- Explore the fortress ruins at Tulum
- Hike up the largest Maya pyramid in Mexico
- Visit indigenous communities and swim in cave lagoons
- Relax on the white-sand beaches of Holbox Island
|Day 1||Arrive in Cancún, Transfer to Tulum||Tulum|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Sian Ka'an, Optional Activities in Tulum||Tulum|
|Day 3||Tulum to Nuevo Durango, Explore Cobá Ruins & Punta Laguna||Nuevo Durango|
|Day 4||Nuevo Durango to Valladolid, Culture & Nature in Yalcobá||Valladolid|
|Day 5||Valladolid to Holbox Island, Optional Activities||Holbox|
|Day 6||Free Day on Holbox Island||Holbox|
|Day 7||Holbox to Puerto Morelos, Optional Activities||Puerto Morelos|
|Day 8||Puerto Morelos to Cancún, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Cancún, Transfer to Tulum
Welcome to Mexico and its famous Yucatán Peninsula! You'll arrive at the airport in Cancún and then transfer two hours 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.
After settling in, you'll have the remainder of the day free, and there are many exciting activities here. One enticing option is to while away the hours on Tulum's white-sand beaches. This resort town is also known for dining and nightlife, so when the sun goes down, head to the center, where you'll find restaurants, bars, and nightclubs lining the main highway. Stroll the waterfront shopping district of Tulum Beach Road for retail therapy, home to boutiques, clothing stores, and art galleries.
Day 2: Day Trip to Sian Ka'an, Optional Activities in Tulum
In the morning, head out on a six-hour tour of nearby Sian Ka'an. This biosphere reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site protects 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 splashing around at Chemuyil, you'll return to Tulum and have the rest of the day free. Be sure to visit its famous archeological site. Built on 39-foot (12-m) cliffs overlooking the ocean, the ancient Maya ruins here once comprised a great fortress city (the word tulum is a Yucatán Mayan word meaning "wall"). Hiking around this site, which dates to 1200 CE, you can visit the famous El Castillo, an iconic fortress standing 25 feet (7.5 m). After touring this UNESCO World Heritage Site, head directly below the ruins for a swim at Playa Ruinas.
Day 3: Tulum to Nuevo Durango, Explore Cobá Ruins & Punta Laguna
In the morning, you'll transfer about an hour north of Tulum to the ancient Maya archeological 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. Tourism has little touched this charming community, 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.
Afterward, you'll head 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 an excellent opportunity to do some wildlife spotting—notably the countless spider monkeys that populate the area. When the tour is over, you'll return to Nuevo Durango, where you'll stay overnight.
Day 4: Nuevo Durango to Valladolid, Culture & Nature in Yalcobá
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
In the morning, you'll head out on an hour-drive west to the historic city of Valladolid. On the way, you'll stop at the Maya community of Yalcobá. Then enjoy a day of adventure, beginning with a guided hike through the forest and a tour of the milpa fields—an ancient agriculture system that intercrops corn, beans, and squash. After exploring cave cenotes (underground freshwater lagoons), you'll return to town and visit a handicrafts workshop to see how locals produce artisanal jewelry and weaved hammocks. Then participate in a gastronomic workshop to learn about traditional Maya cuisine.
After Yalcobá, you'll continue to Valladolid, where you'll check in to your hotel. You'll want to see the sights, as Valladolid 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, and exceptional beauty. Visit the historic center and landmarks like the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena (founded in 1552) and San Servacio Church, which dates to 1545 and overlooks the Parque Francisco Canton, the town's central plaza.
Day 5: Valladolid to Holbox Island, Optional Activities
In the morning, you'll hit the road again on a 5.5-hour bus ride to the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and the seaside town of Chiquilá. From there, take a 15-minute ferry to the island of Holbox. This sleepy island couldn't be more different than the tourist hotspot of Cancún, which is just a couple of hours away. There are no paved roads here, as most people get around 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 in the shallow turquoise waters of Holbox's shores.
Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have free the remainder of the day. Maybe take a stroll around this 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 from the main port to the long, white-sand beaches to swim in the crystalline waters. Then enjoy a coco (coconut) or tropical adult beverage as you sit on the sand and marvel at Holbox's famous golden sunsets tinged with vermillion hues.
Day 6: Free Day on Holbox Island
Spend today 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 popular along the shallow shores, particularly during the winter when the winds are up. Also, May to September is whale shark season, and you can book an excursion to go swimming with these gentle giants during this time. 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 flamingos that congregate here from April to October. Then stop at Isla Pájaros (Bird Island), a protected area home to dozens of bird species like frigates, cormorants, and herons. Continue to Passion Island, an idyllic place famous for its beaches covered in bright pink seashells.
Day 7: Holbox 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 3-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 have free the remainder of the day.
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.