When I started researching about a trip to Mexico, I quickly became enchanted with so many options for what to do in Cancun.
This spectacular place in the Caribbean is filled with idyllic beaches, wonderful islands, archeological parks, hotels of all kinds and budgets, recreational activities for the whole family, world-class shows, a lively nightlife, among many other interesting tourist attractions. In short, this place meets all the requirements that a tourist place should have.
So, are you going to visit Cancun and would like to know the best attractions to see? Well, in this post, I will share with you the 12 Best Things to Do in Cancun, Mexico. Read on!
Best Things to Do in Cancun
1. Chichen Itza
Visiting Chicken Itza was one of the tours in Cancun that I found most interesting. Chicken Itza is a huge archaeological site and one of the popular Cancun tourist attractions. It was once the capital of the Maya people. These ruins were declared Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1988 and one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World in 2007.
Chicken Itza is symbolized by the huge Pyramid of Kukulcan, known as El Castillo, which has 365 steps equivalent to the days of the year. In this pyramid, there is an optical effect visible only at the spring and autumn equinoxes, which suggests the shadow of a snake descending its stairs.
There are several constructions in this Mayan ruin, such as the Plaza de las Mil Columnas, which actually consists of 200 columns. Likewise, there is the Temple of Venus, with representations of the planet on the walls.
Although in the past it was possible to climb the pyramid, today it is no longer possible due to tourist safety and preservation of the pyramid.
2. Explore Tulum
The once Mayan city, now converted into an archaeological point of interest, is one of the best places to visit in Cancun. It is located 130 kilometers from this city. Therefore, it will not take you more than two hours to reach this place.
Tulum is a destination that stands out for having the most original archaeological remains of the Riviera Maya and the only one built with views of the ocean, which allows you to enjoy spectacular views of the beaches of the Riviera Maya, the Caribbean Sea, and the adjacent coastal region. Without a doubt, it is an unbeatable point to contemplate how the sun sets in the Caribbean.
Its best-preserved buildings were built between 1200 and 1450. There is evidence that, during the first decades of the Spanish colony, it remained inhabited. However, by the end of the 16th century, it was completely depopulated.
Other outstanding buildings are the Temple of the Descending God and the Temple of the Frescoes, whose beautiful interior paintings have allowed us to understand the cosmological conceptions of the Mayans.
3. Cozumel Island
Sixty-two kilometers off the coast of Cancun is another paradisiacal Caribbean island: Cozumel. You can get to this place on the plane that leaves from Cancun Airport or by boarding a ferry at the Playa del Carmen Maritime Terminal.
To the south of this island is Arrecifes de Cozumel, a national park that is home to hundreds of species of coral and tropical fish. It is not surprising that this area is so visited by diving enthusiasts.
Its busiest beaches are Playa Corona, a good place for snorkeling, and Playa San Francisco, with an interesting offer of water activities, such as parasailing and the ride on jet skis or aboard the famous bananas.
Cozumel is also home to more than ten archaeological sites. The most popular is the San Gervasio site. This place of worship corresponds to the time when the Mayans were one of the most powerful civilizations on the continent.
4. Xel-Ha Park
Xel-ha Park is a water, an amusement park focused on ecotourism, having won the title of Natural Wonder of Mexico. This natural park is only 13 kilometers from the archaeological zone of Tulum and 122 from Cancun.
Its main attraction is a cove that is located right where the underground water of the peninsula meets that of the Caribbean Sea. As a result, in this natural accident, you can see a unique spectacle: freshwater and saltwater species coexist with each other. In addition, this became the perfect place for the development of hundreds of species of animals and plants.
It is estimated that this particular ecosystem is the habitat of some seventy marine varieties, among them: the barracuda, the chac-chi, the horse mackerel, the chopa, the bonefish, the snapper, the surgeonfish, the parrotfish, the ray, and the sergeant major.
Xel-Ha offers ideal conditions for diving and snorkeling. Right here, you can swim with dolphins and manatees, take an underwater walk, and walk through caves with walls full of fossils of extinct specimens.
5. The Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA)
This museum located in the waters between Cancun and Isla Mujeres is one of the most impressive artistic exhibits on the planet. Its collection amounts to more than five hundred permanently submerged sculptures and human figures that present different poses. They are distributed throughout several underwater galleries that are located between three and six meters deep.
Coming to the MUSA is part of what I think you have to do in Cancun. This exhibition of more than 400 square meters is interesting from an artistic and ecological point of view. It is exciting to see how marine species coexist with human creations, to the point of beginning to develop corals on their surface. Turtles and fish will be your companions on this journey from another world.
6. The Mayan Museum
The Mayan Museum is one of the Cancun attractions that I recommend if you want to learn about the great history of the region and its Mayan origins.
The museum is the result of a great project that emerged in 1987 and shows the ancestral roots of the region where the Mayan culture flourished. Inside the museum, there are more than 350 pieces preserved, some of which are 14000 years old.
In addition, body ornaments, weapons of war, and ceramic pieces are also exhibited, among other objects that come from the states of Tabasco, Campeche, and Chiapas. For example, you will be surprised with the remains of the Woman of the Palms that are 10,000 years old and were found in the Yucatan region. So far, they are the oldest in Mexico and America.
The museum building was also rebuilt and inaugurated in 2012. Another fact about the museum is that it has three pavilions for exhibitions, with hurricane-resistant glass walls.
7. Xcaret Park
This ecological park is one of the most popular attractions in the Riviera Maya and one of the best places to visit in Cancun. It has three freshwater canals (Maya, Azul, and Manati) that flow through caves, tunnels, and idyllic natural settings.
Here, you can swim in natural coves or visit the habitat of flamingos and jaguars, among other animals. For the little ones, there is the Children’s World, with hanging bridges, slides, and tunnels in the middle of the jungle.
Among the many other attractions in the park are the Aviary and the Butterfly Garden. There is an aquarium with coral reefs and ponds with sea turtles. Likewise, you can visit the greenhouse with orchids and bromeliads.
As culture sites, there are archaeological ruins, a replica of a Mayan town, and another of a typical Mexican cemetery. And if you are looking for things to do and you are not afraid of heights, there is the Scenic Tower which is 80 meters high to see the jungle and the Caribbean Sea.
8. Playa Tortugas
Playa Tortugas is one of the most visited Cancun attractions, and I recommend visiting it. This public spa is located in the heart of the Hotel Zone. It has crystal clear and shallow waters, golden sand, and above all, a gentle surf, which is why I find it ideal for a family trip with young children.
This is one of the beaches that combines good services and fun. The atmosphere is very happy, and you can dance to the rhythm of the music that is always playing in the nearby places. Likewise, you will find places that rent lounge chairs and umbrellas and various options for lunch in front of the sea. For example, there is the Playa Tortugas restaurant, where they serve a combined shrimp, fish, and octopus cocktail.
In addition, you will have several things to do, and you can practice volleyball, diving, and snorkeling. And if you are daring, you will have the opportunity to do activities such as bungee jumping from a 25-meter high tower.
Check which are the best beaches in Cancun: 12 Top-Rated Beaches in Cancun
9. El Rey
This is another important archaeological site located a short distance from Punta Nizuc. The ruins belong to the Mayan culture and are known as El Rey.
When they were discovered, it was deduced that they were dedicated to the sun god, the king of the site. In this place, there are forty-seven buildings with numerous tombs, and their construction was carried out by the Mayans around the year 900 after Christ.
During the holidays, there are several hotels that offer tours to the ruins of El Rey, which is also known because it is the habitat of a large population of iguanas.
10. Xavage Park
To add a bit of adrenaline to my trip, I decided to visit Xavage Adventure Park, where some of the best Cancun attractions are. It has the only artificially constructed rapid rivers in Quintana Roo, and you can cross them by participating in air, land, and water activities.
Among the attractions I enjoyed here were kayaking, whitewater rafting, or monster truck tours. There is a ropes course with four levels of difficulty, driving a water jet or flying horizontally on zip lines. For children from 5 to 11 years, there is an area with a wading pool, jets, and slides. Definitely, Xavage Park should be on your list of the places to visit in Cancun.
11. Kabah Park
Kabah Park is a protected natural area within Cancun. It covers more than 40 hectares of dense jungle. As you go through it, you will meet squirrels, coatis, badgers, turtles, deer, and other fauna of the region.
This place also highlights the history and culture of the Quintana Roo region. For example, there is a Chiclero Camp built around chicozapote trees, a species from which the Mayans extracted the sap to form chewable gum. You can even appreciate the replica of a Solar Maya, which is a typical house with its garden.
Also, on this site is the Casa Maya Museum that preserves old photographs of Cancun, its first inhabitants, and how the urban and tourist development of the city began in the 70s. The best thing about this place is that the entrance is free.
12. Isla Mujeres
Surrounded by the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and only 13 kilometers from the coast of Cancun lies Isla Mujeres. This island is a hot spot today, but it is also important to the cultural heritage of the region.
Today, this is a paradise soaked in beauty where you can spend a spectacular time enjoying the paradisiacal beaches, the jungle, and its spectacular gastronomic offer. It is well known by surfers for the great waves that form on its coast. It is a place with quiet beaches ideal for tourists who want to relax enjoy.
In addition to its beautiful beaches, typical of a Caribbean setting, the town is charming, especially in its downtown area. The streets are cobbled, and the houses are painted in different and intense colors. To move around the island at your leisure, I suggest you rent a bicycle, scooter, or golf cart.
Besides the island being small and friendly, I did several different tours in one day: a paradisiacal beach, a lookout overlooking the cliffs and the sea, and a great snorkeling trip. But the best part is that there are a lot of options, so the things I did were just my selection, but you can build yours. And if you decide to stay and spend the night there, be sure to enjoy the vibrant nightlife of this Caribbean island paradise, especially in its pedestrian street.
Where to stay: Best Hotels in Cancun