Discover Cancun and Riviera Maya in a week

Mention you’re going to Cancun and most people would think about some of the world’s most awe-inspiring beaches. This spring break holiday destination definitely has beaches, but Cancun is so much more than that. With our 7-day suggested itinerary, you would have a real taste of this captivating city, you will be introduced to the best attractions and you will be able to visit the ancient Mayan ruins. You can absolutely make any changes you like, to adapt the tour to your preferences and create your own itinerary.

Things to know before travelling to  Mexico:

Language – Being a Spanish colony for three centuries, Spanish have become the nation’s language which is widely spoken by majority of the people in the country. However, it is important to note that the people also use Mexican Spanish, a manipulation of the Spanish language which has its own distinct pronunciation, grammar, and slang. Ergo, tourists who speak Spanish might have a hard time understanding when the locals speak Mexican Spanish.

Currency exchange – The official Mexican currency is the Mexican Peso. Exchanging money in Cancun is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in America. Most major establishments like hotels and restaurants in major tourist and business destinations accept credit cards. The best way to get local currency is to use the ATMs, which are widely available in Cancun and other major cities, and withdraw in Mexican Peso to get the best rate.

Mexican Pesos Currency Bills

Mexican Pesos (GCuesta/Shutterstock.com)

Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Mexico. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Keep your guard up at all times and avoid any streets that are not crowded. Do not carry debit or credit cards with you, or hide it in your bra or shoes. There were incidences of robbery when offenders will escort you to an ATM and make you take out as much as you can. Leave your passport in the hotel’s safety deposit box and just carry a photocopy.

Getting around – Travelling in Mexico is relatively easy because of highly developed and cheap public transportation system. However, tourist attractions in Cancun and Mayan Riviera are not within walking distance from the resorts, where you will most likely stay. Rental cars, taxis and local bus are some of the options to get around.

Where to stay – Cancun and Riviera Maya have heaps of accommodation to suit every pocket, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. For first time travelers who are looking for relaxation and a little bit of sightseeing, then we recommend staying in the Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera). If you’ve been to Cancun or Mayan Riviera once before, and would like to venture away from most tourists, then we suggest Isla Mujeres, located 13 kilometers off the coast of Cancun.

Day by Day Itinerary: Discover Cancun and  Riviera Maya in a week

Day 1: Cancun

For most people, Cancun is associated only with its beaches but Cancun happens to be rich in history and ruins (onyzhao120/Shutterstock.com)

For most people, Cancun and its surrounding areas are associated only with its beaches. But the area happens to be rich in history and ruins as well (onyzhao120/Shutterstock.com)

Assuming you had to cross an ocean to get to Mexico, your first day will be rife with jet lag. Take a flight that arrives in Cancún International Airport (CUN) as early as possible and check into your preferred hotel/hostel. The airport is in the middle of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen and travel time to either is approximately 50 minutes. Taxi service is available outside the Arrival Hall and provides 24-hour service to the passengers. A cheaper alternative is ADO Bus, which provides regular service to Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.

Where to stay in Cancun:

NIZUC Resort and Spa (Blvd Kukulcan Km 21, Cancun 77500, Mexico)

Secrets The Vine Cancun (Blvd Kukulcan Km. 14.5 | Retorno del Rey, Lot 38 + 38-b, Zona Hotelera, Cancun 77500, Mexico)

Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun (Blvd Kukulcan km 12.5 | Zona Hotelera, Cancun 77500, Mexico)

Hyatt Zilara Cancun (Blvd Kukulcan Km 11.5 | Zona Hotelera, Cancun 77500, Mexico)

The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun (Retorno del Rey 36 | Zona Hotelera, Quintana Roo, Cancun 77500, Mexico)

There’s no better way to get acquainted with the city than visiting a local market. Head to Coral Negro Flea Market and do some shopping. Spend the rest of the day in Playa Delfines, a very popular beach with transparent turquoise water and white sand. This postcard perfect beach, not too far from the Hotel Zone, provides serene beach experience plus greater privacy. However, it is not an ideal beach for swimming because of heavy currents and riptides. The beach is secluded and not spoiled by commercialism that’s why you won’t find any fancy hotels, restaurants and bars. Make sure to bring your snacks and supplies if you would like to spend the whole day here.

Playa Delfines, Cancun, Mexico

Playa Delfines (photopixel/Shutterstock.com)

Day 2: Cancun

On day 2, join a Mexican cooking class. On this tour, you will learn how to cook Mexico’s national dish and know its history and origin. You will also be introduced to traditional Mexican flavors and learn the best way to cook authentic Mexican food. There are plenty of tours offered online, so make sure to read reviews first before you make your reservation. Can Cook in Cancun is currently the number one cooking class in Cancun based on TripAdvisor reviews. At 115 USD it is not the cheapest option to spend your afternoon in Cancun but it is a different experience and it is totally worth its cost.

Day 3: Valladolid

You can dedicate Day 3 in Valladolid, a charming colonial town in the heart of Yukatan Peninsula. Check out from your accommodation in Cancun, then travel to Valladolid. The town is located 2 hours west of Cancun and can be reached by taking ADO bus or local buses. Upon arrival, check into your chosen accommodation and rent a bike. Biking around Valladolid is a great option which allows you to enjoy the area at your own pace. Don’t forget to wear a helmet and follow the traffic rules around the central area.

Where to stay in Valladolid:

El Meson del Marques (Calle 39 No. 203 x 40 y 42 | Centro Historico, Valladolid 97780, Mexico)

Casa Tia Micha (Calle 39 Numero 197 Entre 38 y 40, Valladolid 97780, Mexico)

Hotel Posada San Juan (Calle 40 x 49 | Parque de San Juan, Valladolid 97780, Mexico)

Hotel Zaci (Calle 44 # 191 por 37 y 39, Valladolid, Mexico)

Casa Marlene (Calle 39 Numero 193, Valladolid 97780, Mexico)

Day 4: Chichen Itza

Thousand pillars, Chichen Itza, Mexico

The Thousand Pillars in Chichen Itza – the pillars once supported a frieze and a roof which have since collapsed (KKulikov/Shutterstock.com)

On day 4, wake up early and join a guided tour to the enigmatic site of Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Yucatan Peninsula. By joining a guided tour, you will learn about how this great civilization developed some of the most complex architectural buildings, astronomical observatory structures, and impressive stone monoliths among other things. The highlight of this ancient site is the Temple of Kukulkan also known as El Castillo pyramid ruin. If you have extra money to spend, then avail a Chichen Itza tour with a Private Archaeologist. Some tours provide early access to Chichén Itzá, which will give you more time to marvel at the ancient structures without the crowds.

Temple of Kukulkan, Chichen Itza, Mexico

El Castillo, or “the castle”, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, is a Mesoamerican step-pyramid that dominates the center of the Chichen Itza (Lewis Liu/Shutterstock.com)

Day 5: Tulum

On your fifth day, take an all-inclusive day trip to breathtaking Tulum Ruins from Valladolid. Like the majority of Mayan cities, Tulum had a significant role during the Mayan Empire’s post-classic period. Because of its strategic location on a coast, Tulum served as a trading port. Your tour guide will tell about the site’s history and you will be introduced to some of Tulum’s Ancient architectural wonders. After your historic tour, do not miss to stop at the nearby beach and take an optional swim.

Tulum ruins, Mexico

Tulum is the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city serving as a major port for Cobá. The ruins of Tulum are situated on 12-meter (39 ft) tall cliffs, along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea (xabi_kls/Shutterstock.com)

Day 6: Playa Del Carmen

On day 6, after having a filling breakfast, travel to Playa del Carmen. ADO runs 11 buses a day betweem Valladolid and Playa del Carmen (more info can be found on ADO’s website). The trip takes between 2 hours and 20 minutes to 3 hours and 10 minutes. Ine-way ticket cost about 8 USD.

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen:

Hotel Casa Ticul (Quinta Avenida entre calle 38 y calle 40 Lote 8 | Zazil Ha, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico)

Secrets Capri Riviera Cancun (Carretera Federal 387, Chetumal | Cancun Km. 299, Solidaridad, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico)

La Pasion Hotel Boutique by Bunik (Calle 10 norte | Between Ave 15 & 20, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico)

La Tortuga Hotel & Spa (10th Avenue between 12th and 14th Street North, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico)

Excel Sense Playacar Boutique Hotel (Paseo Xaman Ha Manzana 16 Lote 16 | Playa Car Fase 2, Playa del Carmen 77717, Mexico)

Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in Playa Del Carmen or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions. Check into your preferred accommodation and hit one of the top rated restaurants in the city.  Rest a bit then get set to explore some of the most famous attractions of Playa Del Carmen like Xcaret Eco Theme Park, Cenote Chaak Tun (swim in caves with crystal clear water), Quinta Avenida and La Playa Xpuha.

Xcaret Theme Park, Mexico

Xcaret Theme Park (JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock.com)

Day 7: Playa Del Carmen

Today marks the end of your adventure in Mexico. Taking in to consideration that you most likely stayed out rather late the other night, you can start your last day in Playa Del Carmen at around 10 to 11 in the morning. If your flight is in the evening or late afternoon, explore the city for other attractions you might have missed. Fit in one last amazing lunch or dinner in the city. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping at Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) before you travel to the airport. Head to the airport in time to check in for your international flight home, opt to continue traveling independently in Mexico, or extend your stay in Playa Del Carmen. The decision is all yours!

Typical white Mexican church in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Typical white Mexican church in Playa del Carmen (Jose Ignacio Soto/Shutterstock.com)

This is the end of our 7-day suggested itinerary. You may extend your vacation for as long as you prefer or until you get to see all attractions that interest you. Take time to meet the locals, sample the best Mexican dishes or explore other parts of Mexico. If the pace gets too hectic, then reorder your sightseeing priorities. Happy travel!

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