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The Best 50 Things to Do and See in Cancun, Mexico

Updated: Jan 27

Cancun is Colorful
Cancun is Colorful

Cancun, nestled on the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, is a paradise for travelers seeking a perfect blend of sun, sand, and cultural richness. From pristine beaches to ancient Mayan ruins, this vibrant city offers a myriad of activities and attractions to suit every taste.


When it comes to top and best things to do and see in Cancun, the options are endless. Start your journey by exploring the Mayan ruins, where the ancient civilization's intriguing history unfolds before your eyes. For adventure enthusiasts, engaging in thrilling water sports along the turquoise Caribbean Sea is a must. The vibrant underwater world is equally enticing, making snorkeling and scuba diving essential activities in this coastal haven.



Discovering the heart of Cancun's cultural tapestry involves indulging in its diverse cuisine. From street food stalls to upscale restaurants, the city's gastronomic scene is a culinary adventure. Don't miss out on the chance to explore local markets and embark on a culinary journey that mirrors the city's rich history.


Cancun's nightlife is legendary, offering an array of entertainment options from lively bars to pulsating nightclubs. The city truly comes alive after sunset, making it a haven for those seeking vibrant nocturnal experiences. For families, there are numerous family-friendly activities that promise wholesome fun, creating lasting memories for visitors of all ages.


Index


3. Coba


The Best 50 Things to Do and See in Cancun, Mexico


Cancun has some of the best beaches
Cancun has some of the best beaches

I. Explore the Beaches in Cancun


Cancun is famous for its pristine beaches that boast crystal-clear turquoise waters and powdery white sand. Here are some of the top beaches you should visit:


1. Playa Delfines:


Playa Delfines, a jewel in Cancun's crown, stands out with its stunningly wide, powdery white sands and mesmerizing turquoise waters, offering a serene escape from the bustling hotel zone. Notoriously known for its iconic 'CANCUN' sign, it's a hotspot for photo enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. Despite its popularity, Playa Delfines maintains an uncommercialized charm, devoid of the typical beachside vendors, allowing visitors to fully immerse in its natural beauty. The beach is also a prime spot for surfers, thanks to its stronger waves, while offering shaded palapas and lifeguards for a comfortable and safe beach experience. A visit here is a must for anyone seeking to capture the essence of Cancun's coastal allure.


How to Get There:


Reaching Playa Delfines is a breeze, whether you're a local or a tourist in Cancun. Nestled in the heart of the hotel zone, it's easily accessible by the R1 or R2 public buses, which are both affordable and frequent, making stops along Kukulcan Boulevard. For those preferring more comfort, taxis are readily available, though it's wise to agree on the fare before hopping in. If you're driving, Playa Delfines offers the added convenience of free parking, a rarity in the area. Its strategic location, just off the main road, makes it an uncomplicated destination for a day of sun, sea, and sand.


2. Playa Norte:


Playa Norte, gracing the shores of Isla Mujeres near Cancun, is a slice of paradise epitomizing the quintessential Caribbean beach experience. Known for its crystal-clear, shallow waters and powdery white sand, it's a haven for sun-seekers and water enthusiasts alike. This beach is uniquely sheltered from strong currents, making it an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling, especially for families with children. Lined with swaying palm trees and dotted with cozy beach bars and restaurants, Playa Norte offers a relaxing yet vibrant atmosphere. As the sun sets, it transforms into a picturesque scene, perfect for capturing those Instagram-worthy vacation photos.


How to Get There:


To reach the picturesque Playa Norte, a must-visit beach on Isla Mujeres near Cancun, you start with a scenic ferry ride. Ferries to Isla Mujeres depart regularly from Cancun's Gran Puerto, Puerto Juarez, and the Hotel Zone. The journey, offering stunning ocean views, takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Once on Isla Mujeres, Playa Norte is easily accessible. It's a short, pleasant walk from the ferry terminal, or you can opt for a taxi or rent a golf cart – a popular and fun way to explore the island. This beautiful beach, known for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life, awaits just a short trip from Cancun’s coast.



3. Playa Tortugas:


Playa Tortugas, nestled in the vibrant heart of Cancun, is a picturesque beach paradise renowned for its serene atmosphere and family-friendly vibe. Its crystal-clear turquoise waters and soft white sands invite beachgoers for a day of sunbathing, swimming, or even thrilling bungee jumping. The beach is easily accessible, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Lined with a variety of inviting eateries and lively bars, Playa Tortugas also serves as a gateway for ferry trips to Isla Mujeres, offering a perfect blend of relaxation, entertainment, and adventure in Cancun’s tropical splendor.


How to Get There:


Reaching Playa Tortugas in Cancun is a breeze, whether you're staying in the Hotel Zone or venturing from downtown. If you're in the Hotel Zone, simply hop on any of the R1 or R2 buses, which are frequent, affordable, and tourist-friendly. These buses run along the main boulevard, Kukulkan, making it easy to spot your stop. From downtown Cancun, catch the same buses from Tulum Avenue, a central thoroughfare. Alternatively, taxis are readily available but remember to agree on the fare before starting your journey. Once you arrive, you'll find Playa Tortugas bustling with a lively mix of locals and tourists, famous for its relaxed vibe, picturesque pier, and direct ferry service to Isla Mujeres.


4. Other Notable Beaches in Cancun: 


  1. Playa Chac Mool: Located near the heart of the Hotel Zone, known for its calm waters and proximity to amenities.

  2. Playa Marlin: A beautiful and less crowded beach, ideal for those seeking tranquility.

  3. Playa Langosta: A family-friendly beach with gentle waters, perfect for swimming.

  4. Playa Gaviota Azul: Known for its vibrant nightlife and close proximity to clubs.

  5. Playa Caracol: Small and cozy, with calm waters, ideal for families with young children.

  6. Playa Ballenas: Offers a more secluded experience, great for relaxation and sunbathing.

  7. Playa Linda: A picturesque beach with a small marina, popular for water sports.

  8. Playa Las Perlas: One of the first beaches along the Hotel Zone, perfect for a peaceful day by the sea.


Whether you prefer a serene retreat or an action-packed adventure, Cancun's beaches have something to offer for everyone. Read more here.



Mayan Ruin, Cancun
Mayan Ruin, Cancun

II. Discover Mayan Ruins in Cancun


Cancun and its surrounding areas are home to numerous Mayan ruins that provide a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the ancient civilization. Here are some of the must-visit Mayan ruins in Cancun:


1. Chichen Itza:


Chichen Itza, a marvel near Cancun, is a mesmerizing window into the ancient Mayan civilization. This UNESCO World Heritage site, about a 2-hour drive from Cancun, is famous for its iconic pyramid, El Castillo, which astounds with its astronomical precision and grandeur. The site is replete with remarkable structures like the Temple of the Warriors and the Great Ball Court, each echoing the Mayans' architectural genius and spiritual depth. Visiting Chichen Itza is like stepping back in time, offering an immersive experience in Mayan culture, mythology, and advanced understanding of astronomy, making it a must-visit for any Cancun traveler.


How to Get There:


To reach Chichen Itza from Cancun, you have several options. The most convenient way is to rent a car and drive the roughly two-hour journey on the well-maintained 180D toll road, which offers a faster route with fewer stops than the free roads. Alternatively, you can book a tour, which typically includes round-trip transportation, a guide, and sometimes additional stops at places like cenotes or Valladolid, providing a hassle-free and educational experience. For those preferring public transportation, take an ADO bus from the Cancun bus station directly to Chichen Itza; buses run daily and offer a comfortable ride. Whichever method you choose, it's advisable to start early to avoid the midday heat and crowds at the archaeological site.


 

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2. Tulum:


Tulum, though technically not in Cancun but a scenic drive away, is a captivating gem on the Riviera Maya that enchants visitors with its serene beauty. Famous for its well-preserved Mayan ruins perched atop a cliff overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea, Tulum offers a magical combination of cultural heritage and natural splendor. The town itself exudes a laid-back, bohemian vibe, inviting travelers to explore its quaint boutiques, eclectic eateries, and charming beachfront cabanas. Whether you're a history buff, a yoga enthusiast, or just in search of tranquil beaches, Tulum promises an unforgettable escape from the bustling energy of Cancun.


How to Get There:


To reach Tulum from Cancun, you have several convenient options. The most straightforward is renting a car, which offers flexibility and a scenic 1.5 to 2-hour drive along the Quintana Roo coastline. Alternatively, ADO buses provide affordable, comfortable transport directly from Cancun's downtown or airport to Tulum, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the journey. For those seeking a more personalized experience, private shuttle services are available, offering door-to-door convenience. Lastly, for the adventurous, colectivos (shared vans) offer a budget-friendly and authentic way to travel, though they might require a bit more time and patience. Each option brings its own flavor to the start of your Tulum adventure!



3. Coba:


Coba, a hidden gem near Cancun, offers a unique glimpse into the ancient Mayan civilization. Nestled in the lush jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, this archaeological site is less crowded than its more famous counterpart, Chichen Itza, allowing for a more tranquil exploration. The highlight is Nohoch Mul, one of the tallest Mayan pyramids in the region, which visitors can still climb to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views. The site is scattered with other ruins, including ball courts and stelae, connected by a network of ancient sacbeob (white roads). Coba's mystical atmosphere is enhanced by the surrounding jungle, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.


How to Get There:


To reach the ancient Mayan site of Coba from Cancun, you have a few options. The most convenient way is to drive, which takes about two hours. Simply head southwest on the 307 highway, following signs for Tulum, and then take the road to Coba. If you prefer public transportation, take an ADO bus from Cancun to Tulum, and from there, catch a second bus or a colectivo (shared taxi) directly to Coba. Alternatively, for a stress-free journey, consider booking a guided tour. These tours often include transportation, making for a seamless and informative trip to this remarkable archaeological site. Remember, the journey is part of the adventure, so enjoy the scenic views along the way!


4. Other Notable Mayan Ruins in the Region:


Here's a list of some notable Mayan ruins near Cancun, each offering a unique glimpse into the ancient Mayan civilization:


  1. El Rey: Located in the heart of Cancun's hotel zone, El Rey is a convenient and accessible site, ideal for a quick historical excursion amidst a beach vacation.

  2. Ek Balam: Known for its well-preserved sculptures, Ek Balam is about 2 hours from Cancun. It offers a more off-the-beaten-path experience compared to Chichen Itza.

  3. Muyil: Located on the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve near Tulum, Muyil is a smaller site but rich in biodiversity and natural beauty, about 2 hours from Cancun.

  4. Xel-Há: While mainly known for its natural aquatic theme park, Xel-Há also features smaller Mayan ruins within its premises, about 1.5 hours from Cancun.


Each of these sites has its unique charm and significance, making them worthy additions to your Cancun itinerary. Remember to bring water, sunscreen, and a hat, as exploring these ruins often involves a fair bit of walking under the sun!



5. Tour Operators for Mayan Ruins in Cancun:


Here's a list of some tour operators serving Mayan ruins near Cancun, along with their contact details and websites:


  1. Tulum Ruins + Snorkeling + Cenote (group tour)

    1. Details: Visit Tulum ruins, snorkel in the Caribbean, and explore XTun Cavernas cenote.

    2. Contact/Website: Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling, Cenote, and Caves from Cancun 2024 (viator.com)

  2. Chichen Itza Sunrise and Cenote Ik Kil (private tour)

    1. Details: Explore Chichen Itza at sunrise and visit Cenote Ik Kil.

    2. Contact/Website: Chichen Itza and Cenote: Private Sunrise Tour 2024 - Cancun (viator.com)

  3. Ek Balam and Cenote Maya (group tour)

    1. Details: Visit Cenote Maya Park and the Mayan village of Ek Balam.

    2. Contact: 800-225-8383 / 1-866-387-6678

    3. Website: Ek Balam and Cenote Maya Tour in Cancun (cancunadventure.net)

  4. Tulum & Coba (private tour)

    1. Details: Tour the ruins at Tulum and Coba with a private guide.

    2. Contact: +52 984 806 7432 / contact@absolute-adventure-mexico.com

    3. Website: Tulum Coba Tour: Exclusive all included Private Ruins Tour (absolute-adventure-mexico.com)

  5. TULUM & COBA in small group

    1. Details: Explore Tulum and Coba ruins, and visit Choo-Ha cenote.

    2. Contact/Website: Mayan Ruins and Pyramid Tour, Tulum and Coba, with Photos 2024 - Cancun (viator.com)

  6. Special Mayan Tours Cancun (multi-day trip, group tour)

    1. Details: A 5-day tour covering multiple Mayan sites.

    2. Contact: +52 998 168 7970 / pepelopezjr@mayanexpeditions.com

    3. Website: Mayan Archeological Tours from Cancún | Special Mayan Tours (mayanexpeditions.com)

  7. Cancun Life Tours

    1. Details: Offers a variety of tours including Mayan ruins.

    2. Contact: +52 (998) 426-7924, info@cancunlife.tours

    3. Website: Cancun Life Tours

  8. Happy Shuttle Cancun

    1. Details: Provides tours to Chichen Itza and Tulum ruins.

    2. Contact: 1-888-290-4506 / +52 (998) 887 4242

    3. Website: Happy Shuttle Cancun

  9. Cancun Adventures

    1. Details: Offers guided tours to Mayan ruins.

    2. Contact/Website: Cancun Adventures



Dolphins in Cancun
Dolphins in Cancun

II. Enjoy Water Activities in Cancun


Cancun's pristine waters offer a playground for water enthusiasts. Whether you're a fan of snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply relaxing on a boat, there are plenty of water activities to enjoy in Cancun. Here are some highlights:


1. Snorkeling in Cancun:


Snorkeling in Cancun is an enchanting experience, offering a vibrant underwater world just waiting to be explored. The crystal-clear Caribbean waters boast an exceptional variety of marine life, from colorful coral reefs to exotic fish species. Popular snorkeling spots like Punta Nizuc and the Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA) provide unique and immersive experiences, blending natural wonders with artistic creativity.


For beginners, Cancun's snorkeling scene is incredibly accommodating, with numerous tours tailored for those new to the sport. Guided tours often include equipment rentals and safety briefings, ensuring a comfortable and secure experience. The calm, shallow waters around Isla Mujeres and the Great Mayan Reef are perfect for those just starting out, offering gentle currents and abundant sea life within easy viewing distance.


Advanced snorkelers also find Cancun's waters enthralling. Challenging spots like the Cenotes – natural sinkholes with clear, fresh water – and the deeper sections of the Great Mayan Reef provide thrilling opportunities. These sites often feature more diverse marine ecosystems and fascinating geological formations, offering a glimpse into the underwater secrets of the Yucatan Peninsula. Whichever your skill level, Cancun’s snorkeling spots promise an unforgettable aquatic adventure.



Snorkeling Operators in Cancun


Here is a list of snorkeling tour operators in Cancun along with their website and phone numbers:


  1. National Geographic Snorkeler - Isla Contoy Tours

  1. Total Snorkel Cancun

  1. Scuba Diving Cancun

  1. Cancun Snorkeling

  1. Aquaworld

  1. Scuba Cancun


2. Scuba Diving in Cancun:


Snorkeling and Scuba diving in Cancun
Snorkeling and Scuba diving in Cancun

Scuba diving in Cancun offers an underwater spectacle, with the Caribbean Sea providing crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life. The Great Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, lies nearby, boasting vibrant coral formations and diverse aquatic species. Divers of all levels find Cancun's waters inviting, with numerous dive sites catering to beginners and experienced divers alike.


Among Cancun's unique diving attractions is the Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA), an eco-project featuring over 500 life-sized sculptures. These artificial reefs, created by artist Jason deCaires Taylor, serve both as an artistic marvel and a habitat for marine life. The museum, accessible at different depths, offers an extraordinary blend of art and nature, making it a must-visit for diving enthusiasts.


Take your underwater adventure to the next level with scuba diving. Dive into the crystal-clear waters and explore the diverse marine life, underwater caves, and cenotes (natural sinkholes) that dot the region.


Scuba Diving Operators in Cancun


Here is a list of scuba diving tour operators in Cancun along with their website and phone numbers:


  1. Dressel Divers

  1. Scuba Diving Cancun

  1. Scuba Cancun

  1. AquaWorld Cancun

  1. Scuba Total Cancun

  1. Cancun Scuba Center

  1. Dive Aventuras

  1. Scuba Caribe



3. Swimming with Dolphins in Cancun:


Swimming with dolphins in Cancun is a popular and unforgettable experience. Several reputable operators offer dolphin swim programs where visitors can interact and swim alongside these intelligent creatures in a safe and controlled environment. Participants can enjoy activities such as dolphin kisses, hugs, and even being propelled through the water by their new dolphin friends. It's a unique opportunity to create lasting memories and connect with these fascinating marine mammals in the beautiful waters of Cancun.


Swimming with Dolphin Operators in Cancun