Things to Do in Cancun
Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba, is one of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, in tandem with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Highlights of this archaeological site include the Temple of the Frescoes, which has spectacular figurines of the 'diving god.'
Isla Mujeres (the “Island of Women”) is known for its rich marine life and pristine beaches. Here you can snorkel at Manchones Reef, scuba dive in the Cave of Sleeping Sharks, or stretch out on the white sands of North Beach (Playa Norte). On land you’ll find bustling nightlife, with oceanside bars and restaurants serving fresh seafood.
One of the New 7 Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá is among Mexico's most visited and iconic archaeological sites. Known for its main central pyramid, this impressive Maya site—once the ceremonial center of the Yucatán—also features temples, ball courts, and a cenote (freshwater sinkhole).
With unparalleled access to the Caribbean Sea and all of its bounty, a visit to the Xcaret eco-archaeological park is a must when on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Snorkeling, ziplining, river rafting, exploring underwater rivers, and hiking tropical trails through jungle ruins are all options within this natural adventure park, which gives fast access to many of Cancun’s greatest attractions.
Playa Norte (North Beach) is a relaxing strand on Isla Mujeres, a small island off the Yucatan Peninsula. Once considered a sacred site devoted to a Maya goddess, Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) earned its name when the Spanish discovered images of the goddess on the island. Today, Isla Mujeres and Playa Norte offer a laid-back alternative to bustling Cancun.
CoCo Bongo in Cancun isn’t your typical nightclub and there’s no traditional dance floor. Instead, the popular venue hosts energetic performances including acrobats, bands, and musical impersonators who belt out tunes by artists ranging from Rihanna to Elvis. This lively spot is a must-visit for those looking for a fun night out in Cancun but don’t want to simply dance to DJs.
Named after a Mayan word meaning “the place where the waters are born,” the Xel-Ha aquatic park encompasses 14 acres (5.7 hectares) of jungle and ocean just south of Playa del Carmen. A must-visit family-friendly attraction, Xel-Ha is home to cenotes, a lazy river, fish-filled lagoons, and other natural attractions.
Aboard a Cancun-based Captain Hook pirate ship, spend a family-friendly evening that includes a buffet dinner served by salty seamen, dancing on the deck, and imbibing at an open bar. The 18th-century Spanish galleon replicas cruise the Caribbean while “pirates” entertain the crowd with tales of past escapades and dramatic sword fights.
Many cities boast art, history, and cultural museums, but Cancun’s version of these is a little out of the ordinary. The Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (Museo Subacuático de Arte) is an ongoing project promoting art as well as lively coral reefs. Snorkelers and divers can view its collection of more than 500 sunken sculptures that lie up to 20 feet (6 meters) deep.
Xoxomilco, whose name means “garden of flowers” in Nahuatl, is Cancun’s homage to the floating gardens and canals of Mexico City’s famous Xochimilco neighborhood. Here, visitors can experience a number of Mexican traditions, including floating boats strung with flowers, live music, and regional food.
More Things to Do in Cancun
Often considered the top outdoor activity in Cancun, Selvatica adventure park gives visitors the chance to shake up their beach routine with ziplines, off-road tours, a cenote dive, and more. Selvatica provides the perfect action-packed day trip just an hour north of Cancun and offers customizable options for the whole family.
Set along Nichupte Lagoon in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, La Isla Shopping Village is lined with boutique shops, waterfront dining, and luxury shopping. Stroll along the winding canals—which create a Venice-like atmosphere—sip cocktails in classy courtyards, and purchase souvenirs.
Dolphin Beach (Playa Delfines) is a welcome respite from the crowded beaches and bustling nightclubs for which Cancun has become known. Located just beyond the hotel zone at one of the city’s highest points, this quiet stretch of sand offers picture-perfect expansive views and an ideal setting for a leisurely stroll, catching waves, or simply relaxing.
Filled with crystal clear water and lined with limestone stalactites, Cenotes Sac Actun is the world’s largest known underwater cave system. The freshwater cave is home to colorful fish, bats, and animal fossils. Sac Actun is simultaneously one of the most impressive and least crowded cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Avenida Kukulkan, also known as Cancun’s Hotel Zone, is a pulsing thoroughfare lined with oceanfront resorts that separate the Caribbean Sea from the Nichupte Lagoon. This long, flat strip is home to some of Cancun’s best shopping, dining, and nightlife. From Avenida Kukulkan, various paths lead out to a limitless stretch of white sand.
Take a break from the beaches to explore artifacts from Mexico’s ancient past at the Mayan Museum of Cancun (Museo Maya de Cancún), one of the largest and most important of its kind in Mexico. Here, visitors can see incredible items recovered from sites such as Chichén Itzá, or visit the adjacent archaeological site San Miguelito to stroll among the ruins.
Set in dense jungle south of Playa del Carmen, Xenses Park offers outdoor adventure with a multisensory twist. As well as a zipline, lazy river, and waterslide, the park also uses optical illusions, natural exhibits, and interactive features to get your adrenaline going, making it a top choice for thrillseekers of any age.
Try street food, pick up souvenirs, and do some people-watching at Palapas Park (Parque Las Palapas), which buzzes with locals, live music, food vendors, and shopping stalls. At this central plaza in downtown Cancun, you get an authentic look into Mexican culture that can’t be found at the nearby beaches and resorts.
This beachfront amusement park near Cancún, is a popular, family-friendly destination. It’s divided into different sections, including Wet’n Wild, Underworld, Aah!Ventura, Grand Prix, Fun World, and Dolphinaris, each of which offers attractions such as waterslides, ziplines, dolphin encounters, go-karts, a high-tech arcade, and more.
Offering family entertainment that both adults and children can enjoy, the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship sets sail from the Riviera Maya and sails the Caribbean seas while dazzling passengers with swashbuckling pirate shows and hearty food. The ship is a modern replica of the Santa Maria, which Columbus is said to have journeyed on when he discovered the Americas.
The Jolly Roger features four decks and can accommodate up to 240 passengers, with plenty of space for entertainment and dining. Filet mignon, lobster, a vegetarian option, plus a special pirate kids menu are on offer, not to mention the open bar with free domestic drinks. The pirate show is a blend of comedy and adventure, interspersed by dinner, fireworks, and dancing. Expect dramatic sword fighting, exploding cannons, and amazing acrobatics, all designed to entertain, delight, and draw you in to this unique pirate adventure.
As one of the top family-friendly attractions in the resort town, the Cancun Interactive Aquarium offers visitors a peek into the Caribbean and the chance to touch, feed, and interact with a variety of marine life. Home to schools of colorful tropical fish, seahorses, jellyfish, stingrays, tiger and bull sharks, sea turtles, and more, the aquarium provides the chance to learn about the animals’ natural habitats and their role in the underwater ecosystem.
Cancún is full of places to party, but the decor at the Mandala nightclub—a multilevel venue in Cancún’s hotel zone—sets it apart. Guests enjoy the wide-open dance floor, glittery lights, and impressive entryway. The club is also known for weekly pool parties, when guests dance to live DJ sets beside the pool or soak in the Jacuzzi.
Located just outside Cancun, Garrafon Natural Reef Park is a natural amusement park that offers recreational activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, ziplining, and biking. With colorful coral reefs, tropical hills, and rugged coastal cliffs, Garrafon Natural Reef Park allows you to experience some of the best of Mexico’s outdoor treasures.
Because Cancun is a flat coastal plain, you don’t really need to gain much elevation for a sweeping view of the town. Imagine, then, the panoramic view from atop the Cancun Scenic Tower (Torre Escénica), considering the tower puts you 264 feet above the town. As part of the Xcaret network of sights, Escenica Tower offers visitors a view of the massive Xcaret complex, as well as the string of Cancun beaches all the way out to Cozumel in the distance. This is the highest point on the Riviera Maya, and because the enclosed, air-conditioned platform slowly rotates while climbing the tower, all you need to do is look out the window and take in the time-stopping view.
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