the best things to do and see in cancun

The 10 Best Things to Do and See in Cancun, Mexico

By: Joe Pike - December 2, 2023

There was a time in the mid-90’s where MTV and rowdy college drinkers neglected Cancun’s vast amount of attractions and opted to party the night away and sleep, well, until housekeeping arrived That is no longer the case.

A hurricane in 2004 largely destroyed most of Cancun’s “party” hotels, which were repaired and upgraded, making the destination far more selective of its guests.

While Cancun remains one of the most-visited destinations in the hemisphere, Cancun is now mostly a couples and families destination where vacations are looking for something a little bit out of the box. And that doesn’t mean tacos.

Here are 10 suggestions to enjoy this booming destination in the heart of the Mexican Caribbean.

Chichen Itza

Roughly three hours from Cancun, one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most noteworthy landmarks, Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan ruins dating back to around 600 AD. The largest structure within these ruins is a stepped pyramid called El Castillo; additional structures include the Temple of the Warriors and the Wall of Skulls, both of which feature stone carvings.

It’s about an hour away from Merida. Try to get there as early as you can and go during the morning. It is not as hot as usual and there are far less people there, enabling you to get an obstructed IG shot.

Adults Only Hip Hop Sessions Boat Party Cancun

Starting at $105, vacationers can join a hip hop cruise in Cancun and enjoy hours of fun as you sail along the Mexican coastline.

DJs blast R&B and hip hop music while you dance the day away and enjoy drinks from the open bar.

Guests can top to snorkel and swim or stay on board and keep dancing. Take a hip hop booze cruise along Cancun’s coast Dance until sunset aboard the fun boat party. Guests get snacks and unlimited tequila, vodka, rum, and beer Champagne showers.

isla mujeres mexico
Isla Mujeres, Mexico is a charming offshore island.

Take a Day Trip to Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres hosts a few sites worth checking out. Recent visitors suggested renting a golf cart and driving to Punta Sur, located on the island’s southern tip.

Home to an ancient temple honoring the Mayan moon goddess, the landscape is surrounded by steep cliffs.

This area is also where you’ll find Garrafon Natural Reef Park, which offers a variety of activities against the scenic backdrop of Punta Sur, including a swimming pool, a zip line, kayaking and snorkeling.

Isla Mujeres also remains popular for its marine life, which you can see firsthand if you book one of the many snorkeling tours around the island. Visit between August and October and you just might get to witness baby turtles hatching in the sand.

If you’re just looking to relax on the beach, head to Playa del Norte, regarded among travelers as a beautiful, pristine beach.

You can reach Isla Mujeres by ferry from several different terminals in the Hotel Zone, including Playa Tortugas and Playa Caracol, as well as Cancún center.

El Rey Ruins

Located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, these ruins are extremely accessible to visitors, and the site’s small size makes it easy to see in a short time. Thought to be used as a royal retreat at one point, El Rey dates back to 1250.

But for many past visitors, the ruins themselves were not the primary attraction. People flock to El Rey to mingle with the hundreds of iguanas that have invaded the former Mayan town, saying the iguanas make for some unforgettable photo-ops.  

The El Rey Ruins are open for exploration during regular daytime hours, approximately 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is about $3.

Avenida Kukulkan

Even if you don’t seek out Avenida Kukulkan, you’ll likely cross its path at least once during your Cancún vacation.

That’s because Avenida Kukulkan is Cancún’s main artery, stretching from downtown through the hotel zone and running south toward the airport.

The avenue is lined with pathways and an endless number of shops and eateries, along with hotels and resorts. If you’re not strolling along the avenue, you’ll likely be riding the bus along it since this is the main route for the buses most frequently used by tourists.

Avenida Tulum

While Avenida Kukulkan provides the primary artery for Cancún’s Hotel Zone, Avenida Tulum serves as the main thoroughfare through the mainland portion of Cancun.

The boulevard cuts straight through downtown, providing an excellent avenue for people-watching and exploring.

Past travelers enjoyed strolling around Palacio Municipal and the surrounding streets, which offers a unique and much less touristy atmosphere from Cancún’s Hotel Zone. Many also rave about the affordable shopping here, as well as the inexpensive places to grab a bite to eat.

Nichupte Lagoon

Nichupté Lagoon is a vast tropical paradise that’s located in between mainland Cancún and the strip of land that makes up the hotel zone. This region has become a natural reserve for the mangrove ecosystem, and it is made up of seven different lakes.

Not only is Nichupté Lagoon popular for fishing, but it sees a range of visitors that participate in activities like kayaking, canoeing and underwater activities like snorkeling throughout the year. The lagoon is also popular for its wildlife tours, which let eager visitors check out local animals like seabirds, migratory birds and crocodiles.

Experience Xcaret Park

Experience Xcaret Park is the first of six amusement parks in Cancun, under the Experiencias Xcaret umbrella, and is one of the largest theme parks in Mexico.

The 250-acre eco-park in Cancun holds more than 40 attractions including adventurous aquatic activities, fun, and educational natural and cultural attractions, and live shows.

Easy to get to from downtown Cancun or the hotel zone, it’s one of the most popular attractions in the Riviera Maya of Mexico and sees over one million visitors each year from all over the world.

puerto cancun golf
The Tom Weiskopf-designed Puerto Cancun course.

Get Your Golfing On

There are at least 15 golf courses in and around Cancun.

There are courses for every level and many offer unique and interesting terrain including cenotes, tropical jungle, mangroves, lagoons, sand dunes, and even Mayan ruins.

The best course in Cancun is almost certainly the Tom Weiskopf-designed track at Puerto Cancun.

Stay at the Honeymoon Suite at Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun

This is arguably the best all-inclusive hotel in the heart of Cancun. The Honeymoon Suite includes a welcome bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries; a romantic dinner, set menu to choose from; a special dinner with wine pairing in at MB restaurant; 30 percent discount on Feel Harmony Spa treatments; a $ 200 credit per stay for minimum four nights; Jacuzzi service with the perfect bubble game; 50-minute, in-room massages for two; a Balinese bed on the beach with towel service, cleaning sunglasses, water spray, fruit skewers during the morning and hand and foot massage for 15 minutes a day.

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