Having spent an amazing month exploring Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, we’ve put together our recommended Yucatan road trip itinerary. From party-loving Tulum to the historic Chichen Itza and Uxmal to the beauty of the crystal clear cenotes, the Yucatan Peninsula is spectacular and one of our favorite places to visit in Mexico. For those of you planning your own Yucatan itinerary, we wanted to share our guide to the Yucatan including the best things to do and what to see. Enjoy!
Yucatan Road Trip: Itinerary and Route Map
With its excellent roads and good driving standards, the Yucatan is the perfect part of Mexico for a road trip and the sights are spectacular. We followed a circular route starting and ending in the resort town of Cancun, the point of arrival and departure for most Yucatan travellers.
Yucatan Road Trip: Route and Map
Our suggested core itinerary is based on a leisurely 3 weeks exploring the Yucatan:
- Three week Yucatan itinerary: Cancun – Tulum –Merida – Chichen Itza – Valladolid – Isla Holbox – Cancun
Our three week base itinerary can be reduced or extended depending on how long you have to spend on your Yucatan road trip:
- Two week Yucatan itinerary: Cancun – Tulum – Merida – Valladolid – Cancun
- Four week Yucatan itinerary: Cancun – Tulum – Bacalar – Campeche – Merida – Chichen Itza – Valladolid – Holbox – Cancun
Yucatan road trip tip: you can easily switch out destinations between our two, three and four week itineraries depending on your interests. For example, if you prefer the historical Campeche or the turquoise blue waters of Bacalar to the island charms of Isla Holbox, it’s easy to change up the itinerary.
Yucatan road trip map:
How to Use This Google Map: Click on the grey star at the top of the map and this map will be added to your Google Maps account. You can then view it on your phone or computer in Google Maps by clicking on the menu button, going to “Your Places” and selecting this map. We use these maps all the time as you can set out your itinerary ahead of time and quickly reference the saved maps.
We recommend budgeting two to three weeks to explore Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula at a leisurely pace. This will allow you enough time to visit all the major sights, from Chichen Itza to the cenotes and the islands. Our route can be completed in as little as 14 days, however, if you want all the destinations we’ve mentioned, you will likely need up to a month to travel around.
How to get around the Yucatan
Most visitors to Cancun either pick up a rental car and self-drive or use taxis/private drivers, buses or colectivos to explore the country. We rented a car in Cancun and drove around the Yucatan.
Renting a car in Cancun
The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the easiest places we’ve rented and driven a car in and we highly recommend renting a car in Cancun if you are comfortable driving. The Yucatan roads are high-quality, driving standards are generally good and fuel is extremely cheap (compared to the UK and Ireland anyway!).
We rented an SUV as we were travelling with kids and luggage. A regular car is fine for a Yucatan road trip.
We’re huge fans of road trips and have driven rental cars in almost 50 countries so we have a lot of experience renting cars in foreign countries. Mexico is one of our favourite countries where we have rented a car. We recommend using RentalCars.com to reserve your car. They have the best selection and prices that we’ve found – check prices here!
Check prices now on RentalCars.com
Best time to visit the Yucatan Peninsula
November to April is the best time to visit the Yucatan Peninsula. Christmas and New Year are extremely popular times to visit and prices reflect the high visitor numbers.
- Dry Season: dry season, from November to April, is peak season in the Yucatan due to warm temperatures and clear and calm seas.
- Wet Season: the high temperatures and humidity during rainy season (May to October) make visiting interior sights such as Chichen Itza and Coba a less pleasant experience.
- Hurricane Season: hurricane season runs from June to November. September, October and November are the highest risk months
Yucatan road trip tip: We visited Mexico at the beginning of January and the temperatures were a pleasant 30°C during the day. We planned our hikes and outdoor activities for first thing in the morning and did our drives, relaxed at cenotes and chilled by the pool in the afternoons during the peak midday temperatures.
Sim Card and Internet
As with most countries, having mobile data during a trip is invaluable for navigation and research. There are lots of options on arrival at Cancun Airport – we picked up an AT&T sim but struggled with coverage by the time we got to Tulum. We finally bought a Telcel sim which has a much wider network and we had good coverage throughout the rest of our trip.
Yucatan Itinerary tip: Some US cellphone plans now include coverage for Mexico. It’s worth checking your plan before you travel.
You can save time at the airport and preorder a Telcel sim card on Amazon before you travel. It doesn’t come with any credit so make sure to top up before you depart.
Daily Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary
We’ve outlined our suggested day to day three week Yucatan road itinerary as a starting point for planning your own Mexico experience:
Days 1 and 2: Cancun
Cancun really surprised us with the wide variety of things to see and do outside of the resorts.
After arriving at Cancun Airport we recommend spending the next few nights in Cancun and, during this time, taking a day trip to Isla Mujeres. This will allow you to see check our the best things to do in Cancun and experience island life.
For a more detailed guide to Isla Mujeres check out the best things to do on Isla Mujeres.
Where to Stay in Cancun
Cancun has a dizzying selection of hotels, with everything from convenient airport overnight hotels to all-inclusive resorts on the beach. We stayed in Cancun for a few days to explore the area and Isla Mejures so we didn’t opt for an all-inclusive hotel. If you plan to stay in Cancun longer than 2-3 nights they might be a good option.
- Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina – we chose to stay here and it was perfect for a few nights to explore Cancun. The hotel is located in the newer end of the hotel zone (Puerto Cancun) and has beautiful views across the bay and marina. There is a fantastic restaurant on site and lots of shops/restaurants right beside the hotel at the marina – check prices now!
- Hard Rock Hotel Cancun – it’s one of the best all-inclusive hotels in Cancun for good reason. The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun is an amazing hotel – with 5 on-site restaurants, countless amenities and stunning pools. It’s a perfect choice for relaxing in for a few days while taking in the sights of Cancun – check prices now!
- Marriott Cancun Resort – is another great all-inclusive option in the hotel zone. Boasting a spa, outdoor pool and 8 on-site restaurants you won’t really want to leave this hotel! – check prices now!
Click here for the best Cancun hotel prices!
Day 1: Explore Cancun
Cancun is the arrival point for the majority of visitors to the Yucatan Peninsula. With its sprawling resorts, majestic Caribbean beaches and lively party scene many opt to enjoy a laid-back schedule before embarking on a Yucatan road trip.
If, like us, you are keen to explore, our favorite things to do in Cancun include:
- El Meco ruins: the ruins are located just north of downtown Cancun and are home to a 40 foot tall pyramid. El Meco are our favorite Mayan ruins in Cancun.
- Playa Tortugas: a popular swimming beach with calm waters
- Maya Museum & San Miguelito Ruins: archaeological site with ruins dating back as far as the 13th Century.
- Playa Delfines: dip your feet in the Caribbean Sea and grab a selfie with the colorful Cancun sign. The currents are strong so swimming isn’t usually an option.
Day 2: Day trip to Isla Mujeres
The tiny Isla Mujeres is just a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun and a trip to the island is a hugely popular excursion from Cancun. Check out our guide on how to get to Isla Mujeres for more details.
Yucatan road trip tip: Isla Mujeres is best explored by golf cart or scooter. It’s also possible to take a regular taxi to many of the tourist spots but limited parking would make a rental car challenging. We rented a golf cart and found it easy to navigate and loved having the freedom to explore where we wanted at our own pace.
Things to do on Isla Mujeres
Start the day at Playa Norte, an idyllic beach with turquoise waters and white sands. From there, drive the length of the island to Punta Sur where you’ll find rugged coastline, small Mayan ruins and some interesting sculptures.
Other great stops include the island’s Turtle Sanctuary and, if you are a snorkelling fan, the Underwater Museum of Art in Isla Mujeres is unmissable. For a more detailed guide to Isla Mujure check out our best things to do in Isla Mujeres.
Days 3 to 5: Tulum
Tulum is famous for its pristine beaches, crystal clear cenotes, Mayan ruins and achingly hip vibe. Once a sleepy beach town, Tulum is a heady mix of modern and ancient and we loved the few days we spent exploring its shores during our Yucatan itinerary.
Where to stay in Tulum
Tulum’s accommodation options are split between exclusive resorts with private beach access, lodgings near the public beaches and hotels and hostels in the town itself. All three options are great. In terms of budget, the very expensive hotels tend to be located on the beach in the hotel-zone while you can get a much better bang for your peso in Tulum town.
- Casa Santiago – This small boutique hotel is a perfect little oasis located close to the main street of Tulum town. We stayed here and loved the modern, clean rooms and reasonable prices – check prices now!
- El Pez a Colibri Boutique Hotel – Located next to Sunrise Beach, El Pez a Colibri is one of the best hotels in the hotel zone. The views fare incredible and it’s one of the best options on the beach – check prices now!
- Hotel Poc Na Tulum – this is a great option for those looking for a stunning beachfront hotel away from the busy hotel-zone. Hotel Poc Na Tulum is located on the beach and inside the Tulum Archeological site. – check prices now!
Click here for the best Tulum hotel prices
How to get to Tulum
There a few options fo travelling between Cancun and Tulum: rental car, public bus and private/shared transfers are all popular with travelers between the two towns. Check out our guide to traveling from Cancun to Tulum for more detailed information.
Things to do in Tulum
With their spectacular cliffside location, the 13th Century Tulum Ruins are one of the most unique Mayan sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. After checking out the ruins, descend the stairs to the tiny beach for a swim in its clear blue waters.
Yucatan road trip tip: the Tulum ruins are extremely popular and can get very busy. Plan to visit at opening. There is free entry for Mexican Nationals on Sunday’s and crowds are typically high.
Spend some time exploring both the north and south end of the beach road. On the north is Tulum’s best public beach, Playa Paraiso or Paradise Beach, a perfect spot to spend a chilled morning or afternoon.
Head south to the most exclusive stretch of Tulum where you will find extravagant resorts, some of which can be accessed through their beach clubs or restaurants. If you’ve come to Tulum to party this is the place to go! The road is also lined with kitschy boutiques and laid back shack style food options. Here you will find places like Matcha Mama, Ahau Tulum and a ‘Follow that dream’ road sign, making it home to many of the best Instagram spots in Tulum.
A swim in a cenote is another Tulum essential.
Our favourites include the open-air Cenote Zacil-Ha and its neighbour Cenote Carwash and the double sinkhole at Cenote Dos Ojos where the snorkelling and diving opportunities are huge draws. The cave system at the incredibly popular Gran Cenote is remarkable to explore and the shallow waters of Cenote Azul, a short drive towards Playa Del Carmen, make it a great choice for families.
Make sure to check out our guide to the best cenotes near Tulum – click here to read!
If time permits, the incredible natural attractions of the Si’an Khan Biosphere and the Kaan Luum Lagoon are Tulum gems.
The Sian Kh’an Biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage site and exploring the biosphere was one of our favorite things to do in Tulum. Si’an Khan boasts secluded Mayan ruins, quiet beaches, a beautiful coral reef and even crocodiles sunbathing on the banks of mangrove canals.
Surrounded by lush green jungle the Lagoon is a laid back local swimming spot and the perfect place to escape the Tulum crowds.
Day trips from Tulum
Tulum is a great Yucatan base and many of the sights we visited from Valladolid are also accessible from Tulum:
- The iconic Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, Coba and Ek Balam
- Valladolid and the stunning cenotes near Valladolid. These include the Instagram famous Cenote Suytun, the underground Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Oxman, set in a traditional hacienda.
- The flamingos in Rio Lagaratos and the pink lakes in Los Colarados
Yucatan road trip tip: many of the best sights on the Yucatan can be reached from the major tourist towns of Valladolid, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen and Cancun. We used Valladolid as our base to visit the sites mentioned above but we wanted to highlight how accessible they are from other parts of the Yucatan in case you are planning on following a condensed version of our Yucatan itinerary.
Other great day trip options include:
- The beach town of Akumal, with its white sands and resident turtles
- The island of Cozumel with its amazing snorkelling and scuba diving is a ferry ride away from the nearby Playa Del Carmen
Island Life: Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox or Cozumel
Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox and Cozumel all offer the opportunity to experience island life and it’s an entirely personal choice that you include in your itinerary. We decided to spend a few nights in Holbox (see the final days of our itinerary for more info) and visit Cozumel and Isla Mujeres as day trips.
Holbox takes a little more effort to get to but the turquoise waters, lower crowds and laid-back island vibes are sufficient rewards. It still manages to maintain an undiscovered charm, something which is hard to find along the crowded Yucatan Peninsula. We absolutely loved our time in Holbox and it was among the highlights of our Yucatan road trip.
Yucatan road trip tip: You can easily switch our days in Holbox for an extended stay in Cozumel or Isla Mujeres.
Days 6 to 9: Merida
The bustling capital of the Yucatan State, Merida is an excellent place to base yourself for a few days to explore both the city itself and the surrounding areas.
Where to Stay in Merida
- El Palacito Secreto– where we chose to stay in Merida. This beautiful oasis is a family owned boutique hotel located in the centre of Merida. The rooms are all decorated beautifully and the small pool is great for cooling off after exploring the area. After staying there it’s easy to see why El Palacito Secreto is so highly rated – we cannot recommend it highly enough! – check prices now!
- Casa Lucia Hotel Boutique – another great boutique hotel option and very central for exploring Merida. Casa Lusia Hotel also has a small pool for quests and a quiet courtyard to relax in – check prices now!
- Boutique by the Museo – for those wanting to splurge, check out Boutique by the Museo. With 15 stunning 1,2 and 3 bedroom suites and a central location it’s another great option – check prices now!
Click here for the best Merida hotel prices
Things to do in Merida
Merida is a vibrant city with stunning architecture, excellent food, fantastic museums and a rich culture. It’s location, near the north west tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, also makes it a perfect base to explore some of the Yucatan’s finest attractions.
Stop by Merida’s Grand Plaza which marks the city’s historic center. Snap a picture with the colourful Merida sign, stop by the Merida Cathedral and learn more about Mayan civilisation at the extensive Gran Museo del Mundo Maya. Wander along the Paseo de Montejo, with its extravagant architecture and check out the imposing Monumento a la Patria, with over 300 hand carved figures showcasing the history of Mexico.
Day trips from Merida
Merida’s location, on the northwest of the Yucatan Peninsula, means it is a great base for exploring some of the region’s most spectacular sights. The best day trips from Merida include:
- Uxmal: founded over 1,000 years ago, the ancient Mayan city of Uxmal was once inhabited by 25,000 people. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the majestic Pyramid of the Magician is a highlight, as is the climb to the top of the Great Pyramid. (Drive time: 1 hour south of Merida)
- Dzibilchaltun ruins, Cenote Xlacah and Progeso Beach: small and unique ruins that are older than Chichen Itza with an open air cenote. If you want to include some beach time then keep driving North to Progreso Beach, the closest to Merida. (Drive time:45 minutes north of Merida to Dzibilchaltun ruins and Cenote Xlacah, an additional 15 minutes to Progeso Beach)
- Celestun: the small fishing village is home to the Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestun where the flamingoes are the main attraction! (Drive time: 90 minutes west of Merida)
- Campeche: The colorful and charming Campeche, one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, is a long but rewarding day trip from Merida. On the way visit Edzna, the ancient Mayan ruins located north of Campeche. (Drive time: 2 hours 30 minutes south west of Merida)
- Izamal: also known as the Yellow City, Izamal is just that! All the buildings are painted yellow and the main building, the Convento de San Antonio de Padua, is stunning. Climb the nearby Kinich Kak Moo Pyramid for great views of the city. (Drive time: 1 hour east of Merida – it’s an easy stop between Merida and either Chichen Itza or Valladolid and can be included on those drives rather than making a dedicated trip). We visited Izamal while driving from Merida to Chichen Itza.
Day 10 and 11: Chichen Itza
The most famous sight in the Yucatan, the Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza were declared one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yucatan road trip tip: Chichen Itza is easily accessible from the major tourist hubs including Cancun, Valladolid, Tulum and Playa Del Carmen so most Yucatan visitors do it as part of a day trip. If you have time, we highly recommend spending a night in the Mayalands Hotel which inside in the Chichen Itza Arqueological Park. Staying here was one of the highlights of our time in Mexico and we loved being on site for the magical sunrise tour of Chichen Itza. The hotel has parking and guests can access the ruins via their private entrance. It also meant we could visit the beautiful Cenote Ik Kil at opening, thus avoiding the heavy crowds.
Check prices at Chichen Itza Mayalands now!
Things to do at Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil
The iconic Chichen Itza is one of the highlights of the Yucatan itinerary
The instantly recognizable El Castillo Pyramid and the imposing Temple of Warriors are both breathtaking to see and the Great Ballcourt is also fascinating. The huge court, where a basketball-style Mayan ball game reportedly led to the beheading of the winning captain, is adorned with carvings illustrating a beheading along with the rules of the game.
Yucatan road trip tips: we took a sunrise tour of Chichen Itza and it was truly magical. There were less than 50 people watching the sunrise and the guides were really fantastic – they made sure everyone had a clear view of the ruins at sunset and were happy to take photos. They also give an awesome tour of the ruins prior to sunset. It’s an amazing way to see the ruins without the crowds and we 100% recommend! – check prices here!
Cenote Ik Kil is an open cenote where the swimming area is open to the sky. It is one of the most popular and most beautiful cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Swimming in its clear waters with the hanging vines cascading into the water is is truly breath taking.
Yucatan road trip tips: Given its location close to Chichen Itza, it’s no surprise that Cenote Ik Kil gets extremely busy with visitors and is a popular stop on tours. We highly recommend visiting Cenote Ik Kil at opening if you can. Later in the afternoon, after the tours depart, is also a little quieter.
Days 12 to 15: Valladolid
Charming, vibrant and with easy access to incredible Mayan ruins, colorful pink lakes and crystal clear cenotes, Valladolid is another great base for exploring the Yucatan Peninsula
Where to Stay in Valladolid
- Hotel Posada San Juan: we stayed in Hotel Posada San Juan, a beautiful boutique hotel. The rooms are beautifully decorated and the common area has a small pool. It really was like a home away from home. After staying here is easy to see why its one of the highest-rated hotels in Valladolid – check prices now!
- Casa Marlene: is another great option and perfectly located in the center of Valladolid. This small historic hotel has modern rooms and a delicious breakfast included in the room rate – check prices now!
- El Meson del Marques: this casa is built in one of the oldest buildings in Valladolid and is very centrally located for exploring the town. Rooms are modern, there is a highly rated restaurant and beautiful swimming pool on site- check prices now!
Click here for the best Valladolid hotels
Things to do in Valladolid
The town of Valladolid itself is sometimes overlooked as it is relatively small and quiet, however we really enjoyed the time we spent there and found it had lots to offer.
- Wander through its colorful cobble stone streets (Calzada de los Frailes is our favorite)and people watch over a picnic in Plaza e Parque Francisco Canton, Valladolid’s main square.
- Constructed in the 16th Century, the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena is a beautiful fortress and church which are also worth a visit.
- Mercado Municipal, Convent de San Bernardino de Siena, Cathedral de San Servasio
- Take a swim in Cenote Zaci, a semi open cenote with refreshing waters which is one of Valldolid’s most popular attractions.
Day trips from Valladolid
Valladolid’s location, in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula, means it is a great base for exploring some of the region’s most spectacular sights. The best day trips from Valladolid include:
- Swim in a Cenote: there are some amazing cenotes near Valladolid. From the Instagram famous Cenote Suytun, the beautiful Cenote Oxman set in a traditional hacienda, the family friendly Cenote Hubiku complex and the cave cenotes, Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken, experiencing a cenote is a Valladolid must do.
- Ek Balam and Cenote Xcanche: one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most interesting and still less visited ruins, Ek Balam is thought to have once had almost 20,000 residents. The magnificent 6 level Acropolis is the highlight.
- The Ek Balam Cenote, Cenote Xcanche, is a stunning open cenote with swimming, zip-lining and swing jumps as well as a waterfall cascading into the cenote as you swim. It is located in the Ek Balam Archaeological Zone but requires a separate ticket.
- Rio Lagartos: the northern town of Rio Lagartos is famous for its huge flamingo population. Set in the Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Lagartos, the mangrove lined river is also a haven for bird watchers.
Yucatan road trip tip: sightseeing in Rio Lagartos is done via a boat trip. We drove to the water and spoke to the waiting captains about trip options. The most popular is a 2 hour tour which tours through the mangroves to see the flamingos and bird life. It also includes stops at the below mentioned pink lakes as well as a clay bath and a beach.
- Los Colardos Pink Lakes: usually combined with a visit to Rio Logartos, the sleepy fishing village of Los Colarados is another Yucatan site made famous by Instagram due to its magical pink lakes. The lakes are actually controlled by the adjacent salt mine and the high concentration of salt breeds algae which gives the water its pink hue.
We frequently get asked if the lakes are pink or if the photos are filtered: hand on heart we can confirm that on the day we visited the lakes were bright pink! We did notice that the color dulled a lot when the sun went behind a cloud so this is likely only the case on a sunny day.
Yucatan road trip tip: forget about those swimming and frolicking in the lake images you’ve seen on Instagram, the situation is now very different as the site has gained popularity. Access to the lakes is tightly controlled by the adjacent salt mine and visitors must join a guide (we were charged 100 pesos) to walk the cement path around the lake. Cell phone cameras are the only photography equipment allowed and other cameras are drones are strictly forbidden.
- Coba Ruins and Cenotes: Considered one of the most important Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula, Coba is believed to hold over 5,000 structures although only 3 settlements are open to visitors. It’s still possible to climb, Nohoch Mul, Coba’s 137 foot tall pyramid, and most visitors are keen to make the 120 step climb to the top. The reward is incredible views over the surrounding jungle and lagoon. There are 3 great cenotes located close to the Coba ruins entrance: Cenote Choo-Ha, Tamcach-Ha and Multum-Ha are a series of small underground cenotes which are perfect for a refreshing swim after exploring the incredible jungle ruins.
Day 16 to 19: Isla Holbox
With its white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and island vibes, Isla Holbox is paradise. Getting there takes a little effort but spending time on the idyllic island is just reward!
Yucatan road trip tip: we visited Isla Holbox towards the end of our trip as we knew it would be the perfect finale to our Mexico adventure. However, it’s really easy to switch up this itinerary – it’s pretty easy to get to Holbox from Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen and Valladolid and this is true whether you are traveling by rental car or public transport.
Where to Stay on Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is one of the most beautiful and relaxed places we’ve ever visited and choosing where to stay isn’t easy. There are so many great hotel options on Isla Holbox from beachfront resorts to beautiful oceanfront boutique hotels:
- Villa Flamingos – Where we chose to stay during our time on Island Holbox and we had ana amazing time. Villa Flamingos is a beautiful beachfront hotel and located at one end of the Holbox beach. We loved it as it was away from the crowds of Holbox town and it has its own private beach areas and pools. Our room had a heated pool which overlooked the sea and we were very happy that we chose to spend out time in Holbox in Villa Flamingos. Having direct, private access to the sea was one of the highlights of our trip – check prices now!
- Las Nubes De Holbox – is located next door to Villa Flamingos and another great option for anyone looking for a hotel away from the busier Holbox town hotels. With 28 rooms its not too big and it also has one of the best restaurants on Isla Holbox on site! – check prices now!
- Hotel Para Ti – the adults only Para Ti is a great mid range budget option for Holbox with a choice of two swimming pools. Located two blocks from the beach and close to the center of Holbox, rooms are clean and spacious – check prices now!
Click here for the best Isla Holbox Hotel prices
How to get to Isla Holbox
The most popular way to get to Holbox is by ferry from Chiquila, a small fishing town on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Chiquila is an easy drive from Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and Valladolid and the journey takes between 2 and 2.5 hours depending on where you leave from.
Regular coach style buses also depart from Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, Valladolid and Merida
Read our detailed guide on how to get to Isla Holbox – click here to read!
Things to do on Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is only a short distance from Mexico’s mainland but, from the moment you step onto the island, it feels like a world away. Golf carts, bikes and scooters whizz across the island where cars are a rare sighting.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Isla Holbox. Our ideal day includes early morning island strolls, beach time, indulging in the island’s great food, sipping a cool beer or cocktail and watching the sunset. Simply being on Isla Holbox and enjoying island life makes for the best days.
Other fun things to do on Isla Holbox include:
- Check out the colorful Isla Holbox murals
- Renting a golf cart – there are no cars allowed on Holbox so golf carts are the best way to get around the island – they’re a lot of fun!
- Take the three Island tour which includes spotting flamingos and swimming in a cenote
- Walk the sand bank to Punta Musquito
- Watch the sun set at the pier
- Kayak through the mangroves
- Whale sharks: swimming with whale sharks is another major reason people visit Holbox. The season runs from June to September.
- Bioluminescence beaches where phytoplankton microalgae emit a blue light – this happens during whale shark season and is a popular Isla Holbox excursion
Yucatan road trip tip: remember to allow at least half a day to return to the mainland and drive to your next destination. We left our Holbox hotel at the 12pm checkout time, took the ferry back to Chiquila and drove to Cancun. Allowing for a few snack stops, we only settled into our Cancun hotel after 5pm.
Yucatan road trip tip: the incredible Holbox hammocks have been removed due to environmental concerns.
Day 20 and 21: Depart Cancun
Most travelers will return to Cancun to depart from Cancun International.
Extending our Yucatan Peninsula Itinerary
If you have an extra week to explore, we suggest adding stops in Bacalar and Campeche after leaving Tulum.
- Four week Yucatan itinerary: Cancun – Tulum – Bacalar – Campeche – Merida – Chichen Itza – Valladolid – Isla Holbox – Cancun
Close to the Belize border, Bacalar is famous for its incredible lake, Laguna de Bacalar. Often referred to as the Lake of the Seven Colors, its turquoise and blue waters are a sight to behold.
Where to stay in Bacalar
- Casa Chukum– this stunning eco friendly boutique hotel is relatively new and a perfect choice for staying in Bacalar. It’s location is very close to the lagoon and the relaxed atmosphere will make anyone feel at home – check prices now
- Hotel & Suites Oasis Bacalar – located one block from the lagoon and close to all the best restaurants, Hotel and Suites Oasis is a great choice. The rooms are brightly, decorated suites and the on-site pool is perfect for relaxing –check prices now
Click here for the best Bacalar Hotel prices
Things to do in Bacalar
It’s no surprise that the best things to do in Bacalar are focused around the lake, Laguna de Bacalar.
- Get out on the water: swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and sailing are popular activities on the lake.
- Scuba dive in the deep waters of Cenote Azul.
- Take a boat ride or kayak to the Pirates Channel and check out the famous Bacalar Shipwreck
- Visit Fort San Felipe, a huge 18th century stone fortress next to the lagoon.
- Explore the Mayan City of Kohunlich, located in the middle of the jungle just an hour south west of Bacalar.
The colorful and charming Campeche, one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, is often overlooked by visitors to the Yucatan Peninsula. The city was founded in the 16th century and, as an important Caribbean port, was fortified against pirates. The city walls still surround the historic center of Campeche today.
Things to do in Campeche
- Wander through the perfectly preserved historic center with its cobblestone streets and colorful pastel buildings
- Explore the city walls and forts: both Fuerte de San Miguel and Fuerte San Jose were part of the ancient fortification system to protect the city from pirates
- Visit Edzna, the ancient Mayan ruins located north of Campeche. Inhabited as far back as 500 BC, the five storey Piramide de Los Cinco Pisos is incredible to see.
- Dine al fresco at one of the restaurants lining the pedestrianised Calle 59
For more on the Yucatan, check out our top 25 things to do in the Yucatan!
6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary (2023)”
Thanks for this very helpful post! I want to spend a month in the region and loving your tips
Glad you liked it Cherene. The Yucatan is amazing. Best of luck with planning your trip!
Hi, heading on February to Yucatan. This itinerary its great help! Thanks. Just a quick question did you keep the rented car when in Isla Mujeres and Holbox. Where did you leave it? And, was there closed sites because of Covid 19? Thanks!!!
Hi Ruth. We left our car in the ferry car park when we went to Mujeres and in a parking lot close to the ferry in Chiquila when we went to Isla Holbox. We were there before Covid really kicked off so there were no closures but not sure of the current situation.
This was inspirational! I’m planning a similar three week trip next June. Any advice as far as what type of car insurance to get from the rental place?
Also, did you encounter any police stopping you asking you for a bribe?
You need to get the full insurance from the car rental place – we always use the cover through our credit card but Cancun is one of the first places that it hasn’t provided the full insurance required. I’ve explained it in full here. We didn’t have any issues and passed through police checks numerous times.