Visiting Mexico for the first time? The Yucatan Peninsula is the ideal region to get a first taste of the country. From historical Mayan sites to colorful villages, stunning beaches, and impressive cenotes, there is so much beauty to discover. A road trip is ideal to visit the Yucatan, giving you the freedom to organize your itinerary exactly as you wish. In this article, I detailed the exact 2-week Yucatan road trip itinerary we did in November 2022, including 5 stops: Tulum, Bacalar, Merida, Valladolid, and finishing with Isla Holbox. A perfect mix of nature, culture, and cute towns.
Cancun to Tulum: 2.5h drive
Most likely your Yucatan road trip will start from Cancun International Airport. If like me, massive resorts and all-inclusive tourism is not your vibe, you can head straight to Tulum, where you will start your 2-week itinerary throughout the Yucatan.
DAY 1 TO DAY 3 – TULUM
Tulum is a great place to start your Yucatan road trip itinerary, as it has a bit of everything that the peninsula is famous for, from archeological sites to some of the best cenotes, and fantastic restaurants. And of course, incredible beaches and some of the most Instagram-famous spots in Mexico.
A few things you shouldn’t miss during your time in Tulum:
- Visit the Mayan Ruins of Tulum
- Do some shopping in the Zona Hoteleria
- Cool down in some cenotes. Grand Cenote is one the closest to Tulum and gets very busy. Cenote Dos Ojos is a bit further (30 min drive) and made of 2 gorgeous cenotes famous among divers. With its shallow waters, the Cenote Azul is very family-friendly. Head to the cenotes as early as possible to avoid the crowd.
- Spend an afternoon in a beach club along the stunning Tulum beach. White sand and turquoise sea, this is the perfect place for a chilled-out (or party!!) afternoon. Try Gitano Beach Club, facing a quiet cove, or La Zebra for a stunning view of the kilometers of powdery sand.
If you have more time in Tulum, here are a couple of day trips to consider:
- The archeological ruins of Coba (±45 min drive)
- The Sian Ka’an Biosphere (±90 min drive)
- Explore the beautiful Isla Mujeres
WHERE TO STAY IN TULUM
– Una Vida: Cute and confirmable boutique hotel in Tulum town
– La Zebra: Stunning hotel with an incredible beachfront
– Habitas Tulum: All the boho vibes of Marrakesh meets Tulum
WHERE TO EAT IN TUTUM
– La Zebra: For a fresh lunch on the beach
– Nu Tulum: Fresh and creative food, perfect for a date night.
– Hartwood Tulum: Sea to table menu in an al fresco setting
– Arca Open-fire cooking, small plates to shares, in a lush jungle like outdoor
– Rosa Negra: Latin American steakhouse, turning into quite the party place in the evening
– Moro by Habitas:: Latin cuisine with touches of Middle East. Sophisticated & delicious breakfast options
DAY 3 TO DAY 6 – BACALAR
Tulum to Bacalar: 215km – 2.5h drive
The following stop in this Yucatan road trip is the Bacalar Lagoon. Bacalar is located all the way to the South of Yucatan’s west coast, close to the Belize border. Still relatively off the tourist radar, it is a charming village located on the shore of a stunning fresh-water lake. Also known as the lagoon of seven colors because of it is multiple shades of blues, the Lagoon of Bacalar is nothing short of stunning and an absolute must-see during a road trip in the Yucatan.
Most of the activities here revolve around exploring the lagoon. Here are some of the best things to do in Bacalar:
- Book a half-day sailing trip. During 4 hours, the captain will guide you to some of the most beautiful sites of the lagoon, stop several times for a swim and serve delicious guacamole. We booked a private trip with Sailing Colibri.
- Explore Los Rapidos with a kayak, starting from the Los Rapidos restaurant.
- Take a paddle board tour at sunrise.
- Visit the colorful streets of Bacalar town, including the San Felipe Fort.
Check out my full article for more details on the best things to do in Bacalar.
WHERE TO STAY IN BACALAR
I recommend 100% staying in Habitas Bacalar. Set up far south of the lagoon, the hotel has a peaceful lakefront, beautiful tent-like rooms, sophisticated food, and spectacular sunrise views. Check my full review here.
DAY 6 TO DAY 8 – MERIDA
Bacalar to Merida: 345 km – 4.5h drive
The next step in this Yucatan 2-week itinerary is the charming town of Merida, the capital of the Yucatan province. Merida is the cultural center of Yucatan, with ancient colonial buildings, museums, art galleries etc. It is also an excellent base to do some interesting day trips. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do much in Merida, but here are a few things not to miss:
- Stroll the Paseo de Montejo and admire the stunning colonial residences. Stop by Casa Tho, a beautiful mansion hosting 10 boutiques that rotate regularly, from jewelry to fashion, perfumes, modern art, etc.
- See the Monumento de la Patria, and hand-carved structure featuring scenes of Mexican history.
- Visit Uxmal (1h drive). Uxmal is a Mayans Archeological site with ruins that are just as impressive as Chichen Itza, without the crowd. Arrive at opening time and enjoy the soft light over the site.
- Visit a Hacienda: We visited the Hacienda Mucuyché, which has a gorgeous cenote but is not a great hacienda as there is not much left of the main house. Hacienda Yaxcopoil seems much better preserved and beautiful.
- Visit Izamal. The entire center of this village is painted a deep yellow, making the town incredibly luminous and photogenic. Visit the convent de San Antonio, explore all the yellow streets, and climb up the pyramid Kinich Kakmó for a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding jungle.
Depending on how you organize your Yucatan road trip, Merida can also be a good base to visit Chichen Itza (90 min drive). On our side, we decided to add Valladolid to our Yucatan itinerary, and we visited Chichen Itza from there.
WHERE TO STAY IN MERIDA
There are a lot of really great hotel options in Merida, especially cute boutique hotels. Here are a few recommendations:
– The Diplomat: The cutest boutique hotel in Merida. 5 beautiful bedrooms, free champagne for breakfast, and hosts that will share plenty of recommendations for Merida and beyond. For more details, you can read my full review of The Diplomat, Merida’s best boutique hotel.
– Decu Downtown: Opened in 2021, Decu Downtown is a small boutique hotel with 8 rooms, combining classic Mexican style with modern architecture. Nothing less than stunning.
– Hacienda Xcanatun by Angsana: A gorgeous hacienda, located just outside town. We preferred staying in town to be able to walk around easily but I must confess I regret not staying in a hacienda at least a couple of nights during our Yucatan road-trip
– Cigno Hotel Boutique: An adult-only boutique hotel, with wooden furniture, a small pool, and the most amazing floor tiles!
– Casa Lecanda: With beautiful tiled courtyards, a pool, and luxurious rooms, Casa Lecanda Boutique Hotel is one of the nicest boutique hotels in Merida, perfectly located next to Paseo Montejo Boulevard.
– TreeHouse Boutique Hotel: 15 rooms surrounding a green courtyard, The interiors combine classic architecture and contemporary design in a very upscale blend. An oasis of peace and a great boutique hotel option in the heart of Merida.
DAY 7 TO DAY 9 – VALLADOLID
Merida to Valladolid: 160 km – 2h drive
Located deep in the Yucatan countryside, Valladolid is a charming, laid-back, and wonderfully colorful colonial town established by the Spanish in the 16th century. It is a great town to spend a couple of days, and the perfect place to visit several major Mayan sites in the region. My favorite things to do in Valladolid:
- Visit the Cathedral of San Servacio, Valladolid’s most iconic building.
- Spend some time wandering the central square, Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosado and admire the colorful colonial buildings, and beautiful arcades that line the square.
- Try some local food at Mercado Central, a charming food hall, perfect to grab a quick meal with the locals.
- Take a walk on Calle de Los Frailes, the prettiest and chicest street in Valladolid.
- Visit the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena, dating back to the 16th century.
- Check the Cenote Zaci, just a few minutes walk from the center of town. When we visited it was closed and didn’t look great, but maybe we came at the wrong period.
Valladolid is also the ideal base to organize several day trips such as:
- Visit Chichen Itza (45min drive): This iconic Mayan site, one of the New 7 Wonder of the World and UNESCO World Heritage is a must-see in Yucatan. As one of the most visited places in Yucatan, consider arriving before opening time (8 am), to enter before the crowd. Right after visiting Chichen Itza, take a refreshing deep in the beautiful Ik Kil cenote.
- Explore Ek Balam, a Mayan archeological site, deeply nested in the jungle. Afterward, visit the Xcan Che cenote, my favorite one of all the cenotes of our Yucatan road trip.
- Visit Las Colorados, the pink lagoon on the north shore of the Yucatan peninsula. Beautiful pictures and useful information here.
For more details about Valladolid, all the best things to do, see and where to eat, check my full article here.
WHERE TO STAY IN VALLADOLID
Unlike Merida, we didn’t find a ton of options for cute boutique hotel in Valladolid, so we decided to save some money on these nights and stayed at Hotel Waye. Comfortable, new bathrooms and centrally located, it was pretty good value for money. A few other options to consider:
– Le Muuch Hotel Boutique; Probably the best boutique option in town, with colorful rooms and a cute rooftop.
– Hacienda San Miguel Yucatan: Beautiful hacienda with a pool, 10 min drive outside of town.
DAY 9 TO DAY 13 – ISLA HOLBOX
Valladolid to Isla Holbox; 160 km – 2h drive + 15 min of taxi boat
I always love finishing an intense trip by staying a few days at the beach. That is why we decided to close our Yucatan road trip with 3 nights in Isla Holbox. This tiny island north of Cancun is well known for its laid-back atmosphere, turquoise waters, and endless sand banks, and is the perfect place to unwind.
Enjoy the main beach, walk all the way to Punto Mosquito, the most easterly point of the sandbank, bike to Punto Coco on the opposite side to watch the sunset, indulge in Holbox best restaurants and drink as many cocktails on the beach as possible! That is it! The perfect way to end our 2-week Yucatan road trip.
WHERE TO STAY IN ISLA HOLBOX
There are plenty of options to stay in Isla Holbox from affordable hotels to luxury properties. Here are a few options to consider:
– Hotel Villas Flamingos: This is were we stayed during our 3 nights in Holbox. Villa Flamingo is a beautiful hotel, located directly on the beach with spacious rooms and serving delicious food. A few negative points through: 1. The service really depends on the staff and overall their English is really poor. 2. They close the beach bar from 6 to 7 pm if I remember well to move all the supplies to the restaurant.So during that time (prime Apero time if you ask me !), you can’t even order a drink … weirdest thing ever! 3. There is no internet in the rooms only at the reception and the restaurants which is really annoying because you ended-up being on our phone during meals, exactly what we shouldn’t be doing! 4. The “creative” shower in our room, with the water coming out of a wooden piece was a disaster! So overall a nice place, but with a couple of strange things that they should really fix!
– Ser Casasandra Boutique Hotel: Super chic and artsy, well located, with a stunning beach front. The Mojito’s Beach Club is perfect for lunch or a relaxing day on the beach.
– Nomade Holbox: A very creative property, with nest-like room perched in the air. Not on the beach and a bit far from town, but a very unique place for sure!
Lastly you night see Casa Las Tortugas being recommended on other blog posts, etc. It used to be one of the nicest hotel in Holbox but sadly it burned down in December 2022. Keep an eye out in case it makes a come back.
YUCATAN ROAD TRIP – COMMON QUESTIONS & PRACTICAL INFORMATION
What is the best time for a road trip? The best time to visit the Yucatan peninsula is during the dry season, from November to May. The weather will be mostly sunny and quite hot, although there can be some occasional rainfall. We traveled from Mid-November to the beginning of December and experienced a few afternoons/nights of rain, while the mornings were mostly sunny. Around Christmas, New Year, and US university Spring Breaks there are large inflows of tourists (especially in the Riviera Maya), so it might be better to avoid these peak periods.
How many days do you need in Yucatan? We did our whole road trip through Yucatan in 13 days, which was already a great amount of time, but I wish we had stayed a few more days. I would say 2 more days in Tulum, 1 more day in Merida, and maybe 1 more day in Valladolid too.
Is it safe to drive in Yucatan? We found it incredibly easy and safe to drive in the Yucatan, The roads between the main cities are in very good condition and we only encountered 1 toll and very few police controls. The main difficulty though is the absence of street lighting, even on main highways. So it is better to drive during the daytime. Once you arrive in towns, the roads can be a bit rougher, so drive carefully.
Where to rent a car in Yucatan? We rented our car from Sixt and we had no issues. A few things to know though: all the car rental services are located outside of the Cancun airport. They picked us up with a mini-van at the airport and drove us to their office & car storage. The same goes for the car drop-off, so just consider the extra time involved. Also, make sure you have a credit card (vs. a debit card), Sixt will need it to secure your deposit. Even though we had zero issues during our road trip, I would still recommend paying for good insurance. Find good deals on car rentals here
Looking for hotels in Yucatan, check out some great offers on Booking.com:
Here you go, all the details of our 2 week Yucatan road trip! I hope this itinerary proves helpful and inspiring if you are planning a trip to Yucatan. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment box below, or don’t hesitate to reach out on Instagram.