10 Best Things to Do in Cancun, Mexico: Top-Rated Attractions 2022
This list of the best things to do in Cancun will help you prepare for your trip to one of the most famous sun and beach vacation destinations in the world.
Bathed by the transparent and turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, this city is the gateway to the paradisiacal Riviera Maya and the one with the most hotel infrastructure in the Yucatan Peninsula.
With direct flights from most major cities globally, many travel agencies offer all-inclusive vacation packages in Cancun at a very competitive price.
In our experience, we believe that a good option is to take advantage of these offers to stay in a good hotel/resort in the great hotel zone and complete your trip with day trips around the Yucatan Peninsula, taking into account that although Cancun is considered as a sun and beach destination, it is located near the most important sites of the ancient Mayan civilization such as Chitzén Itzá, Tulum and Cobá.
In addition to the possibility of making these more cultural visits, you also have numerous leisure activities such as bathing in one of the fantastic cenotes, snorkeling or diving through its magnificent coral reef, shopping, or enjoying delicious Mexican food.
Based on the experience of our time in Riviera Maya during our trip to Mexico, we have made this list of the 10 must-see places to visit in Cancun.
1. Relax on the Beaches of Cancun
One of the best things to do in Cancun is relaxing on a lounger and taking a bath in one of the best white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.
This city has more than 20 kilometers of public beaches of all kinds: tourist, local, with calm waters or waves, with water activities, which will allow you to choose according to your preferences.
Among the most recommended is Playa Delfines, where the great letters of CANCÚN are found. And which offers spectacular views of the sea, although the strong waves make it more recommended for surfing than bathing.
Another of the most famous and popular is Playa Tortugas, where you can practice all kinds of water sports and enjoy the usually held parties.
If you prefer tranquility, you can go to Playa Langosta or Playa Caracol with a more familiar atmosphere and calm waters, ideal for snorkeling or swimming.
Other recommended beaches are: Playa Linda, Playa Ballenas, Playa Las Perlas or Playa Chac Mool.
2. Visit Chitzén Itzá
Chitzén Itzá, the most important Mayan site in Mexico and one of the world’s seven wonders, is another of the places to visit in Cancun.
In this ancient city of the Mayan civilization, important structures such as the Temple of the Jaguar, the Ball Court, and, above all, the famous Kukulkan Pyramid are still preserved in good condition.
To visit Chichén Itzá, it is recommended to arrive early. It opens at 8 in the morning, to avoid encountering many tourists and invest a minimum of 3 hours in visiting all its most interesting points.
When leaving the enclosure, you can complete the visit by approaching the spectacular Il Kil cenote, where you can take a relaxing bath inside a wonder of nature.
To get to Chichén Itzá, you can rent a car or take a bus at the ADO station in Cancun, located on Calle Pino Lote 1 and 2, which takes just over 3 hours.
If you prefer to learn more about the history of this site and enjoy greater comfort by including hotel pickup.
3. Get to know Cancun city
If you are staying in an all-inclusive hotel and you are tired of lying in a hammock by the pool or the beach with a cocktail in hand, it can be a good distraction to take a bus to visit the city of Cancun.
In areas like Parque de las Palapas, you can get to know the city’s true essence and see that local Mexican food is much better than what they serve you at the resorts.
Another of the best things to do in Cancun is to look for a souvenir at one of the handicraft stalls in Mercado 28, located next to Plaza Bonita, which recreates a colorful Mexican town.
If you have more time and have not had the opportunity to see any Mayan ruins, we advise you to visit the El Meco archaeological site or the San Miguelito site.
To finish the route through the city of Cancun, you can enter the Tequila Museum to learn the entire process of making this Mexican alcoholic beverage and take home a souvenir bottle.
A more comfortable option to visit all these parts of the city and learn about their history is to book this guided tour in Spanish that includes hotel pickup.
4. Get to Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy by boat
The two most essential islands to see in Cancun are Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and located a few kilometers from the hotel zone.
In these two islands, you will enjoy white sand beaches, deep turquoise waters, shallow sea beds full of coral and tropical fish, and delicious gastronomy in which the snail ceviche surprises.
In Islas Mujeres, renting a bike or a golf cart is recommended to find the quietest and most beautiful beaches, such as Playa Norte and snorkel in the El Garrafón marine park.
While in Isla Contoy, you can also practice snorkeling or diving by having one of the most incredible coral reefs in the world and approaching the Isla Contoy National Park with a great diversity of fauna and paradisiacal beaches.
Ferries leave the hotel zone every half hour, leaving you in Islas Mujeres in 20 minutes. To get to Isla Contoy, you can only hire an organized excursion as it is a protected natural area.
5. Tour the Hotel Zone
The Hotel Zone is the part of Cancun where most large hotels, international restaurants, nightclubs, parks, shopping centers, and endless entertainment venues are concentrated.
This area, located near the beach and crossed by the great Boulevard Kukulkán avenue, has interesting points like the El Rey archaeological site and the beautiful Nichupté Lagoon.
If you want to have the best perspective of this whole part of the city, we recommend you go up to the 110-meter-high Scenic Tower, one of the best things to do in Cancun. Once and from which you can see Isla Mujeres.
Once these visits are completed, you can go shopping at the Plaza Forum by The Sea shopping center or La Isla Shopping Village, a huge Ferris wheel with fantastic views.
Finally, you can have fun at the famous Coco Bongo nightclub that offers live music and variety shows.
6. Visit the Ruins of Tulum
The Mayan ruins of Tulum, located at the top of a small cliff with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean in the background, is one of the most beautiful places to see in the Riviera Maya and is within this route through the Riviera Maya in 7 days.
This archaeological site of which some important structures such as the Temple of the Frescoes and the one known as El Castillo are preserved can be perfectly covered in about two hours and end up taking a bath on the beach located just below the ruins.
If you have extra time, we recommend you go to Playa Paraíso, located a half-hour walk from the site, where you can eat at one of the beach bars and take a postcard photo next to a lonely palm tree.
To get to these ruins, if you don’t want to rent a car, you will have to take an ADO bus to the city of Tulum and from there a van or van to the entrance of the site. The total duration of the journey is about 3 hours.
Another more comfortable option is to book this excursion to Tulum in the morning or this two-day tour to Tulum and Cobá; both tours include the guide in Spanish and the hotel pickup. You can read this post about the essential things to visit and do in Tulum for more information.
7. Take a bath in a cenote
Bathing in a cenote, a freshwater pond formed by the wear of limestone rocks, is another of the best things to do in Cancun. These wells that the Mayans gave a sacred use abound in the Yucatan peninsula and have become one of the great tourist attractions in Mexico.
We visit some of the best cenotes in Valladolid, located two hours from Cancun, and stand out for their karst formations and being cavern-like.
Near Cancun and Puerto Morelos, the famous route of the cenotes passes through some open and another underground such as Las Morrajas, Boca del Puma, Siete Bocas Verde Lucero, or La Noria, among many others.
The best option if you want to visit several cenotes on the same day is to rent a car or book this tour with a guide in Spanish. If you don’t mind seeing just one or two, you can take one of the buses that leave every hour from the ADO terminal and pass through the Ruta de Los Cenotes in the direction of Leona Vicario.
8. Visit the Ruins of Cobá
The ruins of Cobá are places to visit in Cancun and one of the best excursions in Riviera Maya. This enormous Mayan archaeological site of more than 80 square kilometers and more than 6000 structures buried in the jungle, of which only 10% have been unearthed, is a true marvel.
To tour this site, you can rent a bike at the entrance and reach the impressive Nohuch Mul pyramid, the highest in the Yucatan Peninsula at 42 meters high, from where you will have incredible views of the ruins and the jungle.
Another advantage of these ruins is that there are far fewer tourists than in Chichén Itzá and Tulum, and the structures are less restored, giving it a more magical and authentic aura.
To get to Cobá, if you don’t have a rental car, you can take an ADO bus that will drop you off near the entrance in just over 3 hours.
Another option to learn more about the history of the Mayan civilization and each structure is to book this excursion in the morning, including a Spanish guide and pickup from your hotel.
9. Go scuba diving or snorkeling
Scuba diving in the second largest coral reef in the world, which stretches for 1,000 kilometers in front of the Riviera Maya, is another of the essential things to do in Cancun.
Diving or snorkeling through the crystal clear and shallow waters of this coral reef that begins on Isla Contoy will allow you to see countless tropical fish, turtles, and mollusks of all kinds.
In addition to Isla Contoy, other of the best areas for diving near Cancun are Islas Mujeres, Punta Nizuc, Isla Cozumel and the Machones area.
Another surprising site that can only be seen by snorkeling or diving is the Underwater Museum of Art located near Islas Mujeres, in which there are more than 500 submerged sculptures.
10. Disconnect from the world on Holbox Island
Holbox Island, located north of the Yucatan Peninsula, is a true paradise and one of our favorite places in Mexico. Strolling along the white sand beaches, bathing in the transparent turquoise green waters, trying the delicious tacos and lobster pizza, seeing the murals of the town, spending hours reading lying in a hammock are just some of the best things to see and to do in Holbox.
You can get to all these places on the island on foot, although renting a golf cart is recommended if it is very hot. The best time to go to Holbox, as long as there is no annoying sargassum, is between May and September when you can see the nesting of turtles on its beaches, the whale shark, and the luminous plankton.
Remember that if you want to carry out any activity with these animals, it is very important to do them with an active company with Responsible Tourism.
To get to Holbox, you can take an ADO bus that leaves at 9 in the morning and will take you directly to Chiquilá in two and a half hours. Once in Chiquilá, you have to take a ferry that will leave you in Holbox in 20 minutes.
If you only have one day, it is advisable to book this excursion in Spanish, saving you time as all transportation is included.
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Things to Do in Cancun
What is Cancun most known for?
Cancun is recognized worldwide for its spectacular beaches of fine white sand, its fascinating turquoise blue sea and unparalleled weather, as well as excellent air and land connectivity, and a first-class hotel infrastructure that places it as one of the best destinations tourist in the world.
Is Cancun Safe 2022?
Cancun remains one of the safest travel destinations in Mexico, due to massive efforts made by the local government and the private sector to create and implement COVID safety protocols. Its strict adherence to safety protocols is just another reason to consider visiting Cancun when you travel.
Is 5 days enough in Cancun?
Many people vary on the length of time, but a minimum of 3-5 days is a good start if you want to hit the most important stops in Cancun. If you want to experience all Cancun has to offer, tourists recommend 7-10 days.
Where should you not stay in Cancun?
Downtown Cancun – While primarily safe during the day, be sure to stay in the most touristic parts such as Avenida Tulum and Las Palapas. Do not venture outside the touristy areas, especially at night.
What is the best month to visit Cancun?
The best time to visit Cancún is from December to April during the peak season. Even though the crowds are heavier, you’ll experience near-perfect weather and find some of the cheapest flight and room rates for a winter getaway at the beach.
Is it safe to walk in Cancun Hotel Zone?
Regarding the safety of tourists in Cancun city, the Cancun Hotel Zone is one of the safest places to stay. Because it was developed specifically for the tourist industry there is not a large residential enclave in the Hotel Zone.
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