Go beyond Cancún and explore the lesser-visited highlights of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula on this quick five-day escape. It begins in Puerto Morelos, whose unspoiled reef is part of a marine reserve you'll explore during a snorkeling trip. Then visit the ruins of El Castillo—situated above a beach in beautiful Tulum—before finishing with a tour of the even grander Ek' Balam archaeological site.


  • Take a snorkel tour around the National Reef Park at Puerto Morelos
  • Visit extraordinary archaeological sites in Tulum and Ek' Balam 
  • Explore colonial architecture in Valladolid and bike to a cenote
  • Enjoy some free time to relax and swim on the Caribbean coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cancún, Transfer to Puerto Morelos Puerto Morelos
Day 2 Snorkeling Tour in Puerto Morelos Puerto Morelos
Day 3 Transfer to Tulum, Visit Maya Ruins Tulum
Day 4 Transfer to Valladolid, Ek' Balam & Cenote Tour Valladolid
Day 5 Transfer to Cancún, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cancún, Transfer to Puerto Morelos

Head straight from the airport to the coastal village of Puerto Morelos 

Welcome to the Yucatán! This peninsula region in southeast Mexico runs up against the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. It's famous for its white-sand beaches, ancient Maya ruins, glimmering cenotes (limestone sinkholes), and resorts along the famous Riviera Maya. You'll arrive in the heart of the action—Cancún—and immediately transfer to Puerto Morelos about 30 minutes down the coast.

This tranquil fishing village may not have the nightclubs and shopping centers of Cancún, but it is a world-class diving destination due to National Reef Park. This marine reserve protects a nearby section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and spend the rest of the day exploring the village and relaxing on the beach.

Day 2: Snorkeling Tour in Puerto Morelos

Snorkeling in the beautiful marine park of Puerto Morelos
Take a snorkel tour in the beautiful marine park of Puerto Morelos
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Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
In the morning, you'll hit the water and take advantage of the pristine marine reserve, National Reef Park, on a two-hour snorkeling trip. All snorkeling and diving tours here are led by certified guides (it's mandatory), and within this nearly 150-acre park, you'll see a wide array of marine life. These include tropical fish congregating around various colorful corals like brain and elk-horn coral. You'll also see rays, octopuses, parrotfish, barracudas, starfish, sea snails, turtles, and many more species. 

Day 3: Transfer to Tulum, Visit Maya Ruins

Check out the ruins of Tulum on the Caribbean coast above the beach

After an early breakfast, a driver will pick you up for a ride down the Yucatán coast to Tulum. This resort town is famous for having the only ancient Maya ruins sitting right on the Caribbean coast. After checking into your hotel, you'll visit this renowned archaeological site during a two-hour tour. 

The ruins here were once an ancient Maya fortress city (the word tulum is a Yucatán Maya word meaning "wall") situated on high cliffs overlooking the ocean. The town was built around 1200 and reached its height of power in the 15th century. On a guided tour, you'll visit significant structures like El Castillo, a stone fortress overlooking the sea which served as a lighthouse and temple. After exploring the ruins, head down to the beach below the site, called Playa Ruinas, and take an afternoon swim.

Day 4: Transfer to Valladolid, Ek' Balam & Cenote Tour

For centuries Ek' Balam was hidden by the Yucatán jungle
Learn how Ek' Balam was hidden for centuries by the Yucatán jungle

In the morning, you'll transfer 1.5 hours inland from the coast to Valladolid, a charming colonial city with well-preserved 16th-century landmarks. It's one of Mexico's celebrated Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns), a special designation the country has bestowed on some 132 places that have demonstrated historical importance, rich culture, great symbolism, and exceptional beauty. Upon arrival, check into your hotel.

There's no time to rest because you'll immediately continue about 30 minutes north to tour the archaeological site of Ek' Balam, which means "black jaguar" in ancient Maya. The name refers to the Maya king who constructed this city, and during its heyday, between the 7th-10th centuries CE, it was the capital of the entire political region. Highlight ruins include temples, a ball court, and an acropolis.

Afterward, you'll ride a bicycle (or take a bike taxi) along an ancient stone path called a sacbé ("white road"). This causeway leads to Cenote X'Canché, a limestone sinkhole fed by the largest underground aquifer in the world. After a traditional Yucatecan lunch, you'll dive into X'Canché for a swim before returning to Valladolid.

Day 5: Transfer to Cancún, Depart

If time allows, stroll around Valladolid's colonial architecture before departure

You've packed a lot of adventure into just a few days! Now, unfortunately, it's time to say farewell to the Yucatán. In the morning, you'll transfer 2.5 hours back to the airport in Cancún and catch your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Mexico Itineraries

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


Map of Mexico's Yucatán in a Nutshell Tour - 5 Days
Map of Mexico's Yucatán in a Nutshell Tour - 5 Days