Touring the Yucatán With a Local Guide

This winter, my family and I vacationed in the Yucatán Peninsula. And anytime I take a First World vacation to the developing world, I make a point to get out of the resort, hire a local guide, and learn about the local culture. It’s always easy to do. Sure, you’re a wealthy tourist from the USA. But you can take the initiative to learn about the culture that’s hosting your fancy hedonism on the beach.

When an American goes to a beach resort in Mexico for a week, it’s important to remember the economic reality: Your little sun break probably cost you the equivalent of what the people bringing you your margarita earn in two years. It’s the nature of our world. (When I caught a local trying to overcharge me, he joked, “We have to pay for that wall somehow.”) It’s just right to be mindful of gross disparity and to spend some time learning about the local culture. And a local guide can help you do just that.

While we were in the Yucatán Peninsula, we hired Diego Viadero for two long days of touring (Pixan Travel, $180 a day, and well worth it).

rick steves family with pixan guide
Diego met us early each morning (before the crowds hit) and organized great days filled with visits to pre-Columbian sites (the Mayan temples Chichen Itza and Coba), natural wonders (including a swim in two exotic cenote sinkholes), the delightful city of Valladolid, and a couple of tiny Mayan communities off the main road. At our request, he organized a lunch with a family in one of the villages, where we got to help make corn tortillas and enjoyed a fascinating tour of their world, with Diego’s translating help.

chichen itza
Chichen Itza
Diego Viadero
Diego Viadero of Pixan Travel
Cenote in Mexico
Swimming in a cenote sinkhole.
Lunch with family
Our local guide organized a lunch with a Mayan family.
Rick and Andy with Mayan family
Getting to know a Mayan family was a highlight of the trip.


Thanks to Trish Feaster for many of the photos in this post. For more photos from our family trip, check out The Travelphile on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.