If you are heading to Cancun on vacation, you might be interested in booking a space on one of the best private tours in Cancun. Opting to participate in a tour takes a lot of the stress out of managing the logistics of your trip yourself.
It means that you have someone else to take care of figuring out how to get from A to B, to pick you up and drop you off from your hotel, and coordinate everything for you. Not to mention, exploring with a local guide means that you can get more insight and information about the local culture, cuisine, and history than you would ever have when exploring alone.
Private Cancun tours mean that the itinerary is completely tailored to you, your schedule, and your interests too. There is no trailing around after a tour group, and no unpleasant journeys on a hot, humid crowded bus.
Instead, you travel with your bilingual guide in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle. Depending on the specific tour, complimentary bottled water, snacks, and lunches are often also included.
The tours are not as expensive as you may think either. Prices are more economical in Mexico on the whole, and it often doesn’t work out much more expensive than trying to do it all independently.
This guide has been written by a British Travel Writer based in the Yucatan (Me!) I have gotten to know the Yucatan peninsula extremely well in the last couple of years of living here so rest assured, you are in good hands with my recommendations.
13 of the Best Private Tours in Cancun in 2023
Choosing the best private tours in Cancun is somewhat subjective and dependent on your interests. Are you looking to explore historical and archeological sites? Or do you want to relax on pristine white-sand beaches, surf, and go swimming with sea turtles?
13 varied options are detailed below. However, if you are overwhelmed, don’t know where to start, or only have the time to do one or two Cancun private tours during your Yucatan itinerary, the ones I would recommend are the early morning tour to Chichen Itza and Ik Kil cenote, the private tour to 4 cenotes, or the private tour of Izamal, Valladolid, Chocolate Museum and Tequila Factory.
Numerous reputable tour companies operate in Cancun and the wider Riviera Maya area. Viator and Get Your Guide are arguably two of the best choices.
Private tour to 4 cenotes
Cenotes are a highlight of visiting Southern Mexico for a lot of people and a must-have experience while you’re in the Yucatan. Cenotes are natural freshwater sinkholes that were formed when the Chicxulub meteor crashed into the earth some 65 million years ago.
(Yes, the same meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs and more than 90% of other life forms on Earth!) The meteor caused the earth’s surface to weaken and collapse.
The result was the creation of more than 7,000 sinkholes (cenotes) across the Yucatan peninsula. This private tour will take you to the stunning Ecoparque Cenotes Zapote nestled in the heart of the lush, tropical jungle.
Swim, snorkel, or cliff jump into the 63m deep Zapote Cenote. Then, hike to Las Palmas Cenote and zipline over the magnificent Abuelo Cheche (“Grandpa Cheche) cenote.
Your professional tour guides can help you take some memorable photos, and provide recommendations of places to eat and things to see and do when you arrive back in Cancun center. Reserve your place plenty of time in advance of your trip!
Private tour to Chichen Itza, cenote, and Valladolid
As one of the “new” seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza needs no introduction. The archeological site is one of the most important Mayan cities in all of Mexico (and wider Latin America).
Chichen Itza dates back to the fifth century AD and was home to over 25,000 people during its heyday. The site is larger than many people realize.
The Temple of Kukulkan at its center is one of the most famous landmarks in Mexico. But you should also look out for the sacred cenote, where the Ancient Mayans would make human sacrifices to the gods, the Temple of the Warriors, and the Tzompantli – a platform where the Mayans would display the severed heads of their enemies to scare off other tribes.
After exploring the ruins with your guide and gaining a deeper understanding of its history and the Mayan civilization, cool off in a cenote before heading to Valladolid. The city of Valladolid is one of four Pueblo Magicos in the Yucatan state.
It was built in 1543 on top of the ruins of a Mayan city known as Zaci. Admire the San Servacio church, the Convento de San Bernardino de Sieno, and the local markets before heading back to Cancun.
This Chichen Itza private tour offers a wonderful experience for people of all ages. Book your place in advance, especially if you are traveling during the high season as this is one of the most popular excursions from the city of Cancun.
Private tour of Izamal, Valladolid, Chocolate Museum, and Tequila Factory
Izamal is one of the most charming pueblo magicos in Southern Mexico. And although a steady trickle of tourists has started to visit in recent years, it still remains largely under the radar.
Pueblo magicos are settlements that have been recognized by the Mexican tourism board for offering particularly interesting gastronomy, culture, history, and nature. Typically when somewhere has been designated as such, you can feel assured it is a worthwhile place to visit.
All of the houses, buildings, and churches in Izamal have been painted a uniform shade of bright yellow in honor of the Mayan Sun God Kinich. Izamal is a photographer’s dream!
A pyramid dedicated to this deity can be found in the center of town and is one of only a handful of pyramids in the Yucatan that were not destroyed by the Spanish colonizers. Head from Izamal to Valladolid via scenic jungle roads and check out the chocolate museum and tequila factory where you will learn the history of two of Mexico’s most famous exports. (With some free samples of course!)
Enjoy these cultural highlights of southern Mexico on this Cancun to Izamal, Valladolid, Chocolate Museum, and Tequila Factory tour.
Private tour from Cancun to Ek Balam including transport and entrance
Ek Balam is an impressive Ancient Mayan city located 171km west of Cancun, close to the city of Temozon. Its name means “dark jaguar” or “black jaguar” in Mayan.
The city was occupied for more than 1,000 years and especially thrived between 770 and 840AD during which time it was a major political hub in the region. It was later abandoned, like many Mayan settlements, and reclaimed by the jungle.
Ek Balam wasn’t rediscovered until as recently as the 1980s! Its most notable structure is “El Torre”, a spectacular 95-foot pyramid that offers incredible views over the jungle canopy from its peak.
On a clear day, you can see out to Chichen Itza and Coba from up here! This is a very popular day trip to do from Cancun.
Click here to learn more about this Ek Balam private tour from Cancun.
Diving in the Mexican Caribbean for beginners
The Mexican Caribbean is, without hesitation, one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. With translucent warm waters, gorgeous reefs, and rare and majestic sea life, the area has everything you could possibly want on a dive.
This private beginner’s diving trip provides a first introduction to scuba diving without the need to go through a long, extensive course. You will start by taking a diving theory class and learning some basic techniques in a pool before moving on to the open ocean.
Your experienced guides will be there for you at all times which is great if you are nervous about your foray into diving. Scuba equipment and wetsuits are included, and you will be provided with plenty of free drinks and snacks throughout the experience.
Private full-day trip to Isla Holbox
Isla Holbox is one of the most beautiful and sought-after travel destinations in the state of Quintana Roo. (And arguably all of Mexico!)
If your schedule permits, you could definitely dedicate a week or more to relaxing on the paradisical beaches here. But if you are limited on time, a day is enough to see the highlights and get a feel for the little island. (You can always come back again another time!)
On this private Isla Holbox day trip, your guide will pick you up from your hotel in Cancun ready to board your private boat from Chiquilia. After the sea crossing, there is plenty of time to relax on the beautiful beaches of Holbox, stop for a traditional Mexican food lunch at a seaside tavern, and learn about the birds and nature that call the island home.
Since this is a private tour, there is plenty of leeway and flexibility around your schedule and what you want to do/see on the island. Book your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!
Half-day sailing private catamaran to Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres (“Island of Women”) is a breathtaking island paradise that sits off the coast of Cancun. This indulgent private tour sees you rent a spacious, luxurious catamaran and cruise off the coast of the island.
The price covers up to 12 passengers and includes snorkeling equipment and an open bar. You will have plenty of time to sail around and discover the natural wonders of the island.
Since this is a private tour, your day is fully customizable. Isla Mujeres is only a small island (it is just 7km long by 650m wide!)
So, if you want to disembark the boat and explore, you can have fun driving to all corners of the island by golf cart. Snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of the Mesoamerican barrier reef, visit the Mayan temple of Ixchel, and relax on the shores of Playa Norte – one of the best beaches in Mexico.
Private visit to Tulum and Sac Actun
The pueblo magico and Riviera Maya beach town of Tulum has quickly grown to become one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico in recent years. But while the crowds can be a turn-off for some, some places are popular for a reason.
The area is famous for its exclusive beach clubs, its beaches boasting soft, powdery white sand and the Tulum ruins – the only ancient Mayan city to be founded by the coast. This private tour includes pick up from your hotel in Tulum and transport and entrance fees to the Tulum archeological site.
Learn about the ancient Mayan city that flourished here between the 13th and 16th centuries and check out the sunbleached remnants of some of the impressive buildings that still stand here today.
Among the various well-preserved structures, some that stand out are the Castillo (castle), the Temple of the Wind, and the Temple of the Frescoes – a spiritual building whose walls were decorated with vibrant, colorful paintings of Mayan gods performing various rituals.
After you’re done exploring the ruins, enjoy a traditional lunch, hang out on the beach and enjoy ice-cold cervezas packed in a cooler by your guide, and head out to the cenote of Sac Actun.
Book your place on this private Tulum and San Actun tour plenty of time before your trip to secure your spot.
Explore the mangroves of Nichupte Lagoon in a speedboat
This Nichupte Lagoon speedboat tour is a super fun, adrenaline-filled, and educational private tour that you can take from Tulum. Nichupte Lagoon is a natural wonder close to Cancun city
This large body of water covers more than 3,000 hectares and is made up of seven different lakes connected by a network of canals and mangroves. Various animals, colorful fish, and birds call the mangroves their home – many of which are native to the Yucatan peninsula.
You will be in the driving seat on this tour as you have fun steering your own speedboat. Your guide will be there to provide info about the mangrove ecosystem and the animals that you can see.
Cancun city, Mayan museum, and cenote tour with lunch
Although Cancun is one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico, most travellers that venture here travel to the hotel zone or the Riviera Maya beaches nearby. Downtown Cancun, at least for now, is largely untapped.
On this tour, you explore Cancun city center with a local, through the eyes of someone who lives there. Learn about Cancun’s rich history, discover thought-provoking and interesting street art by Mexican artists, haggle your way through local markets, and uncover eateries and hangout spots that Mexicans have been keeping to themselves.
This tour gives a fresh perspective on the city. When your exploration is done, browse the exhibits at the city’s Mayan Museum before cooling off in an off-the-beaten-path cenote.
Private tour of two Mayan cities in a day: Tulum and Coba
This Cancun private tour takes you to two of the most important Mayan archaeological sites in the Yucatán peninsula – Tulum and Coba. Tulum is the magnificent coastal city that flourished from the 13th century and the only ruin to be found overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
Coba was once one of the most influential cities in the Mayan world. It was founded around the 1st century AD and thrived between the 7th and 10th centuries.
An impressive stone pyramid here called “Nohoch Mul” is one of the tallest in the Yucatan. This tour features hotel pickup and drop-off in an air-conditioned vehicle, lunch, complimentary bottled water, and entrance to the archeological sites so you don’t have to be stuck in long lines queuing for tickets.
Cozumel snorkeling from Cancun
Cozumel is a paradisiacal island destination on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, off the coast of the Riviera Maya. This reef system is the second largest in the world and an incredible place to snorkel and see diverse marine life.
Here, you have the chance to observe sea turtles, starfish, stingrays, and tropical fish such as angelfish, parrotfish, wrasse, and damselfish. This tour takes you to three different points around the island where you can snorkel.
Snorkel gear, bottled water, and beers are included, and you will enjoy a traditional restaurant lunch before your journey back to your hotel in Cancun. You can find out more info about this tour here.
Speedboat tour, snorkeling in Punta Nizuc Reef, and Underwater Museum
If you consider yourself an adrenaline junkie, you will love this Punta Nizuc speedboat tour. Race through the labyrinth-like network of mangroves around Cancun at the helm of your speedboat as you head out into open waters.
Snorkel among impressive, larger-than-life sculptures at the Cancun Underwater Museum of Art at Punta Nizuc, and admire the natural beauty along Cancun’s Caribbean coast. All admission fees, snorkeling equipment rentals, and life jackets are included in the price of a tour.
Final thoughts on the best private tours in Cancun
It can be overwhelming to try and decide which private tour options in Cancun are the best to do, and how to find the right balance of relaxing vs sightseeing on your trip. But all of them will no doubt enrich your experience and you are not likely to regret booking any of them!
The other great thing is that a lot of operators offer free cancellation up to as late as 24 hours before the tour is due to depart. So, you can lock in your space and if you change your mind, there is no charge or commitment.
It is a good idea to reserve your spot online in advance, especially if you are travelling during the peak season which runs between December and March in Southern Mexico.
Do you have any further questions about booking tours or planning a trip to Mexico in general? Feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to get back to you ASAP. I live in the city of Merida, a couple of hours from Cancun.
If this is your first trip to the Yucatan, you might also find the below posts useful.
- Is the Yucatan safe?
- Is Mexico safe?
- Best time to travel to the Yucatan
- How to get through customs quickly at Cancun airport
Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Buen Viaje! Xo