Cancun, Mexico

Discover Cancun's top attractions, in this essential guide to Mexico's tropical paradise.

Top things to do in Cancun, Mexico

Cancun, perched on the northeastern tip of Mexico's stunning Yucatan Peninsula, is a globally beloved tropical getaway that continues to win hearts with its unmatched natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant nightlife. This sun-drenched paradise hosts millions of visitors every year, all lured in by the spellbinding blend of crystal-clear turquoise waters, powder-soft white sand beaches, exciting recreational activities, and intriguing Mayan cultural heritage. The purpose of this guide is to help you discover the breadth of Cancun's offerings, from the uniquely cultural and historical to the spectacularly scenic and thrillingly adventurous, so you can plan an unforgettable trip tailored to your tastes.

The Beaches of Cancun

Cancun is home to some of the most beautiful, world-famous beaches on Earth. Playa Delfines, one of the largest beaches in Cancun, beckons visitors with its wide expanses of pristine, white sands and breathtakingly clear, azure waters. Often less crowded than other popular spots, it's perfect for a peaceful sunbathing session. But if you're seeking a bit of thrill, there are a myriad of water sports on offer, from jet-skiing to paragliding.

Playa Tortugas is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Despite being smaller than other beaches, it stands out for its calm, shallow waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The beach is also equipped with various amenities, including restaurants, bars, and even a bungee tower for the thrill-seekers.

Situated on the northern end of the serene Isla Mujeres, North Beach is well-known for its incredibly calm and shallow waters, making it an ideal beach destination for families with young kids. After a refreshing swim, you can enjoy some freshly caught seafood at one of the beachside restaurants.

While immersing yourself in the beach-side bliss, it's crucial to respect the local ecology. For instance, between May and November, it's the nesting season for sea turtles. During this period, these majestic creatures come ashore at night to lay their eggs. It's essential to avoid disturbing these areas marked for nesting.

Historical Attractions

Stepping away from the sandy shores, Cancun's historical attractions provide a fascinating glimpse into the ancient Mayan civilization. Nestled right within Cancun's Hotel Zone, the El Rey Ruins are the remains of a once-thriving Mayan town. Here, you'll find stone structures and platforms, believed to be ancient religious sites and marketplaces. The ruins are also home to a community of friendly iguanas, making it a fun excursion for kids.

Down the coastline, you'll encounter the mesmerizing Tulum Ruins, perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Known as the only Mayan city built on a coast, Tulum was once a bustling seaport. The picturesque views from the ruins are awe-inspiring, creating a blend of cultural exploration and natural beauty.

However, no visit to Cancun would be complete without a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chichen Itza. Home to the iconic El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulkan, this massive pyramid stands as a testament to the mathematical and astronomical proficiency of the Mayans.

In the heart of Cancun's Hotel Zone, the Museo Maya de Cancun houses an extensive collection of remarkable Mayan artifacts. It offers insightful exhibits on Mayan culture, history, and art, making it an excellent place to enrich your knowledge of this fascinating ancient civilization.

Natural Wonders

Cancun isn't just about the beaches and ruins; it's also home to numerous natural wonders and eco-parks. One such unique attraction is the Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA). This submerged marvel contains more than 500 life-sized sculptures that form an artificial reef, promoting coral life. Whether you're scuba diving or snorkeling, exploring MUSA is a surreal experience.

Another gem in the Yucatan Peninsula is Rio Secreto, an underground river system adorned with thousands of dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. Guided tours lead you through this magical subterranean world, offering an unforgettable adventure.

Cancun and its surrounding area are dotted with cenotes - natural sinkholes formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock. These cenotes, such as Ik Kil and Dos Ojos, are revered sacred wells by the Mayans and now serve as popular swimming and snorkeling spots.

A day trip to the Isla Contoy National Park is a must for nature enthusiasts. Known as the most important nesting place for sea birds in the Mexican Caribbean, the park is home to more than 150 different bird species, as well as a variety of marine life.

Adventure and Sports

The natural splendor of Cancun provides an ideal backdrop for a myriad of adventure sports. With the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world, just off the coast, Cancun offers unparalleled opportunities for scuba diving and snorkeling. Exploring the vivid coral gardens and vibrant marine life is nothing short of magical.

For those seeking a rush of adrenaline, Selvatica, an award-winning adventure park, offers exhilarating zip-lining experiences. Soaring above the lush tropical jungle while catching glimpses of exotic wildlife is an adventure to remember.

Golf enthusiasts are in for a treat as Cancun boasts a selection of top-tier golf courses. Courses like the Moon Spa & Golf Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus, or the Puerto Cancun Golf Course, featuring stunning sea views, offer a combination of challenging play and exquisite scenery.

Local Cuisine

A journey to Cancun is incomplete without savoring its rich gastronomy. Cancun's food scene is a delightful fusion of traditional Mexican and local Yucatecan cuisines. At La Habichuela, you can indulge in Mexican-Caribbean fusion dishes served in a garden filled with Mayan sculptures. Meanwhile, Julia Mia offers a modern take on traditional Mexican dishes.

For an authentic taste of Cancun, don't miss the street food. Local markets and roadside stalls dish out flavorful tacos al pastor (marinated pork tacos), elotes (grilled corn), and marquesitas (crepe-like desserts), among others.

Food and wine enthusiasts should consider timing their visit with the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival. This event attracts top chefs from around the world, promising an unforgettable gastronomic adventure.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Cancun's nightlife is as vibrant and diverse as its daytime attractions. The Hotel Zone comes alive at night, buzzing with an array of clubs, bars, and live music venues. High-energy clubs like Coco Bongo and Mandala promise a night of dancing, music, and fun.

But nightlife in Cancun isn't just about partying. There are plenty of family-friendly options, too. Consider an entertaining dinner cruise aboard the Captain Hook Pirate Ship or a night at the Xcaret Park, where you can enjoy "Xcaret Mexico Espectacular", a grand show depicting Mexico's history and culture.

Shopping in Cancun

If you enjoy shopping, Cancun won't disappoint. The city offers everything from bustling local markets to high-end luxury malls. Mercado 28 in downtown Cancun is a must-visit. This sprawling market offers a wide array of Mexican crafts, ceramics, leather goods, and jewelry, making it an excellent place to hunt for souvenirs.

For more luxurious shopping, head over to the Hotel Zone. Here, you'll find La Isla Shopping Village, an outdoor mall with canals mimicking Venice, filled with international brands and high-end boutiques. Remember, haggling is common practice in local markets, so don't be shy to negotiate for a better price!

Relaxation and Wellness

Amid the adventure and exploration, Cancun provides ample opportunities for relaxation and wellness. Cancun's spas are renowned for their treatments, incorporating traditional Mayan healing techniques with modern wellness practices. Le Blanc Spa Resort is highly recommended, offering an extensive menu of treatments set against a serene, luxurious backdrop.

Wellness enthusiasts can partake in beachfront yoga classes or head to a wellness retreat like Yaan Wellness Energy Spa, where holistic treatments and healing therapies are the order of the day.

Tips for Traveling in Cancun

When planning your Cancun getaway, timing is key. While Cancun is a year-round destination, the period from December to April experiences pleasant weather and less rainfall.

Safety in Cancun is a frequently discussed topic. While Cancun is generally safe for tourists, it's always advisable to stay cautious, avoid isolated areas, especially at night, and stay updated on travel advisories.

The official currency is the Mexican peso, but US dollars are widely accepted. Credit cards are commonly used in hotels, restaurants, and shops. However, for small vendors and rural areas, cash is king.

Getting around Cancun is fairly straightforward. Buses are a cheap and efficient way to travel, especially within the Hotel Zone. Taxis and Uber are also available, though it's advisable to agree on a fare before starting the trip. If you plan on exploring beyond Cancun, renting a car could be a viable option.


Cancun is an enchanting destination that offers a delightful mix of relaxation, adventure, history, and culture. Whether you're lounging on the sun-kissed beaches, exploring Mayan ruins, diving under azure waters, teeing off on a seaside golf course, or dancing the night away, Cancun promises an unforgettable experience. We hope this guide serves as a useful tool as you plan your trip. Now, all that's left is to pack your bags, and let Cancun work its magic on you!

Top things to do in Cancun, Mexico

Discover Cancun's top attractions, in this essential guide to Mexico's tropical paradise.

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