Exciting about your trip to Valladolid, Mexico? You should be because this gorgeous destination has stunning architecture, authentic Mexican food, cultural wonders and all kinds of interesting activities to discover.
This delightful colonial city and the surrounding areas near the Riviera Maya have plenty to see and do. To help you plan your Mexican vacation, we have curated a list of the 20 best things to do in and around Valladolid. We know you are as excited as a Mexican jumping bean so let’s go!
Swim in cenotes
A cenote is a natural sinkhole that is formed from limestone bedrock collapsing and exposing groundwater. Some are totally underground and others are partly covered or open air. They are all over Valladolid, even in the middle of town. This special one near the town square is called Cenote Zaci and is open air. It is popular for swimming, cliff jumping and snorkeling with refreshingly cool water to beat the city heat. You can walk around the outside of Cenote Zaci, which is partially covered in greenery and has stalactites hanging from the roof. There is an artificial waterfall that gets turned on during busy weekends and perhaps when a particularly famous influencer is visiting. The cenote is very beautiful and photogenic as well as being an unexpected find being in the middle of the urban area. There are many gorgeous cenotes around Valladolid and other areas of the country, but this inner city cenote will always be in your memories as one of the most original experiences, especially if this is your first time experiencing the natural wonder of a cenote. Once you experience a Mexican cenote, you will be keen to try more. Ask for recommendations from the staff at your hotel who probably hang out at cenotes sometimes on their days off. Locals are always a great source of info when traveling.
Sip coffee at Kuxtal Galeria de Art
A popular cafe due to its colorful decor and great coffee, Kuxtal Galeria de Art has bright orange walls with Mexican-painted skulls, flags and flowers adorning the walls. You can’t miss it and allow plenty of time because it is the kind of place you want to stay for a while. There are so many details everywhere that you notice something new every visit. You can buy great souvenirs and artwork for yourself and friends and family back home. The staff are very passionate about their culture and creations and will happily tell you about the beautiful pieces of artwork on display.
Sample sweet treats at the chocolate museum
Choco-story is a sweet mix of a museum, cafe and chocolate factory. This family-owned business has been successfully running for many years and the Yucatecan family knows all about cacao beans and chocolate making. A visit is a fun experience from your greeting on arrival and offer of a free tour. You will learn about the history of cacao and how it is used in Mayan culture, including rituals and ceremonies. There are rooms devoted to Mayans and cocoa (how they traded cocoa as currency and offered cocoa to the Gods), cocoa cultivation and varieties and a
replica of a traditional Mayan home. This room has displays of clothing, utensils, orchids and Mayan burial. There is so much to learn about chocolate and culture and it’s a fascinating subject for the whole family.
A live demonstration of chocolate making is a highlight of the tour, which can be in English, French or Spanish. Then you get to taste the chocolate with delectable samples of flavors like mint, honey and coffee being offered. You can buy the ones you like best at the shop that also sells souvenirs. We love the colorful entrance and pretty botanical garden with cocoa trees and flowers. There is also an animal shelter and kid’s playground attached. Allow at least a few hours to take in this sweet place.
See the romantic San Gervasio Cathedral
This ancient church is one of the most significant landmarks in Valladolid. The Cathedral of San Gervasio can be seen from all around the city, with awe-inspiring twin towers rising up towards the sky. If you ever get lost, just look for the tall towers to find your bearings. The original church built in 1545 was destroyed after political turmoil, then a new one that you see today was built at the beginning of the 18th century. The photogenic church has a beautiful clock, elaborate altar and stunning domed roof. A big statue of Christ kept inside a glass casket is another interesting feature of the place of worship in the Main Plaza of Valladolid. It is beautiful in the daytime and even more striking at night.
Join a free walking tour of the city
Pack your walking shoes because Valladolid is a great town to see on foot, including a free walking tour. Get accustomed to the layout of the streets and learn about the history and present life of people living in Valladolid from your knowledgeable guide. It is quite a touristy activity, but there really is no better way to get a firm feeling of where you are. Make a note of places you want to return to and explore for longer when you don’t have the tour group tagging along. Also, think about what landmarks might look amazing lit up at night. During the walking tour, you have time to ask questions, take photos and talk to locals along the way as well as with your guide. It’s nice to give a tip at the end if you enjoyed your tour.
Shop til you drop
When you go shopping in Mexico, it is tempting to buy everything in sight because everything looks so unique and different compared to what you can buy back home. From fashion to accessories to art to homeware, in Valladolid, you can get your retail therapy fix and it’s really affordable too.
Bonito Mercado is a charming combination of a coffee shop and cafe and shop. Many boutique stores have coffee for sale and perhaps it is a smart tactic to keep you in the shop for longer or just fabulous service. You can browse the shop, sit and drink coffee while you decide what you want to buy and have another coffee for the road while the salesperson packages up your purchase. At Bonito Mercado, you can find bags, pottery, artwork, jewelry and other artisan goods. The beautiful items are well made by local artists, so you are supporting the Valladolid and surrounding communities when you buy from here.
Dutzi Design is another amazing shop. Founded by Ariane Dutzi in 2019, you will be in love with her handmade bags made of vintage burlap. The bags are crafted by Mayan women in Valladolid who have been practicing their skills for years. Their craftsmanship is exquisite and of the best quality. There are other lovely things for sale at Dutzi, including hats and fashion accessories.
Pura Piel Artesanias can’t be missed if you are a fan of leather goods. They have a huge array of handmade shoes, belts, bags and other fashion accessories. These 100% leather goods will last a lifetime and will always remind you of your Valladolid vacation.
The storefront of Una Casa Llamada Deseo is hard to walk by. With hats, shoes, decorations, art and many more treasures to be found, this charming little shop is often busy. You can find the most delightful items here and be surprised at the really reasonable price tag. When it comes to handmade Mexican products, this shop and many others around the neighborhood are stocked with things you will have to have.
If you prefer to hit a mall with air conditioning, head over to Plaza San Juan, Mayco or Centro. Most are open until 9 or 10 pm so you can do some late-night shopping and save the daylight hours for sightseeing. There is only so much room in your suitcase, but if you find your luggage allowance is getting near the limit, you can always post or ship your shopping home.
Book a cycling tour
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What a way to get familiar with the surrounding areas of Valladolid and get your daily exercise fix at the same time. You can rent a bike and make your own way but going with a guide is a much better experience because you learn so much about Maya culture and local history. Tours are small and catered to your fitness level. You can expect to pay around $30, which covers the bike rental, guide and lunch. Most tours go around Valladolid and the outskirts to country areas that you might not otherwise see. Racking up the kms and photos, you will have an enjoyable day with many memorable travel moments. Tips are welcome for your hard-working guide. Plan something relaxing for that evening and maybe the next day because you will be worn out by the end of your day of peddling around and sightseeing.
Tour Casa de Los Venados
Casa de Los Venados is a private home with a stunning collection of Maya artwork on show. Most days, you can stop by for a tour and learn a lot about local history. The former Franciscan Convent became a museum so the public could enjoy the artwork, impressive architecture and pretty gardens but the owners, an American couple, still live there. The admission fee of 100 pesos is donated to charity. There are more than 3,000 Mexican folk art pieces to be admired during tours available from 10 am to 1 pm. Most evenings, you can take in a free light and music show that tells a tale in Spanish and English. The story is projected on the walls of the building and covers the history of Valladolid. Allow at least a few hours to enjoy this special place.
Dine like a king
Authentic Yucatecan food will be a memorable part of your time in Valladolid. For breakfast, huevos motuleños are on the menu. This dish to start the day originated in the village of Motul. It is made with eggs on tortillas with black beans and cheese – a delicious combination. Expect the amazing meals to keep coming. For example, you might be offered chilaquiles, pozole, elote, mole or guacamole. If you like it spicy, you will adore the fire in Mexico food and probably be able to handle the tequila too. Go for fine dining, busy restaurants the locals are hanging out at, street food and market food. Hit the local supermarket and buy your own fresh ingredients and prepare some food yourself if you have a kitchen with your accommodation. Almost everyone has tried Mexican food before, but in Valladolid, it tastes so much better. Indulge in your favorite meals and be adventurous and try new ones too.
Sway to the Jarana
Jarana is a traditional Yucatan dance performed by Mayan dancers wearing colorful outfits. You can often see traditional dancers performing the Jarana in Valladolid’s main square in the early evening and at special events hosted in the city and all around Mexico. Music will include playing of the instrument, the jarana jarocha. Shaped like a guitar, it usually has eight strings and is quite complicated to master. It is accompanied by a host of other players to support the dancers. Men wear all white with hats and women wear white outfits embroidered with bright designs to perform the festive and upbeat dance. If you want to join in, you will surely be welcomed with big smiles and maybe an impromptu dance lesson.
Chill out at the Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosado
It’s where the locals gather to chat with friends and watch the world go by. It’s where tourists stop when they feel the relaxed vibe of the park in the heart of Valladolid. If you are lucky, you might get a seat near the fountain to watch the street performer’s traditional dances.
Admire The Convent of San Bernardino of Siena
Near the town center, you can find the beautiful convent of San Bernardino of Siena. Dating back to the 16th century, this fortress and place of worship are well worth a visit. Pay your 30 pesos and roam the convent filled with ancient artifacts and antiques. You might be surprised to discover a cenote inside which provided water for the convent members long ago. You can’t swim in this cenote, but it makes for interesting photos and you can imagine it being used all those years ago.
Drink Margaritas In Mexico
Mexican wine, margaritas and tequila shots are some of the iconic beverages you should sample in Mexico. Valladolid has endless options for watering holes that are modern, quirky, fun and colorful. There are too many to name but look out for the following mentionable places when you get thirsty from sightseeing in Valladolid.
For drinks with a view head to Mirador Don Alfonso. You can sit on the terrace overlooking the main square with the Spanish-colonial San Servacio church in the background. Sip your Corona, margarita, or mezcal as you watch the world go by. You can also order tasty bar snacks like nachos with guacamole and tacos and listen to live music if you are there on the weekend. The staff at Mirador Don Alfonso are friendly and jolly and always have time to recommend a drink from the menu or simply chat about how your day is going.
A few hours at El Meson de Marques will feel like minutes, as the pleasant surroundings of this Spanish-era hotel help you get into a state of relaxation. In the middle of the downtown area, you can find this cool place that serves up cool cocktails and beer with delicious snacks and meals if you are hungry. A pretty garden area with fountains adds to the atmosphere that is nice for a quiet drink or festive get-together with friends.
Once more fun hangout is Xoco Loco, a jungle-like oasis where the drinks never stop flowing. Inside the Casa Hamaca guesthouse, this bar with cafe vibes is often frequented by locals and tourists who all appreciate the laid-back atmosphere and affordable drinks. Go for afternoon drinkies or party it up in the evening. There are often themed party nights and salsa dancing that is a fun way to hit the dance floor Mexican-style. Get your groove on and enjoy the Margarita cocktails at this cool spot in town.
Relax at Mulik Spa
When you need to ease your tired muscles from long days of sightseeing or the weather isn’t good, some blissful hours in the spa can be amazing. Mulik Spa is an absolutely gorgeous place that makes you start falling into a state of relaxation the moment you arrive. A big outdoor swimming pool is surrounded by lush trees and plants in a natural setting that is perfect for unwinding. The treatment rooms are luxurious and modern, with couple of rooms so you can get a massage together.
Located in the heart of Valladolid, this pretty spa has staff on hand to customize your spa visit. A consultation will help them recommend your treatment which might include massage, time in the steam room, a body wrap or aromatherapy. The deep tissue massage is a popular choice with regulars who all have their favorite masseuses.
After your spa treatment, you can relax in the garden area with hot tea or a refreshing cool drink and slowly ease your mind back to the reality of life. Make a reservation for your spa indulgence because Mulik is busy due to its great reputation and intimate setting.
See the Wild Things At Zoologico Valladolid
Visit the zoo in Valladolid and see the kinds of animals that live in Mexico. This charming zoo probably isn’t as elaborate as some city zoos you’ve seen on your travels, but it is a pretty place to walk around and see the animals.
The zoo was developed by German-born entrepreneur Paul Gotthold Beutelspache. Beutelspache turned his 36-acre ranch Blanca Flor into a zoo to be home to native animals. With exotic plants and man-made lakes, the project has been a success. Visitors are interested in the crocodile breeding program, iguanas, tepezcuintles, turkeys, goats, rabbits, monkeys, donkeys, wild boars and birds living at the zoo. You can also see a herd of white-tail deer walking around the grounds with pheasants. The zoo’s population and variety of animals are expected to grow in the coming years. You can book a tour with a guide to learn all about the animals, which is a great idea if you have children. They can learn about wildlife, conservation and some animal species they might not have seen before, making the zoo visit educational and fun. If you want to go further and stay at the zoo, they offer villa accommodation with a swimming pool. Rooms are clean and comfortable and might come with a free wake-up call of a screeching monkey or laughing hyena.
Cool off at Acuatico Valladolid
A waterpark is a great way to beat the heat while vacationing in Valladolid. Acuatico Valladolid is just a place with water slides, swimming pools and shady areas to relax. The entrance fee is cheap, which is great but also means it can get busy, especially on weekends. Swim laps in the Olympic-sized pool, read a book, enjoy some fresh fruit and laze the day away. If you have kids, they will be happy playing in the water and making friends with the local kids. Make sure you wear hats and plenty of sun protection because the Mexican sun can be a scorcher. There are a few other smaller water parks in Valladolid.
Dine at Hacienda Cenote Oxmán
This amazing Adobe-style restaurant and gardens are set near a cenote draped with vines and blessed by Mother Nature. All the favorites are on the menu, including nachos with guacamole and drinks that go well with the tropical surroundings. There is also a swimming pool to cool off. But the cenote is the main feature and this beauty is worth the effort. To enter the cenote, you have to go down steep steps into the hole covered in vegetation and tree roots. You can hear birds singing as you descend into the blue cenote, making you feel truly emerged in nature. Once inside, there are wooden platforms around the outside so you can walk around the snap photos. You can continue down more stairs to reach the platform over the water that has fish swimming around. Visitors are allowed to swim in the cenote, which is the perfect reward for getting down there. Enjoy the cool water, be in the moment that only nature could create, then carefully make your way back up to the top. It will then be time for more drinks and conversations about the next cenote on the list as you compare photos with your travel companions. It’s a magical place and easy to hang out there all day long. Hacienda Cenote Oxman opens at 8 am and closes at 6 pm. There are various packages from basic entry to full day passes that include food, drink, pool access and wifi.
Visit the Church of Santa Ana
It’s the little church near Calle 41, near the Valladolid Museum and is well worth a stop. Built in the 16th century so Mayans could practice their Roman Catholic religious rites, legend has it worshipers really followed their own beliefs in private. The ancient church has a bright exterior that looks a little run down, which adds to its charm. It’s a photogenic place of worship that is significant to Valladolid’s historical past.
After you explore the church, you should wander to the peaceful square across the road. It is dedicated to martyr Manuel Antonio Ay, who was hanged in 1847 after being found guilty of a conspiracy involving the Caste War. There is a monument and annual remembrance ceremony to remember those who defended Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. That Mexican versus American fight resulted in an American win.
See Sao Roque Museum
If you are looking for free things to see and do in Valladolid, don’t miss the beautiful Sao Roque Museum. It is full of shaman altars, gorgeous murals, sacred art and other interesting artifacts. The building has gone through many reinventions, starting as a chapel, then turning into a hospital, then a convent and finally, to the museum it is today. Since 1985 it has been a museum for visitors to learn about the history of Yucatan. You can go from 9 am to 9 pm any day of the week.
Take a day trip to Chichen Itza
Although it’s not in Valladolid, going to Chichen Itza while there makes perfect sense. It is only 40 minutes away and you can get there before tourists come from other parts of Mexico and beat the crowds and the heat. The Mayan ruins are one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and to see them is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The UNESCO-listed Maya ruins are impressive and there are many more wow-worthy ruins in the Yucatan area.
Once Chichen Itza was the most populated city on the Yucatan Peninsula. Historians, history lovers and archaeologists from around the world flock to the site to experience its wonder that was named after a nearby cenote. The main pyramid is an iconic sight and nests multiple smaller pyramids within it. Legend says The Serpent God, Kukulkan descends on the pyramid several times a year.
We hope you have a fabulous holiday in Valladolid. This beautiful Mexican destination has eye-catching architecture, authentic Mexican food, cultural attractions and many cool activities to experience. You won’t run out of things to see and do, so plan your days carefully, so you don’t miss anything.
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