Yucatan in August?
March 12, 2024 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking into taking two teenagers to Mexico for about a week at the end of August. The place that seems to check the most boxes--direct flight from PDX, beaches/outdoor fun, ruins, a decent-sized city to explore--seems to be the Yucatan. But the weather...

Flying to Cancun, renting a car, beach, cenotes, maybe Tulum, definitely Chichen-Itza, Merida, possibly whale sharks at Isla Holbosh. It all sounds great. But late August also sounds pretty questionable weather-wise: hot and sticky and buggy and probably rain at least part of every day. Also, it's Atlantic hurricane season.

YMMV, but is this more mild annoyance or worth reconsidering travel dates? November is another possibility, although it would be harder to schedule and the whale sharks wouldn't be around.
posted by gottabefunky to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Learn to dress for that kind of weather and you'll be...okay? Teenagers don't seem to feel it so much as I do, and I have just historically tried to keep my grumbling to myself.

I would add on travel insurance, though, because of hurricane season.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:48 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I live in Mérida. I can speak about Yucatán but all I know about Cancun (and all of Quintana Roo) is that it's a lot more expensive and they have hurricanes. Hurricanes hit the East Coast and turn North so there's none of that here.

While you'd be missing the hottest part of summer, the midday temperature rarely drops below 90°F other than in December and January. Fortunately the mornings and evening are more temperate, and most people just stick to indoors at the height of the heat. You'll be glad of the relatively brief afternoon thunderstorm as it cools everything off.

For cenotes I highly recommend Cenote Palomitas, just outside of Valladolid. Stay in Valladolid for the night and be there when it opens. (check the seasonal times). In general if you get to a cenote and see a large bus parked outside -- or in some cases up to 20 of them -- just keep going.

Not too far north of Valladolid is the Zona Arqueológica de Ek Balam, where you can get up and personal with ancient Mayan architecture in a way that you probably can't at Chichén Itzá, and certainly with fewer people around. So a nice day would be to spend the night in Valladolid, swim in the cenote(s), visit Ek Balam, and then drive to Meridá.

Alternately if you want to stay on the main tourist track (heh), the Tren Maya seems to be getting its act together. You could comfortably take it from Cancun to Chichén Itzá and on to Meridá or further. They're definitely having teething problems with ticketing though.

Yucatán has really boring beaches, surf wise. If you're looking for even medium sized waves you'll need to do it over in the East.

Bugs are bugs. You'll want insect repellant but it's readily available.

I drove all over the Yucatán Pennisula when I first came down here. It was a lot of fun.

I'm happy to answer any other questions, either in MeMail or here for everyone to see.


Okay, about Quintana Roo. Meridá is one of the safest cities in all of North and South America so we get a bit snooty about our neighbor state, particular Cancun. People get shot there. A few years ago someone held up a Cancun/Meridá bus and robbed all of the passengers. The amount of tourists and money means the cartels have an interest in doing business there.

That said, statistically it's no more dangerous than any large American city. Normal travel precautions advised.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:21 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]

It will be hot, and if you're coming from PDX it might be an uncomfortable adjustment. I just did a quick search, but it seems like tickets to Costa Rica are not that expensive. August is a lovely time to go - it's the "green" season (i.e. rainy season) but it will be nothing you can't handle, and it means everything is green, a bit cooler (in the mountains it's even cold), and somewhat less crowded. It won't provide you with much in the way of ruins, but I really enjoyed my time there a couple of years ago in August. Just a thought!
posted by coffeecat at 4:02 PM on March 12

Definitely travel insurance. One of the few good things about hurricanes is that they give notice, usually at least a few days. So if you were monitoring weather while still in PDX, you could cancel if it looked iffy. If it gets iffy while you are there, you can leave early (be willing to pay for it and don't wait as seats may go fast). You might want to check out the travel boards/reddits for what to expect from a resort if a hurricane or other severe weather were to occur. The hotel and resorts sites of course are all like "we're built to withstand and have fully trained staff and good protocols" but I wouldn't rely on them.
posted by beaning at 9:38 PM on March 12

Please consider all quick-dry clothing. Including underwear. Some people think cotton is cooler, but cotton will get wet, sweaty, and will not dry out. Period. You will be constantly damp. When people say the Yucatan is hot, they mean it. It is ferociously, poundingly hot. On the coasts you will get nice humid breezes, but I've been to cenotes and other inland parts, and the paths and roads in and out are completely devoid of wind, and a kind of tropical heat that is unlike nearly anywhere in the USA. Of course, drink a lot of water. Carry bottled water with you everywhere. Stock it in your car.

It's doable (I've done it!) but be prepared
posted by SoberHighland at 5:17 AM on March 13

Repellant is easy to get in Tulum but it would be real helpful to bring 40% or above DEET in addition to Benadryl or other antihistamines with you.
posted by jadepearl at 8:05 AM on March 13

Pack long sleeve SPF rashguards to minimize sunscreen use. Bring reef safe sunscreen. And I've been to both Chichen Itza and Ek Balam - Chichen Itza ticked a done-that box, I'd go back to Ek Balam. And Ek Balam has a cenote near the ruins.

(My ruinas ranking: Calakmul, Ek Balam, Uxmal, Chichen Itza)
posted by jointhedance at 7:34 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]

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