Best time to visit the Yucatán

Arguably, the best time to visit the Yucatán is November, at the tail end of hurricane season, when the crowds are thinner and the weather comfortably dry and cool.
The Yucatán has a tropical climate with daytime temperatures rarely dipping below 25°C. Weather-wise, the dry high season winter months of December to April are the best time to visit, when calm skies and clear, more predictable seas make for the best snorkelling, diving and fishing. However, accommodation rates are significantly higher, and you’ll pay a premium on air fares and hotel rooms. Bear in mind that March to early April is Spring Break territory – when hordes of US college students head for the Yucatán. So, steer clear of the Riviera Maya if you want to avoid all the booze-fuelled partying.
In July and August, it’s very hot and humid throughout the peninsula, and very busy too, with both Mexicans and Europeans flocking to coastal resorts. Mid-April to mid-July and September to November are low season, and much quieter, but be aware that the rainy season (with occasional accompanying hurricanes) runs from June to October. If you’re keen on swimming with whale sharks, the best time to go is from June to September, when they arrive in the waters to feed and mate.

Tulum Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
18
29
71
FEB
18
30
53
MAR
19
31
37
APR
21
33
45
MAY
22
33
108
JUN
23
33
187
JUL
23
33
130
AUG
22
33
145
SEP
23
32
226
OCT
22
31
202
NOV
20
30
103
DEC
18
29
92

Things to do in the Yucatán

Things to do in the Yucatán

The Mayan civilisation dominated Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula between 600 and 900AD, and visiting the ancient remnants of their towns and cities is a highlight of a visit here. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichén Itzá is the most popular, but for a less crowded glimpse into the region’s past, head for Cobá, tucked away in the jungle near Tulum, or the beautifully preserved pyramids of Ek Balam, near the colonial town of Valladolid. The reefs off the Yucatán’s Caribbean coast are stunning and home to several protected wildlife zones, so should you definitely pull on your snorkel gear; the open ocean offers chance encounters with sailfish, dolphins, whale sharks and giant manta rays. You may also take a refreshing swim in a cenote (a natural limestone sinkhole typical of the Yucatán peninsula). The Yucatán’s landscapes are wild and beautiful and there’s plenty to be explored on foot, by bike or by boat. You could choose to hike around Mérida and Campeche, bike the ruins of Cobá or kayak the wetlands of Sian Ka’an. Alternatively, opt for a week-long small group bike tour, covering up to 70km a day.

Things not  to do in the Yucatán

The Yucatán Peninsula is famous for its seafood – and everything else is pretty spectacular too, so don’t miss out on the local eats. Specialities include fried fish with salsa and a peppery spice called achiote, and raw conch fillet doused with lime, but if you prefer your flesh to be land-based, try cochinita pibil, a Mayan dish of pork marinated in achiote and orange and baked wrapped in plantain leaves. From ritzy Playa del Carmen to full on concrete Cancún, Yucatán has more than its fair share of all-inclusive deals, but these are best avoided. For the most part, these holidays have little or no regard for local culture or the regional economy as it is usually a foreign company that owns the hotel, ground transportation and even local excursion providers. Opt for small, locally run accommodation, or if you like the idea of a resort, seek out those that operate responsibly, through building a loyal and skilled local workforce, reducing energy costs and waste, and sourcing fresh local produce, for example. Make sure any tour operator you travel with is committed to protecting wildlife and if diving or snorkelling, never touch fish, coral or turtles. And always follow your instructor’s advice – a good one will know what’s best for both you and for the underwater environment.

Our top Yucatan Holiday

Yucatan tailor made holiday in Mexico

Yucatan tailor made holiday in Mexico

A culturally-focused journey in the Yucatan Peninsula.

From US $4394 to US $5147 8 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Yucatan or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Responsible tourism in the Yucatán

The mega-resort town of Cancún is a prime example of the tourist industry’s ills. Mexico’s answer to Magaluf, it’s full of gated concrete resorts that market cheap all-inclusive holiday deals that not only keep money out of the local economy, but nature and local people out of tourism. The big bucks and unsustainable practices continue with golf courses – an area of irresponsible tourism that’s not often talked about. There are plenty in the Yucatán Peninsula and unless they are fairly managed (which is a rarity), they can cause herbicides, pesticides and contaminated water to seep into the natural environment. And don’t forget the excess water and indeed land usage.

It goes without saying that it’s best steer clear of these, and head for calmer, less showy climes, but don’t assume that just because a hotel is away from the major resort towns, it must be more responsible. While ecotourism has admirable beginnings (the word ecotourism was, in fact, coined in Mexico in 1983, by government urban developer and environmentalist Héctor Ceballos-Lascurain) many businesses have since jumped on the eco bandwagon, including many in the Yucatán, so beware of businesses calling themselves ‘eco’ just because they are rural, remote or rustic.
You should also try to read up on and support the indigenous Maya people living in the Yucatán. While many have rejected traditional rural ways of life to work in the big resort towns of Cancún or Playa del Carmen, others are starting artisan workshops and community-based tourism businesses. Support them whenever you can by buying local crafts or staying in locally run guesthouses. For most Maya, nature, earth and landscape are the pillars of their belief systems and being stewards of the earth is a responsibility they take seriously, something from which we can gain a wealth of knowledge.

Yucatán holidays travel advice

Rafe Stone, from our supplier Journey Latin America:

When to visit

“I enjoy the Yucatán in December as the weather becomes less humid after the green season rain. It’s always hot in the Yucatán so there’s plenty of sunshine still whilst the jungle clad areas that cover the whole peninsular are still lush with beautiful tropical plants and trees from the rainy season.”

Watching wildlife

“One of the highlights in the wildlife calendar in the Yucatán is Whale Shark season traditionally from May to mid-September. Better to head to quieter Isla Holbox in the Mexican Gulf rather than going from Cancún.

Carry on round the peninsular to Celestun where flocks of bright flamingos gather to feed in the shallows. This generally happens from November to March but they are there at other times of year.

This one’s not for the faint hearted but near the town of Katemo, in the north of the Yucatán, there’s a cave where the yellow–red rat snakes live (they’re not venomous)! They prey on rodents, lizards and other small animals but in this cave, they can be seeing preying on and eating the bats out of the air on their way en masse in and out of the cave.”

Responsible travel

“The Yucatán is a fascinating, mystical place where Mayan ruins from different periods are peppered throughout the peninsular. Often these sites are so remote they receive little funding, get neglected or even looted. Whilst we all love hidden gems some of these places need funding and donations to survive so visit with care. Don’t climb pyramids and donate where donations are asked for. Using local Mexican guides and eating locally also helps the local economy.”

TIPS FROM OUR TRAVELLERS

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Yucatán travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
Brilliant overall except they don't seem to cater very well for vegetarians. I ate more pasta as the vegetarian Mexican food was not filling.
– Fahmida Choudhury, on a Mexico small group holiday, culture & beach
“Be ready for temperature variations - from cold/nippy to warm/hot! – For vegetarians, be ready for limited eating options; – for those who haven't had Mescal in the past, don't be worried – it tastes great, as do the salted and fried crickets served alongside! – for all, most mobile phone cameras are inadequate to capture the majesty of the various archeological sites and wonders you will see.” – Sharma, on a Mexico small group holiday, culture & beach

"Remember to give yourself some time to sit and watch and think. There is so much to do that sometimes I found it necessary to opt out of the adventurous stuff and just wander around. " – Hannah Noel-Paton, on a Mexico small group holiday, culture & beach
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Pascal] [Palm trees: Tristan Ferne] [Ruins: Hernan Garcia Crespo] [Mayan woman: Stefano Ravalli] [Yucatan jungle: Thomas Schlosser] [Fahmida Choudhury quote: Gustavo Andrade]
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