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Yucatan Vacation - Exploring the best of the Yucatan Peninsula. Incredible Beaches, Culture and History

On my Yucatan vacation, this itinerary will show the best of the peninsula. From the best beaches to Mayan ruins .

by notripophobiaAbout Me:As a little girl growing up in Ohio, I dreamed about traveling the world. I finally made it to Europe when I was 15 and have been hopping around the globe ever since! I have now visited 123 countries and all 7 continents and have lived ... read more

North AmericaMexico12 days / October 2020

Highs & Lows

The sparkling blue waters of Mahuahual

The crowds in Playa del Carmen and Tulum

Itinerary Overview

For my Yucatan vacation, I planned to explore the best beaches, amazing architectural ruins and refreshing cenotes.  Combined with laid-back hippy towns, serene lakes and delicious food, the Yucatan Peninsula really does have something for everything!  Best of all, Cancun is easily accessible and cheap to travel to from the US and Europe!

I did this itinerary in two different trips but have combined it into one.  It can be easily shortened or you can even add more time and continue onwards towards other parts of Mexico. 

  • 1 Night: Cancún
    beaches, nightlife, international accessibility
  • 3 Nights: Isla Mujeres
    whale sharks, beaches, island life
  • 1 Night: Playa del Carmen
    nightlife, restaurants, beach
  • 2 Nights: Tulum
    beach, Mayan ruins
  • 1 Night: Bacalar
    lake, water sports
  • Day trip: Mahahual
    beaches, nightlife
  • 2 Nights: Cozumel
    beaches, snorkeling, landscape
  • 2 Nights: Isla Holbox
    beaches, wildlife

Q & A

  • Anything go wrong during the trip?

    Cell phone service shut off completely when I was in Holbox which cost me a lot of money due to missed work.

  • How was the food?

    In Playa del Carmen, you absolutely must try Comet 984. It is a 1950s themed vegetarian diner. The veggie burgers are delicious and the Snickers milkshake is out of this world!

  • What tips would you give a friend?

    Unless you want to be surrounded by Instagram influencers, I would limit my time in Tulum. If you have extra time, I recommend stopping in Puerto Morelos. It is a laid back little beach town halfway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. During this trip, I also stopped in Chetumal which I have omitted from this itinerary. I wouldn't recommend stopping there unless you are crossing the border to Belize as there is little of interest to see.

  • Packing tips?

    Pack as lightly as possible. I usually just use a small backpack when doing beach trips and washing clothes in the sink. It will save you a ton of aggravation later on.

  • Transportation Tips?

    The Mayan Riviera is extremely well connected and easy to travel around.

  • Booking details?

    I booked most of my hotels on Booking.com or directly at the property.


  • I drove with friends from Merida to Cancun so did not need accommodation. Depending on when you arrive at the airport (and how long your flight was), you may need to stay one night. I highly recommend the Mayan Monkey Hotel & Hostel Cancun where I stayed on a previous trip. The hostel is located on a beautiful lagoon in the hotel zone and I got to watch a crocodile swimming around while I was eating breakfast!

  • Airbnb outside of the city center in a residential neighborhood

  • Although we stayed in an Airbnb, I highly recommend Mala Vecindad Playa Beer Hotel (where I stayed on a different trip). The dorm rooms are actually converted suites with bunk beds so you have all the amenities of a full service hotel at a fraction of the cost. The swimming pool and surrounding courtyard are funky and the free breakfast is delicious.

  • During this trip, I spent one night at X´kekén Hostel which offers comfortable beds and is right in the center of Tulum and one night at Dreams Resort Tulum. Dreams was very expensive ($140 per night) but was all-inclusive. I had stayed there before on a previous trip and visited simply to take a walk down memory lane. It was nice to be back at the hotel but I wouldn't actually recommend it as a place to stay. The food isn't very food, drinks are watered down and there are a lot of better options available.

  • The Yak Lake House - Hostal - I highly recommend this lakefront property. Although it is a bit more expensive than other hostels, the beds are very comfortable, the wifi is decent and they have free kayak rentals.

  • Caribo Cozumel - This property has amazing reviews on Booking.com which is why my friends and I booked it. However, I would not recommend it. My room stunk like mildew and rather than letting me change rooms for free, the hotel manager blamed it on me and then tried to charge me an exorbitant fee to "upgrade" to a non-stinky room. He then demanded that I leave when I told him he should upgrade me for free.