You’ve got 4 days in Cancun, and you’d love to have a local friend handing you a kick-ass itinerary?
Well, I’m that friend.
I stayed 10 days in Cancun and over 2 months in the Riviera Maya.
To realize these itinerary ideas, I used my skills as a travel consultant, my sources in the field, and hours of analysis!
With experience, I have realized that one specific “4 days in Cancun” is not enough for my readers. We are all different, after all! In this article, I put myself in the shoes of 3 different types of travelers:
- A family who loves to do activities on their own.
- A couple who want an exciting trip.
- A group of friends who decide to explore Playa del Carmen’s surroundings.
Ready to have fun?
|Cancun hotel zone||ATV in Playa del Carmen||Punta Cancun & Kayak|
|Cheap Chichen Itza Tour||Cozumel + Snorkeling||Private cenote tour|
|Xcaret||Wild Rio Secreto||Trip to Isla Mujeres|
|Trip to Puerto Morelos||Private Catamaran trip||Endless Ziplines|
This article is part of our excellent series: How to create the perfect itinerary for Cancun?
Plan your trip around Cancun
In 2 months, I’ve spent more than 10,000 USD to test the best activities in the Riviera Maya. Stay with me to quickly decide which experiences you should do and learn how to make the most of your trip.
4-day Cancun itinerary for families
Are 4 days in Cancun enough?
How to spend 4 fun and instructive days visiting Cancun to the delight of kids and adults.
👉 Don’t hesitate to read our Cancun guide to plan your vacation and not make any more mistakes. You will find all our articles about this destination.
You are traveling with your family and curious to discover the authentic Mexican lifestyle while having fun together.
You are aware of your budget and are fearless in using public transport whenever possible.
Where to stay
I suggest you two good choices:
Staying in downtown Cancun is a great way to save money.
Many hotel choices are much more suitable than an all-inclusive resort if you intend to spend most of your time outside.
You can easily take public buses to the Cancun Hotel Zone and regular buses to get out of Cancun.
There are some good and cheap food trucks.
The Quetzal’s charming and zesty decor is a great option. You will appreciate its patio and outdoor pool when you return from your explorations.
If you’re a group, I recommend renting a fully equipped villa on the beach.
With a capacity of up to 10 people, Villa de las Tortugas, located in the hotel zone not far from Playa Delfines, offers calm and comfort. And if you’re too lazy to cook for the whole tribe, there’s a restaurant on site.
Day 1: Explore Cancun Hotel Zone
Today, the whole family is ready to visit Cancun! Mayan history, stunning white sand beaches, and traditional food, everybody will enjoy it!
With R1 or R2 buses that run every 5 minutes, you will start at the southernmost point of the Cancun Hotel Zone and move up towards Cancun downtown.
Your first stop is the Museo Maya de Cancun which opens at 9.00 am. Avoid Mondays, as it’s closed.
The visit to the Mayan Museum lasts about 1 hour. Young and old will have an excellent overview of the Mayan culture through a superb collection of objects and ruins.
You will take the bus back to Playa Marlin, a beautiful beach. Rent sunbeds and umbrellas while the kids splash around in the turquoise waters.
After an hour or two of swimming, the family will satisfy their hunger with delicious and affordable tacos at La Tia Juana.
Then, you’ll go to La Isla Cancun, a rather nice isla shopping village with its canals and its pretty facades. Enjoy a good ice cream.
I don’t recommend going to the aquarium, it sucks, and they let people swim with dolphins.
Take a moment to listen to a Mariachi band in the Entertainment area of La Isla Cancun, and for those who want a thrill, climb on La Rueda de la fortuna; you’ll get a great view of Cancun.
Take another swim at Playa Gaviota, one of Cancun’s most famous beaches, before heading to the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. Ask the staff to allow you onto the property to enjoy the view from the iconic Punta Cancun lighthouse.
It will then be time to take the bus back to your hotel and have a good shower and a little rest.
The family will end this rich day by tasting some local specialties in the pleasant ambiance of La Habichuela.
Day 2: Plan an affordable tour to Chichen Itza
Be ready in the early morning to discover the most fascinating places of the Mayan culture in the Yucatan peninsula!
Without breaking the bank, this experienced agency will take you on a well-organized day trip to Chichen Itza and a cenote.
Your professional guide will tell you about the history of the Mayan people as you wander through the ancient ruins of the vast and beautiful Unesco world heritage site of Chichen Itza. You will have to deal with the many other visitors to this crowded place.
After visiting Chichen Itza, you will visit the lovely Hacienda Selva Maya, surrounded by beautiful vegetation.
The whole family will be able to refresh in the cool and crystalline waters of Cenote de Saamal, a beautiful open cenote with walls covered with lianas.
In the middle of a lovely garden, you will enjoy a tasty traditional Mexican buffet.
On the way back, you will make a shortstop in the beautiful colonial city of Valladolid before returning to your hotel.
You will finish this hectic day by going to the popular Parque de Las Palapas. In an amicable atmosphere, you will eat tacos and other specialties prepared by the numerous food trucks among the locals.
The whole family will surely enjoy a Marquesita, a Yucatecan crepe with cheese and Nutella.
Day 3: Visit Xcaret with your family
Today, the family takes a lesson on Mexican history while having fun in a great place!
XCaret is a vast adventure and nature park in the Riviera Maya, located on the beachfront of the Caribbean sea, about 15 minutes from Playa del Carmen.
The park’s vocation is to introduce visitors to the history and culture of the Maya through some 50 fun activities.
All day long, kids and adults will visit Mayan ruins, snorkel on coral reefs, walk through underground rivers, watch folkloric dances, wander through aviaries, admire tropical fish in an aquarium, and meet sea turtles.
At the end of the day, the family will attend a night show during which a 300-person troupe will tell the story of the Mayan civilization in a very entertaining way.
Here are some practical tips to ensure the whole family really enjoys the day:
- I recommend you get there when it opens (8.30 am). There are plenty of activities. Time flies when you’re having fun, so optimize your day to have your money’s worth.
- Don’t hesitate to take the Xcaret Plus ticket. It will grant you a free buffet lunch, lockers to store belongings, and scuba gear.
- Remember to print your tickets after booking online. Electronic tickets are not accepted. If necessary, ask at your hotel reception.
- The day will be very long, you will walk a lot, and it will be hot. So the family should go to bed as early as possible the night before!
- To avoid long queues, I advise you to pre-register for optional activities.
- Bring a water bottle, it will prevent you from buying some on-site, and there are fountains all over the park to refill it.
- The photo pass is worth it. I suggest you buy it when you book online; you’ll get a discount.
To go to Xcaret, you have two choices:
Either you include the transport option when you book online, but it takes a while to get there.
Or you book an ADO bus. Check the schedule carefully. You should be able to catch the 7.30 am one, and the last one leaves at 9.30 pm.
Day 4: Exciting trip to Puerto Morelos
On this last day, the family explores the surroundings of Cancun by taking local transport!
First, let’s go to Puerto Morelos (beach side), a charming fishing village bathed by the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Far from the hustle and bustle of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, this peaceful spot is ideal for swimming and snorkeling with the family.
To go to Puerto Morelos, you can take a collectivo from Playa Express in front of the EL ADO bus terminal or, if you prefer, catch a taxi (about 60 – 80 USD).
Once there, you will book one of the local tours that will take you for a swim on the beautiful coral reef for about 2 hours at a very affordable price.
You will then have lunch at the Blue Morelos, a beachfront restaurant with a family atmosphere that serves fresh and tasty traditional dishes.
For the afternoon, I suggest two options:
- Take a taxi to Cenote 7 bocas.
Ask the driver to wait for you for a couple of hours (count 50 USD) while the family explores this beautiful cenote with 7 entrances that let the sun in and light up its magnificent crystal clear waters.
- Or visit the Jardin Botanico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marin, where you will walk through beautiful lush vegetation with exhibition spots on the Mayan culture. You will discover their great collections of palm trees and cacti.
I suggest you bring repellent; there are many mosquitoes.
And if you’re lucky, especially after 4 pm, you’ll see some spider monkeys.
4 days in Cancun For lovers
4-day itinerary in Cancun as a couple
Follow me, lovers, along this dreamy and exciting Cancun itinerary!
You are a dynamic couple enjoying life, looking for stimulating experiences while saving chill-out moments on a white sand beach. Then let’s go for 4 days of surprises and fun!
Where to stay
For your stay, I suggest two options:
Choose a hotel in Puerto Cancun, north of the Nichupté lagoon, between downtown and the more crowded Zona Hotelera.
A brand new mall built in the marina offers a wide choice of restaurants.
Puerto Cancun is closer to Puerto Juarez, where the ferry to Isla Mujeres leaves from, although you will need to take a taxi to get there.
The nearest beach is Playa Las Perlas. It is a lovely quiet beach popular with the locals. Its waters are not as turquoise as in the Hotel Zone.
The Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina next to the mall is a good option (great breakfast).
Or choose a hotel in the Zona Hotelera, closer to Cancun’s nightlife and the most famous clubs and restaurants.
With its modern and comfortable design, the Canopy By Hilton Cancun La Isla, quite near Playa Marlin, a beautiful beach with crystal clear waters, is an excellent option at an affordable price.
Day 1: Enjoy Punta Cancun & La Laguna Nichupté
For this first day, let’s start gently.
After the hotel check-in, enjoy a cocktail and cool off in the outdoor pool.
You will then go to Playa Forum to taste Cancun’s festive life, one of the most vibrant beaches. You can dance (there is always music), swim, or laze under an umbrella if one is available.
At 4 pm, you will go to this meeting point to kayak on the Nichupté Lagoon with this agency.
An experienced guide will take you to explore the mangrove and learn about this rich ecosystem, untouched by the hustle and bustle of the Hotel Zone. You will observe many native birds and admire sponges and starfish.
I wonder if, like many couples on a kayak, you will have a spat with your lover…
Back at the hotel, and after a good shower, you will go out for dinner in one of the many restaurants of Marina Puerto Cancun.
Suppose you choose to stay at the Canopy By Hilton. In that case, I recommend you dine as the sun goes down on the Nichupté lagoon at Cenacolo, a delicious Italian restaurant, or at El Fish Fritanga to enjoy a tremendous Mexican specialty.
Day 2: Romantic Private cenote tour
Today, you’ll go on a romantic trip through the Yucatán Peninsula to discover 3 types of cenotes, all fascinating!
I recommend you choose a private tour to visit the cenotes. It’s easier to listen to the explanations of your guide, you decide when you want to leave, and he can take care of you if you are not used to snorkeling. In brief, you enjoy yourself much more!
A private vehicle for this tour will pick you up at your hotel at 7.30 am.
I advise leaving early to avoid the crowd on the first cenote.
With a professional guide, you will start this day-long Vip tour by visiting Yal-Ku Lagoon, a shallow, pristine cenote lake north of Tulum ruins.
You will enjoy this early morning snorkel among colorful fish and maybe even meet a turtle.
Your driver will then take you to Cenote Xunaan Ha, an open and not too-crowded cenote lost in the middle of the mangrove.
Here, still escorted by your attentive and private guide, you will enjoy the underwater wildlife, swim, or even jump from a pontoon.
You will finish this informative and fun tour by visiting Cenote Taak Bi Ha.
Lost in the jungle, this cave cenote, with its cool and amazingly blue waters, is one of the most beautiful cenotes of the Riviera Maya.
It’s a small paradise for snorkeling or just swimming and gazing at beautiful rock formations.
Your private van will take you back to your hotel.
Day 3: Go exploring Isla Mujeres
Today, you choose your adventure! I just give you the destination: Isla Mujeres!
Don’t worry. I won’t let you down! Here are some excellent tips for organizing your DIY day trip to Isla Mujeres.
First of all, go to the nearest ferry terminal, Puerto Juarez, if you’re in Puerto Cancun, Playa Tortugas, and Playa Caracol if you’re in the Hotel Zone.
You should be there as early as possible; there is a departure every hour, and the journey takes about 30 minutes (Jetway and Ultramar).
Once on the island, it is impossible not first to go swimming in Playa del Norte, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I suggest you go in the early morning to avoid the crowds and enjoy its shallow turquoise waters.
Now, let’s choose your transport mode to go around:
Take the public bus, it’s cheap, and there’s one every 20 minutes, or, for more fun and autonomy, I suggest you rent a scooter or, better still, a golf cart (Rental of Joaquin). Remember to take your driving license.
After swimming, enjoy a great breakfast at Q’Bravo, while waiting for the golf cart rental company to open at 9.00 am.
Then, it’s up to you to drive as you want!
If you like snorkeling, you’re lucky; there are great spots on Isla Mujeres to explore independently (Piscina del Rey & Garrafon de Castilla); just be careful.
You can also rent a snorkel tour, but you better save time for other activities. This day will go fast.
While driving your golf cart, take time to look around, stop for a contemplative break, visit the colorful cemetery in the island’s center, or drink a local beer.
Go to the south of the island and enjoy the superb view of the Caribbean Sea from the top of the cliffs of Punta Sur.
I tell you, the quietest beach clubs are in the southern part of the island. An excellent address to suggest is Kin Ha Parque de Los Suenos.
Around 4.00 pm, go back to the north of the island and return your golf cart.
Before catching the ferry, you can wander around the lively town, shop, and have a drink or an ice cream (Paradice-cream) in one of the many bars and restaurants on the pedestrian street Miguel Hidalgo.
If you have time, watch the sunset while sipping a cocktail at Coco Beach on Playa del Norte before taking the ferry back (last departure at 10.00 pm for Puerto Juarez – 6.30 pm for Playa Tortugas).
If you just want a relaxing day trip at sea, you can hire a Catamaran Tour, which will sail you around the Caribbean Sea.
You’ll laze around enjoying a cocktail at the open bar on board, snorkel on the coral reef and among the statues of the Cancun underwater museum, have lunch, and go for a round on Isla Mujeres.
Day 4: Best Zipline circuit in the Riviera Maya
Today, you leave for the jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula for a full-day trip of fun and adrenaline!
Meet at the Selvatica Adventure Park entrance in Puerto Morelos, or, for an additional fee, a vehicle will pick you up at your hotel.
In this theme park, you will do all the many activities included in this “Gimme All” Adventure Tour, such as bungee jumping, Russian mountains, ATV, swimming in a cenote (these last two activities are not the best ones), and, the highlight of this fun day, flying over the canopy with the most famous ziplines of the Riviera Maya—10 in total.
Halfway through the itinerary, sandwiches and drinks will be offered to reload your batteries, and at the end, you’ll enjoy a typical Mexican dish to recover from your emotions.
If you take the transport option, a vehicle will drive you back to your hotel.
If you prefer a shorter experience, opt for a Half Day Zipline Tour, whose main entertainment is the super ziplines of Selvatica. You’ll end with a refreshing swim in a cenote in the middle of the forest.
4-day trip in Cancun for Friends
Another alternative to Cancun
Great and easy ideas for 4 days of unforgettable adventure with your buddies.
You want to explore the Riviera Maya and have a good time with your friends.
One of you may be celebrating his bachelor party.
You prefer Playa del Carmen to Cancun; much more affordable for your budget and easier to move around. You’ll have more options than crowded all-inclusive resorts, and the Cancun Hotel Zone is too far from the cenotes and the Mayan ruins.
Everything is near in Playa del Carmen; there is no need to rent a car!
Where to stay
You can choose a hotel on Avenida Quinta (5th Avenue), the most lively street in Playa Del Carmen, with its bars, restaurants, colorful souvenir shops, and Mariachi bands.
During the seaweed season, I advise choosing a hotel with an outdoor pool.
Also, avoid the proximity of a club if you want to sleep peacefully.
With its well-sized and fully equipped 2-bedroom flats, Porto Playa Condo Hotel and Beach Club, in a pleasant, lush environment, is a good option if you want to stay close to the beach and in the joyful heart of the town without fearing the noise.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, Riviera Maya Suites offers fully equipped flats for up to 6 people. It’s calm without being far from the party spots.
Finally, if you’re looking for more tranquility at a reasonable price without sacrificing comfort, you’ll appreciate the Departamentos K&B in the center of Playa Del Carmen.
Day 1: Skip Cancun & enjoy Playa del Carmen
As soon as you arrive, head to Playa del Carmen to begin this trip off to a flying start!
When you arrive at Cancun international airport, take an ADO bus. There are punctual buses every 30 minutes.
Or, if you prefer, book private transportation for the whole group.
You’ll drop your luggage at the hotel and head to the beach to taste the water unless there’s too much seaweed, of course.
At 2.30 pm, with goggles on your nose, you will drive an ATV for a 3 hours buggy tour.
You’ll explore the rugged trails through the jungle of the Riviera Maya and stop at a ranch to marvel at the surroundings before discovering the crystalline waters of a beautiful semi-open cenote.
Don’t cancel if it rains; you’ll have more fun on the muddy trails!
After this first sporty day and a good shower, you’re ready for an evening of fiesta with your friends.
You’ll start by enjoying a cocktail while admiring the view from the rooftop of The Thompson.
Afterward, you’ll dine at Zenzi Beach, a nice beach bar where you can enjoy Mexican food while listening to a live concert.
You’ll then go for a cheap drink in The Roof Bar Playa del Carmen Quinta Avenida’s, swaying to Reggaeton rhythms, before ending the night at Clandestino RoofTop, a nightclub that plays a wide range of music.
Day 2: Expedition to Cozumel
To recover from the night before, the joyful group goes to breathe the good sea air of Cozumel, a paradise island famous for its amazing diving spots.
To avoid being ripped off, I advise you to buy the tickets at the official agency.
If you’re not too hungover, you’ll take the first boat of Ultramar or Winjet companies (8 – 9 am); the crossing takes between 30 to 40 minutes.
When you arrive, you’ll rent a car. Avoid the jeep, as you won’t be able to let your stuff in the car.
At 10.30 am, you’ll be on the pontoon to embark on a catamaran & snorkeling tour.
During 4 hours, you will sail along the coast of Cozumel. Equipped with snorkeling gear, you will enjoy the marine life on two beautiful coral reefs, meet eventual turtles and giant rays and see beautiful starfish in the shallow turquoise waters of Playa del Cielo.
In between dives, you’ll relax in the comfort of your catamaran. The crew will serve you drinks, fresh fruit juices, and lunch in a pleasant musical ambiance.
You will be offered to stay at the Tortugas Beach Club to finish your sailing expedition. You should go directly; I found nothing special about this place.
Back on land, you will drive to Playa Palancar, a beautiful white sand beach protected from seaweed, where you can relax while sipping a cocktail from the beach club.
Watch the clock a bit, though, to save about 1.5 hours to drive to the wilder eastern part of the island and enjoy beautiful sceneries and big waves.
Remember, you must return your car before 7 pm 😉
To end this insular experience, have great tacos, at a very reasonable price, in the friendly Guisados, a traditional Mexican food restaurant in town.
At 9.00 pm, it will be time to take the ferry back to the mainland.
I advise you to check the schedules to avoid surprises.
Day 3: Wild Rio Secreto
Get in shape, guys! Today, you’re going on a full-day guided tour to explore Rio Secreto, a fascinating underground river with turquoise waters!
From Playa del Carmen, at 9.00 am, you will take a taxi or collectivo (15-minute journey).
Once on site, after receiving your complete survival and exploration pack, you will begin this Rio Secreto Wild Tour with your guide, by riding a bike through the 5 km jungle trail, which may be slippery if it rains.
You will leave your bikes to enter a huge fantastic cave.
You will then set off for a 1h30 to 2h00 walk through an extended network of galleries, sometimes quite dark, where you will admire beautiful stalagmites and stalactites and meet some bats and frogs. Your guide will tell you about the Mayan rituals and the geological history of the place.
You will reach a river with crystal clear waters.
Before getting into the water, you will enjoy your sandwich from your backpack.
In silence and illuminated by your diving lights, you will explore the fresh and transparent waters during 1h30, rhythmed by the drops of water falling from the ceiling.
Before heading back, you will turn off the lights, and in the darkness, you will feel the mystery of this place. It may be a bit stressful for a claustrophobe.
Back at the starting point, your courage will be rewarded with a good tapas lunch with beers.
By 5.00 pm, you will go back to Playa del Carmen. No doubt many of you will fall asleep on the short journey back.
You can’t take a camera with you. You can buy pictures taken by a photographer who follows you during your exploration.
Day 4: Boat tour from Puerto Aventuras
After the athletic adventure of the day before, there’s nothing better than being gently rocked by the roll of a boat!
Are you tired of your experience in Rio Secreto? I recommend visiting two nice cenotes close to Playa del Carmen.
Go here to take a collectivo to Tulum. Just tell the driver that you want to go to Cenote Azul, and he’ll drop you off.
Try to be there as soon as it opens (8.30 am) before the crowds arrive at this popular cenote, which to me, is the most beautiful in the area.
Then walk for about 15 minutes to Jardin del Eden, a lovely and less crowded cenote where you can snorkel, jump, or relax.
Now take a taxi to Puerto Aventuras and have lunch at Lara&Luca Puerto Aventuras, a nice Italian-inspired marina restaurant.
Walk to your meeting point for a private half-day yacht trip leaving at 2.00 pm.
You will sail to Paamul Beach, a beautiful and peaceful bay where your catamaran will anchor for about 2h30. You will snorkel in the middle of colorful fish and meet turtles.
On board, the crew will offer you drinks and snacks, and you can enjoy a Margarita, the bartender’s specialty, while relaxing in the sun.
You will return to the marina with lovely memories of your last day on the Caribbean Sea.
How many days in Cancun
You can decide to stay longer (or shorter) in Cancun. Here are some practical trip ideas:
- How to spend 5 days in Cancun
- The perfect 3-day itinerary in Cancun
- The perfect 7-day itinerary in Cancun