Wondering what to do in Cancun? There’s so much to choose from it may be easier to ask what Cancun activities not to do. The abundance of resorts, white-sand beaches, vibrant nightlife and fun things to do in Cancun, make it one of the most popular beach vacation destinations in Mexico.
Ideally situated on the tropical shores of the Mexican Caribbean, within easy reach of Mayan ruins and eco-parks there is something to please everyone. Plus, with the convenience of an international airport Cancun attracts over two million visitors a year.
The Hotel Zone, a 14 mile stretch of Cancun accommodations to suit every taste and budget, is where most tourists will stay. Here you will also find a huge selection of local and international restaurants, entertainment, tourist attractions and plenty of nightlife.
If you want a taste of more authentic Mexico head to downtown Cancun where the locals live and spend their time. The main draw for tourists here is shopping, markets and local food stands.
For relaxation and water sports Cancun is ideal. Sitting in between the Caribbean Sea and Nichupte Lagoon means that every form of beach and water activity you can imagine is available. Scuba diving, snorkeling, jet-skiing, para sailing, fishing and adventure parks are just a few of the Cancun activities to choose from.
The surrounding area of the Yucatan also provides plenty of opportunities for Cancun excursions. Choose from exploring ancient ruins, swimming in cenotes, playing in eco-parks, visiting tropical islands or sailing the turquoise sea.
Top Things to do in Cancun
1. Xcaret Park
Xcaret park is one of the top answers when people ask about activities in Cancun, Mexico. It is the first of six amusement parks in Cancun, under the Experiencias Xcaret umbrella, and is one of the largest theme parks in Mexico.
The 250-acre eco-park in Cancun holds more than 40 attractions including adventurous aquatic activities, fun and educational natural and cultural attractions, and impressive live shows.
Easy to get to from downtown Cancun or the hotel zone, it is one of the most popular attractions in the Riviera Maya of Mexico and sees over one million visitors each year from all over the world.
The park itself combines knowledge of Mayan culture with a desire to preserve nature. With both water based and land activities, it is a perfect day out for families, couples, and friends of all ages.
Within the park you can take place in ancient Mayan recreations, eat traditional cuisine, explore the warm Caribbean water, and interact with nature.
Themed events throughout the year bring back people who have already been multiple times, while the nature preserve within the park allows you to see jaguars, macaws, and other species in their natural habitat.
In our opinion this is definitely one of the top things to see in Cancun, Mexico.
Note: Book online in advance to receive a discount
2. Coba Ruins
In terms of Cancun sightseeing, nothing beats the Mayan ruins that surround the area. Of these ruins, those of the city of Coba are definitely one of the best to visit.
Connecting with a modern village that has the same name, the area prides itself on proper preservation of an ancient culture.
Walking through the ruins, you can see networks of stone streets, monuments that were carved over 1200 years ago, pyramids, everyday dwelling, and even traditional ball courts.
Many of the pieces that are still standing welcome visitors to climb and touch them, making a visit to Coba a very hands-on experience. Entrance to the ruins can be had for as little as $6, however tours, early and late access events, and other additions may increase the price.
3. Playa Delfines
This unique stretch of beach is one of the highest points in Cancun. It makes a great escape from the busy beaches along the Hotel Zone and it is easy to get to by bus, car or taxi.
At Playa Delfines you will be able to find a quiet spot of your own along the wide stretch of sand and even some shade under one of the many free umbrellas.
The lack of large restaurants and bars along the beach make for a more peaceful day and the local food vendors offer a more authentic Mexican experience. The sand isn’t as fine and white as the northern beaches but the view is spectacular and the lack of loud music and spring breakers is a welcome break.
If golf is your game you will be happy as there are at least 15 golf courses in and around Cancun.
There are courses for every level and many offer unique and interesting terrain and designs which make us of cenotes, tropical jungle, mangroves, lagoons, sand dunes, and even Mayan ruins.
One of the most popular courses is Pok Ta Pok. This course is located in the heart of the Hotel Zone and has 18 holes, a driving range and two practice putting greens as well as roving bars to keep you refreshed.
5. Explore Downtown
There is more to Cancun than beaches, bars and watersports. If you want a break from the resorts and Vegas-like Hotel Zone head to downtown Cancun where the locals live and hang out. You will still find some touristy shops and restaurants but the vibe is much more authentic and you will be among more locals than tourists.
Start with some shopping at one of the outdoor markets like Market 28 or Market 23. These are the places to find bargains if you are prepared to haggle with the local vendors (don’t worry, they expect you to negotiate.) Then grab a bite at a locals Mexican restaurant that serves traditional food. You may not recognize everything on the menu, like you will in the more touristy places, but you will have an authentic meal at a much lower price and will almost certainly love it!
6. Coco Bongo
Coco Bongo offers the ultimate in Cancun nightlife. It is not your typical nightclub with a dance floor, although there are plenty of those in the city, but rather a venue that provides high energy entertainment and music and of course flowing drinks.
At Coco Bongo you will witness acrobats, impersonators, musicians, DJ’s and massive video screens as you interact with conga lines, balloons, bubbles and confetti. Entrance is not cheap, starting at $65, but when you factor in the entertainment and and all inclusive drinks it’s a pretty good deal for a great night out.
7. Isla Mujeres All Inclusive Trips
Begin the morning with a cruise out to beautiful Isla Mujeres. Once on the island you will have time for a for a quick bit of shopping in the small local shops. Like most other Cancun excursions, your trip has barely started by this point.
Next you will go snorkeling in the clear, warm, Caribbean waters where you can swim with exotically colored fish and possibly even see species of harmless sharks.
Once you’ve tired of swimming you will get a chance to dry off and laze around in a hammock while waiting for your meal to arrive from an exclusive lunch club. After lunch take a stroll along the beach and soak in the sun before taking a sunset cruise back to your hotel.
For around $80 per person, this all day experience is well worth the money as it combines the best things of Isla Mujeres with a fun boat cruise.
8. Tulum Ruins
Located near Playa del Carmen, the unique Tulum ruins are an easy excursion from Cancun and definitely one that should not be missed.
This site is located about 60 miles away from Cancun and is served by a number of local buses, tour companies, and collectivos.
The Tulum ruins are special because of the stunningly scenic location overlooking a lovely beach and the turquoise Caribbean.
Allow for at least 2-3 hours to step back in time as you explore the city ruins, much of which is still standing as it was centuries ago.
Chances are you’ll be a hot mess by the time you’re finished so be sure to bring a swimsuit and towel for a refreshing dip in the sea and relaxing on the idyllic sandy beach below.
9, Xel-Ha Park
Xel-Ha (Shell-ha) is Mayan for “mix of waters” and is the name of the archeological pre-Columbian Maya site that was found near-by.
It is a massive natural aquarium where fresh crystal clear water from the underground rivers mixes with the warm, turquoise Caribbean Sea.
This beautiful aquatic network of cool rivers and grottos, mystical cenotes and idyllic blue lagoons is brimming with sea life and has a multitude of water activities.
The marine paradise is surrounded by lush jungle containing nature paths for walking and cycling, adventure parks and children’s playgrounds plus plenty of hammocks and beach chairs to enjoy the wonderful array of food and drink. Oh and did we mention it’s all-inclusive?
Note: Book online in advance to receive a discount
10. Deep Sea Fishing
The waters around Cancun offer some of the best ocean fishing anywhere. There are plenty of companies offering fishing trips for everyone from beginners to experts in both deep sea and shallower water.
There is also an abundance of fish species in the beautiful blue sea including Barracuda, Grouper, Red Snapper, Sailfish, Marlin and Tuna.
You will be supplied with all the fishing gear and license and the crew will even clean and prepare the fish for cooking should you want to take it home for dinner.
11. Playas Tortugas Beach
Look for the small huts that dot the beach if you want to go snorkeling, wind surfing, or even riding on a jet ski. Sometimes locals offer more extreme sporting options as well, making it an exciting place to be for adrenaline junkies.
The daytime hours on this beach are great for families, with the warm water and clean sand making it fun for all ages. As the sun goes down, the party starts, with live music and groups of fun seekers flooding the beach for a real Cancun experience.
12. Catamaran Cruise
Depending on where you want to go, you can either choose to cruise all day long or simply spend a few hours out on the water.
Many of these cruises offer the option to get off of the boat, enjoy yourself in the water, or enjoy activities such as swimming and fishing.
There are lots of different cruise options to choose from so it helps to know what type of activities you’re looking for. Water sports? Relaxation? Island hopping? Or just a party cruise? A Catamaran Cruise is definitely one of the best things to do in Cancun, Mexico.
13. Chichen Itza
When people ask us what to do in Cancun, aside from partying and going to the beach, we always suggest they get to know the history of the original inhabitants.
Chichen Itza is arguably the most famous and well preserved Mayan archaeological sites in the world and therefore is also one of the most popular. The site was a thriving city back int he 5th century AD and much of it can still be viewed today.
The pyramids, temples and other buildings that are still standing show that this city was actually a fusion of traditional Mayan construction techniques and newer elements from central Mexico. The site is large with much to see and can become very crowded so allow several hours to explore.
Note: There is very little shade so it is best to go early morning and bring plenty of sunscreen, drink lots of water and wear a hat.
14. Ik’Kil Cenote
Located near the entrance to Chichen Itza, Ik’Kil is one of the most beautiful cenotes in the Yucatan. From above you can look down through the whole on the earth to see a pool of clear, blue water. Surrounded by sheer rock walls filled with greenery.
Descend down the steps 26 meters, jump into the refreshing pool and look up and around at the vines and roots hanging down and the beams of sunlight streaming through the hole above and making the water sparkle.
Due to the beauty and proximity to Chichen Itza, Ik’Kil is very popular with tour buses and gets very crowded. Our advice is to go as soon as the cenote opens in the morning and possibly enjoy a brief time before the throngs arrive. Having said that it does also make a great stop after the heat of exploring Chichen Itza.
15. Isla Contoy Cruise
Isla Contoy is an uninhabited island in the Caribbean just a few hours from Cancun. The cruise over is filled with great food and drinks, while the visit to the actual island is full of fun activities.
Cruises start at around $100 per person and are all inclusive. Even the services of a guide, breakfast, transportation to and from your hotel room, and the snorkeling equipment that many people choose to use is included.
The island itself is part of a national park, allowing the pristine beaches and perfect waters to remain perfect and untainted. Strict rules of conduct and requirements to pick up after yourself are enforced. The companies that allow access to the island are well versed into regulations and will brief all of their passengers ahead of time ensuring that the area remains pristine and unspoiled for future tour groups.
16. Cancun Underwater Museum
Those who like to scuba dive or snorkel will likely fall in love with the Cancun Underwater Museum. The man made site is filled with created coral reefs, underwater statues and local species that call it their home.
This ever evolving attraction boasts an amazing chance to think of a world covered completely in water, to view how the ocean reclaims everything placed within it, and to feel at home within the depths.
Snorkeling and scuba equipment can be rented at the museum, and experienced guides are available for those who feel that they are not yet up to exploring the area on their own. It is recommended that you have at least gone snorkeling before if you want to visit this location. However, if you feel like you are going to have a very low level of skill a private training session and extended trips to the area can be arranged to ensure that you get as much enjoyment out of your trip as possible.
Plan to arrive at least 2 hours before closing time to make sure that you really get the best experience.
This underwater museum is definitely one of the more unique things to do in Cancun.
17. Adventure Water Sports
Although Cancun is known for resorts and partying there is also plenty for the adventure seeker especially when it comes to water sports. Get your thrills with speed boats, jet skis, para-sailing all of which are available along the beaches in Cancun.
Make sure to wear sunscreen and and a life jacket and be prepared for some heart pounding excitement.
As you can see there is almost no end of things to do in Cancun, Mexico. It really is so much more than beaches and parties. There’s truly something for everyone!
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.