- Discover Maya culture on visits to Indigenous towns
- Explore the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá and then cool off in hidden cenotes
- Kayak under the stars to witness the phenomenon of bioluminescence
- Ride a speedboat to where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico
- Kayak through mangroves and spot native wildlife
|Day 1||Arrive in Cancún, Drive to Puerto Morelos & Optional Activities||Puerto Morelos|
|Day 2||Snorkel Puerto Morelos, Drive to Valladolid & Walking Tour||Valladolid|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Ek' Balam, Cenotes & Yalcobá||Valladolid|
|Day 4||Boat Ride in Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, Swim in Suytun Cenote||Valladolid|
|Day 5||Explore Chichén Itzá, Cenote Swimming in Yokdzonot||Valladolid|
|Day 6||Drive to El Cuyo, Learn to Kitesurf||El Cuyo|
|Day 7||Ferry to Holbox, Evening Kayak & Bioluminescence Tour||Holbox|
|Day 8||Speedboat Tour of Cabo Catoche||Holbox|
|Day 9||Discover Mangroves by Kayak, Optional Activities||Holbox|
|Day 10||Ferry to Chiquilá, Drive to Cancún & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Cancún, Drive to Puerto Morelos & Optional Activities
Welcome to the Mexican Caribbean! After picking up your rental car at the Cancún airport, drive 30 minutes toward the sea to Puerto Morelos on the Riviera Maya. After settling in, the afternoon is yours to explore at your leisure. This small fishing town with beautiful beaches has kept its charm through time, and its coast is home to the Mesoamerican Reef System, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, extending from Quintana Roo to the Honduran Bay Islands. The beautiful seaside section of the town has an island feel since it's only four blocks wide and about 15 blocks in length.
Consider hiking in the surrounding jungle or taking a dip in nearby cenotes (natural limestone sinkholes). Within this little village are dozens of great taquerías and restaurants serving fresh seafood right off the boat. Another highlight open for a tour is the Jardín Botánico Dr. Marin. It's one of the largest botanical gardens in Mexico and protects a large section of the jungle filled with cacti, orchids, fruit trees, palms, and other flora. When you're finished wandering, rest up for a full day of adventures under the water and above the surface tomorrow.
Day 2: Snorkel Puerto Morelos, Drive to Valladolid & Walking Tour
Your day begins among the marine wonders of Puerto Morelos with a two-hour snorkeling adventure in its National Reef Park, nestled within the vast Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. This marine reserve spans nearly 150 acres (60 ha) and offers a chance to observe a diverse aquatic ecosystem. Witness schools of tropical fish navigating coral formations like brain and elk-horn corals. Encounter rays, octopuses, parrotfish, barracudas, starfish, sea snails, and even sea turtles as you delve into the crystal-clear waters.
Next, embark on a two-hour drive from Puerto Morelos to Valladolid, a colonial city rich in history. Upon arrival, meet your local guide for a 1.5-hour walking tour. Founded in 1543, Valladolid witnessed significant clashes between the Maya and the Spanish conquistadors. Immerse yourself in the city's colonial heritage with visits to landmarks like the 16th-century San Servacio Church, overlooking the bustling Parque Francisco Cantón, and the historic Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. Stroll along the picturesque Calzada de Los Frailes, adorned with boutiques and galleries showcasing Valladolid's charm.
Day 3: Day Trip to Ek' Balam, Cenotes & Yalcobá
In the morning, drive about 30 minutes north to the archaeological site of Ek' Balam, which means "Black Jaguar" in ancient Mayan. The name refers to the Maya king who constructed this city, and during its heyday, between the seventh and 10th centuries CE, it was the capital of the entire political region. On a one-hour tour led by an expert guide, you'll visit ruins, including temples, a ball court, and an acropolis. Ride a bicycle along an ancient, 1.5-mile (2.4 km) stone path called a sacbé (white road). This causeway leads to Cenote X'Canché, a limestone sinkhole and turquoise lagoon, where you'll enjoy a swim.
Afterward, you'll drive south another 30 minutes to the Maya community of Yalcobá, where you'll enjoy a traditional Yucatecan lunch. Once you've eaten, you'll meet the residents and visit nearby virgin cenotes to enjoy more swimming. Upon returning to town, visit a handicraft workshop to see how locals produce artisanal jewelry and woven hammocks. At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to Valladolid and your hotel.
Day 4: Boat Ride in Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, Swim in Suytun Cenote
Begin your day by driving 1.5 hours for a boat ride through the natural wonders of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, a key nesting site for flamingoes in the region. Over two hours, you'll glide through the mangrove ecosystem and marvel at its rich biodiversity. Your boat tour also includes visiting the Las Coloradas salt ponds, where the pinkish hue, derived from their salt concentration, creates a surreal landscape. Next, indulge in a Maya bath amid the soothing white clay mounds renowned for their skin-nourishing properties. Then, settle in for the three-hour drive inland to a natural sinkhole near Valladolid.
This afternoon, you'll spend two hours discovering Suytun Cenote, formed from the collapse of the cave ceiling, which created a circular opening to the underground water. Because the area is enclosed by a vault with a surface opening, natural sunlight peeks in, revealing abundant stalagmites and stalactites. Inside, you'll notice its striking blue color. The clarity of the water allows for excellent visibility when swimming or snorkeling, making it a great spot for water-related activities. Afterward, return to your hotel to recount the natural wonders you've experienced.
Day 5: Explore Chichén Itzá, Cenote Swimming in Yokdzonot
Get ready to discover another star archaeological site of the Yucatán Peninsula. After breakfast, you'll drive about an hour west of Valladolid to Chichén Itzá, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. During its heyday (around 600-900 CE), this ancient Maya city was the most revered religious center and pilgrimage site in the Yucatán. Its most iconic attraction is the Kukulkán (El Castillo) pyramid, built to honor the feathered serpent god. During this two-hour tour, your expert guide will reveal the history and mythology of the ancient Maya world as you marvel at Kukulkán.
After enjoying your time at Chichén Itzá, continue driving 15 minutes northwest to the rural community of Yokdzonot. In 2005, a group of women residents transformed the cenote in their village into an ecotourism site. The result is one of the most beautiful lagoons in all of Mexico. You can dive right in and swim around these jade waters. The best part is this one is off the tourist trail, meaning you'll avoid massive crowds. Try to feel the spirituality as you swim; after all, these cenotes were very sacred to the Maya. They were not only primary water sources but also symbols of life, death, rebirth, and fertility.
Day 6: Drive to El Cuyo, Learn to Kitesurf
Leave Valladolid this morning on a 2.5-hour drive to the northern end of the Yucatán and El Cuyo. Located far off the tourist trail, this small fishing village is known for its long, empty beaches and turquoise waters, making it a relaxing retreat from the crowded resort areas along the Caribbean coast.
Upon arrival in El Cuyo, you'll check into your accommodation and then head out to spend two hours experiencing one of the most popular pastimes here: kitesurfing. The strong offshore winds make this region one of the best in Mexico for such an activity. Even if you've never been on a kiteboard before, schools and private lessons are available for beginners. Once you feel comfortable, you can strap onto a board, hit the water, and zip over the waves as the wind carries you along the virgin coast.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Ferry to Holbox, Evening Kayak & Bioluminescence Tour
Set out on a 2.5-hour scenic drive from El Cuyo to Chiquilá. Upon reaching Chiquilá, a 15-minute ferry ride brings you to tranquil Isla Holbox, a stark contrast to the bustling Cancún. With no paved roads, the primary modes of transportation are foot, bicycle, or golf cart. Here, leisure takes the form of lounging in hammocks above the shallow turquoise waters of Holbox's shores, far removed from the typical tourist hotspots. But today's highlight adventure begins once the sun sets.
Tonight, as the darkness filters in, you'll paddle into the ocean off the island's shores on a two-hour kayak trip to admire the grandness of the sea and sky. The journey is short and easy enough for any level of experience. As the trip begins, look to the sky to spot constellations, planets, and galaxies. If you're lucky, you might glimpse a shooting star. As you continue through the water, you may notice light coming off the water itself—this shine is caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton, which glows when disturbed.
Day 8: Speedboat Tour of Cabo Catoche
Today, embark on an informative six-hour speedboat tour to Cabo Catoche, the northernmost point of the Yucatán Peninsula. As you set sail, you'll enter a realm where the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico converge, creating a landscape of pristine beaches and extraordinary marine biodiversity. The captain and your guide will assist you in selecting the ideal fishing spot and share time-honored fishing methods to catch fish suitable for crafting a delicious ceviche.
Afterward, your adventure continues to the Cuevones, an area with a shallow depth of about 6.5 feet (2 m). This locale is perfect for swimming and snorkeling, offering a wealth of fish and coral formations to explore. Hidden among the rocks, you might even encounter cat sharks, and if you're fortunate, glimpses of hawksbill turtles, octopuses, and lobsters await. Your journey concludes with a return to Holbox via the mangroves, offering an additional opportunity to experience Cabo Catoche's abundant plant and animal life.
Day 9: Discover Mangroves by Kayak, Optional Activities
Today, you'll take to the water on a fun kayak tour through the mangroves of Isla Holbox. For two hours, you'll paddle through the nearby mangroves with a guide while you remain on the lookout for native flora and fauna and get up close to birds such as flamingoes, osprey, and pelicans. As you glide through the calm waters, learn more about this delicate ecosystem and the creatures that live here from your guide.
Afterward, and have the remainder of the day to do as you like on the island. Maybe take a stroll around the colorful village, filled with incredible street art, and stop at a café to try the local cuisine (the lobster pizza is particularly delicious). Or rent a golf cart and explore the island on four wheels. You can also head out from the main port to the long, white-sand beaches to swim in the crystalline waters. Then enjoy a coco (coconut) or tropical cocktail as you sit on the sand and marvel at one of Holbox's famous golden sunsets tinged with vermillion hues.