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momoftwinboys09 Jul 8th, 2014 01:03 PM

Yucatan - April 2015 Mayan Ruin week trip - Need help planning
I am planning a surprise trip for my husband for next April to fly into Cancun on a Sunday and staying 7 nights. This will be an anniversary trip for the 2 of us but I am planning it all as a surprise Christmas gift to give to him. He has always wanted to see pyramids/ruins and I know this will be the trip of a lifetime for him. I do understand that it will be pretty hot in April but that will be spring break and my dad/stepmom will be able to watch our kids for us so the timing will be perfect for us.

I've been researching for a couple of months now and I think I've decided that I'd like to stay in Merida - 3 nights, Chichen Itza/Valladolid - 2 nights, and Tulum (beach area) - final 2 nights.

I heard that Merida has various things going on in the city on Sundays and other nights also so I'm not sure that it is that important that we go there 1st. and stay 3 nights? I do think that I'd like to do the final 2 nights in Tulum or somewhere on the beach so that we can relax after the busy week of sightseeing the Mayan sites.

I know it would make much more sense just to fly into Merida if I wanted to start our trip there so I may go ahead and try to do that even though the flight may be more expensive than flying into Cancun.

What do I need to know before I book our rooms?? I am looking to book the 3 nights at Luz En Yucatan in Merida based on the excellent reviews and the humor from just reading on their website. Still somewhat undecided about Chichen Itza/Valladolid as we want to see other ruins also in the different areas while we are there. I think Ek Balam and the cenotes.

Please forgive me for sounding so inexperienced in the Mayan ruin field as I truly am. But I have been planning this for some time now and I just can't wait to make this the greatest trip ever. We were going to do the ruin excursion on the next cruise we go on but to think we can go and stay a whole week he will not know how to act. LOL.

Any tips and ideas are greatly appreciated!!

november_moon Jul 8th, 2014 02:59 PM

I think your plan sounds like a good one. Merida is a really neat city. There is generally more going on later in the week than at the begining, so you might want to swap the timing for Valladolid and Merida.

Here is a link with events in Merida so you can see what is going on when:

You could do something like this:

Sunday: Land in Cancun, drive to Valladolid - afternoon/evening in Valladolid.

Monday: Chichen Itza first thing in the morning, cenotes and Ek Balam in the afternoon, overnight in Valladolid again.

Tuesday: Drive to Merida in the morning, afternoon/evening in Merida.

Wednesday: Sightseeing in Merida or a day trip to the countryside - Uxmal, Sotota de Peon, and Celestun are all good choices.

Thursday: Sightseeing in Merida, evening Seranade in the Park at Parque Sta. Lucia and/or Trova of Latin America at Rosas y Xocolate.

Friday: Drive to Tulum - start reasonably early in the morning so you have the afternoon there. Stop at Coba ruins en route.

Saturday: Relaxing on the beach in Tulum.

Sunday: Drive back to Cancun for your flight home.

Rohelio Jul 8th, 2014 03:55 PM

It is a great plan... and yes, if you follow trough with it, you WILL need those last days to recoupe. Cancun to Merida is 5 hours by bus, non stop. Merida has got to be the greatest colonial city in the Yucatan, I just love it. There is so much to do and see. The temperature is always a little hotter than the coast and also a little cheaper than the Mayan Riviera. I really enjoy the small hotel called Peregrino, I beleive it is on 55 st ??. Personally, I would not spend a whole lot of time in Valladolid except to catch a bus or have lunch near the town square. Ek Balam (halh hour north of Valladolid)is well worth it, you will probably be a very small group visiting the ruins as it has not caught on yet as much as other sites in the area such as Uxmal, La Ruta Puuc, Chichen Itza and Coba. This said, Ek Balam has a beautiful pyramid that you can climb and the same goes for Coba, which is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan. Tulum has the greatest beaches but the small hotels along the beach are quite costly. The actual city of Tulum is several miles from the beach and therefore need to get a cab to get to the beach. Again, I cant help but recommend Merida for it's authenticity, culture, museums, restaurants , folklore on week-ends, monastaries and cathedrals, theatre, the main square and last but not least , the Paseo de Montejo boulevard, where you can rent a bike and see the beautiful 17 and 18th century mansions (roads are closed Sunday mornings)This is what Mexico is all about and should be appreciated.

november_moon Jul 8th, 2014 04:36 PM

I like Merida better than Valladolid as well and would probably normally only recommend the 1 night in Valladolid in favor of an additional night in Merida, but in this case, I think 2 nights in Valladolid might be better - that way you won't be rushed to see CI, Ek Balam, and a cenote or two and THEN make the drive into Merida (or take a bus). Trips always go better for me if I don't plan too much on first full day at a destination. I like a decently easy day to get acclimated - and with the heat, seeing 2 major sites plus a cenote or two will be plenty without a longish drive (or bus ride) at the end.

And definitely make time for Ek Balam. Of the 9 Mayan sites that I have seen, it was my 2nd favorite (Uxmal is #1 for me).

kja Jul 8th, 2014 05:02 PM

Personally, I really enjoyed Valladolid and was very glad I spent some time there. When I was there (2008), it felt less tourist-oriented than Merida, and a bit more authentic, too. BUT I really enjoyed both. If Chichen Itza is a priority, staying in Valladolid might be a good choice. As others have said, Ek' Balam is a gem, and the Cenotes Dzitnup are gorgeous.

And much as I enjoyed Merida -- and I did enjoy it very much -- I enjoyed Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc even more, and unfortunately, seeing those ruins can take closer to two days with an overnight along the way. (I was very pleased with The Flycatcher Inn.) I believe you can see Uxmal as a day trip from Merida, but plan on a LONG day and pay attention to the time. If you are driving, you might want to try to reach wherever you are going before sunset.

Oh, and while in Merida, do consider making time for its small, but excellent, archeological museum.

The good news is that you don't have a bad option here (IMO). Some things to consider: Are the ruins a higher priority than colonial cities? if so, you might limit your time in Merida. If colonial cities are a high priority, are the festivities of Merida's weekend a priority? They are a lot of fun, but I don't know how they fit in with your other interests, and if they are a priority, that would affect both how long you spend there and how you sequence your time.

No matter what you choose, your husband is receiving a fantastic gift! Enjoy!

momoftwinboys09 Jul 8th, 2014 07:31 PM

Thanks so much for the replies! I should have stated that we will be renting a car for the week so we can move freely as we choose to. No we do not have to do Merida on Sunday. Actually, we are dropping the kids off in Jacksonville,FL so flying out of there is the easiest. We can fly Southwest one way for Free with points I have accumulated. The other way will still be reasonable. I seen today we could drive to Miami from Jax,Fl (4 hours) and fly non stop top MID for about$276 for both one way and then fly back to Jacksonville from Cancun thru Southwest for free with the points that I have. I did not know that I could find so cheap flying straight to MID. But I'm not sure if I want to drive top Miami to catch that flight. I will be booking the flight soon so that I can choose hotel stays 1st but honestly going directly to MID for that price might be worth the 4 hour drive to Miami.

Yes I also want to spend 2 nights in Valladolid that way we can see all that we can. I have heard that Uxmal is awesome!

I would say my priority is to see the ruins. My hubby always wanted to be an archeologist. But I think I would like to mix some of the city in it.

I am interested in seeing the colonial cities and the museums. I am more interested in the cenotes as he thinks they are amazing but I'm more the water person.

Prices are already posted for aeromexico for flights in april for Mia to MID but still waiting for them top post on southwest.

Has anyone walked up Coba? Reading all the topics I'm nervous getting to the top and getting stuck due to height reasons. But have heard great things about the site period.

Thanks again for all of you taking the time to input information and help for me!

Rohelio Jul 8th, 2014 08:25 PM

If your priorities are in archeology, then forget 2 nights in Valladolid and concentrate on Merida. From there you can easily reach Uxmal and while your at it do the complete circuit called Ruta Puuc. Much more exciting and impressive than many other sites I have seen. Through the years I have climbed Coba on 4 different occasions. Though it is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan it is not a problem to escalate nor is it to come down, you just need to take your time. I suggest you rent a bicycle on site to get to the pyramid... well worth it. Unfortunatly, you are not allowed to climb the main pyramid in Uxmal but others are free to do so. As mentioned by kja, you can and should spend the night in the vicinity to further explore the Mayan ruins. There are many small hotels that are very clean and accomodating. On your way back from this journey, you could always visit Ek Balam or Coba on your way to Tulum. Should you decide to visit Chichen Itza, do so early morning. It being one of the seven wonders of the world now, it attracts bus loads of tourists everyday. Dont forget your water and hats for protection from the sun...

kja Jul 8th, 2014 11:39 PM

"Yes I also want to spend 2 nights in Valladolid that way we can see all that we can. I have heard that Uxmal is awesome! " -- Just to be clear: Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc are near Merida, not Valladolid. And Uxmal is part of the Ruta Puuc -- the route that can take two days to visit.

"I am more interested in the cenotes" -- As I recall, visiting the Cenotes Dzitnup would likely take only an hour or two more than it would otherwise take to drive from Valladolid to any of your other destinations -- but check googlemaps or some other mapping site to be sure! And there's an interesting denote in the center of Valladolid, too....

november_moon Jul 9th, 2014 09:44 AM

When we visited this area last year, we had 2 weeks and still didn't see everything that we wanted to - we were formulating a plan to return even before be boarded our flight home :) With 1 week, I think you are definitely going to have to prioritize - if you try to see everything, you will run yourselves ragged. But you do have enough time to see some great stuff.

I am glad that you are renting a car - that will give you the most flexibility and be the most time efficient.

Flying into Merida will be great. That will save you one way drove across the peninsula and Merida airport is very easy to navigate. As you won't need a car in Merida, you can pick one up when you leave and save a couple days worth of rental car fees and insurance. You'll probably run into a one-way drop-off fee for the car, but you may be able to find a company that will waive it. We had a one-way drop fee of about USD 100 when we picked up a car in Merida and returned it in Cancun.

momoftwinboys09 Jul 9th, 2014 04:41 PM

Okay so I spent a good portion of my work day checking out that Ruta Puuc and I think that is a great idea. Yes I have seen tons of posts with people who spend weeks and cannot see everything.

I think I may even leave out the Tulum ruins and spend the last night or 2 in Playa Del Carmen or Cancun and just completely do beach/relaxation time and fly back to Jacksonville from Cancun. We could even skip Chichen and just have it on our to do list as an excursion on am upcoming cruise in the next year or 2.

So maybe we can focus on Merida and the Ruta Puuc.

Another question...what about even doing Progreso or one of those areas for the beach time??

I hear Edzna ruins are awesome too but had cancelled them out due too not being able top do it all.

I want to see a lot but I'd still like to have some down time. And I'm positive we'll be planning another trip after this one. Might be in 5 years but still. :)

Cannot thank you all enough for your time and input on this.

kja Jul 9th, 2014 05:11 PM

"what about even doing Progreso or one of those areas for the beach time?? " -- I'm not the best person to ask, as beaches aren't a priority for me, but I can't imagine that the beaches on the north or west of the Yucatan would be comparable to Tulum or the other beaches of Quintana Roo.

"I hear Edzna ruins are awesome too ..." Indeed, but I personally preferred Ek' Balam. And if you are going as far as Edzna, than stopping in Campeche would make sense ... and I think you may be complicating things unnecessarily....

Hope that helps!

RAC Jul 9th, 2014 05:44 PM

I do think it would be a mistake to skip the Chichen Itza ruins. In terms of artistry and level of preservation, they are (warning: personal opinion approaching) way, way more impressive than Coba and Tulum. Coba has taller buildings, but they have been badly eroded, whereas the full level of detail is on display in many buildings in Chichen Itza and you have a much better feel for what the place was like in the day.

Tulum ruins you can easily skip--the only impressive thing about them is the location. Architecturally, they are extremely pedestrian.

momoftwinboys09 Jul 9th, 2014 06:31 PM

You are probably right. So then fly into the Ruta Puuc.

Now will we want to stay in Merida for 3-4 nights and travel daily to the various sites? Or change hotels while along the way?

Then I guess we'll Head to Valladolid/Chichen Itza and Ek Balam for a night? And spend last night in Playa or Cancun. I totally agree that the Rivera Maya beaches would be much better than the Gulf area but just thought maybe could stay in the one area. But no we'll stick to the other plan. I'm a huge breech person so for new to get night after a week long excursion with hubby will be a good ending for our anniversary!

I really need to figure a way to get this trip to 8 nights at least. Lol

momoftwinboys09 Jul 9th, 2014 07:01 PM

Omg so I'm sitting here looking online at Aeromexico again. And I recall several years back reading somewhere that Wednesday afternoons are good days to book flights. Well that must be true bc flights are now more than double what I seen earlier. Today I seen the lowest at $138/ pp for one way to Merida from Miami. Total with fees was $267 for both. I am going to plan to go down on Saturday to Sunday. The major issue is that hubby does not get paid time off like myself. But when he opens this Christmas gift and realizes he will have to take off 6 unpaid days he/we will be prepared for it in advance. And I'm sure he will be okay with the extra day so I am going to plan Sat to Sun. Sheesh the good thing is knowing that I can get those tickets at a good price I just need too keep watching!

kja Jul 9th, 2014 07:12 PM

IMO, the Ruta Puuc is best seen as a TWO DAY trip out of Merida because it is far enough that you would lose quite of lot of time going back and forth. Other's may feel differently. I believe I mentioned the option of staying at The Flycatcher Inn, which is very close to Uxmal; here's the link:

"I guess we'll Head to Valladolid/Chichen Itza and Ek Balam for a night?" -- At least one night, maybe two, depending on how you lay out your time. Figure the better part of a day for Chichen Itza. Give Ek' Balam several hours or a half-day, an hour or two to get to/from and visit the Cenotes Dzitnup, and some time for Valladolid itself. So it would be best if you have more than a day in the area, which could mean one night or two.

If you can add a night, I don't think you'll regret it!

Rohelio Jul 10th, 2014 01:33 PM

Alright... It's now time for a REALITY CHECK... :). You need to keep in mind that you only have a certain amount of days in Mexico and want to make the best of it! There are many grat comments and advice on this particular blog and everyone has their opinion (myself included). This said, you really need to think about the logistics involved here. If you plan too much activities for one day it will become a chore and you will be at each others troats. Just the fact of having to rent a car can take a whole lot more time than first anticipated. Do you know your way around, habla Espagnol?. Finding the hotel, filling up at what gas station? Where is that restaurant? and where to park the car. I know from experience that this trip will be a memorable one, but please plan for some time out... Having a swim in the pool, cocktails before diner, wearing that beautiful summer dress, walking in the park and just appreciating the whole atmosphere around you. I believe it to be just as if not more important than any archeological site I know !!! :)

november_moon Jul 10th, 2014 02:10 PM

Good points Rohelio about the additional time it takes to do things. Definitely make time to smell the roses :)

I think that reducing the beach time to 1 night is a mistake. You said that you love the beach, so if you only have 1 night, that means almost no actual beach time. You'll arrive late afternoon at the earliest and be off the next morning to get your flight. With 2 nights, you will have a full day on the beach.

With 7 nights and the new plan, I would take 4 nights in Merida, 1 in Valladolid, and 2 along the Mayan Riviera. From Merida,

momoftwinboys09 Jul 10th, 2014 05:01 PM you've definitely got a point. I did invite my 15 year old daughter to go who has been in a Spanish immersion school since the 1st grade to go with us. She said oh no it's too hot!! we'll manage ;) yes we aren't going to over do it. Heck if we can get 3-5 ruins in, a centote, and some time to just take in a museum or 2, then I think it will be a successful trip with those activities. And of course I'm looking forward to a drink and some music and dancing! Lol.

And yes we will be flying into Merida and flying home from Cancun.

I like the idea of staying at the Flycatcher Inn after Merida. What about 2 Merida, 2 Flycatcher, 1 Valladolid, and 2 Cancun...and the game hoping he will agree to take another day off so we can go a day early (Saturday) and have a 3rd day in Merida.

But should I start with 3 in Merida and 1 in Flycatcher Inn? I know it's not the town name so please forgive me I'm just referring to it as

And I tell ya, I feel like I have met some great friends on here. You guys/gals are awesome if you don't know it already!

Can't think you enough for all of the help!

kja Jul 10th, 2014 05:05 PM

"But should I start with 3 in Merida and 1 in Flycatcher Inn?" -- You only need one night in Santa Elena (where the Flycatcher Inn is) to see the Ruta Puuc. IMO, it is totally your call whether you split Merida and Santa Elena 2 and 2 or 3 and 1.

momoftwinboys09 Jul 10th, 2014 05:12 PM

Perfect...Merida it night along the night in Valladolid, and 2 final beach relax nights.

And if after he gets the news(Christmas) he agrees to take an extra day, from everything I've read and seen...we could definitively use an extra night in Merida.

But if not 3 will be better than 0 :)

november_moon Jul 11th, 2014 09:34 AM

Looks good. And if you do get the extra night, I would definitely add it to Merida.

If for some reason the Flycatcher Inn doesn't work for you - booked up or whatever - the Pickled Onion is just down the road. We stayed their and really liked it. Even if you stay at the Flycatcher, go to the Pickled Onion for dinner. Their restaurant has a nice outdoor dining room set on a small hill so you get nice breezes in the evening. When we were there, they were also adding a patio, which I am sure they have finished. The food is very good and the people are nice. We met several people there at dinner who had come over from the Flycatcher (which they all reported was a good place to stay).

momoftwinboys09 Dec 23rd, 2014 04:35 AM

I just wanted to thank everyone for the help in brainstorming this trip. I'm working on printing photos of various places that we will visit so I can wrap up for Christmas. We are booked to fly into Cancun on Wed April 1 and will fly home on the 7th. We will take a bus directly to Merida for 2 nights and then rent a car on the 3rd am to head toward uxmal and ruta Puuc. We'll stay st Flycatcherinn for 2 nights, then Valladolid for 1 night and drive back to Cancun for the last 2 nights on the beach. If we can get in Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, uxmal and the others on Rita puuc, then we have accomplished a lot I believe.
Please let me know if there is anything else I want to wrap up as a gift for him to open. He still has no clue!

hopefulist Dec 23rd, 2014 06:35 AM

I'd purchase together a package that has things for the trip - maybe a cool, wicking travel shirt, a neck cooler, an extra SD card for his camera, a headlamp, a nice, small set of binoculars, a map, etc.

hopefulist Dec 23rd, 2014 06:35 AM

Have a great trip!

jamie99 Dec 23rd, 2014 12:22 PM

Sounds nice, you might want to look into staying in Puerto Morelos or Isla Mujeres rather than Cancun. Too many high rise hotels for my taste, but others like it for nightlife and shopping. YMMV

kja Dec 23rd, 2014 05:08 PM

Sounds good! Your plan is ambitious, but IME, doable, and yes: If you can get in Chichen Itza, Ek' Balam, Uxmal and the others on Ruta Puuc, then you will have accomplished a lot. :-) BTW, have you looked into the Cenotes Dzitnup? There are really close to Valladolid, and don't take much time to see....

SambaChula Dec 25th, 2014 12:35 PM

Based on my own first experience in the Yucatan, I would rent a car from Easyway on arrival at Cancun.
Day 1 If you arrive in the afternoon, you can be in Valladolid (2 hours) to enjoy the music and dancing Sunday night on the plaza.
Day 2 Ek Balam and a cenote. Overnight Valladolid.
Day 3 Chichen Itza early and drive on to Merida perhaps stopping at a cenote.
Day 4 Uxmal and overnight Merida.
Day 5 Drive to Tulum via Coba. Overnight Tulum.(pueblo or beach hotels)
Day 6 Tulum. Beach at ruins. Overnight Puerto Morelos or Playa del Carmen for return of car next day and departure.

We actually didn't do Merida or Uxmal on our first trip in favor of spending more time on the gorgeous beach in Tulum, a place we have gone back to time after time, and snorkling with giant turtles and rays in Akumal. If you are a beach person, you will not be able to leave Tulum easily, and the 4 ruins (CI, EB, Coba, Tulum) are plenty for one trip (without overload). So you could change night 3 and day 4, or add days. Beachwise, Progresso is nothing compared to Tulum, IMO.

btw Coba pyramid (which is NOT the tallest in Yucatan as many articles claim; recently explored/opened Calakmul actually turns out to be higher)has a stout rope up the middle to help ascend and descend; EkBalam has an impressive sculpture half way up, steps in better shape, but no rope.

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