Uncovering the best of Yucatan (Mexico): A 2-Weeks road trip

Day 1 – Arrival in Cancun

We arrived from Brussels via Paris to Cancun in the evening. Although Passport controls went very fast, the luggage service was quite slow.

In order to go to Cancun City Center by bus, we decided to take the ADO bus. Tickets are sold at the airport for 70 Pesos (around 3€) per Person. 30 minutes later we were on our way to Cancun bus station. The ride took about 40 minutes and many hotels are walking distance from there.

If you like local food, the best place to have dinner is the Parque de las Palapas, where local families meet on weekends to eat, play and shop at small stalls. The atmosphere is super nice, the food is cheap and you can also already shop for some souvenirs.

Mexico store

Day 2 – Isla Mujeres

Mexico island

As we planned to visit Cancun at the end of our trip, we directly went to the famous Isla Mujeres, just a 15 minutes boat ride away from Cancun. 

To get to the jetty, we took a local bus (R-6) which was passing just in front of our hotel. It was written Gran Puerto on the bus so we were quite sure not to miss our destination. You can stop the driver at any time by giving a hand signal. Just get on the bus, pay 10 Pesos per Person and have a seat. The driver was very friendly and told us when we arrived.

At the jetty we bought the tickets for the ferry (300 Pesos for a round trip). Boats are leaving every half an hour and it takes 15 minutes to arrive at Isla Mujeres

We stayed at PocNa Hostel, with very simple rooms but a super nice common area with hammocks on a private beach. The restaurant is also very good and you can have drinks at the beach bar every night. The only thing is that the beach has no direct access to the sea, so in order to swim, we had to go to the other side of the island.

Day 3 – Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a beautiful island with white beaches, colorful houses and many birds. At the same time, the island is quite animated with souvenir shops, big hotels and even an airport. Just don’t be surprised, you won’t be the only one there.

We decided to book a snorkel trip in order to visit the underwater Museum and coral reef. All in all, we had a nice day, although we had seen far more beautiful elsewhere in the world.

Day 4 – Isla Mujeres to Akumal

The next day we left the island the same way as we got there and
received our rental car which we were going to keep for the next two

After leaving Cancun, our first stop was a small fishing village with a beautiful beach called Puerto Morelos. This was one of the rare public beaches in the area, so we decided to have lunch there. There are only some small hotels on the beach, so it is a very nice and quiet place with white sand, clear water and palm trees.

After a small break we continued our way to the famous Playa del Carmen. To be honest, we did not expect much as in our imagination mass tourism had completely taken over the place. Even though this is true, we were surprised by the charm of the city and its animated shopping street.

The last stop of the day was our very first Cenote called Cenote azul. When we arrived, the place seemed more like a public pool, crowded and noisy. But after a while people started to leave and we began to really enjoy the true nature of the place.

Mexico cenote

We stayed in a small but super nice place in Akumal, called Casa de la Tortugas. At this time of the year we were the only guests and had the pool area just to ourselves.

Day 5 – Akumal to Tulum

In the morning we wanted to discover Akumal. Our first impression was quite disappointing as one private residence next to the other was making it impossible to even catch a glimpse of the sea. We decided to continue the street until the end and arrived at 8:30 am in front of the closed entrance of the lagoon without any possibility to see what it even looks like. A man in front of the entrance told us that the place would open at 9 am and that the entrance fee was about 250 pesos per Person. He then offered us a direct access to the lagoon from a private residence for 150 pesos each. As we were kind of desperate and of course not without checking whether his information was right (thank you mobile internet), we decided to take the risk and followed the man. This was one of the most difficult BUT one of the best decisions we had taken during the whole trip.

We arrived on a beautiful property with a direct access to the lagoon and it felt like we were alone in the world. It was PARADISE. Crystal clear water, dozens of pelicans and thousands of fish swimming in the water made this place just perfect. Even though this peaceful moment was soon interrupted by huge groups of noisy tourists arriving at the place next to us, we really enjoyed our time.

Mexico Pelican

After this morning full of emotions we went to Akumal beach (entrance fee is 100 pesos each) with the idea of continuing the snorkeling experience. However, we were soon brought back to reality as the free swimming area was quite small and the water was sandy. In order to go further and try to see some turtles, it is necessary to take a private guide. Given the fact that the water was sandy and the guides quite expensive, we decided to only relax on the beautiful beach.

Next stop Tulum. In the afternoon we visited our first Maya Ruins. It was a bit busy but we still enjoyed the one hour visit and our first contact with the Maya culture. One small hint: don’t go there by car. Take a bike or even a taxi as the parking fee is exorbitant (180 pesos).

If you want to enjoy Tulum beach you better take one of the hotels with a private beach access as most parts of the beach are private property. If this is not your priority you can also take a room in Tulum town. Tulum has a nice little center with small shops, restaurants and bars. All in all, we spent a nice evening with good food and cheap cocktails but without access to the beach.

Day 6 – Sian Ka’an and Bacalar

From Tulum we drove only 20 minutes until we arrived at the Archeological Site of Muyil, a small ancient Maya site from as early as 350 BC. By crossing the site, we arrived at a small jungle path which leads to the Sian Ka’an Lagoon. Don’t miss the observatory tower which allows a beautiful view over the jungle and the Lagoon.

When we arrived at the lagoon, several guides with boats were already waiting for us. They all propose the same 2 hour tour on the Lagoon for 700 pesos per Person. As we had already come so far, there was no way back and we decided to take the tour.

Mexico lagoon

From what we had read before, you are supposed to see many birds and even turtles and crocodiles. Unfortunately, we did not see any of these animals and the guide did not make a big effort to find them.

However, the highlight of the tour was yet to come. After a one hour boat drive we parked the boat and the guide told us to take our life jackets so that we could float in the water. He would then come and pick us up on the other side, a few kilometers away. This was really a great experience as the current was so strong that we did not even have to swim. We were floating in the water for around 20 minutes, watching the fish, the mangroves and the beautiful countryside.

Mexico water

All in all, it was a nice experience even though 700 pesos per Person is quite expensive for what you get.

After a two hours drive, our next stop was Bacalar, a magical village at la Laguna de las siete colores.

We had booked a small hotel just next to the public access and arrived just in time for a small walk in the Lagoon before sunset. Wait a minute… a walk in the Lagoon? Yes, it’s true. The water was so low that we wandered around in the water and found beautiful mini beaches with nobody else around. It is truly a MAGICAL place.

Mexico Bacalar bush

Day 7 – Bacalar

For the next day we booked a three hours boat tour on la laguna de las siete colores. We were picked up at our hotel and embarked a very luxury boat with 6 other tourists. We saw several cenotes, where the water was up to 90m deep and which are part of the reason why the lagoon has several colors. In the Cenote negro we were allowed to swim for a while before going to the highlight of the tour: a beautiful swimming area with white sand and crystal clear water where it felt like paradise. It was so beautiful that we were reminded of our trip to the Maldives one year before, only with one small difference: This time we were swimming in fresh water.

After this great experience, it was time to leave the coast area for a while and go towards the jungle in the inner part of Yucatan. As a starting point for Calakmul, we chose Xpujil, a very authentic small village next to the highway with just a few basic hotels and very few tourists.

Day 8 – Calakmul

The Puerta de Calakmul is around 60 km from Xpujil, so we decided to wake up at 5 am in order to arrive at the entrance gate at 6 am. Once the entrance gate passed, a small road leads you 120 km in the middle of the jungle and the Archeological Site of Calakmul. By taking our time and stopping for photos it took us around 2 hours to arrive just on time for the opening at 8 o’ clock.

At this time the atmosphere in the middle of the jungle was magical. With just a couple of other visitors, we only heard the impressive sound of the Howler monkeys when climbing up the pyramids.

Mexico monkey

This is also the place where you can climb on the top of the highest pyramid in Mexico (around 50m). What a wonderful feeling when you stand all alone on the top of the pyramid watching over the hundreds of kilometer of jungle around you with the only noise being the screams of the Howler monkeys. A truly unforgettable experience.

You can read more about this experience in our blog post A day-trip to Calakmul: Mayan Ruins in the Jungle.

Mexico Calakmul

Day 9 – Campeche

After another night in Xpujil (we would actually recommend to already continue to Escarcega), we hit the road to Campeche. After a 4 hours drive we arrived in this lovely city, which was founded by the Spanish in 1520. We spent the afternoon wandering around the narrow streets surrounded by colorful houses, beautiful churches and small shops.

Mexico Campeche

Day 10 – Uxmal

After this small excursion to colonial times, it was time to go back to the Maya civilization. From Campeche we drove two hours in order to arrive at the Archeological Site of Uxmal, another highlight of our trip.

Entrance fees are quite expensive (232 pesos per Person) but it is totally worth it. In front of the entrance there is a huge parking (30 pesos) so it is a very accessible place).

Mexico Uxmal

Different to Calakmul, Uxmal is a very well preserved site with huge buildings. This was also the first place where we saw the field of the Maya Ball Game, a 3000 years old sport which looks a lot like those we have these days. The only problem: It seems that after the game, the winning teams captain was decapitated.

Mexico Pelote

After a 2h30 visit we continued our route through the authentic countryside of the area. We had decided to stay the night in a very small town called Ticul in order to see the real Mexico and we were not disappointed.

We stayed in a super nice place, called Posada El Jardin, with basic Bungalows situated in a huge garden with a pool and hammocks. Once again, we were the only guests and Roman, the owner, was incredibly friendly. The place is just a a few minutes walking distance from the village square, where we were so lucky to attend the village fair with life music and small stalls with local food.

Day 11 – Chichen Itza to Valladolid

We left Ticul early in the morning as we had a 2h30 ride ahead of us to visit Chichen Itza, the most famous Maya Site in the area and a must do during a Yucatan Road Trip. The entrance area is huge and very modern which probably explains the entrance fees of 244 pesos per Person. The main pyramid is beautiful and the ball game square just amazing. Even though it was quite crowded, the only thing which really bothered us were the hundreds of souvenir shops with yelling vendors everywhere around. Still, it is worth a visit.

Mexico Chichen Itza

However, after a 1h30 visit we had enough and hit to road to Valladolid. Just before arriving in the city, we decided to take a break at the Cenotes Xkeken and Samula (entrance fee 12O pesos for both cenotes), both are enclosed cenotes with a spooky atmosphere and we really enjoyed swimming in the dark water.

After this refreshing and energizing break, we arrived in Valladolid, a colonial town from 1543. Similar to Campeche the town consists of a town square with a parc and a big church as and small, colorful streets.

Mexico Valladolid

Places to see: the main square, Calle 41 and the small Convento y Iglesia de San Bernardino de Siena.

Day 12 – Coba

After a one hour drive from Valladolid, we visited our last Maya Site, the Archeological Site of Coba. The site is quite spacious, which is why we rented bikes just after the entrance for 45 pesos each.

The highlight of the visit was the Pyramid Nohoch Mul with a height of 42m and the possibility to climb the 113 steep stairs. The view on the top of the pyramid is once again incredible. Another Ball Game field transported us back in time as we imagined courageous Mayas playing the game of their life.

Mexico Coba

We spend the afternoon wandering around Valladolid and swimming in the Cenote Zaci just next to the city center.

Day 13 – Rio Lagartos

As we fell sick during the night, we spent the morning in a hospital and then managed somehow to arrive in our hotel in Rio Lagartos where unfortunately, we slept for around 20 hours before leaving to the next place to be. From the few we have seen it is a nice little town next to the Lagoon and our hotel (Punta Ponto) had a beautiful roof top with a wonderful view.

Day 14 – Las Coloradas – Isla Holbox

As we started to feel a little bit better, we still wanted to see the famous las coloradas, the pink water. Somehow they managed to privatize the access to the area, so we had to pay 50 pesos per person to have somebody accompany us for a small walk next to the pink water. We also saw some flamingos but they windy weather turned the water a bit grey.

Mexico red lagoon

After this short detour, we continued our way to our last stop of the trip: The famous Isla Holbox.

In order to take the ferry, we just left our car at one of the many parking areas in Chiquila and then bought a ticket 5 minutes before the boat left. Only half an hour later we were walking through the small and sandy streets of Holbox.

Day 15 – Isla Holbox

As the weather was quite windy, we did not swim on the island. Therefore, we decided to take a walk from one end to the other. Unfortunately, it must have rained the days before so that many streets were flooded and we had some trouble finding our way to la Punta Mosquito. Somehow we managed and were rewarded by watching all different kind of birds. 

Day 16 – Isla Holbox – Cancun

After enjoying half a day on the island it was time for us to go back to Cancun where our flight was leaving the next day.

Mexico painting

Day 17 – Cancun – Paris

We spent our last hours in Cancun visiting the market 28 in order to buy the last souvenirs and Christmas presents before taking the plane back to Europe with amazing memories and many pictures in our heads.


Check out our Blog post A day-trip to Calakmul: Mayan Ruins in the Jungle.

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