Talking with a friend a few weeks ago, totally worn out from work, sizeable dark circles under my eyes, I began to tell her my wish list for a week off I had coming up:
‘Seclusion. No need for a car. Delicious food. A space to hang my hammock. Peace. No internet, phone signal or friendly neighbours…’
Yes, I know. I sounded like a middle-aged, mid-life crisis, mid-way through Eat, Pray, Love type. I can embrace that notion. Anyway, thankfully I was talking to the right person because she looked at me, smiled and said ‘I know the perfect place.’
One month later and one month more of accumulated eye-bags and middle-aged alter ego, I woke up in El Cuyo and realised my friend was exactly right.
For me, El Cuyo is the jewel of Yucatan’s emerald coast. It is the last beach in Yucatan, just before the border with Quintana Roo, where the turquoise Caribbean sea meets the Gulf.
The tiny, laid back fishing town is set within the Biosphere Reserve of Rio Lagartos which means it is protected from development. This reserve is internationally famous for its bird life and tranquility. The small port is set amongst endless tropical forest, coconut plantations and pristine white beach.
To get to El Cuyo you have to drive across the lagoon which separates it from the mainland. The lagoon is home to hundreds of flamingos which are there to welcome you as you arrive into town. Here is one little gang we saw.
Apart from these lovely pink feathered-friends, during only a few days we also saw pelicans, eagles, hundreds of butterflies, fish and hummingbirds. We weren’t lucky enough to see the sea turtles that visit the beach between June and August to lay their eggs but I was happy enough just knowing that they were out there silently in the night, doing their thousand year old ritual.
We stayed in a great Air BnB, set right on the beach at the far end of the town. It felt isolated in all the right ways. When we arrived I already knew it wouldn’t be the last time we stay there – it was, quite simply, idyllic.
The outdoor area was what made it so perfect. A space to hang our hammock between two magnificent palms, overlooking the green dunes and out to the calm sea and a big, spacious terrace with the best breakfast view you could ever hope for. There are plenty of Air BnB listings in the town, all of which are better than the one ugly hotel right opposite the plaza.
We did manage to tear ourselves away from our little paradise every now and again to go wondering down the beach to the town or in the other direction into the nature reserve.
El Cuyo is a humble fishermen’s town. There are a few tienditas selling the essentials, two restaurants serving up fresh fish (but both close at 6pm) and a scattering of colourful wooden houses all around the lighthouse and pier. Watching the kite surfers and boats coming and going is about as much action as happens.
We ate twice in the family restaurant ‘La Conchita’ and both times we were treated to delicious fresh fish and ceviche. All other meals we cooked at home. Its a good idea to take all the fresh food you need with you as you won’t find a supermarket or proper market in the town.
Walking far enough up the beach in the other direction, away from the town, into the protected area, you can really feel like you’re the only person on Earth. There is nothing and nobody. I really think that a beach as beautiful as this, and being able to be completely alone and lost in wilderness is something very unique.
El Cuyo grants three daily gifts; the sunrise, sunset and the night sky. Honestly I have rarely seen such a spectacular night sky in my life time. There is zero light pollution and there was no moon whilst we were staying. Lying down on blankets on the beach we could see the milky way like never before, thousands of glittering stars and Mars in all its glory. Star gazing with the waves lapping at our feet – what could be sweeter?
To get to El Cuyo from Merida or Cancun, drive to Tizimin and take the Rio Lagartos road North, taking a right towards ‘Colonia Yucatan’ and then all the way straight up to cross the lagoon into town. It takes about 3 1/2 hours from Merida and 2 from Cancun.