Perfect for a quick escape, this six-day road trip through the highlights of the Riviera Maya takes you south from the beaches of Playa del Carmen to the ruins of Tulum. Along the way, you'll snorkel in the world-renowned reefs around the island of Cozumel, explore the ancient wonder of Chichén Itzá, and learn to whip up traditional Mexican dishes in a Tulum cooking class.


  • Sample the best of Playa del Carmen's markets with a street food tour
  • Enter the Maya underworld with an expedition along the Río Secreto
  • Snorkel in turquoise waters off the laid-back island of Cozumel
  • Immerse yourself in the cuisine and mezcal of Tulum with a hands-on cooking class
  • Discover 1,500 years of history among the ruins of Chichén Itzá

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cancún, Drive to Playa del Carmen, Street Food Tour Playa del Carmen
Day 2 Swim Underground at Río Secreto Playa del Carmen
Day 3 Day Trip to Cozumel & Snorkeling Playa del Carmen
Day 4 Drive to Tulum, Explore the Tulum Ruins, Cooking Class & Mezcal Tasting Tulum
Day 5 Tour Chichén Itzá & Swim in the Yokdzonot Cenote Tulum
Day 6 Drive to Cancún, Depart  
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Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cancún, Drive to Playa del Carmen, Street Food Tour 

Street Food Tour in Playa del Carmen
Sample the flavors of Mexico on a street food tour in Playa del Carmen

Welcome to Mexico! Upon your arrival at Cancún International Airport, you'll pick up your rental car and drive to Playa del Carmen, a seaside resort located along the Caribbean coast of the Riviera Maya. During the easy, hourlong drive, take in peekaboo views of the Caribbean, spot charming villages, and revel in the spectacular coastal nature of the Yucatán Peninsula.

After you check into your hotel, meet your local guide for a food tour through Playa del Carmen's streets and markets. You'll begin in El Centro, the historic heart of the city, before going off the tourist track to the backstreets. Explore some of the culinary diamonds of Playa's most authentic and local food while learning about the Riviera Maya's history, culture, and geography. 

You'll visit a family-run market, and eat at a variety of locally-owned and operated restaurants and street stalls, sampling specialties such as authentic quesadillas, chocolate-spiced mole, cochinita pibil (slow-roasted Maya pork), carnitas, and al pastor (spit-grilled, spiced pork). For dessert? You'll stop by several homemade popsicle shops for some refreshing fruit paletas

Day 2: Swim Underground at Río Secreto

Making your way through the underground waterways
Swim through the underground river, Río Secreto, on the Riviera Maya

Today you'll venture underground to the heart of the Maya underworld: the Río Secreto. Your guide will pick you up at the meeting point and take you to this natural reserve located a few minutes from Playa del Carmen, where nature and human beings converge in harmony. Together with your group, you'll have the opportunity to explore one of the largest underground river systems in the world, where the history of the planet is written in thousands of geological formations.

During the approximately 3.5-hour tour, your local guide will share fascinating stories of the river's geology and its importance to the ancient Maya while you walk—or swim!—through the flooded caves. Take time to float in some of the clearest, freshest water you'll ever experience. After you emerge from the caves, you'll enjoy a traditional buffet lunch. At the end of the tour, your shared transportation will take you back to the meeting point.

Day 3: Day Trip to Cozumel & Snorkeling

Snorkeling on the island of Cozumel
Snorkel in the turquoise waters off the island of Cozumel

Today, you'll meet your guide for a day trip by boat to the island of Cozumel. It starts on the water as you drop anchor for some snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, exploring the world-renowned reefs surrounding the island. You'll visit the Colombia Reef, marveling at its impressive coral structures, as well as El Cielo, a starfish sanctuary, and finally, El Cielito Protected Natural Area, known for its clear and calm water. 

During this experience, you'll be provided freshly prepared snacks and all the necessary snorkeling equipment needed to observe the marine world. Don't forget to bring a lot of sunscreen (the sun is intense!), swimwear, a towel, and dry clothes for the afternoon. After your busy morning in the waters around Cozumel, you'll have a free afternoon to explore the island itself. Rich in history, Maya relics, and natural wonders, Cozumel is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, famed for its white-sand beaches and colorful sunsets.

Day 4: Drive to Tulum, Explore the Tulum Ruins, Cooking Class & Mezcal Tasting

Take in the Caribbean views
Take in the Caribbean views from Tulum's beachside ruins

Hop back in your rental car today for the one-hour drive down the coast to Tulum, one of the Yucatán's most famous hotspots known for its pristine beaches, hidden cenotes, lush jungle, and Maya ruins. After you check into your accommodations, you'll meet your local guide at the UNESCO-listed Tulum Ruins. This ancient Maya city is situated in a dramatic situation amid a mangrove ecosystem and atop a cliff overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

For 1.5 hours, your guide will lead you through the history of the ruins, which played an integral role in both the maritime and overland trade of the Maya civilization, as well as serving as an astronomical observatory and defensive system. Explore the many buildings and murals, including El Castillo, the tallest structure in Tulum. From the ruins, you'll have access to the sands below at Playa Ruinas, where you can swim and lounge after your tour.

Later in the afternoon, you'll have an opportunity to create local dishes in a Mexican cooking class, under the guidance of expert chefs. Along with the cooking lesson, a certified mezcalier (mezcal expert) will provide a fleet of artisanal mezcals to sample, allowing you to discover the distinct nuances and flavors of this traditional agave-based spirit.

Day 5: Tour Chichén Itzá & Swim in the Yokdzonot Cenote

Chichen Itza's towering pyramid of Kukulcan
Take in the archaeological wonders at Chichén Itzá

Today, you'll discover the legacy of the ancient Maya civilization at the impressive archaeological site of Chichén Itzá. A local guide will take you on a two-hour tour of the pre-Hispanic city's most iconic structures, including the Pyramid of Kukulcan, the Temple of the Warriors, and the Observatory. At over 1,500 years old, the well-preserved monumental architecture and distinctive designs make it one of the most spectacular such sites in all of Mexico.

After you take in the wonders of Chichén Itzá, you'll experience a phenomenon found only on the Yucatán Peninsula: cenote swimming. These beautiful freshwater sinkholes were the main water supply for early civilizations in the jungle and a vital part of developing cities and settlements. They were also considered symbolic spaces for rain, life, death, rebirth, and fertility rituals. For the Maya in particular, cenotes were sacred and considered windows into the underworld. 

In 2005, a group of women from the rural community of Yokdzonot transformed their underground lagoon into a unique ecotourism site. Dive deep into the crystal-clear waters of Yokdzonot Cenote, which supports a small, local community. This quiet cenote isn't as frequented by tourists, and its peaceful waters have the perfect temperature to feel refreshed from the heat. After enjoying a cooling swim, you'll sit down to a delicious lunch.

Day 6: Drive to Cancún, Depart

Catch one last sunrise from the beach before leaving Mexico

On your last morning in Mexico, wake up early to catch one last spectacular sunrise from the beach. After a free morning to explore more of Tulum or soak up some beach time, you'll drive the two hours back up to the Cancún International Airport. Return your rental car at the scheduled time, with the assistance of a local guide, and catch your flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Quick Riviera Maya Road Trip: Playa del Carmen to Tulum - 6 Days
Map of Quick Riviera Maya Road Trip: Playa del Carmen to Tulum - 6 Days