These itineraries assume you're flying in and out of Cancún, by far the most common port of entry for the Yucatán. The airport is south of town in the direction of the Riviera Maya, so if you rent a car to drive down the coast, you won't have to deal with city traffic. Those preferring to skip the coast and stick to the peninsula's interior could fly directly to Mérida, capital of the state of Yucatán, and adjust their itineraries accordingly.
For traveling around the Yucatán, rental cars work well. The roads are generally easy to figure out, and there's not much traffic when you move inland. Finding your way around Mérida is a little tricky, but Cancún and the other cities of the peninsula are easy. You can take inexpensive, comfortable buses for long distances during your entire trip, but keep in mind that buses in the Riviera Maya do not run along the small roads that connect the highway to the beach. Your bus may drop you on the side of the highway right at the junction with the road to your paradise, and you'll have to flag a taxi to take you the rest of the way. This is a fine method, but can be time-consuming.
These itineraries are merely suggestions; you should tweak them to your specific tastes and interests. The 14-day itinerary is very busy and will keep you moving quickly; it's an attempt to be comprehensive in hitting the top sites, but you may well want to skip a few of these and spend more time at others. Though I've included an itinerary that takes you south into Tabasco and Chiapas, interested travelers should consider taking a fully dedicated trip to these states on their own. I recommend against being too ambitious with your vacation time. The heat and humidity bring about a lethargy that can be enjoyable if you're not preoccupied with a timetable. Keep in mind as well that it gets dark early here, and it's not a good idea to do much night driving.
If You Have Even Less Time . . .
Given Cancún and the Riviera Maya's proximity to the United States, the vast majority of visitors to this region are weekenders and snowbirds from the East Coast looking for a quick beach fix. Of course, that's what Cancún was made for and even if you have a mere 3 days, you can still experience a taste of what this fascinating region has to offer.
Here are a few suggestions if you're prepared to leave the beach cabaña of your resort and explore a bit of the area. Ease yourself into a state of relaxation by spending a day and perhaps a night in sleepy Isla Mujeres, just 15 minutes by ferry from Cancún; or check in to a seriously luxurious spa resort just 20 minutes south of Cancún. A more ambitious beach vacation would have you head a couple hours south to stylish Playa del Carmen and then to either Tulum or Cozumel. For a bit of culture off the beach, you can easily do a half-day trip to the unforgettable Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, stopping for lunch and a stroll in colonial Valladolid. Since Cancún's nightlife is legendary, you may want to spend at least one evening in this world-famous resort partying the night away.