After spending a month in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula we have put together our recommended Yucatan roadtrip itinerary. The Yucatan Peninsula is a stunning place to visit in Mexico. We love the party-loving Tulum, Uxmal and the historical Chichen Itza and Uxmal. We have compiled a guide to the Yucatan that will help you plan your trip. It includes the top things to do, and the best places to see. Enjoy!
Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary and Route Map
The Yucatan, with its beautiful roads and high driving standards makes it the ideal place to take a road trip. There are also stunning sights in the area. We took a circular route that began and ended in Cancun, which is the main point of departure and arrival for most Yucatan travelers.
How to travel around the Yucatan
Cancun visitors can either rent a car and drive themselves or hire cabs/private drivers to get around the country. We rented a car and drove the Yucatan around Cancun.
Cancun car rental
We have rented cars in the Yucatan Peninsula, and it is one of our most enjoyable places to drive a car. The roads in Yucatan are of high quality, the driving standards are excellent and fuel costs are very low (compared to Ireland and the UK). ).
The best time to visit Yucatan Peninsula
The best time to visit Yucatan Peninsula is November through April. Prices reflect the high number of visitors to Christmas and New Year.
Due to the warm temperatures and calm waters, dry season is November-April in Yucatan.
Wet Season: Because of the high humidity and temperatures during the rainy season (May-October), it is less enjoyable to visit interior sights like Chichen Itza or Coba.
Hurricane Season: The hurricane season runs from June through November. The most dangerous months are September, October, and November
Sim Card and Internet
Mobile data is essential for research and navigation, as it is in most countries. We had many options upon our arrival at Cancun Airport. However, we were unable to get coverage until we reached Tulum. We eventually purchased a Telcel sim, which offers a wider network and good coverage for the remainder of our trip.
Daily Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary
As a guideline for planning your Mexico trip, we have outlined the suggested Yucatan road route from day to night over three weeks.
Day 1 and 2: Cancun
We were pleasantly surprised by the variety of activities and sights that Cancun has to offer outside of its resorts.
We recommend that you spend the night at Cancun Airport and then take a day trip up to Isla Mujeres. This will let you see the best of Cancun, and allow you to experience island life.
You can find more information about Isla Mujeres at the Best Things to Do on Isla Mujeres.
Cancun: Where to Stay
There are many hotels in Cancun, from all-inclusive resorts at the beach to convenient airport hotels. We were only in Cancun for a short time to explore the area, Isla Mejures and didn’t choose an all-inclusive resort. They might be an option if you are planning to stay in Cancun for more than 2 nights.
Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina – We chose to stay there and it was ideal for a few nights exploring Cancun. The hotel is in Puerto Cancun’s newer hotel zone. It has stunning views of the marina and bay. The hotel is near a great restaurant and many shops/restaurants.
Hard Rock Hotel Cancun is a top-rated all-inclusive hotel in Cancun. The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun has 5 restaurants on site, numerous amenities, and beautiful pools. This hotel is a great choice for anyone looking to relax and take in Cancun’s sights.
Marriott Cancun Resort is another excellent all-inclusive hotel option. This hotel offers a spa, an outdoor pool, and 8 on-site restaurants so you won’t want to leave.
Day 1: Explore Cancun
The majority of Yucatan Peninsula visitors arrive in Cancun. Many choose to relax and enjoy the sprawling resorts, beautiful Caribbean beaches, and vibrant party scene before embarking on a Yucatan roadtrip.
- We love to explore and these are our top picks for things to do in Cancun.
- El Meco Ruins: These ruins are just north of Cancun’s downtown and home to a 40-foot tall pyramid. El Meco is one of our favorite Mayan ruins in Cancun.
- Playa Tortugas is a popular swimming spot with calm waters
- Maya Museum and San Miguelito Ruins are archaeological sites with ruins that date back to the 13th century.
Playa Delfines: Take a dip in the Caribbean Sea, and then take a photo with the colorful Cancun sign. Swimming is not an option due to strong currents.
Day 2: Day Trip to Isla Mujeres
A 20-minute ferry ride takes you to Isla Mujeres. This island is very popular and is well worth the trip. Find out how to get there.
Things to Do on Isla Mujeres
Playa Norte is a beautiful beach with turquoise waters, white sands and a perfect place to start your day. Drive the length of the island from Playa Norte to Punta Sur, where you will find rugged coastline, small Mayan ruin and interesting sculptures.
The island’s Turtle Sanctuary is another great stop. If you love snorkelling, the Underwater Museum for Art in Isla mujeres is a must-see. You can find a detailed guide to Isla Mujere here.
Days 3 through 5: Tulum
Tulum is known for its beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins, and hip vibe. Tulum was once a quiet beach town. We loved our few days spent exploring the area during our Yucatan tour.
Tulum: Where to Stay
There are a variety of accommodation options in Tulum. These include exclusive resorts that have private beach access and lodgings close to public beaches. These three options are excellent. The most expensive hotels are located in the hotel-zone, while the more affordable ones can be found in Tulum town.
Casa Santiago – A small boutique hotel that is located near the main street in Tulum. The modern and clean rooms were great and the prices are very reasonable.
El Pez a Colibri Boutique hotel – Located right next to Sunrise Beach. El Pez a Colibri Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in the area. It’s a stunning location and one of the best on the beach.
Hotel Poc Na Tulum is a wonderful option for anyone looking for a beautiful beachfront hotel that is away from the bustling hotel-zone. The Hotel Poc Na Tulum can be found on the beach or inside the Tulum Archeological Site.
How to Get to Tulum
You have a variety of options when traveling between Cancun & Tulum. There is a rental car, public bus, and private/shared transfer. For more information, see our guide on travelling from Cancun To Tulum.
Things to Do in Tulum
The 13th Century Tulum Ruins, with their stunning cliffside setting, are one of the most remarkable Mayan sites on the Yucatan Peninsula. You can take a dip in the clear waters of the beach after you have inspected the ruins.
You can spend some time at both the south and north ends of the beach road. Playa Paraiso, or Paradise Beach is the best public beach in Tulum. It’s a great spot for a relaxing morning or afternoon.
You can find luxurious resorts along the south coast of Tulum, which you can access through their restaurants or beach clubs. This is the best place to party if you are coming to Tulum for fun! You will also find shabby chic boutiques along the road, as well as shack-style food options. You will find Matcha Mama, Ahau Tulum, and a “Follow the dream” road sign. This is where you’ll find many of the most popular Instagram spots in Tulum.
Another essential thing about Tulum is a swim in a cenote.
We love the Cenote Zacil-Ha, its neighbor Cenote Carwash, and the Cenote Dos Ojos double sinkhole. These are great places for snorkelling and diving. It is a wonderful place to explore the cave system of the popular Gran Cenote. The shallow waters of Cenote Azul are a short drive away towards Playa Del Carmen make it an ideal choice for families.
Check out our guide to the top cenotes in Tulum. Click here to read!
The incredible natural attractions of Sian Ka’an Biosphere or Kaan Luum Lake are Tulum jewels if time allows.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of our favorite things to do in Tulum. Si’an Khan is home to quiet beaches, beautiful coral reefs, and even crocodiles that sunbathe on the banks of mangrove canals.
The Lagoon, surrounded by lush green jungle, is a relaxing swimming spot for locals and the ideal place to escape from the Tulum crowds.
Day trips to Tulum
Tulum is an excellent Yucatan base. Many of the places we visited from Valladolid can also be reached from Tulum.
The famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, Coba, and Coba.
Valladolid, and the beautiful cenotes nearby Valladolid. They include Cenote Suytun (the Instagram-famous Cenote Samula), Cenote Xkeken, Cenote Oxman and Cenote Xkeken, all set in a traditional hacienda.
Rio Lagartos’ flamingos and Los Colorados’ pink lakes are two examples.
You can also take a day trip to:
Akumal is a beach resort with white sands, resident turtles, and beautiful beaches
From Playa Del Carmen, you can take a ferry to Cozumel for amazing snorkelling and scuba-diving.
Island Life: Isla Mujeres or Isla Holbox, Cozumel
Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox offer island life experiences. It’s up to you to decide what your itinerary includes. We chose to spend a few days in Holbox (see our last days for more details) and then visit Cozumel as day trips.
Although Holbox is more difficult to reach, the turquoise waters and relaxed island vibes make it worth the effort. The island retains its undiscovered charm which is difficult to find on the busy Yucatan Peninsula. It was a highlight of our Yucatan roadtrip. We loved Holbox.
Days 6-9: Merida
Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan state, is a great place to stay for a few days and explore the surrounding area.
Merida: Where to Stay
El Palacito Secreto – This is where we chose to spend our time in Merida. This boutique family-owned hotel is located in the heart of Merida. Each room is beautifully decorated and there’s a small pool that can be used to cool off after exploring the surrounding area. It’s easy to see why El Palacito Secreto has been so well-respected. We cannot recommend it enough.
Casa Lucia Hotel Boutique is another boutique hotel that’s centrally located for Merida. Casa Lucia Hotel has a small swimming pool and a tranquil courtyard for relaxation.
Boutique by The Museo – For those who want to spend a lot, Boutique by The Museo is the place for you. It offers 15 beautiful 1,2, and 3 bedroom suites, and is centrally located.
Things to Do in Merida
Merida is an exciting city filled with amazing architecture, great food, museums, and rich culture. Its central location near the Yucatan Peninsula’s north west tip makes it an ideal base for exploring some of the most beautiful attractions in the Yucatan.
The city’s historical centre is Merida’s Grand Plaza. Take a photo with the colorful Merida sign and stop by Merida Cathedral to learn more about Mayan civilisation. You can also walk along the Paseo de Montejo and see the impressive Monumento a la Patria with more than 300 hand-carved figures that showcase the Mexican history.
Day trips from Merida
Merida is located on the Yucatan Peninsula’s northwest side. This makes it a great place to start exploring the most stunning sights in the region. These are the top day trips from Merida:
Uxmal: The ancient Mayan city Uxmal was founded more than 1,000 years ago. It was home to 25,000 people. The majestic Pyramid of the Magician, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a highlight. So is the climb up to the Great Pyramid. Drive time approximately 1 hour south from Merida
Cenote Xlacah, Dzibilchaltun ruins and Progreso Beach are three small and distinctive ruins that are older and more unique than Chichen Itza. You can add some beach time by driving north to Progreso Beach. It is the nearest to Merida. Drive time from Merida to Dzibilchaltun ruins, Cenote Xlacah and Merida is 45 minutes. Progreso Beach takes 15 minutes.
Celestun is a small fishing village that houses the Reserva de la Biosfera Ra Celestun, where the flamingos make the main attraction. Drive time: 90 minutes west from Merida
Campeche: A long, but rewarding, day trip from Merida takes you to Campeche, Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage site. You will also visit Edzna (an ancient Mayan ruin located north of Campeche). Drive time: 2 hours 30 mins south-west of Merida
Izamal: Also known as the Yellow City. The Convento de San Antonio de Padua is the most impressive building. For great views of the city, climb the Kinich Kak Moo Pyramid. It takes approximately 1 hour to drive east from Merida. It’s an easy stop for those who want to visit either Chichen Itza, Valladolid or Merida. While driving from Merida, to Chichen Itza, we stopped at Izamal.
Day 10 and 11: Chichen Itza
The Yucatan’s most iconic sight, the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, were designated one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Things to Do at Cenote Ik Kil and Chichen Itza
- One of the highlights on the Yucatan itinerary is the Chichen Itza.
Both the El Castillo Pyramid, and the Temple of Warriors, are instantly recognisable. The Great Ballcourt is equally impressive. This huge court is decorated with carvings that depict a beheading and the rules of the Mayan basketball game.
Cenote Ik Kil, an open cenote, is a swimming area that is accessible from the sky. It is the most famous and beautiful cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is breathtaking to swim in the clear waters, with the hanging vines descending into the water.
Days 12 to 15: Valladolid
Valladolid, charming and vibrant, is another great place to explore the Yucatan Peninsula.
Valladolid: Where to Stay
Hotel Posada San Juan – We stayed at Hotel Posada San Juan which is a charming boutique hotel. The rooms are beautiful and there is a small pool in the common area. It was like having a home away form home. It’s easy to see why this hotel is one of the most highly rated in Valladolid.
Casa Marlene: Another great option, and conveniently located in the middle of Valladolid. This historic hotel offers modern rooms and delicious breakfast.
El Meson del Marques is a casa that was built in one the oldest buildings of Valladolid. It is centrally located to explore the town. Modern rooms are available, as well as a beautiful swimming pool and highly-rated restaurant.
Valladolid: Things to Do
- Valladolid is often overlooked because it is small and quiet. However, we enjoyed our time there and found lots to do.
- You can wander through the cobblestone streets of Valladolid, Calzada de los Frailes being our favorite.
- Constructed in 16th century, the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena was a beautiful fortress that houses a church. It is also worth visiting.
- Mercado Municipal, Convent de San Bernardino de Siena, Catedral de San Servacio
- Cenote Zaci is a semi-open cenote that offers refreshing waters. It is one of Valldolid’s most loved attractions.
Day trips to Valladolid
Valladolid is centrally located in the Yucatan Peninsula. This makes it a great place to explore some of the most stunning sights of the region. These are the top day trips that you can take from Valladolid:
There are many cenotes close to Valladolid that you can swim in. Valladolid should visit cenotes. There are many to choose from, including the Instagram-famous Cenote Suytun and the gorgeous Cenote Oxman, which is located in a traditional hacienda. Also, there’s the Cenote Hubiku complex, where you can find cave cenotes like Cenote Samula or Cenote Xkeken.
Cenote Xcanche and Ek Balam: One of the most fascinating and least visited ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula, Ek Balam was once home to almost 20,000 people. The Acropolis, which is 6 levels high, is the main attraction.
Cenote Xcanche is the Ek Balam Cenote. It’s a beautiful open cenote that offers swimming, zip-lining, swing jumps, and waterfalls. You will need a separate ticket to access it. It is located in Ek Balam Archaeological Zone.
Rio Lagartos, a northern town in Rio Lagartos, is known for its large flamingo population. The river, which is mangrove-lined, can be found in the Reserva De la Biosfera Ra Lagartos and is a great spot for bird watchers.
Los Coloradas Pink Lakes: Usually combined with a trip to Rio Lagartos. This quiet fishing village in Yucatan is also known for its beautiful pink lakes. The salt mine adjacent to the lakes controls the lake’s condition. This salt concentration gives the water its pink color.
Many people ask us if the lakes have pink photos or if they are filtered. We can confirm that the lakes were bright pink on the day we visited them. The colour did change a lot when there was a cloud in the sky, so it is possible that this happens only on sunny days.
Coba Ruins & Cenotes: Coba is considered one of the most important Mayan structures on the Yucatan Peninsula. Although only three settlements are currently open, it is thought to contain over 5,000 structures. You can still climb Nohoch Mul, Coba’s 137-foot tall pyramid. Most visitors want to complete the 120-step climb. Amazing views of the lagoon and jungle surrounding it are the reward. Three cenotes are located near the entrance to Coba Ruins: Cenote Choo-Ha (Tamcach-Ha), Multum-Ha (Multum-Ha) are small underground cenotes that are ideal for refreshing swims after exploring the amazing jungle ruins.
Day 16-19: Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is paradise with its turquoise waters, white-sand beaches and island vibes. It takes some effort to get there, but the reward is well worth it!
Isla Holbox: Where to Stay
Isla Holbox is one the most peaceful and beautiful places we have ever been to. It is difficult to choose where to stay. Isla Holbox offers many wonderful hotel options, from beautiful boutique hotels on the oceanfront to beachfront resorts.
Villa Flamingos was our choice of accommodation during our stay on Island Holbox. We had an incredible time. Villa Flamingos, a gorgeous beachfront hotel at the Holbox shoreline, is where you will find it. It was far from the hustle and bustle of Holbox and has its own beach and swimming pool. We were delighted to have chosen to spend our time in Holbox, Villa Flamingos because of the heated pool that overlooked the ocean. One of the highlights was having direct access to the ocean.
Las Nubes De Holbox is located right next to Villa Flamingos. This hotel is a great choice for those looking for an alternative to the busy Holbox hotels. It has 28 rooms and one of the most popular restaurants on Isla.
The adults-only Para Ti Hotel is a budget option in Holbox. It offers two swimming pools and is the perfect mid-range option. The rooms are spacious and clean, and they are located just two blocks from the beach.
How to get to Isla Holbox
Holbox can be reached by ferry from Chiquila (a small fishing village on the Yucatan Peninsula’s northern coast). The journey to Chiquila takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on your departure point.
Regular coach-style buses depart also from Cancun and Tulum, Playa Del Carmen. Valladolid, Merida, and Valladolid.
Things to Do on Isla Holbox
Although Isla Holbox lies only a short distance from Mexico’s mainland, the island feels like an entire world away from you the moment that you step on it. There are few cars on the island, so scooters, bikes, and golf carts zip around.
There are many things to do on Isla Holbox. Morning island walks, relaxing on the beach, enjoying the island’s delicious food, and sipping a refreshing beer or cocktail while watching the sunset are some of our favorite activities. It’s easy to be on Isla Holbox, enjoy island life, and have the most wonderful days.
There are many other fun activities you can do on Isla Holbox:
- Take a look at the colorful Isla Holbox murals
- Holbox has no cars so renting a golf cart is the best way to move around the island.
- The three Island Tour includes swimming in a cenote and spotting flamingos.
- Take the sandbank from Punta Mosquito to reach it.
- Enjoy the sunset from the pier
- Kayak through mangroves
Holbox is also home to whale sharks, which are a major reason why people come here. The season runs from June through September.
Bioluminescence beaches are where phytoplankton microalgae emit blue light. This happens during whale shark season. It is a popular Isla Holbox excursion
Day 20 and 21: Depart from Cancun
- Many travellers return to Cancun after departing from Cancun International.
- Extending our Yucatan Peninsula Itinerary
- We recommend adding Bacalar or Campeche stops to your Tulum trip if you have more time.
- Itinerary for Yucatan: Four-week itinerary: Cancun, Tulum – Bacalar – Campeche – Merida Chichen Itza Valladolid Valla Holbox – Cancun
Near the Belize border is Bacalar, which is known for its amazing lake, Laguna de Bacalar. It is often called the Lake of the Seven Colours because of its stunning turquoise and blue waters.
Things to Do in Bacalar
- It is no surprise that the Laguna de Bacalar lake is the most popular place to visit in Bacalar.
- Get out on the water: Swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding are all popular water activities.
- Scuba diving in Cenote Azul’s deep waters
- You can take a boat ride, or even a kayak to the Pirates Channel to see the famous Bacalar Shipwreck
- Fort San Felipe is a massive 18th-century stone fortress located next to the lagoon.
- Explore the Mayan City Kohunlich in the middle the jungle, just one hour from Bacalar.
Visitors to the Yucatan Peninsula often overlook Campeche, Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage site. It was established in 16 century as a port for the Caribbean. Today, Campeche’s historic centre is still surrounded by the city walls.
Things to Do in Campeche
- You can wander through the beautifully preserved historic centre, with its cobblestone streets lined with pastel-coloured buildings and charming cobblestone streets.
- Discover the city walls and forts. Fuerte San Jose and Fuerte San Miguel were both part of an ancient defense system that protected the city against pirates.
- Edzna is a Mayan ruin located north of Campeche. Incredible to see is the Piramide de Los Cinco Pisos five-storey building, which was inhabited as early as 500 BC.
- You can dine al fresco in one of the restaurants along Calle 59, a pedestrianized street.