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Are you thinking about travelling to Cancun?

We love the Yucatan peninsula for its fantastic beaches, its Mayan ruins and its vibrant towns. No matter how much time you spend in Cancun, you have a lot of options for what to do. You might even have so many options that you have a hard time deciding what to choose.

That is why we have put together this very flexible itinerary for Cancun. We are going to cover the best places in the Yucatan peninsula, so you don’t miss out on the highlights. At the same time, there will be enough time to relax on a beach and enjoy your holidays.

Keep reading to find out how to spend your days in Mexico!

AT A GLANCE

Want to save time when booking your trip? Then let us help you with these resources!

Best hotels in Cancun:

Book your flight to Cancun by comparing the best deals on Skyscanner!

Join a tour to explore Cancun and Yucatan:

Book your rental car on rentalcars.com.

Want to use public transport? Then get your bus tickets on Busbud.

Book your airport transfer ahead of time to ensure you have a good time from the first moment on.

Cancun itinerary

No matter if you are on a 5-day trip to Cancun or you have one week in Mexico, this Yucatan itinerary will help you find out what to do.

We are going to start by including the highlights of the region in a 3-day itinerary for Cancun. Then, we add on one day at a time, so this itinerary works even for longer holidays.

Make sure to skip to the end afterwards to find out how to get around and where to stay in Cancun!

3 days in Cancun

Day 1 – Relaxing at the beach

The sea at Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Welcome to Mexico!

You have probably heard of Cancun’s fantastic beaches, so we suggest that you start your Yucatan vacation by relaxing on one.

Depending on where you come from, you might have had a long flight to arrive here. You might even be suffering from jetlag, so it’s a good idea to take it easy on your first day.

If you stay in a hotel with beach access, just grab a towel, walk down to the waterfront and enjoy your day. Grab a cocktail, dip your feet into the turquoise water and relax.

If not, don’t worry. Fortunately, you can find multiple public beaches in Cancun. Playa Delfines is the most famous one and definitely one of the best Yucatan beaches. Come here if you want to enjoy white sand and crystal clear water. Plus, you can take a picture of the Cancun sign on this beach!

Just be careful when you go in the water, as Playa Delfines is known for its strong currents.

Day 2 – Chichen Itza

The pyramid at Chichen Itza

The second day of this Cancun 3-day itinerary is dedicated to one of the highlights of Yucatan – Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza is one of the best Yucatan ruins that you can visit. The main attraction in this complex is the giant pyramid, but there is so much more to see!

Make sure to stop by the ball court and learn more about the Mayan ball games. Did you know that the losing team was often sacrificed afterwards? The players were literally playing for their lives!

In some Mayan cities in Guatemala, the king would sometimes also sacrifice the winners. Since these were the best ballplayers, they were considered a perfect sacrifice to make to the gods.

Today is also a great chance if you want to swim in a cenote in Yucatan. The Mayan people often used those sinkholes for sacrifices, but today, many are accessible for swimming and diving.

Next to Chichen Itza, you can find the Cenote Ik Kil, one of the most stunning cenotes in the area. The water is much colder than you might expect, but it’s perfect for cooling down on a hot day, and the views are fantastic.

Cenote Ik Kil from above

If you’re going by bus or driving, you can easily add this cenote to your itinerary. If you’re joining a guided tour, make sure to book one that includes a visit to a cenote.

Which brings us to the possible options for making this trip. The first one is to go by public transport. You can take an ADO Bus from Cancun to Chichen Itza. As only limited buses drive this route every day, you will have to make sure to time your visit well.

You can book your tickets at the ADO bus terminal and also online. The ADO website is in Spanish, but you can also book your ticket on Busbud.

Ruins in Chichen Itza

If you prefer having more flexibility and driving to Chichen Itza yourself, you need to rent a car. We recommend getting it on rentalcars.com, where you can easily get an overview of the cheapest available rental cars.

The last option is to join a guided tour from Cancun. Most tours offer hotel pick-ups and include a few more stops along the way. We highly recommend choosing one that lets you visit a cenote. Take a look at this tour, which receives excellent ratings and also includes stops in Valladolid and Cenote Saamal.

Day 3 – Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

How are you enjoying travelling Yucatan so far?

After relaxing at the beach and exploring Chichen Itza, it is now time to head to one of Mexico’s islands.

You can find Isla Mujeres just off the coast of Cancun, which makes it a very convenient day trip. The island is known for its fantastic beaches, laid-back atmosphere and for being small enough that you can quickly get around in a golf cart.

Start your day at Playa Norte, one of the best beaches on Isla Mujeres. If you want to, you could easily spend the whole day here.

We believe that Playa Norte is not just one of the best places in Yucatan but also one of the best beaches in all of Central America and Mexico. Want to know which other beaches we love? Then check out this post!

From Playa Norte, head to the town centre. Here, you can find lots of shops, restaurants and cafes. It’s a great destination if you want to buy souvenirs, but it’s also perfect if you just want to enjoy a cold drink.

A sea turtle at Isla Mujeres, Mexico

As we already mentioned, one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres is to rent a golf cart and drive around the island. We recommend going to the southern tip of the island, where you can find some small Mayan ruins and enjoy the view.

Along the way, make sure to stop at La Tortugranja, where you can learn more about the turtles that live here. This turtle sanctuary protects turtle eggs and works in the conservation of many local turtle species.

To get to Isla Mujeres, you need to catch a ferry from Cancun. The port is called Puerto Juarez, and ferries regularly connect the island with the mainland. You can buy your ticket at the port, but if you prefer having them in advance, you can also get them online.

4 Days in Cancun

Tulum

Ruins of Tulum, Mexico
We hope the weather is better when you visit – but despite the storm and rain, Tulum was pretty awesome.

For a 4-day Cancun itinerary, we recommend that you follow the steps above and then head to Tulum on your last day.

The Mayan ruins in Tulum are famous for their location just next to the beach. They might not be as big as the pyramid in Chichen Itza, but they are a lot of fun to visit. Plus, despite its smaller size, Tulum was once an important ceremonial centre.

Make sure to take a towel and beach clothes. If the weather is nice, you can go for a quick swim in the sea, just next to the Mayan ruins.

Tulum ruins

Besides the archaeological site, Tulum has a few more sights that you should check out. First, you can also discover some fantastic beaches here. If you want to, you could head to the public beach and spend the rest of the day there.

You could also explore Tulum itself. The town is known for its hippie vibe, and this is a perfect opportunity to check it out yourself. You can also find delicious Mexican food in Tulum, so make sure to grab a bite before returning to Cancun.

5 days in Cancun

Merida

colourful Merida sign

If you have five nights in Cancun, you’re lucky because today, you will see one of the best cities in the Yucatan peninsula. Merida is known for its colonial architecture and its many opportunities to experience the local culture.

The easiest way to get to Merida is by car. Buses take around four hours, and you can save a bit of time if you go by car. Plus, getting a rental car and going on a one-day Yucatan road trip offers you more flexibility.

In Merida, it’s best to start exploring the city at the Plaza Grande. Around this central square, you can already see lots of historic buildings. Plus, it’s a great place if you want to sit down and people watch for a while.

Street in Merida

Next to the central square, you can find the Palacio de Gobierno, the government palace. If you go inside, you can discover murals depicting the history of Merida and the local Maya population. Make sure to go up to the first floor if you want to see all of them!

Merida is home to lots of museums, so now is your chance if you want to visit one of them. The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Merida, for example, will teach you everything you have ever wanted to know about the Maya civilisation.

If you get hungry, make sure to grab traditional Mexican food in one of the many restaurants. Merida is the perfect city if you want to try regional food from Yucatan.

6 days in Cancun

Isla Cozumel

The sea and the lagoon on Cozumel Island, Mexico

Turning this itinerary into a Cancun itinerary for 6 days is very easy. Just follow the above days and then head to Isla Cozumel on your sixth day.

Isla Cozumel features some of the best beaches in Yucatan. The island is much bigger than Isla Mujeres, so you will need to rent a car to get around.

Once on the island, make sure to head to the southern tip of the island. You need to pay to enter the Punta Sur Eco Park, but it is well worth it.

Here, you can explore a mangrove forest, walk along eco trails and see some of the local flora and fauna. You are guaranteed to see many birds along the way, and you can learn more about the mangrove forest ecosystem.

The Punta Sur Eco Park is also home to a fantastic beach. You can easily spend the day here, relaxing in the sun and swimming in the turquoise water.

Beach on Cozumel Island, Mexico, seen from the water

If you prefer to visit a public beach, head to Palancar Beach. The beach is great for relaxing, and it’s also pretty good for snorkelling. You need to bring your own snorkelling gear, but you have the chance of seeing fish in the water along the beach.

Last, you could consider joining a tour that takes you to the main snorkelling spots around the island. Check out this tour which includes a boat ride to three fantastic snorkelling spots, including El Cielo beach, famous for its starfish.

To get to Isla Cozumel, you first need to get to Playa del Carmen. If you already have a rental car, you can drive, but otherwise, you can consider taking an ADO bus. Take a taxi from the bus terminal to head to the ferry dock and then catch the ferry to Isla Cozumel.

7 Days in Cancun

Go on an adventure / Playa del Carmen

Swimming in the waters at Isla Cozumel, Mexico

If you are looking for a 1-week Yucatan itinerary, you should follow all of the days as mentioned above. For the last day, you have lots of different options and the choice is up to you.

Would you like to go shopping and explore a city? Then you should head to Playa del Carmen to check out La Quinta. This pedestrian street is lined by souvenir shops, stores selling artwork and cafes and restaurants.

Another option is to visit a museum, like the Frida Kahlo Museum, or head to the nearby Cenote Azul for a swim.

If you are not interested in Playa del Carmen, we recommend joining one of the many excellent tours you can find in Cancun.

Flamingos in Mexico

You could go horseback riding, fly through the jungle on a zipline and much more on this adventure tour. Or you could search for whale sharks with this tour.

If you prefer a relaxing day, you could also head to Isla Mujeres on a sailing adventure. Even if you’ve visited the island already, this tour is mainly about the sailing adventure, so make sure to check it out!

Last, you also have the option of staying in Cancun for a relaxing day at the beach. Soaking up the sun and swimming in the crystal clear water is a great way to end your 7-day Cancun itinerary.

If you have more time

Street art on Isla Holbox Mexico

If you have more than just one week in Cancun, we have a few suggestions for you. There are lots of things to do in Yucatan which you can explore during your holidays.

One option is to not only stay in Cancun. A road trip across the peninsula is a great way to explore the region. You could spend a night or two in Merida and see the Mayan ruins of Uxmal. Chichen Itza is more famous, but we loved Uxmal just as much as it is much less touristy.

Ilona enjoying the view in Uxmal

Another excellent option for an overnight stay outside Cancun is Isla Holbox. This island is famous for its fantastic beaches, its sandy streets and its colourful houses. Plus, you have the chance to see whale sharks in this area.

You could also head south from Cancun and explore the coast. From Cancun, you could head to Bacalar, a town known for the nearby Lagoon of Seven Colours. On a sunny day, the water in the lagoon shines in every shade of blue you can imagine.

Beach in Placencia, Belize
The beaches in Belize are just as awesome!

If you have an additional week, why not come up with a Cancun to Belize itinerary? You can combine the highlights of our itinerary above with a visit to Bacalar and then head to Caye Caulker in Belize from there.

Make sure to check out our Belize itinerary to discover all of the other great places that the country has to offer!

Where to stay in Cancun

There are so many great options for where to stay in Cancun that booking your trip can easily feel overwhelming. Finding the best Cancun hotel depends on many factors, including your budget, whether or not you want to have direct access to the beach and what you want to get out of this trip.

Here are some options that you should check out:

All-inclusive: If you’re looking to stay at an all-inclusive resort with direct access to the beach, then check out the Iberostar Selection Cancun. This hotel offers a private beach, multiple pools and comfortable rooms. Plus, if you need a rental car for the day, you can rent it directly in the hotel. Click here to see the latest reviews and book your stay!

Ilona sitting on a swing in the water in Isla Holbox, Mexico

Luxury: Do you want to stay in an extraordinary hotel with excellent ratings, a private beach and a 40,000-square-foot spa? Then check out the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun. You can choose from six different restaurants, relax by the pool or spend hours on the private beach. Check out availability and prices now!

Mid-range: All of the above hotels are located in the Cancun hotel zone, where you have access to a private beach. If you’re happy to stay in a different area and head to the public beach, you can find excellent mid-range hotels. The Suites Malecon Cancun, for example, offers panoramic views of the lagoon and the city. The hotel features a pool and a gym and is the perfect base for following our Cancun trip itinerary. Click here to see whether it is still available for your stay!

Cenote in Valladolid

Budget: If you’re travelling to Cancun on a budget, you have multiple options. The Hostalito is great if you’re looking for a hostel where you can get a dorm bed. There’s a pool, a lounge and plenty of opportunities to meet other travellers. Or you could stay at the Bed and Breakfast Pecari, where you also have access to a pool. The rates include free breakfast, and the owner is lovely, so make sure to check it out!

For your honeymoon: You can easily use this post to put together your Cancun honeymoon itinerary if you combine the above activities with a fantastic hotel. Take a look at the Moon Palace Cancun and their honeymoon suite. You’ll have a double whirlpool tub in your room, plus access to 24-hours room service and a private beach lounge area. What else could you ask for? Click here to book your stay now!

How to get to Cancun

Even though you can find multiple airports in Yucatan, we highly recommend flying directly to Cancun.

As Cancun is a popular holiday destination, you can usually find good flight deals. The easiest way to ensure you don’t pay too much for your flight is by searching on a website like Skyscanner. Here, you can see all available options and find the website where your flight is the cheapest.

Click here to go to Skyscanner and search for your flights to Cancun now!

View of the Central Square and Cathedral in Merida

From the airport, you have multiple options for getting to your hotel.

The first one is to take a bus. ADO buses connect the airport with the city regularly and are a great option if you’re on a budget. You can even look up the timetable and book your ticket in English on Busbud.

The next option is to get a taxi. You will find many taxi drivers waiting at the airport. Be careful to agree on the rate before you get into the taxi, or insist on using the meter to avoid getting ripped off.

An easier option is to book your airport transfer ahead of time. You can easily book a transfer on Viator, and a driver will be waiting for you at the airport.

Ilona sitting on the stairs of a temple in Uxmal

The last option is to get a rental car. This is great if you’re planning on driving around the Yucatan peninsula, but you need to double-check whether you can park your car at your hotel. Some hotels charge extra for parking, so look it up in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Getting around Cancun and Yucatan

Whenever possible, we have mentioned methods of transport in our itinerary. Yucatan is surprisingly big, so getting around can be a bit tedious at times.

Within Cancun, you can either take public transport or use a taxi. When you want to leave the city, you have three options.

Zipline in Yucatan

The easiest is to join a guided tour. We have a few examples of tours above that we think you might like, so make sure to check them out.

The other options are to either travel by bus or to rent a car. A car gives you considerably more flexibility, but as I mentioned above, you will need to make sure that you can park it at your hotel. It’s also more expensive than going by bus.

If you prefer to use public transport, ADO buses connect most major cities and towns on the Yucatan peninsula. If you speak some basic Spanish, you can look up the schedule and book your tickets on their website.

Street in Campeche

If you prefer an English website, then you can book your tickets on Busbud. Booking is very easy, and you have support in English if you need it. Click here to look into bus tickets now!


We hope you found this Yucatan itinerary useful. We loved travelling through Latin America and have a few more resources that help you plan your trip and inspire you for future travels. Make sure to check them out:

Until your next adventure!

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Author

Ilona is a world traveller passionate about sharing her experiences and giving advice to fellow travellers. Having visited over 70 countries, she is always excited about her next trip.

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