Best day trips from Cancun, Mexico - Chichen Itza
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21 ultimate day trips from Cancun, Mexico

Come along on the best day trips from Cancun, Mexico! We spent three weeks in Cancun exploring everything inside the city and going on many trips to all the famous bucket list destinations near and far from Cancun.

Cancun is one of the most famous destinations in Mexico and it is a great place to base yourself in order to go on day trips to various must-see places around the peninsula like cenotes, Mayan ruins, the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, and many more.

In this post, you will find destinations for the best day trips from Cancun with descriptions, photos, and locations on the map. Many of these destinations can be combined and you can even visit 3 or 4 of them in a single day! Happy travels!

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Read more » 15 best Instagram spots in Cancun, Mexico

1. Isla Mujeres

Best Instagram spots in Isla Mujeres in Mexico
Isla Mujeres features gorgeous beaches
Best Instagram spots in Isla Mujeres in Mexico
Playa Norte is a famous beach in Mexico

One of the must-do day trips from Cancun is to Isla Mujeres – a small island located off the coast of Cancun. It is known for its stunning turquoise waters and white sandy beaches including Playa Norte – one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico!

Isla Mujeres proudly boasts vibrant coral reefs and a unique underwater museum with sculptures so going on a snorkeling tour in Isla Mujeres is one of the most popular things to do. But many people come to simply enjoy its laid-back atmosphere.

Best Instagram spots in Isla Mujeres in Mexico
Sculpture of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel
Best Instagram spots in Isla Mujeres in Mexico
We loved spending the day at a beach club

Besides snorkeling, other popular things to do in Isla Mujeres include spending the day at some of those gorgeous beaches, especially Playa Norte, exploring the local food scene, and going on a road trip around the island.

There is a special place at the South end of Isla Mujeres called Punta Sur Sculpture Park where you can wander around ancient Mayan ruins, explore coastal cliffs, and check out sculptures including that of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel.

Overall we really enjoyed Isla Mujeres – very different vibes than in Cancun! If you can, I recommend walking up early for the sunrise. Isla Mujeres is often regarded as the ‘Sunrise of Mexico’ as it is the Easternmost point of the whole country.

Location: Isla Mujeres

2. Cenote Suytun

Valladolid, Mexico-most beautiful cenotes in Yucatan Peninsula - Cenote Suytun
Cenote Suytun is one of the most beautiful places in the Yucatan peninsula

Cenotes are natural sinkholes in the ground and there is an abundance of them all around the Yucatan peninsula. So exploring these cenotes is one of the bucket list things to do for every traveler.

Cenote Suytun is one of the most famous cenotes in the Yucatan. It is located less than a 2-hour drive from Cancun. It is known for its unique stone pathway in the middle of a large underground cenote with a large stalactite hanging from above.

There is also a hole in the ceiling right above it. During the day, there will be a light beam shining through the hole illuminating the cenote. Check latest reviews on Google Maps before coming – sometimes the platform is dry, but sometimes – under water!

Location: Cenote Suytun

3. Chichén Itzá Archaeological Zone

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
One of the most popular day trips from Cancun is to Chichen Itzá

Chichen Itzá is the most famous of all the Mayan archaeological sites in the Yucatán. It is also one of the most visited places in Mexico, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and voted among the New 7 Wonders of the World.

What now is a popular tourist destination, historically was one of the largest Mayan cities dating back to 600 AC. It existed as a major regional center for many centuries until its decline by the 12th century.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
Temple of Kukulcan in Chichén Itzá
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
Puuc architecture in Chichen Itza ruins

Chichén Itzá archaeological zone consists of multiple temples, pyramids, structures, and even a sacred cenote (cenote sagrado) where Mayans deposited valuables and gifts including human sacrifices as a form of sacrifice to their rain god Chaac.

The most famous structure is the great El Castillo pyramid (the castle) which is also known as the Temple of Kukulcan. The pyramid with the temple on top of it is 30 meters high and was built sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
El Caracol – a Mayan observatory
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
Northeast side of the Chichen Itza pyramid

Visiting the Chichen Itza pyramid site is one of the bucket list things to do in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. And, obviously, this place gets super crowded so I recommend arriving as early as possible.

We visited Chichen Itza during our stay in Valladolid but you can easily do it from Cancun. There is a popular day trip group tour to Chichen Itza, cenote, and Valladolid from Cancun. Or you can opt for a private Chichen Itza tour to skip crowds.

Location: Chichén Itzá

4. Cenote Ik Kil

Valladolid, Mexico - most beautiful cenotes near Valladolid - Cenote Ik Kil
Cenote Ik Kil is one of the most beautiful cenotes in Mexico

Cenote Ik Kil is another famous destination in the Yucatan Peninsula and a visit here is often combined with visiting Chichen Itza – both sites are located just 5 kilometers (3 miles) apart.

If you wish to visit this gorgeous cenote, look for guided tours from Cancun combining Chichen Itza, Cenote Ik Kil, and Valladolid all in one day!

This cylindrical cenote stands out with its circular shape and 26-meter walls covered by hanging plants and tree roots. Cenote Ik Kil is 40 meters deep and served as a place for sacrifices for ancient Mayans a long time ago.

Valladolid, Mexico - most beautiful cenotes near Valladolid - Cenote Ik Kil
Walls are covered with plants and tree roots
Valladolid, Mexico - most beautiful cenotes near Valladolid - Cenote Ik Kil
Cenote was a place for sacrifices for Mayans

The cenote is located within the territory of a hotel and a restaurant so you can not only go for a swim here but buy a combined ticket that offers a buffet-type catering. That’s why it is a popular place amongst tour buses. Arrive early to avoid them!

Did you know? Ik Kil from Mayan means ‘place of the winds’.

We visited Ik Kil Cenote on the same day we went to Chichén Itzá. The entrance fee to the cenote was 200 pesos per person. It was gorgeous! A visit to this cenote is one of those must-do day trips from Cancun!

Location: Cenote Ik Kil

5. The rainbow-colored city – Valladolid

Valladolid, Mexico-colorful street in Valladolid - Calzada de los Frailes
Colorful Calzada de los Frailes street
Valladolid, Mexico-Valladolid letters at Convento de San Bernardino is one of the most popular Instagram spots in Valladolid, Mexico
Convent of San Bernardino de Siena

While visiting places like Cenote Suytun, Cenote Ik Kil, or Chichen Itza, there is one more place to add to your itinerary – Valladolid. This picturesque city really surprised us with its rainbow-colored streets and majestic colonial architecture!

Valladolid is a colonial town and was founded and built by the Spanish conquistadors. The city now sits in a place where there once was a Mayan city. Many historical buildings were built using stones from nearby Mayan sites including Chichen Itza.

Valladolid, Mexico-Parque Principal de Valladolid and Iglesia de San Servacio
View of Church of San Servacio
Valladolid, Mexico-Colorful Calle 41 in Valladolid
Colorful streets of Valladolid

Thanks to its proximity to the famous Chichen Itza ruins, Valladolid has grown from just a stopping point along the way to the world-famous Mayan pyramid to an established tourist destination in the Yucatan Peninsula.

We actually spent three weeks in Valladolid exploring everything this city and its surroundings had to offer. Besides such famous landmarks as Chichen Itza or Ek Balam archaeological sites, there are many other things to do in Valladolid.

Valladolid, Mexico-marquesitas at Parque Principal de Valladolid
Try marquesita at at Parque Principal!
Valladolid, Mexico-traditional Mayan dances at Parque Principal de Valladolid
Mayan dancers at Parque Principal

A must-visit place in Valladolid is Parque Principal – we went to the main square numerous times to grab those tasty marquesitas, churros, and gelatos, and watch Mayan dancers performing while juggling dish trays on their heads!

Right next to the main square, there is one building that stands out – Templo de San Servacio or Church of San Servacio. It is a colonial church with two bell towers founded in the 16th century along with the city but it was remodeled in the 18th century.

Valladolid, Mexico-La Casona de Valladolid
La Casona de Valladolid 
Valladolid, Mexico-traditional Mayan food at IX CAT IK Tradicional Cocina Maya
Longaniza de Valladolid dish

You will also want to walk the colorful Calzada de los Frailes street – one of the most colorful streets and iconic Instagram spots in Valladolid! The street goes from the historic center to another major landmark – the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena.

The convent is one of the oldest and most emblematic buildings in Valladolid, and is definitely worth visiting! It was built and founded in the middle of the 16th century by the Franciscan order who arrived at Yucatan after the Spanish conquest.

Valladolid, Mexico-best tacos in Valladolid - El Tigrillo
My favorite tacos in Valladolid – El Tigrillo
Valladolid, Mexico - best cenotes near Valladolid - Cenote Zaci
Cenote Zaci in Valladolid

But did you know that there is a cenote right in the heart of Valladolid city? Yep! Cenote Zaci is a gorgeous large cenote located in the very center of Valladolid just a short walk from the main plaza. Like really, just two blocks away! Do check it out!

You will also want to try some tasty food. Trying the local legend – longaniza de Valladolid – is a must. But you might also try some tasty and juicy tacos – I recommend stopping by El Tigrillo street stall or Yakunaj Cocina Mexicana for a nicer meal.

Location: Parque Principal de Valladolid

6. Pink lakes of Las Coloradas

Pink salt lakes at Las Coloradas in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Las Coloradas pink lakes is one of the most unique day trips from Cancun

The bright pink salt lakes Las Coloradas is one of the most beautiful places in the Yucatán Peninsula! The attractive lakes offer unique photo opportunities as it is not too often that you get to see naturally pink lakes!

However, visiting this place is also a bit of a game of luck. Before coming here I studied all the reviews on Google Maps and felt really conflicted. It is a decent drive and to go there and to not get what I wanted would be a disappointment.

Pink salt lakes at Las Coloradas in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Pink salt lakes at Las Coloradas in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico

But we decided to go and somehow managed to arrive here on the perfect day with the best weather conditions (we visited on February 4th). It was sunny, no clouds, and the lake was screaming pink color at us!

The lakes won’t be pink if there was a storm or a lot of rain over the previous days, you will see a bright pink color only on sunny days (no clouds) and the best angle of the sun will be around midday. And a little bit of wind will make the color pop!

Pink salt lakes at Las Coloradas in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Pink salt lakes at Las Coloradas in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico

The best way to visit Las Coloradas from Cancun is by joining a guided tour that will take care of everything and you just have to sit back, relax, and take all the beautiful photos (hopefully!).

Take into account that they usually harvest salt here around late July to August and the pink color is less visible. The guide also told us that after one hurricane the lake lost its pink color for a whole year so it is a bit of a gamble!

Location: Las Coloradas

7. Holbox – the quintessential tropical island

Holbox, Mexico - Dream Holbox beachside swings
Holbox has gorgeous tropical beaches
Holbox, Mexico - Hummingbird House with street art
Street art in Holbox is a thing

Holbox is the quintessential tropical island with turquoise water and fine white sand where you wander around barefoot and drink coconuts under palm trees! It is the place to be to enjoy that authentic Mexican fishing village life!

We have visited Holbox multiple times because we like it so much! To get there you need to get to the coastal village of Chiquilá and then take a ferry to the island of Holbox. There are two ferry companies departing every 30 to 60 minutes.

Holbox, Mexico - Holbox sign at Holbox beach
Holbox is the quintessential tropical island
Holbox, Mexico-Street food at the Holbox Central Park
Street food in Holbox Central Park

Although we traveled there by our rental car and left it in one of many long-term parking lots in Chiquilá while we stayed on the island, you can very easily get there by one of many minibus taxis or book a transfer from anywhere in Cancun.

Holbox is a unique island with unpaved streets, people walking around barefoot, full of golf cart taxis buzzing around, and no cars allowed for tourists. Occasional power outages are a thing here and street-wide water puddles after storms, too.

Holbox, Mexico-Restaurante La Playa De Ñaña
Restaurante La Playa De Ñaña beach club
Holbox, Mexico - sunset at Playa Punta Cocos
Sunset at Playa Punta Cocos in Holbox

On the island, explore the hustle-bustle of Holbox Central Park, and don’t forget to go there in the evening to try some Mexican street foods prepared in one of many street food stalls!

Then enjoy the gorgeous Playa Holbox beach with fine white sand and shallow turquoise waters. For beach clubs, I recommend Restaurante La Playa De Ñaña restaurant and beach club.

Best places to eat in Holbox and best restaurants in Holbox Mexico
Lobster pizza is a must-try dish in Holbox
Best Instagram spots of the most beautiful places in Holbox island in Mexico
The colorful stage at Holbox Central Park

If you stay there the night, consider joining everyone on a sandbank morning walk to Punta Mosquito – a popular activity on the island. Read more about other bucket list things to do in Holbox.

Another unique experience to do in Holbox is a bioluminescence tour in the evening after dark. It was one of my highlights from Holbox. One of the most-try foods in Holbox is the local legend – lobster pizza, a famous dish on the island.

I also recommend checking out the street of street art in Holbox and watching the sun go by in the Caribbean Sea at Playa Punta Cocos. It was pretty mesmerizing but mosquitoes are a thing here so bring a repellant with you!

Location: Holbox

8. Ek Balam Archaeological Zone

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Ek Balam archaeological zone
Ek Balam means the ‘black jaguar’ in the Mayan language

Another place worth visiting just a 30-minute drive from Valladolid is Ek Balam – one of the most important sites in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Let’s start with the best part about it – you can climb the Mayan ruins and pyramids!

Because of its location, you can easily combine a visit to Valladolid or Chichen Itza with a visit to Ek Balam or you can opt to join a guided tour from Cancun to Ek Balam and a visit to a cenote with lunch.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Ek Balam archaeological zone
View of the Oval Palace in Ek Balam
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Ek Balam archaeological zone - view from the Acropolis pyramid
View from the Acropolis

Ek Balam is located just over a 2-hour drive from Cancun making it a convenient destination for Cancun day trips! The name Ek Balam translates as the black jaguar in the Mayan language so you’ll see many black jaguar souvenirs on the site.

Ek Balam site features multiple impressive buildings and pyramids. The largest structure in Ek Balam is the Acropolis. It is like a temple pyramid with a staircase in the middle where you can climb up to the top to see incredible views over the jungle.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Ek Balam archaeological zone
Climbing up the Acropolis pyramid temple
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Ek Balam archaeological zone
The entrance carved like the mouth of a jaguar

To both sides of the central staircase, you can find entrances to temples decorated with stone carvings and mosaics. They are believed to be burial places for Ek Balam rulers. One of the entrances depicts an open mouth of a jaguar (photo above).

Other notable structures in Ek Balam include the Oval Palace (you can climb it), the Entrance Arch, The Twins, or two lookalike temples, as well as the Ballcourt. Historically, Ek Balam was a booming city during the 8th and 9th centuries.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Ek Balam archaeological zone
View from the top of the Acropolis
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Ek Balam archaeological zone
Overlook of Ek Balam from the Oval Palace

Overall I liked exploring Ek Balam. These weren’t my favorite Mayan ruins mostly because of the inflated entrance fee but I also don’t regret coming here. It is always cool to explore how the Mayan civilization lived before the Spanish found them.

Ek Balam is amongst the last larger Mayan archaeological sites where you are allowed to climb the pyramids. Another larger site where you can climb the pyramids is the Dzibanché archaeological zone located to the South of Bacalar.

Location: Archaeological Zone of Ek Balam

9. Pink flamingos in the wild in Celestún or Río Lagartos

Merida, Mexico-one of the best things to do in Merida is to see pink flamingos in the wild in Celestún
Visiting pink flamingos in the wild is amongst the most popular day trips from Cancun

Seeing pink flamingos in the wild is a bucket list thing to do in the Yucatán Peninsula! The main spots to see flamingos in the Yucatán Peninsula are Rio Lagartos just a 1h30min drive from Valladolid and Celestún just 1 hour from Merida.

If you travel from Cancun, Rio Lagartos will be a closer option. But in case you have plans to visit Merida, you can add Celestún to your itinerary. And don’t forget to bring cash! These remote places sometimes don’t have working ATMs.

Merida, Mexico-one of the best things to do in Merida is to see pink flamingos in the wild in Celestún
Flamingos turn pink because of their food
Merida, Mexico-one of the best things to do in Merida is to see pink flamingos in the wild in Celestún
We watched flamingos from the boat

Flamingos live in Yucatán all year long but the biggest hordes of flamingos you will see from November to February during their mating season. We visited Merida in January so we used this opportunity and traveled to Celestún to see them.

Flamingoes in Celestun live deep in the Ría Celestun Biosphere Reserve so you need a boat to get to see them. For that, you have to drive to Parador Turístico Celestún boat dock where they offer boat tours to see the flamingos.

Merida, Mexico-one of the best things to do in Merida is to see pink flamingos in the wild in Celestún
Boats keep a safe distance from flamingos
Merida, Mexico-one of the best things to do in Merida is to see pink flamingos in the wild in Celestún
Older flamingos usually have brighter color

When we visited, the cost for a small boat was 3000 pesos (~180 USD) and they allowed up to 6 persons on a boat. We wanted to split the cost so we found other tourists to share a boat but you can also go on your own.

I recommend arriving sometime between 10 AM and 2 PM for the best chances to share a boat with others. We arrived at 12:15 PM and there were quite a few people already so it was easy to find a company. It was cash only!

Merida, Mexico-one of the best things to do in Merida is to see pink flamingos in the wild in Celestún
Flamingoes are social and live in colonies
Merida, Mexico-one of the best things to do in Merida is to see pink flamingos in the wild in Celestún
Crocodile was hiding in the mangroves

The boat tour lasts about 1h to 1h 30min. They take you deep into the river and stop the boat near the flamingos. We saw thousands of them! Then they take you through a narrow mangrove tunnel to a beautiful cenote where you can swim.

While we were there some of our group went for a swim in the cenote only to find a small crocodile nearby the cenote, haha! Luckily it looked like it already had lunch and wasn’t interested in us at all. This was a fun trip and worth the price!

Location: Parador Turístico CelestúnRío Lagartos tours

10. Cozumel – the island of the swallows

Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico - Coral Reefs Monument
Sunset at Cozumel promenade
Cozumel,Mexico - gems of the East Coast of Cozumel - yellow car at Playa Mezcalito
Wild East Coast of Cozumel

The tropical Caribbean island of Cozumel is Mexico’s third-largest island and is known for its tropical white sand beaches, lush palm trees, wild nature, delicious food, and Mayan ruins hidden deep in the jungle.

Cozumel sits just off the coast of Playa del Carmen so it is a very convenient getaway destination if you have already come to Playa del Carmen! It is a 30-minute ride by ferry.

We actually spent a full week exploring Cozumel and all its famous sights. Some of the top things to do in Cozumel include snorkeling at the Great Mayan Reef, visiting the San Gervasio archaeological zone, and spotting crocodiles in the Punta Sur Eco Park.

Cozumel, Mexico - go snorkeling to the Great Mayan Reef in Cozumel
Snorkeling at the Great Mayan Reef
Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico - San Gervasio Archaeological Zone
San Gervasio archaeological zone

We also spent a lot of time in the capital city – San Miguel de Cozumel where we ate churros and marquesitas in Benito Juarez Park, stopped by the symbol – Cozumel Clock Tower, and watched the sunset at the promenade.

A walk along the Cozumel promenade is a must – along the way you can visit some iconic spots in the city like Coral Reefs Monument, Monumento Al Mestizaje, and Monumento a la Hispanidad.

Cozumel, Mexico - gems of the East Coast of Cozumel - blue boats and palm trees at Playa Chen Rio
Cozumel is Mexico’s third largest island
Playa El Cielo in Cozumel
Cozumel has gorgeous beaches

Outside the city, a must-do thing to do is renting a car (or scooter) and driving around the island stopping by the wild East Coast and at Punta Sur Eco Park. We also did a tour in the Mayan chocolate factory and stopped by the beaches.

While Playa del Carmen might be one of the most popular day trips from Cancun, Cozumel is definitely the most popular day trip from Playa del Carmen.

I recommend making a weekend trip here but also a day will be fun if you visit the Mayan ruins, go snorkeling, eat tacos, and watch the sunset from the promenade.

Location: Cozumel

11. Tulum

Tulum, Mexico-most beautiful cenotes in Yucatan Peninsula - Cenote Atik Tulum
Cenote Atik Tulum
Tulum, Mexico-Ven a la Luz sculpture park in Tulum
Ven a la Luz sculpture park

Although Cancun and Tulum are two of the most famous destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula and in Mexico, both these cities have just completely different vibes. So Tulum can easily be amongst your top day trips from Cancun!

Both cities have two parts – the downtown area located more inland and the touristy hotel zones right next to the beach. But they couldn’t be more different!

Tulum Archeological Zone in Quintana Roo, Mexico
Tulum Mayan ruins
Tulum, Mexico-Soy Tulum Beach Club
Hotel entrance at the Tulum Hotel Zone

Cancun boasts large resorts with modern infrastructure, vibrant nightlife, and numerous shopping possibilities, but Tulum has a much smaller hotel zone with smaller boutique hotels, rustic luxury, and a laid-back vibe.

Tulum is known for one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites – the Tulum Archaeological Zone. The ruins are perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Did you know that the name Tulum means ‘a wall’ in Mayan?

Tulum, Mexico-crooked palm trees in Playa Paraíso in Tulum
Playa Paraíso in Tulum
Tulum, Mexico-Colorful street art in Tulum downtown
Tulum street art

Another advantage for Tulum is cenotes – the perfect escape when the beach is covered with sargassum sea algae! While Cancun has none near the city, Tulum boasts many famous cenotes just a couple of minutes’ drive from the town.

Apart from cenotes and visiting Tulum ruins, other top things to do in Tulum include visiting the iconic Ven a la Luz sculpture park, enjoying the tropical beaches, trying street food at Parque Dos Aguas, and admiring street art.

Tulum, Mexico-Mía restaurant and beach club by Selina
Entrance at the Tulum Hotel Zone
Tulum, Mexico-follow that dream street sign in Tulum, Mexico
Famous Instagram spot in Tulum

Despite its popularity, there are still plenty of places to eat authentic Mexican food so don’t forget to hunt down the best tacos in Tulum along with tortas, quesabirrias, guacamole, marquesitas, and more.

Even if you don’t stay at the Tulum Hotel Zone I recommend taking a walk along the road there and checking out all the incredible hotel entrances, many of them known as famous Instagram spots in Tulum. Big respect for the artists!

Location: Tulum

12. Bacalar and the Lagoon of Seven Colors

Bacalar, Mexico-Bacalar letters in Bacalar, Pueblo Magico
The charming Pueblo Mágico – Bacalar
Bacalar, Mexico-sunrise over the Lagoon of Seven Colors seen from a charming wooden deck
Sunrise over Bacalar Lagoon

if you have some extra time after you have explored Tulum, there is one more special place further down South that you might not want to miss – Bacalar and its famous Lagoon of Seven Colors!

We also went on a weekend trip to this special town and it turned out to be one of my favorite memories from our travels around the Yucatán Peninsula!

When in Bacalar, I recommend waking up early to watch the sunrise over the Bacalar lagoon as it sits East of the town. We got a unique smokey sunrise from one of the public piers – Muelle 18.

Bacalar, Mexico-best things to do in Bacalar - floating down the stream at Los Rapidos
Los Rapidos channel in Bacalar
Bacalar, Mexico-best things to do in Bacalar - swim in the lagoon of seven colors
Lagoon of Seven Colors

Some of the must-do things to do in Bacalar include a boat trip to the famous Channel of the Pirates, having lunch at a waterfront restaurant (I recommend La Playita), exploring the old fort in downtown, and floating down the stream at Los Rapidos.

Los Rapidos is a narrow channel between two lagoons which creates a slow but steady stream of gorgeous turquoise water in the channel. So you walk upstream by a wooden path, jump in and just let the current take you back to where you came from.

And then simply repeat it all again!

Bacalar, Mexico-marquesitas at Bacalar's Zócalo
Marquesita at Zócalo of Bacalar
Chacchoben Archaeological Zone in Mexico
Chacchoben Archaeological Zone

Bacalar is just a short ride away from three incredible Mayan sites – Chacchoben, Dzibanché, and Kohunlich archaeological zones. I liked the three massive pyramids in Chacchoben the most but in Dzibanché you are allowed to climb the pyramids!

After a day full of adventures and swimming I recommend stopping by the central square of Bacalar – Zócalo. It is often full of activities including some dancing, singing, and lots of street food stands. I got the best marquesita I have ever eaten right there!

Location: Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar

13. Coba Archaeological Zone

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and ruins of an ancient Mayan city Coba at Coba archaeological zone
Nohoch Mul Pyramid in Coba is amongst the highest ones in the Yucatan Peninsula

There are more places to explore near Tulum. Coba Archaeological Zone is one of the largest Mayan sites in the Yucatan peninsula and one of the closest ones to Tulum – the ancient jungle city is located just a 45-minute drive from Tulum.

Coba ruins once were one of the most important ancient Mayan cities in the area. The archaeological site boasts multiple stone pyramids, temples, and other important structures.

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and ruins of an ancient Mayan city Coba at Coba archaeological zone
Ballgame court in Coba
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and ruins of an ancient Mayan city Coba at Coba archaeological zone
Astronomical Observatory in Coba

Entrance to the site is paid in different parts – parking and two different entrance fees, so don’t forget to bring some cash with you. All the buildings are pretty much scattered around the jungle so you can rent a bike there (we walked, it was ~5 kilometers).

One of the most impressive buildings is the temple pyramid Nohoch Mul. At 42 meters (137 feet) it is one of the highest Mayan structures in the Yucatán Peninsula. Only Calakmul in the State of Campeche is higher than the Coba pyramid.

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and ruins of an ancient Mayan city Coba at Coba archaeological zone
Temple pyramid in Coba
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and ruins of an ancient Mayan city Coba at Coba archaeological zone
La Iglesia pyramid near the entrance

Most of the structures in Coba date back to the 7th-10th centuries. Coba once was a large center of the Mayan civilization reaching 50 thousand inhabitants but was already abandoned by the 16th century during the Spanish conquest.

A couple of years ago it was possible to climb the pyramid in Coba, but not anymore. I wasn’t sad about it tho – it was fun walking the narrow paths through the jungle and finding Mayan ruins along the way!

Location: Coba Archaeological ZoneParking lot

14. AZULIK City of Arts – SFER IK Uh May

Tulum, Mexico-AZULIK City of Arts in Francisco Uh May
A visit to AZULIK City of Arts can be one of the most unique day trips from Cancun

Located in the jungle a 30-minute drive from Tulum, AZULIK City of Arts is an out-of-this-world handmade artisanal creation that takes you on a journey through never-seen-before spaces. In simpler words, it is a contemporary art museum.

If you travel to Tulum, you should definitely consider visiting this unique destination where nature meets people and meets art deep into the remote jungle.

When I first entered this place my first thoughts were about the The Lord of The Rings movie where elves lived in those otherworldly places. It was hard to fathom how they built and how they even came up with all of that!

Tulum, Mexico-AZULIK City of Arts in Francisco Uh May
Tulum, Mexico-AZULIK City of Arts in Francisco Uh May

First, they took us by a wooden bridge to the entrance, performed some kind of ritual, and then asked us to take off our shoes. You can only walk around barefoot there. Then they let us enter the building. Only phone cameras are allowed in.

The City of Arts is a massive building all connected in one space – there are wooden pathways built to explore the upper side of the building and then lead you down to the floor. The ground level is connected with other rooms and spaces.

Tulum, Mexico-AZULIK City of Arts in Francisco Uh May
Tulum, Mexico-AZULIK City of Arts in Francisco Uh May

Every room and space features something unique and creative. Once you are done exploring you get your shoes back and can walk outside to explore the surroundings. There is a pool, a restaurant, and more hidden nooks to explore.

Entrance costs 400 pesos per person. If you think you can appreciate such unique beauty, it is well worth a visit. I have traveled to many places and countries but this was something truly magical. I felt like I was on a different planet.

Did you know? There is another museum in the Tulum hotel zone – SFER IK Tulum. From what I gathered from reviews it is a much smaller place for the same price and thus feels not as price-worthy. Check out more about all SFER IK has to offer here!

Location: AZULIK City of Arts – SFER IK Uh May

15. Puerto Morelos

Best Instagram spots in Puerto Morelos in Mexico
The iconic Leaning Lighthouse
Best Instagram spots in Puerto Morelos in Mexico
Puerto Morelos is a small fishing village

Puerto Morelos is a great destination for a day trip from Cancun for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Cancun. Located just a short drive south of Cancun, this charming fishing village offers a far more relaxed and authentic experience.

One of the biggest reasons to go to Puerto Morelos is that there is a wonderful long white sand beach that is easily accessible from the town center. And not a single hotel is blocking the access to the tranquil tropical beaches (ahem, Cancun!).

Best Instagram spots in Puerto Morelos in Mexico
Sunrise at Puerto Morelos pier
Best Instagram spots in Puerto Morelos in Mexico
Mi Pueblo Hokum

Some of the must-do things to do in Puerto Morelos include visiting the iconic Leaning Lighthouse of Puerto Morelos, checking out the local food scene, enjoying the crowd-free beaches, and a snorkeling trip to the barrier reef.

By the way, Puerto Morelos is home to the National Reef Park, one of the best-preserved stretches of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef so this is one of the best places for snorkeling or diving activities in the whole Yucatan peninsula.

Best Instagram spots in Puerto Morelos in Mexico
Geoholistik Puerto Morelos
Best Instagram spots in Puerto Morelos in Mexico
Beach in Puerto Morelos

The town’s laid-back atmosphere (it really is a small town still untouched by the tourist crowds), combined with its local restaurants, artisan shops, and cultural attractions, is truly a stark contrast to the high-energy vibe of Cancun.

We actually spent three whole days in Puerto Morelos. If possible I recommend waking up early and watching the sunrise next to the iconic Leaning Lighthouse in the center of the town. It was magical!

Location: Puerto Morelos

16. Snorkeling trip to Isla Contoy

Snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Mexico
I tried snorkeling for the first time in my life in Mexico! Yayy!

A boat trip to Isla Contoy has to be one of the most unique day trips from Cancun. Imagine cruising over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, snorkeling at barrier reefs, and relaxing on the stunning white-sand tropical beaches of Isla Contoy!

This tiny, protected island is a natural paradise surrounded by crystal-clear waters perfect for snorkeling. As you snorkel, you’ll get to admire the vibrant coral reefs and swim alongside colorful tropical fish, rays, and maybe even sea turtles!

The island itself is a birdwatcher’s dream, home to over 150 species of birds, including frigates and pelicans. With only a limited number of visitors allowed each day (no more than 200 people), it will feel like your own private slice of paradise!

Location: Boat trip to Isla Contoy

17. Capital of the state of Yucatán – Merida

Merida, Mexico - the red-colored Palacio Municipal de Mérida palace featuring archways and views over Plaza Grande square
View of Plaza Grande from the Palacio Municipal de Mérida

Founded in the 16th century, Merida, or the White City, serves as the capital of the state of Yucatán. It was also the first American Capital of Culture and is home to the oldest cathedral in mainland Americas!

Honestly, Merida has to be one of the most interesting destinations amongst all the day trips from Cancun but I’d recommend staying there for two full days if possible. There’s just so much to do! See all the things to do in Merida here!

Merida, Mexico - Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Yucatán - a green 19th century government building with arcaded courtyard and murals on the walls
The green palace – Palacio de Gobierno
Merida, Mexico-Pasaje de La Revolución, glass-covered pedestrian passageway in Merida, Mexico
Pasaje de La Revolución

Merida is the perfect place to explore the Mayan culture, local Mexican lifestyle as well as colonial history through archaeological zones, food, local markets, and diverse architecture in and around the city.

The number one must-visit place in Merida is Plaza Grande or the main square that hosts special events like the popular Mayan ball game ‘Pok Ta Pok’ which you can see every Saturday around 8 PM for free.

Merida, Mexico-cochinita pibil traditional Yucated Mayan tacos featured on Netflix's Taco Chronicles - Taqueria La Lupita
Tacos at Taqueria La Lupita
Merida, Mexico-taste Mayan cuisine and Yucatecan dishes at Museum of Yucateca Gastronomy
Salbutes at Museum of Yucateca Gastronomy

Lined around the square are the best places to visit in Merida – the Cathedral of Mérida, the Pasaje de La Revolución, the red Palacio Municipal de Mérida, the green palace – Palacio de Gobierno, and Museo Casa Montejo – house of the founder of Merida!

Merida is also a hub of Mayan gastronomy and Mexican cuisine. You must stop by some taco places like Taqueria La Lupita and Manjar Blanco – taco spots that were featured on Netflix’s Taco Chronicles.

Merida, Mexico - Monumento a La Patria monument in Merida - a Mayan style homage to the history of Mexico
Monumento a La Patria
Merida, Mexico-Parque de los Hidalgos park in Merida with a large catholic church next to it
Parque de los Hidalgos

As for gastronomy, you have to try Mayan dishes at either one of the best restaurants – La Chaya Maya or at the Museum of Yucateca Gastronomy which is a restaurant with a small exhibition. Try dishes like salbutes, sopa de lima, or pollo pibil!

As you wander the historic center, spot some of the remaining historic arches, enjoy the smells and flavors at Mercado San Benito, and see some of Merida’s photo-perfect parks like Parque de los Hidalgos or Parque de Santa Lucia with its ‘Sillas Tu y Yo’ chairs!

If you really want to stretch your legs go to the famous Paseo de Montejo and walk down the French-inspired Montejo Walkway with its splendor of 19th-century colonial architecture until you reach Monumento a La Patria – one of Merida’s landmarks!

Location: Plaza Grande of Merida

18. Izamal – Mexico’s Yellow City

Izamal, Mexico - best things to do in Izamal, the Yellow City of Mexico
Convent of San Antonio de Padua convent in Izamal, Mexico’s Yellow City

If you are up for a photo-worthy and memorable day trip from Cancun, then you must go to Mexico’s Yellow City – Izamal! This Pueblo Mágico (one of Mexico’s magic towns) is the perfect stop along the way to Merida and will only take 3-4 hours to explore!

The colonial town attracts visitors with its yellow color as all the buildings in the center of this magical town are painted yellow (no, not the entire town). We arrived at Izamal in the morning and spent there half a day exploring everything Izamal had to offer.

Izamal, Mexico-the yellow Convento de San Antonio convent hosts the second largest atrium in the world - a grass-covered square surrounded by a beautiful arcade
Izamal has the second-largest atrium in the world
Izamal, Mexico-the yellow corn ice cream in a cup in Mexicos yellow city Izamal with the yellow Convento de San Antonio convent in the background
Yellow corn ice cream in the Yellow town

The most famous attraction in Izamal is the Convento de San Antonio sitting atop a hill (there once was an ancient Maya pyramid) in the heart of the town. Next to it, you will find the second-largest atrium in the world with a beautiful yellow arcade.

You can explore the unique convent and walk around the atrium for free. It does have working hours so check those before coming! The best time to arrive is early morning before the town heats up to scorching degrees.

Izamal, Mexico-the yellow Convento de San Antonio convent hosts the second largest atrium in the world - a grass-covered square surrounded by a beautiful arcade
You can visit the atrium for free
Izamal, Mexico-the yellow Convento de San Antonio convent in Izamal is the main attraction of the city
The center of Izamal is all painted yellow

Other must-do things in Izamal include climbing the Mayan pyramids – Kinich Kak Moo and Itzamatul. If you only have time for one, I highly recommend visiting the Kinich Kak Moo pyramid as you can see the whole town of Izamal from the top!

Don’t forget to explore the local market, Mercado Municipal de Izamal, try the yellow corn ice cream, walk around the 5 de Mayo Park, and, for lunch, I suggest trying Mayan dishes at Restaurant Kinich. This was one of my favorite towns in Yucatan!

Location: Convento de San Antonio in Izamal

19. Uxmal Archaeological Zone and Ruta Puuc

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Uxmal archaeological zone in Ruta Puuc - Pyramid of the Magician
Uxmal archaeological zone is a bucket list destination in the Yucatán Peninsula

If you decide to stay longer in Merida, there is a must-do trip you have to do while there – just a 1-hour drive South of Merida is a group of five different Mayan archaeological zones called the Ruta Puuc route.

Why Ruta Puuc? Ruta Puuc is a group of special Mayan ruins in Yucatán featuring the Puuc architectural style. Puuc means ‘hills’ in the Mayan language and is also the name of the region South of Merida where all these ruins are located.

The most famous one is Uxmal which is often regarded as more beautiful than Chichen Itza. Visiting all sites will take the whole day. We drove Ruta Puuc with our rental car starting early at 8 AM and finishing back in Merida around 3 PM.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Zona Arqueológica de Sayil in Ruta Puuc
Archaeological Zone of Sayil
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Zona Arqueológica de Kabah in Ruta Puuc
Archaeological Zone of Kabah

Puuc architecture usually displays stone mosaics, geometrical elements, and elaborate sculptures e.g. it often features masks of the long-nosed rain god Chaac. It also features stone arches in unique shapes (see the frame in the first photo).

Uxmal with its famous Pyramid of the Magician is amongst the most impressive Mayan ruins in Mexico. The whole archaeological zone is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its significance.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Zona Arqueológica de Labna in Ruta Puuc
Archaeological Zone of Labná
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Zona Arqueológica de Xlapak in Ruta Puuc
Archaeological Zone of Xlapak

Other archaeological zones along Ruta Puuc include the archaeological zone of Kabah, the archaeological zone of Sayil, the archaeological zone of Xlapak, and the archaeological zone of Labná (my favorite after Uxmal).

If you only have time for one place, then go to Uxmal which is one of the most beautiful places in the Yucatán Peninsula. If you have to skip some of those places, I’d choose Xlapak and Sayil as my least favorite of all.

Location: UxmalKabahSayilXlapakLabná

20. Church and convent of Uayma

Iglesia de Uayma church is a red colored church with large white roses in Uayma town in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico also known as ex-convent of Santo Domingo
Church of Uayma is one of the most beautiful places in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico

Convento de Santo Domingo in the town of Uayma or, simply, the Church of Uayma is the most beautiful church in the Yucatan Peninsula and one of my favorite hidden gems in this part of Mexico.

It is located a short drive from Valladolid and would make a perfect spot to stop by on your way to other nearby destinations like Valladolid or Chichén Itzá! If you have a private driver or your own rental car, consider stopping by for a short visit!

Iglesia de Uayma church is a red colored church with large white roses in Uayma town in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico also known as ex-convent of Santo Domingo
Iglesia de Uayma church is a red colored church with large white roses in Uayma town in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico also known as ex-convent of Santo Domingo

The beautiful photo-perfect Convento de Santo Domingo is a former convent built by the Franciscans in the middle of the 17th century. It was built by using stones from Mayan sites. Yes, including from the nearby Chichén Itzá!

During the second half of the 19th century, the church was burned down during a Mayan rebellion. Only more than 100 years later the roofless church was finally restored and was officially reopened to the public in 2004.

Iglesia de Uayma church is a red colored church with large white roses in Uayma town in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico also known as ex-convent of Santo Domingo
Iglesia de Uayma church is a red colored church with large white roses in Uayma town in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico also known as ex-convent of Santo Domingo

The captivating building stands out with its unusual design – the white roses and stars symbolize the veneration of the Virgin Mary but the red color represents sacrifice and martyrdom. There is also a green color that symbolizes hope.

The front of the Uayma church also depicts a large headless eagle which is a symbol of the Franciscans who built the church. Over the last few years, this church has become a unique landmark in the Yucatán Peninsula thanks to its unique design.

We visited this church on Saturday at 11 AM. It was open so we could enter to see the inside of the church for donations. Overall there isn’t much to see in Uayma so don’t plan to spend a lot of time here. But it was worth a visit!

Location: Iglesia de Uayma

21. Muyil ruins and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Muyil Archaeological Zone in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Muyil Archaeological Zone features one of the most unique pyramids in Yucatan

Located just a 20-minute drive from Tulum is a wonderful Mayan pyramid and ancient ruins – Muyil Archaeological Zone. Although the ancient Mayan city is not among the biggest sites, it is among the most unique ones!

This is one of the longest-inhabited ancient Mayan cities in the area, and some artifacts there date back to the 4th century BC. They lived here possibly up to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

Muyil Archaeological Zone in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Temples at Muyil Archaeological Zone
Muyil Archaeological Zone in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Muyil Archaeological Zone

Muyil ruins stand out with their unique architecture – it has characteristics of an architectural style typical in the Peten region in modern-day Guatemala which signifies close ties with ancient Mayan cities in the South.

If you travel to Tulum, this is an easy spot to add to your itinerary. At the ticket office, we were offered different deals – entrance to the site, a visit to the Sian Ka’an lagoon, or even a boat trip including swimming in the lagoon.

Muyil Archaeological Zone in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Lagoon in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Muyil Archaeological Zone in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Boardwalk through the jungle

We opted for a visit to the archaeological zone and a visit to the lagoon. There is a wooden boardwalk through the jungle to the lagoon to see the gorgeous water and a massive observation tower in the jungle. The views were incredible!

It is believed that Muyil was part of a long trade route that connected the ancient Mayan cities in today’s Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico.

Muyil Archaeological Zone in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Views from the observation tower
Muyil Archaeological Zone in Yucatan peninsula, Mexico
Observation tower in the jungle

Mayans used a network of water canals to ship goods like jade, chocolate, honey, and salt as well as other goods. Coba was one of Muyil’s main trading partners!

Muyil pyramid is very unique and you won’t see a pyramid like this anywhere else in Yucatan! If you have a rental car and decide to travel to Bacalar, then this is the perfect spot to add to your itinerary to visit along the way.

Location: Muyil Archaeological Zone

Happy exploring!

Cancun was such a gem! This buzzing coastal city in Riviera Maya is all about enjoying the sandy beaches with blue water, trying different tasty Mexican foods, and fun nightlife. It is also the perfect place for exciting day trips around the Yucatán Peninsula!

We had the privilege of spending a few weeks in Cancun enjoying the famous beaches as well as the local cuisine. We also spent a couple of months traveling around the Yucatán Peninsula and exploring everything it had to offer.

From white-sand beaches to dark underground cenotes, and ancient pyramids – there’s just so much to see! I hope you enjoy your time there as much as we did and I hope you get some travel inspiration from this blog post for your travels too! Happy exploring!

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Most popular day trips from Cancun, Mexico
Most popular day trips from Cancun, Mexico

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