The drive into El Cuyo ranks very high on my list of cinematic arrivals. Leaving from Tizimín, the two-lane highway cuts through immense cattle pastures. Solitary palmeras form sparse groups and shoot up out of the open pastures, their pointy leaves adding a Dr. Seuss tone to the story. The sky resonates a dramatic shade of blue, viscous like a bucket of paint.
Quickly, the open spaces densify, and transform into mangroves: one of Yucatán’s most other-worldly landscapes, where trees have roots like spiders have legs. After tunneling through the mangroves, the panorama blasts back open, this time revealing the brilliant white sands and pink lagoons where flamingos languish. I look out the window and feel like I’m floating on the cotton-candy surface, rising up into the ocean that’s the sky.
Arriving to the pueblo, kids and big people meander in the streets, barefoot and beachy, always flaunting big smiles and waving with a nod. For the most part, the pueblo conserves its traditional architecture: colorful rooms made from wooden slabs or concrete, topped off with palapas and sunburned concrete roofs.
Many other towns along Yucatán’s coast have undergone a process of gentrification. El Cuyo, however, holds strong as a pueblo – in a literal and cultural sense. Being here feels like being inside a family of individuals.
Tourism revolves around kitesurfing and beach bumming, and has integrated into the fabric of the local community. The most famous kitesurfing school is “El Cuyo Kite School,” owned and managed by a group of local young men, who are international champions in the sport (connect with them on Facebook).
Hand-painted signs with phone numbers announce bungalows, rooms, and entire houses for rent, most of which are only booked during the high season.
“Private Haciendas” offers a luxury travel experience for those looking to really settle into El Cuyo: book a stay in “Casa El Cuyo” and steep in aquatic patterns, classic architecture, and modern innovations (book at Catherwood Travels). Ponder upon an incredible view of the lighthouse, which was constructed during the Colonial period on top of a Maya temple, manifesting a symbol of power and territorial control.
We snuck through a random inlet between houses to the water. The thick flora of beach plants and palm trees frame the scene, and when I caught eye of the water, I squealed. I ran across the long white beach that goes on for forever into the warm, briskly waving water – the color of blue ice and latte froth.
We made a camp underneath the palapa on the people-less shore, using the fishing net to hang our clothes. Our cover photo is a snapshot of this moment, when I felt the wind go still on my back, and my skin grew layer upon layer of salt water and wind-soaked air.
How to get there
Driving: To get to El Cuyo, go north from Valladolid to Tizimín, go east to Colonia Yucatán, and then north to El Cuyo. You can refer to our map of the Yucatan peninsula for more information.
By bus: Go to Autobuses del Noreste (Tel. (999) 924 6355) located on Calle 67 between 50 and 52, Centro. The bus to Tizimín takes 2 hours and then you take a second bus to El Cuyo, which takes 1 hour 45 min.
Download the map for:
Read about this area:
- El Cuyo
- El Cuyo, Natural Beauty
- Ek Balam
- Temozón: Where the Famous Smoked Meat was Born
- X’Canche, Ek Balam and Valladolid
- Rio Lagartos
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