What to do in Cancun? As it turns out, there are tons of fun activities to fill up your time and make your journey a memorable one. In part three of our Cancun travel guide, we’re covering a variety of attractions as well as things to do and places to visit nearby. You’ll find quick info on some of the best excursions in Cancun as well – whether you’re here for just a few days, a few weeks, or even longer, there’s no shortage of things to see in Cancun.

Hit the Beaches

The Cancun beach scene is amazing – in fact for many visitors, it’s the stuff dreams are made of. Here’s a quick list of Cancun Mexico beaches not to miss.

Playa Delfines – Sometimes called Playa Delfi or El Mirador, this little piece of paradise always makes it onto lists outlining the best beaches in Cancun. The main reason for this is that it’s the only hotel zone beach that doesn’t host any restaurants or hotels.

Puerto Morelos Beach – If you’re looking for a laid-back scene, you might like Playa Puerto Morelos, which is a quick 20 minute trip south of Cancun itself. You’ll find a friendly mixture of locals and visitors here, along with a leaning lighthouse and some great snorkeling just offshore.

Xcacel Beach – In search of an amazing paradise that feels like it’s a whole world away from the busy party atmosphere around Cancun? X’Cacel beach is often nearly deserted, partly because you must pay a small fee to visit, and partly because it isn’t part of the party scene! Playa X’Cacel is famous for its sea turtle reserve as well as a small onsite cenote. You can also snorkel from the beach, which is made from the same white coral sand you’ll find everywhere in Cancun Mexico.

Playa Tortugas – Cancun locals and visitors mingle at Playa Tortugas, where you’ll find open-air cafes, bars, and restaurants, along with good snorkeling right off the beach. There’s also a ferry stop here in case you’re planning a side trip to Isla Mujeres.

Playa Caracol – Even though it’s smaller and quieter than some other beaches in Cancun, Playa Caracol is located near shopping and entertainment, making it a convenient stop. There are umbrellas and lounge chairs available for rent, and you can catch a boat out to the reef for snorkeling if you like.

Forum Beach Cancun – If an amazing beach party is on your list of things to do in Cancun, Forum Beach might be exactly right. Often crowded, it’s got restaurants and bars nearby as well as plenty of music. One caveat – Forum Beach is an adult party zone, and not great for kids unless you go early in the morning before the day’s festivities begin.

Playa Norte – Sometimes called North Beach, Playa Norte is located at Isla Mujeres. It’s the perfect place to lounge at a beach club, sip margaritas, and enjoy fresh ceviche.

Las Coloradas – Las Coloradas isn’t a traditional beach, but it does have a sandy shore. The main attraction? Flamingos that dine on pink brine shrimp that give this incredible salt lake its brilliant pink hue. Be sure to sign up for a reputable tour if flamingo watching is on your essential “What to do in Cancun” list. This is private property and there are quite a few self-proclaimed guides who linger outside the gates, take “tour” fees, and walk you about 100 yards or so.

What if you can’t make it to one of these beaches? No worries! Many popular Cancun activities take place on or near the beach so there’s no need to worry about missing out.

Venture Out on Cancun Day Trips

Many of the best things to do in Cancun aren’t technically “in” Cancun at all! There are plenty of Cancun sightseeing trips that take you out of the city and treat you to a close-up look at history or nature. Whether you’re looking for a fantastic beach away from the Hotel Zone, or if you’re in search of something else entirely, you’ll find there are plenty of day trips to choose from. Here are a few Cancun Mexico attractions that aren’t exactly “in” Cancun.

El Cielo Cozumel: Constantly rated one of the world’s 5 top beaches, El Cielo Cozumel features gorgeous white sand and sky-blue water. If you slip on a snorkel and mask for a peek under the ripples, you’ll see lots of starfishes enjoying life on the sandy bottom.

Holbox Island: Flamingos, pelicans, whale sharks, and other creatures steal the spotlight at Holbox Island. This amazing spot is also very popular for kiteboarding, in case adventure sports are on your list of things to try!

Valladolid: If you’re interested in architecture, history, and natural attractions, you’ll probably enjoy a day trip to Valladolid. This city is home to several colonial era structures including the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena and the San Servacio cathedral. Cenote Zaci is situated near the heart of Valladolid, giving visitors an opportunity to see and swim in a beautiful underground cenote. Nearby restaurants and shops offer excellent food and fantastic souvenirs.

flamingos at Holbox Island

See Cancun’s famous flamingos at Holbox Island.

Soak Up History Along with the Sun: Check out These Cancun Ruins

Many Cancun Mexico day trips focus on history. These excursions are in a category all their own. For example, many visitors are thrilled to discover that you can take Chichen Itza tours from Cancun. While it’s true that there are ruins near Cancun, the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins are fairly close – in fact, one of the most popular day trips from Cancun involves an adventurous journey to Chichen Itza. There are a few other ruins nearby as well:

Tulum ruins at Xel-Ha: If a visit to the Maya ruins of Tulum is on your itinerary of things to do in Cancun, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and carry sunscreen! You’ll be amazed by the architecture, which dates back to the 13th century and is an excellent representation of the Mayan post-classic period. The site is very well-preserved, with incredible carvings and exquisite natural surroundings.

Ek Balam: Ek’ Balam is a Yucatec-Maya archaeological site that served as the seat of a Mayan kingdom from the Preclassic period all the way through to the Postclassic period. There are 45 structures in all as well as very impressive defensive walls. Climb to the top of the Acropolas for views of the temples of Chichen Itza and Coba.

Coba: This ancient Mayan city is famous for its massive network of stone causeways, its incredible sculptures and engravings, and the temple pyramids also known as Nohoch Mul. Once home to about 50,000 people, the site was settled between 50 BCE and 100 CE. It was active for approximately 1500 years, so you can see a number of architectural styles represented among the many buildings.

El Rey Mayan Ruins: In case you’d like to stay close, don’t worry: Cancun is also famous for the El Rey ruins. With 47 buildings including two temples, El Rey Zona Arquelogica is located near the hotel zone.

Visit a Museum

Cancun Wax Museum: From Queen Elizabeth to Albert Einstein to Elvis, the wax museum hosts over 100 famous characters including sports stars, world leaders, Hollywood legends, and historical figures. This is a fun way to get out of the sun for a little while and take photos with your favorite celebs.

Mayan Museum of Cancun: Museo Maya de Cancun offers an intimate peek into the lives of Mayan people through art and objects used in everyday living. This fascinating museum is home to a fairly well-kept secret: The Ancient Mayan archaeological site of San Miguelito is located on the grounds, and admission includes the opportunity to explore for yourself.

Cancun Underwater Museum: Also known as MUSA, this incredible installation is part of the Cancun National Marine Park. It features more than 500 sculptures by artist Jason DeCaires Taylor and a few other artists, and is the world’s largest underwater museum. Even if you’re not into snorkeling or diving, this is one of the most exciting things to do in Cancun: You can tour by glass-bottom boat in the even you’d rather not get wet.

Tequila Museum: Love tequila and looking for things to do? Cancun Museo Sensorial del Tequila is more of a shop than an actual museum, but it’s one of the best places to buy tequila in Cancun. The little museum exhibits provide a peek at production methods.

Go Underground

Want to spend an afternoon surrounded by nature while keeping cool? The Yucatan Peninsula is home to many spectacular spring-fed cenotes as well as an incredible underground river. Dos Ojos Cenote and Ik Kil Cenote are two of the best. Some day trips treat you to combination adventures including a cenote swim, a trip to the Tulum archaeological site, and a stop at Playa del Carmen.

Rio Secreto Nature Reserve is a spectacular underground river that winds through “crystal” caves. Clear, cool turquoise water makes this amazing excursion a great way to beat the heat.

Take in a Cancun Theme Park

Cancun’s theme parks offer fun for the whole family. Most have ziplining and other interactive activities. Try:

Ventura Park: Formerly known as Wet n’ Wild Cancun, it’s three parks in one! AaahVentura, Fun World, and Wet n‘ Wild.

Xplor Fuego: This is an awesome adventure park with ziplines and more. Kids need to be at least age 5 to enter.

Xcaret: Three underground rivers host snorkeling, inner tube rides, and hands-on attractions. This is a great place for the whole family, with discounts for young kids.

Xenses Park: Wild and crazy themed Cancun activities and interactive adventures make Xenses fun for all ages.

Xel-Ha Park: This all-inclusive theme park has ziplines, a floating bridge, bike riding, snorkeling, cenotes, and an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s one of the best things to do in Cancun with kids!

Great Wheel: While the Great Ferris Wheel of Cancun isn’t exactly a theme park on its own, it’s well worth a ride! 60 meters high, with 42 air-conditioned gondolas, it offers a birds’ eye view of the Hotel Zone as well as the Caribbean Sea and Nichupte Lagoon. As Cancun activities go, this is one of the quickest – it’s perfect for adding to any fun-filled day or evening.

Interactive Aquarium: What to do Cancun with Kids? This fun-packed interactive experience is worth adding to your itinerary. Swim with the dolphins, feed the sharks, and encounter hundreds of marine species that range from colorful angelfish to spotted moray eels.

Enjoy an Afternoon of Shopping

One of the most popular activities in Cancun Mexico shares a common thread with other international locations…shopping! Here’s a quick list of the best shopping centers and malls in Cancun:

  • Puerto Cancun Marina Town Center
  • Luxury Avenue Cancun
  • Fashion Harbour
  • La Isla Shopping Village
  • Las Plazas Outlet Cancun
  • Mercado Cancun
  • Flamingo Mall
  • Forum By the Sea

If you’re looking for top things to do in Cancun on a budget, don’t miss the open-air markets! You can spend an entire day just browsing, enjoying inexpensive street food, and taking in the festive atmosphere.

Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

Some of the best Cancun tourist attractions are underwater. See the Underwater Statues at Isla Mujeres, snorkel Garrafon Natural Reef, or try another adventure. Here are a few to consider:

Snorkel with whale sharks: For marine life enthusiasts, snorkeling with whale sharks is one of the best Cancun Mexico excursions available. Small groups, knowledgeable guides, and gentle, filter-feeding giants make this adventure unforgettable.

Head to Isla Contoy: Isla Contoy offers excellent snorkeling along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, and visitors often encounter sea turtles as well as a colorful array of tropical fish. There’s a fascinating lighthouse here, plus Contoy Island is a world-famous bird reserve.

Become a PADI Certified Diver: If you’ve always wanted to learn how to scuba dive, Cancun is a great place to do it. Register in advance because these courses are very popular.

scuba diving cenote in cancun

Swim and scuba dive in a cenote: It’s one of the most unforgettable activities you can do in Cancun.

Take to the Sea

Whether you’re a fan of underwater adventures or not, there are plenty of outings that involve boats!

Take a catamaran tour: This is a fun alternative to the ferry that goes to Isla Mujeres and other nearby destinations.

Jungle tour: Believe it or not, this jungle tour actually takes place via boat! You can choose a guided tour or drive your own two-person boat through the mangrove channels, encountering a variety of wildlife along the way.

Tour Punta Nizuc in a Glass-Bottomed Boat: Want a great view of marine life without getting wet? Consider a trip on a glass-bottomed boat. You’ll feel as if you’re on a submarine ride as you tour the second-largest coral reef on the planet.

Eat like a pirate: Looking for a fun place to take the kids? The Captain Hook experience lets you enjoy dining on board a galleon.

Play After Hours

In case you’re wondering what to do in Cancun after the sun goes down, don’t worry: You won’t be stuck in your hotel room unless you’re in the mood for a nap. Cancun Mexico nightlife varies from laid-back to absolutely wild! Take your pick of the best nightclubs in Cancun. Here’s a handful of favorites.

Xoximilco: Also known as Xochimilco Cancun, Xoximilco is a huge nighttime party that celebrates Mexico’s traditions, folklore, and culture with games, food, music, dancing, and more. Everything takes place on a festive Mexican gondola and all are welcome. It’s one of the best places to visit in Cancun after hours, whether you’re a family, a couple, or a group of friends! As Cancun attractions go, this is one of the biggest.

Coco Bongo: With music, dancing, Vegas-style shows and more, Coco Bongo night club boasts a full menu of things to do in Cancun after dark. It’s busiest Thursday through Sunday. Monday through Wednesday, Coco Bongo is a little more chilled out but still plenty of fun.

La Vaquita Open Bar: Ready to cut loose? La Vaquita Open Bar offers unlimited domestic drinks, lively music, and a friendly, fun-loving crowd. Most Saturday nights, you can expect wild and crazy fun at the Let’s Get Ridiculous party.

Mandala Pool Party: This beach club features a pool with nearby cabanas plus food and drinks. It’s open during daylight hours, but things typically heat up even more when the sun goes down! In case you’re looking for something different, this after-hours pool party is sure to be one of your favorite things you can do in Cancun.

Senor Frog’s: Besides dining, dancing, and drinking, Senor Frog’s is home to the world-famous glow party, which features an amazing laser show. Weekly foam parties, open bar nights, and VIP beach parties are a few more features that make this a “must” on any spring breaker’s list of things to do in Cancun.

Eat Marvelous Food

There are plenty of amazing restaurants in Cancun, plus there are incredible street food vendors. Here are a handful of dining experiences to consider adding to your itinerary while you’re planning things to do in Cancun.

Enjoy Fresh Seafood: Thanks to its location, Cancun offers lots of delicious, fresh seafood. Most of the restaurants in Cancun have a few great seafood dishes on the menu and more than a few are dedicated mostly to seafood enthusiasts.

Go for Japanese: Thanks to the easy availability of fresh sashimi, there are quite a few sushi bars and Japanese restaurants in Cancun – almost 100!

When in Mexico…Eat Authentic Mexican Food! Cancun is home to well over 450 Mexican restaurants. From fine dining to uber-casual, cheap eats, the entire spectrum is covered. Our advice? Ask locals where to find your favorite dishes. They’ll be more than happy to share their opinions.

Check out the Food Stalls at Mercado 23: Experience local flavors in an ultra-casual setting. You can try your luck on your own or hit up all the best hot spots with a chef-guided tour.

Take a Cooking Class: If you’re interested in recreating authentic Mexican food at home, consider signing up for a cooking class! Choose fresh ingredients from a local market, then put them to use with the expert guidance of a chef.

In case you’re longing for something familiar, you’ll find no shortage of burgers, pizza, pasta, and more.

Authentic Mexican Food

Enjoying authentic Mexican food

Get a Little Exercise

Amid all the amazing food, delicious cocktails, and lazy days spent sunbathing, why not take a little bit of time out for some exercise? Here are a few fun ideas including some outdoor activities for adventurers.

  • Rent a Bike
  • Try Ziplining
  • Go Horseback Riding
  • Try an Xplor Day
  • Hit the Gym

Take Time Out for Self-Care

Unwind with Yoga, get a massage, enjoy a pedicure, or treat yourself to a facial. There’s no shortage of great spas in Cancun.

This is also the perfect place to experience a Temezcal ceremony complete with steam from hot volcanic stones and the aromas of copal and herbs, all under the expert guidance of a shaman. Afterward, refresh your body with fruit while relaxing on a hammock.

Learn More About Cancun Mexico: FAQ’s

What’s the best time to visit Cancun?

Cancun is amazing all year long! Most vacationers plan their trips for October through May, but there’s fun to be had during the off season as well.

Is it safe to travel to Cancun?

Absolutely! Most visitors are here to enjoy themselves, just like you are.

What is the Cancun Hotel Zone?

The Hotel Zone is a long stretch of hotels, shopping centers, and fun attractions all on a thin, sandy island that’s connected to Mexico’s mainland via two bridges. Many hotels are here, and there are more in downtown Cancun.

I only have a few days. What should I put on my “Must do in Cancun” list?

There are so many things you can do that the answer to this question depends on your goals. Go to Chichen Itza if you’re into history, visit Senor Frog’s if you want to party, and don’t miss snorkeling at the Underwater Museum if you want to see something truly out of this world.

What are a few family-friendly places to go in Cancun?

Theme parks and resorts are great for families, as are most beaches. Very young kids might not enjoy historic sites but older ones will be fascinated by the opportunity to climb ancient pyramids.

Chichen-Itza-Pyramid

Chichen Itza Pyramid

What are some of the best things to do in Cancun for couples?

Truly, the answer to this question depends on your taste since there are lots of great Cancun activities for couples. Snorkeling, couples’ massages, day trips, and jungle tours in a speedboat for two are a few of the best things to do in Cancun once you’ve had your fill of lounging on the beach.

What to do in Cancun if I’m not into the party scene?

Explore! Create a fun itinerary of day trips and plan to leave early, before partiers have woken up. You’ll enjoy smaller groups, cooler temperatures, and incredible sunrises.

Are Cancun activities expensive?

There are a variety of activities for every budget and many are surprisingly inexpensive. You’ll find that there are quite a few cheap things to do in Cancun, so your vacation doesn’t have to break the bank.

Now that you’re familiar with fun things to do in Cancun, it’s time to make plans! Check out the rest of our complete Cancun travel guide, which is conveniently broken down into a general information section about Cancun that expands greatly on the FAQs above. Next, read about different places to stay in Cancun – there are tons of different options including some cool all-inclusive vacation packages, studio apartments, and a whole lot more. Most of all, have fun! With so many different things to do in Cancun, there truly is something for everyone.

< Read part 2

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