The paradise of Cancun, on the southeast coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, is a gateway to both the Caribbean and ancient Mayan civilisation. Most people visit this tropical paradise to unwind on gorgeous beaches in the sun. Cancun boasts fantastic water sports, vibrant nightlife and over 20 km of pristine sandy beaches on the Caribbean coast.
But there’s no shortage of things to do for those who prefer a more adventurous holiday. The Yucatan’s coast has the second-largest offshore coral reef in the world. Head out on a snorkelling or diving tour and explore miles of vibrant corals and hidden underground grottoes. Plan your tropical vacation by checking out our guide of things to do in Cancun.
Cancun’s heart is the city’s downtown, where locals and travelers unite around the food stalls and shops of central Parque Las Palapas. The city is also known for its nightlife, and a number of waterfront clubs light up the after-hours scene in the area’s Hotel Zone.
Quieter spots are also plentiful in Cancun, ideal for tranquil days on the beach. On the south side, you’ll find the serene blue waters of Puerto Morelos. Just a ferry-hop away, visit the white-sand beaches of Isla Mujeres and the deep-sea sculptures of the MUSA Underwater Museum of Art nearby. (Read More).
Start the day in Zona Hotelera
Enjoy sunbathing and play beach games
Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone) is a touristy section of Cancun that offers a good range of hotels overlooking the Caribbean Sea. There’s no shortage of fantastic beaches to check out, but Playa Delfines, at the southern end of the main strip, is a great choice if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter. The minor archaeological site of El Rey is found on the southern end of Zona Hotelera.
Location: Zona Hotelera, Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Relax on Playa Tortugas Beach
Bungee jump off the pier tower
Playa Tortugas is a relatively small stretch of sand about 6 km northeast of Cancun’s Zona Hotelera. The beach is free to enjoy all year round, and its shores are shallow enough for children to safely swim in. Thrill seekers get to enjoy bungee jumping from the top of a 25-metre-tall tower on the pier. There are ferries departing for Isla Mujeres from Playa Tortugas every day.
Location: Playa Tortugas, Zona Hotelera, Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico
El Rey Archaeological Zone
See over 45 Mayan stone structures
The El Rey Archaeological Zone is an ancient Mayan site towards the southern end of Zona Hotelera. The Mayan ruins reveal a civilization that was dedicated to fishing and maritime trade. After paying a $2.50 admission fee at the entrance, you get to explore more than 45 stone structures, including a Mayan temple and the burial site of an important figure. If you want to learn about the history of this ancient civilization, the Mayan Museum of Cancun is a just a few minutes’ walk away.
Location: El Rey Zona Arqueológica, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm
Phone: +52 983 837 2411
Cancun Underwater Museum
See underwater sculptures at this reef conservation centre
The Cancun Underwater Museum displays about 500 life-like sculptures beneath the waters of the Cancun National Marine Park. Founded in 2008, these unique installations were created as part of the efforts to protect the Mesoamerican reef system and promoting new coral life in Cancun. There are 3 submerged galleries that cover a total area of 420 sq m, attracting divers and snorkelers with their surreal setting. A rather unsettling sculpture at the Cancun Underwater Museum is called The Bankers in Salon Manchones. Located off the coast of Isla Mujeres, the garden features statues of businessmen with their heads buried beneath the sand.
Location: Cerrada Las Golondrinas 24, Alfredo Bonfil, 77560 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm
Phone: +52 998 206 0182
Take a boat trip to Isla Mujeres
Enjoy kayaking at Garrafon Natural Reef Park
Isla Mujeres is a peaceful island just 20 minutes by boat from Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Ferries depart from 3 locations, namely Embarcadero Pier, Playa Tortugas and Playa Caracol. The island’s many beaches are clean and lined with palm trees, many of which have hammocks strung between them. There are many open-air bars and restaurants, especially on Playa Norte (North Beach). If you’re up for adventurous activities, the Garrafon Natural Reef Park offers kayaking and snorkelling excursions, as well as zip-lining over the Caribbean Sea.
Location: Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Garrafon Natural Reef Park
Snorkel on the Great Mesoamerican Reef
Water sports are one of the highlights of Cancun, especially snorkelling on the Great Mesoamerican Reef, which is the among the largest reefs in the world. One of the most popular snorkelling spots is located at Isla Mujeres’s Garrafon Natural Reef Park, where you get to spot over 500 fish species and 100 colourful corals during your underwater excursion. Kayaks are available for rent for those who prefer to stay above water when exploring Garrafon Natural Reef Park.
Location: Carretera Garrafón Lote 9 Km. 6, SM 9, 77400 Isla Mujeres, Q.R., Mexico
Open: Sunday-Friday from 9 am to 5 pm (closed on Saturdays)
Phone: +52 998 193 3370