- Go on nature hikes and swim in jungle cenotes
- Tour the archaeological site in Tulum and enjoy its beaches
- Visit ancient Maya ruins like Coba and Chichén Itza
- Laze on the white-sand beaches of Holbox Island
|Day 1||Arrive in Cancún, Transfer to Tulum||Tulum|
|Day 2||Chemuyil Cenotes & Tulum Ruins||Tulum|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve||Tulum|
|Day 4||Drive to Valladolid: Cobá Ruins, Culture & Wildlife Tour||Valladolid|
|Day 5||Morning Tour of Chichén Itzá: Maíz Workshop in Yaxunah||Valladolid|
|Day 6||Walking Tour of Valladolid, Transfer to Holbox Island||Holbox|
|Day 7||Free Day on Holbox Island||Holbox|
|Day 8||Drive to Puerto Morelos, Optional Activities||Puerto Morelos|
|Day 9||Return to Cancún, Depart|
Day 1: Arrival in Cancún, Transfer to TulumWelcome to Mexico and its famous Yucatán Peninsula! You'll arrive at the airport in Cancún, where a personal driver will pick you up. Then make the two-hour drive south to the resort town of Tulum. This route is part of Mexico's famous Riviera Maya, a section of gorgeous coast spanning over 100 miles (160 km) along the Caribbean. Enjoy the ride because there's breathtaking coastal scenery the whole way. When you do arrive in Tulum, you'll check in to your hotel and can relax after your long flight.
Day 2: Chemuyil Cenotes & Tulum Ruins
Your first adventure begins in the morning when you travel just north of Tulum to Chemuyil. This small coastal town is famous for its nearby cenotes (limestone sinkholes), whose lagoons are part of a system fed by the largest underground aquifer in the world. Upon arrival, you'll hop on a bicycle and follow a local guide to three cenotes. The first is La Cuevita (The Little Cave), a hidden cave lagoon with crystalline waters. Then you'll visit two other cenotes great for swimming. Plus, you can hike around the nearby forests and spot endemic birds of the Yucatán, like parrots, motmots, and woodpeckers.
After splashing around at Chemuyil, you'll return to Tulum in the afternoon to visit its famous archaeological site. The ancient Maya ruins here, which are built on 39-foot (12-m) cliffs overlooking the ocean, once comprised a great fortress city (the word tulum is actually a Yucatán Mayan word meaning "wall"). On a guided tour of the site, which dates to 1200 CE, you'll visit the famous El Castillo. This iconic fortress stands 25 feet (7.5 m) and once served as a lighthouse and temple. After touring this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can head directly below the ruins for a swim at Playa Ruinas.
Day 3: Day Trip to Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
In the morning, head out on a six-hour tour of nearby Sian Ka'an. This Biosphere Reserve and Unesco World Heritage Site protect over 2,000 sq miles (5,180 sq km) of tropical forests, palm savannas, wetlands, mangroves, lagoons, and unspoiled coastline. You'll arrive at a community center and embark on a group hike down a jungle trail. Eventually, you'll arrive at the temple ruins in Muyil, an ancient Maya site settled in 300 BCE. Then continue to the Chunyaxche Lagoon, where you'll ride a boat through a mangrove channel and can take a refreshing dip in the water.
After the swim, you'll head back to the community center, where you'll find a hearty meal waiting for you. Then you'll return to your hotel in Tulum.
Day 4: Drive to Valladolid: Cobá Ruins, Culture & Wildlife Tour
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
In the morning, you'll hop back in the rental car for the 1.5-hour trip north to the historic city of Valladolid. Along the way, you'll stop at the ancient Maya archaeological site of Cobá. Once there, you'll embark on a guided 3-mile (5-km) bike tour. It's a fun time as you cycle along ancient white pathways lined with the ruins of a former metropolis whose heyday was between 600-900 CE. The real highlight is hiking up the 120 stone steps of Nohoch Mul, which, at 137 feet (41 m), is the tallest pyramid in Yucatán.
Then continue driving north to Nuevo Durango, a small village known for its underground caves, ecotourism projects, and organic farms. This charming community has been little touched by tourism, and thus the residents have retained their customs and culture. Here you'll enjoy a traditional meal with the family of Don Manuel, who operates a project for the conservation of endangered animals. As you learn about Don's work, you'll get to see a few of the region's endemic species. Also, there is an insectarium, which holds a variety of spiders, scorpions, and butterflies.Afterward, you'll head just north of Cobá to the Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, a 12,355-acre protected area. Here you'll take a boat ride across its main lagoon, which is a great opportunity to do some wildlife spotting—particularly the countless spider monkeys that populate the area. When the tour is over, you'll continue to Valladolid and check in to your hotel.
Day 5: Morning Tour of Chichén Itzá: Maíz Workshop in Yaxunah
After breakfast, you'll meet a local guide from the nearby community of Yaxunah. You'll then both travel to the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá for a 3.5-hour walking tour. This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers 4 sq miles (10 sq km) and was first settled in the 5th century CE. It then enjoyed an impressive 1,000-year run as one of the great cities in the ancient Maya kingdom. Highlights you'll see include the iconic El Castillo (a 79-foot/24-m pyramid), the Jaguar Temple, the House of Eagles, El Caracol (a circular observatory), plus the largest ball court in Mesoamerica.
After Chichén Itzá, you'll transfer about 30 minutes south to the town of Yaxunah, which is surrounded by cornfields. The area has been a vital center of maíz (corn) production dating back thousands of years. Even today, this is a central crop (besides beans and squash) used in the intercropping milpa agricultural system first developed by the ancient Maya. When you arrive, your guide will lead you on a 2.5 tour around the fields. During that time, you'll learn about the entire production process, from planting to harvesting to cleaning. You'll even sample traditional maíz beverages like pozol, pinole, and atole.
At the end of the tour, you'll return to Valladolid.
Day 6: Walking Tour of Valladolid, Transfer to Holbox Island
Valladolid, which is one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns). This is a special designation the country has bestowed on some 132 places that have demonstrated historical importance, rich culture, great symbolism, and exceptional beauty. Enjoy a walking tour around the historical center to see landmarks like the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena (founded in 1552) and the San Servacio Church, which dates to 1545 and overlooks the Parque Francisco Canton, the town's main plaza. You'll also stroll the historic cobbled street of Calzada de Los Frailes.
Then you'll drive two hours north to the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and the town of Chiquilá. Here you'll leave the car and take a 15-minute ferry ride to Holbox Island and check in to your hotel. You'll have the rest of the day free to enjoy this sleepy island. There are no paved roads here, so most people get around either on foot, bicycle, or golf cart. And while there are many activities on offer, one of the most popular is whiling away the hours lazing in a hammock perched on the shallow turquoise waters of Holbox's shores. Also, be sure to try the local cuisine—the lobster pizza is particularly delicious.
Day 7: Free Day on Holbox Island
Spend a couple of days relaxing in this tropical island paradise. Beach time is the order of the day here, but there are plenty of active excursions in Holbox as well. For example, kitesurfing is a popular activity along shallow shores, particularly during the winter months when the winds are up. Also, May to September is whale shark season, and during this time, you can book an excursion to go swimming with these gentle giants. You can also take a kayak tour along the coast, which is most incredible at night, where, if you're lucky, you'll witness electric blue bioluminescence lighting up the water.
If you'd prefer to get out on the water, you can take the popular Three Islands tour. This half-day boat excursion visits three of the most stunning islands around Holbox. First is Yalahau Lagoon, a natural cenote and habitat for various animal species, including dolphins and the pink flamingoes that congregate here from April to October. Then stop at Isla Pájaros (Bird Island), a protected area home to dozens of bird species, including frigates, cormorants, ibises, gazelles, and herons. Continue to Passion Island, an idyllic place famous for its beaches covered in bright pink seashells.
Day 8: Drive to Puerto Morelos, Optional Activities
Spend one last morning relaxing on Holbox Island before you say hasta luego to this paradise. At the appropriate time, you'll take a taxi to the dock and catch the ferry back to Chiquilá. From there, a personal driver will pick you up for the three-hour drive southeast back to the Caribbean side of the Yucatán and the charming fishing village of Puerto Morelos. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and will have the remainder of the day free.
Besides the surrounding jungle and nearby cenotes, Puerto Morelos is famous for its National Reef Park, which protects a section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. You can opt for a two-hour snorkeling tour in this marine reserve. It's a popular activity because, within this nearly 150-acre park, you'll see a wide array of tropical fish swimming around colorful corals like brain and elk-horn coral. You'll also see rays, octopuses, parrotfish, barracudas, starfish, sea snails, turtles, and many more species.