Sample the best of the Yucatán Peninsula's archaeological and natural wonders, Indigenous communities, and charming cities with this 10-day road trip. Drive from the Riviera Maya coastline to the Spanish colonial cities of Valladolid and Mérida. Tour the ancient Maya ruins at Ek' Balam and Chichén Itzá before a day trip to coastal towns, which bring beekeeping insights and a boat ride to a cenote. Finish in El Cuyo on the northern coast, spotting flamingoes on a boat ride in Ría Lagartos Reserve.


  • Snorkel among colorful fish and sea turtles in Puerto Morelos National Reef Park
  • Spend an exciting day of kitesurfing on the north coast
  • Tour the charming colonial streets of Mérida and visit Maya communities
  • Snap photos with a backdrop of Las Coloradas' pink waters on a boat tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cancún, Drive to Puerto Morelos, Snorkeling Tour Puerto Morelos
Day 2 Drive to Valladolid, Optional Activities Valladolid
Day 3 Day Trip to Ek' Balam, Cenotes & Yalcobá Valladolid
Day 4 Explore Chichén Itzá, Cenote Swimming in Yokdzonot, Drive to Mérida Mérida
Day 5 Mérida City Tour & Optional Activities Mérida
Day 6 Day Trip to Sinanché & San Crisanto Mérida
Day 7 Drive to El Cuyo, Boat Tour of Las Coloradas El Cuyo
Day 8 Kitesurfing at El Cuyo El Cuyo
Day 9 Optional Acitivities in El Cuyo, Ría Lagartos Boat Tour El Cuyo
Day 10 Drive to Cancún, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cancún, Drive to Puerto Morelos, Snorkeling Tour

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is the world's second-largest coral reef system

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 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.

After settling into your hotel, discover the area's marine wonders with a two-hour snorkeling adventure in its National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos. Nestled within the vast Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, this protected area 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.

Day 2: Drive to Valladolid, Optional Activities

Duck into colorful shops, boutiques, and galleries on the Calzada de Los Frailes

Today you'll embark on a two-hour drive from Puerto Morelos to Valladolid, a colorful Spanish 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, you'll check into your hotel. After settling in, you'll have the rest of the day to explore Valladolid on your own.

Founded in 1543 and invaded several times by the Spanish, this city was the stage of vast confrontations between the Maya and the Conquistadores. Much colonial architecture remains today, and one of the finest examples is San Servacio Church, which dates to 1545 and overlooks the Parque Francisco Cantón. From the park, you can walk to the 16th-century Convent of San Bernardino de Siena and the Calzada de Los Frailes, a cobblestone street lined with colorful shops, boutiques, and galleries.

Day 3: Day Trip to Ek' Balam, Cenotes & Yalcobá

Cenote X'Canche is a natural limestone sinkhole popular for swimming

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: Explore Chichén Itzá, Cenote Swimming in Yokdzonot, Drive to Mérida

The Maya people used the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars for ritualistic and ceremonial purposes

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 jade lagoons in all of Mexico, ready for swimming. Try to feel the spirituality as you swim; after all, these cenotes were very sacred to the Maya. They were primary water sources and symbols of life, death, rebirth, and fertility. Then, it's time to get back on the road for the 1.5-hour drive to Mérida, the capital of Mexico's Yucatán region and your base for the next three nights.

Day 5: Mérida City Tour & Optional Activities 

Mérida is often referred to as the "White City" due to its elegant architecture and white buildings

This morning, a guide will show you around Mérida, an impressive Spanish colonial city, with time after the tour to explore on your own. Mérida's history runs deep, evident by the historic landmarks and plazas around town. It was founded in 1542 above the ancient Maya city of T'ho. The Spanish leveled its five pyramids and later used the remains to build Mérida Cathedral. The famous church remains to this day, with its twin bell towers looming large over the Plaza Grande, the city's main square. 

In that square, you can sample street food and then stroll around the Centro Histórico to see the colorful colonial architecture. Then, venture down the iconic Paseo de Montejo, with its opulent mansions and museums, stopping at the Palacio Cantón. From there, head to the Santa Lucía neighborhood, another historic enclave, to relax in the tranquil Parque de Santa Lucía and admire the historic red church. If you love the water, consider visiting the beach, just one hour away, or swimming in a nearby cenote. End your day by indulging in Merida's famous nightlife with bars, restaurants, and live music.

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Day 6: Day Trip to Sinanché & San Crisanto

Participate in a honey tasting and learn more about these stingless bees in Sinanché

Today's schedule is full of diverse activities. First up, drive to the nearby coastal town of Sinanché, where in 2001, the community launched an ecotourism initiative to promote local craft production and mangrove conservation. Beekeeping has been a long-standing tradition in this area, and you'll learn about the various species found in the region and their vital role in the environment's health. You'll also wear a beekeeper's suit and learn about honey production. Afterward, there will be a tasting of artisanal honey, and you'll even get to make your own honey-wax candle.

Continue to San Crisanto, a lovely coastal town known for its virgin beaches and cenotes. It's unique in that all tourism here is managed by local residents, with all proceeds going directly back to the community. Upon arrival, you'll board a boat and travel through mangrove lagoons to one highlight cenote: Ojo de Agua (Water's Eye). During the tour, you can admire the local fauna, which includes over 100 species of birds like herons and woodpeckers. Afterward, have lunch at a local restaurant, then enjoy some free time lazing on white-sand beaches. After San Crisento, you'll return to your hotel in Mérida. 

Day 7: Drive to El Cuyo, Boat Tour of Las Coloradas

Snap the perfect photo with the pink lakes as a backdrop

After breakfast, you'll drive to El Cuyo, a quaint fishing village tucked away on the Yucatán's northern coast. The scenic drive, spanning approximately 3.5 hours, will take you through the picturesque landscapes of the Yucatán Peninsula. As you arrive in El Cuyo, you'll check into your accommodation and set out on a boat tour of the pink waters of Las Coloradas. It's not just the striking pink lakes that draw travelers; the area is also a thriving ecosystem and home to various bird species, including flamingoes, which add to its charm.

For 3.5 hours, your guide will lead you through the famous Las Coloradas salt ponds. Here, the surreal landscape of vivid pink-hued waters results from the high salt concentration in the water, rich in red plankton, algae, and brine shrimp. When these microorganisms interact with the saltwater, they create a stunning visual effect, turning the lakes into a vibrant shade of pink. This phenomenon provides an incredible backdrop for capturing photographs that will freeze these moments in time. Your guide knows all the best camera tricks and will gladly snap photos for you.  

Day 8: Kitesurfing at El Cuyo

El Cuyo's consistent and strong offshore winds create ideal circumstances for kitesurfing
Soak up all El Cuyo has to offer with more experiences on the water. During a two-hour excursion, you'll take advantage of 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 unspoiled coast.

Day 9: Optional Acitivities in El Cuyo, Ría Lagartos Boat Tour

Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve is home to over 380 species of birds

Enjoy a slow start to your morning, and during breakfast, consider how to spend your day in El Cuyo. A bonus to this location is that El Cuyo is located adjacent to the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, which encompasses 233 square miles (603 sq km) of protected wetland ecosystems.

One option is to take a two-hour guided tour while riding a boat through the reserve. Ría Lagartos is one of the main flamingo nesting areas in the Yucatán, so expect to see plenty of these exotic avian species wading in the shallows. You'll also have views of Las Coloradas' pink water, plus a soak in an exfoliating Maya mud bath. You'll disembark on the beach and apply the white clay extracted from the sand, which contains minerals, salts, and algae—all very beneficial for the skin. Afterward, rinse off in the ocean and enjoy free time on the beach before returning to El Cuyo.

Day 10: Drive to Cancún, Depart

Say farewell to Cancún
Your Yucatán adventure has come to an end. After breakfast, you'll get back in the car for the three-hour drive east back to the airport in Cancún, where your local host will be waiting for you to help you drop off the rental car. Safe travels for your flight home!

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