Traveling to the Yucatán: Advice to First-time Travelers

by Lydia Linton Pontius (Aug. 2014)

People often ask me why I return to the same place when there are so many new places left unvisited. And, in reality, I do travel to other places. It is just that the pull this area has on me is so strong that I feel the need to return on a regular basis, so that even if I weren't doing it for our business, Sac-Be.com, I would return frequently. In all my travels I have never been somewhere that has the effect on me that Akumal does. When I first drove through those arches, something spoke to my heart. Since that first time in 1999, I have seen a lot of changes in the area but the heart and soul remain the same.

Traveling to the Yucatán for me combines the feeling of going home and reconnecting to old friends, with the adventure of discovering new places, as I venture out in a new direction and a little farther each trip. This trip is going to be especially exciting because I will be bringing a friend with me who has never been to some of the places we are going.  A week of hopping around will be followed by 10 days of working with Expedition Akumal, helping to promote their work and develop their website.

For those of you who are first-time travelers to the area, I thought it might be good to write an article for you. What are the things to do and think about when coming to the Riviera Maya for the first time? There is so much here for everyone that it is important to ask yourself—what kind of trip do I want to have?

The Riviera Maya is home to some of the biggest and most elaborate All-Inclusive Resorts and for those who want to be totally pampered and not venture far, this is the way to go. We usually don't visit those places because there is plenty of information available already. What we like to highlight are the smaller boutique hotels that cater to the traveler who is more adventurous and wants to get a real feel for the locals. Some misunderstand this and think we are roughing it—trust me when I say you do not sacrifice any comforts or luxury at the places we review and visit.

Besides where to stay, a question to be asked is should I rent a car? For those staying at an All-Inclusive, I would say there is no need to rent a vehicle. Chances are you are not leaving the resort and if you do, they will have tours available for you or can make arrangements for any transportation. If you are wanting to stay close to the coast and are looking to save money, the buses, taxis and colectivos are very easy and reliable. Want the freedom to explore where you want, when you want? Rent a car. With the expansion of the highway from Cancún to Tulúm it is easy to get anywhere you want. If you do get off the beaten path, you may want to read our article about driving there

Next question is, what do you want to see and do? I think what I love most—or second to the people—is the fact that there is so much to see and do. Here are just a few of the things on my list to do this trip: shopping on Playa del Carmen's 5th Avenue and in Valladolid. Drinks on the beach. Fine dining and balancing it with just the right amount of my favorite Mexican street food. Snorkeling lagoons and bays. Paddleboarding and visiting Sian Ka'an. Cooling off in a cenote. Exploring some Maya ruins. And, of course, there will be time for spa treatments.

Our trip next summer when we travel with two small children will be somewhat different. Ziplining, snorkeling, sailing, and Eco-Parks will be top on the list then.

You can experience many cultures and periods by going to ancient ruins, stopping at local Maya villages, and visiting colonial cities, in addition to soaking in the most modern of architecture. The area dates back to the earliest Maya civilizations; haciendas and cities mark the Spaniards' influence; and Cancún and most of the Riviera Maya date back only as far as the 1970s. Akumal is one of the oldest vacation towns, established in the 1950s.

To learn more about traveling this magical, diverse area, please be sure to visit our site often and peruse the articles and information shared by contributing writers.


Tulum Sign in Sian Kaan Lydia Pontius


Hotel Akumal Caribe