Our 10 day Mexico Yucatan Itinerary

Zomay Holbox

Between 26 December and 6 January 2024 we spent 10 days on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico with our three kids 12,12 & 13. We had a fantastic trip and so many of you asked me what I booked and how that I’m sharing all the details here.

We live near Manchester so our decision to travel to Mexico over Christmas was in part chosen based on the fact that you can get direct flights from Manchester to Cancun, and the fact that I found five flights for £3000. Genuinely unheard of for international flights at that time of year.

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So we booked the flights and worked out a plan of what to do afterwards…

We had 10 full days and 11 nights and eventually settled on the following plan:

Day 1-3 – Tulum

We had a 16.20 arrival into Cancun after an eleven hour flight and whilst we were hiring a car for the trip I decided not to book the car to be collected from the airport; we’ve had far too many stressful car collections at the airport and with far too little sleep its never fun. On our Namibia family holiday last year we collected the car the next day so we decided to do the same here.

I booked a 2 hour transfer to our hotel in Tulum. I booked the taxi with booking.com and it cost £112 for the 5 of us with up to 5 bags. The taxi driver stayed in touch by what’s app and confirmed he was waiting for us on arrival when we landed into Cancun. The whole booking went really smoothly. I was delighted I’d booked the transfer as the trip down to Tulum was very very busy, traffic was chaotic. Although in fairness we didn’t see traffic at that level again for the rest of the trip.

Mereva Tulum

We booked three nights at Mereva Tulum, which is a lovely spot within 10-15 minutes drive from the town and the Tulum Mayan ruins; a great location to explore the area (so long as you have a car), but away from the craziness of town.

The hotel sits down a private road which has a number of hotels along it. It was quiet, felt very safe and the sea view from the hotel was stunning.

The downside to the location was the limited number of restaurants in walking distance but if you’re only staying for three nights that’s not such a major issue. We ate at two of the hotels, and at Casa Cenote, the restaurant next door for lunch twice. They did great tacos.

During our stay in Tulum we spent quite a bit of time on the beach, reading books and catching up after Christmas but we also did a fab trip to see the turtles in Akumal.

Snorkel with Turtles Akumal

Tip – Take your own snorkel mouthpieces for smaller children.

We booked an 8am tour with Darwin at Marine Life Akumal. I’d originally tried to book a tour at 12pm but Darwin quite rightly persuaded me into an 8am tour, which I’m glad about as we were pretty much the first people in the water.

Darwin was kind and friendly but firm about following the rules of the Natural park. He made it very clear that if we stood up, or reached out to touch the turtles he would take us back. I liked that about this tour. It’s respectful and clear. Darwen took amazing pics too which he emailed to us at the end of the day: no extra charge although a tip is appreciated.

We paid for the tour in advance by paypal and communication with Darwin and team was excellent. The tour cost $4000 pesos which was £185.

Totally fabulous experience which I’d highly recommend.

Mystika Immersive in Tulum

We mistimed our planned closing time trip to the Tulum ruins (visiting at opening or closing is highly recommended) and we got there after the last entrance time (3.30pm), so we bought our tickets for the next day and popped into Mystika Immersive instead. Mystika Immersive was a fun experience over seven rooms all with something a bit different. You’re encouraged to take pics, and go around as many times as you like!

It was good fun and whilst not something that’s essential to do in Mexico, it was a fun addition to the day.

Tulum Ruins

Tip – Need to pay cash in pesos to get in

On the day we left Tulum and drove to Bacalar we visited Tulum Ruins at 7.30am. Opening time is 8am.

Entrance fee for tourists in 2024: 95 pesos per person for the Ruins entrance ticket (you have to pay in cash). 60 pesos per person for the Tulum National Park CONAP bracelet (mandatory to access the path down to the ruins, you can pay this on your card). It’s technically free for children less than 12 years old (although at the ruins entrance they told us anyone over 10 had to pay).

We’d bought our tickets to the Tulum National Park the night before, so at 7.30am we walked down to the ruins entrance so we could get into the ruins without huge queues.

We found the ticket office (and only at that point did we see that we had to pay pesos in cash) it opened at 8am, well 8.10am and then we made our way in.

On reflection I wish we had booked a guide, as I think we’d have got more out of it if we had, there aren’t many signs about what the building are, either in Spanish or English, although I did have my lonely planet guide so I did have some information!

Tulum was a major Mayan city and served as a significant port during the late Postclassic period (AD 1200 to 1521). The ruins are situated on the cliffs along the Caribbean Sea and are known for their stunning coastal views.

El Castillo is the prominent structure at Tulum, perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. El Castillo served various purposes, including ceremonial and defensive functions.

Lonely Planet Cancun, Cozumel & the Yucatan: Perfect for exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled (Travel Guide)
  • St Louis, Regis (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 09/15/2023 (Publication Date) - Lonely Planet (Publisher)

We spent just over an hour at Tulum Ruins before heading back to the hotel for breakfast, packing up and leaving for our 3 hour drive to Bacalar.

Day 4-5 Bacalar Lagoon

The drive to Bacalar Lagoon was really very easy. Straight road, barely any traffic. If anything a little dull, although we did spend a bit of time researching the Mayan train as the new train will follow the same route we drove.

Aluxes Bacalar

We were staying at Aluxes Bacalar. Sadly our first afternoon/evening at the lake co-incided with a rain storm, which didn’t stop us getting in the lake (it wasn’t cold, just not warm, and we are British!) so it didn’t look quite as amazing as it would have done, but we were still delighted we’d chosen to visit. We knew straight away it was our kind of place. We ordered food and frozen margaritas and set about reading and playing games.

Accommodation wise it was totally fine, not the most luxurious but absolutely fine. To be honest I think any of the hotels on the lake would have been fab, it’s really all about the lake!

Boat Trip with Maniac Bacalar on Bacalar Lagoon

I booked this trip due to the excellent Tripadvisor reviews.

It was a brilliant private tour of Bacalar with captain Jonathan. Jonathan spoke excellent English and gave us loads of information about the natural features and wildlife of the lake as well as its history. We avoided all the big loud boats and had Jonathan all to ourselves. We didn’t have the sunniest day but it didn’t matter. We really enjoyed all the swimming spots, once I’d realised it was so crystal clear that you’d see a crocodile coming a mile off… hopefully anyway.

Jonathan also gave us some authentic local recommendations for food in town – we went to La Neta which was a spit and sawdust style restaurant and delicious.

The tour cost us $5000 pesos for up to 6 people.

The day we were due to leave Bacalar and drive to Valladolid was the best weather of the three days we had been there, so I got up for sunrise and we spent the morning swimming, reading and kayaking in the beautiful sun. It really was stunning and we really really wanted to stay an extra day.

If we come back to the Yucatan peninsular we will definitely try and book another stay at Bacalar Lagoon.

After lunch on our last day we drove back up the Yucatan Penninsula to Valladolid. Slightly longer journey but again really really easy with long straight roads and no issues at all.

Day 6-8 Valladolid

We were staying in Valladolid to be close(ish) to Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. This was the main reason we had wanted to do a Mexico trip so I booked to stay 3 nights. Friends had stayed in Valladolid recently too and had really enjoyed so we booked three nights. I think* on balance we could have quite happily done with two nights but you never quite know do you.

Hotel Meson del Marques – Valladolid

We stayed at Hotel Meson del Marques and to be honest we weren’t impressed.

We checked in on New Years Eve for three nights. Booking was for 2 adults and 3 children. There had been no attempt to locate the rooms close to each other and despite a request at reception they didn’t try. In fact the manager was asked, a discussion took place, and it was decided that they couldn’t.

There were a few other things that were odd too for a supposedly decent hotel. No ability to order drinks/food to be paid on your room. Having to leave a deposit to take swim towels out of the hotel. No recognition from the car park team even on day 3. No-one who knew how the car parking system worked if you needed to use the overflow car park, meaning you couldn’t get the car out until we had worked it out.

We LOVED our time around Valladolid but wouldn’t stay in the hotel again or recommend it.

Chichen Itza

We booked an 8am Guided Tour with Abel at Sunrise Tours – in fact Abel asked us to be there for 7.30am to ensure we could be some of the first inside.

Abel was EXCELLENT and I would highly recommend to anyone. Abel’s tour was informative, fascinating and engaging. His photography was also brilliant he knew just where to put us for the best shots. Contact him on pitzz4525@hotmail.com. The tour with Abel lasts 1 hour 30-2 hours and then we explored the rest of Chichen Itza on our own.

We loved being at Chichen Itza without many others, but even at 11.30am when we were leaving it wasn’t too busy. Maybe visiting on New Years Day was a good shout.

Cenote Ik Kil

After leaving Chichen Itza we drove to Cenote Ik Kil and had a lovely couple of hours. The water wasn’t anywhere as cold as I thought it was going to be, and we loved jumping in from the higher rocks and watching others do that too.

Cenote Ik Kil was really pretty and definitely worth a visit.

Cenote Ik Kil is open to the sky with the water level about 26 metres (85 ft) below ground level. There is a carved stairway down to a swimming platform. The cenote is about 60 metres (200 ft) in diameter and about 50 metres (164 ft) deep.There are vines which reach from the opening all the way down to the water along with small waterfalls. There are also black catfish which swim in the cenote.

After the Cenote Ik Kil we drive back to Valladolid and had a traditional Mayan lunch at IX CAT IK.

In Valladolid we also ate at San Giovanni Trattoria which was a great mix of Italian and Japanese… we really enjoyed it and went twice as it suited us all.

Ek Balam

Tip – Take Walking shoes for climbing to the top of the ruins.

Mini Travellers

After an early start at Chichen Itza we decided to chance a late start at Ek Balam (we got there for 10.30) and hope that it wasn’t too busy. It was absolutely fine!

Ek Balam ruins is still one of the few pyramids where you can go up the stairs, it´s a magical place where you can see the jungle in its maximum splendor.

Just a few practical things: the place is 20-30 km near Tizimin, and the best way to arrive is by car. The parking managed by the community costs $100 MXN, and the entrance fee is between 200- 500 MXN, this depends if you are a national or a foreigner, and is free for students and teachers. The place closes at 4 o’clock sharp, so don´t try to enter after 4 pm. It´s really worth to visit it.

I’d not taken my walking shoes which was a mistake! Needed those to get to the top, but otherwise it was a fab site to visit and despite not having a guide (which I wish we had booked) we loved it.

Cenote Xcanche

Fantastic time at Cenote Xcanche after Ek Balam with the kids doing zip lines, abseiling and rope swings too. I tried the lower down zip line to much amusement! I’m still aching today.

Check out this Instagram post for more pictures and videos.

They did us a deal for more than one child for the fully inclusive activity price.

The day after Ek Balam and Cenote Xchanche we drove to the ferry port of Chiquil for our onward ferry to Holbox. Very easy, very straightforward and we parked up in one of the car parks which are safe and secure. On average in 2024 these were $6 a day.

Days 9-11 – Holbox Island

Holbox is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets, known for its car-free roads, pristine beaches, and crystal-clear waters. Other than relaxing on the beach, you can snorkel with whale sharks (in the Summer), go kitesurfing, and kayak through mangroves. Stay till nightfall to experience the magical bioluminescent waters—best experienced on nights of a new moon during summer.

Zomay Holbox

We stayed at Zomay Holbox. Beautiful beautiful location. Right on the beach: superb sunset location, with a short walk into town for restaurants and other amenities. We loved hanging out by the sea and the laid back shoeless atmosphere of the place….

BUT the customer service from the hotel is odd, actually fairly poor. Nice pleasant staff, but no real service to speak of.

We arrived having booked a 5 person Ocean View cabana to find only 4 beds. I asked if they would be putting a 5th bed in. They asked if I had booked an extra bed? I said no, but I had obviously booked and paid for 5 people? Much discussion and a bed was put in which was totally fine but very bizarre way to start.

The location is superb. The general feel is lovely. Would I recommend? Book again? Unsure.

We did very very little for 3 days on Holbox, it was the perfect end to our trip and I would come to Holbox again on any other trip to the Yucatan Peninsular. Gorgeous feel, gorgeous cocktails and gorgeous sunsets.

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Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!

Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.

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