Cancún, perched on the Yucatán Peninsula, is a world-renowned destination known for its pristine beaches, vibrant nightlife, and rich Mayan history. For those contemplating things to do in Cancún, lounging on the sun-kissed shores of Playa Delfines and Playa Tortugas and diving into the crystal-clear waters of the nearby Great Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world, are top activities.
The city’s El Rey Ruins offer a glimpse into the ancient Mayan civilization, with its temples and sculptures set amidst a backdrop of turquoise waters. Nearby, the Isla Mujeres, a tranquil island just a short ferry ride away, provides a serene escape with its laid-back vibe, beautiful beaches, and underwater museum.
Beyond its coastal allure, Cancún is a gateway to the Riviera Maya, with its archaeological wonders like Tulum and Coba. Cancún’s blend of tropical paradise, historical significance, and modern amenities makes it a premier vacation spot for those seeking the best places to visit in Mexico.
Table of Contents
Attractions & Things to Do in Cancún, Mexico
1. Chichén Itzá
One of Mexico’s most iconic archaeological sites, Chichén Itzá, showcases the grandeur of the Mayan civilization. The highlight is El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulkan, a massive step pyramid demonstrating advanced architectural and astronomical expertise.
Travel Tip: Try visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid peak crowd times and the midday sun.
2. Isla Mujeres
A short ferry ride from Cancún, Isla Mujeres offers stunning beaches, clear waters, and a laid-back atmosphere, providing a contrast to the bustling energy of Cancún. Spend the day snorkeling, exploring the island on a golf cart, or simply relaxing on the white sands.
Travel Tip: Consider renting a golf cart for the day to explore the entire island at your own pace.
3. Cancún Underwater Museum (MUSA)
An innovative approach to coral reef conservation, MUSA is an underwater museum featuring over 500 life-sized sculptures. These art installations serve dual purposes – tourist attractions and promoting coral growth. Divers and snorkelers can explore the installations, marveling at art and marine life.
Travel Tip: Even if you aren’t a diver, you can view the sculptures via a glass-bottom boat tour.
4. Tulum Ruins
Located south of Cancún, the Tulum Ruins are perched on cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Walls surround this ancient Mayan port city, offering a unique blend of historical significance and scenic beauty.
Travel Tip: Combine your visit to the ruins with a trip to the nearby Tulum beaches for a mix of culture and relaxation.
Cancún’s surrounding area boasts numerous cenotes, or natural sinkholes, that have become popular spots for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Formed by limestone bedrock collapsing to reveal groundwater underneath, these natural pools provide a unique and refreshing escape.
Travel Tip: Some of the most famous cenotes near Cancún include Dos Ojos, Ik Kil, and Gran Cenote. Always make sure to wear biodegradable sunscreen to protect the environment.
6. Coco Bongo
More than just a nightclub, Coco Bongo offers an unparalleled entertainment experience with its high-energy shows, acrobats, and musicians. The venue seamlessly blends the line between nightclub and theater, providing a night to remember.
Travel Tip: Purchase tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure entry and possibly get a better deal.
7. Playa Delfines
One of Cancún’s most famous beaches, Playa Delfines, is known for its expansive stretch of white sand and clear waters. It’s an ideal spot for relaxation, water sports, or simply soaking in the sun. Unlike many of Cancún’s other beaches, Playa Delfines is not lined by hotels, offering an unobstructed sea view.
Travel Tip: The beach can get crowded, especially during weekends. Arrive early to claim a good spot.
8. El Rey Ruins (Zona Arqueológica El Rey)
Located in the heart of Cancún’s Hotel Zone, El Rey Ruins offers a glimpse into the region’s rich Mayan history without traveling far. This small archaeological site is home to remnants of ancient structures and a population of friendly iguanas.
Travel Tip: Pair a visit to El Rey with a nearby beach afternoon or shopping in the Hotel Zone for a diversified day.
9. Interactive Aquarium Cancún
Situated within the bustling La Isla Shopping Village, this intimate aquarium offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with various marine creatures. From petting stingrays to observing sharks, it’s an immersive experience for all ages.
Travel Tip: Look into their dolphin encounters and swimming with sharks programs if you want a more interactive experience.
10. Parque Las Palapas
The heart of downtown Cancún, Parque Las Palapas, is a lively public space that comes alive in the evenings. Locals gather for food, shopping, and entertainment, making it a great spot to experience the city’s authentic culture away from the resorts.
Travel Tip: Try local delicacies from the food stalls here, and don’t miss out on live performances that often occur during weekends.
11. Mercado 28
This bustling market in downtown Cancún is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs, crafts, jewelry, and local food. Dive deep into the colorful corridors and negotiate prices with the vendors to get the best deals on authentic Mexican artifacts.
Travel Tip: Remember to bargain respectfully, as haggling is a part of the shopping culture in many Mexican markets.
Inspired by the famous floating gardens of Xochimilco in Mexico City, Xoximilco Cancún is a cultural celebration of Mexico’s music, cuisine, and traditions. Visitors can board colorful trajinera boats and enjoy a festive journey with live mariachi music, dancing, and delicious food.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and mosquito repellent, as the experience involves a mix of walking and boating.
13. Ventura Park
A multifaceted amusement park, Ventura Park features a water park, zip lines, go-karts, and virtual reality experiences. Ventura Park has something for everyone, whether you’re seeking adrenaline rushes or a relaxing day with family.
Travel Tip: Consider buying an all-inclusive pass for the best value, as it covers most rides, attractions, food, and drinks.
14. Templo del Alacrán (Scorpion’s Temple)
Perched overlooking the Nichupté Lagoon, Templo del Alacrán is a small Mayan ruin that often goes unnoticed amidst Cancún’s modern attractions. It offers a quiet historical retreat and glimpses into the region’s ancient past.
Travel Tip: The temple is near the Playa Delfines, so you can easily combine both attractions in a half-day visit.
15. Forum Beach Cancún (Playa Gaviota Azul)
One of the most popular beaches in the Hotel Zone, Forum Beach is characterized by its vibrant atmosphere, soft sand, and azure waters. With nearby bars and clubs, the beach has a lively ambiance both day and night.
Travel Tip: As it’s close to several popular establishments, it can get crowded. If you’re seeking a more relaxed environment, try visiting on a weekday.
16. Selvatica Adventure Park
Located a short drive from Cancún, Selvatica offers a thrilling jungle experience with zip lines, ATV rides, and cenote swims. The park promotes sustainable tourism and has been recognized for its conservation efforts.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable clothing and closed-toed shoes. If you’re participating in water activities, bring a change of clothes.
17. Cancún Wax Museum
Offering a break from the usual beach and historical activities, the Cancún Wax Museum showcases over 100 figures from entertainment, politics, and sports. It’s a fun, family-friendly attraction that provides a unique photo opportunity.
Travel Tip: The museum is indoors, making it a perfect activity for those overly sunny or occasional rainy days in Cancún.
18. Plaza Caracol
One of Cancún’s oldest shopping centers, Plaza Caracol boasts a range of stores, from souvenir shops to high-end boutiques. With its central location in the Hotel Zone, it’s a convenient spot for shopping and dining.
Travel Tip: This mall offers a mix of local shops and international brands, making it ideal for diverse shopping preferences.
19. Casa de Cultura Cancún
For those looking to delve deeper into the local arts and culture scene, Casa de Cultura offers workshops, exhibitions, and performances showcasing the region’s rich heritage. It’s a hub for artistic expression and gives visitors a deeper understanding of Cancún’s cultural landscape.
Travel Tip: Check their event calendar in advance, as they often host special events and festivals that may interest you.
20. La Isla Shopping Village
Set against the backdrop of the Nichupté Lagoon, this open-air shopping complex is more than just a place to shop. With its canals, bridges, and diverse range of stores, it’s a picturesque location to stroll, dine, and indulge in retail therapy.
Travel Tip: The village is beautifully lit at night, making it a pleasant evening spot for shopping and scenic views.
FAQ About Things to Do in Cancún, Mexico
What are the top attractions to visit in Cancún?
Some of the top attractions in Cancún include the Cancún Underwater Museum, Isla Mujeres, Chichén Itzá, Tulum ruins, and Xcaret Park.
Is it safe to swim on the beaches of Cancún?
Yes, Cancún’s beaches are generally safe for swimming. However, always pay attention to warning flags and lifeguard advisories, especially during rough sea conditions.
Are there any eco-parks or natural reserves near Cancún?
Absolutely! Xcaret, Xel-Há, and Xplor are popular eco-parks near Cancún. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage site worth visiting.
Can I go diving or snorkeling in Cancún?
Yes, Cancún is renowned for its clear waters and vibrant marine life. The Great Mesoamerican Reef is a prime spot for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.
What local dishes should I try while in Cancún?
Don’t miss out on trying dishes like cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork), panuchos (stuffed tortillas), and ceviche (fresh seafood salad).
Are there any cultural or historical sites to explore in Cancún?
While Cancún is known for its beaches, it’s also close to ancient Mayan ruins like Chichén Itzá, Tulum, and Coba. These sites offer a deep dive into the region’s rich history.
What water activities are available in Cancún?
Cancún offers various water activities, including jet skiing, parasailing, paddleboarding, fishing, and even swimming with whale sharks during certain seasons.
Can I take day trips from Cancún to nearby destinations?
Yes, there are many day trip options from Cancún. Popular destinations include Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and the cenotes (natural sinkholes) scattered throughout the Yucatán Peninsula.