Cancun is known around the world as having some of the best beaches in the Northern Hemisphere, and people travel from all over to experience this tropical oasis.
We’re travel nuts, and this is one of our favorite trips. So you can bet that we’ve rounded up the 15 absolute best things to do in Cancun. Read on to see our top picks.
15 of the Best Things to Do in Cancun
You may already know Cancun’s spectacular seaside location, but this vibrant Mexican city has so much more to offer than just a beautiful location.
The city offers visitors spectacular opportunities to view wildlife, immerse themselves in the local culture, and witness some of Mexico’s richest history.
If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Cancun, be sure to add one or more experiences from this list to your itinerary to make the most of your time there.
1. Catch Some Sun at Playa Delfines
Whether you’re excited to learn about the region’s history or gorge yourself on street tacos, the sparkling turquoise coastline is probably what ultimately sold you on a trip to Cancun.
Known for having some of the best beaches in the area, it’s hard to pin down just one beach to visit on your trip. However, if you’re a big beach bum, you won’t want to miss spending a day lounging at Playa Delfines.
This beach is not only one of Cancun’s biggest, but because it’s a bit of a distance from the hotel zone, you can largely miss the hustle and bustle of some of Cancun’s best stretches of coastline.
With an easy cab ride from the hotel zone, you can relax on Playa Delfines, get some direct sunlight, or catch some shade using a free umbrella. You’ll know you hit the jackpot once you get here because you’ll likely see more locals than tourists.
However, be careful of swimming along this beach, as it is not advised, and always pay attention to Cancun’s beach safety warnings and watch what others are doing in the area.
2. Wander the Chichen Itza Ruins
Chichen Itza is one of the most important sites of historical significance in the Yucutan Peninsula and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins are a primary tourist destination for visitors to Cancun, and it’s a must-see for the area.
Chichen Itza is more than one thousand years old and was once of great importance to the Mayan civilization that occupied the area. What’s left of the ruins can be observed through self-guided tours, or you can hire a touring outfitter to teach you about the history of the city of Chichen Itza.
Many tourists enjoy taking a dip in the Chichen Itza Cenote after visiting the ruins, but you can skip this activity if you don’t feel like contending with the crowds.
Read Next: The Best Mayan Ruins in Mexico in 2023
3. Marvel at Nature at Las Coloradas
Las Coloradas is wildly photogenic, and there are chances that you’ve already seen these spectacular pink lakes in photos without realizing how attainable viewing them in real life can be during your stay in Cancun.
About three and a half hours away from Cancun, located in the Rio Lagartos municipality, Las Coloradas is a collection of several lakes known for their spectacular pink hue.
The lakes were artificially made as part of the production process for the nearby salt plant and are a part of a nature reserve that stretches over 100,000 acres.
The lakes get their distinctive color from the red algae, plankton, and brine shrimp that live in the water due to the high salinity.
While it’s quite the day trip from Cancun, Las Coloradas is one of Mexico’s spectacular wonders, and once you see the lakes in person, you won’t regret adding this destination to your trip.
4. Explore the Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA)
MUSA is a truly unique experience, and if you’re looking for something to do that will create lasting memories forever, you won’t want to skip attending this spectacular underwater art museum.
MUSA is part art exhibit, part conservation effort; while the enormous underwater statues are incredible to look at, they were installed in an effort to promote coral reef development and are becoming more and more developed by wildlife.
You can enjoy the museum in various ways; if you’re not comfortable hopping in the water, you may appreciate observing the museum via a glass-bottomed boat that allows viewers to view the museum without getting wet.
Others may appreciate the opportunity to get a closer look, and for those people, a snorkeling or scuba diving tour may be the most rewarding way to experience the museum, or you can strike out on your own if you feel capable.
5. Take a Day Trip to Tulum
Located about an hour and a half drive south of Cancun, Tulum is another gorgeous Mexican city with beautiful beaches and rich history that tourists will love. Its proximity to Cancun makes it the perfect day trip or quick overnight if you plan to stay in Cancun for several nights.
Tulum not only offers tourists additional beaches to relax on but has dozens of attractions of its own that visitors should consider exploring when they’re there. The Tulum Ruins are located right on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean and are an ideal stop for any history buff.
Animal lovers won’t want to pass up the opportunity to hop in the water at Xel Ha and experience marine life, like sea turtles, stingrays, and dozens of species of brightly colored fish.
Like Cancun, Tulum is known for its cenotes, and if that were your favorite activity on your trip so far, you’d want to experience a few of Tulum’s cenotes.
But, whatever you decide to do in Tulum, you’ll be astonished by its natural beauty and won’t regret stopping by on your Mexican vacation!
Read Next: The Best Hotels in Tulum in 2023
6. Explore Quintana Roo’s Underground Stalactite Rivers
Just south of Cancun in Playa del Carmen is a fantastic adventure park that you should absolutely plan on visiting on your trip to Mexico.
While the park offers several adventurous experiences, including ziplines and hammock splashes, perhaps the most fun experience you can have at the park is swimming in the underground stalactite river.
The river swim lasts for 475 yards but has emergency exits every 109 yards for individuals who feel the experience is more than they bargained for, so if you’re nervous, give it a try anyway!
The water remains 75 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so this is a great activity, regardless of the weather. The river is lit up along your swim, meaning you can appreciate the beauty of the prehistoric stalactites that hang above you.
Once you make it to the river’s end, the scenery opens up to a spectacular waterfall, and you can get out and enjoy the swim all over again!
If you’re looking for a truly memorable adventure, you won’t want to miss a stop at the Xplor adventure park and swim in the underground river.
7. Jump in the Water at Cenote Ik Kil
The Yucatan Peninsula attracts tourists worldwide not only because of its stellar coastlines but also its hundreds of photogenic cenotes. Cenotes are sinkholes in jungled areas that fill with water, creating gorgeous swimming holes.
Cenote Ik Kil is popular amongst visitors because of its proximity to Chichen Itza, making it the perfect place to enjoy its rich history while cooling off in one of its most spectacular cenotes.
Always practice appropriate swimming safety when entering a cenote, and be aware that some areas may require you to wear a life vest at all times when swimming.
Read Next: The Best Cenotes in Mexico in 2023
8. Take a Boat Ride to Isla Mujeres
An easy ferry ride from Cancun’s hotel zone lies Isla Mujeres, an idyllic tiny island that offers a sometimes needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Cancun. So if you’re looking for the perfect place to enjoy a book on the beach, this is it.
The island is known for its spectacular Playa Norte, which has become world-renowned for its beauty. But it’s also a great place to enjoy some authentic Mexican food and wander around the small downtown area.
If you’re looking for some adventure, Isla Mujeres offers fantastic snorkeling at Garrafon Reef Park and outdoor activities like kayaking and ziplining.
9. Do Some Shopping at Mercado 28
Whether you’re staying at a resort, Airbnb, or hostel, many tourists opt to stay in the hotel zone, where the accommodations are plentiful and the beaches are pristine.
But you’ll want to make sure to venture to downtown Cancun at least once during your stay, and Mercado 28 is one of the most fun parts of the area.
If you’re looking for a great place to experience Mexican street food and need souvenirs to take home, then Mercado 28 is a must for you. This partially-covered flea market will allow you to take some treasures home by which you can remember your trip forever.
10.Take a Tour of Nichupte Lagoon
Nichupte Lagoon is one of Cancun’s natural beauties and covers nearly 12 square miles of the city, and comprises seven lagoons.
Many hotels have rooms overlooking the lagoon, which is home to hundreds of local wildlife species and mangrove trees. You can explore the lagoon in various ways, including snorkeling, diving, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking.
But perhaps the most memorable way to experience this beautiful natural area is on a speedboat. You’ll have the time of your life whizzing through the dense jungle, enjoying both the scenery and the water sport.
11. Stop by a Lucha Libre Wrestling Match
Viewing the Lucha Libre is a must when visiting Mexico. Lucha Libre is more than just wrestling matches, as the wrestlers can be seen with distinctive outfits and looks that let the crowd know who they are while keeping their faces hidden under their unique masks.
Lucha Libre has been a cultural phenomenon in Mexico since the 1800s and is enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
If you’re looking for a genuine Mexican experience, then Lucha Libre is the perfect activity. Enjoy some ice-cold beer and delicious street food like elote while you take in a match!
12. Enjoy a Fiesta at Xoximilco
Xoximilco is a part of the Xcaret theme park and allows tourists to appreciate some of the rich traditions of Mexican carnivals. Xoximilco emulates Mexico City’s original Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors to Xoximilco can float around the carnival, enjoying traditional Mexican food, music, and dancing.
If you’ve always wanted to visit Xochimilco, then you’ll love this homage in Cancun. A visit to Xoximilco ensures that tourists can better understand Mexican Fiestas and appreciate more of the local culture.
13. Go Swimming With Whale Sharks
A misnomer, whale sharks are actually not a type of whale but rather the largest living fish species in the world.
Often known as “gentle giants” and described as “overgrown puppies,” it’s not hard to see why swimming with whale sharks became such a popular recreational activity.
However, when interacting with any type of wild animal, it’s essential to remember that to keep both the animals and yourself safe, you should practice appropriate interaction and respect, including maintaining your distance and only going with a knowledgeable guide.
Do not go with any guide who promises to let you “touch” the animals or allows you to take your life vests off to get underwater with them, as this could place both you and the shark in jeopardy.
14. Join the Party at Coco Bongo Cancun
For all of the beaches and cultural experiences in the area, some visitors want to take in Cancun’s nightlife, and what better place to do so than the Coco Bongo Cancun.
With locations all over Mexico, Coco Bongo has fun down to a science; the perfect place to drink, watch a show, and party, Coco Bongo Cancun is sure to be a great time.
The club in Cancun is open every day of the week but prepare to pay a pricey cover charge to get in. However, it’s worth every penny, and you’re bound to have a memorable experience.
15. Explore the El Rey Archaeological Zone
While you should visit the Chichen Itza on your trip to Cancun, you shouldn’t miss a quick trip to the El Rey Ruins as well. While perhaps not as spectacular and historically significant, the El Rey Archaeological Zone is conveniently located in very close proximity to the hotel zone.
This makes it an ideal destination for tourists, especially those who may not have enough time for a day trip to Chichen Itza. Animal lovers will also love a visit to this historical site, as the area is known to have become home to a large population of iguanas.
Things to Consider
If you’re traveling to a foreign country, you should always do some basic research and planning ahead of time to ensure that you’re making the most of your time abroad.
Whether it’s brushing up on some key Spanish phrases or exchanging money, it’s a safe bet that even some of your most well-laid plans will go sideways on your vacation, and being prepared can be the difference between having a funny story to tell and needing to go home early.
If you’re unsure what to expect on your upcoming trip to Cancun, here are some basic things to consider about the area and your time there.
- The majority of people in Cancun speak English, especially those that work in the tourism industry. However, as the native language in Cancun is Spanish, it’s always a good idea to travel with a smartphone or translation book in case of emergency.
- It’s best to avoid drinking tap water in Mexico and instead stick to drinking bottled water; this is because the water quality in the area may be compromised.
- You can protect your important documents by making a copy to carry on you and leaving the original locked in a safe at your hotel or accommodations.
- Attractions like Cenotes and Mayan Ruins are of natural and historical significance to the local population. Therefore, you should treat every area you visit with the highest regard and mind the local customs.
- Prepare for the intense sun in Cancun by packing appropriate clothing, including hats and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes from the sun, and plenty of sunscreen to avoid getting a sunburn. In addition, always carry water with you and be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with heatstroke.
- Make sure to pack appropriate gear for any activities you plan to do on your trip. Whether you’re going to be hiking or stand-up paddleboarding, it’s essential to dress appropriately and be adequately prepared before doing any recreational activities. Additionally, if you plan to hike on your trip, bring a navigation device like a map, compass, or smartphone to prevent getting lost.
- If you live by the ocean, you may already be aware of the best safety precautions to take when relaxing at the beach or swimming in the ocean, but if you’re not sure, then make sure to brush up before your trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the frequently asked questions people have when visiting Cancun.
What is the best time of year to visit Cancun?
While determining what time of year to visit Cancun depends on what experiences you’re looking to have, generally, the ideal time to visit the area is in the winter and early spring, between the months of November and March.
This time of year marks the sweet spot between the conclusion of the rainy season and the onset of hurricane season. March, in particular, is the most idyllic month in Cancun on average, as the temperatures begin to rise while humidity levels are still low.
While you may think that summer months like July and August would be the opportune time to visit the area, the humidity levels soar during this time, and early fall brings the onset of hurricane season.
What should I be careful of in Cancun?
Cancun is a relatively safe place, and as long as you practice common sense, you shouldn’t be worried about more than basic pickpocketing (a concern when traveling to any tourist destination).
However, Cancun is susceptible to weather concerns that you may not experience where you’re from. It’s best to avoid traveling to Cancun during hurricane season to avoid unnecessarily putting yourself in harm’s way.
You’ll also want to use caution when swimming in Cancun’s waters, as the area can have strong undertows. Quintana Roo uses a flag safety system ranging from green (swimming is safe) to black (do not enter the water) to signal swimmers whether there are dangerous conditions or shark sightings in the area.
You’ll want to familiarize yourself with this system and pay attention before entering the water. It’s also best to avoid drinking the tap water in Cancun, including ice, instead of sticking to bottled water.
How many days should you spend in Cancun?
You can spend any number of days in Cancun that you want, but the length of time you spend in the area will impact what you can do while you visit. The recommended vacation time is between three and five nights, as this ensures that you’ll be able to check at least a few attractions off your list.
While you’ll have no problem filling an entire week in Cancun, many people simply spend a long weekend in the area and feel like they were still able to enjoy themselves and make some lasting memories.
Are there sharks in Cancun?
While you should always be cautious of sharks when swimming in bodies of water, you are at extremely low risk of being attacked by a shark in Cancun. Shark attacks are rare, but there are certainly sharks in the area.
Experiences like swimming with whale sharks have become popular amongst tourists and are an excellent way to educate the public on the species and aid conservation efforts.
Do they accept USD as well as Pesos in Cancun?
Many people have become accustomed to traveling in Mexico without converting their USD to Pesos, and you’ll likely be able to find places in Cancun that accept USD, especially around the hotel zone.
However, it’s recommended that tourists exchange their USD for Pesos before visiting Cancun, as this is the local currency. Furthermore, tourists are likely to get a more favorable exchange rate at their bank before traveling than at the airport.
Even if you use USD while paying at some establishments in Cancun, refrain from tipping in USD, as the person you’re tipping will have to pay to have the money exchanged themselves.
So, What Are the Best Things to Do in Cancun?
People from all over the world flock to Cancun for the white sand beaches and spectacular water, but this lively Mexican city has so much more to offer.
Between the underground river swimming and the Coco Bongo, everyone can have the experience they’re looking for in Cancun. Finding the best things to do in Cancun is entirely dependent on the types of experiences you want to have.
Whether you’re a history buff looking forward to touring the ruins or an animal lover who can’t wait to swim with the whale sharks, there are sure to be a few experiences on this list that are perfect for your upcoming vacation.