This adventure guide to Quintana Roo, Mexico will take you on a road trip from Cancun to Akumal and ending in Tulum. Quintana Roo is a Mexican state within the Yucatán Peninsula packed full of activities for all the adventurers out there. My one week adventure itinerary was created for our trip in September so you’ll have all the information you need for the perfect vacation. The itinerary covers how to get around, where to stay, what to eat, and things to do for each city.
The Adventurer’s Guide to One Week in Quintana Roo
Getting to Quintana Roo
Transportation: We flew round trip out of the Cancun Airport, giving us a full day to explore the Caribbean version of Las Vegas. Renting a car in Mexico can get tricky with insurance, some rental centers require high deposits up to $2,500 usd. Do your research on how car insurance works in Mexico prior to your arrival.
My recommendation for if you’re traveling during the off season is to wait until you’re at the airport to book your rental car. The rental companies at the airport will have more competitive pricing opportunities then you will find online and will negotiate with you. Have them explain the two different insurance options to you before you agree to rent with them.
Our last night in Mexico we had breathtaking Caribbean sea view. We stayed right in the center of the Hotel Zone to be close to the beach but not too far from the airport for our early flight the next day.
Located on Sleeping Bear Bay
Best Location – Inside of Park
2 Minute Walk to Park Visitor Center
Where To Eat
Quieres un, café? Brunch at one of the delicious local restaurants. We started our day with coffee and food after an early arrival before heading into the hotel zone. We ate at an adorable coffee shop (no longer open; updated 2020) which had a huge menu of pasteles, and traditional Mexican dishes ranging from sweet crepes to savory huevos rancheros. We had a tough time choosing, so we ordered both (plus a chilaquiles verdes con pollo).
Things to Do in Cancun
Head to the north side of the hotel zone and spend the day beach hopping down to the Caribbean side. There are 11 public beaches within the hotel zone, each beach is unique and offers visitors warm turquoise colored water along white sand.
Our last day of the trip we stayed in Cancun & explored local restaurants, shops and accommodations. I regret not planning a water activity for that day, so I would highly recommend doing so because it looks like a blast. Next time we’re in the area we plan to rent surf boards, kayaks or paddle boards to explore the area further.
Climate Change in Mexico
Notice the “red tide” or mounds of decaying algae in my Cancun beach photos…Scientists have warned that the algae are a grave new threat to the Caribbean, not just Cancun.
In the open ocean the algae support birds and other sea life. But when washed ashore, as they start to decay they become an environmental nightmare. The decaying algae, emit hydrogen sulfide fumes that kills fish, coral and seagrass.
It also causes headaches and nausea in people- especially those that must clean it each morning before the tourists arrive. When not cleared, the algae becomes piled high blocking endangered sea turtles from reaching the shore to lay their eggs.
Day Trip to Akumal
Akumal is a small Caribbean community known for its sea turtles! Spend a day swimming with Sea Turtles in Akumal. The town is just a short drive from Playa del Carmen or Tulum making for an easy day trip. You can see the sea turtles on your own or take a guided tour.
We decided to try our luck and explore on our own. Vendors will try and tell you that you MUST join a tour/wear a life vest to see the turtles- this is not true. There are roped off buoyed areas protecting major turtle feeding areas; if you stay inside the designated swim areas you can explore on your own as we did.
My recommendation would be to arrive at the beach early, the visibility in the water goes down as people swim throughout the day and stir up the sand. I would recommend not going through a guided tour and arrive to the beaches early for your best chances to see some turtles.
Make sure each person has their own mask/snorkel if you choose to search for turtles on your own. Our group had two snorkels/masks for 6 people to share, and only a few of us were able to spot some turtles. There are plenty of vendors along the town center that sell masks and snorkels for your convenience.
Along the Caribbean coast, the town of Tulum offers seaside Mayan ruins to explore, sandy beaches for relaxing and undersea caves for diving. September is the birth month of my favorite travel partner Logan. He earned his PADI Diving Certification a couple months before his birthday so that he could dive the cenotes in Mexico.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Are you the penthouse pool with a view type person or a walking distance to the beach, shopping type? These rentals are going to blow you away.
We spent four nights in a jungle paradise. The three bed three bath penthouse came with a private rooftop pool, penthouse roof suite, and two bed/bath on the main floor.
Where to Eat in Tulum
Budget Friendly: Antojitos La Chiapaneca: Mexican $$
Best Ocean View: Mezzanine; Authentic Thai and casual beach menu includes a legendary Happy Hour if you’re looking for a boozey brunch on the beach, $$$$
Best Tacos: Las Antorcha Food Truck; location varies, $
Instagram Worthy: Kin Toh; Mayan-Mexican cuisine in a tree house venue offering guests an experience they’re sure to remember. Enter the restaurant and you will be surrounded with sounds, smells, and decor. Engaging each of your senses. Make reservations in advance, $$$$$
What to Do in Tulum
A cenote is a freshwater filled Mexican sinkhole. The word Cenote is of Mayan decent and was originally called dzonot or ts’onot, meaning well. The cenotes played a crucial role in the development of the Mayan civilization.
If you love cenotes, check out all my favorite instagrammable cenotes in Tulum post! Details on which cenotes give you the best adventure. Find out where you can swim, scuba dive, snorkel, kayak & explore!
Just a few weeks before our trip to Mexico, Logan had completed his PADI dive certification! Dos Ojos was unanimously the favorite dive of the group. Noted as “The World’s Best Cavern Dives” the name Dos Ojos translates to “two eyes”. Which refers to two nearby cenotes connected by a massive underwater cave system shared between the two.
The two caverns start and end in the same area. Each dive routes are unique, giving divers different areas of the cave to explore. The first dive is 500 meters (1,600 feet) along The Barbie Line and leads divers along the opening of the second eye with plenty of daylight to see the stalactites. The dive along The Batcave Line is a much darker route. With little to no daylight entering the cave system. Divers will ascend up the cave to an open air pocket filled with bats flying everywhere!
Kayaking at Casa Cenote
There are over 3,000 unique cenotes throughout the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. The cenotes are mostly found in the crater area that formed from the meteorite impact (the same meteorite responsible for the dinosaur extinction in this area). The cenotes are great for swimming, diving, snorkeling and more! The extensive underground river systems, make this area of Mexico the best place to experience cave diving.
Explore Tulum Ancient Ruins
The ancient Tulum ruins date back to the 13th-century. This Mayan archaeological site is located within Tulum National Park and offers breathtaking overlooks the sea. Further inland, you’ll find the Cobá archaeological site with pyramid-shaped temples and panoramic views of the jungle.