several tourists swimming and sunbathing at Punta Bizuc Cancun along the popular Hotel Zone / best things to do in Cancun

11 Best Things To Do in Cancun, Mexico

Are you planning a trip to Cancun and trying to find the best things to do in Cancun? You’ve come to the right place!

There is a wide variety of amazing things to do in Cancun, from day trips to diving, island hopping, and much more. We will be covering it all!

Besides the many things to do in Cancun, the city is famous because of the large selection of all-inclusive resorts catering to Americans and Canadians looking to holiday down South.

Lastly, Cancun International Airport is the leading international airport in the Quintana Roo region of Mexico. It’s got the most flights going in and out of it daily. This makes getting to Cancun easier to visit for travelers.

Dive & See the Cancun Underwater Museum

sculptures of fingers crossed underwater at the famous underwater museum in Cancun's waters in Mexico
Unique things to do in Cancun – Credit: GarzaBlancResort

The famous underwater museum is one of Cancun’s best things to do. Cancun’s turquoise-blue Caribbean waters are a great place to snorkel. Not only is it a sight to see, but it’s a perfect activity to spend the day on the water.

In 2009, the museum was created to save some of Cancun’s reef life. Over 500 sculptures have been submerged in the water since the beginning of the project to develop this unique reef. The city is adding more sculptures as animals eat away at these sculptures.

You can take many tours of the underwater museum, but I recommend taking this tour. Most underwater museum tours are accessible by three-hour trips from the central Cancun Hotel Zone.

MUSA is an unforgettable experience. If you want something to make lasting memories, you should take advantage of this fantastic underwater art museum.

Swim with Whale Sharks

Close up photo of a whale shark in Cancun Mexico

It’s easy to see why whale shark swimming became so popular as a recreational activity. This endangered whale shark species is one of the friendliest creatures in the ocean. The adult size of these creatures can grow to 14 meters in length and weigh up to 20 tons.

The ideal time to swim with whale sharks is between June and September, and luckily, the Yucatan peninsula is one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks. This all-inclusive whale shark tour includes everything you need to experience this popular Cancun attraction.

These magnificent creatures are omnivorous and will eat plankton, so you don’t have to worry about being eaten or bitten by them. Respecting and appropriate interaction is essential to keep yourself and wild animals safe. Don’t touch the whale sharks; avoid using sunscreen when diving with these friendly sharks!

I’ve done this activity in Cancun and Isla Holbox, and I can reassure you it never gets old! I highly recommend experiencing this.

Stroll the Cancun Hotel Zone

A long strip of hotels on a strip of land with the Caribbean sea on both sides in Cancun, Mexico

Walking along the Cancun hotel zone is a fantastic adventure. The 22km (12 miles) long zone has bars, restaurants, shopping centers, and all-inclusive mega-resorts. 

La Isla shopping center is an open-air shopping center that’s a great place to grab something to eat, shop for clothes, and watch people go by.

For those looking for small Mexican souvenirs to take home with them, such as tequila, magnets, and colorful home decor, the hotel zone is full of local souvenir shops to visit.

Here’s a Tip: take a taxi to Downtown Cancun if you want to pay less; souvenirs are cheaper there!

The area is lit at night, with long streets filled with partygoers, families dining, and couples walking in the evening. Sometimes, the best activities in Cancun are entirely free, such as this.

Day Trip to Isla Mujeres

view of the isla mujeres beach with many boats in the water

One of the best activities in Cancun is visiting Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres, or “The Island of Women,” is a translation of Ixchel, the Maya goddess of fertility. The ferry to this tiny island takes you only 20 minutes from Cancun.

The stunning views of Isla Mujeres are possible because of its beautiful bays and rocky coastline. This is the best spot in Cancun to see the sunrise. This quiet fishing village is a great place to take a break from Cancun’s crazy nightlife. Visiting Isla Mujeres ranks #1 for things to do near Cancun.

Isla Mujeres is well-known for its wildlife, the stunning beach named Playa Norte, Garrafon Natural Reef Park, and simply being a beautiful island. Isla Mujeres is the most accessible/fastest day trip from Cancun for those looking to make a day trip but not go far.

Lastly, Isla Mujeres is known for its lovely resorts, rather than making a quick day trip with limited time. I suggest you book a hotel for a night or two to get a feel for this island!

Ferries are going to and from the island throughout the day from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, departing every hour from Puerto Juarez.

I recommend the Xcaret ferry, which runs during the day and after 5:00 PM, allowing you more time to explore Isla Mujeres.

Visit & Swim in Cenotes

clear blue skies with clear water cenote in Tulum Mexico

One of the best things to do in Cancun and the whole of Mexico is to visit one of the many cenotes. Mexico has some of the best cenotes in the world scattered throughout the country. Some even have yet to be discovered.

Unfourtanely, Cancun cenotes aren’t a thing, so if you’re looking to experience this must-do spectacle in Mexico, you’ll have to venture out of Cancun. The closest cenotes to Cancun are Cenote Azul and Cenote Las Piedras. They are not technically in Cancun, but they are close.

As okay as these two close cenotes may be, I recommend you go further to see one of the seven best cenotes in Mexico. Rio Secreto is the closest/best cenote to visit from Cancun; this cenote has even been featured in National Geographic. This cenote is just past another of Cancun’s neighboring cities, Playa Del Carmen.

If you’re willing to go further, I recommend you visit and attend the Casa Tortuga Tour. There are four different cenotes to experience here. Including a cenote that has a beach club inside of it!

Despite the fact that there are no cenotes in Cancun, visiting/experiencing a cenote is one of the best things to do in Cancun.

Experience Cirque du Soleil JOYA

Exterior photo of the Cirque Du Solei venue in the Riviera Maya in Mexico
Cirque Du Solei – Credit: MexicoDesconocido

Look no further for those looking to do something fancy in Cancun, Cirque du Solei JOYA is an excellent choice.

Famous worldwide, everybody has heard of this well-known entertainment company putting on incredible shows. The show offers several amenities to appeal to visitors. I highly recommend seeing the show if you’re with a loved one or a group of friends and want to do something different.

This is perfect for those looking for things to do in Cancun at night but would like to avoid the bars or nightclubs!

The best way to experience this spectacle is by booking a package in advance here. This package includes dinner, champagne, appetizers, and more (if options are selected).

The show is in the Vidanta Theatre, between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It takes only 40 minutes to get there. Your options to get there are either renting a car or using the round transportation offered by this package, which costs $20 USD/per person roundtrip.

Only bother showing up there with a purchased package. It will cost you much more at the door!

Day Trip to Tulum

views of the Caribbean sea featuring various shades of turquoise blue water from Tulum National Park

Everyone has heard of Tulum; the city is world-famous for its parties, beach clubs, cenotes, Mayan Ruins, and beaches. If you choose one city to visit from Cancun, I recommend you make it Tulum.

Tulum has many things to do, and the small city has more of an authentic atmosphere than Cancun. Tulum is an excellent option for those looking to experience a less Americanized city like Cancun. Tulum has some of the best restaurants in the Quintana Roo!

Ensure you bring some extra cash; Tulum is quite expensive compared to most of Mexico.

The small beach town is known internationally, and celebrities, bloggers, and well-off individuals frequently visit the beach town throughout the year, especially during the high season between November and March.

brown lounge beach chairs inside of a cenote with crystal clear water and trees surrounding casa tortuga cenote in tulum
Best Things to do in Cancun Mexico – Casa Tortuga Cenote in Tulum

I recommend you visit North Tulum Beach, the Mayan Ruins, and the cenotes. Downtown Tulum is also fun and is filled with several local restaurants and bars. The food here is fantastic.

For those looking to party, Tulum is the best place to party in all of Mexico, and the downtown core is full of bars/nightclubs.

To get to Tulum, you’ve got a few options: take a private car, drive if you’ve rented a car, take the local ADO bus from the downtown station, or take a full-day tour from Cancun. This tour is convenient because you don’t need to worry about anything. Everything is taken care of for you.

For those looking to experience Tulum to the fullest, I’d recommend you book a hotel in Tulum for a night or two. To get the lowest price, could you make sure you book a hotel during the week? Tulum’s hotels are more expensive during the weekend.

Spend the Day at Xcaret

two bright red parrots sitting on a branch at Xcaret Park in Mexico
Credit: Abner Diaz / Xcaret Park

Xcaret is the best choice for those who want to experience an adventure but still feel like they are in a resort. Xcaret is an archeological eco-water amusement park.

A few things to do in Xcaret are the following:

  • Xcaret Waterpark
  • Visit the Mayan Ruins
  • Swim with dolphins, manta rays, and sharks
  • Visit Xenses Park

The best part about Xcaret is there’s so much to do here, and it’s all close to one another. Xcaret is just over an hour away by car from Cancun.

There are several ways to reach Xcaret from Cancun. The quickest way to get to Xcaret is by taking the full-day tour, which includes transportation from your hotel and several amenities.

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Visit Chichen Itza Ruins

clear blue skies with the famous chichen itza pyramid in the background in merida mexico.
Best Things to Do in Cancun Mexico / Chichen Itza Pyramid – Credit: Marv Watson

Regarding attractions in all of Mexico, the Chichen Itza ruins may be the most famous. Regarding things to do in Cancun, taking a day trip to visit the ancient Mayan Ruins in Chichen Itza should be at the top of your list.

The Chichen Itza site is one of Mexico’s most significant historical sites. Without even knowing the name, I’m sure you’ve seen a photo of it before. The pyramid is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the ruins, you’ll run into tourists visiting from all over the world.

Over a thousand years old, Chichen Itza was once a significant center of Mayan civilization. When visiting the pyramids and ruins, you can walk around or take one of the many tours.

Here is an in-depth guide on how to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is surrounded by nearby cenotes, not just cenotes but some of the best cenotes in the world.

These are the top cenotes close to Chichen Itza:

  • Cenote Ik-Kil
  • Cenote Suytun
  • Cenote Zaci
aerial view photo of the famous Cenote Suytun in Mexico
Cenote Suytun

To get to Chichen Itza, you can drive there in a rental car or go on an organized tour. The Chichen Itza ruins are open from 8 AM till 5 PM and are about 2.5 hours from Cancun.

To skip the hassle of transportation, organizing tickets, and figuring out where to eat, this Chichen Itza tour from Cancun takes care of everything.

It’s a full-day tour lasting 12 hours. Not only will you visit the pyramid, but you will also see a cenote. The tour also includes a Mexican buffet with a tequila tasting!

Day Trip to Playa Del Carmen

Photo of Playa Del Carmen Beach in Mexico showing statue of two mermaids
Best Things to do in Cancun Mexico – Playa Del Carmen boardwalk

Located precisely an hour from Cancun is Playa Del Carmen, a beach town well known for its resorts, famous 5th Avenue street, and nomad living.

The city connects through 5th Avenue street, with great restaurants, shopping, bars, nightclubs, and many people trying to sell you just about everything. The food here is delicious. I spent eight weeks here and couldn’t get enough of the food.

The best part about Playa Del Carmen is that there is so much to do here, and everything is very close to each other. Playa Del Carmen has a few cenotes around it, rooftop bars, and stunning beach clubs.

For those looking for an extra adventure, you can take the ferry from Playa Del Carmen to Cozumel, which takes 40 minutes, and visit the island directly across from it, Cozumel. The island is considered one of the best places to dive because it’s home to the second-largest barrier reef system.

Visit the Mayan Museum of Cancun (Museo Maya de Cancun)

Ancient artifact at the Mayan Museum in Cancun Mexico
Best Things to Do in Cancun, Mexico – Credit: Linda Martiskova

The Museo Museum of Cancun is an excellent place to learn about Mayan history. This will allow you to understand the Mayan culture and history better if you plan to visit Tulum and Chichen Itza.

The museum was opened in 2012 and has all sorts of near Mayan archaeological relics. There are three different galleries for you to explore multiple aspects of both Mayan culture and history. You will find temples, pyramids, and family homes built by Mayans.

Whether you enjoy museums or not, the Mayans played a significant role in the history of Mexico, and it’s worth visiting Museo Maya de Cancun.

Where to Stay in Cancun

Grand Fiesta Americana – 5 Stars / A large, extensive, luxurious resort conveniently located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, steps away from nightclubs, restaurants, and shopping

JW Marriott Cancun – 5 Stars / Stunning resort with plenty of private beach access located along the middle part of the Hotel Zone in a calmer/quieter area

The Westin Resort – 4 Stars / Located near the end of the Hotel Zone, sitting on a beautiful soft sand strip of land, the Westin is full of amenities

Casa Tortugas Hotel – 3 Stars / Boutique Condo style hotel, offering an intimate vibe rather than a resort one and conveniently located only minutes away from the main part of the Hotel Zone

Selina Downtown Cancun – Hostel / Stunning hostel offering both private and dorm-style rooms in the Downtown Cancun area, nearby parks, bars, and many delicious local restaurants

Selina Hotel Zone – Hostel / Conveniently located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, offering both private/dorm-style rooms, a large pool and great communal space

several tourists swimming in the beautiful turquoise beaches of Cancun, Mexico

Best Time to Visit Cancun

The best time to visit Cancun and other places near Cancun is between November and April.

Remember that this is the high season, when most tourists from all over the world, especially the US and Canada, come. But even when it is high season, don’t worry. You’ll be able to manage to visit.

High Season: As stated, this is between November to April. The weather during this time is the most stable and optimal. Especially between January to March, this is the driest time of year but still very pleasant because the humidity is low.

Rainy Season: These are the rainy months in Cancun, which means occasional showers. Though the rainfall usually passes quickly, it could be better for those vacationing. Also known as the offseason, this time is between June to September. This is the cheapest time to come to Cancun for those looking to save.

Shoulder Season: The second best time to come to Cancun is during Shoulder Season. In fact, during this time, you will get a good deal on accommodations and flights, and the weather is also quite pleasant. It may not be as good as during the high season, but it’s much better than the rainy season. You need to know some tours and excursions you may want to do may not operate during this time.

Are you looking for a resort-like vacation, but would you like to visit a quieter city instead of returning to Cancun? I highly recommend Puerto Morelos, it’s only 30 minutes away from Cancun.

palm trees on the beach and the Caribbean sea in sight showing various shades of turquoise waters in Cancun, Mexico
Things to do in Cancun, Mexico – Credit: Salim Aura

Best Things to Do in Cancun What Must I Experience?

First things first, please make sure you try the local Mexican cuisine in Cancun. Here’s a list of Mexican foods you must try when visiting Mexico!

Please do yourself a favor, leave your all-inclusive resort, and avoid tourist trap areas regarding food, such as the Hotel Zone.

Go to the downtown area of Cancun or into safe small community areas and dine with locals (that’s where the best Mexican food is, not at your all-inclusive resorts)

For those visiting Cancun for a typical vacation of seven days, here’s what I would recommend you do from this list of things to do in Cancun in your seven days:

  • Explore downtown Cancun/Hotel zone walk in the evening.
  • Day Trip to Isla Mujeres
  • Visit Chichen Itza

For those visiting Cancun for longer than seven days, here’s what I would recommend you do from this list of things to do in Cancun during your stay:

sirlion tacos with pico de gallo, and drinks being served at Don Sirloin in Playa Del Carmen

What is Cancun known for?

Cancun is known for being one of the world’s most famous resort holiday destinations due to its beautiful beaches along the Hotel Zone and many resorts.

Why do people like Cancun so much?

Cancun is home to some of the most excellent beaches in the world and a very convenient vacation destination for those flying from the USA and Canada.

Lastly, and most importantly, the many all-inclusive resorts in Cancun offer appealing prices for vacationgoers.

How many days are enough for Cancun?

It’s best to spend at least 5 days in Cancun. The city has plenty to do, and you’ll want to experience at least one day trip outside of Cancun.

Which part of Cancun is best to stay?

The Hotel Zone is the best area to stay in Cancun, here you’ll be right by the best beaches in the city and plenty of restaurants and shops.

Happy & Safe Travels

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