Mexico’s peninsula is a huge coastal region, the place of the emerald waters, splashing the most perfect white coral-sand beaches. Yucatan is home to lush green jungle dotted with Mayan ruins, cool cenotes, colored colonial cities and one of the tastiest cuisines in the world. And these are only a few things to mentions. Yucatan Peninsula means, in fact, three different states: Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo, which separated the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, and one of our favorite parts of Mexico.
Below we made a 2 weeks itinerary for you and we tried to fit all the best things this part of the world has to offer.
The easiest way to make this itinerary is by rental. We rented our small car directly from rentalcars.com before our arrival and we paid about 40 euros/day, including full Mexican insurance. Another way to do it is by local bus. ADO buses are quite cheap and comfortable but can take longer and you can’t reach all the places that you may want.
Here is a quick summary of this itinerary for Mexico in two weeks:
- Cancun: 1 day
- Cancun: Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres 1 day
- Cancun: Snorkle and Dive in MUSA Museum 1 day
- Playa del Carmen: Cozumel 1 day
- Playa del Carmen: Xcaret 1 day
- Tulum: 1 day
- Tulum: Cenote Calavera and Akumal 1 day
- Bacalar: 1 day
- Merida: 1 day
- Izamal/Valladolid: 1 day
- Valladolid: Chichen Itza, Ik Kil Cenote, and Suytun Cenote 1 day
- Las Coloradas/Isla Holbox 1 day
- Isla Holbox: 1 day
- Cancun: 1 day
Fly and arrive in Cancun (CANCUN)
Most probably, your adventure will start in Cancun
Being the most important and touristic city in the entire peninsula, most airline companies have good connections at good prices.
In general, we use Momondo or Skyscanner to search for good offers. We found a very good offer with a low-cost airline, Wizz Air, from Bucharest to Madrid and then Evelop from Madrid to Cancun. Madrid is a good hub from the Caribbean.
We didn’t like Cancun. It is too busy and too touristic for our taste. That why we didn’t spent too much time here.
But you can book 1 night here at a hotel or Airbnb just to chill out after the long flight.
Cancun is divided into two areas: Ciudad Cancun and Cancun Island or Zona Hotelera. In zona Hotelera are most of the hotels.
Citizens of most EU countries may enter Mexico without a visa and stay there for 180 days. Just make sure that your passport is still valid for six months upon entry.
On the plane, you will receive two forms: an entry form and a Customs form.
Important: The entry form remains in your passport and is used as the exit form when you leave. If you lose it, you will have to pay a fee.
Airport transfer to city center:
You have a few options to reach the city center:
- Taxi We do not recommend using taxis while in Mexico because they are a quite expensive and not that good option. A simple trip from the airport to Zona Hotelera will cost you about 25-60 USD for 12 km.
At the exit of all three Cancun Airport’s terminals, there are stops of ADO buses. From the airport, the bus will take you to Cancun City at ADO bus terminal, only for 72 pesos.
And form the Cancun bus terminal you need to find a local bus marked as “Hoteles” that can take you to the Hotel Zone. These buses are a few pesos, depending on the area of your hotel, because the hotel area is like 20 km long. So it can take between 20-40 minutes to reach your hotel from downtown.
- Private transfer
This is another option. Best one in our case a big group of people.
The prices for private cars or van services are as follows:
35 USD for up to 4 people
40 USD for up to 7 people
50 USD for up to 9 people
In the big or touristic cities, there are plenty of accommodation offers with lots of choices from cheap to really expensive luxury resorts. And here we speak about Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Valladolid, and Merida.
In less touristic places, there are only a few options and not that luxury.
Bottom line: The price level in the Yucatan peninsula is higher than expected, at least if you have certain standards. The prices are between 50USD/night and 100 USD/night/ There are also slight differences between cities: While Tulum and Holbox are more expensive, Valladolid or Campeche is cheaper.
Wi-Fi and internet
While on the road it is best to have an internet connection to be able to handle each situation that might appear. So that’s why we bought a local SIM card and recharge it with 6.5 GB to be able to handle GPS or other stuff that could appear. There are many places where you won’t have phone reception or internet won’t work. So you will have to be prepared.
Telcel is one of the operators (4G).
- 1 GB: 100 Pesos (valid for 17 days)
- 3.5 GB: 300 Pesos (valid for 33 days)
- 6.5 GB: 500 Pesos (valid for 33 days)
- + one-time fee for SIM card: 150 Pesos
Day tour to Contoy Island and Isla Mujeres (CANCUN)
On this day you will discover an inhabited island (Contoy Island which is a bird watcher’s paradise), a touristic beauty (Isla Mujeres), and a snorkeling paradise.
This tour is sold by many travel agencies and cost about 100 USD (all-inclusive). We booked with contoyadventire.com and we were very happy with their service. Shortly after tour departure, we had a 45 minute stop for snorkeling, which was pretty amazing.
And then sail to Contoy Island.
Because the island has been declared a protected area since 1961, it escaped the change of mass tourism and remain a tropical oasis.
The island is protected as a nature reserve and inhabited only by few biologists who study the ecosystem of the island.
There are some strict rules to obey, like only 200 people are allowed on the island per day and you are not allowed to use any sun creme of any kind.
It is the perfect place to be, for nature lovers.
Later on, we reached Isla Mujeres, which is a tiny island located off the coast of Cancun. It has bright blue water, coral reef, sand beaches, and many tourists. But the one hours stop with the tour was the perfect amount of time to see the island and understand the vibe.
You can find more detailed information in the article: Exploring the Eco Paradise of Contoy Island
Dive and snorkel in the most unique and amazing museum, MUSA the underwater Museum (CANCUN)
MUSA is an underwater museum that has about 500 statues created from materials that encourage coral reef development.
This initiative began in 2009 with a series of statues placed in the sea in front of Isla Mujeres, now the museum has about 500 statues and three different places.
One of the places is located in shallow waters and here is the perfect place to snorkel, but in the other two places the statues are deep down and you will have to dive to see up close the beautiful art.
A tour can cost you from 40 USD -70 USD depending on the type of activity that you choose.
More things you can find on the museum website musamexico.org
Explore Cozumel one of the most beautiful places for a snorkel. (PLAYA DEL CARMEN)
Cancun to Playa del Carmen
On the fourth day of your trip, you can pick up your rental from Cancun, and drive to Playa del Carmen. The route runs through well-developed roads and the busiest one in all Yucatan peninsula. It will take you about 1h to reach.
In Playa del Carmen you should book accommodation close to the ferry station to be close to the pier.
Playa del Carmen to Cozumel
Two ferry companies service the crossing: Ultramar and Winjet. All the boats are similar and have similar prices: 200 pesos/one way.
Just show up to the pier and buy a one-way ticket
Cozumel is a typical Caribbean island with white sand beaches, lush jungle in the interior and the most amazing reef to snorkel. This island is the best island to snorkel or to dive in the Western Hemisphere having the second largest Barrier Reed, the Mesoamerican Reef.
Unfortunately, most of the coral reef in Cozumel has been infected by a disease called Stony Coral Tissue Loss starting with 2018. This disease rapidly spread killing most of the coral reef. In 2019 most of Cozumel marine Park is closed indefinite because of that. The good news is that there are still plenty of good sites to dive to see the reach of marine life.
In Cozumel, many snorkel or dive companies can arrange a tour for you. The price is about 40-50 USD plus the rental of the equipment.
For the sleeping arrangement, it is cheaper to have your accommodation in Playa del Carmen.
Have fun in one of the amazing theme parks in Riviera Maya. (PLAYA DEL CARMEN)
Riviera Maya had a lot of themed parks to choose from.
You will have the opportunity to explore the underground rivers, see the jungle animals and birds, swim in freshwater cenotes, zip-line through the jungle, drive crazy ATV in the muddy jungle all in the same place. How does it sound to you?
It is like an amusement park in a natural environment, but unlike the typical amusement parks, eco-parks host authentic Mayan ruins, wildlife, million-year-old caves and so on.
One of the best such eco-park to choose from are:
Xcaret – is more than just an ecological park. It has everything, from Mayan villages, caves, river rafting, jungle trails, snorkels, restaurant, and bars. Entrance fee: 95 USD (all-inclusive)Xplor – it a different park made by Xcaret that is focused on an adventure in the jungle. Having zip lines, swimming in underground rivers, drive a 4×4 through the jungles:
Entrance fee: 117 USD (all-inclusive)
Xenses – another park made by Xcaret that is focused on mind-blowing experiences.
Entrance fee: 63 USD
Rio Secreto – here you will have the chance to explore a cenote and a huge tunnel system of underwater.
Entrance fee: 79 USD (all-inclusive)
Xel Ha – another nature park with a lot of activities like snorkeling, river floating, cave exploring zip lines and so on.
Entrance fee: 89 USD (all-inclusive)
Tulum- The most beautiful Maya Ruins (TULUM)
Playa del Carmen to Tulum
Drive for about 60 km and about 1 hour to Tulum. The route runs through well-developed roads in all Yucatan peninsula.
Tulum is divided into three parts.
Tulum Pueblo -is the name of the town center and is located more inland, about five km from the beach. You can also find cheaper accommodations and restaurants here in Tulum Pueblo, but it’s certainly no gem.
Tulum Beach- is where the hotel zone is at – all along the coast, which has very cozy small boutique hotels. Here, you will find upscale hotels, shops, and restaurants. Tulum has become the in-destination for “high society” and you can easily tell by the price level.
Tulum Ruin – the home of the Mayan ruins.
Explore the Tulum Ruins
No Mayan site in Yucatan can match this spectacular location right on the rocky cliffs.
In our opinion, a visit to the ruins of Tulum should certainly not be missed.
The visit to the ruins takes you on a circular route and it gives you the chance to have a break and swim down to the small beach inside the site.
You should book about 2-3 hours to explore this place in peace and don’t forget to do it in the very early morning at the opening time. Do not come on Sundays. Mexicans have free entry on this day, so you can expect to see more people on Sunday than on any other day.Entrance: 8.00-16.00 every day
Entrance fee: 75 pesos cash only
Parking: 50 -150 Pesos (you have to park a little further away from the ticket office and walk the rest of the way, which takes about 5-10 minutes).
You can find more detailed information in the article: Tulum – Enjoying the coolest Mayan Ruins
Explore the Beach road of Tulum
Tulum is blessed with miles of coastline and perfect beaches.
The white sand is very soft, the sea is a brilliant azure blue and warm.
If you are staying at one of the hotels in Tulum Beach, you will most likely be spending time walking down the beach.
One of the best beaches is Playa Paraiso. You can also walk from one cafe place to another.
There are many amazing Instagrammable and lay back cafe places in Tulum. One of our favorites is Raw Love and Matcha Mama.
Although the accommodation will be more expensive, for this night we would choose to stay in Tulum. It is too beautiful to be missed.
Swim with the turtles and cool down in a cenote (Cenote Calavera) (TULUM)
Swim with the turtles in Akumal
Start your day early in the morning and drive for about 30 km and half an hour to Akumal.
Here the sea turtles are plentiful and they’re used to the presence of humans, so you will be able to swim close to them.
We advise you to buy snorkel equipment before arrival, it can cost about 10-15 USD. Similar to the rental ones.
You should come before 9.00 because the sea visibility is better in the morning and park your rental in the parking place for 50 pesos.
Then, to enter in Akumal beach, you will have to pay a 100 pesos fee.
There is a swimming zone where you can snorkel with the turtles.
It will be a very nice experience.
Swim in a cool Cenote (Cenote Calavera)
After a few hours of swimming with the turtles, it is time for a different experience. To swim in a cenote.
You will have to drive back to Tulum and then take right, the way to Coba road, and just after 1 km on the right side of the road, you will find Cenote Calavera. The entire Yucatan Peninsula has more than 6,000 different cenotes and huge underground river systems. Cenotes are formed once the ground celling collapsed exposing the water underneath.
This cenote has no dry place inside, so once inside you must swim. The depth is around 5-6 m.
The entrance is made by a long ladder.You can even dive here because the arms of this cenote stretch deep under the surrounding jungle.
Opening hours: 09.00-17.00
Entry price: 100 pesos
Drive from Tulum to Bacalar
From Tulum, you can reach Balacar after 2.5 hours by car. Best to have all the time the tank full of gas, because the gas stations outside the touristic places are rare.
Enjoy the nature in Bacalar (BACALAR)
Further south of Tulum, there is a small cozy place, located on an amazing colored lake. The different shade of blue of the lake gave it the nickname “Lagoon of Seven Colors”.
There are not many things to do around here, but because of its beauty it became one of Mexico’s “pueblo magicos”.
It is the perfect place to lay back and enjoy the beautiful nature.
We recommend you to book a night here.
Accommodation here is less expensive and more authentic.
Driving to Merida and enjoy the beautiful colonial city (MERIDA)
Driving from Bacalar to Merida
To road to Merida will be about 4 hours. The road will be in good condition. You should be prepared for a long drive.
Spend the afternoon in the amazing city of Merida.
Merida is the capital in the State of Yucatan and one of the most touristic colonial city in the entire peninsula. The colonial city is vibrant, lively and colorful with a certain charm.
The center of Merida is easily explored in half-day.
Stroll the amazing Izamal colonial town and drive to Valladolid. (VALLADOLID)
Stroll the amazing Izamal colonial city
Drive for about 1 hour to Izamal, which is a very unique small colonial city. All the buildings in the city center are painted in bright yellow.
The painting of the building was done in honor of Pope John Paul II, in the ’90s. The colors representing the official colors of the Vatican: white and yellow. Since then, the city became known as ” The Yellow City”.
The city itself doesn’t have many attractions, but it is perfect for a half-day walk.
Drive to Valladolid city
Then you can continue your driving to another colonial city- Valladolid. You will drive 1,5 hours.
Swim in Zaci Cenote
And you will reach in time for a good swim in the center of the city, at Zaci Cenote.
First, you can park your car at the Artisanal center, next to the cenote, and then be ready to cool off in the cold water. It goes deep as 100 meters.
Admission: 30 Pesos per person
Address: At the intersection of Calle 36 and Calle 37
Admission hours: 8.00-17.30
Stoll the city center of Valladolid and Calzada de los Frailes street
Valladolid is another typical colonial city. The pretty streets and the cool atmosphere is priceless.The centerpiece of Valladolid is the beautiful Main Square (“Plaza e Parque Francisco Canton”) with its Cathedral (“Catedral de San Servasio”) and Calzada de los Frailes street. You should be in Valladolid on a Sunday when in the evening, the young and old gather to dance on the main square. Dancing together to traditional Mexican music.
And at the same time, it is a great place to sample the cheap local cuisine.
Choose unique accommodation in a colonial house, you will better understand the city’s vibe. We recommend staying 2 nights here.
You can find more detailed information in the article: Valladolid – Strolling a beautiful colonial city
Visit the amazing Chichen Itza and the two coolest cenotes in Yucatan Peninsula (VALLADOLID)
Visit the amazing Chichen Itza
From Valladolid to Chechen Itza is a short drive. It is about 30 minutes drive. Once there you can park the car in the parking place and pay the parking fee of 80 pesos. You should visit the site, the first hour in the morning, in the opening hours, at 8.00, before the tour’s arrival.This way will have the chance to enjoy Chichen Itza.
You can’t come to Mexico and not to see, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, the famous Maya pyramid that dominated the center of the ancient city of Chichen Itza.
Built by the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization, El Castillo served as a temple to the God Kukulkan. The entire ancient city has the power to send you back in time.
The car parking cost 80 pesos.
Entrance fee: 481 pesos
Program hours: 8.00-17.00 every day
You can find more detailed information in the article: Chichen Itza – Exploring the most famous Mayan ruins
Visit the famous Cenote Ik Kil
Driving from Chichen Itza to Ik Kil
It is a very short drive of 8 minutes.
The sacred Ik Kil
One of the most beautiful cenotes in Mexico is the sacred Ik Kil Cenote. We were expecting to find it charming, but in reality, it is even more beautiful.
It is a very deep cylindrical sinkhole of 30 meters with vines hanging down to the surface of the water and small waterfalls added to the ambiance. The level of the water is about 50 meters below which is quite deep.
Ik Kil is one of the most beautiful cenotes and the most popular one, due to its near location to Chichen Itza.
Nevertheless, it is just something magical about this place
Opening hours: 9:00- 17.00 The last entrance is at 16.30.
Entrance fee: 100 Pesos !!! cash only
Parking is free at the cenote
Visit the another famous Cenote Suytun
Driving from Ik Kil to Suytun Cenote
It is another short drive for about 50 minutes. You will go back to Valladolid and take the ring road to this cenote.
This cenote is a cave one, with very shallow water and a spark of light coming down the middle. The government built a little platform that you can walk till the middle.It is magical around 12.00-14.00, when a ray of the sun enters the cave, creating a magical ritual.
Opening hours: 9:00- 17.00 The last entrance is at 16.30.
Entrance fee: 80 Pesos !!! cash only
Parking is free at cenote Suytun.
You can find more detailed information in the article: Seeing the most beautiful cenotes in Mexico
Drive back to Valladolid
The Amazing Pink Lake and Holbox Island (HOLBOX)
Drive from Valladolid to Rio Lagartos and Las Coloaradas
From Valladolid, there is Road 295 that can take you directly in the small village of Rio Lagartos in about 1.5 hours, and then in another 30 minutes, you can reach to Las Coloradas (aka Pink Lake).
Once you pass by the salt production, the road makes a slight turn to the left and on the right side, you’ll spot the first pink lake.
These pink lakes are a salt extract plant from the time of the Mayans.
Red plankton and shrimps color the water at this saline in all rose and pink tones you can imagine.
The place is today owned by a Mexican family which started their business in 1940 when they discovered that this area had great potential.
Once there the locals will immediately try to sell you a private tour. It will cost 50 pesos to visit the ponds. Because tourism grew fast in the last years it became harder to regulate guests, so the salt factory agrees with these guides to protect the biological body of the water.
Drive to Chiquila and then take the ferry to Isla Holbox
Because there are not so many things to do in Las Coloradas, we recommend you to leave to Holbox Island.
Drive for about 3 hours to Chiquila and then take the ferry to Holbox.
Chiquila is the final destination by car. There are several secure parking lots in Chiquila village to choose from. The price is approximately 50 pesos/12 hours and 100 pesos/day.
From there walk to the pier and take one of the ferry rides.
There are daily ferries to Holbox from 5.00 -20.40 operated by two providers: “9 Hermanos” and “Holbox express” at every 30 minutes.
Price 150 pesos /one way.
Relax on Holbox
Isla Holbox is a narrow, elongated island in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Only a very small part of the island is inhabited, mainly the west of Holbox.
In Holbox, there are no conventional roads, only the sandy roads. Most of the vehicles here are Gulf cards and bikes, making the island a very cool place to chill.
We recommend you to find accommodation here at one of the small hotels just outside de village to be able to enjoy the island better.
You can find more detailed information in the article: Holbox Island
Walk in the sea on a strip of white sand/ Enjoy the Caribbean vibe/ Find the bioluminescent on the beach (HOLBOX ISLAND)
Walk on a narrow white strip of sand to Punta Mosquito
At low tide, a long sandbank strip appears from the sea around certain hours. Then you will have the chance to walk on it for about 1 hour till Punta Mosquito. It is a very nice and relaxing walk. Only you will have to pay attention when the water level gets higher. You won’t be able to walk on the sandbank anymore, so you have to cross a small lagoon where crocodiles live.
Must check the low tide application. We used wisuki.com.
Enjoy the Caribbean vibe
Holbox is not the untouched paradise that one was, as the island’s capital is rather touristic. But still, you will have the chance to find that Caribbean layback mood.
Find the bioluminescent on the beautiful Holbox beaches
On some beaches in Holbox, there is a natural phenomenon causes some of the world’s most beautiful beaches to glow.
This show is caused by phytoplankton, which is microalgae that glow after they become agitated by the wave movements or the nearby fishes.
The best time to witness this phenomenon is from June to September.
Second night here on the island will be recommended.
Going back to Cancun (CANCUN)
Holbox island to Chiquila
Start in the early morning to take the ferry to Chiquila. You can find a ferry every 30 minutes and the price is 150 pesos.
Chiquila to Cancun
From Chiquila take the car and drive to two hours to Cancun.
This is our 14-day road trip itinerary.
We tried to cover the highlights of the Mexican Peninsula.This self-drive Yucatan travel itinerary was written from our own experiences on the Yucatan Peninsula. We tried to find the perfect mix of adventure, relax, fun, nature, and culture.
We hope that you will find it helpful.