Cancun is the largest city in the state of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is known for its beautiful beaches and its good weather and transport connections make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico.
However, Cancun isn’t just beaches. There is a great food scene at some of the many outstanding hotels and resorts in the area, local street art and markets, loads of watersports and some fantastic day trips on offer.
Here are the 37 best things to do in Cancun.
37 Great Things to do in Cancun
Table of Contents
- 37 Great Things to do in Cancun
- 1. Cancun Underwater Museum
- 2. Parasailing
- 3. Drink Margaritas in a pool bar
- 4. Have dinner on the beach
- 5. Ride an ATV
- 6. Relax at Playa Delfines
- 7. Visit Isla de Mujeres
- 8. Stay in a gorgeous resort
- 9. See Cancun from above
- 10. Experience a Temazcal
- 11. Ventura Park
- 12. Go scuba diving
- 13. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
- 14. Enjoy Bird Life and more on Isla Contoy
- 15. Take a Boat Trip
- 16. Go snorkeling
- 17. Visit Museo Maya
- 18. Chichen Itza day trip
- 19. Go Ziplining
- 20. Mercado 28
- 21. Have a Big Night Out
- 22. Food tour
- 23. Tulum day trip
- 24. Go local at Parque de Las Palapas
- 25. Xcaret Park
- 26. Swim in a Cenote
- 27. Enjoy a Cancun Sunset
- 28. Hire a Jet Ski
- 29. Day trip to Coba Ruins
- 30. Enjoy Xoximilco
- 31. Explore the Hotel Zone
- 32. Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding
- 33. See the Pink Waters of Las Coloradas
- 34. Selfie with the Cancun sign
- 35. Watch some Mexican Wrestling
- 36. Have a drink at Senor Frogs
- 37. Drive a speedboat through Nichupte Lagoon
- Where to Stay in Cancun
- Life at Nizuc
- How to Get to Cancun and get around
1. Cancun Underwater Museum
Located between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, this underwater museum promotes both art and marine life conservation. It features 500 life-sized sculptures. If you’re into scuba diving you can see the museum and its exhibits up close. Otherwise enjoy the museum from a glass-bottom boat.
Cancun is ideal for Parasailing. The combination of the beautiful sea, islands and city skyline makes it an unforgettable experience. Many operators combine parasailing with other fun activities like time on a jet ski.
3. Drink Margaritas in a pool bar
Is there any better way to know you’re in Mexico than sipping an ice-cold Margarita (salt rim of course) in a pool bar? I stayed at Nizuc Resort on my trip to Cancun and they have a beautiful large pool bar that is well shaded. It even has in-pool stools for your comfort.
4. Have dinner on the beach
Many of the resorts in the Hotel Zone offer experiences dining on the beach both day and night. Personally, I think there is something magical about having dinner on a beach. It’s the combination of the night sky, fresh air and the sound of the waves.
Nizuc Resort offers fantastic seafood dinners on the beach. I visited over Thanksgiving and we enjoyed our turkey with all the traditional side dishes on a big table on the sand with the waves lapping nearby.
5. Ride an ATV
There are lots of options to hire ATVs in Cancun to explore the jungle. Or head to Xplor and use their ATV tracks.
6. Relax at Playa Delfines
If you like your beaches less crowded Playa Delfines may well be perfect for you. This public beach has shallow water and lifeguards so it’s also great for families. Playa Delfines also has excellent facilities including sunshades, loungers and food stalls. Finally, it is said that dolphins can sometimes be seen playing in the sea from this beach.
7. Visit Isla de Mujeres
One of the most popular things to do in Cancun is visiting Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres is quite touristy but it has managed to retain a more rustic feel than other parts of Cancun. A ferry runs between Cancun and Isla Mujeres to join a boat trip to the island.
Isla de Mujeres has several beautiful beaches, a turtle sanctuary and rehabilitation centre (Tortugranja) and lots of bars and restaurants to enjoy. If you want to go snorkelling head to Garrafon National Reef Park.
8. Stay in a gorgeous resort
If there was ever a time to splurge on your accommodation, this is it. Cancun is all about spectacular hotels and you will probably spend more time enjoying your hotel/resort and its facilities than you would on other vacations. Plus there is a huge range of lovely resorts and hotels on offer.
I stayed at Nizuc Resort which was fantastic – more about it in the Where to Stay section later in this article.
9. See Cancun from above
Torre Escenica de Cancun is a 100-meter tall tower that provides 360-degree views of Cancun and the Caribbean Coast. It takes about 5 minutes to climb to the top of the tower. The tower then slowly moves 360 degrees whilst you listen to a recording about the history of Cancun.
10. Experience a Temazcal
A Temazcal is an ancient Mayan purification ceremony. The ceremony takes place in a hut that becomes sauna-like from heated volcanic rocks. Herbs are also used during the ceremony and the heat is decreased and increased whilst you enjoy live music in complete darkness.
The ceremony will usually be led by a local shaman. The shaman will chant as they pour water over the hot rocks and use the different herbs to summon spirits. Many find the entire experience puts them into a meditative state.
Participants wear underwear or swimwear. The ceremony normally finishes with a dip in a cool bath and some rehydration beverages and fruit snacks.
11. Ventura Park
A popular water and amusement park, Ventura Park offers everything from swimming with dolphins to a Grand Prix circuit to a high-tech arcade with Virtual Reality gear to zip lines and more. Ventura Park’s Wet and Wild area includes a wave pool, semi-submerged water playground, inner tube float and a climbable wet dome.
If you’re travelling with young kids, the park’s Fun World offers calmer activities such as merry-go rounds, roller coasters etc.
12. Go scuba diving
Beautiful Chac Mool Beach is a great place to go diving in Cancun. There are loads of opportunities to rent water sports equipment at the beach. If you’re feeling more adventurous head to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef in the world. Isla Mujeres also has some excellent diving.
13. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
This UNESCO World Heritage is located near Tulum. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve covers 1.3 million acres and is home to 115 species of mammals and over a thousand different types of insects. Taking a boat tour is one of the best ways to explore the reserve and its 1048 different species of flora.
14. Enjoy Bird Life and more on Isla Contoy
Located about 30 kms north of Isla Mujeres, little Isla Contoy is just 8.5 kilometres long. It is home to over 150 tropical bird species as well as four types of sea turtles. It is also a great spot for snorkeling. The best way to visit Isla Contoy is on a cruise.
15. Take a Boat Trip
The best way to explore Cancun and the Maya Riviera is by boat. Catamarans are one of the most popular ways to move through the seas around Cancun and visit some of the smaller islands. Join a tour or take out your own if you know what you’re doing. Sunset is one of the best times of day to be on the water.
16. Go snorkeling
One of the largest reefs in the world, the Great Mayan Reef, is located in Cancun. This reef runs for over 1,000 kilometres and reaches as far as Honduras. So it’s not surprising that one of the most popular things to do in Cancun is snorkeling.
With a reef that large there are many, many places for snorkelling in Cancun. However, if you want to snorkel near the Hotel zone head to Punta Nizuc. This is a relatively quiet location with coral, fish and a few sculptures from the Cancun Underwater Museum.
NB: Punta Nizuc can only be visited on a tour.
If you’re planning a visit to Xcaret Park there are quite a few fantastic spots for snorkeling.
17. Visit Museo Maya
Museo Maya Cancun is home to more than 3500 artifacts from the Mayan Civilization including relics of jade and ancient skeletons. If you’re looking to understand more about early times on the Yucatan Peninsula this is the place to go.
The museum is located in Zona Hotelera and a visit to San Miguelito Archaeological Site is included in the ticket price (they are both on the same property). San Miguelito is a mix of temples, homes and pyramids in the jungle.
18. Chichen Itza day trip
Chichen Itza is one of the most iconic landmarks in Mexico. Indeed this UNESCO World Heritage Site is world-famous and visited by three million tourists each year. In its day it was one of the largest cities in the Mayan empire. It was also known to have a diverse population, reflected in the range of architectural sites.
The most visible part of Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo), a massive step pyramid and the one you have probably seen in photos. There are also several buildings in excellent condition including the Great Ball Court, El Caracol, and the Temple of Warriors.
Chichen Itza is about a 4 hour round trip from Cancun. Try to leave early so you’ll beat the crowds.
19. Go Ziplining
Selvatica Adventure Theme Park has 10 different zip line circuits on offer. The zip lines circuits are sold in themed packages of four such as the Extreme Canopy package with some of the most toe-curling zip lines in the park.
Xplor Adventure Park has two zip line circuits and each has seven different routes. The highest point is 45 metres.
20. Mercado 28
Mercado 28 is a busy flea market with loads of stalls selling souvenirs, clothes and of course tasty food. There are over 600 vendors in the market. Wandering Mercado 28 and enjoying the colours and smells is one of the highlights of any visit to this market which is popular with tourists and locals.
21. Have a Big Night Out
Forum by the Sea is home to some of Cancun’s famous nightclubs as well as a range of shops and restaurants. Coco Bongo is one of the best-known clubs in the area. It holds shows with flying acrobats, musical tributes and of course lots of music and opportunities to dance.
If you’re after techno and house music head to Dady O which was two floors and five bars. Mandala Beach Club is an outdoor house music club. The City Nightclub features celebrity DJs and has three floors and nine bars.
22. Food tour
Cancun has a wide range of food tour options. Take a guided food tour that includes a spirits tasting, a taco street food tour (in a group or private), combine food with street art, visit local markets, drink local beer and much more.
23. Tulum day trip
Tulum dates back to the 13th century when it was called The City of Dawn (Zama) as it faced the rising sun. It was a walled city that served as the main port for Coba. Today there are loads of things to do in Tulum. Explore its impressive Mayan ruins, beautiful cenotes or picturesque beaches.
24. Go local at Parque de Las Palapas
Parque de Las Palapas is a downtown city park not far from Tulum Avenue. It has a central plaza which is popular for holding events and just hanging out. El Cristo Rey, the oldest Catholic church in Cancun, is located in the plaza so Sunday is a busy day.
I visited on a Sunday and there were many food vendors and market stalls as well as activities for kids. A large stage was set up. This stage is often used for concerts, particularly on New Year’s Eve.
25. Xcaret Park
This massive nature park is spread over 250 acres and has over 50 natural and cultural attractions. Xcaret Park has many pools and even underground rivers (there are three in the park) for swimming and snorkelling or you may see some wildlife as you wander through the park’s jungles.
26. Swim in a Cenote
A cenote is a natural sinkhole that contains water from underground and/or rivers. Like a hot spring but not hot 🙂 . Cenotes were used in rituals in Mayan times. Today they offer natural bathing experiences to visitors.
Ruta de Los Cenotes has 10 cenotes over 10 kilometres of road. Two of the most popular cenotes to visit are Cenote Siete Bocas which is where seven underground rivers meet and Cenote Kin Ha which has deep waters and a diving platform.
Ruta de Los Cenotes is about a 30 minute drive south of Cancun. Or if you’re heading to Chichen Itza you could drop into Ik Kil for a swim.
27. Enjoy a Cancun Sunset
Riviera Maya and Isla Mujeres offer some stunning sunsets. Many of the hotels in the Hotel Zone are perfectly placed to watch the sun come down whilst reclining on a lounger or sitting at the bar. However, one of the best ways to get the most out of a Cancun sunset is to take a sunset sailing trip.
Most of the sunset sailing trips take place on catamarans and include an open bar and snacks. The trips tend to last around two hours.
28. Hire a Jet Ski
If you’re heading out on a boat trip or at one of Cancun’s beaches do see if it is possible to hire a jet ski. Bouncing over the waves on these motorbikes of the sea is fantastic fun.
29. Day trip to Coba Ruins
Coba was an active city in Mayan times. Today visitors can a well-preserved network of streets and buildings from the Mayan era as well as Coba’s stepped pyramid which was constructed over 1200 years ago. Coba is a two-hour drive from Cancun.
There are quite a few guided tour options that combine a visit to Coba with Tulum.
30. Enjoy Xoximilco
Xoximilco is a Mexican party that takes place on a colourful Mexican gondola. The gondola moves through canals near Cancun as live music plays. Essentially it is a theme park based on Xoximilco in Mexico City. Delicious food and tequila are also on offer and there are lots of opportunities for dancing and social games.
31. Explore the Hotel Zone
As you’ll soon discover, Cancun is divided into two areas: Downtown or Ciudad Cancun and the Hotel Zone or Zona Hotelera. The hotel zone is a 15-mile strip of sand in the shape of the number seven and is where most visitors to Cancun stay.
There are lots of hotels with restaurants and nightclubs as well as beaches. There is only one road, Kulkukan Boulevard, which runs from one side of the zone to the other. It is lined with bars and restaurants.
One of the best ways to explore the Hotel Zone and Cancun, in general, is by taking a bike tour.
32. Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Like many places around the world, Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is very popular in Cancun. It is a relatively easy sport to learn. Best of all you only need to rent a paddleboard from the beach to try it out. If you really enjoy paddle boarding there are longer tour options that can be joined.
33. See the Pink Waters of Las Coloradas
Las Colorades means the red ones and is pink lakes in a small fishing village. These lakes are part of a 150,000-acre natural reserve. The pink water comes from red plankton and shrimp in the water and is part of a salt processing facility. It is a three-hour drive from Cancun to Las Coloradas.
34. Selfie with the Cancun sign
There are actually quite a few colourful Cancun signs throughout the city but the most famous one is located on Playa Delfines. Delfines is a beautiful beach but it is known for its strong tides so be careful if you decided to take a dip.
35. Watch some Mexican Wrestling
Lucha Libre involves two adversaries who use a mix of wrestling, acrobatics and some over-the-top maneuvers in order to win the battle. The fighters wear masks and there is generally more random entertainment during the show.
36. Have a drink at Senor Frogs
Senor Frogs is one of the best-known bars in Cancun. There is sawdust on the floor, drinks being served in ridiculously large glasses and lots of singing and dancing. A visit to Senor Frogs is far from an authentic experience to assist you in understanding the Mexican culture but it can be quite good fun.
37. Drive a speedboat through Nichupte Lagoon
Nichupte Lagoon is filled with beautiful mangrove canals. Driving a speedboat through these canals feels like driving through a jungle. You’ll be taught how to operate the speedboat and then a guide will point out the local flora and fauna as you navigate the canals.
Where to Stay in Cancun
The stunning Nizuc Resort is a fusion of calming Asian style and Mexican architecture and landscape. The spectacular entrance features enormous stone walls and of course, the backdrop of the Nizuc beach and is made for Instagram envy posts (mine did very well during my stay).
There are 274 suites and villas at Nizuc. But it never feels like it is that big because everything is spread out over 29 acres. There are rooms at the “core” of the hotel as well as 9 “Residences”. It really is necessary to use one of the buggies to get around – this place is big!
There is a large selection of room types on offer. All views have ocean or garden views. I stayed in a one-bedroom garden junior suite which was huge. It was really two huge rooms. The first room had dining and living areas and opened up to the plunge pool.
The second room was the bedroom with an extremely large bathroom and a powerful rain shower. The free-standing bathtub had a well-positioned tv above it (each room had a large flat screen tv as well). A full range of ESPA toiletries was also provided.
The room contained a Nespresso coffee maker as well as speakers for easy hook up to a phone. Turn down service each evening tidies everything up and orders the massive floor to ceiling drapes as well as providing a thoughtful sweet treat.
Make sure you close your doors at night. Nizuc is very stylish but also very relaxed and it is lovely to see wildlife around the property. However, I left my door open one night as well as half of the pizza that I couldn’t finish on the table. In the morning the pizza was gone and there were quite a few iguana paw prints.
Each residence has a butler/concierge 24/7 to help meet every one of your needs.
The staff can’t do enough to help and are extremely friendly. They are also ever-present without it feeling over the top. There was never more than a couple of minutes wait for a buggy and every request was promptly addressed. The residence butlers in particular had extraordinary memories and a real eye for detail. Not only did they meet all my needs they often offered ideas up to address needs I didn’t even know I had.
Breakfast at Cafe de la Playa is an extensive buffet featuring all the western classics, pastries, fresh fruit and a couple of local specialties like breakfast quesadillas. The fresh juices are excellent and there is seating both inside and out.
Sunday is the day not to miss when it come to breakfast. The buffet must have been given steroids. On top of all the usual delights, there were oysters/prawns/mussels and fresh seafood creations as well as beef wellington. The pastries area also featured a large number of delectable desserts.
There are few things that I enjoy more than a relaxed lying by the pool lunch. I had heard good things about the fish tacos and those rave reviews were well deserved. Alas, I struggled to order anything else. Unsurprisingly the guacamole was also outstanding as were the chips.
Nizuc has five restaurants in addition to Cafe de la Playa. Indochine is Asian fusion and gets rave reviews. It is known for its outstanding coconut-based soups and high-quality sushi. Ramona offers contemporary Mexican cuisine and Ni is Peruvian.
If you feel like meat or seafood head to La Punta Grill and Lounge. Terra Nostra is Meditteranean with homemade pasta and a wood-fired oven.
Bar A-Kan is a stunning ocean-front bar, Terra Nostra also has a lounge with great sunset views and the Havana Lounge is a cigar bar.
One of the highlights of my stay at Nizuc was enjoying two meals on the beach. I enjoyed a traditional-style thanksgiving dinner on the beach one evening which was outstanding. The second dinner was a bountiful seafood bbq buffet.
Life at Nizuc
The main pool is a huge infinity set up with a fantastic large rustic shaded bar area. Just underneath the main pool is a line of cabanas with sea views. These are the cabanas to reserve after breakfast.
Nizuc also offers adults-only areas. One of the pools is just for adults as is the rather spectacular restaurant next to it.
If you’re feeling active (I wasn’t) there are two tennis courts, an impressive gym, a huge range of water sports equipment waiting to be used and a kid’s club.
Every week a schedule of extra activities comes out. These range from stand-up paddleboarding to yoga to Mayan cleansing rituals.
I have visited quite a few spas in my time around the world. Nizuc has to be one of the most impressive. The spa itself is a wonderful fusion of spectacular and relaxing. Like the rest of the resort, the walls are tall and materials are a mix of stone and wood.
I did the hydrotherapy treatment which I would highly recommend. Normally hydrotherapy treatments are “self” managed and guests move through different areas of a pool with jets at different levels/pressures etc. The hydrotherapy treatment at Nizuc is guided and it made a real difference.
We started with a steam room and then moved onto the sauna. Once I was toasted I made the brave decision to head into the ice-cold plunge pool. Wow was it cold but I felt so rejuvenated afterward. Then into a large whirlpool before reclining on a lounge while a mask was applied as well as cotton pads soaked in Espa product.
The spa also has its own pool of course so this is where tea can be consumed and you can finish off your relaxing treatment.
There are nine treatment rooms as well as a salon and nail boutique
There is a shop of course in the spa that sells all the products used as well as other fun items. And don’t miss the main gift shop which has some gorgeous local products.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Nizuc is only 15 minutes from Cancun airport.
How to Get to Cancun and get around
Cancun is very well served by flights from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The high season is December to April as those in the Northern Hemisphere head south for some warm weather.
The hotel zone is relatively close to the airport. The farther south your hotel the closer you will be to the airport.
When it comes to getting around Cancun, car hire isn’t really necessary. The majority of visitors do spend quite a bit of time in their resort or hotel. It is generally very easy to get the hotels to organize cars to get around for different activities.
Most people do come to Cancun to relax and unwind so don’t feel the need to do all 37 activities in this article. There is nothing wrong with some serious relaxing time on the beach. But if you’re in Cancun for more than a long weekend you may want to break up your trip with some different activities.