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2 Weeks in Mexico: Yucatan Peninsula Itinerary

2 Weeks in Mexico: Yucatan Peninsula Itinerary

If you have just 2 weeks in Mexico, like most visitors, you need to think about your Mexico itinerary carefully.

You don’t have to skip some of your bucket list items. You can swim in cenotes, scuba dive with whale sharks, enjoy the white sand beaches, visit the ancient Mayan ruins, visit colonial towns and still have time to taste the nightlife.

What to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico


Hidden Gems Of Mexico

The best and the most convenient way to explore the Yucatan Peninsula area is by renting a car. A car will give you the freedom to explore more and beat the crowds. You will appreciate having the ability to go places a bit off the beaten path and possibly save money over using taxis and shuttles.

You can pick up a car right after you land in Cancun and begin your adventure by driving directly to Playa del Carmen. If you’re not up for a solo adventure for whatever reason, check out some group tours with G Adventures.

Is Mexico Still Safe?

Yes, absolutely. While the US government constantly issues travel warnings against going to certain areas of Riviera Maya (they also issued many for countries I had an amazing experience in, like Iran), life there goes on normally, as usual.

I used to live in Playa del Carmen for a long time during another travel warning and I was going places just fine. Plenty of tourists, locals and expats are enjoying Yucatan Peninsula these days.


Things to Do in Yucatan Peninsula Mexico

Day 1 to 3: Enjoy Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is much more than just a tourist spot with great nightlife. Even after a year of living here I still keep finding those hidden gems in and around town. Playa del Carmen is a great place to eat delicious Mexican food, shop till you drop, and relax on the beach.

There are also plenty of activities like jet-skiing, paragliding, snorkeling and much more if you’re looking for some adventures without leaving town. It’s a great place to start your adventures around the Yucatan Peninsula.

You can base yourself in Playa for at least a few days while doing day trips. Since Playa is still quite touristy you can get more local experience by staying at a vacation rental rather than staying at the hotel.


READ MORE: Best Guide to Playa del Carmen


Best Apartments in Playa del Carmen (I used to live in both)

The Elements   –   Check Prices On: Booking.com + Booking.com (it’s the same building with different apartments because every apartment has different owners)

Sabbia   –   Check Prices On: Booking.comAgoda

Best Mid-Range Hotels in Playa del Carmen

Reina Roja   –   Check Prices On: Booking.comAgoda

Acanto Boutique  –  Check Prices On: Booking.comAgoda

Best Luxury Hotels in Playa del Carmen

The Royal   –   Check Prices On: Booking.comAgoda

Grand Hyatt   –   Check Prices On: Booking.comAgoda

DON’T FORGET ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE!

Don’t forget to arrange health insure before heading to Mexico. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance is Safety Wing. Get it before your trip to skip unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!

Elements
The Elements condo – biggest pool in playa and private beach


Day 4: Explore Cenotes

Cenotes are a must-do in the Yucatan. What exactly are cenotes? There are cave formations and sinkholes, either open-air or completely underground.

Use your own car or take a collectivo from Playa del Carmen and visit as many cenotes you can. Trust me, there are many cenotes to choose from!

Each cenote is different: some have great diving, others are full of fish and great cliffs to jump from and sometimes you can even find a zipline or a swing!

The best cenotes closest to Playa del Carmen are the Cenote Azul, Cenote Jardin del Eden, and the Cenote Dos Ojos. So you can head back to Playa del Carmen for the night.

Read the Ultimate Guide to Cenotes

cenote zaci
Pictured is cenote Zaci

Day 5/6: Take a Day or Overnight Trip to Cozumel

Catch the early morning ferry to the island of Cozumel. As the island is quite big, you should consider renting a car, buggy, or scooter to get around. You can snorkel on a gorgeous reef near The Money Bar.

Then continue onto the Punta Sur Reserve to enjoy the beach, play with some pygmy raccoons, and maybe try spotting a crocodile! Climb to the top of the Celarian Lighthouse in the park for a spectacular 360-degree view of the Cozumel.

You can also visit the San Gervasio archaeological site to see the temple dedicated to the Goddess Ixchel. Home to a number of shrines and niches, San Gervasio is also home to the Temple Nohoch Nah and the Plaza Central dating to the Post Classic Period. (1200 to 1650 AD)

There are a number of Cacao factories on Cozumel where you can learn how cacao is made. If you have more time, spend the afternoon visiting the include Kaokao Chocolates Damarsicheli and Mayan Cacao Company.

Cozumel is also a great spot for diving, so make sure you save some time for this exercise.

DSC02596

More info about Cozumel

  • Most of the resorts charge for the use of their lounge chairs and umbrellas, but it’s free at the Monkey Bar (as long as you purchase a drink or snack).
  • Entrance fees to Punta Sur National Park are $14 for adults and $8 for children aged 4 to 12. Cash Only.
  • Entrance fees (for anyone above 3 years) to San Gervasio are $10.50 USD or $188 Pesos.
  • San Gervasio is only open from 9 am to 3 pm.

If you have more time, stay the night in Cozumel

Occidental Cozumel All Inclusive – All-inclusive Luxury Hotel

The Landmark Resort of Cozumel– Classy Luxury Hotel

Amaranto Bed and Breakfast– Oval-shaped bungalows

Hotel Mary Carmen-Budget Friendly


Day 7: Swim with Turtles at Akumal Beach

Akumal is a small village on the way to Tulum. Do yourself a favor and stop at Akumal where you can swim with sea turtles for free. It’s one of the best things to do in the area!

Don’t get suckered into the tourist trap of booking a tour to swim with the turtles. Here’s a post I’ve written more about how to swim with turtles in Akumal for free.

The nearby Akumal Monkey Sanctuary where rescued primates are housed can be given a short visit. Aktun Chen National Park nearby features an underground river, ancient caves, and a 25-feet high zipline. These two places are not must-sees, though, so they can easily be skipped.

From Akumal, you can continue directly to Tulum and spend nights there until day 8 or 9.

Where to Stay in Tulum

Azulik Tulum – Luxurious villas taking natural forms

Mayan Monkey Hotel & Hostel – Amazing Affordable Quality

B&B by Los Arcos – Budget-friendly

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Day 8: Visit Tulum Ruins & Sian Ka’an Reserve

While there are many impressive Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum’s beachfront location, perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, is hard to beat. Surrounded by a tall 5-meter high wall, the Tulum Ruins are home to the Temple of the Descending God and the Temple of the Wind.

Aim to arrive as early (or late) as possible to beat the crowds as the site gets packed around 10 am.

Yucatan peninsula

In the afternoon you can visit the Sian Ka’an Reserve where you can kayak among mangroves and spot some cute crocodiles. Meaning “gate to the sky or heaven”, Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO Heritage-listed site that’s home to a range of plants and animals.

Info About Tulum

  • Entrance to Tulum Zona Archaelogica is 80 Pesos.
  • Admission to Tulum Ruins is from 9 am to 5 pm.
  • Sian Ka’an Biosphere can be accessed from either Punta Allen or Muyil.
Sian Ka'an

Day 9: Climb the Pyramid of Coba + Swim in more Cenotes

The ruins of Coba might not be as known as Chichen Itza, but the site is less touristy and you can still climb the main pyramid called Ixmoja. There are 120 stone steps up to the top, but it’s well worth the climb.

A central location in the old Mayan world, the stone city of Coba has many ruins depicting life in the Mesoamerican Civilization – Nohoch Mul, Chumuc Mul, Sacbe, Coba Group, and the Macanxoc Group. Lago Coba and Lago Macanxoc are also nearby but they’re homes to crocodiles, so no swimming.

Coba is way bigger than you might think at first so allow yourself to spend a few hours out there, but don’t worry – you can rent a bike to get around.

coba ruins
Top of Coba’s largest pyramid

A trip to Coba wouldn’t be complete without taking a dip in the refreshing cenotes nearby. For a small fee you get to see three amazing underground cenotes, in my opinion, the best in the Yucatan.

Cenote Choo-Ha is my favorite, but if you’re an adventure seeker try to jump from a 45 feet platform at Tamcach-Ha cenote.

cenote choo-ha
cenote choo-ha

Other Important Coba Info

  • The Coba Ruins are about 40 km south of Tulum.
  • Ixmoja, the tallest pyramid is part of the Nohoch Mul group.
  • Coba was inhabited more than 2000 years ago.
  • Other cenotes near Choo-Ha that are worth visiting are Tancach-ha and Multun-ha.
  • Entrance fees to Choo-Ha average around 100 MXN or 5 USD.

Where to Stay in or near Coba Ruins

Aldea Coba An Escape Boutique Experience – Classy Boutique

Hotel Sacbe Coba – Budget Hotel

Hotel Kaab Coba – Affordable Mid-range Hotel

Hotel Mayahau Coba – Budget Hotel with shared kitchen


Day 10: Go to Chichen Itza & Valladolid

Leave early in the morning and head to Chichen Itza – one of Mexico’s most visited tourist destinations and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are a lot of astronomical marvels at Chichen Itza, but one of the most exciting is the Descent of the Feathered Serpent on the main Pyramid of Kukulkan that happens once a year.

A shadow play is created where a serpent head statue transforms into a full creature through the shadows of the pyramid’s terraces.

chichen itza
Chichen Itza

Valladolid is a friendly colonial town on the way to Chichen Itza featuring stunning architecture, including a 16th-century Cathedral of San Gervasio (San Servacio).

While some tourists still pass through Valladolid the city is often an overlooked destination, while there are plenty of things to do there.

If you stop here visit the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena to see its stunning architecture. On weekdays at 9 pm there’s a sound and light show on the outer walls that detail the history and architecture of the church.

You can also look at over 3000 pieces of local folk art at the museum-like Casa de los Venados.

You could also visit the small church named after the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron saint of the town. The Iglesia de la Candelaria is pretty simple, but the cafes in the square nearby are definitely worth a try.

Local cenotes such as Cenote Zaci are a great alternative to the overcrowded Ik Kil Cenote. Valladolid a good spot to spend a night in as well.

Info about Chichen Itza and Valladolid

  • The Cathedral of San Servacio is free to enter.
  • Entrance costs to Chichen Itza are about 80 MXN for kids 3 to 12, and 533 MXN for adults.
  • Due to the pandemic, visitors are limited to 3000 a day at Chichen Itza. So it won’t be too crowded.
  • Entrance to the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena is around 40 MXN.
  • Entry to Cenote Zaci is a cheap 30 MXN!

Where to Stay in or near Valladolid

Hotel Meson del Marques – Luxurious Hotel in a 17th-century Colonial Home

Casa San Roque Valladolid – Centrally located close to restaurants

Le Muuch Hotel – Modern, cute and classy hotel

Casa Tia Micha – Charming and Comfortable, budget-friendly hotel


Day 11: See a Pink Lake

Located approximately two and a half hours from Playa del Carmen and even closer from Valladolid, Rio Lagartos is famous for bird watching and the densest concentration of flamingos in Mexico.

There was a time you could freely cover yourself in mud as it’s a perfect skin treatment, but not anymore. After the lakes became popular and the crowds started coming in, there have been a number of regulations set up to protect the lakes. Swimming is not allowed.

But you can still visit the pink lakes in Rio Lagartos to take photos, and you can admire the beauty of the naturally pink lakes of Las Coloradas.

NOTE: You can absolutely visit the pink lake as a day trip from Playa del Carmen or Cancun, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve done it twice and it comes down to 5 hours driving on the same day. It’s much more pleasant to just stay in Rio Lagartos, especially before heading to Holbox the next day.

Where to Stay in Rio Lagartos

Hotel Villa de Pescadores – Budget-friendly with private balconies

Hotel Tabasco Rio – Budget-friendly, features an onsite handicraft store

Hotel Rio Lagartos – 5-star with Mexican-like rooms

Yumm Ha Boutique Hotel – Facing the waterfront


Day 12/13: Relax on Isla Holbox

To get to Holbox take a ferry from Chiquila which leaves every hour. Isla Holbox is all about relaxing and beautiful beaches, but if you’re up for some adventure activities you won’t end up disappointed either.

You can go horseback riding on the beach, rent a golf cart (as it’s the only vehicle allowed on the island) or rent a bike.

Snorkeling with whale sharks (from June to September) are also an option, but still, the best thing on the island are the hammock located right on the water and delicious lobster pizza.

Check out my full guide to Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox

NOTE: Day trips to Isla Holbox suddenly become a thing, but I absolutely don’t recommend it. You must experience sunrises and sunsets on the island and if you decide to swim with whale sharks tours leave in the morning so you wouldn’t be able to get there on time.

Where to Stay on Isla Holbox

Tropical Suites by MIJ – Quiet locale close to the beach

Hotel Mayari Holbox – Classy mid-range hotel

Villas HM Paraiso del Mar – Spacious beach side suites

Cabanas Coconut – Budget-friendly


Day 14: Head to Cancun

Head to Cancun for some much-needed R & R before heading back home. Or some last-minute souvenir shopping too! I suggest checking my Travel & Live in Mexico section to see what else you can do in the Yucatan Peninsula!

For more activities and organized tours check Viator here.

get floaty

Suggested more extensive guides for Mexico:

Lonely Planet Yucatan Guide
The Rough Guide to Mexico
Mexican Spanish Phrasebook

Melissa

Friday 19th of November 2021

Great articles. So thoughtfully written. Keep up the good work!

Lynda

Saturday 15th of February 2020

Planning a two week circular trip from Cancun airport to Valladolid, maybe Mérida, then Tulum and Mujeres. We might hire a car, but not certain as we’re fairly budget conscious. If we include Rio Lagartos and Isla Holbox in the circuit, do we drive between the two, or have,say, RL linked with Valladolid at the start of the trip and then I Holbox at the end of the trip?

Anna Karsten

Wednesday 26th of February 2020

You could drive between the two but remember that you'll have to leave your car somewhere in Chiquila before hopping on a ferry to Holbox and this can be sketchy.

Julia

Tuesday 11th of February 2020

Hello Anna! Thanks for the great post. I will be traveling in Mexico for two weeks with my sister. We plan on going to Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Bacalar, Valladolid, Merida, Akumal and maybe Rio Lagartos and Holbox Island. Would you recommend us renting a car or take the Ado bus and collectives everywhere? we are on a budget and would like to go with the cheaper version. also, do you think the route is doable? thanks in advance for your help!

Anna Karsten

Tuesday 11th of February 2020

Definitely doable route :) For Rio Lagartos car is a must. For Cozumel a car or scooter is recommended - you can rent them once you get off the ferry. I'd take a bus from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila to go to Holbox, no need for a car to get there. Some portions can be done with collectivo, but around Valladolid and Bacalar a car is definitely a must, especially if you want to see cenotes.

anton timofeev

Tuesday 28th of January 2020

is it better if you go Cancun and travel there to rent a suv

Anna Karsten

Tuesday 28th of January 2020

I don't understand your question?

Yvonne Benrube

Friday 11th of October 2019

Hi Anna,

I'm staying in Tulum. I plan on making a day trip to Chichen Itza with a couple of stops at cenotes.

Is their still a mud bath at Los Colorades? I've read your article about Los Colorades and that you can't go into the pink lake. But, I'd be more then willing to take the drive only for the mud bath experience with the pink lake. Do they still have the mud bath or is it just easily found from the sand around Los Colorades? Please direct me to the mud bath and what time?

Anna Karsten

Friday 11th of October 2019

So they recently 'rebuilt' the entire concept of the pink lake and now the whole town is painted pink, with souvenirs stalls - basically sort of like Ik Kil cenote. The mud bath is possible, but only if you take a boat from Rio Lagartos.

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