If you’re looking for a Cancun itinerary with 5 days filled with fun, adventure and some well-needed relaxation, then look no further.
This tropical paradise offers pristine beaches, a vibrant nightlife, and a plethora of activities that will leave you breathless.
Whether you’re a beach bum, an adrenaline junkie, or a history enthusiast, Cancun has something for everyone.
Today’s guide is written by Isabella who runs Lets Travel to Cancun and who’s lived in Cancun for the last 13 years.
She spends as much of her time as possible exploring every corner of this popular Mexican Beach destination, so she’s pretty much an expert at this point!
In this post, she’ll share her personal insider tips on how to spend 5 days in Cancun and guide you on how to make the most of your time there.
Where is Cancun?
Cancun is located on the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, 30 minutes from the laid-back town of Puerto Morelos and 1 hour from Playa del Carmen.
Its crystal-clear turquoise waters and powdery white sand beaches have made it a sought-after destination for travellers seeking both relaxation and adventure.
Best Time to Visit
The ideal time to visit Cancun is during the dry season, which runs from December to April.
The weather is pleasant, and dry with less chance of rain, more blue sky, and sunny days.
However, this time of the year is also when the rates are through the roof and there are more people around.
If you prefer to avoid the crowds and score some great deals, the shoulder seasons of May to June and September to November are the best months to visit Cancun.
You should be aware though, that during this time of the year, there’s more risk of rain – so be prepared and travel with an open mind and a raincoat.
Cancun Itinerary: 5 Days
Before we jump in, I just wanted to tell you about SafetyWing – they’ve been my go-to travel insurance company since I started travelling full-time because they’re ridiculously affordable (around 80% cheaper than my previous insurance and they offer basically the same thing).
I won’t say too much more, but here’s the link if you want to check them out: SafetyWing
Day 1: Explore the Beaches
Considering that you have just arrived, I would spend the first day exploring the amazing beaches in Cancun.
You may want to relax on your hotel beach if you have chosen one of the stunning Cancun Hotel Zone Resorts.
Otherwise, you can check out some of the other amazing beaches in Cancun – of which there are plenty!
My personal favourites are:
- Playa Delfines
- Playa Shiro
Playa Delfines is ideal at sunrise if you are an early bird, but it’s actually spectacular all day long.
Plus, you can also rent sun umbrellas and beach chairs for maximum chill.
Playa Delfines is also popular amongst surfers, so if you are one, you can rent a surfboard right there and have some fun.
If you prefer a swimmable beach, you can check out Playa Shiro – situated in front of Chrystal Altitude Hotel.
You can park your car in the paid parking lot below Coco Bongo and take a 10-minute walk to reach this tranquil spectacular beach.
However, it’s worth noting that there are no beach chairs or sunshades there.
If you want to be more comfortable you could get a day pass in one of the luxury beach hotels and sunbathe like a star!
If neither of those two beaches suits what you’re after, then below are some other great recommendations:
- Playa Marlin: Known for its excellent water conditions, Playa Marlin is a favourite spot for water sports like snorkelling, jet skiing, and parasailing.
- Playa Tortugas: This beach offers a mix of relaxation and activities, with options for water sports and beachfront dining. It’s a great place for families.
- Playa Langosta: This beach is relatively quieter than some of the more popular ones, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a more tranquil atmosphere.
- Playa Caracol: Located near the heart of the Hotel Zone, Playa Caracol offers various amenities, water sports, and a relaxed vibe.
- Playa Chac Mool: This beach is known for its slightly rougher waters, making it a good spot for bodyboarding and wave jumping.
- Puerto Morelos Beach: A bit south of Cancún, Puerto Morelos offers a quieter and more laid-back beach experience, perfect for those looking to escape the crowds.
After spending the day at one of the many beaches on offer, I’d recommend going for a lovely dinner at one of the delicious restaurants in Plaza la Isla after watching the sun setting behind Cancun Skyline.
It’s also definitely worth taking some time to take a walk around and do some shopping – either for souvenirs or for some cute beach items from international luxury brands.
Day 2: Chichen Itza Day Trip
On day 3 of your 5 day Cancun itinerary, you’ll be heading to Chichen-Itza.
And, although we can argue that’s a very touristy site, I do believe Chichen-Itza is a must-visit, at least once in your lifetime.
Nominated as one of the seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO Heritage site, these magnificent Mayan temples are well worth a trip.
If you have a car I would suggest you spend the night in one of the hotels near Chichen-Itza, and get to the site early in the morning so that you can avoid the crowds.
I would recommend also hiring a local guide at the entrance of the site so that you get all the most important historical facts about this magnificent Mayan City.
After the visit, you can cool off in one of the spectacular cenotes near Chichen-Itza and visit the beautiful colonial town of Valladolid.
Tip: avoid booking tours and activities from random vendors on the street or beach as there are scammers around here. It’s better to book a tour through a trusted platform such as GetYourGuide or Viator.
Day 3: Adventure and Watersports
If you love adventure, or simply you like being in the water I would recommend some watersport activities such as Diving or Snorkeling.
Even if you are not a diver, there is a very unique diving tour to the MUSA, the underwater museum.
Since it’s in relatively shallow water, local agencies will take you diving there, after a quick diving course in the pool.
If you don’t feel comfortable with that, you can always go snorkelling.
There are many amazing snorkelling tours that take you to many snorkelling sites where you can admire the colourful underwater world of the Caribbean Sea, and below a some of the highest recommended on GetYourGuide, but you can also check out Viator:
Day 4: Isla Mujeres
Visiting Isla Mujeres is a must, if you are staying in Cancun.
This charming island just off the coast of Cancun can be visited in a day and there are many ways to do so.
The first option is to visit on your own by ferry, and once there rent a golf cart and explore the island’s stunning beaches, visit the archaeological site in Punta Sur, and chill out in the famous Playa Norte.
The second option is to join a Catamaran tour, where you can enjoy a snorkelling stop, music, and free booze all day long (only after snorkelling, for safety reasons).
Depending on which tour your choose, you’ll also be able to enjoy a delicious local meal on one of the beaches in Isla Mujeres and some free time on the island.
Day 5: Tulum Ruins and Beach
On the fifth day of your Cancun itinerary, it’s time to head to Tulum.
You have two options: to drive or take the bus.
If you choose to drive, then it will take 2 hours, but it’s totally worth it.
If you’re heading here by bus, then you’ll need to head into downtown Cancun, find the bus station and then find the ADO bus terminal.
You can purchase the ticket at the here, or you can check the timetable and get your ticket ahead of time via the Busbud platform.
This is always my preferred way of doing things since the bus station can sometimes be a little chaotic.
The journey usually takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Once you arrive in Tulum, you have a wealth of activities to enjoy.
However, the most recommend is a visit to the breathtaking Mayan ruins perched atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
After exploring the ruins, you can unwind on Tulum’s picturesque beaches and enjoy a taste of the town’s bohemian atmosphere.
As an alternative option, you can explore one of the many amazing cenotes near Tulum or stop by one of the beaches on the riviera maya on your way back to Cancun.
What to Do in Cancun if You Have More Than 5 Days
If you find yourself with extra time in Cancun, consider taking some day trips and tours to nearby attractions.
Here below I am listing some of my favorite things to do from Cancun.
Hop on a boat to the incredible Isla Contoy
Located off the northeastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, Isla Contoy is a real haven.
In fact, it’s a designated national park and bio-reserve, home to a bird sanctuary and with a limited daily number of visitors to protect the fragile ecosystem.
To get there you will need to book a tour to Isla Contoy with an authorized company that holds with a special permit.
It’s approximately a 1-hour boat ride to reach this paradise and enjoy the spectacular pristine beaches and the preserved environment with numerous bird species, starfishes, and turquoise waters.
You can also expect your tour guide will take you on a brief hike through the mangroves to a stunning lookout point and to a lagoon while giving you some information on the island conservation project.
Below are some recommended tours from GetYourGuide:
Kayak through the stunning Nichupte Lagoon
If you want a more relaxed day in Cancun, without going too far, a kayaking tour in the Nichupte lagoon can be an interesting option.
It’s usually with a small number of people and you will be kayaking either at sunrise or sunset cruising through mangrove channels to spot birds or in the open water of the lagoon.
The guide will be sharing a lot of interesting information about the conservation programs of private initiatives to protect the delicate environment of the lagoon.
Tip: If you are into bird watching, I would suggest taking the morning tour as it’s when there’s more wildlife activity.
Visit the spectacular Coba Ruins
Nestled in the lush Yucatán Peninsula, Coba is one of my favourite Mayan Ruins to visit for many reasons.
Admire the towering Nohoch Mul – a unique Mayan Temple thats one of the highest in the region, and enjoy a lovely walk around the ancient saac-be trails that take you around to the different Mayan buildings.
You can also join an incredible bike tour and ride around, which will make the heat more bearable.
But still, make sure you bring a bottle of water and stay hydrated!
Near Coba, there are amazing cenotes – Multum-Ha, Tankach-Ha, and Cho-Ha that you also can explore if you have your own car.
Alternatively, you may want to join a tour which includes Coba ruins and Cho-Ha cenote alongside some other incredible places.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Coba is quite a drive from Cancun, so you’ll need to calculate about 4 hours or more for a return trip.
It’s going to be a long day but totally worth it.
Below are some of the most recommended tours that include Coba Ruins that you may want to consider joining if you don’t have a car.
Check out the cenotes in Puerto Morelos
The closest cenotes are in Puerto Morelos.
You can get all the way to Ruta de Los Cenotes by car and cover two or three cenotes in one day.
Below are some of the cenotes which you’ll find here:
- Cenote Las Mojarras: This cenote offers clear waters and a relaxing atmosphere. It’s a great spot for swimming and snorkelling.
- Cenote Verde Lucero: This cenote is surrounded by lush vegetation and has a more secluded feel. It’s a peaceful place to swim and enjoy nature.
- Cenote Kin Ha: This cenote is known for its unique shape, resembling a natural pool. It’s suitable for swimming and snorkelling, and there are platforms for jumping into the water.
- Cenote Boca del Puma: A bit farther from Puerto Morelos, this cenote offers various activities like ziplining, snorkelling, and swimming. It’s a larger complex with several cenotes to explore.
- Cenote Siete Bocas: Located in the nearby jungle, this cenote system is made up of seven interconnected cenotes. It’s a popular spot for guided tours and snorkelling adventures.
- Cenote La Noria: This cenote has a rustic and natural ambience, making it a serene place for swimming and enjoying tranquillity.
Some of my favourites and ones that I highly recommend are Lucero Verde, Cenote la Noria, and Las Mojarras, but as you can see, there are many more.
If you don’t have a car, the only way to reach those cenotes is by taxi (although it can be expensive) or with an organised tour.
Organised tours usually combine different cenotes and a stop on Puerto Morelos Beach.
You’ll also find that some also include epic adventurous activities such as zip lines and a go on an ATV!
Try the local cuisine with a delicious street food tour
And last but not least on this list of epic extra activities in Cancun is a food tour.
And to be honest, your vacation in Mexico is not complete if you don’t taste the local food.
After all, Mexico is known for its delicious cuisine and the best way to try it is to eat where the locals eat.
A street food tour will take you right there and allow you to try some of the most authentic food in Cancun, so that you will learn how to avoid the tourist traps and taste the real Mexican flavours.
Plus, you’ll also be shown some of the best street art and murals as part of the tour, so it’s a 2-for-1 deal!
Where to Stay During Your 5 Days in Cancun
Cancun offers a range of accommodations to suit every budget and preference.
From luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Hotel Zone to boutique hotels in downtown Cancun, you’ll find the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate after a day of adventures.
Breathless Soul Resort Cancun – (Luxury and great solo travellers)
It’s a luxury all-inclusive resort for adults only, located on the famous Playa Langosta on Cancun Beach.
It caters mainly to solo travellers with many fun activities that promote mingling.
However, if you prefer to stay on your own, you will still enjoy the luxurious facilities and spacious rooms.
Check prices: Breathless Soul Resort Cancun
Hyatt Ziva (Luxury family resort)
Located in Punta Cancun, on one of the best stretches of beach, Hyatt Ziva is a gorgeous family resort that caters to families looking for things to do in Cancun with kids, as it has a kids clubs and a specific children’s menu and many activities to entertain the little ones so that Adults can also relax and enjoy the beautiful resort.
Check prices: Hyatt Ziva
Selina Hostel (budget friendly)
Selina brand is famous for its great concept of high-end hostels, where guests can choose between cheap dormitories or more highly-priced individual rooms with private bathrooms.
In Cancun, you have two Selina properties to choose from: one in downtown Cancun and the other in the Hotel Zone.
Among the facilities available, a pool, a coworking space, and a restaurant.
Is 5 Days Enough in Cancun?
While 5 days in Cancun can provide a fantastic experience, there’s so much to see and do that you might find yourself wanting more time to explore.
If you have the time, then it might be worth extending your trip to a week and including some of the additional recommended activities if you want to fully immerse yourself in all that Cancun has to offer.
However, if you only have 5 days, then don’t panic, as it’s definitely enough to see the most important highlights.
How Much Is a Trip to Cancun for 5 Days?
The cost of a 5 day trip to Cancun can vary widely depending on factors such as accommodation, dining preferences, activities, and travel arrangements.
On average, budget-conscious travellers spend around $700 (excluding flights), while those seeking luxury accommodation and experiences could spend upwards of $1500.
Keep in mind that you can eat on the street for less than $5 of course and local buses cost around 50 cents.
Below are a few parameters to bear in mind:
- Budget: the ADO Bus to Tulum is around $15 and a bed in a dormitory at Selina is around $25 per night.
- Luxury: a luxury hotel can cost between $400 and $1000 per room per night and a meal in a nice restaurant without wine could be around $50 per person.
Which Is Better, Tulum or Cancun?
The choice between Tulum and Cancun depends on your preferences.
Cancun is known for its lively nightlife, beautiful beaches, and wide range of activities.
Tulum, on the other hand, offers a more relaxed and bohemian atmosphere, along with stunning coastal scenery and well-preserved Mayan ruins.
I would visit both while you are in the area so that you can get your own feel of each place.
If you think Tulum might be more your scene, then this 3 day Tulum itinerary is worth taking a look at.
How to get to Cancun from the airport
Cancun has an international airport that is the second most trafficked hub in Mexico and welcomes direct flights from many destinations around the world.
Located at only a 30 minute drive from most Cancun hotels, it makes it a very convenient destination, even for short vacations.
From the airport to your hotel, there are many options:
- Airport Shuttle or Hotel Transfer: Many hotels in Cancun offer airport shuttle services for their guests. If you’ve arranged accommodations, check with your hotel if they provide airport transfers. This is often a convenient option as you’ll be taken directly to your hotel.
- Taxi/Uber: Taxis or Ubers are readily available at the airport. Follow signs for the official taxi stand where you can arrange for a taxi to take you to the city centre. The rates are usually fixed and displayed at the stand, so make sure to confirm the fare before getting in the taxi. Or, order an Uber via the app.
- ADO Bus: If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, you can take the local public bus known as the “ADO” bus. The ADO bus service connects the airport to the downtown Cancun bus terminal and the Hotel Zone. This can take a bit longer than a taxi, but it’s a super affordable option.
- Rental Car: If you plan to explore the area around Cancun, you can rent a car at the airport. This gives you more flexibility to move around independently. Car rental agencies are available at the airport, however, I’d recommend booking via Rentalcar.com in advance to avoid extremely high on-the-spot prices.
How to get to travel around Cancun
There are many ways to travel around Cancun and the surrounding area, and how you choose to travel around will be entirely dependent on your budget and travel style.
Below should give you a good idea depending on your preferences:
- Local Buses (RTP and ADO): Cancun has an extensive network of local buses that connect different parts of the city, including the Hotel Zone, downtown Cancun, and nearby neighbourhoods.
The two main bus services are RTP (Rutas de Transporte Público) and ADO, both of which offer affordable fares.
RTP buses are more budget-friendly, while ADO buses are generally more comfortable and air-conditioned.
- Taxis/Uber: Taxis and Ubers are readily available in Cancun and are a convenient way to get around. If you’re not using Uber, then just be sure that the taxi you’re using is an authorized taxi and agree on the fare before starting your journey.
- Rental Cars: If you want more flexibility and convenience, renting a car can be a good option. Having lived here for so long – this is how I travel around, and if you are concerned about driving in Cancun, don’t worry, it’s super easy.
Check prices: Rentalcar.com
- Bicycle Rentals: Some areas of Cancun, particularly the Hotel Zone, are bike-friendly. You can rent bicycles at various shops or through bike-sharing programs to explore the area at your own pace. Just be cautious of traffic and follow road rules.
Before you reach the end of the guide, don’t forget to grab your SafetyWing travel insurance that I mentioned at the start of the guide.
I use them on every trip because they’re around 80% cheaper than what I was paying previously whilst still offering more than enough coverage!
Explore beyond Cancun
And thats a wrap for 5 days in Cancun!
If you want to know more about the author and our Cancun expert – Isabella – you’ll find this below.
If you enjoyed this Cancun itinerary with 5 days of incredible activities, then you may also enjoy some of our other Mexico guides.
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About our author: Isabella is an Italian expat who’s lucky enough to call Mexico her home. But she’s also a restless nomad who travels for the sake of travelling and photographing places. In Letstraveltocancun.com she shares all her insider tips about Cancun, her hometown in Mexico for the past 13 years. You can also find her on Instagram and YouTube.