From island escapes to ancient Maya cities, you can experience the best of the Yucatan with just three days in Cancun. Stretch out on a white-sand beach, grab a tropical drink, and then go farther afield to climb pyramids and sail to brilliant coral reefs. Here’s how to plan the perfect 3-day Cancun adventure.
Day 1: Cancun Beaches and Coral Reefs
Blessed with pristine beaches and easy access to coral reefs, Cancun is tailor-made for a day of sand and salt water. Spot tropical fish and even a shipwreck while snorkeling the nearby Great Maya Reef, or opt for a submarine tour to see the same marine wildlife without getting wet.
In the afternoon, head out on the water for views of Cancun’s beaches and resorts—it’s the best way to get that postcard-perfect shot. A catamaran cruise is ideal for lounging in the sunshine, while WaveRunners and speedboats are thrilling options that get some ocean wind in your hair.
Day 2: Ancient Maya Explorer
The Maya thrived in the Yucatan long before Europeans arrived, and some of their spectacular cities are easy to reach from Cancun. For Maya art and architecture, UNESCO-listed Chichen Itza is a great place to start. Early morning tours take advantage of cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, while some later options stay for a sound and light show at the ruins.
To the south is Tulum, a compact ancient site whose coastal cliffs and white-sand beaches are a photographer’s dream. If you’re ready to channel your inner explorer, though, head to lesser-known Coba, where some ruins are overgrown with trees and vines, and where you can climb to the top of the Yucatan’s highest pyramid.
Day 3: Caribbean Island Escape
On your third day, leave the mainland behind on a cruise to a gorgeous Caribbean island. There’s an island for every traveler, with options offering everything from a pristine wildlife sanctuary to buzzing beach clubs and shopping centers. Getting offshore guarantees great views back toward Cancun’s waterfront.
If you’re all about wildlife, hop on a cruise to protected Isla Contoy, where limits on tourism keep the island a haven for sea birds. For a day that blends coral reefs with some leisurely island time, choose Isla Mujeres for party boats, all-inclusive options, and relaxing cruises powered by sea breezes.