If you're in need of a quick escape to a tropical paradise, you can't do much better than Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Over six packed days, you'll visit the highlights of the region's famous Riviera Maya, from the resorts and nightlife of Cancún to the ancient Maya fortress ruins at Tulum. You'll even venture below the earth for a dip in the largest underground river in the world.


  • Laze on the white-sand beaches of Cancún and Playa del Carmen
  • Travel the famous Riviera Maya and go swimming in underground rivers
  • Visit the ancient Maya fortress ruins in the resort town of Tulum

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cancún, Río Secreto Guided Tour Cancún
Day 2 Free day in Cancún Cancún
Day 3 Transfer to Tulum, Optional Activities Tulum
Day 4 Free Day in Tulum Tulum
Day 5 Tulum to Playa del Carmen, Optional Activities Playa del Carmen
Day 6 Playa del Carmen to Cancún, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cancún, Río Secreto Guided Tour

Rio Secreto
Take a dip in the Río Secreto

Welcome to Mexico and its famous Yucatán Peninsula! You'll arrive at the airport in Cancún, where a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. After checking in and getting settled, you'll leave for a one-hour drive south along Mexico's famous Riviera Maya. This section of coast runs over 100 miles (160 km) along the Caribbean and offers breathtaking coastal scenery. Your destination is Río Secreto, a natural wonder that comprises one of the largest underground river systems in the world.

On a 3.5-hour tour, you'll descend into the underground caverns and explore this wonderland of geological formations, massive caverns, hanging stalactites, and crystalline waterways. This is a guided tour, and as you make your way through the cave network, your guide will explain the history of Río Secreto and offer insight into its geology. Afterward, you'll enjoy lunch before returning to your hotel.

Day 2: Free Day in Cancún

Enjoy the beaches of Cancún

Cancún is the hottest destination in the Yucatán. This city is known for its all-inclusive resorts, world-class nightlife, premier shopping and dining, and miles of white-sand beaches fronting turquoise Caribbean waters. 

Today, you're free to enjoy Cancún at your leisure. There are great beaches along the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone), which include Chac Mool Beach, Playa Caracol (close to many restaurants and shopping options), and Gaviota Azul (surrounded by great nightlife). When night falls, you can stay at the northern tip of the Hotel Zone—Punta Cancún—and indulge in the bars and nightclubs lining the streets. There's also great dining in this city, with Michelin-starred restaurant options along the Hotel Zone.

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Day 3: Transfer to Tulum, Optional Activities

Welcome to Tulum

In the morning, a driver will pick you up from your hotel in Cancún for the two-hour drive south down the Riviera Maya to the resort town of Tulum. When you arrive, you'll check in to your hotel and have free the rest of the day. If you like, you can while away the hours on Tulum's white-sand beaches. This town is also known for dining and nightlife, so head to the center when the sun goes down, where you'll find restaurants, bars, and nightclubs lining the main highway. For retail therapy, you can stroll Tulum Beach Road, lined with clothing stores, boutiques, and art galleries.

Day 4: Free Day in Tulum

Tour the ancient Maya ruins of Tulum

Enjoy a free day in Tulum. You'll want to head out and visit the main attraction: Tulum's famous archeological site. The ruins here were built on 39-foot (12-m) cliffs overlooking the ocean and once comprised a great Maya fortress city (the word tulum is a Yucatán Mayan word meaning "wall"). On a tour of the site, which dates to 1200 CE, you can visit the famous El Castillo. This iconic fortress stands 25 feet (7.5 m) tall and overlooks the sea. Afterward, head directly below the ruins for a swim at Playa Ruinas.

You can also visit a nearby cenote (limestone sinkhole), one of the true natural wonders of Yucatán. There are many within just a few minutes' drive of Tulum, including Gran Cenote and Cenote Corazón del Paraíso (Heart of Paradise Cenote). The most romantic might be Cenote Dos Ojos, a cave lagoon with electric blue waters.

Day 5: Tulum to Playa del Carmen, Optional Activities

Playa del Carmen

In the morning, make the one-hour drive north to the resort town of Playa del Carmen. After checking in to your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day free. You can head just south of town to laze on the white-sand beach at Xpu-Ha. There are also many beach clubs in Playa del Carmen where you can pull up a lounge chair and enjoy a tropical drink or three. Active adventures include snorkeling at National Reef Park in nearby Puerto Morelos or swimming in the area's cenotes like Cenote Cristalino, Jardín Del Eden, and Cenote Azul. Another option is wildlife spotting in the 185-acre Nativa Natural Park.

Day 6: Playa del Carmen to Cancún, Depart

Goodbye, Mexico

Your short but sweet adventure in the Yucatán has come to an end. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up for the one-hour drive to the airport in Cancún, where you'll catch your flight home. Adios!

More Great Mexico Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Mexico? Check out these other Mexico itineraries, explore different ways to spend six days in Mexico, or learn about the best time to visit Mexico.


Map of Mexico Ruins, Beaches & Nightlife: Cancún, Tulum & Playa del Carmen - 6 Days
Map of Mexico Ruins, Beaches & Nightlife: Cancún, Tulum & Playa del Carmen - 6 Days