Envision a land where verdant rainforests meet pristine beaches, where fiery volcanoes tower over bustling cityscapes, and where the call of exotic wildlife echoes in the air. This is Costa Rica, a small Central American country that boasts an astonishing variety of natural wonders and exciting adventures. It’s a place that invites you to embrace the “Pura Vida” lifestyle – a life of simple pleasures, tranquility, and reverence for nature. It’s easy to see why Costa Rica is one of the top backpacking destinations in the world.

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature lover, or a history buff, Costa Rica has something to offer. However, navigating this rich landscape can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. This guide will shed light on some of Costa Rica’s top destinations for backpackers, helping you plan a trip that will leave you enriched, exhilarated, and yearning for more.

The Jewel of the Pacific: Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park Beach

Manuel Antonio National Park Beach

Located on the Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio National Park is a cherished gem. Despite being the smallest national park in Costa Rica, it is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. It’s home to white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, two and three-toed sloths, and a myriad of bird species.

The park offers a unique blend of lush rainforest, white-sand beaches, and stunning coral reefs. Whether you choose to explore the park’s numerous hiking trails, enjoy a refreshing swim, or embark on a snorkeling adventure, Manuel Antonio is sure to captivate your senses.

Venture into the Clouds: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Sky Bridge in Monteverde

Sky Bridge in Monteverde

If you’re intrigued by the mysterious allure of the cloud forest, Monteverde should top your list. The reserve is shrouded in a constant cover of clouds, creating a unique ecosystem brimming with endemic flora and fauna. Discover why Monteverde is a popular destination in Costa Rica for backpackers for many reasons.

From colorful orchids and bromeliads to the elusive quetzal and three-wattled bellbird, biodiversity abounds. Adventurous visitors can explore the forest from a unique perspective via hanging bridges or exhilarating zip-line tours. The serenity of the forest is broken only by the sounds of nature – a constant reminder of the vibrant life that thrives in these clouds.

A Glimpse into History: Guayabo National Monument

Guayabo, Costa Rica's Archaeological Treasure

Guayabo, Costa Rica’s Archaeological Treasure

For those interested in the rich history of Costa Rica, the Guayabo National Monument offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. As Costa Rica’s largest and most important archaeological site, Guayabo unveils the remnants of a pre-Columbian city that was home to a significant civilization until around 1400 AD.

Among the ruins, you can observe ancient aqueducts, tombs, petroglyphs, and mysterious stone paths. A visit to Guayabo is a journey back in time, an opportunity to understand the roots of Costa Rican culture and history.

The Gateway to Adventure: Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano National Park is often synonymous with adventure for Costa Rica tours. Dominated by the impressive Arenal Volcano, the park offers an array of exciting activities. Embark on a hike through the lush forest, explore the ancient lava fields, soak in natural hot springs, or paddle a canoe on the serene Lake Arenal.

At night, you might even get to witness the awe-inspiring sight of lava flowing down the slopes of the volcano. The park also boasts an incredible diversity of wildlife, from vibrant toucans and parrots to sloths and various monkey species.

Relax and Unwind: The Beaches of Guanacaste

Playa Conchal, Guanacaste Costa Rica

Playa Conchal, Guanacaste Costa Rica

For those who long for sun, sand, and sea, the Guanacaste province’s stunning beaches are the perfect antidote to a busy life. This region, located in northwestern Costa Rica, is blessed with some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, each unique in its charm. It’s easy to see why Guanacaste is one of Costa Rica’s top destinations for backpackers.

Playa Conchal, with its shell-studded sand and crystalline waters, is ideal for snorkeling and swimming. Tamarindo Beach is a surfer’s paradise, boasting consistent waves and a lively nightlife scene. For a tranquil retreat, Playa Flamingo offers a serene environment and stunning sunsets.

While in Guanacaste, don’t miss out on a sea turtle nesting tour. The beaches of Ostional and Playa Grande are among the world’s most important nesting sites for various sea turtle species – a truly magical experience to witness.

Top Things to Do in Costa Rica for Backpackers – Final Thoughts

Costa Rica, with its myriad of wonders, beckons adventurers, nature lovers, and culture enthusiasts alike. Its vibrant landscapes promise an escape from the ordinary – a chance to immerse in the raw beauty of nature, indulge in thrilling adventures, and resonate with the rhythms of a rich, captivating culture. Whether you’re exploring the depths of the rainforest, soaking up history, or lazing on a sunny beach, every moment in Costa Rica brings you closer to the essence of ‘Pura Vida’ – the pure life. Pack your backpack and let the spirit of adventure guide you through this enchanting land.


With its picturesque, cobblestone streets and sceneries, Antigua is arguably one of the most beautiful towns to visit in all of Central America (let alone just Guatemala). Filled with colonial architecture, bustling markets, and spiraling volcanoes that assault from all corners, Antigua is an absolute must-visit.

In this guide, we’ll explore this Central American gem, including FIVE of the very best free things to do in Antigua, Guatemala. We’ll explore each individually, including everything you’ll need to know such as how to get there as well as the history behind each destination.

Free Thing 1: Explore The Plaza Central Park

As well the picture-perfect landmarks, Antigua is also known for its charming yet bustling plazas. For anyone backpacking Guatemala the Plaza Central Park is the heart of the town and is a great place to pass by during any time of the day. Exploring this plaza makes the top of our list as the best free thing to do in Antigua Guatemala.

Exploring the Plaza Central Park is one of our favorite free things to do in Antigua

Exploring the Plaza Central Park is one of our favorite things to do in Antigua

Within the park, you’ll find a large fountain, as well as many benches for you to sit on and watch local life unfold in front of your eyes. There are also lots of vendors around here, selling cheap ice creams, drinks, and typical dishes of Guatemala, all for a cheap price. 

Like many Latin American Plazas, this one is also surrounded by many important buildings on its outskirts, such as the Ayuntamiento and the Catedral San José. What is quaint and relaxing during the day quickly turns into atmospheric when the night comes. 

During the evening you’ll find tonnes more locals out and about, with public performances and activities on regularly. 

It is known that many street vendors work here and wait for tourists to arrive, so if you’re approached and not interested, simply a polite “no gracias” will suffice. 

For reference, the plaza is around two blocks away from the Santa Catalina arch, so it’s worthwhile combining both on a short walk around town.

Free Thing 2: Mercado Central Antigua

Guatemala is known for its unique and vibrant culture, and there’s no better introduction than through its bustling town markets. The Mercado Central Antigua is located on the western edge of town, at the end of 3a Calle Poniente. Wandering around the market is one of our favorite free things to do in Antigua, Guatemala.

Free things to do in Antigua - The bustling Mercado Central Antigua

The bustling Mercado Central Antigua

Here you’ll find locals selling everything from foods to artisanal products and electronics, however, the main experience is simply joining-in with the somewhat chaotic herd as you enter the busy ring of stalls. Here you can also spot many of the local “chicken buses” that Guatemala is famous for. 

Our main tip when visiting this market is to leave all valuables at home, and any phone and wallet in your front pockets or in a safe pouch in you. 

Like most Latin American countries, Guatemala also has a reputation for pickpocketing, so a little preparation before will ease most of your worries. 

Also, be sure to dress down and leave flashy accessories at home; not just to avoid any unwanted attention, but also to show locals respect as many live in poverty. 

Free Thing 3: Arco de Santa Catalina

Antigua truly is full of amazing architecture and beautiful landmarks. If you’re looking for free things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, you could simply wander around and take in the sights. However, the Arco de Santa Catalina has to be up there as one of the very best landmarks. Type ‘Antigua’ (followed by Guatemala of course – or else you’ll get the Caribbean island instead) into Google and this will most likely be the first image you’ll see. 

The iconic Arco de Santa Catalina in Antigua, Guatemala

The iconic Arco de Santa Catalina in Antigua, Guatemala

This faded yellow arch and clock tower is one of the very best things to see in town, and not just for the sight itself. Located along the busy 5th Avenue Norte, here you’ll also see many locals working as well as chicken buses riding through from time to time, giving a much more authentic view of everyday Guatemalan life. 

Whilst nowadays a snap-worthy site, the Santa Catalina arch used to be a walkway for the local nuns, so that they could pass into the convent without leaving the monastery. 

There are some backpacker hostels close by but if you stay outside the immediate area, we recommend heading there in the early morning when the mist from the previous night is still lingering which makes for a great photo. Another great time to visit is at dusk, especially if you’re lucky to see the red lava flows of Volcán Fuego in the distance. 

Whichever you decide, be sure to bring a couple of layers since temperatures plummet around these times in Antigua!

Constructed in the early 18th century, the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall in English) is one of the most stunning buildings to see in Antigua. 

Free Thing 4: Walk through the Ayuntamiento

With noticeable baroque features, rows of stone pillars, and looping arches, it’s quite intriguing to see the different eras of Antigua’s rich past combine here, where you’ll be able to see a variety of contrasting styles. 

Due to Guatemala’s hot tectonic activity, the town hall had been rattled by a series of earthquakes, which was then followed by restoration efforts in the 19th century. Whilst still used today by the municipal government, it’s open for viewing pleasure to the public from 8:00-12:00, and also from 14:00-18:00, making it one of the best things to do for free in Antigua Guatemala.

We recommend heading between 8:00-9:00, as you’ll beat all the crowds who come later and can have the place more or less to yourself. 

We also recommend combining this with a walk in the Plaza Central Park and also to the Santa Catalina arch, since they’re all within a stone’s throw of each other (not to mention the town of Antigua being pretty small anyhow).

Free Thing 5: Cerro de la Cruz

What makes Antigua especially great is its epic landscapes, with volcanoes looming pretty much everywhere you look! Volcán de Fuego is still active, meaning you’ll also be able to see puffs of smoke every now and then, and if you’re lucky, a hot red flow of lava at night. 

The Cerro de la Cruz with a view to Volcan Agua

The Cerro de la Cruz with a view to Volcan Agua

And as far as viewpoints go to see all of this beauty, Cerro de la Cruz is by far the best. Located just outside of Antigua on a hill (in the north), you can walk here in around 30 minutes from the town center.

As well as the views over the town, there’s also a giant cross which is great for a snap or two. Here you’ll find local vendors selling local Guatemalan dishes if you get peckish too. 

Be sure to bring lots of water, as it can get quite warm during the day when you’re hiking up to the viewpoint. The absolute best time to head here is around 5 pm, just as the afternoon draws to a close. 

You can thank us later! From here you can actually continue upwards into the highlands if you fancy. The path continues up to the road, and if you follow for around an hour (or get a taxi if you must!) you’ll come to a small village higher up with even better views.


And that’s all for our guide on free things to do in Antigua, Guatemala! This stunning colonial town is one of the best destinations to visit in Guatemala

With an abundance of volcanoes to be explored, and historical sights and landmarks aplenty, it rightfully so is a must-visit when in this area of Central America. 

In this guide, we’ve explored 5 of the very best things to see and do for free, which range from awesome viewpoints to picturesque buildings and sights. 

We’ve also given our own recommendations on each to help you have the best experience possible, as well as how to get to each individual attraction.

Living La Vida Loca? Sorry, Ricky Martin, it’s all about the Pura Vida (“Pure Life”) in Costa Rica. And the best way to experience this is by visiting the multitude of national parks — 28 in total. And, because the country’s so small, it’s easy to visit many of them in a short trip. 

Before you Go: To ensure you have a great hiking experience in Costa Rica, be sure to check out the AllTrails app. The app has an extensive list of the best trails for hiking in Costa Rica, with reviews from other hikers to keep you up to date on the latest trail conditions. You can filter by trail difficulty, length, and suitability and download trail maps to help keep you on track even when you’re offline.

So, let’s dive into the best hikes in Costa Rica for your next visit.

The Catarata del Toro Waterfall Hike


Catarata del Toro Waterfall cascading into a volcanic crater - hiking in costa rica

Catarata del Toro Waterfall cascades into a volcanic crater

About two hours outside San Jose is a towering waterfall you won’t want to miss.

As you hike, tropical rainforests engulf you like a pig-in-a-blanket. There are a few viewpoints you’ll pass before arriving at the waterfall. Snap some pictures along the way before you descend to the waterfall itself. 

If you were thinking this was an ordinary waterfall, you’d be wrong. This waterfall is an astounding 270 feet high, and it sits inside the crater of a now-extinct volcano. The impressive waterfall alone makes this one of the best hikes in Costa Rica.

Because this waterfall isn’t as visited as other sights, you’ll experience wildlife living undisturbed by civilization. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and more zip from tree to tree as you wander the trail.

So, take your time and enjoy the experience; it’s sure to be good.

Hike Details

Length: 1 mile

Difficulty: Easy

Getting to the trail: The start of the hike is located between San Jose and La Fortuna. Two hours driving from San Jose, this trail is easily accessed for anyone staying in the capital. The closest town is Bajas del Toro, which is a good starting point. You can find the start of the trail on Google Maps here.

Rio Celeste Hike

The other-worldly colors of the Rio Celeste - one of the best hikes in Costa Rica

The other-worldly colors of the Rio Celeste – one of the best hikes in Costa Rica

Timing is essential to this hike. It’s straightforward, and signs are posted to help you stay on the trail. But, to experience the magic of what makes this one of the best hikes in Costa Rica, you’ll want to visit during the dry season — from December to April.

Why go during this time?

When it rains, mud mixes into the water and turns it a dark brown. But, when it’s a clear day, the water turns to Cool Blue Gatorade, and it’s beautiful.

Whether you get to catch the blue waters or not, the hike itself is full of flora and fauna for you to observe. Snakes, birds, and rare plants litter this hike, so keep your eyes peeled for any animals or plants who may be hiding just out of view.

Hike Details

Length: 4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Getting to the trail: Rio Celeste is located inside Tenorio Volcano National Park. The closest town is Bijagua de Upala. However, trips can be arranged from La Fortuna, a more popular option for visitors to Costa Rica. La Fortuna is 29 miles from the national park.

You can find the start of the trail on Google Maps here.

La Leona Madrigal Trail

Parque Nacional Corcovado - one of the best hikes in Costa Rica to experience wildlife

Parque Nacional Corcovado – one of the best hikes in Costa Rica to experience wildlife

National Geographic labeled Corcovado National Park as the most biologically intense place on the planet. And it contains a plethora of hiking options. 

So, you’re sure to have a close-up experience with various wildlife, making this one of the best places to go hiking in Costa Rica.

What type of wildlife exactly? Tapirs, monkeys, jaguars, and eagles are some animals you’re sure to see on your hike.

I recommend the La Leona Madrigal Trail if you’re looking for a hike that will give you a dose of all that this park has to offer.

This out-and-back trail will take you along the coast, where you can enjoy the stunning beaches of Costa Rica. But that’s not all. It also takes you inland to the jungles, so you can live out your inner Indiana Jones.

You can book overnight stays in the park, which will give you an immersive experience in the wild. Or, you can stay in one of the nearby towns for easy access. The closest towns are Puerto Jimenez and Drake Bay.

Hike Details

Length: 6 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Getting to the trail: The trail begins between Carate Mixeo Wildlife Refuge and Playa Madrigal, located on the southern end of Corcovado National Park. You can follow National Route 245 to easily access the area.

You can find the trail start on Google Maps here.

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges

One of the many hanging bridges on the trail in Arenal

One of the many hanging bridges on the trail in Arenal

The area around Arenal is known for it’s many hiking options. A shorter hike near the Arenal Volcano offers a more accessible way to experience the cloud forest. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still full of novelty and intrigue.

The Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges hike consists of 15 total bridges, six of which are hanging. As you navigate the forest, you’ll get fantastic views of the volcano and the occasional visit from monkeys, birds, and other wildlife.

This hike would be excellent to pair with another hike near the Arenal Volcano — which are plentiful.

I’d recommend the Los Tucanes hike, a 2.5-mile hike across hanging bridges and lava fields. Wildlife fills Arenal National Park, so you’ll encounter unique animals on this hike.

Hike Details

Length: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Getting to the trail: Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is located on the northern side of Arenal Volcano. From La Fortuna, it’s about a 30-minute drive via Route 142. The park contains a large parking lot, so renting a car is an excellent option.

You can find the start on Google Maps here.

Cerro Chirripo

View of San Gerardo de Rivas and Cerro Chirripó National Park in the background

View of San Gerardo de Rivas and Cerro Chirripó National Park in the background

Up for a more significant challenge? How about climbing to the top of the tallest mountain when hiking in Costa Rica?

This one isn’t for the faint-hearted, as it’s over 12 miles one way. That doesn’t sound bad until you add over 7,000 feet of elevation gain. Yeah, this one is going to challenge you.

But, you don’t have to do it all in one day. Most people choose to do a two or three-day option. Three miles away from the summit, most hikers will stay at the Crestones Base Camp lodge.

Once you reach the top, though, you’re greeted with views out over Costa Rica — from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean on each side. It is easy to see what makes this one of the best hikes in Costa Rica – especially for experienced backpackers who are looking to get off the beaten path.

Hike Details

Length: 24 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Difficult

Getting to the trail: To get to the beginning of the trail, you will start in the nearby town of San Gerardo de Rivas. Booking a stay in this small town is an excellent option so you can have easy access at the beginning and end of your hike. From there, it’s a short drive to the park entrance.

You can find the start on Google Maps here.

Best Hikes in Costa Rica – Final Thoughts

Costa Rica doesn’t see almost two million tourists a year because it lacks options. In fact, around 80% of its visitors come to experience the staggering amount of ecology on offer.

And there’s no better way to experience that ecological beauty than hitting the trails and leaving civilization behind.

You’re equipped to do exactly that on your next visit with this guide to the best hikes in Costa Rica. Now go get a taste of that Pura Vida!

15 years ago, if you mentioned the name “Merida” to travelers, most wouldn’t know where you were talking.

Fast forward to today, and it’s a rising travel destination. Everybody’s heard of Cancún, Tulum, and Cozumel. Merida is the new kid on the block in Mexico.

“Why is Merida quickly becoming a tourist hotspot?”

Well, how much time do you have?

The Maya influenced the cuisine in Yucatán today, which results in a spicy, but delectable set of dishes. There is also an abundance of Mayan ruins near Merida that you can easily visit on a day trip. And, it’s easy to access nearby areas to immerse yourself in the city and its surroundings.

This leads us to the best day trips from Merida Mexico. To be honest, this list could be much longer. But, for brevity, I kept it to 10.

So, without further ado.

Visit the Uxmal Ruins near Merida

Chichen Itza is the first image that comes to most people’s minds when you mention Mayan ruins near Merida. But, only an hour from Merida is another remarkable set of ruins (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) named Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mawl). 

And, best of all, no crowds or pesky vendors! As you hike your way around the area (which is larger than expected), the only other visitors will be the plethora of iguanas.

Visit Uxmal - one of the few Mayan ruins that you can still climb!

Visit Uxmal – one of the few Mayan ruins that you can still climb!

Even better, you can climb the ruins at Uxmal! No other day trip from Merida offers this one! 

Try doing that at Chichen Itza, and the police will haul you away. So, if you’ve ever had a dream of being a Mayan King, Uxmal is your best chance to play out your vision.

Explore Dzibilchaltún Ruins, then Swim in a Cenote

Is one set of Mayan ruins not enough for you? That’s alright; there are plenty of ruins near Merida throughout the Yucatán Peninsula. Dzibilchaltún may not look like a lot on its face, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

If you’re visiting for the Spring or Fall Equinox, you can witness a rare spectacle when the sun rises perfectly between the Temple of the Seven Dolls. It’s a testament to the mathematical and building skills of the Maya.

After you check out the ruins, head to Cenote Xlacah — located right next to the ruins — for a refreshing dip in a natural pool.

You’ll see many Mexican families gather here on the weekend to spend time with their families, so it’s an excellent local experience as well.

For a short trip, Dzibilchaltún is one of the best day trips from Merida.

Sunbathe at Progreso Beach

Progreso Beach is an ideal day trip from Merida for those who want sun and sand on their trip. Under an hour to the north of Merida is this gorgeous white-sanded beach.

Park yourself under an umbrella, order some ceviche and micheladas and stay put. Unless it’s to take a dip in the turquoise waters that fill the Gulf of Mexico.

Visit Progreso Beach on a short day trip from Merida

Visit Progreso Beach on a short day trip from Merida

If you get tired of sunbathing, check out some surrounding activities, including:

  • Check out Progreso Pier (The world’s longest pier)
  • Visit El Corchito Ecological Reserve
  • Go fishing near Scorpion Reef

Get a Dose of Culture in Valladolid

Buses of tourists fly past this overlooked town every day, missing out on all Valladolid offers and one of the best day trips from Merida. If you want a real piece of genuine Mexican culture? This is the place for you.

Colonial architecture in Valladolid at the Iglesia de San Servacio

Colonial architecture in Valladolid at the Iglesia de San Servacio

You can spend hours roaming the unique museums and colorful markets and streets. You’ll catch one of Valladolid’s traditional dances if you’re lucky. There isn’t a lack of options here.

If you visit, be sure to check out:

  • Casa de los Venados
  • Mercado Municipal
  • Convent of San Bernardo
  • Cenote Zaci

See the Rainbows in Campeche

Tucked on the inner coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, this undersized UNESCO World Heritage is about two hours from Merida by car.

But, if culture and history are your passions, that’s two and a half hours of worth it.

Campeche was used as a Caribbean port from the 1600-to-1700s. But, it was a port often under siege from pirate raids. In response, the citizens constructed large walls and fortifications around the city as a shield to keep themselves safe.

Inside this strong exterior is an Instagram hashtag in city form. Colorful buildings line every street. Yellows, greens, blues, oranges — every hue imaginable surrounds you.

Looking to fit a lot of Mexico into a short period? Campeche is one of the best day trips from Merida you can choose.

Play in the Water at Hacienda Muycuche

There are tons of cenotes near Merida. But, if you’re looking to get away from the masses of tourists, Hacienda Mucuyche is a fantastic option. You’ll have to earn it, though. And that’s by locating it.

You can message the place yourself to book a reservation if you want to make it easy for yourself. But, if you’re driving, know that this place can be tough to find for locals, too.

But the rewards are fantastic.

Crystal clear waters, Batman-like caves, and…a guided tour? That’s right. You have to book a guided tour for access. Still, it’s a pleasant tour, and the guides offer some intriguing information about the formation of the cenotes.

Don’t miss out on Hacienda Mucuyche if you’re inclined to get outside the typical tourist path.

See a World Wonder at Chichen Itza

It’s unthinkable to leave Chichen Itza off the list of the best day trips from Merida Mexico. Despite its popularity, the classic Mayan ruins are always a must-see if you’re visiting Merida. It’s not every day you get to see a world wonder.

The imposing Chichen Itza - a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World

The imposing Chichen Itza – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World

The site is only an hour and a half from Merida, so it’s an easy drive for a self-guided day trip. Or, you can book one of the many tour options that leave from Merida.

Either way, you should visit Chichen Itza if you haven’t yet. Otherwise, you should be looking up ticket prices now (around $27).

Take in the Pink Waters of Las Coloradas

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you when you see the bubble gum pink waters of Las Coloradas. These waters are abnormal, and they’ll have your friends thinking you photoshopped them.

But there’s no editing involved here. 

Algae and sea life thrive in the area due to the water’s high salt content. And, when sunlight hits the water, you get something akin to a giant Kool-Aid spill.

The location is private property, so you can only get so close to the waters for pictures.

Luckily, that’s not the only thing to see here, as Las Coloradas lies in the Río Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. This reserve is home to various wildlife, including flamingos, crocodiles, and jaguars.

Watch the World Go By in Celestún

Want more flamingos? Then Celestún is one of the best day trips from Merida you can take.

Watch the playful flamingos at Celestún, an easy day trip from Merida

Watch the playful flamingos at Celestún, an easy day trip from Merida

The city itself is charming enough — containing a small square and a few beautiful beaches.

But, most visit the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve to see the high concentration of flamingoes. There’s much more birdlife to witness throughout the reserve to make this a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Celestún is the perfect place for a day trip where you want to take it slow. The easy vibes of Celestún will help you settle right in.

Ride a Horse-Drawn Mining Cart to the Cuzamá Cenotes

Want a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else? How about a horse pulling you to three different cenotes?

If that sounds like your idea for a good day trip, then the hour drive to the Cuzamá Cenotes is well worth it.

Each cenote is fantastic, but the last one — Chelentun — is the best of them all. Steps lead down to a stone platform where you can ease yourself into the deep blue waters or jump straight in to get a head-start over your friends.

Enjoy your time in the cool waters here before heading back on the cart and into the Yucatán heat.

Day Trips from Merida – Final Thoughts

If Merida isn’t on your list of places to visit yet, you should add it immediately. The mixture of culture, history, and food is perfect for travelers looking to dive into a country.

Hopefully, these best day trips from Merida will help you experience every last bit of the area.

Pin 10 Best Day Trips from Merida Mexico

Pin 10 Best Day Trips from Merida Mexico

Anyone who’s into world travel will be familiar with Tulum. This jungle coastline on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula has become a recent hotspot, with its stunning Cenotes and boutique beach hotels featuring prominently all over social media. While Tulum is no longer off the beaten path, the food scene, the funky artist vibe, and the stunning nearby sites make it the perfect destination in our books. If you’re in the area, be sure to take advantage of some great day trips from Tulum.


Renting a car is the best way to take day trips from Tulum, but you can also find local tour operators who will organize everything for you. You can check out Get Your Guide or Viator to get an idea of pricing and reviews and to book your tour ahead of time.

1. Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza - one of the best day trips from tulum

The Chichen Itza Pyramid – one of the New Wonders of the World

It’s safe to say that the number one day trip from Tulum is a visit to one of the New Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you see this awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site and how it rises impressively from the surrounding countryside.

Chichen Itza is best reached by car and takes about 2 hours one-way from Tulum. If you don’t have your own car, you can go on a full-day excursion that combines a visit to Chichen Itza, the Hubiku Cenote, and Valladolid.

2. Cenote Ik Kil

Swim in the stunning Ik Kil Cenote - a day trip from Tulum

Swim in the stunning Ik Kil Cenote

Located a 2-hour drive from Tulum is one of the most beautiful Cenotes on the Yucatán Peninsula. The ceiling of a former freshwater limestone cave has long since collapsed, creating a steep crater-like opening with jungle vines spilling into the pool below.

It’s hard to believe that a place like this exists on earth. Keep in mind that there is a fee to enter which seems to get more expensive year after year so come prepared with your pesos. 

3. Swimming with Turtles in Akumal

For one of the best day trips from Tulum, head up the coast to Akumal, a Mayan word that means place of the turtles. In Akumal Bay, you can swim with juvenile green sea turtles who hang out here until they head to open waters in their adulthood.

Akumal is a public beach, so it’s absolutely free to swim with the turtles. However, there are some privately-owned beaches near the area, so be sure to avoid trespassing and upsetting the local owners.

4. Coba Mayan Ruins

Climb the Coba Mayan Ruins on your daytrip in Quintana Roo

Climb the Coba Mayan Ruins

The Yucatán Peninsula is home to some of the most impressive Mayan ruins, and the pyramid at Coba is a must-see. This particular site is special because it’s one of the only Mayan ruins that you can actually climb.

If you have your own car, it’s about a 45-minute drive from Tulum, but there are also local buses that connect Coba to Tulum.

5. Valladolid

The Suytun Cenote near the town of Valladolid

The Suytun Cenote near the town of Valladolid

The colorful quaint little town of Valladolid is a perfect day trip from Tulum for anyone who wants to see an eclectic colonial town in the heart of the Yucatán. If you’re making the trek to Valladolid, don’t miss the nearby Suytun Cenote.

This Cenote is one of the most popular sites on the Yucatán, famous for its cathedral walls and stone platform that leads to the middle of the freshwater pool. It’s a popular spot, so it’s best to visit Suytun Cenote in the afternoon after the tourist buses have departed. 

6. Cozumel

Take a Yucatan Peninsula day trip to the paradise beaches of Cozumel

Relax on the paradise beaches of Cozumel

Cozumel is a mostly-undeveloped island that looks like an island paradise: white sand, turquoise waters, and palm trees that grow right up to the shore. Luckily, it’s possible to take a day trip from Tulum to Cozumel.

There are ferries departing from Playa del Carmen every hour, so there is never too long of a wait. Once on Cozumel, you can go snorkelling among the reefs, or head to a sandy beach to relax.

7. Sian Ka’an Biosphere

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the impressive Mayan-built canals that can still be seen in this area. Located about an hour away, it’s one of the best day trips from Tulum for anyone looking to get a taste for the Mayan culture.

Visitors can even take a kayaking tour through the ancient canals that were used to control irrigation in the region.  If you want to go with a guide through the vast Biosphere, you can take a half-day tour from Tulum that combines kayaking in the lagoon with exploring Mayan ruins in the surrounding jungle.

8. Rio Secreto underwater cave tour

Explore the Rio Secreto Caves and underground lakes

Explore the Rio Secreto Caves and underground lakes

The Rio Secreto is one of the most stunning sights on the Yucatán peninsula. This network of limestone caves has underwater rivers, hiking trails, and massive cathedral-like rooms. You’ll have to go with a guide to explore the underground area, and there are tours ranging from full-day experiences to shorter visits.

9. Swimming with Whale Sharks near Isla Mujeres

Swim with Whale Sharks off the coast of Holbox

Swim with Whale Sharks off the coast of Isla Mujeres

If you’re spending a long vacation in Tulum, you should make time to take a day trip to the north. Here you’ll find a more remote and untouched part of the Yucatán peninsula, so it’s the perfect day trip for those looking to get off the beaten path.

From June to September, you can find Whale Sharks off the coast of Isla Mujeres, and it’s possible to book a tour from Tulum to swim alongside these gentle giants.

10. Bacalar Laguna de 7 Colores

The Bacalar Laguna de 7 Colores & Bacalar Cenote

The Bacalar Laguna de 7 Colores & Bacalar Cenote

If you’re looking for something further afield from Tulum, you can head 3 hours south to Bacalar Laguna de 7 Colores. It’s a good idea to take a day trip to Bacalar from Tulum if you want to get off the beaten path in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Although it’s a fair distance away from Tulum, the stunning lagoon is worth it. The best way to see the lagoon is from the water, so you might consider splurging on a full-day sailing trip that picks up from Tulum.