Local Cancun: An Insider’s Secret Tips

By: Catherine Gordon

September 27, 2013

From dining at a family restaurant in Isla Mujeres to exploring a private art collection in Valladolid, there’s a whole lot on offer in Cancun for the curious traveller. Take a look at some of our favourite local Cancun experiences hidden behind closed doors”¦


Yoga Dicha: Align & Flow, Tulum

Pure Bliss Yoga | Cancun
Yoga classes on the beach in Tulum © Richelle Morgan

With its long beaches and laid-back vibe, Tulum is the perfect place to unwind. Give your body an indulgent treat with a private yoga class on the beach. Richelle Morgan, owner of Yoga Dicha Studio in Tulum, offers individual 60 to 90-minute classes for US$85/£60. ‘Tulum provides an incredible backdrop to your yoga practice,’ says Richelle. ‘I encourage my yogis to unplug, unwind and explore.’

Casa de los Venados, Valladolid

Casa de los Venados | Cancun
A glimpse inside Casa de los Venados, with Mexican textiles, paintings and sculptures © Casa de los Venados

Near the main zócalo in the colonial city of Valladolid you’ll find the hacienda-style home of John and Dorianne Venator. Among the biggest Mexican folk art collection in the world are clay figures from Oaxaca and papier-mâché sculptures from Mexico City. Casa de los Venados opens its doors for a daily 10am tour, in exchange for a small donation which goes to local charities.

Co.Cos, Playa Del Carmen

Coty Villareal | Cancun
Chef Coty Villarreal from Co.Cos, Playa Del Carmen, preparing a meal for her private chef service © Coty Villarreal 

Renting a holiday home in chic Playa Del Carmen? There’s a private chef service you should know about. Coty Villarreal of Co.Cos will come to your house and cook Mexican, Mediterranean and South-East Asian dishes. “˜The food tastes better when you know who you are cooking for,’ says Coty. It costs US$110/£80 for two people (not including ingredients). Coty’s favourite dish to cook is fish and shrimps in achiote with rice and xnipec sauce.


Nizuc Resort & Spa

Nizuc Resort & Spa
The private pool in a suite at the Nizuc Resort & Spa © Nizuc

Big hotels in Cancun are not usually where you find seclusion. But with its suites with private pools, the new Nizuc Resort and Spa will satisfy those looking for a more refined experience. The décor is easy on the eye, with natural woods and muted tones. Request a butler to unpack your bags or opt for a private dinner on the beach. Rooms start from US$375/£270 per night.

Limón, Isla Mujeres

Limon | Cancun
The garden at Limón restaurant, Isla Mujeres © Limón


Get off the beaten track and hunt down this restaurant in Isla Mujeres, a small island 20 minutes by ferry from Cancun. Housed in a family home, Limón has a garden popular with diners looking for tranquility. The menu is a fusion of Mexican and international cuisine and the speciality is lobster cooked in butter with cheese, cream and nutmeg. ‘People tell us that eating here is like dining at a friend’s house,’ says Sergio. Tel: (+52 1) 998 130 1924


MUSA Underwater Museum, off of Isla Mujeres

MUSA Underwater Museum
Sculptures at the MUSA Underwater Museum © Andy Blackledge / Flickr

Eight metres below the surface of the water in the Cancun-Isla Mujeres Marine Park sits Salon Manchones, a gallery of sculptures best accessed by scuba diving. It forms part of the MUSA, an underwater museum comprised of over 400 pieces. Take a glass bottom boat out to explore the other (shallower) gallery Salon Nicuz, or snorkel over it to observe these intriguing human figures.


El Portico de la Candelaria, Merida

El Portico de la Candelaria | Cancun
The private pool at El Portico de la Candelaria, Merida © Pim Schalkwijk

Situated in the shade of giant ceiba trees, this 18th-century three-bedroom holiday rental in the cultural city of Merida is stuffed with Mexican crafts. Owned by Urbano Rentals; a team of two designers from New York, El Pórtico is dripping with style, from the antique wood beamed ceilings to the oversized glass-tiled tub. The house will set you back from US$400/£248 a night in low season. Guests can relax in the courtyard with its fountain and orchid garden, or cool off in the private pool.

Header image © Casa de los Venados

Written by Catherine Gordon

Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Cancun from London Gatwick. Book your flight today.

Have you visited any of these local haunts near Cancun? Where are your favourite secret locations in the region?



Catherine Gordon

British freelance journalist Catherine Gordon is based in Cancun, Mexico. She writes about Cancun, the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan for newspapers, magazines and online media. She specialises in travel, culture, health, luxury, water sports and off-the-beaten-track city guides. Her website can be viewed at

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