This is, as I have titled it, our itinerary. It is not necessarily the itinerary I would recommend.
Road tripping in the Mexican Yucatan
We were working around holidays and coordinating with another couple, both of which made our itinerary a bit more convoluted than need be. There were also things that I would do differently based on the time of year, car rental arrangements, etc. I’ll have another post on planning your own trip to help you have the trip that is best for you.
November 20 – Arrive in Cancun
After leaving snowy Minneapolis, our Delta flight brought us into Cancun International Airport just before 8 p.m. After a fair amount of hassle at the airport (with customs, with time share salesmen, with the hotel shuttle) we finally got settled into to a basic, but large and comfortable room at the Comfort Inn Cancun Airport.
November 21 – Cancun to Tulum
It was dark when we arrived the night before, so I was surprised to see how beautiful the sea was even from this rather uninspiring commercial/industrial location. After a taxi ride to the Hotel Zone to pick up our rental car (and a long wait while our paperwork was questioned), we were off! We began by getting out of Cancun, following the coastal highway to Akumal for lunch and then on to Tulum where a lovely cabana was waiting for us.
- Renting a car in the Yucatán
- Lunch not far from the beach in Akumal
- Our villa at Zamas
November 21 – Tulum
Our plans for the day focused on exploring the Mayan ruins at Tulum. While we got a later start than we would have liked (Mexico’s Caribbean coast isn’t really an early morning sort of place), the ruins weren’t completely over-run by other tourists when we finally got there. Despite having to share them, the ruins were amazing. We were lazy the rest of the day, enjoying a late lunch on the beach near the ruins and a relaxing evening at Zamas.
- Touring the Tulum Ruins
- Lunch on the beach
November 22 – Tulum and Sian Ka’an
We were off early for a guided tour of the Mayan ruins of Muyil, followed by a boat ride and a float in the Sian Ka’an Bioreserve. It was fabulous! Later, after a little lunch and rest break, we made a late afternoon trip into Tulum pueblo to look around a bit. We ended the day with appetizers and drinks accompanied by live music at Zamas.
- Mayan ruins of Muyil
- Float in a Mayan canal in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
- Lunch on the cliff
- The remains of the Days of the Dead
November 23 — Tulum
This was going to be the day we went snorkeling or made the trip inland to see the ruins at Coba (or maybe both), but we awoke to strong winds and a sky filled with dark clouds. Worse yet, Lane had food poisoning.
So I spent most of the day working on the blog and trying to find things he could eat. I did get out and take walk along the beach and, when evening came, convinced him that he should see if he could find a little something to eat down the road at lovely and elegant Ziggy’s.
November 24 – Tulum to Mérida
With Lane feeling a little better, we started the day with another lazy breakfast. I really hated to leave this lovely and relaxing place, but Mérida beckoned. We avoided the highway most of the way on a route that made for easy, if rather dull driving with lots of scrubby green jungle and only a few villages along the way. That changed when we got to Mérida. The streets coming into the city were, at best, chaotic. Needless to say, we were relieved to park our car and settle into our quiet room at Hotel Medio Mundi. We were lucky too in that nearby Plaza Santa Ana had a number of restaurant options, although I was not so lucky in that the waiter never actually took my order. (Apparently Lane was supposed to order for me.) It was a long day.
- Hotel Medio Mundi
November 25 – Mérida
We awoke to the beginning of a sweltering hot day. The first item on the day’s agenda (after breakfast in the hotel’s lovely courtyard) was a tour of a few private homes. We ended up seeing quite a few homes, each of which was interesting and different. After the house tour we took a break (did I mention it was really hot?) before heading to the Plaza Grande to see a few of the historic government buildings that line the leafy green square.
- Touring expat homes
- City Hall
November 26 – Mérida
We began the morning with a long and wide ranging discussion with the owner of the Medio Mundi before heading to the Plaza Grande for the morning’s historic city tour . . . which was so awful that we walked out and took our own tour, beginning with the Cathedral of San Ildefonso. Next we visited the Montejo House Museum. From there we headed further afield into the Mejorada district in search of the Yucatan Museum of National Folk Art (which we didn’t find until I was feeling too worn out to actually visit it). After a lunch and a bit of a break, we ended the day with an open-air bus tour of the city and a lovely dinner.
- Cathedral of San Ildefonso
- Montejo House Museum
- The city at night
November 27 – Mérida to Celestun
Following another “therapy” session with the owner of Medio Mundi, we retrieved our car and headed toward the coast. We hadn’t made advance arrangements in Celestun and our inability to find the hotel I was looking for resulted in our staying at the Hotel Manglares. After a disappointing lunch in town (there is no excuse for serving old fish in a fishing village) we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the beach and checking out the rest of this small town.
- Hotel Manglares: The death of a dream in Celestun?
- I found a Valentine card on the beach
- Vaquero practice on the beach
November 28 – Celestun to Uxmal (Santa Elena)
We began the day with a relatively tranquil morning of bird watching on the lagoon in Celestun.
This was followed by an afternoon of rather frustrating driving that included a closed freeway entrance, some missed turn, and massive amounts of road construction that kept us from lunch and several churches I wanted to see.
All I really wanted to do by the time we reached the Flycatcher Inn was collapse in my room . . . which, along with a short hike down the road for dinner at the Pickled Onion, was about all we did.
- The Flycatcher Inn
November 29 – Uxmal and the Puuc Route
An early start got us to Uxmal just after the archeological park opened and well before most other visitors. We loved wandering through the ruins on our own, but it was hard to imagine what it was like when this was an active Mayan city.
Later, settling into a bit of a routine, we headed back to the Pickled Onion for lunch and a brief tour.
We spent the tail end of the afternoon on the Puuc Route and discovered that the guidebooks lied about how much time would be needed to see these “small” sites.
- The Pickled Onion
- The Mayan ruins of Kabah
November 30 – The Convent Route and Izamal
This morning’s breakfast at the Flycatcher was accompanied by a fascinating conversation with the inn’s expat owner and a short construction tour. This was a travel day, but we used some our travel time to explore a bit of the Convent Route. Unfortunately, we also wasted a lot of time trying to find a gas station (no thanks to Google maps), which caused me to miss most of the late afternoon light on Izamal’s convent and cathedral. We wandered around a bit, had a very nice dinner, and then wandered back to visit the church again before settling into our room at the Hotel Rinconada del Convento.
- Along the Convent Route
- Evening at Izamal’s convent church
December 1 – Izamal and drive to Chichèn Itzá
We got up early to explore Izamal a bit before the streets become crowded. Then we toured the city via a horse-drawn carriage before heading off on foot again, ending our time there at a wonderful craft museum.
In the afternoon we headed to our hotel at Chichèn Itzá and spent a few lazy hours by the pretty (and very cold) hotel pool.
December 2 – Chichèn Itzá
It was wonderful to get up, enjoy breakfast, and then stroll down the road a few minutes to enter the archeological park at Chichèn Itzá long before the day’s busloads of tourists arrive.
Not only do we beat the other tourist, but we are ahead of the vendors as well, making for a quiet visit to this amazing site. The regular light show had not yet resumed (we ended up missing it by a week), so we enjoyed the remainder of the day relaxing at the hotel.
- Chichèn Itzá
December 3 – Drive to Cancun, with a stop at Ek Balam
We made the short drive back to Cancun longer by making a quick swing through Valladolid to get an idea of what we missed (a lot, it appears) and a short tour of the (surprisingly crowded) Mayan ruins of Ek Balam. Then it was on to Cancun and the Krystal Grand Punta. This hotel was a last-minute booking through Priceline and (having read the reviews after booking) I was dreading it. While the much-complained about construction was loud and annoying, the hotel itself was beautiful and the beach was stunning. There was plenty we could have been doing while in Cancun, but it was a great place to just be lazy.
- Ek Balam
- Krystal Grand Punta Cancun
December 4 – Cancun and Isla Holbox
This was another one of those two- (or maybe three) in-one days.
We began our day lying on the beach in Cancun, in a spot so lovely it was really difficult to convince myself that we really had to leave.
From there we made the transfer up to Isla Holbox (via shuttle, ferry, and golf cart), where we settled into our room at the Ca’Rita Hotel before connecting with my cousins and heading into town for dinner at a lovely restaurant high above the wet streets.
- Kite surfers along the beach in Cancun
- “Dude, the door fell off” in Chiquila
- The streets of Isla Holbox are filled with water
- Good Budget Lodgings at Ca’Rita Hotel
December 5 – Isla Holbox
We joined my cousins in renting bikes and spent most of the day exploring the island, although a bike malfunction and general wimpiness on my part limited the amount of exploring Lane and I did. We ended the day with another good dinner.
December 6 – Isla Holbox
Yesterday we toured by bike; today we toured by boat on a guided tour that took us to a couple different islands for bird watching and a cenote swim. We were lazy the rest of the day and then headed back into town for yet another good dinner.
December 7— Isla Holbox to Playa del Carmen
We joined the cousins for breakfast at their hotel near the beach before packing up and beginning the last stage of our journey. A little more time on Holbox would have been nice, but I was excited to get to our all-inclusive in Playa del Carmen. However, once we arrive, I began to wish I were back on Isla Holbox, as I was pretty disappointed with our resort. I knew the Riu Yucatán would be large, but I expected it to be a lot nicer.
December 8 – Riu Yucatán and Xcaret
A sunny start to the day turned into late morning rain that lingered through the day. With limited time remaining, we decided to take a chance on the weather and spend the afternoon and evening at the Xcaret eco theme park, where there was more than enough to keep us busy – even as we left I was discovering additional things I wanted to see and do.
December 9 – Riu Yucatán
We spent the day at – or at least near – the resort, mostly along the beach.
December 10 – Riu Yucatán and Cozumel
The winds have been a bit high for snorkeling, but today was finally looking ok for it. We got to Cozumel early, but – instead of hanging out in the very interesting-looking town – we headed directly to the small marina where we were meeting our boat. That turned out to be a mistake, as there was absolutely nothing else nearby, leaving us with a long wait and no other opportunity to explore the rest of the island. I found the snorkeling trip both uninteresting and exhausting, but my cousins had never snorkeled before and they enjoyed it. In all, it seemed like a bit of a lost day.
December 11 – Heading home
On the last day of our trip we had time only for breakfast with my cousins before packing up and catching our shuttle to the airport. I would have been happy to move to another location in the Yucatán for a few more days, but it was time to head home.
Planning a trip to the Mexican Yucatán
All Mexican Yucatán posts