One of my most visited posts on this site is my 3 week itinerary for Peru where I lay out exactly what I did and what I spent! So many of you seem to find that post useful, I thought it was only logical to make a similar post about my recent 2 week trip to the Yucatan Peninsula! Similar to last time, everything is based on a couple, but I break down everything and then have a per person total at the end!
Why 2 weeks in the Yucatan?
With miles of Caribbean coastline, cheap and delicious food on every corner, and a fascinating history, it is easy to see why so many tourists are drawn to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Whilst a lot of holidaymakers never venture further than their all inclusive resort in Cancun, this corner of Mexico has so much more to offer. I took a 2 week holiday to the Yucatan Peninsula at the end of 2019, and it was amazing. Whilst 2 weeks isn’t a huge amount of time, it was all I had, and I managed to pack in lots of activities and not break the bank either! If you know me, you know I am a huge fan of budget travel, however 2019 was definitely the year I gave up dorm rooms for good! Even staying in local guesthouse, doing a fair bit of diving, and eating a LOT of food, Mexico was still a very cheap holiday! Read on to find out exactly what I did on my 2 week Yucatan peninsula itinerary, and how much I spent!
How to get to the Yucatan Peninsula?
Whilst I had no intention of spending any time in Cancun, the international airport here is the easiest way to access the peninsula. With regular flights from most major cities in Europe and North America, if you can’t fly direct, you can probably get here with only one layover. Where as 5 years ago I would have taken 3 flights with silly long layovers to get to Cancun in order to save a few hundred pounds, nowadays I prefer things to be as hassle free as possible. I think it’s a sign of getting old… ! Anyway, I did the direct British Airways flight from Heathrow there and back (this is the only direct option to Cancun from the UK).
Spent – £750 British Airways return, economy.
How to get around the Yucatan Peninsula?
I did a bit of research before we got to Mexico, but as is my usually style, probably not enough. I toyed with the idea of renting a car, but in the end we decided buses would probably be easier and it might be a bit dangerous to hire a car. This is definitely something in hindsight that I wish we had done. So many tourists rent cars, the roads are easy to navigate, and it is so cheap. I have since read a few blogs form other travellers who rented cars in advance and got great rates, and all have said it was a stress free experience. However, for those who can’t drive, or don’t want to, Mexico has a great bus system. ADO buses are a backpackers best friend. Cheap, safe and clean, they make getting around the Yucatan Peninsula an absolute doddle.
Day 1 – Arrival
If you are coming from Europe, chances are you will arrive late afternoon or evening, and be pretty tired! I arrived (late, thanks British Airways) around 9pm to Cancun Airport. I met the boyfriend around the same time as he had been in New York for work and so flew directly from there. Security and Immigration was fairly quick. Out in the foyer, I attempted to get us into a collectivo, but there was no one else to share with. After waiting a while, we decided to suck it up and get a private taxi. That first night we stayed at Hotel Del Sol, which is right opposite the ferry terminal to Playa Mujeres.
Taxi from the airport – 690 / Hotel Sol 1 night B and B – 670 / water – 18 = 1378 pesos
Days 2 – 4 – Isla Mujeres
We intentionally skipped Cancun, using it only for the airport during this trip. It doesn’t seem like it is the kind of place I would like at all. On the morning of our first full day in mexico, we had a great breakfast at Hotel Del Sol, and walked across the road to the ferry terminal. Buy a return ticket, as it is open and you will be coming back to the mainland at some point! For up to date info, head to Ultramar.
I knew I wanted to come to Isla Mujeres ever since I heard about the under water museum, a collection of statues that lie offshore. I love diving, and so I wanted to tick that off my underwater bucket list! We took a trip with Pocna dive centre who were great. As an instructor myself, I can be pretty picky about which Dive Centre to choose! We did 2 great dives, and it was only Vince and I with the Dive Master – perfect!
We also spent a fair amount of time on the beach, reading, sunbathing and napping! The north beach can be quite crowded, but walk eastward right to the end and turn the corner and it gets must quieter, plus there are trees for shade. There are some nice bars along the beachfront to enjoy cocktails in front of too!
You can’t come to Isla Mujeres without hiring a Golf Cart! The Island is not very busy with traffic, so even those who aren’t the most confident drivers may feel ok with driving the golf cart! It is impossible to get lost on the island, just decide whether you want to go clockwise, or anti clockwise! We stopped at the Turtle Sanctuary along the way, which we had been told by locals was ethical and does a lot of good work for the turtles around the island. It was an ok experience, however the fish in the tiny tanks seems unnecessary and cruel. It is nice to visit the southern most point of the island and take a walk along the tracks that line the cliffs and admire the many Iguanas!
There is plenty to do and see in Isla Mujeres, but I wont go into too much detail here – it deserves a post of its own. We stayed the 3 nights in Bucaneros hotel. the staff were kind, the breakfast was amazing, and the location was perfect! Nothing fancy, just a nice local guesthouse in the middle of the main street. Opposite Bucaneros is a great cafe, Aroma Isla, selling fresh juices, salads and healthy lunches. Another cafe you must visit whilst touring the island on your golf cart is Mango Cafe.
On the morning of day 4, we checked out and took the ferry back to the main land, where we took a taxi to Cancun Centro, and caught an ADO bus down to Tulum! This took in total about 5 hours with all the hopping around. We checked into our hotel in Tulum and headed straight back out for dinner!
Ferry tickets for 2 – 600 / 3 nights Bucaneros B and B – 3060 / Golf Cart – 800 / Food and Drink – 2592 / 2 tank dive to MUSA for 2 – 3340 = 10,392
Days 5 and 6 – Tulum
Day 5 was our only full day in Tulum, we had arrived the day before and wandered a little, and had amazing food. We woke around 7 am on Day 5, as we wanted to spend the day cycling and visiting the ruins. Our hotel , Xscape Tulum, had bicycles on site to hire. I cannot recommend this hotel enough! The staff were amazing and friendly, and our room was beautiful with a hot tub inside! Plus they have a great little pool outside too.
We spent a full day on the bicycles, first cycling to the ruins themselves and spending a few hours wandering through that area. It is definitely advisable to set off as early as possible as it will get really hot as the day goes on. Take water with you, because once you reach the ruins, everything is expensive!
After that, it was more cycling and occasional stopping at beaches along the way until we reached ClanDestino for lunch. We were recommended this by the staff in the hotel and it did not disappoint! Not the cheapest place to eat, but totally worth the splurge! The restaurant is hidden way, and is centred around its very own, crystal clear cenote! Later that evening for dinner, we made up for the splurge by eating at La Chiapaneca Taqueria for the second night in a row. This place is a bit of an institution in Tulum. There are no white tablecloths or silver cutlery here! This is a place where tourists and locals mix, but the food is authentic and prices are the lowest we found during our 2 weeks in the Yucatan!
Taxi to from ferry port to Cancun Centro station – 150 / ADO tickets to Tulum for 2 – 440 / Toilets! – 16 / Tulum Ruins Entrance for 2 – 150 / Bicycle rental for 2 – 300 / Food and Drink – 1236 / 2 nights Xscape Tulum – 2080 = 4372
Days 7 and 8 – Bacalar
Photographs of Bacalar are enough to entice anyone to take the 3 hour bus journey south. Wjhilst it is a bit out of the way, if you can fit it in then definetly include it in your Yucatan Itinerary! Known as the “Lake of 7 Colours”, the water here is pristine. The town of Bacalar is pretty small, and whilst we were there, the towns 2 ATMs were broken, which lead to comical scenes of tourists walking the 20 minutes between ATMs, trying and failing to get cashback, and trying and failing to change currency. Moral of the story – bring cash to Bacalar because the ATMs are unreliable. They eventually filled up and I spent, no exaggeration, over an hour queuing for cash.
There are local boat men down on the edges of the lake who all offer pretty much the same trip for very similar prices. Head down to the lake side, sign up, and then wait for the captain to come and find you once he has rounded up enough people to take out! You will visit the Black Cenote, Bird Island and Canal of the Pirates. It is a great few hours. There are also other cenotes in the area you can visit on foot or by taxi, or just grab your towel and bask on the edges of the beautiful lake.
We stayed at another local guest house, Casa Ariana, which was nice enough. This seemed to be the most expensive place we visitied in the Yucatan in terms of accommodation cost, so we went for something quite basic. The best food can be found at Chilli and Lime, a great little vegan cafe perched on the edge of the town square!
ADO bus for 2 Tulum to Bacalar – 600 / Boat trip for 2 – 500 / Taxi to Cenote Azul – 50 / Entrance to Cenote Azul – 50 / Food and drink – 1435 / 2 nights Casa Ariana 870 = 3505
Days 9-11 – Playa Del Carmen
Before I went to Mexico, I had been told that Playa Del Carmen was much more relaxed that Cancun and fair less crammed with tourists. All I can say is, if that’s true, then Cancun must be hell. Playa Del Carmen was 100% busier than I had expected, and very much a tourist town. There is nothing authentic or particularly Mexican to be found here, and you can’t walk down Avenida 5 without being constantly harrased by street vendors or people offering you drugs. No offense to people who enjoy this kind of place, it just isn’t for me! We stayed in a self catering apartment that we booked through Booking.com, which was nice as it had a roof top pool and we saved a lot of money by cooking ourselves for 3 days.
The first full day we had in Playa Del Carmen was spent on a full day trip to Chichen Itza. I am not a huge fan of organised coach tours, but with only 2 weeks in the Yucatan, it was the easiest way to do it. The trip itself was fine, however Chichen Itza is a big expense, and if I am honest, a little underwhelming. Our guide gave us great insight into the history of it, which is actually quite sad. There are so many vendors all around what should be a sacred site, and the entrance fee has just doubled to 25 USD each.
The main reason for our visit to Playa Del Carmen was because I knew someone there, a fellow Dive Instructor, and wanted to dive with Bull Sharks! Sadly, after arranging a trip with this friend, they let me down at the very last minute which really messed up our plans. I didn’t dwell on it though, I have been diving with Bull Sharks in Costa Rica a few times so I have seen them before at least, and spent the afternoon on the beach drinking cocktails instead. We had 2 more days left and I didn’t want to stay any longer in Playa del Carmen. That evening, we hopped on the ferry to finish our holiday in Cozumel!
3 nights apartment – 1450 / Chichen Itza day tour for 2 – 1500 / Chichen Itza entry for 2 – 930 / Food and Drink – 870 = 3820
There are lots of cenotes all along the Riviera Maya that you can visit. We were just a bit short on time to visit any, but in the interest of making this the most useful Yucatan Itinnerary possible, Alex Waltner from The Swedish Nomad wonderfully describes a free cenote near Playa del Carmen!
Cenote Azul is located between Akumal and Playa del Carmen, some 25 minutes by car from the center of Playa Del Carmen. It is a beautiful open-air cenote where you can go snorkeling or even diving! The entrance is free, and there is even parking on site if you arrive by car. Additionally, there are fishes inside the cenote that will eat off your dead-skin if you sit down and put your legs into the water, which is pretty cool since it’s a natural experience.
The water is crystal clear as well and the surrounding area is lush. For those who want a bit of an adventure, there’s also an area where you can jump off the cliff into the deep blue water.
Diving with Bull Sharks
Since I didn’t manage to do this myself, the lovely Viktoria from Chronic Wanderlust gives a bit of insight on what it is like.
During the slightly colder winter months, the coastal town Playa del Carmen is visited by the majestic bull sharks. Getting to see them underwater is the perfect activity for advanced scuba divers that are seeking a bit of a thrill and want to get up close with the Bull Sharks.
There are two different ways of seeing them: Sign up for a shark experience that includes one dive at Shark Point and a reef dive – this is a half-day activity and costs 110 US$. The other option is dedicating an entire day to learning about the bull sharks. Mexico Blue Dream is one of two dive shops in Playa del Carmen that offers the PADI distinctive speciality course: Bull Shark Diver. You’ll spend the morning in the classroom learning about their behaviour and why they are visiting Playa at all. In the afternoon you’ll go out and dive with the sharks twice. Having done both, I’d honestly recommend you to dedicate one day and take the course
Days 12 -14 – Cozumel
Cozumel is an island lying off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, about half an hours ferry ride from Playa del Carmen. Much larger than Isla Mujeres, it actually has it’s own small international airport. The biggest draw for me to Cozumel is that it is known for the world class diving, and so I wanted to get in 2 days of diving before leaving. I went out 2 consecutive mornings with Eco Divers Cozumel which was great fun as it was small groups and experienced divers. The dives were long, the water was clear, and the marine life was everywhere!
The afternoons were spent lazing by the pool of the hotel which I highly recommend – Casa Mexicana. They had a great breakfast, and our room had a lovely little balcony overlooking the mainland. It is also about 5 minutes walking distance from the main square. If diving is not your thing, there are many other things to do in Cozumel. There are plenty of boat trips which will take you to some nice snorkel spots, or you can just enjoy the views. You can also rent a car or motorbike and explore the island further.
Day 14 meant it was time to hop on the ferry and head back to Playa del Carmen, where we jumped on an ADO bus direct to Cancun airport to catch out flight home!
Return ferry to Cozumel for 2 – 800 / 2 nights Casa Mexicana – 3000 / 2 days diving for 2 (4 dives each) – 5600 / Food and Drink – 1342 / Bus Playa del Carmen to Cancun Airport for 2 – 400 = 11,142
Total cost for this 2 week Yucatan Itinerary
Without flights : Approximately £715 GBP / $920 USD per person
With flights : Approximately £1465 GBP / $1890 USD per person
Some things to note – Obviously this pricing is based on 2 sharing. On this trip we went for local style accommodation, that had good ratings online and private rooms and bathroom. It is of course possible to go much more budget friendly than we did, just as it would also be possible to go 5 star!
I also have not factored in any discounts that I receive for being a PADI Instructor as I am aware most people are not, and so have just used the standard price for certified divers when adding in the cost for Scuba!
Prices per day a very accurate thanks to my boyfriends military recording of costs every day in his phone! Exchange rates, however, are likely to change, as are prices! This is all based on costs at the time I visited, which was November / December 2020.
Phew! That was a long one, but I hope you found it helpful! Now – getting planning your own 2 week Yucatan Itinerary and take in everything this area has to offer!