17 Best things to do in Cancun

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Cancun is the most popular destination in the Yucatan province. Cancun is known for its beautiful beaches, exclusive hotels, and great boulevard. Cancun is also known as the party city of Mexico. However, Cancun has so much more to offer than just white beaches and parties. Cancun is a perfect city to get acquainted with Mexican culture and from a practical point of view, it is nice not to have to travel further directly after a long flight.

We share our experience in this article and hope to get you excited to get to know Cancun. In this article, you can read about the best things to do in Cancun, where to stay, and more Cancun tips. Read on to discover: things to do in Cancun.

Cancun beach
Cancun parrot

Things to do in Cancun?

Canun can be compared to Las Vegas, only in its Mexican way. It generally attracts a certain type of traveler. The one who enjoys the all-inclusive resorts or the college student visiting Cancun to drink and get a tan. This is, of course, stereotyped and exaggerated. As a result, Cancun is not known as a top destination for travelers. However, this does not mean that you can do many fun things in Cancun.

Read here the 17 recommended activities that go beyond the standard travel advice for Cancun.

Tip: Use the map below to see where Cancun’s best things are located. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the map. If you click on the star symbol next to the title, you can save this map to your Google Maps account. You can show or hide different categories on the map. You can use this map to navigate when you are in Cancun.

#1 Hotel Zone in Cancun

Cancun can be divided into two parts, namely the mainland (center of Cancun) and the island (Hotel Zone). One of the main Cancun attractions is the Hotel Zone. This is the reason why Cancun is so popular. This is where most travelers like to stay. Here you will find large resorts, many clubs, beautiful beaches, restaurants, and the boulevard.

There are great activities in Cancun Hotel Zone that you can do, when you stay in the Hotel Zone you have enough time to discover all these places. If you are staying in the center of Cancun, it is worth visiting this part of Cancun. When you are in the Hotel Zone of Cancun, you will understand why this is the number 1 activity to do in Cancun because you will be amazed!

#2 Best beaches in Cancun

One of the best things to do in Cancun is enjoying the amazing beaches. These beaches are as you can imagine; white sand, clear water, and of course the palm trees in the background. There are several beaches in and around the Hotel Zone, each with its advantage. We recommend visiting the beaches below:

  • Playa Delfines: is one of the largest and according to many the best beach to visit because it is beautiful. Please note that you cannot swim here because of the current;
  • Costa Mujeres: this beach is a lot quieter compared to most beaches in Cancun because it is located outside the center. This makes it a perfect beach for people who want to sit relax;
  • Playa Tortugas: this beach is perfect for children because the water is calm. The disadvantage is that it can be very busy.
  • Chac Mool Beach: if you also want to snorkel a visit to Chac Mool Beach is recommended.
  • Playa Forum: this beach is the quietest beach you can find in Cancun itself, there is a relaxed atmosphere which is nice.
cancun sunrise

#3 Cancun whale sharks: bucket list activity

The best day trip from Cancun is without a doubt swimming with the whale sharks. For us, this was the best activity we did during our trip through Mexico. It is important to know that if you travel to Isla Holbox like us, it is better to do this activity from there because you are closer to the place where the whale sharks often occur. This means you don’t have to sail as long from Isla Holbox. If you don’t travel to Isla Holbox, don’t worry because it is also possible to do it from Cancun.

Swimming with whale sharks is only possible by following a tour. Check prices and availability here.

The tour lasts all day from Cancun. It takes the whole morning to arrive at the place where the whale sharks are. Before entering the water you will receive instructions from the guide. It is important that you do not swim in front of the whale sharks and that you do not touch them, as this will harm the animals. In pairs, you enter the water with the guide and you have two attempts to swim with the whale sharks. The guide is always nearby so that safety is guaranteed.

You have to be lucky when it comes to swimming with the whale sharks. We were very lucky with our second attempt, we swam with a whale shark for a total of 10 minutes, which is a long time! The best moment was that we could swim next to one of the whale sharks and look right into the eye.

After the two attempts, you will have lunch off the coast of Isla Holbox and afterward, you will have time to relax.

The tour with the whale sharks from Cancun is recommended for people who want a unique encounter with a magnificent animal and that don’t travel to Isla Holbox.

Tip: If you suffer from your vestibular system, take a travel tablet before the tour, when the boat is stationary it will go up and down considerably, which can make you very nauseous. We speak from experience because unfortunately, we did not have this tip at the time!

Isla Holbox whale sariks

Where to stay in Cancun

Option 1 Excellent value for money: Hotel NYX Cancun
Hotel NYX Cancun
is a beautiful resort that overlooks the sea. The restaurant is good. It also has a private beach which allows you to enjoy sitting on the beach without having to share it with many others. The rooms are neat and the beds of this hotel are of high quality. This hotel has a great location being close to downtown Cancun but still able to provide the peace you are looking for.
Check prices and availability for Hotel NYX Cancun here.

Option 2 Location and luxury: Ocean Dream Cancun
Ocean Dream Cancun
is a resort located within walking distance of the center, very ideal. The resort is built very high, so you have an amazing sea view from your room. In addition, this resort has two swimming pools and you can enjoy delicious food and drinks here. It is possible to book all-inclusive. If you’re looking for some luxury at a competitive price, this is the place for you.
Check prices and availability for Ocean Dream Cancun here
.

#4 Visit Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is an island located in the Caribbean Sea just off Cancun. This island is wonderful to visit because you will find one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico and it is also a great place for snorkeling.

You can visit Isla Mujeres independently or via a tour. If you prefer to visit independently, you will need to take a boat from Cancun harbor to the island. During your visit, the places Lxchel Temple, Garrafon Reef Park and the ruins of Hacienda Mundaca are a must to visit. Use public transport or a taxi to visit the different places.

If you prefer a tour you sail by catamaran to Isla Mujeres. Before you visit the island, you make a stop at a coral reef park, you have enough time here to discover the treasures underwater. This is one of the better places in Mexico for snorkeling because the coral is still in good condition and you can admire much tropical fish here. After snorkeling, head to the island and have time to discover the different beaches of the island.

The tour to Isla Mujeres is recommended for travelers who would like to do a relaxing day trip from Cancun. Check current prices and availability here.

Isla mujeres
isla mujeres sea turtle

#5 Snorkeling at Cancun

Mexico is one of the better locations in the world for snorkeling, Cancun is one of the cities that because of its location, is very suitable for a snorkeling excursion. You have the choice to go snorkeling in the ancient underground rivers of the Maya or at sea.

The Maya snorkel tour takes you to the underground rivers of the Maya and is recommended for people who want to snorkel and learn more about Maya history. You can see coral reef where you can admire three different species of sea turtles in their natural habitat. You will also visit the second largest reef area in the world here.

If you prefer a tour on the open sea this is also possible. The nice thing about this tour is that in addition to the ‘normal’ snorkeling, you also visit MUSA. This is an underwater museum where you can see beautiful remains that have ended up in the sea over the years.

cancun snorkeling

#6 Visit the most beautiful island of Mexico: Isla Holbox

Without hesitation, we dare to say that the most beautiful island to visit in Mexico is Isla Holbox. We recommend not to visit Isla Holbox as a day trip but to stay here for a few days. In our article on Isla Holbox, you can read everything you need to know.

Should you not be able to stay a few days in Isla Holbox due to lack of time, it is highly recommended to visit it from Cancun as a day trip. Isla Holbox is known for the beautiful stretches of beaches where you hardly see any other people. From Cancun, it is possible to book an Isla Holbox tour where you travel by boat to the island. You will have plenty of time to see the highlight of Isla Holbox. Walk on the beach, relax at special locations, and discover places around the island.

If you would like to know more read more information here.

Isla Holbox viewpoint

#7 Las Coloradas

One of the best lakes in the world to visit is Las Coloradas because the lake is pink. Visiting Las Colaradas is recommended to visit via a tour due to the distance. During the tour, you will visit a crocodile sanctuary and spot flamingos in Las Coloradas. You will also get on a bearded boat to sail through the mangrove of Las Coloradas. As you sail you will be surrounded by many different birds, such as pelicans and ospreys.

This activity is recommended for travelers who love to discover nature and who want to get to know areas of Mexico that aren’t visited by many others. Read more information here.

#8 Cancun going out

Going out in Cancun is of course one of the things you need to do when you are in Cancun. It’s one of the main reasons Cancun is so popular, making it worth experiencing. There are several clubs that you can visit in Cancun, we recommend Coco Bongo because the music they play is good and each time artists perform a show which is fun to watch. Tickets can be purchased here.

Looking for an itinerary through Yucatan? Read more.

#9 Mexican wrestling at Lucha Libre Cancun

If you would like to get to know the culture of Mexico better you need to watch a Mexican wrestling match. A unique activity, it is fun and strange at the same time to watch. It’s not normal wrestling. They compete in Mexican wrestling to win in wrestling, acrobatics, and theater.

The best place to watch Mexican wrestling is at Lucha Libre. Here you can enjoy a match every Tuesday for 3 hours. This activity is recommended for people who want to see something that they are not used to seeing. It is different and therefore fun. Tickets can be bought on-site at the stadium.

#10 Sea Turtles

The beaches of Cancun and the Yucatan Province are some of the best places for sea turtles to bury their eggs in the sand. Between May and October, you can see the sea turtles digging their eggs in the sand. Between July and December, the eggs hatch, and the little turtles go into the water.

What could be more fun than being present at such a natural wonder. The best place to see this is at Tortugranja on Isla Mujeres. This is a farm that specializes in sea turtles. For a small fee of €3, you can visit it and support the organization.

If you would like to swim with sea turtles, it is best to go to Akumal, where you will find many different species. Read more information here.

Tulum turtle

#11 ATV, zip line and more

If you want to do something active that gives you the necessary adrenaline, visiting Ruta de Los Cenotes is recommended. This is a part of the jungle near Cancun where you can ATV and zip-line.

You can only do this activity with a guide due to safety precautions. Your visit starts with a zip-line, you have to overcome several altimeters with the necessary speed. Then you can race through the jungle for an hour on an ATV. This is great because of the speed but you also pass several beautiful places along the tour.

If you are interested in this, it is smart to book in time because not too many people can participate daily. Check current availability here.

#12 Cenotes

One of the reasons the Yucatan is so popular is the fact that there are so many cenotes that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. A cenote is a natural water pool in a limestone cave. It is nice to visit cenotes because you can swim in them.

From Cancun, you can visit some cenotes. Visit the best cenotes with the Ruta de Los Cenotes which you can combine with the above activity.

There are many more cenotes in Yucatan but because of the distance, you can visit them better when you are at Tulum, Bacalar or Valladolid bent.

valladolid cenotes

#13 Discover the ancient world of Rio Secreto

In Playa del Carmen there is a cave where you can admire stalactites and stalagmites. It is a labyrinth where you can swim when visiting it. The nice thing about visiting Rio Secreto is that you can swim/walk independently and have all the time to visit different places.

If you travel to Playa del Carmen, it is recommended to visit these caves from there of course. However, if you are not going to stay in Playa del Carmen, this is a fun activity if you like to visit caves. Check current prices and availability here.

#14 Chichen Itza

From Cancun, you can visit one of Mexico’s most iconic landmarks: Chichén Itzá. Chichén Itzá is one of the seven wonders of the world and you don’t want to miss it. Chichén Itzá is a huge complex where you can find several temples.

We visited Chichén Itzá through a tour which gives you access to a guide. The guide makes the visit to Chichén Itzá unique because they can give a lot of information. This also allows you to better understand what you see and it is better to create an imagination of how it was back then.

During the tour, you will also visit Hubiku cenote and Valladolid. Hubiku cenote is world-famous because of the shape of the cenote. At the bottom of this cenote, you can walk and see how impressive nature can be. Valladolid is a colonial city where you can visit a beautiful historic center.

If you travel to Tulum or Valladolid, it is better to visit Chichén Itzá from these cities because this saves you a lot of travel time. If you are not traveling to these two cities, you can book this tour to visit Chichén Itzá from Cancun.

Chichen Itza

#15 Visit Tulum

If you are not traveling to Tulum, we recommend visiting Tulum in 1 day. In Tulum, you will find one of the most beautiful ruins of the Maya. The ruins of Tulum are a special place because it was once one of the largest cities of the Mayan civilization. In addition, the location is very special along the coast. Check for actual prices and availability here.

If you are planning to go to Tulum, which is recommended, you can read what you can do in Tulum here.

Tulum Mayan ruins

#16 Visit downtown Cancun

If you have any doubts about Cancun or if you want to do something without too many tourists, a visit to the center of Cancun is recommended. Here you will find where all the locals live. It is nice to walk around because you experience authentic Mexico. There are many small shops and nice local restaurants, well worth a visit.

If you like shopping, Mercado 28 is the best place to visit. Located in downtown Cancun, it caters primarily to locals rather than tourists. This makes it fun to walk through as you have hundreds of vendors selling everything you can think of. If you want to buy a gift for someone, this is the place to visit.

#17 Sailing at sunset

In the Cancun region and especially on the water you can see the most beautiful sunsets in the world. This is because the water is very calm at night. You can board a catamaran and sail for 2.5 hours on the water during sunset. They have an open bar on board. Only a few people can get on board, so check availability in time.

How many days should I stay in Cancun?

It depends on what type of traveler you are how many days in Cancun you need to stay. If you are going to travel through Yucatan, it is a shame to stay too long in one destination. So if you are planning to make a trip through Yucatan, it is best to stay 2 nights in Cancun. If your flight is to and from Cancun, you can also choose to stay one day each on arrival and departure. The advantage is that you do not have to travel from another place to Cancun during your flight day.

However, if you prefer to stay only in Cancun or a few other places, it is recommended to stay at least 5 nights in Cancun. As you have read, there are plenty of fun things to do in Cancun and around Cancun.

Best area in Cancun to stay?

If you are looking for accommodation in Cancun, you must first determine whether you want to stay in the center or the Hotel Zone of Cancun. In general, staying in the center is cheaper than staying in the Hotel Zone. All resorts, luxury hotels, restaurants, and bars are located in the Hotel Zone. For this reason, we recommend staying in the Hotel Zone, after all, this is also the most beautiful area of ​​Cancun.

The resorts we recommend are affordable and offer all the luxury you expect in Cancun. There are many other resorts in Cancun where you need to pay a lot for a small extra luxury. For this reason, both resorts are very popular, so be on time with your booking.

If you are staying in Cancun because you have a flight from here and you don’t want to spend too much money, it is recommended to stay in Suites Malecon.

Excellent value for money:
Hotel NYX Cancun

cancun v3

Hotel NYX Cancun is a beautiful resort that overlooks the sea. The restaurant is good. It also has a private beach which allows you to enjoy sitting on the beach without having to share it with many others. The rooms are neat and the beds of this hotel are of high quality. This hotel has a great location being close to downtown Cancun but still able to provide the peace you are looking for.

Location and luxury:
Ocean Dream Cancun

cancun v4

Ocean Dream Cancun is a resort located within walking distance of the center. The resort is built very high, so you have an amazing sea view from your room. In addition, this resort has two swimming pools and you can enjoy delicious food and drinks here. It is possible to book all-inclusive. If you’re looking for some luxury at a competitive price, this is the place for you.

Where to eat in Cancun?

If you stay in one of the two accommodations we recommend, you don’t have to look for other restaurants in principle because the food at both places is really good. If you are looking for good places to eat, you can certainly find them in Cancun. In addition, it is sometimes nice to eat somewhere else.

The best place to visit is Lorenzillo’s. This restaurant is known for eating lobster. The quality of the lobsters is good. If you don’t want to eat lobster you can order other fish dishes here. You can also order plenty of other dishes for people who don’t like fish.

If you want to go downtown now and visit a restaurant that is very popular among the locals, then visiting La Destileria is recommended. Here you can eat the best tacos in Cancun. The sauces are homemade, you can taste this immediately because they are very full of flavor. It is also a nice place to visit because of the atmosphere.

If you want to eat something other than Mexican, visiting Taste of India is a good option. As the name indicates, you can order dishes that come from India. The green curry is very good.

How to get to Cancun?

It is very easy to travel to Cancun as Cancun has an international airport. Besides flying, Cancun is easily accessible by car or (shuttle) bus.

If you are coming from outside Mexico or you are in Mexico but far away from Cancun, flying is the best option. You can easily buy a plane ticket via Skyscanner. If no direct flight is available to Cancun from your destination, you can also first flight to Mexico City and have a transfer to Cancun.

If you are in Mexico, the easiest and cheapest way to travel to Cancun is by bus. You can buy a bus ticket from many different places from the bus company ADO. You can buy a bus ticket online or at the station. Check here for current routes and prices.

Tip: book your ticket in advance to be sure of a seat.

If you are in surrounding areas such as Playa del Carmen, Merida, Valladolid, Tulum, and Bacalar you can also check with the accommodation where you are staying if it is possible to take a shuttle bus. The accommodations where we stayed always offered this service.

If you travel through Mexico by car, you can easily reach Cancun. If you come from Tulum (130 km), Playa del Carmen (68 km), Valladolid (155 km), and Bacalar (340 km) you can drive to Cancun in a few hours. All you have to do is enter Cancun in your navigation and it speaks for itself.

If you travel to Mexico by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.

What is the best time to visit Cancun?

Traveling to Cancun means enjoying good weather. You can visit Cancun all year round because you can enjoy pleasant temperatures all year round. Cancun has a dry and rainy season.

The months from December to March are the best months to travel to Cancun, during these months the weather is the most stable.

June is the hottest month, with an average maximum of 31℃ and dropping to 27℃ at night. January is the coolest month with an average of up to 26℃ dropping to 22℃.

We were in Cancun in September and the weather was perfect. The advantage of Cancun is that temperatures do not drop significantly in the evening. The advantage when you travel to Mexico in the summer is that the days are the longest. As mentioned, you can visit Cancun all year round because the temperatures are pleasant.

Tip: Keep in mind that during the US and Europe school holidays in July and August, it will be busier than usual, causing prices to rise.

What to do in Cancun FAQ

1. Is downtown Cancun worth visiting?

Downtown is the old part of Cancun that is worth a visit. In this section, you can still experience authentic Mexico in certain places. For example, in this area, you will find restaurants that are most visited by the locals, as opposed to the Hotel Zone where you mainly sit among other travelers.

If you want to get a better picture of Mexico and would like to get a local experience, downtown is recommended.

2. Is Cancun worth a visit or should you skip it?

This is the most frequent question we get. It is a simple question and it is difficult to give a standard answer. This depends on every type of traveler.

The short answer is: if you like adventure, want to see a lot of Mexico, and are active by nature, it is better to stay in Cancun on the day of arrival and departure of your flight. As a result, two days are sufficient.

If you like to stay longer in one place, want some luxury after a year of working, want all facilities close by, want a nice base for day trips, Cancun is a perfect place if you are this type of traveler.

Want to see more of Mexico?

With this article, we hope to have given you a clear idea of ​​what to do in Cancun, where to stay, and our Cancun tips.

After you have visited Cancun you can travel to different places. The most obvious places to travel to are Isla Holbox and Tulum. Isla Holbox is the most beautiful island in Mexico and Tulum is a village along the coast where you can still experience a laid-back atmosphere.

If you are still looking for a Yucatan itinerary you can read our article to get some inspiration.

What do you think of Cancun? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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