Mexico Yucatan Itinerary 2016-03 – Mayan Ruins, Cenotes, Colonial Towns – Our 8 Day Road Trip

In March of 2016, we took a wonderful 8 day road trip throughout the Mexican Yucatan. I was wanting to visit as many Mayan ruins and cenotes in Mexico as I could and we did very well in that regard. I’ve compiled our entire trip, listing day-by-day what we did. You’ll find that for each, there are links to posts I’ve made detailing what the place was like, tips and advice on how to see it and what to expect, and a gallery of high-resolution images to get you excited about seeing it for yourself.

Mission Possible Mexico Road Trip

I should also point out that I didn’t tell my wife where we were going on this trip. She only knew how to pack and how long we’d be gone. Each morning, I gave her a daily mission dossier patterned after Mission Impossible which I called Mission Possible. The dossier told her what we would do that day and gave instructions on how to do it.

We arrived by flight late in the evening the night before the activities listed below. Upon landing in Cancun, we rented a car from America Car Rental and drove that night to Playa del Carmen. We stayed at the City Express motel that is little more than a bed for the night. I pick up the next morning with our itinerary. To read details on each activity, simply click on each picture then return back here to read on. The entire trip was done via automobile on our own.

Day 1

Rio Secreto cenote (Secret River), Near Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
Rio Secreto
Chaak Tun Cenote, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Chaac Tun Cenote

We returned to Playa del Carmen after that and spent the latter part of the day at a beach there and spent a second night in City Express motel.

Day 2

Chikin Ha Cenote, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Cenote Chikin Ha
Cenote Azul, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Cenote Azul
Ponderosa (Jarden del Eden) cenote, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Ponderosa (Jarden del Eden) cenote

We spent our remaining light at the beach in Tulum. After dark, we walked about Tulum, ate dinner and shopped a bit. We stayed the night at the excellent Secret Garden.

Day 3

Tulum Mayan Ruin - Temple of the God of the Wind
Tulum Mayan Ruins
Cenote Dos Ojos, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Cenote Dos Ojos
Cenote Sac Actun, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Cenote Sac Actun
Coba Mayan Ruin - Nohoch Mul Pyramid
Coba Mayan Ruin

Today was a bit overfilled. We were pretty rushed at Coba, although we basically saw all of it. I would have liked to have seen Gran Cenote in Tulum also, but time ran short. If done again, I would insert another day here and see Gran Cenote and any of a dozen other cenotes in the area as well as perhaps the Mayan ruin of Muyil. We spent the night in Piste, right next to Chichen Itza, at the very nice Hotel Chichen Itza, a very good value.

Day 4

Chichen Itza, Temple of Kukulkan, El Castillo
Chichen Itza
Uxmal Mayan Ruin - Pyramid of the Magician from Governor's Palace
Uxmal Mayan Ruin
Cathedral Campeche, Mexico
Cathedral Campeche, Campeche

Chichen Itza is a huge site – we didn’t see all of it in three hours, but needed to move down the road. Allow time to see this New 7 Wonders of the World. But I wouldn’t have missed Uxmal for anything – it was just about as good with a tiny fraction of the tourists. We drove on to Campeche to spend the night – it is a great colonial town. We stayed at the very excellent Hotel Socaire, which is two blocks from the main square where the Cathedral pictured above is. There are restaurant options along the square as well as a nice park that felt very safe that evening.

If I did it again, I would add another night to this, maybe staying in Merida or the hotel near Uxmal. There are other good Mayan ruins in the area that I would have liked to have seen.

Day 5

Palenque Mayan Ruin - Temple of Inscriptions
Palenque Mayan Ruin

It is a bit of a drive down to Palenque, but I really wanted to see it and I wasn’t disappointed. We had a bit of time left in the evening after seeing it, but I was too tired to want to do much. I had planned on seeing the Misol-Ha waterfall. We spent the night in the town of Palenque in the Maya Tulipanes, a hotel I can recommend.

Day 6

Agua Azul Waterfall, Mexico - cascadas de Aqua Azul
Agua Azul Waterfall

We had a bit of a drive to get to our hotel that night in Merida. I had hoped to also see the Mayan ruin of Edzna, but we didn’t have time. We spent the night in the Hampton Inn, which was very good. It was next to a very modern mall which had an ice skating rink. Quite a departure from the jungle poverty we saw around Agua Azul today.

Day 7

Mayapan Mayan Ruin Kukulcan pyramid castillo
Mayapan Mayan Ruin
Cenote Ik Kil, Mexico
Cenote Ik Kil
Dzitnup Cenotes, Samula Valladolid, Mexico
Dzitnup Cenotes – X’Keken & Samula
Valladolid Mexico - Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Assumption
Valladolid Cathedral

We stayed at El Meson del Marques, a nice hotel right on the central square. The cathedral pictured above was on the square also. The area was nice, and we enjoyed the square with local families a some other tourists. Located a few blocks from this spot is cenote Zaci, which we did not do based on time constraints, but it looked fun.

Day 8

Acropolis Ek Balam Mayan ruin, Yucatan Mexico
Ek Balam Mayan ruin
Cancun Beach
Cancun Beach

We could have done some of the other cenotes near Ek Balam (Palomitas, Agua Dulce or the one at Ek Balam), but I had booked us in Cancun at the Beachscape Kin Ha Villas where we relaxed for our last afternoon and evening. We flew home early the next morning.

You could do worst than following this itinerary or a portion of it, but if I did it again, I’d add a few days. Completing a southern loop across the Yucatan and visit Calakmul and the other Mayan sites along there would be nice. A more aggressive trip would include Tikal in Guatemala and Belize.

My wife, who likes surprises, enjoyed learning each morning what we would do. The total cost of the trip, not counting air fare, was $2500. Other than City Express the first two nights, we liked all of our hotels. Not counting our hotel in Cancun, all were priced affordably.