Last Updated on January 31, 2023
Located on the southeastern side of Mexico on the end of a peninsula where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico, Cancun is a popular tourist destination. So popular in fact, it generates about one-third of Mexico’s entire tourism revenue! Though it may be considered the least “Mexican” city in the country with its phalanx of massive resorts in the Hotel Zone, nothing can change the fact that Cancun has been blessed with nature’s gifts.
From expansive soft alabaster sands, idyllic beaches and a sparkling ‘Blue Curacao’ Caribbean Sea, no one can deny that Cancun has a lot going for it – it’s popular for a reason. Many major American cities offer direct flights to Cancun’s international terminal adding to its popularity by making it easy to get to. Once there, visitors find plenty of taxis or resort drivers taking you directly to your hotel to start your vacation in paradise.
We’ve come up with a list of the best things to do in Cancun, Mexico to satisfy those whose goal is to just chill and relax on the beach and suggestions for travelers wanting to venture out and explore as well.
- Hit the Beaches
- Snorkel in the Caribbean Sea
- Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA)
- Day Trip to Isla Mujeres
- Explore Zona Arqueologica El Rey (El Rey Ruins)
- Explore An Underground River
- Museo Maya de Cancún
- Shop at Mercado 28
- Zip Line in an Adventure Park
- Golfing in Cancun
- Party at Coco Bongo
- Xoximilco Fiesta
- Where to Stay in Cancun
Hit the Beaches
Let’s start with the beaches because honestly, this is why a majority of guests come to Cancun. Most resorts in this area front magnificent beaches so you’re likely to be happy with whatever section of sand is directly adjacent to your hotel.
One of our favorites on the 13-mile stretch of sparkling sand is Playa Defines (Dolphin Beach). This is one of the best beaches on the Hotel Zone coastline as it’s largely undeveloped, public, and lacks the crowds you’ll find at other beaches in the Zone. In addition, it’s known for its many pods of dolphins frolicking in the waters just offshore.
Snorkel in the Caribbean Sea
An amazing new world awaits visitors below the water’s surface in Cancun. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef runs parallel to the coast of the Mexican Caribbean, the second largest reef system in the world.
Needless to say, this means that snorkeling here is an incredible experience. There are several spots to enjoy the abundant corals, colorful fish, sea turtles and other marine life. You don’t need go far to find a great snorkeling spot; Punta Nizuc, the southernmost point of the hotel zone, is one of the closest and most accessible Cancun snorkeling destinations.
Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA)
This is not a traditional museum by any mean. The Cancun Underwater Museum is composed of numerous concrete structures spread across the seafloor. The museum sits between Isla Mujeres and the Hotel Zone and is only accessible by boat tour.
More than 500 sculptures including a Volkswagen Beetle are located under the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea waters providing visibility of up to 60-feet, making most of the larger sculptures visible from the surface. The sculptures provide a safe haven for lobsters, crabs, sea urchins and many other crustaceans.
Day Trip to Isla Mujeres
Spanish for “Island of Women,” Isla Mujeres is a small archipelago in the Mexican Caribbean just 12.5 miles from Cancun.
Accessible by ferry or boat from Puerto Juarez, a day trip to this captivating island and its bountiful natural beauty is a must-do for those vacationing in Cancun. Its beaches are some of the most beautiful in all of Mexico! Snorkeling here is spectacular, as well as zip-lining adventures.
On the southern tip of Isla Mujeres, Punta Sur sits 60-some feet above sea level where the rising sun first touches Mexican soil. Its rocky cliffs, crashing waves and multi-hued azure waters make for spectacular scenery and photos that will make your friends and family back home eat their hearts out.
Here you’ll find the highest elevation in the Yucatan which was once home to an ancient temple honoring the Mayan Goddess Ixchel.
If you’re hungry or hankering for a Mexican margarita, the charming town will be happy to deliver.
Explore Zona Arqueologica El Rey (El Rey Ruins)
When visitors come to Cancun, most head to the major ruins of the Yucatan such as Chichen Itza, a three-hour one-way trip. However, if time is an issue, tucked away among the tourist spots, hotels, and beaches of Cancún are equally interesting remnants of the Mayan civilization.
The El Rey ruins located near the southern end of Cancun are thought to have been a royal retreat/playground between 1250 to 1630. The most prominent archeological features are two small temples thought to be used as watchtowers and lighthouses.
Be prepared that in this area, there are lots and lots of iguanas! They’re harmless unless you try touching them.
Explore An Underground River
Rio Secreto (Secret River) is a stunning underground river located beneath the lush Mayan forests with thousands of dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. The river, newly discovered in 2007, is part of a vast network of five massive, connected caverns. The protected natural reservoir of caves and underground rivers is located in Playa del Carmen, just one hour from Cancun.
Guests don wetsuits and lamp lights to enter the caverns with a guide. It’s one unforgettable experience we highly recommend.
Museo Maya de Cancún
This museum located in the Hotel Zone’s Boulevard Kukulkan houses archeological pieces from significant historic sites across Mexico. Within its three exhibit halls, the museum displays roughly 400 archeological artifacts, many of which were found at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.
The museum’s avant-garde design with floor to ceiling windows are themselves an impressive piece of architecture.
Shop at Mercado 28
This colorful vibrant crafts market is the ideal place for picking up your souvenirs and Mexican crafts at a reasonable price. The long-running Cancun flea market is known for its wide variety of local shops, boutiques and tantalizing street food. Located a short distance from Cancun’s bustling downtown district, it’s a fun Mexican “eye-candy” experience.
Zip Line in an Adventure Park
Selvatica translates to “pertaining to the jungle,” and has been a fertile campground for explorers and adventurers for generations.
The adventure park provides the perfect balance of adrenaline, adventure and fun in the Mexican Jungle. This family-friendly adventure center offers various activities packaged together into different tours. Guests can choose from multiple adventures and activities including a 10 cable Zip Line Circuit, the Tarzania Jungle Coaster, Superflight, a Sky Walk Aerial-trek (bridges and high rope adventure), the Giant Jungle Bungee Swing, ATV’s and Polaris RZR buggies, and a Safari Truck Ride through the jungle.
Golfing in Cancun
With luxury resorts and tropical weather luring tourists from all over the globe, it’s no surprise that a world class golf scene has developed around Cancun.
One popular destination is the 18-hole Playa Mujeres Golf Club. It’s expensive, but guests at either the Dreams or Secrets resorts can play for a discount. Golfers can also grab a tee time at the El Camaleon Mayakoba, a stunning course winding through jungles, mangroves and cenotes.
Party at Coco Bongo
Located right in the heart of the Hotel Zone, Coco Bongo Cancun stands out among dozens of bars and clubs that form the party capital in Mexico. Just one block from the Caribbean Sea, Coco Bongo sports the most popular disco show in Mexico with projections on giant screens and impressive acrobatics.
Featuring themes paying homage to The Beatles, Brazil’s Carnevale, “The Mask” and “300,” the energy of this fascinating production is incredible.
Xoximilco is a true Mexican fiesta – on board a bright and colorful gondola. The party pays tribute to the traditions, culture and folklore of one of the Mexican World Heritage Sites as designated by UNESCO. The gondola takes passengers on a ride through the charming natural scenery of Xoximilco where the celebrations, dancing, singing, toasts and games take place.
During the ride, guests enjoy the scents and flavors of Mexico with a delicious dinner featuring the distinct tastes of Mexican cuisine with an open bar.
Where to Stay in Cancun
Resorts with direct beachfront access can be pricey, but if you’re willing to stay back from the water, deals can be found. Use the map below to find the location and price range best for you.