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 or professionals, an endless deserted beach and emerald water rough at times, flat most of the days.
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 the inhabitants know each-other 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 you 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 to sleep.
The pelicans were watching over the pier, together with frigates 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 notice things were slowly started to change. 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.
THINGS TO DO AT EL CUYO
WALK ON THE BEACH
The beach is a neverending stretch of white sand, immaculate, deserted, and safe to walk. It stretches all the way 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.
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 setting 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.
BASK ON THE BEACH AND CHILL
With a few exceptions for some hotels, there is no beach club at El Cuyo, making it perfect and relaxed. 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 ecological sun protector, even when it’s cloudy.
- Respect the environment and do not litter.
- Always take water with you. In the NAIA cafe and CAFE LOCAL, they sell nicely designed refillable bottles, in case you need to buy one. And they also sell ecological sun protectors.
WATCH THE SUNSET
Have a nice walk on the pier to watch the sunset as you have the best perspective towards 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.
RENT A BIKE AND EXPLORE THE LAGOON AREA TO SEE 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 the hour and go for a ride around town.
JOIN A QUAD TOUR TO LAS COLORADAS
I haven’t done that but I know that quads are available for rent in the main square in town. They do tours also and take you all the way to the Las Coloradas, which you can reach both from El Cuyo or Rio Lagartos from a dirt road that runs along the beach. Mind that if you want to get there by car you will be better off on a jeep or a 4×4 wheel drive.
Once you get to Las Coloradas you can pay 50 pesos for a guided tour inside the pink lakes. It’s not allowed to enter on your own, but I believe those are 2 USD well spent, and it’s also a way to help the local community to protect their natural resources.
WHERE TO STAY AT EL CUYO
Use this super user friendly interactive map to compare prices and location or follow my top favorite hotels here below.
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
Luna Arena is probably the most high-end hotel at El Cuyo and the price confirms it. It’s indeed a nice 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 make 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 own beach chairs to use. The hotel can also organize private boat tours in the protected reserve.
HOTEL CASA CIELO
This 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.
For more hotel options at El Cuyo, check on Booking.com site
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.
This is my top favorite place at 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 vegan and vegetarians, sweet and salted. Also healthy smoothies and pastry.
I loved the vegan breakfast.
The cafe is located in the owners’ home cute backyard, on the main street 2 blocks from the beach and from 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 paddlesurf boards and bikes. Juan also offers kite lessons.
Open every day from 8 am to 2 pm
Read reviews on TripAdvisor
A nice cafe’ by the beach owned by a frienly italian guy. I just had an expesso and a smoothie and they were great.
But they offer a variety of sandwiches and other dishes with vegan choices. It’s located just behind the beach on the main beach road. Impossible to miss.
Open every day from 8 am to 4 pm
This restaurant is one of the iconic places of el Cuyo, as it’s been there forever. It used to be the only restaurant in town and it was very popular for fish. The last time I went I had vegan fajitas which was very disappointing. It has now become the last option even among locals.
Open every day from 8 am to 5.30 pm
Read reviews on TripAdvisor
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 space and atmosphere are really 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.
Open every day from 8 am to 2 pm and from 5 am to 9.30 pm except Wednesday when it’s only open from 8 to 11 am
Read reviews on TripAdvisor
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 the 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 flamingo if it’s not dark, or you can sit in the cozy room inside. Vegan and vegetarian version available for every dish.
When you sit you are served with 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 definitely a must if you are staying at El Cuyo when they are open. Make sure you make a reservation.
Open from Thursday through Sunday from 5.30 through 9.30pm
Read reviews on TripAdvisor
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.
Open from Wednesday through Sunday from 6 to 9.30 pm
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.
Closed on Tuesdays, but it’s open on weekdays from 12 pm – 6 pm and from 8 am till 7 pm on weekends.
Read reviews on TripAdvisor.
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.
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 map 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 the NORESTE schedule from Tizimin to El Cuyo
6.45 am, 9 am, 12 pm, 1.30 pm, 4.30 pm, 6 pm
From El Cuyo to Tizimin
5 am, 7 am, 9 am, 1.30pm, 3.30 pm, 6 pm
However, I would double check, just in case.
To have more information you can check out 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 on 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 in the ADO site and ask the operator. They speak English and they are very efficient.
FOR FURTHER READING
- 25 Unmissable Pueblos Magicos – Mexico
- San Cristobal de las Casas – Mexico: top things to do and where to stay
- The Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Valle de Bravo Mexico
- Valle de bravo – Mexico: a travel guide to the Mexican Hamptons
- Airbnb Cozumel: the 11 pretty homes to rent for a perfect vacation