The 18 best things to do in Cancun, Mexico
Check out this list of Cancun attractions worth checking our on your Mexico vacation
It may be known for its sprawling beach resorts and endless white sands, but the gorgeous forests and coastlines of the Yucatan within striking distance of Cancun are packed with amazing things to see and do.
Make sure you add at least a couple of these fun Cancun attraction to your list of days out during your Cancun break.
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Chichen Itza, one of Mexico's most popular and well-known archaeological sites, was recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This impressive Maya site, once the Yucatán's ceremonial centre, features a main central pyramid in addition to temples, ball courts, and a cenote (freshwater sinkhole).
The stepped pyramids, temples, columned arcades, and other stone structures, served as a religious and cultural hub for the Mayan Empire from about AD 750 to about AD 1200.
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One of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, along with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, is Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba. Spectacular figurines of the 'diving god' can be found in the Temple of the Frescoes, one of the most impressive buildings at this archaeological site.
See Tulum’s ruins and get insights from a local expert with this Tulum guided walking tour.
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Cancun's Xoximilco pays homage to the Xochimilco neighbourhood in Mexico City, which is known for its floating gardens and canals and whose name means "garden of flowers" in the Nahuatl language. The floating boats decorated with flowers, the local music, and the delicious food are just some of the Mexican traditions that visitors can enjoy here.
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Snorkelling and scuba
The Gulf of Mexico, and especially the waters around the Yucatan, are teeming with fish and marine wildlife that will keep even the most experienced divers excited. There are dozens of diving hire and excursion companies, so a top tip is to book your experience ahead of time, or ask your hotel to organise a trip for you.
Top tip: If full-on scuba diving isn’t your thing, then the waters around Dolphin Beach, Playa del Norte and Xel-Ha have plenty to see even if you only have a pair of goggles!
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The beautiful beaches and abundant marine life on Isla Mujeres (the "Island of Women") have made it a popular tourist destination. You can go scuba diving at Cave of Sleeping Sharks, snorkelling at Manchones Reef, or just relaxing on North Beach (Playa Norte). Nightlife is thriving on land, with bars and restaurants serving up fresh seafood near the water's edge.
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The ancient Maya city of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá) is located in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula and is widely regarded as one of the most significant cities in all of Mesoamerica.
Coba served as a hub for the intricate Maya road network and was home to 50,000 people at its height between AD 500 and 900. Thesesacbes, or stone causeways, and several engraved and sculpted monuments have been uncovered so far at the jungle site, which is still being excavated.
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Visit Palapas Park (Parque Las Palapas) to listen to live music, sample local cuisine, shop for trinkets, and people-watch. This downtown Cancun plaza offers a glimpse into Mexican life and customs that can't be found at the city's many resorts and beaches.
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The Xcaret eco-archaeological park on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is a must-see for anyone interested in experiencing the Caribbean Sea and all it has to offer. This natural adventure park provides quick access to many of Cancun's top attractions, and it is the perfect place to go snorkelling, ziplining, river rafting, exploring underwater rivers, and hiking tropical trails through jungle ruins.
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Rio Secreto, or the “Secret River,” is a series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river in Mexico. While the reserve is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern—a popular diving spot—you can also explore eerie passageways, swim in the river, and admire dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and colorful mineral formations.
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Cancun’s reputation as a holiday spot has seen an entire district of hotels pop up around the iconic Nichupte Lagoon. And these mega-resorts aren’t just a bed for the night either.
Kind of like a grown-up Disneyland, there are endless choices when it comes to dining, partying or entertaining the family. From parting hard in the Hard Rock Hotel, to getting some time in on the links, the hotel zone throws up plenty to do without having to venture too far.
Don’t forget to check out our list of the best all-inclusive resorts in Cancun too.
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The Mayan word from which the name Xel-Ha was derived means "the place where the waters are born". This aquatic park, located to the south of Playa del Carmen, covers a total area of 14 acres (5.7 hectares) of jungle and ocean. Natural wonders such as cenotes, a lazy river, and lagoons teeming with fish make Xel-Ha a must-see for families.
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Cancun’s holidaymakers often skip the actual heart of Cancun, featuring the city’s beaches and of course the hotel zone. However, Cancun itself is one of Mexico’s most vibrant and exciting cities, packed with amazing restaurants and cafeterias, historic architecture and plenty of Yucatan culture. It’s also a great place to sample Mexico’s vibrant nightlife and party culture.
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The Yucatan Peninsula is packed with Cenotes – types of sinkhole that have filled with water over thousands of years. These little ‘islands’ in the jungle are usually havens for wildlife, and often boast crystal clear blue waters and abundant foliage. Some even have their own waterfalls!
There are plenty of accessible Cenotes that make for the ideal all-natural swimming pool, some of which are reachable if you have a hire car or go on an organised tour. Some cenotes do have currents or are connected to underground caves and river systems, so check out the cenote you wish to visit beforehand for any safety guidance.
See Chichen Itza and go cenote swimming on a guided tour of the Riviera Maya.
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Xenses Park is a multisensory outdoor adventure park located in the jungle south of Playa del Carmen. You can get your heart racing on the park's zipline, lazy river, or waterslide, but the park's optical illusions, natural exhibits, and interactive features are what really set it apart as a top destination for thrillseekers of all ages.
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La Isla Shopping Village
La Isla Shopping Village is a collection of boutiques, waterfront restaurants, and high-end stores located in Cancun's Hotel Zone along Nichupte Lagoon. Take a leisurely stroll along the winding canals, reminiscent of Venice, sip cocktails in elegant courtyards, and buy trinkets.
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Cancun Underwater Museum of Art
Although art, history, and cultural museums can be found in many urban centres, Cancun's representations of these topics are decidedly unique. The Museo Subacuático de Arte (Underwater Museum of Art) in Cancn is an ongoing initiative to promote both art and healthy coral reefs. More than 500 sunken sculptures can be seen by snorkelers and divers down to depths of 20 feet (6 metres).
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Mayan Museum of Cancun
The Mayan Museum of Cancun (Museo Maya de Cancun) is one of the largest and most important museums of its kind in Mexico, and is a great way to take a break from the sand and sun. Incredible artefacts unearthed from places like Chichén Itzá can be seen here, and tourists can also stroll through the ruins at nearby San Miguelito.
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The Selvatica adventure park is widely regarded as the best outdoor activity in Cancun, providing vacationers with the opportunity to break up their usual beach routine with activities like ziplining, off-road tours, cenote diving, and more. Just an hour north of Cancun, Selvatica offers the perfect action-packed day trip with options for the whole family.