As one of Mexico’s most vibrant hangouts, Cancun is known for its nightlife. But did you know that Cancun by day is one of the most stunning places to spend your vacation? Even if you’re not a party animal, Cancun could be an ideal stop on your itinerary due to how well-connected it is. As a centrally-located city, it places you in the middle of Mexico’s foremost attractions, including the incredible Mayan ruins of Chichen-Itza and Isla Contoy, where you’ll find the second largest barrier reef in the world. Even if you’re just heading out to Cancun to party and soak up the sun, don’t make the mistake of staying in one place during your Cancun adventure. Plan your trip in advance and make sure to hit these must-see, Instagram-worthy spots on the way.

1. Isla Mujeres

While the name Isla Mujeres might seem a bit cryptic (it translates to “Island of Women,”) in reality, it’s one of the most attraction-filled stops on the way to or from Cancun. You can get there in 20 minutes or so by ferry, which makes the trip from Royal Holiday’s Grand Park Royal Cancún Caribe or Park Royal locations a breeze. While in Isla Mujeres, you can choose between snorkeling and diving for sea life, dining seaside, checking out the local shops, or stopping by the Turtle Farm (that’s right) on the way to Garrafon Park, a natural coral reef that’s way less crowded and touristy than those found in Cancun center. For a mere 5-mile long strip of land, Isla Mujeres packs a serious punch.

2. Tulum

Want to visit a national park, beautiful beach, and historical archeological site in one day? You’re in luck. Tulum is the one-stop location for just about everything you’d want to pack into a day trip, and it’s located only two hours away from Royal Holiday’s Cancun property. There are plenty of buses and shuttles you can take for an easy trip, and once you’re there you won’t believe your eyes. Tulum is home to some of the oldest remnants of Mayan civilization in Mexico, in the form of giant rock formations and archaeological dig sites. Walk along the gorgeous ruins overlooking the beach, and when you’re done, unwind by heading into “modern” Tulum, a small town filled with cafes, restaurants, and tourist hangouts.

3. Playa Del Carmen

If you’re staying at Royal Holiday’s Grand Riviera Princess, you’re in luck: Getting to the idyllic center of Playa Del Carmen won’t take you more than 20 minutes in the car. Located next to Cancun on Mexico’s scenic Yucatan peninsula is the heart of Playa Del Carmen, a gigantic stretch of beach attended by pedestrian walkways, shops, and restaurants. You can swim, tan, find a beautiful coral reef, and sample some of the best tacos on earth. If you’ve got kids in tow, head to Fundadores Park or the 3D Museum of Wonders for a day of cultural enrichment and fun. If you just want to slum it on the beach, you’ll be in good company. Tourists from all over the world head to Playa Del Carmen just to dip their toes in the picture-perfect waters of the Yucatan coast.

4. Chichen-Itza

If ruins are your thing, you’d be remiss not to take a day trip to Chichen-Itza, the site of some of the most famous Mayan architecture still standing in Mexico. Built as the center of a city by indigenous Mayans, Chichen-Itza’s most famous attraction, the towering El Castillo, stands strong even after the passing of centuries. Chichen-Itza today is a monument to Mexico’s past. You can learn about the history of the city, take a tour and learn more about Mayan civilization, or simply wander around taking in the sites and artifacts. For museum-lovers and history buffs, this is a non-negotiable stop on your Mexican itinerary. From Royal Holiday’s Grand Park Royal Cancún Caribe, Chichen Itza is a two-hour trip that’s well worth the trek.

5. Valladolid

For those who really can’t get enough culture and history but also love a bit of clean fun, the city of Valladolid is not to be missed. With architectural highlights like the Convent of San Bernardino of Siena populating the city, Valladolid stands as an eclectic mix of indigenous and Spanish culture. Cathedrals and convents from the 16th century can be found in the city center, and the streets themselves are rich with history. Valladolid is the perfect stop for families or larger groups since the city is teeming with tons of different attractions from art museums to ancient ruins to religious sites and landmarks. Valladolid truly has it all.

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