I visited el Cuyo in 2015 for the first time, and I didn’t like it for some reason. There was absolutely nothing and there was no place to eat after 5 pm. And probably 2 decent hotels where to sleep.
Pelicans were watching over the pier, together with cormorants and ducks. That is something I still remember and the highlight of my trip.
In 2017 I went back to explore with some friends, and I noticed things were slowly starting to change, for the good.
It was sunny, first of all, which made the whole difference. We spent a day on the tranquil deserted beach, the water was emerald green, and we spotted 3 baby manta rays swimming by the shore. And I fell in love.
I returned last year alone, and I noticed that a few more cute restaurants and cafes opened. More hotels were added but still maintaining harmony and beauty and respecting the predominant nature.
Fast forward 4 years, and in 2021 I went back again because that’s the place where I will always return when I am in the area, as long as it remains the way it is. So far so good.
My friends opened a lovely hotel, which has been built in full respect of nature. You should check it out. It’s Can Cocal. It’s an exquisite tranquil 6-room property with a delicious restaurant at one block from the deserted beach.
What’s reassuring is that both the local community and the authorities are determined to keep the place the way it is, preserving its tranquillity, safety, and most of all, the natural surroundings.
At the same time, you will have a whole lot more activities that you can do to explore around while respecting the environment. I will share them here below.
Things to do at El Cuyo
1. Walk on the beach
The beach is a neverending stretch of white sand, immaculate, deserted, and safe to walk. It stretches from Chuquila’, from where you take the ferry to Holbox (south) to Rio Lagartos (north). El Cuyo is right in the middle of the two renowned Yucatan destinations.
You can walk forever and find no one. A great morning exercise and the perfect way to see the sunrise.
It is in no way inferior to the Caribbean sea, with its green emerald and turquoise nuances.
2. Have fun with some watersport activities
El Cuyo has been discovered by kitesurfers who found the perfect environment to surf those calm, at times agitated waters. It is indeed a great set either for families with kids or young athletes to enjoy some exciting activity.
At Naia Cafe’ you can inquire about paddleboards or kitesurfing classes. Or if you are a pro you can rent a kite.
On the beach, you can also find kayaks for rent as well and enjoy a peaceful ride in the calm water of the Marine reserve.
3. Bask on the beach and chill
There are no beach clubs at El Cuyo, making it the perfect place to relax and be surrounded by absolutely nothing but nature. The beach is endless, broad, and quiet, but there is no shade, but some improvised palapas and palm trees.
I would suggest you bring your “beach equipment” if you think you can’t bear the sun for an entire day. Or lay on a rug anywhere you want.
EL CUYO TRAVEL TIPS
- Use an ecological sun protector, even when it’s cloudy.
- Respect the environment and do not litter.
- Always take water with you. In the NAIA cafe, they sell nicely designed refillable bottles, in case you need to buy one. And they also sell ecological sun protectors.
4. Watch the sunset
Have a nice walk on the pier to watch the sunset as you have the best perspective toward the beach and it’s a nice walk. I have even watched a dolphin swimming around. It was magical.
Beware it’s not allowed to take alcohol on the pier. Probably to avoid the risk that you get wasted and fall off into the water.
You will also see seagulls, cormorants, frigates, and ducks, patiently waiting for the fishermen to hand out some of their daily catch.
5. Take a photo of El Cuyo letters at the pier
6. Take a boat tour to Yum Balam
Have the experience of visiting and swimming in the spring (water hole) inside mangroves in the Yum Balam Flora and Fauna Protection Area, during the boat tour you will get to know the virgin beaches and history of El Cuyo; as well as observe some species of birds, hopefully, manta rays and dolphins.
Discover, observe and take excellent photographs of birds, within the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, with a little more than 400 species, it is the area with the largest record of birds in Yucatan.
Some emblematic ones such as the American Flamenco, Yucatecan Matraca, Mexican Tijereta Colibrí, and Yucatecan Piranga.
8. Rent a bike and explore the lagoon area in search of flamingos
It’s nice to take a break from the beach and explore the village. It’s a nice ride on the unpaved roads, among colorful houses and beautiful murals.
At Naia Cafe‘ you can rent bikes for an hour and go for a ride around town.
9. Join a tour to Las Coloradas on a Polaris
Get to know one of the most incredible landscapes of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve in the company of a certified guide specialized in environmental interpretation, during the tour you will be able to observe some species of birds, unique landscapes, some mammals, and crocodiles.
The tour includes
- Entry fee at the Natural Protected area
- Entry fee at the Pink Lagoon
- Certified Local Guide
10. Go Bird Watching
Discover, observe and take excellent photographs of birds, within the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, with a little more than 400 species, it is the area with the largest record of birds in Yucatan. Some emblematic ones such as the American Flamenco, Yucatecan Matraca, Mexican Tijereta Colibrí and Yucatecan Piranga.
11. Go Kayaking in the inundated woods
During my last time at El Cuyo, I had an incredible experience kayaking in this inundated forest among Palo de Tinte and mangroves with incredible landscapes only 5 kilometers from El Cuyo.
Jesus, a certified guide specialized in environmental interpretation took us around and shared all his knowledge and passion about nature and this area. The tour ended with a spectacular sunset but you can choose also the morning one.
It’s only about 2 hours of kayaking suitable also for those who have never done that. It’s not challenging at all, actually quite relaxing. You will also spot some birds.
All the reservations for these above-mentioned tours can be done directly with Sandra and Fausto at Can Cocal Hotel.
12. Go Climbing
Did you know you can go climbing now in El Cuyo? For experts and newbies, you will find a climbing tower where to practice or learn about this exciting activity. You can check out all the details and prices on their website.
Where to stay at el Cuyo
Luxury hotels at El Cuyo
A beautiful property that just opened its door to the public, located only one block from the beach. Surrounded by lush vegetation this property offers a cozy and laidback atmosphere, despite its elegant finishings.
I may be a little biased because it belongs to very close friends of mine Sandra and Fausto but knowing all the love they put into this project I am sure that you will agree with me that it’s one of the best properties in El Cuyo offering a great value for money.
The rooms are spacious and classy and the restaurants offer great meals for breakfast and dinner. You will also enjoy the company of two cute friendly dogs and two adorable cats that may be browsing around the premises at times. My favorite place to stay.
Hotel Casa Cielo
Casa Cielo is one of the first hotels that have been built at El Cuyo and the most expensive one. I didn’t check it out because it was closed when I got there.
But it’s in a strategic location close to the center but in a tranquil stretch of beach. The rooms are very spacious and elegant and guests are raving about the excellent service too.
Check rates & availability: Booking.com
Mid-range hotels at El Cuyo
I stayed at Casa Cuyo for 3 nights and I loved it. The spacious rooms are elegantly designed and equipped with essential decor and amenities. They are comfortable and very clean.
The hotel is not on the beach but at only two blocks, and not far from the center. WIFI is great and they have a nice restaurant as well with friendly hosts. I didn’t try it because it was open only for breakfast at the time and I loved to go to Naia Cafe’, which remains my favorite place to go.
Check rates & availability: Booking.com
It’s indeed a nice upscale hotel with self-catering apartments. The units are very nicely decorated with a Mexican feel but minimal decor.
There is a restaurant that is open for breakfast and dinner but makes sure you check first because they might change the schedule according to occupancy.
It’s one of the last hotels on the beach road, about 0.8 miles from the center. It’s just across the road from the beach, but you have your beach chairs to use. The hotel can also organize private boat tours in the protected reserve.
Check rates & availability: Booking.com
Find more accommodation options at El Cuyo on this useful pretty map
Where to eat at El Cuyo
Compared to a few years ago, when there were only a few local restaurants that closed by 5 pm, now you can find many nice restaurants and cafes.
I have tried almost all of them and here below I am sharing a list of my favorite ones but also I will mention some others that I have been suggested by locals but I didn’t have the time to check out.
✅ Can Cocal
Can Cocal is the new addition to the best restaurants in El Cuyo. Open for breakfast and dinner Can Cocal offers a delicious menu including a fusion of Mexican and Spanish dishes, healthy juices, soups, and much more. Definitely to include in your where-to-eat list at El Cuyo.
✅ Naia Cafe’
This is my top favorite place in El Cuyo. Too bad it closes too early at 2 pm. It was my breakfast place and sometime early lunch. They have great dishes even for vegans and vegetarians, sweet and salted. Also healthy smoothies and pastries.
I loved the vegan breakfast.
The cafe is located in the owners’ home’s cute backyard, on the main street 2 blocks from the beach and the main square.
The staff is lovely, but most of the time Juan, the owner itself will personally come to your table to make sure everything is ok. He’s adorable.
But the real stars of the places are the sweet labrador Lucas who would come and offer you his coconut to play with or will sit with you just as if he was your best friend since ever and the friendly kitty-girl Lila, who would just hang around as if she was the owner of the place and, if she decides so, she might come and say hi.
The whole place has great vibes and you just want to hang out there all day. They also rent paddle surfboards and bikes. Juan also offers kite lessons.
✅ Casa Cuyo
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to eat there although I stayed in the hotel. So I cannot give you my personal opinion. However, I wanted to include it because the space and atmosphere are nice and cozy and the plates have excellent reviews on trip advisor, not sure about the vegan options though. But I would certainly give it a try.
✅ EL CHILE GORDO
This is a very unique place. Run by a new friend that I met when I was there, Cathy, a lovely girl from the UK, and her husband from Mexico, El Chile Gordo is a tribute to gourmet Mexican cuisine.
From the ambiance to the plate presentation and the exceptional service, everything is thoughtfully crafted with attention to every single detail.
You can either dine outside in the internal courtyard from where you might spot some flamingos if it’s not dark, or you can sit in the cozy room inside. Vegan and vegetarian versions are available for every dish.
When you sit you are served a complimentary appetizer. I had mole poblano, a very typical Mexican sauce made with chocolate and chile. And they even have the vegan version. Such a detail!
El Chile Gordo is a must if you are staying at El Cuyo when they are open. Make sure you make a reservation.
✅ LA CASA PALMA FOOD TRUCK
A nice pasta, pizza, and empanadas place run by a lovely Argentinian couple. A trendy food truck and a few tables in a nicely decorated and lited garden where you can eat pizza, pasta, or empanadas. Follow them on Instagram to make sure they didn’t change their opening hours.
I have to say I didn’t make it there. But Cathy from Elcuyo.net, a local online magazine, recommended it as a great place to eat fish. So I am passing the information on to you.
✅ Street Food
On Sundays, they announce to sell what is the equivalent of homemade stewed pork, on the street. So from 7 am, you will see a lady with a huge Saucepan selling this local delicacy.
I am vegan so I don’t eat this kind of food. But if you are into meat, it might be a good way to get into local food.
✅ Grocery Stores
If you are renting an apartment and you wish to cook yourself, make sure you make a stop in Tizimin for grocery shopping before getting to El Cuyo.
Otherwise, you find some small grocery stores in town and 2 lovely ladies selling fruits and veggies on the main road every morning.
How to get to El Cuyo
El Cuyo is situated on the Yucatan east coast in between Chiquila‘ (from where the ferries to Isla Holbox leaves) and Rio Lagartos and it’s included in the same protected area. It’s a Sanctuary of birds, especially flamingoes, and a paradise for nature lovers.
How to reach El Cuyo by car
Although it will be easy to find on google Maps or any road map, please be aware that sometimes you can lose the signal. It’s straightforward. To reach el Cuyo from Cancun, take the road to Valladolid, you will see the sign along the road on where to turn right in Colonia Yucatan.
El Cuyo on the Map
How to get to El Cuyo by bus
It’s a little of an adventure to get here by bus, just because there are no direct buses from the main cities to El Cuyo.
You will need to get to Tizimin and from there get a bus (NORESTE is the name of the bus company) or a shared taxi or minivan, which is faster but less reliable
Here is the NORESTE schedule from Tizimin to El Cuyo. Please make sure to check with the company in case of schedule changes.
However, I would double-check, just in case.
To have more information you can check out the ElCuyo.net website which is always up to date.
How to get to Tizimin
ADO bus connects Tizimin with Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.
From Valladolid, you can find the ORIENTE buses from the Valladolid bus station that are quite frequent, but again they don’t have an online available schedule.
Minivans are also available, they are faster but less reliable as well.
You can check their website for their schedule. However, be aware that there are low-cost busses that are more frequent but their schedule is not available online. You can use the chat on the ADO site and ask the operator. They speak English and they are very efficient.
Traveling to El Cuyo FAQ
Do I need a car to go to El Cuyo?
It really depends on your lifestyle. In the town of El Cuyo, you don’t need a car, you can walk or rent a bike, and there are many tours that you can do where you get picked up. (Go to Can Cocal Hotel to book the best tours available)
Having said that, I love to be independent and go anywhere when I want so if you have a car you can visit other interesting spots in the surroundings And most of all you can get in and out when you want.
For me, it’s all about being comfortable at this stage of my life. But if you want to rough it a bit you can catch the bus and you’ll be just fine:)
Is El Cuyo worth visiting?
Absolutely, yes! Especially if you want a change from the touristy Riviera Maya and Cancun El Cuyo is the perfect place where to find tranquillity and peace.
You will find thriving nature, a deserted beach, and happy people that will welcome you with an open heart. You will find cute boutique hotels and delicious restaurants.
There is a lot to explore in the surroundings too but you will love just relaxing on the beach taking a walk or a swim and doing nothing else.
What is El Cuyo known for?
El Cuyo is mainly known for kitesurfing, but it’s becoming more and more popular as the perfect destination to escape to, from the Riviera Maya.
Can you swim in El Cuyo?
Yes, you can definitely swim and you will enjoy the emerald-green waters. It will be likely for you to see manta rays approaching the coast and dolphins flipping in the horizon.
Does El Cuyo have seaweed?
No, because of its location, the currents don’t bring the seaweed. If you see some sort of algae on the shore it’s just part of the local ecosystem.
Where are the flamingos in El Cuyo?
You will see the flamingos in the lagoons before entering el Cuyo. They are there most of the time but especially early morning and in the evening.
How do I get from El Cuyo to Merida?
You will need to get a bus to Valladolid first and from Valladolid to Tizimin and then to El Cuyo. It would be much better to get there by car without a doubt.