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Friday, February 3, 2023

Poor Internet, limited shopping, dull nightlife — why we love El Cuyo

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Maggie Rosado
Maggie Rosado
The former editor of Yucatán Today, Maggie Rosado van der Gracht was born in Mérida as part of a Yucatecan/Canadian family. Both parents worked in tourism, so Maggie grew up climbing the pyramids of Chichén Itzá with her Dad and exploring the Historic Center with her Mom.
The amazing pier at El Cuyo in Yucatán. Photo: German Schaub / Getty

Right before I moved to California in 2020, my best friend Laura and I decided to take a girls’ trip. We wanted to go somewhere neither of us had been and set our minds on El Cuyo as the destination for my last hurrah in my home state.

Now, I have been to every beach in Yucatán, and I know that this term gets tossed around a lot, but I have to say it: El Cuyo is unique. Why? I think that it’s because it is the last secluded beach in Yucatán. Cell phone signals can be spotty and you won’t find ATMs, gas stations, clubs, or even an Oxxo. What you will find are immaculate white-sand beaches — honestly, the cleanest I have seen anywhere — locally run hotels and restaurants, and numerous kite surfing schools. Things wind down around 10 p.m. when most of the eateries shut down for the night.

Do we have to spell it out for you? El Cuyo, Yucatán, is great. Photo: Getty Images

Our trip was an absolute joy, but part of it came down to preparation: we knew what we signed up for. While planning, I realized that we have come to expect certain items and services. But finding a destination like El Cuyo today is a rare privilege, and it should be guarded, respected, and protected. This is particularly important when we consider recent reports that larger-scale developments are planning to set up shop in the village.

So, what should you keep in mind and what should you avoid to make the most out of your El Cuyo experience? Also, how can you help preserve this destination?

Colorful El Cuyo, Yucatán. Photo: Laura Sanchez / Yucatán Magazine

Plan accordingly. Bring any special snacks and drinks that you can’t live without, and come with a full tank of gas. But most importantly, bring enough cash in small bills so that you can support the community with your purchases and generous tips. Financial security is paramount for the conservation and sustainability of small destinations.

Be flexible. The food and hospitality options are charming and of fabulous quality. Recently, small burger joints, pizza places, and more have been added to the Yucatecan and seafood culinary offerings. The town is famous for its buñuelos and chupitos (a freeze pop made with natural fruit), and for its quaint, colorful wooden houses and cabins. But it is somewhat secluded, and certain items might not be available on certain days. Also, air conditioning is not a given here.

Colorful El Cuyo, Yucatán. Photo: Laura Sanchez / Yucatán Magazine

Be respectful. I was blown away by how clean the beach is. So bring a trash bag to pick up after yourself, because there are not many bins. Also, the vibe is very relaxed, so leave the stereo speakers at home. Feel free to bring a book instead or try kite surfing with one of the local schools that offer lessons for every age.

Not every beach has to be packaged for mass consumption. 

El Cuyo still proves that point.

Property buyers’ tip 

Before you think of El Cuyo as a possible place to live or invest, you should know that its community is extremely tight-knit. Newcomers are welcome, but they are expected to follow the rules, particularly if they wish to set up a business. Because of the predatory practices of many “investors” in the area, citizens are understandably protective when someone comes in and sets up shop.

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