Study Abroad Yucatán (SAY)
Our SAY Program gives you the chance to really learn Spanish or Maya by taking classes and living with a local host family in our Mexican-Maya town. By enrolling in the SAY Program, you will also be helping keep English classes affordable for students in our community.
Since we are near the tourist circuit, but not on it, you will quite literally be living the language in our lovely town, having ample opportunity to practice your Spanish or Maya with friendly, encouraging locals. We welcome students from all walks of life: families, students, groups and professionals.
The Na’atik difference is that when you study with us, you support our community initiatives. We reinvest 10% of the revenue from our study abroad program into furthering our local impact by subsidizing the cost of English classes for the local community.
Achieve your language goals and enjoy a unique cultural experience with our SAY Program.
- We guarantee individualized attention, with no more than five students to a class.
- Learn with a local. All of our Spanish and Maya teachers are native speakers local to this area of Mexico.
- We match our Spanish and Maya students with others at their level and have private lessons available for an additional fee.
- The standard schedule is 18 hours of class per week.
- Class is frequently held in thatched-roof palapas in Na’atik’s beautiful back garden.
Homestays are our primary accommodation option.
- Our host families are warm, local people who open their homes to cultural exchange and frequently say they learn as much from our students as our students do from them.
- Homestays range from modern residences to traditional, thatched-roof houses. We try to place students in homes where they will feel most comfortable. All of our homestays have indoor plumbing and potable water.
- Most of our host families have traditional Maya hammocks for sleeping, but some do have beds, so just let us know which you would prefer.
- Host families provide three meals a day for students. Meals are very social here and are a great opportunity for practicing your new Spanish or Maya language skills.
Homestays for two people sharing: We regularly welcome pairs and couples traveling together and many of our homestays have shared rooms available. Pricing information is available below.
More than two people in a shared homestay: If you are planning a school or family trip with a small group, we can organize a shared homestay. Please contact us for pricing information.
My family took me in and showed me their community and invited me to be a part of their life while I was in Carillo and that’s an experience I’ll forever treasure. To this day I still talk to my family often. I can’t stress enough how wonderful they are and how wonderful the home stay experience is!
Hotels and Apartments
If you would prefer to stay in a local hotel or furnished apartment (depending on availability) for more privacy, we can certainly arrange this for you. However we strongly suggest you eat meals with a local family for ‘real’ language practice. Program costs are higher for hotel and apartment stays – please ask for details.
We are able to accommodate special diets and requests for an additional cost, so please ask! We have had students come and study with dietary restrictions ranging from celiac disease, to raw vegan diets to all types of allergies. We never want these requirements to be a barrier to your experience.
If you choose to study Spanish with us, know that Felipe Carrillo Puerto is a really terrific place to learn. The local dialect is relatively slow and people will be incredibly encouraging as you practice using your language skills around town and with your host family.
I highly recommend Na’atik, no matter what level of Spanish you’re on. I have studied Spanish for many years but being totally immersed took me to an entire new level. There’s no greater way to learn something than to place yourself right in the middle of it.
Most people here do not speak English so you will have ample opportunity to practice. If you’re a beginner don’t let this scare you, you’ll catch on fast. Immersion is such a great way to learn, as you will become acquainted with the way the language is spoken in “real life”. And once you’ve started speaking Spanish, you will be able to communicate with 500 million new friends worldwide!
We guarantee individualized attention from native speaking teachers, with no more than five students to a class.
Cooking classes and shopping trips can be arranged for an additional cost as part of your language learning experience.
We want you to achieve your Spanish language goals. If you have specific needs for your study such as vocational vocabulary, preparation for an exam, topic areas you require for your job, we suggest that you book one-on-one classes.
Study Maya Language and Culture
Na’atik is one of only a handful of programs in the world that offers Maya language study. In our Mexican-Maya town, many people consider themselves Maya first and Mexican second. The type of Maya spoken here is Yucatec Maya, often just called “Maya” and is one of about 30 Mayan languages spoken mostly between Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.
There are about 1 million Maya speakers in the world and you can frequently hear Maya spoken on the street in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. In fact, it is not uncommon to strike up a conversation with a shopkeeper and find yourself getting an impromptu Maya lesson!
Our Maya teachers are not linguists, but instead, native speakers and local educators who will teach you how Maya is spoken and written today. We can arrange for you to stay with a local Maya family in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. If you choose, you may also do part of your stay in one of the more traditional Maya communities near our town where you can experience traditional Maya culture.
Please note that our Maya classes are given in Spanish and you will require a good command of the Spanish language to study Maya at Na’atik.
We want you to achieve your Maya language goals. If you have specific needs for your study such as vocational vocabulary, preparation for an exam, topic areas you require for your job, we suggest that you book one-on-one classes.
Thank you Na’atik. I fully recommend them to anyone who wants to get beyond academics and learn how to actually speak to people, how to platicar in Spanish or Maya.
When you study with us, you support our community initiatives. Program fees subsidize our local classes where 200 students are learning English. Our school prides itself on small classroom sizes, dedicated teachers and quality interactive course books. We also have 21 donor-sponsored scholarships to provide resources to students who need them the most.
|Week one||Additional weeks||Additional items|
|Homestay and small group classes||$649 per person||$599 per person|
|Two people in shared homestay and small group classes||$619 per person||$569 per person|
|Homestay and private classes||$829 per person||$779 per person|
|Additional private language class||$18 per hour|
|Extra night in homestay||$25 per person|
|Supplement for special diet||$5 a day|
*Prices are in USD and are subject to change. Please check with us for latest pricing. The price will not change once the deposit has been received.
Fall 2017 Special Offer: From September 1st to December 20th new students can take a $100 off their booking of two or more weeks, and returning students can take $50 off each week of their booking. If returning students bring a friend they will also receive two free hours of private class.
- Orientation and support throughout your time with us
- Walking tour of Carrillo Puerto
- Homestay & 3 meals a day
- 18 hours of Spanish or Maya instruction
- Welcome dinner
- Free incredible trip to a nearby Maya lagoon
- Free bike rental & bike lock
- Use of school’s WiFi
- Na’atik t-shirt and Certificate of Completion
- Option to continue 1:1 classes with your Na’atik teacher over Skype ($15 per hour)
- +10% of every booking goes towards subsidizing English classes for the local community!
In just 3 weeks, I grew tremendously in my understanding, confidence, and comprehension. Even more than the language, though, those 3 weeks forced me outside of my comfort zone. They brought a new family into my life. They taught me about a culture I had known little about.
Please get in touch for information about bespoke group bookings. We have previously hosted high-school and college groups and are able to organize local travel and excursions in addition to language classes and accommodation.
Express your interest in joining the program or ask us a question using the form below or by emailing us at email@example.com.
What is the closest international airport?
Cancun International Airport.
I’m worried about traveling from the Cancun airport to Na’atik on my own:
The buses in the Yucatan are safe and efficient. The airport has direct, comfortable, safe first-class buses (ADO bus) to Playa del Carmen and from the same bus station in Playa del Carmen just jump on a direct bus to Carrillo Puerto (Mayab bus). The bus stop in Playa del Carmen is very modern, located on a high-end pedestrian mall. Most of our students travel to us by bus solo and report that the experience is very pleasant! We will arrange to meet you at the bus station when you arrive in our town, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, where we give you a quick orientation and take you to your host family.
If you would prefer to take a shuttle bus or rent a car, this can be easily arranged. Please review our information on getting to Felipe Carrillo Puerto.
Is your town, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, safe?
Carrillo is an extremely friendly town and our SAY students regularly comment on how safe they have felt during their stay in Carrillo and traveling around our state. Getting around town on your own is safe and easy. In the evening there are often events in our central plaza and families are out and about.
Carrillo is a very friendly and safe town with a lovely plaza in the town center. I would recommend this program to those who like to be away from the city center and like to feel a warm connection to new people and culture.
There is an extremely low crime rate in Carrillo, and as of January 2017 there are no U.S. State Department advisories in effect for our state, Quintana Roo. You can check the State Department warnings here. Overall, we just recommend that visitors use common sense.
How do I register?
All you need to do is choose what dates you would like to visit, the length of your course and which language you would like to study. Send us an email and we will arrange the rest! We require at least two-weeks notice to set up our homestay family and teacher. Simon, our Study Abroad Manager, will then guide you through the booking process and answer any questions you might have.
If I find Na’atik while traveling, is it possible to drop in and sign up?
In order to have your homestay family and teacher set up, we ask for a two-week heads-up but if you find yourself passing through, do come by the school or contact us and we would love to meet you and try to get you into some classes. Please note that if you are signing up within 21 days of your course start date you will need to pay the full course amount on arrival.
When and how do I pay?
Our preferred method is by PayPal invoice. We accept payment in US dollars, Mexican pesos, Paypal or international bank transfers. When you contact us with your chosen course we will send you the payment details.
Can I get a refund?
Your $50 deposit is non-refundable. If you have paid in full our cancellation policy is the following:
- 2 months prior to your course start date we will refund all but the non-refundable $50 deposit.
- 1 month prior to your course start date we will refund 50% of your payment (excluding the non-refundable $50 deposit).
- If you cancel within 21 days of your course start date you will not receive a refund but your payment will be respected for a rescheduled course at a later date.
- In the instance of a full or partial refund, PayPal fees will be deducted from the amount.
How much time do I need to become confident in Spanish or Maya?
Learning a new language is extremely fun but each person learns differently. Your previous language experience and personality will have a lot to do with how confident you feel and how fast you learn. Staying with a host-family and exploring the local community are excellent ways to gain confidence and practice the language you have learned in class. Ideally, we recommend at least two weeks so that you can really immerse in the local culture, and practice using your language skills.
Are the teachers qualified?
Our teachers are all experienced, qualified, local native speakers. They will adapt to your individual learning style and you are welcome to choose what areas of the language you want to focus on.
Will there be other students on my course?
We are a small independent language school and we cap class sizes at five. We have a steady amount of students throughout the year. We can’t guarantee there will be other students here at the time of your stay but private lessons can be a bonus and we and your host family will be here to keep you busy!
What can I do in my spare time in Carrillo?
- In addition to providing your classes, Na’atik will take you on a cultural tour of our town, bring you to our beautiful local laguna for kayaking and swimming, and provide you with an unforgettable taco dinner.
- Our students find they spend much of their additional free time with our lovely host families, who often play tour guide to local sites. Our town is incredibly rich in Maya culture—your stay here will largely be about getting to know a people most outsiders don’t realize are still thriving, an incredible cuisine, and a way of life that is vibrant and restful at the same time.
- As you explore the town by bike or by foot, you will not be short of smiling faces, neighbors wanting to chat and sometimes give you a language lesson in Maya, children shouting ‘hellos’ and locals inviting you to join their family for an incredible dinner. Although it’s a quiet place, there is a café, a bar and a disco where local university students like to hang out on the weekends.
- If you’ve got wanderlust, we can easily advise you on how to grab a bus or combi (collective van) to one of the nearby destinations for a few hours or days of lazing on the Caribbean sands or climbing the ancient Maya pyramids. Nearby destinations include Tulum, Bacalar, Valladolid, and Cobá.
The little town of Carrillo, with its rich culture and welcoming people, was such a delight. It makes for a great base to further explore the area, Tulum is an easy combi ride away and there are plenty of other ruins and cenotes around to explore in your free time.
How can I get around town?
Traveling around Carrillo is extremely easy by bike (available from Na’atik) and taxis only cost about $1.50US. Most places are walkable, though you may find you’ll prefer a bike or taxi in our tropical heat!
I am on a budget so how can I make my trip as cheap as possible?
Everything is crazy cheap. You can go to the Mercado and get unbelievably terrific tacos, with inputs like carne asada or cochinita pibil, for a dollar or two. You would be hard-pressed to spend $5 per person eating unbelievable Yucatecan food in town.
During your stay in Carrillo, we recommend staying in a homestay. Not only is this the best way to be immersed in the language it’s also the cheapest housing option and includes 3 meals a day. Traveling around Carrillo is extremely easy by bike and taxis only cost about $1US. Food and snacks are also extremely cheap.
Is there a bank in Carrillo?
Yes there are banks, ATMs and stores which offer conversion from USD to MEX.
Is there internet in Carrillo?
Yes there is WiFi at the school and there are a number of internet cafes around town.
What is the food like in Carrillo?
Whether you choose to buy exotic fruit and vegetables from the market, delicious tacos from the food stands, fresh bread from the bakery or fresh fish in the local restaurants you won’t be disappointed. There are also two large supermarkets in town with everything you need.
How much can I use Spanish or Maya in Carrillo?
Immersion is such a great way to learn, as you will become acquainted with the way the language is spoken in “real life” and because Carrillo is off the tourist path, you will very rarely hear any English, making this a wonderful place for a true immersion experience! The locals love speaking in both Maya and Spanish and are extremely proud to tell you about their heritage. At Na’atik we also offer affordable English classes to the local community so you will have the opportunity to meet some of our students and help each other practice your new languages!
Should I get insurance?
Comprehensive travel insurance is recommended to protect you while away from home. Please ensure your select a policy that covers your belongings and provides medical cover in the case of unexpected illness, injury, or medical emergency. Parents and guardians of students under age of 18 are required to sign a medical release waiver.
Traveling to and from Na’atik
Preparing for Your Trip: Important Information – Please Read!
If you are coming to study Spanish or Maya with us through our Study Abroad Yucatan (SAY) program, you will need to take a few preliminary steps to ensure that your trip goes smoothly.
- Since classes typically start on Monday, plan your trip so that you will arrive in Felipe Carrillo Puerto no later than 9 p.m. on the Sunday before. This will give you time to settle in with your host family and get a good night’s sleep. If you will not arrive in Felipe Carrillo Puerto before 9 p.m. (if your flight gets in after 4p.m. this will apply to you), we advise that you either spend the night in Playa del Carmen or book a hotel in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Please let us know in advance if you will not arrive before 9 p.m.
- Please have a way to get in touch with us on your way down so we can arrange to meet you when you arrive. You will need to call your phone company make sure your phone will work in Mexico. You can reach us through:
- WhatsApp. This is a free instant messaging App but does need Wifi or roaming data. WhatsApp is our preference. We will provide you with a WhatsApp contact number.
- SMS (text) message
Your Journey to Na’atik
Our closest international airport is Cancun International. Na’atik is about 2 ½ hours south of Cancun as the crow flies, but the length of your trip will depend on whether you come by:
- Bus (approx. 4 hours),
- AGI personal airport pickup (approx. 2 ½ hours), or
- Rental car (approx. 3 hours counting picking up the car).
Don’t forget to calculate in time to get through immigration and customs. No matter how you travel, it’s an easy, safe journey!
This is the easiest option; traveling by bus in the Yucatan is extremely efficient, safe and affordable. In our part of Mexico we have the 1st class “ADO” bus line which is air-conditioned, comfy and often has a movie on-board, and the 2nd class bus lines (the primary line is “Mayab”) which are similar but usually have more passengers, make more stops and don’t have movies.
We have two options:
- Option 1 (recommended): Directly from the Cancun airport you can buy a ticket and take the ADO to Playa del Carmen (approx. $14US and about 1 hour). Once in the Playa del Carmen bus station, buy your ticket to Felipe Carrillo Puerto (approx $10US and 2 ½ hours). We recommend that you take the first available bus which may be an ADO or Mayab. When buying your ticket, be sure you say “CARRILLO PUERTO” as this is how our town is listed in the bus line system. Make sure your ticket does NOT say ‘AEROPUERTO’.
- Option 2: Directly from the Cancun airport you can buy your ticket for the ADO bus to Cancun (approx. $5 US and about 25 minutes) then buy your ticket to Felipe Carrillo Puerto once in the Cancun bus station (“la terminal”). When buying your ticket, be sure you say “CARRILLO PUERTO” as this is how our town is listed in the bus line system. Make sure your ticket does NOT say ‘AEROPUERTO’. This trip from the Cancun bus station to our town takes about 3 ½ – 4 hours (approx $20US). The city of Cancun is NORTH of the airport, and you are heading south, and this is why we suggest heading directly to Playa del Carmen which is south.
If you arrive at midnight or later and buses have stopped running from the airport to Playa del Carmen or Cancun, you can take a van or taxi from outside the airport to the Cancun Bus Terminal. There you can buy your bus ticket to Carrillo Puerto. Taxis to the bus station are more expensive, but faster. If you choose to go by van, it will drop off passengers in their respective hotels first and the bus station is usually the last stop.
AGI Tours Private Airport Transport
You can arrange a transport service that takes you directly to Felipe Carrillo Puerto from the airport in Cancun. Estimate that the cost will be approximately $250US. You can set this up by sending an email to Javier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Representatives of the company speak English. Please mention that you’re coming to study at Na’atik with Catherine Gray. They will send you a PayPal invoice and full confirmation.
If you choose this option, your arrival time in Carrillo Puerto will affect where you should be dropped off. Please let us know your estimated arrival time and we will send you the drop-off address to give AGI.
Travel time is approx. 2 ½ hours. You should tip the driver; we recommend $5US or $100 pesos.
If you wish to have your own wheels, we suggest you rent a car at the Cancun airport and drive down. The highways are good and have improved a lot in recent years. The drive takes just under three hours. We recommend you drive during daylight hours. Be sure to be on the lookout for topes – speed bumps – identified by yellow diamond signs with two or three black bumps. There aren’t any unannounced topes on the highway, but the ones at the entrance to Tulum and just south can take you by surprise. Also be aware that the rental car costs stated online generally do not include the cost of required insurance.
Driving directions from Cancun Airport
- Head south on highway 307 to Playa del Carmen and Tulum
- To Playa is about 45 min, to Tulum is another 45 min. and to Carrillo about 1 more hour.
- About 1 hour south of Tulum, you’ll know you’re entering Carrillo when you see the Pemex gas station on your right. Highway 307 is Avenida Benito Juarez in town.
- Keep going straight. Go through 1 set of lights, straight through the traffic circle, pass another Pemex gas station on your right, through another set of lights and go about 3 more blocks.
- Turn LEFT at the DOMINO’S Pizza onto Calle 57
- Go straight at the stop sign
- Na’atik is 2.5 blocks on the right
Our address is:
Na’atik Instituto de Lenguas y Culturas
Calle 57 entre 78 y 80
Colonia Francisco May
Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo c.p. 77240
Returning to the Airport
When you return to the Cancun International Airport you again have three options:
- Bus (approx. 3.5 hours)
- Taxi (approx. 3 hours)
- Rental Car (approx. 3 hours)
This is the option we recommend as returning to the airport by bus is very easy and cost efficient. Unlike on the way down, you don’t have to change buses and there are a lot options on when to leave. For $280 pesos you can take a van, or camioneta, leaving at either 9 am, noon, or 6:30 pm. And for slightly more you can take an ADO bus at either 12:45 pm, 5:45 pm, or 8:20 pm. We’ll be happy to help you reserve the ticket and find the pick up location once you arrive.
Na’atik has a good relationship with a few local taxi drivers and we can easily schedule a ride to the airport when given a few days notice. Since this is a long journey and the driver isn’t guaranteed to find another fare coming back to Carrillo the ride will be expensive. A recent quote from one of our drivers was $1500 pesos.
Similar to getting to Na’atik you’ll take highway 307 back to Cancun, passing by Tulum and Playa del Carmen along the way. Remember to watch out for the topes!
Have more questions or are you ready to sign up? Send us an email at: email@example.com