Aerial view of El Cuyo Beach in Mexico

El Cuyo Mexico | Ultimate Guide, Things to Do, Where to Stay

El Cuyo is one of the most underrated beach destinations in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. If you’re thinking about a trip to El Cuyo, well lucky you – you just stumbled upon a hidden gem that most tourists will never know about (and that you will never forget). 

To help you plan the perfect El Cuyo vacation, I put together this ultimate guide to visiting El Cuyo, Mexico. It covers the best things to do in El Cuyo, where to stay in El Cuyo, the best places to eat, and essential information for getting to El Cuyo. 

Here’s what we’ll cover (click to jump around the article): 

I recently visited El Cuyo with my partner Clara and we absolutely fell in love with it. I hope this guide helps you to discover the best of El Cuyo too. Let’s dive in: 

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Why Visit El Cuyo

View from the balcony of Hotel La Casa Cielo
The view from our gorgeous hotel room at Hotel La Casa Cielo in El Cuyo

El Cuyo is the perfect place to relax on the beach, disconnect from the world, and reset yourself. El Cuyo is a small fishing village of just a couple thousand people located on a sandbar along the Gulf of Mexico. Owing to its relatively out-of-the-way location, El Cuyo is still very much a hidden gem.

The beaches in El Cuyo are the main reason to visit. They are perfect for kite surfing, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, or just relaxing on a patch of white sand with a drink in your hand. 

Although not technically an island, El Cuyo has a laid back island vibe. If you ever wondered what Tulum or Holbox or Isla Mujeres were like before the throngs of tourists descended, you might fall in love with El Cuyo!

9 Best Things to Do in El Cuyo

Take ATVs to Las Coloradas

My favorite activity from our visit to El Cuyo was taking ATVs from El Cuyo to the Las Coloradas pink lakes. The pink “lakes” themselves are honestly a tad underwhelming. They are pretty for a photo, but they are a bit artificial as they are really just salt evaporating pods. 

However, Clara and I had a fantastic time on the ATV ride along the narrow stretch of washed-out dirt road along the sandbar connecting El Cuyo and the town of Las Coloradas. There are several deserted white sand beaches along the way, plus epic views of the ocean and lagoon, and wildlife galore (including many flamingos!). At nearly two hours each way, it’s a relatively full day activity. 

Many operators in El Cuyo sell tours to Las Coloradas. We went with Antonio of Chak-lo’ol tours (What’s App +52 984 316 2889). You can also check out Adventurate El Cuyo on Facebook.

Relax on El Cuyo Beach

Aerial view of the white sand in El Cuyo Beach
El Cuyo’s white sand beaches from above

No list of the best things to do in El Cuyo would be complete without El Cuyo beach! The long stretch of white sand is the main reason to come to El Cuyo, after all.

In many ways, the quiet beaches in El Cuyo are what Holbox used to be before the crowds started streaming in. The sand is nearly perfectly white, the water relatively shallow and warm, and there is rarely more than a handful of people in a given 100 meter stretch of sand.

There are many access points to El Cuyo beach, and the entire stretch of sand is pretty homogenous, so you can safely just grab a towel and sunscreen, and find your private patch of paradise!

Go Kitesurfing

Kite surfers are in for a treat in El Cuyo. Due to its position along the breezy Gulf of Mexico and due the long stretch of shallow water, El Cuyo offers better kitesurfing conditions than much more famous kitesurfing destinations like Tulum, Isla Mujeres, and Playa del Carmen.

There are several kiteboarding schools and operators in El Cuyo: 

Go Kayaking or Paddleboarding

If kite surfing sounds a bit too adventurous, you can still get out on the water by kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP). When the weather cooperates, the water is shallow and relatively good for either activity in El Cuyo. You can rent SUPs from Extreme Control.

🌴 Pro Tip: If you are staying in Hotel La Casa Cielo, the nicest hotel in El Cuyo, kayaks are conveniently provided by the hotel.

Take a Photo at the El Cuyo Sign

Clara posing for a photo in the El Cuyo sign
Clara posing in front of the El Cuyo sign

Ok, let’s be honest: there aren’t a ton of things to do in El Cuyo. The point of coming here is to relax and disconnect … and, well, do nothing much at all.

But the El Cuyo sign in front of the pier is cool and definitely worth a short stop to snap a photo for the ‘gram! Speaking of the pier … 

Walk El Cuyo’s Pier for Sunset

Clara in the El Cuyo's Pier during a windy day
It was a bit windy and overcast when we visited the pier, but it was still a fun thing to do!

The main road in El Cuyo extends straight into the ocean on a long pier that is wide and perfect for taking a stroll. If the weather cooperates, it’s one of the best places to watch the sunset in El Cuyo too, since you get a better angle on the westward horizon.

Take a Day Trip to Rio Lagartos

View of a crocodile in Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve
Crocodiles are a common sight in the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve

If you’re itching for more things to do in El Cuyo, you can always take a day trip to Rio Lagartos. Further west past Las Coloradas, Rio Lagartos is another beach town that is set within a nature preserve. You can explore mangroves where you’ll find crocodiles, flamingos, and all sorts of wildlife. 

It’s not easily possible to drive there directly (unless you have a Jeep capable of plying the dirt road to Las Coloradas), so it is best to visit Rio Lagartos by boat. Your hotel may be able to organize private boat tours to Rio Lagartos. It’s a full day trip for sure, so really only best done for longer stays in El Cuyo.

Walk Around the El Cuyo Town Center

View of Clara in front of a small red church in El Cuyo
Clara in front of El Cuyo’s small red church, which occupies the center of the town

El Cuyo is a small town, but it does have character! Take a stroll around the town center, where you’ll find a pretty red church, and just soak in the laid back vibe of this Mexican beach community.

Explore El Cuyo’s Street Art

Clara posing for a photo with the street art on the wall in El Cuyo
This street art can be found on the main road near the bridge to El Cuyo

One of the many reasons to love El Cuyo is the incredible street art you’ll find scattered around town. The street art really adds to the beach town vibe!

👉 Read Next: 33 Fun Things to Do in Mexico

Where to Stay in El Cuyo (Best Hotels)

There are only a handful of boutique hotels in El Cuyo, so it’s always best to book in advance. If you aren’t ready to commit to the trip just yet, you can always search hotels in El Cuyo on Booking and take advantage of their fairly generous cancellation policies.

Hotel La Casa Cielo

Hotel Website | Hotel phone: +52 984 134 7116 | $$ | 👉 Check Prices for Hotel la Casa Cielo on Booking

Hotel la Casa Cielo is definitely the most luxurious place to stay in El Cuyo. Clara and I chose to stay here during our stay in El Cuyo, and absolutely loved falling asleep to the sounds of the waves. The hotel is perfectly located a few blocks from the main square on the best stretch of sand.

The rooms were clean and modern, with views of the beach and incredibly comfortable beds. The hotel has a giant pool with beach chairs and a fun hot tub, an onsite restaurant and bar, kayaks and tours available, a huge terrace rooftop, and free parking. Overall, if you’re wondering where to stay in El Cuyo and can afford it, Hotel la Casa Cielo is a great choice!

👇 View Prices, Reviews, and Availability

LunArena Boutique Beach Hotel

Hotel Website | Hotel phone: +52 984 133 0810 | $$ | 👉 Check Prices for LunArena Boutique Beach Hotel on Booking

The next best-rated hotel in El Cuyo seems to be LunArena Boutique Beach Hotel. Guest reviews. Many of the rooms have private balconies with hammocks. The bar and restaurant also gets high marks. The only thing is that the hotel is located at the far end of El Cuyo town (though it’s not like El Cuyo is huge anyway).

👇 View Prices, Reviews, and Availability

Villas El Tio

Hotel phone: +52 998 896 0861 | $-$$ | 👉 Check Prices for Villas El Tio on Booking

For budget travelers, Villas El Tio seems to be the highest rated accommodation option in El Cuyo. This place to stay in El Cuyo offers basic apartment-style rooms in a central location that score solid guest reviews. 

👇 View Prices, Reviews, and Availability

Casa Cuyo Hotel & Restaurant

Hotel Website | Hotel phone: +52 986 120 9427 | $-$$ | 👉 Check Prices for Casa Cuyo Hotel & Restaurant on Booking

A clean and well rated mid range property located a couple of blocks from the beach, just outside the town center in a quiet neighborhood of El Cuyo. 

👇 View Prices, Reviews, and Availability

Casa Mate Beachfront Cabanas

Hotel Website | Hotel phone: +52 984 140 9450 | $$ | 👉 Check Prices for Casa Mate Beachfront Cabanas on Booking

Hut style accommodations with a bar and garden, Casa Mate Beachfront Cabanas is another popular option if you want a place to stay in El Cuyo right on the beach. 

👇 View Prices, Reviews, and Availability

Apartment Rentals in El Cuyo

Personally, I think a hotel is the way to go in El Cuyo. Given how small El Cuyo is, it’s just easier to have a concierge and restaurant available. But if you’re planning a longer stay in El Cuyo or prefer apartments, you’ll find several cool-looking apartment rentals in El Cuyo on VRBO.

👉 Read Next: Best Places to Stay in Valladolid

Best Places to Eat in El Cuyo

When looking for where to eat in El Cuyo, bear in mind that many restaurants in El Cuyo close relatively early. If you are the type of person who typically heads out to dinner at 9 pm, you’ll want to get an earlier start on the evening in El Cuyo!

El Chori Palma Food Truck

🍽️ Argentinian | $$ | Website | 📞 +52 984 168 9856 

View from the El Chori Palma Food Truck

My partner Clara is from Argentina, so of course we had to try out the El Chori Palma food truck. They are not on Google Maps but, at least during our stay, the food truck was located in the field just east of the town center. They serve up casual Argentinian food and sandwiches around a friendly camp fire. Definitely one of our favorite places to eat in El Cuyo!

El Chile Gordo

🍽️ Mexican Cuisine | $$ | 📍Google MapsEl Chile Gordo Website | 📞 +52 984 152 2777 

View from the outside of El Chile Gordo

Though it was unfortunately closed during our stay, El Chile Gordo is clearly one of the most popular restaurants in El Cuyo. The menu includes classic Mexican dishes like chile relleno and mole. They also advertise vegetarian options too. Note that seating at El Chile Gordo is by reservation only.

La Limonaia

🍽️ Italian Cuisine | $$ | 📍Google Maps

This cozy outdoor Italian restaurant is clearly one of the most popular places to eat in El Cuyo. Clara and I tried twice to get a table, and failed both times. They don’t have a phone number or website listed, so I suppose your best bet is to walk by their location only one block from Naia Cafe and make a reservation in person. The food and ambiance looked fantastic. 

Loncheria La Lupita

🍽️ Yucatecan Cuisine | $ | 📍Google Maps | 📞 +52 986 114 3261 

View from the entrance of Loncheria La Lupita

If you’re looking to eat like a local in El Cuyo, check out one of the town’s “loncherias” (basically lunch cantinas, though most also serve dinner). Loncheria La Lupita is popular and located right in the middle of town. 

La Casa Palma Food Truck

🍽️ Argentinian Cuisine | $$ | 📍Google Maps | 📞 +52 984 168 9856 

The La Casa Palma Food Truck is another fun place to eat offering empanadas, pizza, and Argentinian fare. It gets high marks for its atmosphere and is a great cheap place to eat and relax after a day out on the beaches of El Cuyo.

Naia Cafe & Restaurant

🍽️ Breakfast & Cafe Fare | $$ | 📍Google MapsNaia Cafe Website | 📞 +52 986 111 0300 

Undoubtedly one of the most popular breakfast and lunch places in El Cuyo, Naia Cafe offers salads, ciabattas, smoothie bowels, and various breakfast classics (including pancakes and, of course, coffee). The menu is very vegetarian friendly too. The cafe has nice outdoor seating in a covered garden. 

Loncheria El Amigo Willy

🍽️ Mexican Cuisine | $ | 📍Google Maps | 📞 +52 986 861 8628 

View of people enjoying their food in Loncheria El Amigo Willy

Clara and I loved eating at the small and unassuming Loncheria El Amigo Willy. The restaurant serves up local food like tortas, tacos, and quesadillas at unbeatable prices. Located on the main street, it’s a great place to eat on a budget in El Cuyo.

👉 Read Next: Best Places to Eat in Valladolid, Mexico

How to Get to El Cuyo

Part of the reason El Cuyo is still off the beaten path is that it is relatively difficult to get to El Cuyo, no matter whether you’re coming from the Riviera Maya, Merida, Valladolid, or anywhere else. You basically have two options: 

Getting to El Cuyo by Car

View from the driver's seat while driving in El Cuyo
The narrow road bridge connecting El Cuyo to the mainland

The best way to get to El Cuyo is to rent a car and to drive. Unless you have a 4WD vehicle and are willing to brave the narrow dirt road from Las Coloradas (I wouldn’t!), the only way to El Cuyo is via the single road connecting El Cuyo to Colonia Yucatan.

Although there are old reports online of the road to El Cuyo being in disrepair, it was actually in pretty solid condition when I drove it in early 2022. Just be sure to watch out for potholes, animals on the road, and for topes (speedbumps). Also, be sure to start your journey with a full tank of fuel (the only station I saw was a small one in Colonia Yucatan).

🚗 Need a Rental Car? You can usually find the best rental deals on Discover Cars. Read my guide to renting a car in Mexico for more information.

Driving Distance to El Cuyo: 

  • From Cancun – 162 km (3 hours)
  • From Valladolid – 137 km (2.5 hours)
  • From Playa del Carmen – 168 km (2.5 hours)
  • From Tulum – 181 km (3 hours)
  • From Merida – 262 km (3.5 hours) 

Getting to El Cuyo by Bus 

Although I would only recommend this method for seasoned backpackers and serious budget travelers, it is possible to reach El Cuyo by public transportation. Just realize that the journey is a long one, and that it’ll help if you speak a little Spanish. You first need to get to either Colonia Yucatan or Tizimin. 

From the Tizimin bus station, you can take the Noreste bus to El Cuyo by way of Cololnia Yucatan.

From Colonia Yucatan, you’ll need to catch a minibus or the Noreste bus to El Cuyo from the “sitios de taxis” in the middle of town. 

Note that buses stop running after about 6 pm, so it’s recommended to start the journey early in the day. 

🌴 Still Need Travel Insurance? Check out my guide to travel insurance for Mexico. Or get a quote now from my personal favorite provider: World Nomads.

About El Cuyo, Mexico

Clara admiring the view from a lagoon in El Cuyo
Clara exploring the lagoon around El Cuyo

History: According to the Spanish language Wikipedia entry for El Cuyo, the sandbar along the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula was used as the ranch of Ramón Ancona Bolio in 1895. Logging and ranching eventually gave way to fishing as the primary industry of the small town of El Cuyo. Today, this small fishing village is gradually gaining popularity as a destination for ecotourism.

Facts About El Cuyo, Mexico:

  • Population: 1,750 inhabitants
  • Municipality: Tizimin
  • Mayor: Pedro Franscico Couoh Suaste 
  • Time Zone: UTC -6 (UTC -5 in summer)

👉 Read Next: The Perfect Packing Checklist for A Mexico Trip

El Cuyo FAQs

What is the best time to visit El Cuyo?

The best time to visit El Cuyo is between December and March, when the weather is relatively dry and cool. El Cuyo can get hot and humid during the summer, but it is still possible to enjoy visiting El Cuyo any time of year.

How many days do you need for El Cuyo?

Two to three days is generally enough time to visit El Cuyo, unless you really want more time to disconnect from the world. El Cuyo is small and there is not a lot to do beyond the beach, so overall it is a destination that can be well covered in a weekend.

Is El Cuyo safe?

El Cuyo is a safe destination for travel. The small community of El Cuyo is very dependent on tourism and welcoming towards visitors. There is a police station in the town center, and crime is relatively uncommon in El Cuyo. 

What is El Cuyo known for?

El Cuyo is best known as a laid back fishing village with relatively untouched pristine white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. El Cuyo is also known as a biodiversity hotspot. 

📅 Read Next: Best Time to Visit Mexico

***

I hope this guide helps you enjoy the best of El Cuyo, Yucatan! It’s definitely one of the best hidden gem beach towns in Mexico. 

Visiting El Cuyo is a great way to relax and unwind. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! 

If this guide helped you, be sure to bookmark all my free guides to Mexico!

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