(Updated March 2017)
Most famous for Cancun, the Mayan Riviera is Mexico's travel wonderland, a jungle coastline of white-sand beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, laid-back colonial towns, and cenotes—the crystal-clear, freshwater caves and sinkholes found throughout the flat limestone sponge of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Many visitors stay at a resort in Cancun. These all-inclusive monstrosities can be a good deal. You'll be right on the beach, have a pool, get unlimited food and drinks, and all-in-all have a fun, relaxing vacation.
But even if the package includes some tours, you won't get to know Mexico. How could you? Why would you venture away from the beach for some real tacos when you have a free buffet in your luxury hotel? Why would you travel inland for some culture in colonial Valladolid when the pool party starts at 10 a.m. every day?
Although Cancun is known for big resorts and mass tourism, and formerly lesser-known beach hangouts like Playa del Carmen are now firmly established on the beaten path, a budget-conscious side remains in these world-class tourist destinations.
You can still get a nice hotel room for under $30 USD in downtown Cancun or a few blocks from the beach in Playa del Carmen. And for the best, most authentic regional food—what the locals eat—you'll pay less than at McDonald’s.
What is an Unanchor travel guide itinerary?
Each Unanchor travel guide is an itinerary that includes a detailed timeline of places to visit with maps and directions, along with insider tips and alternative destinations. It's like having a personal tour guide in your pocket, but with freedom to deviate from the plan and at a much lower cost.
Where does your itinerary for Cancun and the Mayan Riviera take you?
This itinerary is written for the independent traveler who likes the beach but also wants some culture. Besides saving a lot of money, you will:
- Have two full days on two gorgeous beaches: Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
- Explore two Mayan ruins: Chichén Itzá, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and Tulum, a sunny fortress built on cliffs overlooking one of the most iconic beaches in Mexico.
- Experience local culture in Valladolid, a small colonial town in central Yucatán.
- Swim, snorkel, or scuba dive in the clear, freshwater Dos Ojos Cenote.
- Eat what Mexicans eat: tacos, seafood, and Yucatán specialties like panuchos and salbutes.
- Shop, party, get tan, and learn some Spanish, history, and culture.
- Visit more places in the region, including Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Puerto Morelos, the Cobá ruins, Xpu-Ha beach, big adventure parks like Xpu-ha, nature reserves, and lesser-known beaches, ruins, and cenotes.
Who is your Cancun and Mayan Riviera tour guide?
Ted Campbell is a freelance writer, translator, and university teacher who has lived in Mexico for more than seven years. He travels extensively in the region, seeking out good deals and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Many of his travel articles and stories are published online and on his popular blog No Hay Bronca.
Why should you buy this Cancun and Mayan Riviera guide?
The Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary offers complete hotel, restaurant, transportation, and sightseeing recommendations, and it includes a comprehensive Appendix with sections like Food and Drinks, Places and Terminology, Useful Spanish Phrases, Money Matters, Safety, A Brief History, and Other Places to Go.
The itinerary will pay for itself the first time you follow Ted's advice for a hotel, restaurant, bus, or cenote. His email address is also included, so you are welcome to write with any questions.