Public transportation in Mexico is convenient and comfortable, making it tempting to forgo renting a car during your trip. However, it is worth reconsidering! Renting a car provided us with unparalleled freedom in Mexico, allowing us to explore wherever we pleased without being constrained by bus schedules. Additionally, it enabled us to visit breathtaking destinations we would have otherwise missed out on.
Read more: tips for a rental car and driving in Mexico
# 1 The pink lakes at Las Coloradas
At the northern tip of Yucatán is the small town of Las Coloradas. Many travellers skip this corner of Mexico, but you definitely shouldn’t. Because thinking of tropical places you probably will picture bright blue oceans, but in Mexico it becomes even more exotic. Here you have bright orange and pink lakes with equally pink flamingos. Is the water really that pink? Yes!
This place is unfortunately not close to any other must-visit on the peninsula, so you have to make a detour to get here. The colourful city of Valladolid is the best base. From this town it is about 2 hours to the north on a straight road. On your route you’ll pass the villages of Tizimín and Rio Lagartos, but they are not very interesting.
You could go to the lakes by public transport, but it would take a lot of patience and time. The easiest way is your own rental car. After picking up our rental car in Tulum we drove straight to Las Coloradas, after which we ended our day in Valladolid.
Reading tip: we wrote an extensive blog about Las Coloradas, the pink lakes and flamingos.
# 2 The most beautiful cenotes
Cenotes are a unique natural phenomenon in Mexico with beautiful blue water, a fascinating ecosystem and magical atmosphere. Almost all of them are connected to each other via a underground system, but it has still not been properly mapped. Scientists do know that it’s largest underground water system in the world. It is not hard to understand why the Maya believed this were sacred places.
Swimming in a cenote is therefore a must-do in Yucatán! Some cenotes are close to popular travel destinations like Tulum or Valladolid. It should therefore not surprise you that these places are the busiest. That Gran Cenote within cycling distance of Tulum? Or those beautiful pools in the heart of Valladolid or Mérida? It is less likely that you can enjoy the water all by yourself here.
If a cenote is not within walking or cycling distance of your travel destination, it’s a lot more difficult to get there. That’s the reason fewer people come, but it might also be a challenge for you. Public transport (takes a long time), taxi (pricey) or tour (pricey and busy) are options. We therefore recommend a rental car, if only for a day to explore cenotes.
Tip: we made a map with all the cenotes in Mexico. You can download it for free and we give many extra tips to select the best ones.
# 3 The waterfalls at Palenque
No flat landscapes in the jungle area of Chiapas, but mountains, hills and waterfalls. Around the city of Palenque you have the most beautiful waterfalls. You probably guessed how to get there the easiest? Yes, get a rental car. The only other option is a pricey taxi.
Our favourite was waterfall Welib Yes. We paid 20 pesos entrance per person (so in euro’s only 50 cents) and had the waterfall almost to ourselves. Our second choice was Agua Azul waterfall, a 1.5 hour drive from Palenque and a popular spot with Mexican tourists. It was a lot busier here, but the huge cascade waterfalls were absolutely beautiful.
# 4 The rugged coast of Cozumel
One of the most popular islands on the Caribbean coast of Mexico is Cozumel. Every day huge cruise ships arrive and the beaches are always full. But that’s all on the west side, where there are calm bays and clear blue water. Instead, we preferred the rugged coast to the east where there are also beautiful sandy beaches, but all to yourself! Add to that the cool rocks, rock arch and wild waves and you get why this is our favourite side of Cozumel.
Rental cars, as well as jeeps and buggies, are available on the island to get around. But you can also bring your rental car from the mainland. Cozumel is one of the few islands where you can take the ferry with your car! To do this, don’t take the pedestrian ferry from Playa del Carmen, but the one slightly further south. Here you can find this ferry on the map.
# 5 Mayan Empire Calakmul
From the main road it is a two hour drive on an increasingly narrow road deep into the jungle to get to Calakmul. The road is getting worse and narrower the closer you get. This Mayan city is really off the beaten track and is therefore a must-visit in Yucatan. Deep in the jungle are the largest and tallest pyramids and temples in the country. Get here as early as possible to make sure you’re all alone at the top of the great pyramid. Because yes, you can also climb these temples.
# 6 The deserted beaches on the Costa Maya
Did you read about that cute fishing village of Mahahual when researching your Mexico trip? Well, that village is not so quiet and cute (anymore) with those huge cruise ships. But if you descend the Costa Maya a little further, you’ll enter a bounty paradise of deserted beaches. Our ultimate travel tip for this region is Cabanas Ecoturisticas Costa Maya Not sponsored, just really big fans about these cottages on the beach, nice community vibe, group dinners with fresh fish, snorkeling opportunities in front of your cabana and beautiful sandy beach.
Want to know more about this piece of heaven? Read this blog about our time in this bounty paradise!