WRITTEN BY: SUSAN FINCH
10 Best Things to Do in Cancun
Cancun’s sparkling, turquoise waters, rich history, and unique culture draws visitors from around the world. But with so much to offer, how do you narrow down the best things to do in Cancun? Here’s our top 10 list of best activities in Cancun to turn your next vacation into the trip of a lifetime.
1. Take a Day Trip to the Pyramids
Look beyond Egypt for your pyramid adventures and head to Mexico instead. The pyramids of Chichen Itza and Tulum are among the best things to do in Cancun. Take a tour of the Temple of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza, known as “El Castillo”, a 2.5 hour air-conditioned drive from Cancun. A certified guide sheds light on these Mayan ruins before exploring waterfalls and underground waterways called cenotes. Guests can also explore the pyramids in Tulum, situated against the backdrop of sparkling, turquoise waters full of amazing photo ops. Hear about the inscriptions and murals on the temple and ancient Mayan life.
2. Explore Xcaret Park
Known as “nature’s sacred paradise”, Xcaret invites visitors to learn about daily Mayan life and the culture and rich traditions of Mexico. This natural park features plenty of things to do in Cancun and beyond, including underground rivers, natural pools, and attractions, to get an intimate look at Mexico’s greatest wonders. Take a tour of Xcaret and explore a butterfly pavilion, Jaguar Island, archaeological ruins, live performances, and relax at the beach.
3. Hit the Beach
Get away from the bustle of Cancun and head to the quaint, charming island of Isla Mujeres, or “Island of the Women”. Before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the island was sacred to the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine. A ferry whisks visitors just a few miles away from Cancun for relaxation and exploration. Lounge at a beach club, enjoy lunch, and join a bike tour to visit a turtle farm to learn about the lifecycle of these endangered animals.
4. Go Snorkeling
Cancun offers plenty of opportunities for snorkeling through its crystal blue waters, but visitors should put a reef and underwater adventure on their must-do list. Take a tour out to El Meco Reef, part of the Great Mayan Reef, to explore the undersea life in some of the most protected waters in the area. After seeing beautiful coral and vibrant fish, head to Turtle Point to get an up-close and personal look at amazing sea turtles. Next, snorkel through the Underwater Museum with life-sized figures made from PH-neutral clay to help promote the growth of the coral reef and marine life before seeing a real-life shipwreck to wrap up your snorkeling excursion.
5. Visit the World’s Largest Aquarium
Discover the world’s largest natural aquarium at Xel-Ha situated just outside of Cancun. There’s plenty of opportunity for relaxing on the white sandy beach, snorkeling, and tubing across 22 lagoons, coves, and inlets. Get to know the locals–tropical fish in a multitude of colors. There’s even an opportunity for an adrenaline rush with a dive off a cliff or swing on a rope over the river before plunging into the cenotes below. For families with kids, there’s even a natural children’s playground and a chance to explore a floating bridge, Mayan wall, two grottos and more.
6. Go Zip Lining
Cancun’s proximity to crystal waters, ancient Mayan ruins, and jungles make it a prime destination for unique sightseeing. Head to the treetops and see Cancun’s beauty from above with a zip lining tour. There are plenty of options to choose from including a Cancun jungle adventure. For a jungle expedition, join a tour that explores the Mayan ruins of Tulum before heading to Tankah Park. Visitors soar through the trees by zip line followed by a swim in the unique cenotes with warm, natural water. You can also join a canopy adventure tour along the longest zip line circuit in North America where you’ll fly through the jungle trees across 2 miles and 10 zip lines. Certified guides help with the journey and bring you to a beautiful, natural cenote for a dip in the crystal blue water.
7. Go Horseback Riding
Once you’ve explored all the best things to do in Cancun in the treetops and by water, join a jungle excursion by horseback. Visit an oversized ranch with happy, well-cared for horses that carry you through the jungle of the Yucatan. Sparkling views of the Caribbean come with a fresh sea breeze as you bond with your horse along the way. For a truly unique experience, try a camel tour to the beach through the mangroves and soak up the jungle landscape.
8. Greet the Dolphins
Your list of things to do in Cancun should include a meet and greet with Cancun’s friendliest wildlife. The young and young-at-heart can head to Isla Mujeres for a dolphin encounter of a lifetime. After an overview of dolphins and how they live, guests slip into life jackets and go into waist deep water on a submerged platform. Reach out and touch these friendly mammals and even give them a kiss.
To get to know even more of Cancun’s marine-life, join a Dolphin, Manattee, and Sea Lion encounter at Isla Mujeres where you can discover more about these magnificent creatures, their diet, and even get to feed and pet them. Guests enter the water for a personal meet and greet before joining a Dolphin Royal Swim. Hold onto their dorsal fins as they pull you through the water, experience a foot push where dolphins raise you above the water’s surface and enjoy a playful swim.
9. Explore Cancun’s Best Kept Secret
With so many things to do in Cancun from, zip lining to snorkeling and greeting the dolphins, it’s easy to think you’ve experienced all the things to do in Cancun. You might think you’ve heard it all, but Cancun’s best-kept secret awaits at Rio Secreto. This tour takes you through the jungle to a protected nature preserve with a unique crystal museum. Guests wear a wetsuit, life jacket, helmet with light, and special shoes for a safe and comfortable journey through calcified stalactites and stalagmites. Learn about the system of caves formed centuries ago by an underground river and see some of the world’s most dramatic mineral formations.
10. Combine Sightseeing and Shopping
There are plenty of epic adventures and things to do in Cancun, but a relaxed day of sightseeing and shopping is also a perfect way to explore the area. Enjoy a drive along Kabah Avenue, Manzana 32, and 30 and browse the oversized Mexican marketplace called Market 28. Handicrafts, traditional food, unique jewelry, and more dazzles visitors before continuing along Yaxchilan and Tulum Avenues in downtown Cancun. There are plenty of places to explore, souvenirs to purchase, and sights to soak up before a photo op at El Mirador to commemorate your day.