It could be our love for margaritas but Mexico is one of the best countries we’ve ever visited. We love it so much in fact that we’ve visited 3 times with a separate Mexico trip. The first time we spent most of our time in an all inclusive hotel and while incredibly luxurious and relaxing, it didn’t quite give us that authentic Mexican experience.
The second time we visited was on a Caribbean cruise that stopped in a few different ports including our favorite place in the country: Cozumel. On our last Mexico trip, we decided to take a road trip through Mexico. This was by far our best experience as we were able to have the freedom to explore where we wanted and explore beyond the tourist zones.
After spending weeks driving through the Yucatan Peninsula, we have created the perfect 2 week Mexico itinerary through the Quintana Roo. Below we’ll tell you where to go in Mexico, what to see, and how long to stay. You can expect a mix of the best beaches and authentic Mexico culture including visiting the best Mayan ruins in the region. This is sure to be the best Mexico trip.
The Best 2 Week Mexico Itinerary
Starting point: Cancun
Cancun is the crown jewel of the Yucatan Peninsula and a place that’s so much more than just swanky resorts and endless beach parties. During our first Mexico trip, we almost never left our all inclusive bubble. Can you blame us? Those poolside mojitos were oh so refreshing. But, lesson learned.
Cancun is the perfect blend of modern luxury and ancient history. This city is your gateway to the rich tapestry of Mexico. One of the most popular areas is the tourist area of the Cancun Hotel Zone. Here you will find vibrant nightlife, lots of shopping, and the best beaches. It’s also great starting point to get to the nearby islands of Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres.
Where to stay
While all-inclusive resorts in the Cancun Hotel Zone have their charm (and unlimited drinks), consider opting for boutique hotels or local stays. They offer a taste of real Cancun life and trust us, the local tips you’ll gather are pure gold.
Things to do in Cancun
- Beaches: Sunbathe at Playa Delfines or take a dip at Playa Tortugas. Every beach here has its unique vibe. And really what’s a Mexico trip without the beach?
- Mayan Ruins: Trust us, you NEED TO visit one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Chichen Itza. This ancient Mayan civilization makes for the perfect day trip from Cancun. The day trips are cheap and include a stop at a cenote to complete the experience.
- Nightlife: From Coco Bongo to Cirque du Soleil to Mandala Beach Club, Cancun knows how to party. And hey, when in Cancun, right?
- Enjoy beach activities: From parasailing, jet skiing, and kayaking, there is no shortage of water activities in Cancun.
- Go snorkeling or scuba diving: From the MUSA Underwater Museum, swimming with whale sharks, shipwrecks and cenotes, there is so many places to explore underwater.
Day Trip: Isla Mujeres
Just a short ferry ride away from Cancun lies Isla Mujeres (translating to Woman Island), a serene island paradise that’s a stark contrast to the bustling vibes of Cancun. While you could easily spend a few days here, we found a day trip to be a great amount of time to visit for our Mexico trip.
We still reminisce about our first trip there; the turquoise waters and laid-back atmosphere had us hooked instantly.
How to get there: You’ve got 2 main options for getting to the island: take a ferry or take a catamaran cruise. If you want to make your own schedule and be on your own timeframe, taking a ferry will give you the freedom to plan your day. It’s a quick 20 minute Ultramar Ferry ride from Puerto Jurarez. If you want to enjoy a slower, more luxurious journey to the island, taking a catamaran cruise to Isla Mujeres is the way to go.
- Playa Norte: Often hailed as one of the best beaches in the world, Playa Norte is a slice of heaven. Crystal clear waters, powdery white sands, and swaying palm trees – it’s the spot to rent a beach chair and relax your day away.
- Punta Sur: This southern tip of the island boasts a stunning cliffside view, a lighthouse, and a sculpture park.
- Turtle Farm: If you’re an animal lover like us, the Turtle Farm is a must visit. It’s heartwarming to see these gentle creatures up close.
Things to do in Isla Mujeres
- Golf Cart Exploration: The island isn’t big, making golf carts the perfect mode of transportation. Rent one and circle the island road trip style. Or jump on for a golf cart pub crawl.
- Snorkeling: The clear waters around Isla Mujeres are teeming with marine life. If you’re visiting between May and September, make sure you try swimming with whale sharks.
- Enjoying a meal on the beach: Indulge in some fresh seafood at the local beachfront eateries. Sit on bean bags on the sand and soak up those lazy island vibes.
Recommendation: Before heading back to Cancun, ensure you catch the sunset at Playa Norte. It’s one of those moments that’ll stay with you long after your trip ends. And if a local offers you a taste of the island’s specialty drink, the “Michelada”, give it a shot. It’s a refreshing blend that’s just right after a day of island exploration.
Next stop: Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen, or “Playa” as we like to call it, is that vibrant cousin who knows how to have a good time but also appreciates the finer things in life. Located just an hour’s drive from Cancun, Playa del Carmen offers a more authentic feel than Cancun while still having lots to see and do. It’s an absolute must for any Mexico trip.
Playa del Carmen is often referred to as the heart of the Riviera Maya and we can see why. With its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and nightlife, it’s the perfect base to explore nearby attractions. There are so many things to do in Playa del Carmen that we recommend spending the majority of your vacation here as it acts as a great hub for nearby attractions.
An absolute must visit is Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue). This pedestrian street is the lifeblood of Playa. Shop, dine, or simply people watch – there’s always something happening here.
How to get there: Getting to Playa del Carmen from Cancun is a breeze. Hop on the Route 307 highway, and in about an hour, you’ll be welcomed by the bustling vibes of Playa. Regular buses and shuttles travel this route, making it super convenient. If you’re up for an adventure, rent a car and make a few pit stops along the way. The coastal views? Absolutely worth it.
Things to do in Playa del Carmen
- Beach Clubs: Lounge at one of the many beach clubs. With a cocktail in hand and the Caribbean Sea in front, life doesn’t get much better.
- Cenotes: Natural sinkholes filled with crystal clear water, the cenotes around Playa are a must visit. Our personal favorite is Cenote Azul.
- Visit an XCaret Park: Whether you choose to zip line in Xplor Park, embrace Mayan culture in Xcaret Park, or try snorkeling in Xel Ha Park there’s an amusement park for you.
- Get lost in the jungle: Go on an ATV adventure in the Mexico jungle.
Be sure to read all our top things to do in Playa del Carmen.
Recommendation: If you’re looking to try some authentic cuisine, wander off 5th Avenue. The local taco joints, away from the tourist trail, serve up some of the most delicious and affordable meals. And here’s a little secret: there’s a chocolate museum on 5th Avenue that not only lets you taste but also teaches you the art of chocolate making. Sweet, right?
Few days in Cozumel
Cozumel Mexico will forever go down as our favorite place in Mexico. Just a short ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, Cozumel is an island paradise that’s stolen our hearts not just once, but every single time we’ve visited. During our second trip, Samara took a cruise to Cozumel and did a bunch of day excursions here. We’ve made it a point to get to Cozumel on every Mexico trip and we couldn’t be happier about it.
The scuba diving in Cozumel… there are no words. It’s a diver’s paradise. The coral reefs are spectacular. We’ve gone scuba diving all over the world and we will always praise Cozumel as having some of the best diving conditions we’ve ever experienced. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is great to explore.
The island’s charm lies in its laid-back vibe, friendly locals, and that ever-present feeling of being on island time.
How to Get There: Jump on one of the frequent ferries from Playa del Carmen. Choose from Winjet or Ultramar to go from the pier on Quinta Ave (Carmen Beach) in Playa del Carmen to San Miguel de Cozumel. In about 45 minutes, you’ll be swapping the bustling streets of Playa for the tranquil beaches of Cozumel. As you approach the island, the shimmering blue waters might just tempt you to jump in.
- Scuba diving and Snorkeling: Try snorkeling some of the best coral reefs in the world, Cozumel is a diver’s dream come true. Sites like Palancar and Columbia Reefs are unmissable.
- San Miguel de Cozumel: The island’s main town and the best place for shopping, dining, and mingling with locals.
- Punta Sur Eco Beach Park: Lush flora, diverse fauna, and pristine beaches. A day here feels like a nature retreat.
Things to do in Cozumel
- Rent a Scooter or Bike: Riding around Cozumel on a scooter was one of the best memories we have of 3 week road trip to Mexico.
- Go scuba diving: scuba diving in Cozumel is a must do whether you’re a new diver or an advanced diver. Scuba diving is what Cozumel is most famous for
- Enjoy beach activities: From lazing in a private beach club all day to riding in a submarine below the water, there is no shortage of water activities in Cozumel.
- Embrace Mayan history: Visit one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico.
- Beach Hopping: From Playa Palancar to Playa Chen Rio, each beach offers a unique experience.
Be sure to read all the best things to do in Cozumel
Recommendation: Before leaving, take a moment to watch the sunset at El Mirador, a naturally formed arch on the island’s western coast. As the sun dips below the horizon, you’ll be reminded of the simple pleasures of life.
Last stop: Tulum
Tulum is like that indie song you discover and can’t stop playing on repeat. It’s a blend of boho chic, ancient history, and nature’s best pristine beaches. Our days in Tulum were filled with history, sun soaked relaxation, riding bicycles along the coast, and the most amazing beach yoga.
Tulum is where the jungle meets the sea. It’s a place where you can explore ancient ruins in the morning, chill at a beach club in the afternoon, and dance under the stars at night. It’s the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.
If you can’t get all the way to Tulum, at least visit on a day tour to Tulum.
How to Get There: From Cozumel, take the ferry back to Playa del Carmen. Once on the mainland, Tulum is an easy drive or bus ride away. The ADO bus service offers regular trips from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, making it a convenient and affordable option. If you’re driving, the scenic Route 307 leads you straight to Tulum, with the lush Quintana Roo jungles as your constant companion.
- Tulum Ruins: Perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, these Mayan ruins are a sight to behold and one of the most picturesque Mayan civilizations in Mexico. The backdrop of the azure waters makes it postcard-perfect.
- Cenote Dos Ojos: Dive into this natural wonder. The clear blue waters of this underground river are perfect for snorkeling and diving.
- Tulum Beach: White sands, turquoise waters, and beach bars with swings for seats. Need we say more?
Things to do in Tulum
- Yoga and Wellness: Tulum is known for its wellness retreats. Join a yoga class or book a spa day.
- Bicycle Tours: Rent a bicycle and explore the town, the beach, and the nearby attractions. It’s our favorite way to get around.
- Beach Clubs: Tulum’s beach clubs are in a league of their own. Be sure to visit spots like Nomade, Be Tulum, and Casa Malca for a mix of relaxation and lively ambiance.
- Mayan Ruins: You may be thinking of the Tulum ruins which are some of the best coastal ruins in Mexico. If you want more Mayan culture, head to nearby Coba Ruins for our favorite Mayan ruins in Mexico. Tucked into the jungle this gives you an authentic look at Mexico history.
- Take a day tour: From snorkeling with turtles, swimming in cenotes, and exploring the jungle on an ATV tour, Tulum’s superior location offers a lot of amenities.
- Visit Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve: A UNESCO World Heritage site teeming with wildlife the Sian Ka’an Biosphere makes for a great day trip.
Recommendation: Looking for that Instagram worthy experience in Tulum? Head to Cenote Calavera, or go to the boho cafe of Raw Love Tulum. For the spirit of Tulum, be sure to visit the Follow That Dream sign. Azulik Tulum is another must visit your feed will thank you for.
Wrapping up: Cancun
As all good things come to an end, so does our epic Mexico trip. As you’ll likely be flying out of Cancun Airport, you’ll need to head back to the main city. It’s a short enough distance you can most often leave the same day as your flight, but if not spending your last night in Cancun can cut down on stress. We love taking our time traveling so we left early morning and made a few stops along the way back to Cancun.
How to Get Back to Cancun From Tulum: You have a couple of convenient options to make your way back to Cancun:
- Driving: If you’ve rented a car, the drive back is straightforward. Hop onto Route 307 northbound, and in roughly two hours, you’ll find yourself back in Cancun. The journey offers picturesque views, so don’t forget to stop and soak them in one last time. You may want to stop in Akumal Bay or Puerto Morelos on your way back to see some other great towns. The souvenier shopping in Puerto Morelos is some of the cheapest we’ve seen.
- Bus: The ADO bus service offers direct rides from Tulum to the Cancun airport. It’s a comfortable and affordable choice, especially if you’re looking to kick back and relax before your flight.
- Ensure you’ve packed all your belongings. Those beach hats have a sneaky way of getting left behind!
- If you’re driving, make sure to fill up the gas tank and return the car in its original condition.
- Got some extra time? Consider exploring downtown Cancun. It’s less touristy and offers a glimpse into local life.
Recommendation: Before you board your flight, grab a meal at one of Cancun’s local eateries. A plate of enchiladas or some fresh ceviche will give you a delicious farewell. And, if you’re in the mood for one last photo op, the colorful Cancun sign near Playa Delfines is a favorite among travelers.
Essential Tips for a Mexican Road Trip
Embarking on a Mexican adventure? Well, amigo, you’re in for a treat! From our multiple trips down to this vibrant country, we’ve gathered a sombrero-full of tips (see what we did there?). Whether you’re chasing cenotes or tasting tacos, these nuggets of wisdom will ensure your trip is smoother than a shot of the finest tequila.
- Embrace the Local Currency: While many places accept USD, it’s always a good idea to have some Mexican Pesos on hand. You’ll often get better rates especially at tourist shops.
- Safety First: Stick to well-traveled areas, especially after dark. Keep your belongings close and be wary of pickpockets in crowded spots. Don’t drink the tap water.
- Learn Some Spanish: A few phrases can go a long way. “Hola” (hello), “Gracias” (thank you), and “Dos cerveza, por favor” (Two beer, please) are a good start. The locals will appreciate your effort, even if it’s just a word or two.
- Dive into the Cuisine: Move beyond tacos and try regional specialties. Ever had “pozole” or “sopes”? Now’s your chance! Street food is a must. Look for stalls with a crowd – that’s usually a sign of deliciousness.
- Respect Local Customs and Traditions: Mexico is rich in culture and traditions. Whether you’re visiting during Day of the Dead or simply exploring a local village, be respectful and considerate.
- Plan for the Climate: Mexico is vast, and its weather can vary. Coastal areas are tropical, while higher altitudes can be cooler. Pack accordingly.
- Local Transport Know-How: Collectivos (shared vans) are a cheap and efficient way to travel short distances. Taxis don’t always have meters, so agree on a price before hopping in.
- Stay Connected: Consider getting a local SIM card for data and calls. It’s usually more cost-effective than roaming charges.
- Bargain, but Be Fair: Haggling is common in markets, but always keep it friendly, and remember that a few pesos might mean a lot more to the seller than to you.
- Embrace the Siesta: Many businesses close in the afternoon for a few hours. It’s a great time for a nap or a leisurely lunch.
Thanks for stopping by!
And there you have it! A road trip full of adventure, laughter, and memories that’ll last a lifetime. We’ve fallen more in love with Mexico every time we visit. From the sun-kissed beaches of Cancun to the historic charm of Tulum, Mexico has been one of our favorite adventure destinations. It’s not just about the places you visit, but the stories you bring back. Stories of connection, of discovery, of that time you swam with whale sharks or learned to scuba dive or got to see one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
After our 3 week road trip through this part of the Yucatan Peninsula, we created the perfect 2 week Mexico itinerary. We hope this helped you plan your next trip to Mexico.
Cheers to the tales yet to be written!
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