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12 Cancun Day Trips: Your Guide to Exploring Yucatan Peninsula

12 Cancun Day Trips: Your Guide to Exploring Yucatan Peninsula

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Are you visiting Cancun but might want to add some day trips to your Mexico itinerary? Check out these amazing Cancun day trips that are totally worth the effort!
This list of Cancun day trips in Mexico was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Visiting Cancun and want to get away for a fun day of adventure, exploration, and fun?

Cancun is on the Yucatan Peninsula, in the Riviera Maya, on the east coast of Mexico. It’s a fun city, full of life, beautiful beaches, museums, and other fun activities.

However, there’s much to see in the Riviera Maya beyond Cancun. Outside the city, you’ll find ancient Mayan ruins, beautiful islands dotting the Caribbean Sea, and other fun things for the entire family.

For example, did you know Chichen Itza is only 125 miles from Cancun? Did you know there are not one, not two, but three well-known tropical islands within reach of Cancun? Did you know you could even leave the country for the day to explore the historic streets of Havana, Cuba?

Whether you’re looking for the perfect island to unwind on or for more of an action-packed adventure, this guide has got you covered. These are the best Cancun day trips for families, couples, and solo travelers.

12 Easy and Fun Day Trips from Cancun Mexico

Cancun Day Trips to Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Mexico’s most important historical sites. This Mayan City sees thousands of visitors daily and is world-renowned as a vital piece of history from the Mayan world. Day trips from Cancun to Chichen is perhaps one of the best things to do in the Riviera Maya.

The Mayan civilization is one of the most magnificent societies, and there’s so much to learn about this world wonder. You definitely can’t miss it on your trip to Cancun.

Closeup of a head sculpture in the Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico
Do a day trip to Chichen Itza.

You can learn about the central pyramid, El Castillo, and why it’s considered one of the most impressive marvels of the Mayan world. And you’ll know so much more.

You should visit the ancient Mayan ruins with a designated guide, especially if traveling with kids, as you can learn the most.

How To Get From Cancun to Chichen Itza

Distance: 125 miles

It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Cancun to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chichen Itza. There are no direct buses that go from Cancun to Chichen Itza.

The easiest way to visit is with a full-day tour. This tour picks you up from Cancun or anywhere else in the nearby Riviera Maya.

It includes lunch, tequila tasting, a knowledgeable guide, a stop a cenote, and a tour of Valladolid. Check the latest rates and availability.

And here’s another tour from the Riviera Maya that takes you to Chichen Itza, Cenote Ik Kil, and Valladolid.

Cenote Ik Kil is one of the most beautiful cenotes in the region, and it’s very close to Chichen Itza. Check the latest rates and availability.

You could also rent a car and drive to Chichen Itza yourself. Remember, you’ll want to leave early to get there before the large crowds.

Cancun Day Trips to Tulum

Tulum is a quiet beach town less than two hours from Cancun. It’s a spiritual escape with white sand beaches, crystal clear cenotes, several high-end beachfront resorts, and a great location around a beautiful archaeological site. All of this makes day trips to Tulum from Cancun incredibly appealing.

Ancient mayan ruins at the Tulum archaeological site, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
It’s worth checking out the ancient Mayan ruins at the Tulum archaeological site.

The Tulum Mayan ruins are located just outside downtown Tulum and are an excellent place to learn more about the region’s Mayan culture and rich history. The Tulum Mayan ruins are on a cliff overlooking the stunning Caribbean Sea.

There’s even an access point from the Tulum Mayan ruins to some amazing beaches.

The Coba Mayan ruins are another significant location of the Mayan ruins, and they are only about 30 minutes from Tulum.

Whether you’re looking for day trips in Cancun Mexico to Tulum to visit the ancient ruins, partake in some cenote swimming, explore the surrounding jungle, or relax in the laid back beach town, you won’t regret this visit.

How To Get From Cancun to Tulum Ruins

Distance: 80 miles

It takes about 2 hours to drive from Cancun to Tulum Mayan ruins, or Tulum Center. You have several options to get to Tulum Mayan ruins.

Highway 307 (Carretera Federal) is a single highway that connects Cancun to Playa del Carmen to Tulum and beyond. Driving between these main tourist destinations is easy and generally pretty smooth.

ADO is a private bus company operating in most of Mexico, and they offer round-trip transport from Cancun to Tulum. Conversely, you can take a colectivo (the local buses or vans around Mexico) from downtown Cancun to downtown Tulum.

You could also take a guided tour that offers Tulum day trips from Cancun or explore other nearby Tulum attractions. This tour from Cancun takes you to the Tulum archaeological site and a guided tour of a cenote. Check the latest rates and availability.

Cancun Day Trips to Cuba

Believe it or not, it’s technically possible to hop over to Cuba from Cancun for one of the most exciting and thrilling day trips Cancun.

If you’ve always dreamed of real Cuban food and navigating the colorful streets of Havana, you may be able to do just that on a day trip, nonetheless.

Detail of colorful balconies and buildings in Old Havana, Cuba
It’s possible to visit Cuba on a day trip from Cancun, but it’s complicated.

Remember that Cuba is not in Mexico, so you’ll need a separate visa. You’ll have to go through immigration when you’re leaving Mexico, entering Cuba, leaving Cuba, and re-entering Mexico.

Because of this, while day trips to Cuba are possible, it isn’t advisable.

How To Get From Cancun to Cuba

Distance: 317 miles

A direct flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Havana, Cuba, is only about an hour and 10 minutes. You technically could leave early in the morning and have almost a full day of exploring the capital city of Cuba.

You’ll want to ensure you keep up with visas, required documents, and other necessary items to travel into Cuba and back to Mexico.

Cancun Day Trip to Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is one of the easiest and best day tours Cancun. The main ferry terminal to Isla Mujeres is near Cancun’s downtown area. And the ferry is fast!

But if you want something more classy, you can also take a catamaran tour from Cancun to Isla Mujeres.

perfect tropical sea landscape. island Isla Mujeres (Women Island). Mexico, Yucatan
Isla Mujeres is a fun Cancun day trip.

Playa Norte is the main beach in Isla Mujeres, arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

If you’re looking for an easy day trip from Cancun, consider hopping over to the sparkling blue waters of Playa Norte. You won’t be disappointed. You can never go wrong with any Isla Mujeres day trips from Cancun.

How To Get From Cancun to Isla Mujeres

Distance: 12 miles

A quick ferry to Isla Mujeres only takes about 20 minutes. Three ferries depart from Cancun to Isla Mujeres: Ultramar, Jetway, and Xcarat Xailing.

The main ferry terminal is called Puerto Juarez and is only about a 5 to 10-minute drive from downtown Cancun. However, Ultramar is the most popular ferry operator and does have pickup locations in Cancun’s hotel zone.

You can also go to Isla Mujeres on a catamaran tour. This Cancun to Isla Mujeres catamaran tour begins early in the morning and includes snorkeling equipment, a lunch buffet, and even some time to lounge near Playa Norte.

It’s also an excellent activity for families. Check the latest rates and availability.

Cancun Day Trip to Swim with Whale Sharks

People travel from every corner of the world for the opportunity to swim with the magnificent whale sharks near Cancun. In fact, swimming with whale sharks is one of the best Cancun boat trips. The best months to swim with these gentle giants are March through July.

When you go with a tour company, you’ll meet in Cancun and take a boat approximately 40 minutes to where the whale sharks are (their location changes, though, so you never know exactly where they’ll be).

Whale Shark in Cabo San Lucas
You’ll want to see whale sharks!

Once you reach the sharks, everyone on the boat will take turns jumping in the water with a guide and swimming alongside the friendly sharks.

This is a unique activity and one that’s great for older children who are comfortable in the water and love the ocean!

Remember, it’s a whole day trip, and you’ll likely be exhausted after a day of excitement and adventure.

How To Get From Cancun to See Whale Sharks

Distance: Unknown miles

The whale sharks congregate over food in the ocean, prefer deep water, and move around, so there’s no way to know exactly where they’ll be or how far from shore you’ll be. However, they’re typically around

And the only way to swim with the sharks is with a tour company. You’ll want to go with a reputable company, preferably with a smaller group.

Here is a great tour from Cancun, including transportation to and from your hotel. Check the latest rates and availability.

Cozumel Day Trips from Cancun

Cozumel is another tiny island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. While there are fewer cultural attractions, it’s known as a scuba diving and snorkeling paradise.

Check out this comparison of Cancun vs Cozumel by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Dolphinarium in Cozumel Mexico with beach in background
Cozumel is a fun place to visit in Mexico.

Cozumel has access to some of the best sea life on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef in the world. There are plenty of chances to swim with sea turtles and admire the vibrant marine life.

If scuba diving and snorkeling don’t persuade you to take this day trip, do it for the beach clubs.

While Cancun has some great beach clubs, Cozumel has some high-end, all-inclusive resorts that can rival anywhere else in the Caribbean Sea.

How To Get From Cancun to Cozumel

Distance: 70 miles

Cozumel is about a 40-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen. The easiest way to get to Cozumel is to take a bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and then take a passenger ferry to Cozumel.

Depending on the traffic, driving from Cancun to Playa del Carmen takes about one hour. You can take an ADO bus directly to Playa del Carmen from the main bus terminal in Cancun or the airport.

Conversely, you can also take a colectivo across from the ADO terminal to Playa del Carmen.

The ferry terminal to Cozumel is located in downtown Playa del Carmen, near the main square and Plaza Playacar. The trip should take about 2 hours each way, so you’ll want to leave early.

Fortunately, the ferry to and from Cozumel runs every hour, from around 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., so you should have plenty of time to get out there and explore more of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Day trips from Cancun to Cozumel are popular, easy, and worth the time.

Cancun Day Trips to Puerto Morelos

Puerto Moreles is another small fishing village next to Cancun, making it one of the best day trips for the whole family. Puerto Moreles has excellent snorkeling, good food, and a relaxing ambiance.

Puerto Morelos is a small coastal town, and there isn’t much party or adventure here. But that makes it a great family-friendly choice, and it’s very easy to get to.

How To Get From Cancun to Puerto Morelos

Distance: 24 miles

Puerto Morelos is only 24 miles away from Cancun. It really couldn’t get easier than this. You can drive along Highway 307, take a colectivo toward Playa del Carmen, take an ADO toward Playa, or take a taxi.

Because it’s such a short distance, the easiest thing to do is to hop on a colectivo or take a taxi. The drive should only take about 40 minutes, depending on traffic.

Cancun Day Trips to Holbox

Holbox is the third of the stunning islands within reach of Cancun. This is another tiny island, a bit further away.

While Holbox went relatively under the radar for years, it’s slowly becoming one of the most popular places in the Riviera Maya.

Holbox is a kid-friendly beach town in Mexico.

It’s known for its small-town feel, turquoise waters, and white sand beaches.

While it isn’t the most popular day trip from Cancun, it’s worth considering for families wanting to escape mainland Mexico’s hustle.

How To Get From Cancun to Holbox

Distance: 37 miles

If traveling to Holbox alone, you must take a bus from Cancun to Chiquila Port to catch the ferry. Chiquila is just a small coastal town that primarily exists as a fishing village and serves as the send-off spot to Holbox.

The bus takes about two to three hours, and the ferry takes about 40 minutes. Because of the time frame, a day trip from Cancun is a little more challenging.

However, the timing can easily be solved by taking a tour from Cancun. This is a full-day excursion from Cancun to Isla Holbox. It includes round trip transport, lunch, and drinks.

It should be noted that this specific tour is not recommended for children under five. Check the latest rates and availability.

Cancun Day Trips to Ruta de los Cenotes

Ruta de los Cenotes is a road near Puerto Morelos full of some of the best cenotes in the region and many hidden gems. This is one of the best Cancun day excursions for those looking for adventure and a full day of cenote exploring.

Many cenotes down this road are more “adventure” with zip lining, ATV tours, and other fun jungle activities.

How To Get From Cancun to Ruta de los Cenotes

Distance: 24 miles

Ruta de los Cenotes is a road outside Puerto Morelos that brings you deeper into the jungle. While you can take a bus to Puerto Morelos, no buses go down the Cenote road.

The easiest way to get around is by driving. If you have your car, you can also travel at your own pace and stop wherever you want.

Another option is to hire a taxi. However, because many of the cenotes are away, you’ll want to hire a taxi for the entire day (you won’t see any available taxis down here). And that can get expensive.

Cancun Day Trips to Akumal Beach

Akumal is a small beach town with stunning coral reefs and the opportunity to swim with sea turtles. It’s very close to Cancun, just off Highway 307 between Cancun and Tulum, making it one of the best day trips from Cancun.

Akumal bay - Caribbean white beach in Riviera Maya, coast of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, Mexico
Akumal is a lovely day trip from Cancun, Mexico.

Most people go to Akumal to swim with sea turtles and explore the natural aquarium right off the beach with the vibrant marine life. But you can also relax on the beach near the ocean lagoons and enjoy the tranquility of the small town.

How To Get From Cancun to Akumal Beach

Distance: 65 miles

Akumal is located off Highway 307, past Playa del Carmen and before Tulum. It takes a little under two hours to get there from Cancun.

You can take an ADO bus headed toward Tulum and ask to be dropped off at Akumal. Or you can take a colectivo from Cancun toward Tulum and tell the driver to drop you off at Akumal again.

Both options will drop you off on the side of the highway, about a 10-minute walk from the beach area in Akumal.

You can also take a tour if you want to make the most of your time. This tour from Cancun includes snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal, swimming in a cenote, and visiting Tulum ruins. Check the latest rates and availability.

Cancun Day Trips to Rio Secreto Nature Reserve

Rio Secreto translates to “Secret River” in English, and it’s just that. This protected national park has magical underground rivers and an out-of-this-world cave system surrounded by tropical forests.

Tours to Rio Secreto allow you to swim in one underground river, which is, in reality, only a fraction of what the reserve consists of. But still, there’s plenty to do. The best part of Rio Secreto is that it’s a family-friendly activity that is genuinely fun for all ages.

How To Get From Cancun to Rio Secreto

Distance: 46 miles

The only way to explore Rio Secreto is with a designated tour guide. This is an excellent tour from Cancun.

It has high-quality tourist facilities that provide all the necessary equipment (like a headlamp, life jacket, and wet shoes) to have a great time. Check the latest rates and availability.

Cancun Day Trips to Xcaret Park

Finally, you must consider some day tours to Xcaret Park. This is possibly Cancun’s most popular day trip, especially for families.

Cancun, Mexico. May 30, 2021. Flock of beautiful flamingos in water pond amidst trees at Xcaret eco park
Families will love Xcaret!

Xcaret Park is essentially a giant theme park built around natural properties and set back in the jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula.

You can take tours of three underground rivers, access the beach and natural pools, swim in the Xcaret cenotes, and partake in many other adventure activities (like zip-lining and ATV tours).

How To Get From Cancun to Xcaret Park

Distance: 45 miles

You can take a private bus company, like ADO, or the public colectivo to Xcaret. The buses will drop you off at the entrance of Xcaret, and you can pick one up heading back to Cancun in the same spot. You’ll have to walk down to Xcaret Park itself, so keep an eye on the time for your return.

You can also take a taxi from Cancun to Xcaret, and there are many taxis lined up at the park entrance, so you can also get one back.

However, one of the easiest ways to get to Xcaret is by purchasing your tickets alongside transportation.

This Xcaret ticket includes entrance, as well as transportation from Cancun. If you’d like to organize transportation, you can buy just the entrance ticket.

Day Trips from Cancun FAQs

What are some recommended family-friendly Cancun day trips?

Some of the best family-friendly Cancun trips include day tours to Chichen Itza, Tulum Ruins, and Coba to learn about the ancient Mayan civilization. Many families love a Cancun day trip to Tulum because it’s easy, beautiful, and a great change of pace from Cancun.

Additionally, snorkeling tours in Isla Mujeres or Akumal are an excellent way for the family to marvel at the stunning coral reefs in the Riviera Maya.

What are the must-see historical sites on Cancun day trips?

The must-see historical sites near Cancun are Chichen Itza, Tulum Ruins, and Coba Ruins. There are also a few smaller ruins in Cancun that you can explore while staying in the stunning city.

How can I prepare for Cancun day trips in terms of clothing, food, and other essentials?

You should always bring small snacks, plenty of water, and Mexican pesos to purchase food, snacks, and drinks or to leave as a tip for guides.

Most of the tourist spots will have food and drink vendors around. However, just in case, you should try to bring whatever you may need.

It’s also imperative to bring mosquito repellant and sunscreen with you anywhere you go. Mosquitos and bugs can be vicious if you’re near the jungle (or even along the beach at sunset).

And the sun is intense in Riviera Maya, so you’ll want to always keep sunscreen on you.

What safety measures should I consider during Cancun day trips?

Generally, all the trips from Cancun are safe. The Riviera Maya has some crime issues, but this typically doesn’t involve tourists. And if you go on a tour, they’ll plan everything and provide security if needed, making your Cancun itinerary effortless on your part.

That being said, being aware of your surroundings when traveling in a foreign country is always important.

You should also try not to wear flashy clothes or jewelry that might make you a target for petty crime, and don’t leave your belongings unattended on the beach.

Are there any unique or lesser-known Cancun day trips?

Isla Holbox is a lesser-known Cancun day tour, partially because it’s further away from Cancun and partly because it gets overshadowed by Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.

In addition, Coba Ruins are often overlooked as people prefer Tulum Ruins for convenience or Chichen Itza for notoriety.

What cultural or food experiences can I expect during Cancun day trips?

There are so many cultural and food experiences outside Cancun downtown. First, you’ll likely visit some ancient ruins and fresh cenotes.

Cenotes and ruins have a deep cultural significance in Mexican history, and seeing them is such a tremendous, immersive educational opportunity.

And we all know Mexico is known for its food. You’ll have many opportunities to savor traditional cuisine, like tacos, tamales, mole, ceviche, and marquesitas.

You should step out of your comfort zone a little and try some new flavors in Mexico!

Cancun Mexico Day Trips Wrap-Up

The Riviera Maya has so much to see; the day trip opportunities from Cancun are practically endless. If you want to see the ruins and learn about Mayan history, venture to Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Coba.

If you want to spend a day on an island, soaking up the Caribbean sun, head to Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, or Holbox. Or, if you’re going to stay on shore, consider visiting Akumal, Ruta de los Cenotes, or many other places.

Planning day trips from Cancun is easier than ever, and the variety is sometimes overwhelming. But no matter what you decide, you and the kids will have a blast!

Looking for more Cancun travel resources? Check out my top Cancun tips for first-timers, 15 Best Things to Do in Riviera Maya for Families, best places to visit in Mexico, Cancun vs Tulum, Cabo vs Cancun, best all-inclusive Mexico resorts, and the best all-inclusive Cancun resorts for families!

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