White sand beaches, cenotes, Mayan ruins and charming towns: road trip Yucatan, Mexico with this ultimate 2 weeks in Yucatan itinerary and see all the best that Yucatan offers!
The Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the only place where you can take a trip to the beach one day and see ancient Mayan ruins the next. You can spend the whole night partying, or you can find an island to relax and get away from it all.
Lots of people spend a whole 10 days in Cancun in an all-inclusive resort, but the Yucatan Peninsula offers so much that it would be a shame not to explore more… so go and road trip Yucatan!
In fact, there’s so much to do that it can be a bit overwhelming. I’m here to help you out! This 2 weeks in Yucatan itinerary will give you a solid guide of everything you need to see on this Mexico road trip through Yucatan.
Make sure you have travel insurance before leaving for your trip to Mexico! As we all know after the last couple of years, unexpected things can happen and you want to be covered when you need it the most.
SafetyWing is the insurance I’ve been using for the last 3 years. It costs USD 42 for 4 weeks (and much less if your trip is shorter!) and provides coverage for COVID-19. For a more comprehensive, but pricier, coverage you can check out WorldNomads, which is another excellent choice.
THE IDEAL YUCATAN ITINERARY
You can either decide to rent a car or follow this Yucatan itinerary by public transportation. I have done it twice and both ways are doable, but renting a car in Cancun will save you tons of time. Driving in Yucatan is easy, the roads are fine, and it’s very cheap to rent a car.
Day 1: Cancun
Of course, it only makes sense to start your vacation with a trip to the beach. Cancun is one of the most famous tourist spots in the world, and you’ll probably arrive by plane to Cancun International Airport.
➤ To get from Cancun Airport to your hotel you have several options. The most convenient one is booking a private transfer in advance, so your driver will be waiting for you when you arrive and drive you directly to your hotel, hassle-free.
One-way transfer up to 3 passengers costs $35, so it’s actually cheaper than taking a shared shuttle if you’re 2 people or more. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ If you’re a single passenger your best bet is taking the shared shuttle, which also gets you to your hotel’s front door. The only downside is that it takes longer than a private transfer, as fellow travelers will be getting off at their accommodations along the way, but it’s a cheap and very convenient transportation option for solo or budget travelers.
One-way transfer to your hotel costs $12 per person. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ You can otherwise rent a car at the airport and drive to your hotel. While there are many car rentals at Cancun Airport, I highly recommend booking your vehicle online in advance to avoid scams and get a better deal. I personally use Rentalcars to compare prices.
Cancun features gorgeous beaches, wild nightlife, and old Mayan ruins, and since you’ll probably be tired from your flight as soon as you arrive, I recommend spending your first day relaxing at the beach (plenty of time to party and explore the rest!)
The best beaches in Cancun include Playa Tortugas, which is in the Hotel Zone area, Playa Forum, the most popular and crowded beach in the city, and Playa Caracol, ideal for families with young children.
After you’ve soaked in the sun and sea, you can go out for dinner or a drink. Some of the hottest spots in Cancun Hotel Zone are Fred’s House for fresh seafood, The White Box for Mexican high-end cuisine and Abolengo for nachos and other pub food, as well as drinks.
READ ALSO: 41 Incredible Things To Do in Cancun
Where to stay in Cancun
Day 2: Cancun or Day Trip to Isla Mujeres
On your second day you can either stay in Cancun enjoying its beaches, your hotel’s pool or exploring downtown, or you can take a day trip to famous Isla Mujeres.
Isla Mujeres is a spectacular island off the coast of Cancun and boasts white-sand paradisiac beaches, a lively downtown for shopping and plenty of golf carts you can rent to get around. You can also dive or snorkel at MUSA, the underwater museum and sculpture park, and visit the ruins of the temple of Ixchel, the Goddess of fertility during the Mayan period.
➤ The Sailing Experience to Isla Mujeres in a Catamaran is a fantastic way to get there from Cancun. You’ll enjoy an open bar, stops for snorkeling in reef spots and free time at Isla Mujeres, as well as lunch and hotel pick up and drop-off. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
When you get back to Cancun, get ready to enjoy its nightlife! You’re in Yucatan Peninsula’s party spot after all, right?
Coco Bongo is Cancun’s most popular club, and it’s incredibly fun. But don’t expect the regular nightclub: Coco Bongo offers a full show with flying acrobats and artists every night, as well as live music and spectacular presentations. If you’re an animal party – and hey, even if you’re not at all – you can’t miss it! You need to get tickets in advance, though, as they’re likely to sell out (even if it houses 1,800 people!)
➤ The Regular Entrance Ticket grants you skip-the-line access to the club and beverages, while the Gold Member Entrance Ticket gets you into the Gold Member area, as well as unlimited drinks at the bar from 10 PM to 3 AM.
Day 3 to 5: Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is a small island off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula that has yet to be spoiled by massive tourism, and definitely my favorite secret spot in the Riviera Maya.
White sand beaches, cenotes, and colorful buildings make this the perfect Caribbean escape for a few days of pure, unadulterated relaxation.
This small fishing village is separated from the mainland by a shallow lake that’s home to numerous flamingos. The island is teeming with wildlife in general, especially birds, iguanas, and dolphins. You can even go swimming with the whale sharks while you’re there (but make sure to do it with a responsible tour operator!).
Isla Holbox is also considered to be one of the best places in the world to learn how to kitesurf. This is because of its shallow waters and long beaches with relatively few obstacles. Another unique feature is the fact that it’s almost completely car-free with most residents getting around on golf carts. This adds to the island’s quiet, fishing village atmosphere that I loved, and no doubt you will too.
At Isla Holbox, besides relaxing at the beach and meeting the flamingos, there are tons of fun things to do to keep you entertained. Below are some of my favorites.
• Kayaking through the mangroves
• Hunting for the island’s street art (and taking pics!)
• Visiting the Cenote
• Chillin at the water hammocks
• Joining a tour to marvel at Isla Holbox’s gorgeous landscapes (and bioluminescence!)
➤ The Private Boat 3-Island Tour takes you on a boat trip to Passion Island, Isla Pajaros, and Yalahau Spring, where you’ll witness over 30 species of birds, including flamingos and pelicans, swim in a cenote, and explore the island’s surroundings. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ With the Bioluminescence Experience in Holbox you’ll get to see this magical event that is so frequent on the island. You’ll be taken to the best location with an expert guide, and marvel at one of nature’s most beautiful phenomenons. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Now that you know what to do on the island, how do you get there from Cancun? Isla Holbox can only be accessed by ferry, which you’ll take at Chiquila, and it’s a car-free island, so no vehicles are allowed.
▶ If you have a rental car, you can drive to Chiquila and park your car there before taking the ferry to the island.
Two nights is the minimum time you need to enjoy the island, but feel free to spend more time here if you want. I spent 3 nights on the island and I would have loved to stay even more.
Where to stay in Holbox
Budget: Mapache Hostel & Camping
Day 6: Visit the Town of Valladolid
Valladolid is a charming little town in the state of Yucatan. Along with being a good central hub for visiting other nearby attractions, it’s also a great place to chill out and wander around. It’s considered one of Mexico’s “magic towns” because of its cultural and historical relevance. In this town, you’ll find cobblestone streets, colorful colonial buildings, and authentic Mayan clothing and cuisine.
▶ If you have a car, the drive from Chiquila to Valladolid takes a little over 2 hours. Otherwise, you can take the ADO Bus to Valladolid which is direct and runs in the afternoon.
One of the best reasons to stay in Valladolid is that it’s not overly crowded with tourists. This helps it retain its quiet, small-town charm. It’s simply a great place to relax and get lost for a while before going on your next adventures.
Valladolid was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, and it boasts magnificent architecture and buildings filled with art; walking around town is already worth the visit! Valladolid is also close to many world-known attractions (that you’ll be visiting in the next few days!) so it makes for the perfect base in the area.
Besides exploring the colonial town, there are also plenty of cenotes in Valladolid that you need to jump in, such as Cenote Zaci, which is located in the middle of the town and it’s very easy to visit. Cenote Zaci is partly covered, and the rest of it is open to the sky, so you can enjoy natural light as you swim in this massive sinkhole or jump into it with a rope.
Cenote Oxman is another beautiful cenote located within a hacienda property, a short drive from Valladolid and perfect for avoiding the crowds, as not many people know about it! A great alternative is Cenote Suytun, which boasts a man-made peninsula that takes you to the middle of the cenote, where you can dip your toes in the icy-cold water before jumping in.
➤ Go Maya By Bike in Valladolid is the perfect way to explore the area, visiting a local market, stopping at cenotes for a swim, and meeting a Mayan family to learn about their customs and traditions. Lunch is included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
READ ALSO: Top 7 Things To Do in and Around Valladolid
Where to stay in Valladolid
Day 7: Las Coloradas
From Valladolid, you can visit two natural wonders that are unlike anything else in the world and that you should definitely include in your Yucatan road trip.
The first is Las Coloradas, a small community whose lakes have a unique cotton-candy pink color. It’s one of few places in the world where you can find this unusual phenomenon, and it’s something you absolutely must see for yourself – and then take a million Instagram photos like I did!
The reason for the lakes’ pink color is the high salinity level of the water, which allows certain microorganisms, responsible for coloring the water, to survive. In fact, the lakes and their surrounding area are owned by the second-largest salt company in Mexico, and are used for sea salt extraction.
While you could wander on your own and dip your feet in the water when I visited, it is now prohibited and you must visit with a guide.
Next is Rio Lagartos, a small fishing village next to a lagoon filled with flamingos, crocodiles, raccoons, pelicans, and over 400 species of birds. The Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve is totally worth the visit, and besides the large number of animals, you’ll get to see the biggest estuary in Yucatan, beaches, mangrove forests, and wetlands.
Both Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas are part of the same nature reserve and can be visited on the same day.
This area is so much easier to reach if you have a car, otherwise, I highly recommend taking a tour. Getting there by public transportation is almost impossible!
➤ Check out the Go Flamingo tour from Valladolid, which includes a visit to the Ek Balam Mayan ruins besides a boat ride down the river at Rio Lagartos, where you’ll get a chance to see crocodiles and beautiful pink flamingos, and a picture stop at Las Coloradas. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Day 8: Chichen Itza
Of course, you can’t leave Yucatan without seeing Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza was one of the Mayans’ largest cities. Today, it is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions… so make sure you get here early to avoid the tourist buses!
Despite its age, which goes back to before the 6th century AD, the ruins are still in magnificent condition and are impressive. They were, after all, the center of political and economic power of the Mayan civilization. The archaeological site occupies 3.2 square kilometers, so plan to spend a few hours exploring it!
Visiting Chichen Itza is truly like taking a step back in time and seeing how the ancient Mayans lived on a day-to-day basis. In particular, you’ll want to check out El Castillo, the massive step pyramid that overlooks the city, and the Great Ball Court, which is the best-preserved Mesoamerican ball court in the world today.
READ ALSO: A Complete Guide to Chichen Itza, Mexico
TIP TIME: Skip the line by booking your tickets in advance. You’ll avoid the crowds (and the queues that sometimes are very long) making the most of your time ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ You can otherwise join a half-day Guided Tour of Chichen Itza or a full-day trip to Chichen Itza, Cenote and Izamal to explore the site with a professional guide who will provide insights into the Mayan civilization and the history of Chichen Itza.
Close to the ruins, you’ll also find cenote Ik Kil, which is absolutely beautiful and one of the most popular cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Ik Kil is an open cenote, surrounded by high walls and vegetation that is worth the visit (and the million pictures you’ll want to take!)
Precisely for its beauty and closeness to Chichen Itza, it can be a little overcrowded at times… if you want it all for yourself, head here as soon as they open and you’ll avoid the masses.
Your next stop is Tulum, and you can easily get there by bus, which departs various times a day from 9 AM to 9 PM. One-way ticket starts at $7 at the time of writing. You can also book a private transfer to get from Valladolid to Tulum.
Day 9: Tulum
What is a Yucatan road trip without a stop in Tulum? Your first day in Tulum can be spent visiting the town, then the ruins by the coast. This former trading post was one of the last cities built by the Mayans.
It remains one of their best-preserved ruins. The ruins at Tulum distinguish themselves by being one of the few Mayan cities protected with a wall and by being the only one built by the sea. It has its own Castillo overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the views are spectacular!
The site was known as Zamá during the time of the Mayans, which means Place of the Dawning Sun, because its location faces the sunrise. This favored the flourishing of the city as a trade center, making it very prosperous for around 3 centuries until it was abandoned in the late 16th Century.
Since the ruins are right next to the beach (there’s even a hidden beach right below the ruins!) you can also have some fun in the sun on the same day. The beaches in Tulum are perfect for swimming, snorkeling and jet skiing, or just laying down on the white sand without a care in the world.
Playa Paraiso is one of the most gorgeous beaches in Tulum, and it’s right south of the ruins, so it’s the perfect first stop after your tour around the site. Las Palmas Public Beach is more secluded and less crowded, while Playa Pescadores is one of the liveliest and most visited beaches in the area.
➤ You can visit the ruins with the 3-in-1 Discovery Combo Tour to benefit from a knowledgeable guide as you wander through the pyramids and to also visit a cenote and snorkel in a coral reef in the Caribbean Sea. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
You’ll also want to check out some of the many design restaurants, cafés, and boutique shops that made Tulum the popular boho-chic paradise it has become. And if you still haven’t had enough of Mayan ruins, check out the Coba Ruins that are not far from Tulum (and a lot less crowded!).
At night, you can head to Tulum Town for dinner or choose a restaurant in the hotel zone, close to the beach. The best places to eat in town are Burrito Amor for (duh!) burritos and Sabor de Mar for incredible seafood. If you decide to stay by the beach, check out Gitano which boasts a great jungle-feel, or Posada Margherita for Italian cuisine.
Where to stay in Tulum
Day 10: Take a Day Trip to Sian Ka’an
This is something that all the nature lovers out there can look forward to. Just south of Tulum is Sian Ka’an, one of the largest nature reserves in Mexico (it’s twice the size of Rhode Island!) and one of the best day trips from Tulum.
The reserve is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, and it covers over 5,200 square kilometers of land and sea, being the home of an exceedingly diverse variety of flora and fauna. At the Biosphere Reserve you’ll get to see dolphins, crocodiles, spider monkeys, and sea turtles, in addition to over 300 species of birds and countless other wildlife.
At Sian Ka’an you can snorkel in the Caribbean Sea, take a boat trip down the Mayan canals, chill at the Secret Beach and even see some Mayan ruins! The reserve is still fairly undiscovered by tourists (ssshhh! don’t tell anyone!)
The best way to visit Sian Ka’an in my opinion is with an organized tour. You can check out these tours to Sian Kaan, or see the options below.
➤ Sian Ka’an Adventure: this tour includes a boat ride through the lagoon, snorkeling in the barrier reef system and some free time to explore Punta Allen, as well as swimming in the turquoise waters of a sandbank. Lunch and transportation are included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ Sian Ka’an and Muyil Archaeological Site Tour: this tour takes you to explore the Mayan ruins of Muyil in the middle of the Sian Kaan Jungle (which look like they came out of an old Indiana Jones movie!). You’ll also take a boat ride in the Mayan canal and enjoy a picnic lunch. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
You could possibly visit Sian Ka’an on your own, but I highly discourage you to do so. The conditions of the road are terrible, and you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle to make it (they won’t even let you in the reserve with a normal car). This is one of those locations where going on a tour will make the difference between a beautiful day in the sun and potentially a nightmare of an adventure if you get stuck.
CHECK OUT ALSO: 11 Unmissable Day Trips from Tulum
Day 11: Cenotes in Tulum
Along with its ruins, Tulum is well-known for its massive number of cenotes. But what are cenotes, exactly? They are natural sinkholes formed hundreds of years ago, when limestone caves collapsed and exposed a natural pool, which was filled with both rainwater and the water from the underground rivers, resulting in the gorgeous cenotes we know today.
There are actually over 4,000 of these giant sinkholes in the region, and there are quite a few stunning cenotes in Tulum! This is an exciting alternative to going to the beach, as the cenotes are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, and to me the best thing to do in Riviera Maya: in other words, you can’t plan a road trip to Mexico and not visit the cenotes!
These are some of the most popular ones:
• Dos Ojos: It means two eyes in Spanish. It’s named for its two sections, one that’s good for snorkeling and one for diving.
• Gran Cenote: It’s made of multiple cenote caves and its crystal-clear water makes it ideal for snorkeling. You can even swim with small turtles!
• Cenote Calavera: It looks like a skull from above (hence its name!) and has three entrances; you can jump into the cenote through the eyes, or climb down the ladder in the main hole. It’s also a great cenote for diving!
• Cenote Nicte Ha: This open cenote resembles a lake or a natural swimming pool, and it has hundreds of water lilies floating around. The perfect setting for cenote pictures!
➤ If you want to go with a tour, check out the Cenote Trail: Caves Visit and Bike Tour, which will bring you to Gran Cenote, Cenote Escondido & Cenote Cristal all in one day to quench your cenotes thirst. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ The Cenote Triple Adventure Tour includes free-diving, snorkeling and cliff-jumping at three different cenotes: Casa Cenote, Gran Cenote and Cenote Calavera. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Day 12-13: Relax at a Resort & Visit Xcaret or Xplor
I always enjoy spending the last few days of a vacation in full-relax mode. For the last leg of your Yucatan road trip, it might be nice to check in at an all-inclusive resort; Mexico boasts many, and you ought to experience being pampered by them at least once!
Here are some great options you can choose from:
Once you’ve settled down, you can take a day trip to either Xcaret or Xplor.
Xcaret is an eco-archaeological park that offers more than 50 incredibly fun attractions for adults and children of all ages. You can enjoy from paraxuting to riding a speed boat, and snorkeling, and I particularly loved swimming in the Underground Rivers, among caves, blue water, and mangroves.
Xcaret Park also features a variety of performances that honor the history of Mexico going back to Pre-Hispanic times. Not to be missed the night show: wow, what a show!
⚠️ Just please avoid any activities with the dolphins. We are all about responsible travel here at Every Steph and strongly suggest doing your own research about any activities that exploit dolphins and animals.
➤ The Xcaret Park Admission Ticket grants you access to all the park’s activities for a full day. You can otherwise get the Xcaret Plus with Buffet & Transport to have access to exclusive areas, roundtrip transportation and a buffet lunch.
Xplor is an adventure park, ideal for adrenaline-seekers. At the park you can drive amphibious vehicles down mud-roads and floods, go rafting in salactite-filled caverns and fly through the forest in the highest zipline. For those who don’t enjoy adrenaline as much, there are also hikes all over the park, and you can leisurely swim in underground rivers.
➤ The Xplor Park: All-Inclusive Entry Ticket includes 2 circuits to most the activities, a buffet lunch and unlimited drinks. The Xplor Park All-inclusive & Transport also provides roundtrip transportation.
Day 14: Enjoy Your All-Inclusive Resort
While you’re road tripping the Yucatan Peninsula, it is absolutely necessary take some time to recharge, so I suggest you take the last day to relax and enjoy your resort’s amenities: you’ve earned it!
I stayed at Grand Bahia Principe Tulum. This all-inclusive resort is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever stayed before, and I truly loved my first time at an all-inclusive.
Guests can choose between 11 restaurants of all kinds, and tons of bars (all food, snacks, and non- and alcoholic drinks are included). Some of the restaurants require a reservation, so make sure you make your choices and reserve on your first day at the resort, or before you arrive through the resort’s app.
My favorite restaurants were the Cozumel restaurant (a traditional Mexican restaurant) and the Nikkei Mashua restaurant, a Japanese and Peruvian fusion restaurant. So, so good!
I stayed in one of the resort’s Superior Rooms and was very happy with it. These provide lots of extra space along with gorgeous views of the sea and the pool. You also get a balcony, a minibar, and either two double beds or a king-sized bed.
Wi-Fi in your room is available for an extra charge. With all these amenities in mind, the Superior Room is going to feel like your home away from home.
At Grand Bahia Principe Tulum, you can do a lot or do nothing at all, as you please. If you’re the active type, participate in one of the dance and aerobics classes, or rent (for free) a paddleboard, a kayak, or snorkeling equipment. Every day there is a full program of organized activities, just check the board at your arrival.
The Grand Bahia Principe Tulum is in a very convenient location in the center of Riviera Maya, in Akumal, and halfway between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. It’s only half an hour away from Playa del Carmen and an hour from the Cancun International Airport.
Overall, the Grand Bahia Principe Tulum is an attraction in itself, and something you should certainly experience for yourself. This is a resort that truly goes above and beyond to make its guests feel welcome.
CHECK OUT RATES & AVAILABILITY: Grand Bahia Principe Tulum
Here you go! Now you have a complete Yucatan Peninsula itinerary. By following this itinerary, you can experience all the highlights of what the Yucatan has to offer in just two weeks.
If you only have one week in Mexico, I suggest combining the area of Valladolid with a stay in Tulum or Cancun/Playa del Carmen for a good mix of beach time and cultural activities. This Mexican road trip of a lifetime awaits you!
YUCATAN ROAD TRIP ITINERARY FAQ
The Yucatan Peninsula is enormous, and there are tons of places worth the visit. You should plan at the very least a week to explore the area, but I would suggest 2 weeks for the ultimate Yucatan Peninsula itinerary.
Yucatan is famous for its paradise-like beaches, jungles and rainforests, and Mayan ruins, as well as for the party atmosphere of some of its cities, like Cancun or Playa del Carmen, and the abundance of Mayan history.
Driving around Yucatan is safe, although Mexico in general is known for tourist scams related to car rentals or charging for nonexistent driving infractions, so you should drive carefully.
When arriving at Yucatan you’ll likely fly into Cancun International Airport, the biggest and most popular international airport in the peninsula.
Want More? Check Out These Other Mexico Destinations
This post contains affiliate links, which means if you book something through one of my links I might get a commission, at absolutely no extra cost to you
I received a complimentary stay at Grand Bahia Principe Tulum and a pass to Xcaret Park. All opinions are my own as always.