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Here’s a fantastic Yucatan road trip itinerary for first-timers

Taking a Yucatan road trip is one of the best ways to fully experience what the Caribbean part of Mexico has to offer. Dotted by natural wonders like cenotes, a pristine coastline, culture galore, and fantastic food, there’s no shortage of wonderful things to see and do all over the peninsula.

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I’ve traveled the Yucatan peninsula almost a dozen times, sometimes for a quick getaway and others to show friends around who have come to visit me in Mexico.

I’ve been able to spend weeks and full months traveling the area and if there’s one thing I can tell you about it is: The Yucatan Peninsula would take a ton of time to fully uncover. Seriously, you could spend months on end on your Yucatan road trip and still not get to see even half of what it has to offer.

If it’s your first time visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, chances are the above statement made you feel as overwhelmed as ever. Luckily, thanks to the fact that I’ve traveled the area many times, I’ve been able to craft a perfect Yucatan road trip itinerary that combines a little bit of everything: food, culture, archaeology, nature, and some of the best beaches.

⚠️ Is Yucatan safe?

Yucatan is considered the safest state in Mexico, with low crime rates and high volumes of expats and foreigners. Majority of the foreigners who live here love the child-friendly terrain, especially in major cities like Merida. Yucatan is safe and I will share more safety tips as you read along this article.

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???? Yucatan road trip itinerary

Days 1 & 2: Tulum + surroundings

You’ll probably land at Cancun airport, from where you can either rent a car or hop on a bus depending on how you want to do your Yucatan road trip.

I usually skip Cancun and head straight to Tulum because the city isn’t exactly my jam. If you do want to check it out, though, I recommend leaving it for your last day instead.

While in Tulum, you’ll find a plethora of amazing things to see and do. If you’re into nature, you can head over to the nearby Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, where you can take a boat trip through mangroves and get to see a ton of wildlife.

For those into history, check out the ruins of Cobá, one of the most quintessential examples of Mayan architecture out there. Another must is Río Secreto, a humongous underground river where you’ll get to see dramatic geological formations as you wade through the water in what feels like the Underworld!

yucatan road trip

Tulum downtown is also worth checking out, especially if you’re into fine dining and trendy beach clubs. A few can’t-miss spots for dining/partying include Taboo, Bagatelle, and Bonbonniere.

Day 3: Bacalar

Commonly nicknamed the Maldives of Mexico due to the striking turquoise colors you’ll see in the water, Bacalar is what I like to call a tiny slice of paradise in the middle of Yucatan.

Bacalar is actually a lagoon, but the shades of blue you’ll see here will very well make you feel as though you’re somewhere in the Pacific. Plus, thanks to the fact that there are no waves or salty water, it makes for the perfect place to enjoy the sun.

yucatan road trip

While here, you can simply lounge by the water, rent a kayak or paddleboard, or take a tour to discover a few of the cenotes found inside the lagoon.

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Days 4 to 6: Merida, Progreso, and Chichen Itzá

Merida is the capital of the state of Yucatan and a must-see on any Yucatan road trip for those interested in culture, architecture, and food (did you know Yucatec cuisine is considered one of the best in Mexico?)

In Merida, you’ll find a very relaxed atmosphere, colorful colonial buildings, and dining options ranging from budget street food to high-end restaurants. Moreover, the city is dotted with museums, art galleries, and wonderful historical attractions.

We also recommend booking a Pok Ta Pok show, where you’ll get to see a representation of the Mayan Ball Game, an ancient game that was pretty deadly!

yucatan road trip

Close to Merida, you’ll find Progreso. This is a very laid-back beach town that still doesn’t make it to most Yucatan road trip itineraries, which means it will be much quieter and have a more local feel than beaches in Cancun or Tulum. Plus, due to its location, it still doesn’t see any of the sargassum that has raided the beaches in the south of the peninsula.

yucatan road trip

Of course, visiting Chichen Itzá is a non-negotiable on any Yucatan road trip. This archeological marvel is world-famous and one of the 7 Wonders of the World .

The site is known for its Mayan ruins, and even though the main pyramid is the most famous one, you can spend hours on the site exploring other smaller but equally incredible temples scattered all over.

Day 7 & 8: Valladolid

Valladolid is one of the most underrated destinations in the Yucatan peninsula.

This small but incredibly charming town is one of the most beautiful in the entire peninsula, with gorgeous Colonial buildings and street art filling up its downtown.

While here, you can spend the day biking, walking over cobblestone streets, and eating everything you find on the way.

yucatan road trip

Valladolid is a town that combines beautiful architecture and wonderful nature.

Valladolid is also surrounded by plenty of lesser-known cenotes, many of which you can reach on a bicycle. A few of the can’t miss ones include cenote Oxman, cenote Sayutun, and cenote Zaci.

Day 9: Ría Lagartos + Las Coloradas

Other-worldly looking landscapes are the staples of the Yucatan Peninsula, and las Coloradas, or the “Pink Beach” are definitely one of them.

The pink color of the water is created by the lagoon’s high levels of salinity and microorganisms that live in it. In fact, the lagoon is located inside a salt factory and lots of salt is retrieved from it!

The pink tones of the main lagoon at Las Coloradas really do look that pink if you visit during the dry season.

Even though the main pink lagoon is what most people come here to visit, there is a lot more to do in Las Coloradas than meets the eye. You can only access the rest of the area via a guided tour (you will find tour guides there), which I highly recommend doing.

I was hesitant at first, but what’s further inside is even more striking than the pink lagoon itself. There’s a beach featuring turquoise water that nobody visits as well as even more lagoons that come in other colors: yellow, green, orange – you name it! There’s even one that is so high in salt levels that you can float in!

A few of the different colors of water we got to see at Las Coloradas!

After Las Coloradas, you can head over to the nearby Rio Lagartas, a biosphere reserve filled with mangroves where spotting flamingos and alligators is a common occurrence, especially during the summer months.

Days 10 to 13: Holbox

The last stop on your Yucatan road trip has to be Holbox. From this point, you’ve practically looped over a huge portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, making the island a perfect place to cap off your trip.

Here, you’ll find gorgeous virgin beaches, untouched nature, artsy vibes, and pretty cool beach clubs. There are almost no modern buildings, cars, or paved roads in Holbox, making it feel like a paradise island!

The color of the water at Holbox ranges from turquoise to teal.

Do keep in mind that if you’re doing your Yucatan road trip in a car, you won’t be able to bring it along with you as cars are not allowed on the island, but you can leave it at a safe parking place at Chiquilá, the town where the ferry leaves from.

⛴️ Read my guide on how to get to Holbox on a ferry.

✈️ Ready for your Yucatan road trip? If you need more information on a road trip through Yucatan and the Mayan Riviera, I’d be happy to update this post – just leave your questions below!

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