Cancun in Mexico is nearly synonymous with its world-famous pristine white sand beaches.
A favorite destination even for the rich and famous, Cancun definitely has more to offer than sand, sea, and sun.
The hotel zone is a must-visit, as well as interesting museums that showcase everything from Mayan history to tequila.
There are more bodies of water to explore aside from the sea, more water activities to do than just swimming.
Ready for Cancun? Pack more than just your swimsuit, as there’s a lot of places to visit and things to do in Cancun, Mexico not exclusive to the city’s famous beaches.
12 Best Things To Do in Cancun
1. Downtown Cancun
When in Cancun, do not ever skip a visit to its downtown area. There’s more to the city than the beaches and the hotel zone, that’s for sure. If you want a more authentic Cancun vibe, then downtown is the place to be.
Check out the cityscapes, sample local cuisine in one of the many restaurants or even shop for souvenirs at Mercado 28.
In most cities or towns, people want to escape the city center bit in Cancun, you’d have to get away from the beach sometimes. A leisurely stroll downtown is surely among the best things to do in Cancun for that distinct local feel.
2. Zona Hotelera
Often said to be like a better, more tropical and sunshine version of the Las Vegas strip is Cancun’s Hotel Zone or Zona Hotelera.
More than the hotels and resorts, international restaurants and long stretches of sandy beach, this area is home to some of the area’s best attractions.
It encompasses several subdistricts that include a shopping village with bridges and pathways, a massive underwater museum, a Mayan museum, and a waterpark.
There are great sea views of course, and you’d even come across sunbathing iguanas.
This is one of the laces to see in Cancun that you could probably spend days and even nights in. If you’re up for a night out, the hotel zone has everything from intimate pubs and bats to big salsa clubs.
3. Maya Museum and San Miguelito Ruins
Among the best attractions in Cancun that you’ll find in the hotel zone are the intriguing Museo Maya and the San Miguelito ruins.
The Mayan museum and the archaeological site occupy 80 hectares of land in the zona hotelera and a must-visit in the area.
Museo Maya has been around since 2012 and is home to notable Mayan artifacts related to its history and culture from the Yucatan region such as those from the Chichen Itza, Comalcalco in Tabasco and Palenque in Chiapas.
The San Miguelito site meanwhile is a jungle garden that’s home to a collection of Maya ruins such as a pyramid, remains of family homes and a temple.
4. Explore the Cenotes
If you’re in Cancun or in the Yucatan region for that matter, you must visit cenotes at least ones as it’s a natural feature that’s unique to the area.
Cenotes are basically sinkholes formed in limestone with a pool at the bottom, known for its cool crystal blue waters.
There are around a thousand cenotes in the Yucatan, where you can swim, snorkel, scuba dive or simply relax. (Traveller’s Tip: If you take your own snorkeling gear it will be much more comfortable than any you could rent. Check out this guide to the best snorkeling sets!).
If you feel like you need a break from the sea and scorching sun, a visit to the area’s cenotes is a must when in Cancun.
5. Swim With Whale Sharks
Definitely one of the most magical things to do in Cancun is a chance to swim with gentle sea giants — the endangered whale sharks.
The Yucatan coast is said to be among the most reliable places in the world to see these beautiful sea creatures, and the whale shark season is from July until September.
Swimming or snorkeling with whale sharks is an incredible experience that’s a must in Cancun. Be sure to abide bu the rules when you’re part of a whale shark tour as these species are endangered.
You must their temperament so as not to agitate them when you’re in the water. Adult whale sharks are docile yet friendly and they’ll just gently swim with you while young whale sharks are as playful as puppies.
6. Underwater Museum
Experience a truly one of a kind treat in Cancun with the underwater museum. Essentially a collection of artificial reefs modeled after a variety of things such as naval mines, VW
Beetles, giant hands and even life-size sculptures of Cancun locals — the museum was created to help with the growth of coral and replace tropical marine life habitat.
There are more than 500 sculptures from six artists are installed in this unique museum, and more are added as a number of these installations have been obscured by thriving marine plants and wildlife.
Pack up your diving gear, a visit to this underwater museum is one of the best activities to do in Cancun.
7. Jungle Lagoon
How about a cruise through the Jungle Lagoon? Another of the most exciting places to see in Cancun takes you on a boat trip to the Nichupte Lagoon, where you’ll cruise through a mangrove jungle and winding canals, both thriving with wildlife.
You get to man a two-seater speedboat, zip through winding waterways and see a different face of Cancun that’s quite unforgettable.
This adventure also allows you a glimpse of the underwater museum at some point, a wonderful treat that’s not to be missed.
8. Get Ready to Rumble with Lucha Libre
Ever want to learn how to curse in Spanish, and out loud with a rowdy crowd? Score front seat tickets (they’re not expensive) to a Lucha Libre match and take part in this distinctly Mexican pro wrestling match.
They’re often held downtown and features either one on one or tag team fights. This one of a kind wrestling focuses on jaw-dropping aerial maneuvers, stylized acrobatics, wild characters, and the famous masks.
The fights usually last for three rounds and go beyond the ring. It’s fun and loud and truly Mexican, definitely among these Cancun attractions that should be part of your trip.
9. Eat at Señor Frogs
Stuff yourself with delicious and hearty Mexican food in one of the most fun things to do in Cancun. Visit Señor Frogs, a restaurant known for its great fun and festive atmosphere.
This is a fun place to visit whether you’re alone and simply want to enjoy the fun atmosphere, or with a group of friends or family for a party filled Cancun experience.
Check out the funky decor, the unconventional restaurant vibe, the friendly staff and enjoy the great food — be sure to make Señor Frog’s a part of your Cancun itinerary.
10. Try Some Tequila
You can’t be in any part of Mexico and not try some tequila. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Cancun on weekends, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to be pissed drunk.
Head on to the Restaurante La Destileria, which features a tequila museum, where you can learn Bout the history of this uniquely Mexican drink as well as a look into the distilling process.
Tequila tasting awaits at the end of the museum tour so that’s a visit that you shouldn’t miss.
Another must-visit is the Hacienda Sisal restaurant that’s home to a variety of tequila which their pair with certain items in their menu.
It’s a fun way to get to know more about this drink and taste some great food as well.
11. Shop at Mercado 28
With more than 600 market stalls, vendors and restaurants, you need a day to fully explore Mercado 28.
It’s another of those places to visit in Cancun that’s filled with a local vibe, where you can haggle and eat your way for great deals and yummy food.
The atmosphere is fun and festive, vendors can be pushy in peddling their wares and you might want to stop at every eatery because the delicious smells just lure you in, and it’s all part of this exciting market experience.
This is where you can buy some uniquely Mexican souvenirs and experience authentic food so be sure to allow a day for Mercado 28!
Monday to Sunday – 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Address: Xel-ha M 2 13 SMZ 28 77501 Cancun, QROO Mexico
12. Visit Chichen Itza
Not exactly in Cancun, but the famous Mayan Ruin of Chichen Itza is a popular day trip from the city. It is also few hours away from the towns of Playa Del Carmen and Merida.
Chichen Itza is a Mayan ruins complex in Yucatan, Mexico built around 600AD. It is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO Heritage site.
The entire complex is dominated by a big pyramid called El Castillo (the castle). El Castillo belongs to the cluster called the Great North Platform which is the most visited section of the Mayan complex.
There are also other clusters in the complex which include the Ossario Group, Central Group, and the old Chichen. Some of it resembles similar pyramids like El Castillo but smaller in size.
One of the most defining characteristics of Chichen Itza is the diversity of the architecture. This led historians to believe that this particular Mayan Ruins complex has the most diverse populations in the Mayan world.
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