This list of the best things to do in Cancun will help you prepare your trip to one of the most famous sun and beach vacation destinations in the world.
Bathed by the transparent and turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, this city is the gateway to the paradisiacal Riviera Maya and the one with the most hotel infrastructure in the Yucatan Peninsula.
With direct flights from most major cities around the world, many travel agencies offer Cancun all-inclusive vacation packages at very competitive prices.
Bearing in mind that although Cancun is considered a sun and beach destination, it is located near the most important sites of the ancient Mayan civilization such as Chitzén Itzá, Tulum and Cobá.
In addition to the possibility of making these more cultural visits, you also have numerous leisure activities such as bathing in one of the fantastic cenotes, snorkeling or diving through its magnificent coral reef, shopping or enjoying delicious Mexican food.
Relax on the Cancun Beaches
Relaxing on a sun lounger and taking a dip in one of the best white sand beaches and crystal clear waters is one of the best things to do in Cancun.
This city has more than 20 kilometers of public beaches of all kinds: tourist, local, calm waters or waves, with water activities, which will allow you to choose according to your preferences.
Among the most recommended is Playa Delfines, where the large letters of CANCUN can be found and which offers spectacular views of the sea, although the strong waves make it more recommendable for surfing than for swimming.
Another of the most famous and crowded is Playa Tortugas where you can practice all kinds of water sports and enjoy the parties that are usually held there.
If you prefer tranquility you can go to Playa Langosta or Playa Caracol with a more familiar atmosphere and calm waters, ideal for snorkeling or swimming.
Other recommended beaches are: Playa Linda, Playa Ballenas, Playa Las Perlas or Playa Chac Mool.
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Visit Chitzen Itza
Chitzén Itzá, the most important Mayan site in Mexico and one of the seven wonders of the world, is another place to visit in Cancun.
In this ancient city of the Mayan civilization, important structures such as the Temple of the Jaguar, the Ball Court and, above all, the famous Kukulkan Pyramid are still preserved in good condition.
To visit Chichén Itzá , it is recommended to arrive early, it opens at 8 in the morning, to avoid meeting many tourists and invest a minimum of 3 hours to visit all its most interesting points.
To get to Chichen Itza you can rent a car or take a bus at the ADO station in Cancun, located on Calle Pino Lot 1 and 2, which takes just over 3 hours.
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Get to know Cancun city
If you stay in an all-inclusive hotel and you are tired of lying in a hammock by the pool or the beach with a cocktail in hand, it can be a good distraction to take a bus to visit the city of Cancun.
In areas such as the Parque de las Palapas you will be able to discover the true essence of the city and verify that the local Mexican food is much better than what is served in the resorts.
Another of the best things to do in Cancun city is to look for a souvenir at one of the craft stalls at Mercado 28, located next to Plaza Bonita, which recreates a colorful Mexican town.
If you have more time and you haven’t had the opportunity to see any Mayan ruins, we advise you to go to the El Meco or San Miguelito archaeological sites.
To finish the route through the city of Cancun, you can enter the Tequila Museum, to learn the entire process of making this Mexican alcoholic beverage and take home a souvenir bottle.
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Arrive by boat to Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy
Islas Mujeres and Isla Contoy, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and located a few kilometers from the hotel zone, are the two most essential islands to see in Cancun.
On these two islands you will enjoy white sand beaches, intense turquoise green waters, shallow sea beds full of coral and tropical fish, and delicious cuisine in which the conch ceviche surprises.
In Islas Mujeres it is recommended to rent a bike or a golf cart to find the calmest and most beautiful beaches such as Playa Norte and snorkel in the El Garrafón marine park.
While in Isla Contoy you can also snorkel or dive as it has one of the most incredible coral reefs in the world and get closer to the Isla Contoy National Park with a great diversity of fauna and paradisiacal beaches.
From the hotel zone, ferries leave every half hour that will leave you in Islas Mujeres in 20 minutes.
To get to Isla Contoy, you can only do it by hiring an organized excursion as it is a protected natural area.
A good option is to book one of these tours located among the best excursions in Cancun:
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Tour the Hotel Zone
The Hotel Zone is the part of Cancun where the majority of large hotels, international restaurants, nightclubs, parks, shopping centers and endless entertainment venues are concentrated.
This area, located near the beach and crossed by the large Boulevard Kukulkan avenue, has interesting points such as the El Rey archaeological site and the beautiful Laguna Nichupté.
If you want to have the best perspective of this entire part of the city, we recommend you climb the 110-meter-high Scenic Tower, one of the best things to do in Cancun and from which you can see Isla Mujeres.
Once these visits are complete, you can go shopping at Plaza Forum by The Sea or La Isla Shopping Village, which has a huge Ferris wheel with fantastic views.
To finish, you can have fun at the famous Coco Bongo nightclub that offers live music and various shows.
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Visit the Ruins of Tulum, one of the best things to do in Cancun
The Mayan ruins of Tulum, located at the top of a small cliff with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean in the background, is one of the most beautiful places to see in the Riviera Maya and is included in this route through the Riviera Maya in 7 days.
This archaeological site, from which some important structures have been preserved, such as the Temple of the Frescoes and the one known as El Castillo, can be explored perfectly in about two hours and end up taking a swim on the beach located just below the ruins.
If you have extra time, we recommend going to Playa Paraíso, located half an hour’s walk from the site, where you can eat at one of the beach bars and take a postcard photo next to a solitary palm tree.
To get to these ruins, if you do not want to rent a car , you will have to take an ADO bus to the city of Tulum and from there a van or van to the entrance of the site. The total duration of the journey is about 3 hours.
Another more comfortable option is to book this excursion to Tulum in the morning or this two-day tour to Tulum and Coba , in both tours the guide in Spanish and the pick-up at the hotel are included.
For more information you can read this post about the essential things to visit and do in Tulum.
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Take a bath in a cenote
Bathing in a cenote , a freshwater pond that is formed by the erosion of limestone rocks, is another of the best things to do in Cancun.
These wells, which the Mayans gave sacred use, abound in the Yucatan Peninsula and have become one of the great tourist attractions in Mexico.
We visit some of the best cenotes in Valladolid , located two hours from Cancun and that stand out for their karst formations and for being cave-like.
Near Cancun and Puerto Morelos there is the famous route of the cenotes that passes through some open and others underground such as Morrajas, Boca del Puma, Siete Bocas, Verde Lucero or La Noria, among many others.
If you don’t mind seeing just one or two, you can take one of the buses that leave every hour from the ADO terminal and go through the Ruta de los Cenotes in the direction of Leona Vicario.
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Visit the Cobá Ruins
The Cobá ruins is another of the places to visit in Cancun and one of the best excursions in the Riviera Maya.
This enormous Mayan archaeological site of more than 80 square kilometers in extension and with more than 6,000 structures buried in the jungle of which only 10% have been unearthed, is a true wonder.
To tour this enclosure you can rent a bike at the entrance and reach the impressive Nohuch Mul pyramid, the tallest in the Yucatan Peninsula at 42 meters high, from where you will have incredible views of the ruins and the jungle.
Another advantage of these ruins is that there are far fewer tourists than in Chichen Itza and Tulum and the structures are less restored, giving it a more magical and authentic aura.
To get to Cobá, if you don’t have a rental car , you can take an ADO bus that will leave you near the entrance, in just over 3 hours.
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Go diving or snorkeling
Diving in the second largest barrier reef in the world that extends over 1,000 kilometers in front of the Riviera Maya, is another of the essential things to do in Cancun.
Diving or snorkeling through the shallow, crystal-clear waters of this coral reef that begins at Isla Contoy will allow you to see countless tropical fish, turtles, and molluscs of all kinds.
In addition to Isla Contoy, other of the best areas for diving near Cancun are Islas Mujeres, Punta Nizuc, Cozumel Island and the Machones area.
Another amazing site that can only be seen by snorkeling or diving is the Underwater Museum of Art located near Islas Mujeres, where there are more than 500 submerged sculptures.
Disconnect from the world on Holbox Island
Holbox Island, located north of the Yucatan Peninsula, is a true paradise and one of our favorite places to visit in Mexico.
Strolling along the white sand beaches, bathing in the transparent turquoise green waters, trying the delicious tacos and lobster pizza, seeing the murals of the town, spending hours reading lying in a hammock, are just some of the best things to see and do in Holbox.
You can get to all these places on the island on foot, although it is recommended if it is very hot, to rent a golf cart.
The best time to go to Holbox, as long as there is no annoying sargassum, is between May and September, when you can see the nesting of turtles on its beaches, the whale shark and the luminous plankton. Remember that if you want to carry out any activity with these animals, it is very important to do it with a company that is active with Responsible Tourism.
To get to Holbox you can take an ADO bus that leaves at 9 in the morning and will take you directly to Chiquilá in two and a half hours. Once in Chiquilá you have to take a ferry that will leave you in Holbox in 20 minutes.
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