Cancun, with its white-sand beaches, turquoise water, luxury resorts and all-inclusive hotels attracts over 15 million tourists annually. Cancun might be known as the party capital of Mexico, but there are also a lot of amazing places to see and things to do in Cancun.
Cancun is the gateway to the Yucatan peninsula, and there are direct flights from almost all major cities in the US, Canada, Europe and the UK. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons that many international visitors start exploring Mexico and Yucatan from here.
Cancun might not be my favourite place in Yucatan, but by visiting Cancun, we had a chance to visit some unique places and join some fun tours and activities. What I am trying to say is that Cancun is indeed a great destination for nightlife, but there are many other fun activities and excursions in Cancun that you shouldn’t miss. You can make Cancun your base and then explore the surroundings.
If you are planning your first visit to Cancun, you can also read the post that I have written where I covered all you need to know before travelling to Cancun. In this post, I share some of my favourite things to do and tours in Cancun.
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1. Best Beaches in Cancun
Without any doubt, stunning sandy beaches in Cancun are the main attractions here and this is why most hotels and resorts in the Hotel Zone have designated areas on the beach, where you can sunbathe and relax.
But, try to go further and walk along the beach and explore the area. For the best beaches in the area, you can go to Playa Delfines, Playa Chac Mool and Playa Forum.
2. Eat at Senor Frogs
Cancun is too touristy and it is hard to find authentic Mexican food, but this doesn’t mean you can’t have delicious food. There are many good restaurants in the hotel zone. But if you want to have some fun while eating or drinking, head to Señor Frogs, where you will find a lively atmosphere.
3. Take a day trip to Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is just a 20-minute boat ride from Cancun, so you can easily jump on a boat and go to this beautiful island or take a tour. A round-trip ferry ticket from Cancun to Isla Mujeres is around £17/$23 and you can book it in advance here.
We actually took the tour to Isla Mujeres and it is common to do so because the tours include snorkelling in turquoise waters near the island and lunch. One of the best tours is Isla Mujeres Catamaran Tour which is a 10-hour excursion and you can also book it online.
Isla Mujeres is actually home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, so make sure to check out Playa Norte which is rated in the top 10 beaches in the world.
4. Explore Cenotes
Yucatan in Mexico is famous for having amazing cenotes, there are actually more than 8000 Cenotes on the peninsula. All of them are private property and have different owners, and each owner decides which services to offer.
Cenotes are natural sinkholes. They are created when the limestone bedrock collapses and reveals the groundwater. Thus, swimming or scuba diving in Cenotes is one of the most unique things to do in Cancun.
For scuba diving in cenotes, you should be a certified and experienced diver. You can book a 2-tank cavern diving and explore two different cenotes in one day. If you are not a diver and want to swim in cenotes and learn more about underwater rock formations, you can take Dos Ojos Cenote Private Tour.
5. Visit the Cancun Underwater Museum of Art
Cancun is a great place for water activities such as snorkelling and diving. Perhaps, one of the most unique underwater attractions here is the Cancun Underwater Museum of Art or MUSA. There are 500 sculptures underwater to encourage coral reef development.
Don’t worry if you are not a diver, you can take the snorkelling tour to visit the museum.
6. Visit Chichen Itza
From Cancun, you can take a day trip and visit one of the New 7 Wonders of the World: Chichen Itza, a ruined Mayan city. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities and was a major economic power in the region. The most magnificent structure of the city is the 30-meter-tall pyramid, known as El Castillo.
You can drive to Chichen Itza, take a bus from Cancun City or book a tour. Keep in mind, Chichen Itza Archaeological Site is one of the most visited attractions in Mexico. If you want to avoid the crowds try to get there early, or you can take the Exclusive Early Access tour.
There are a few cenotes around Chichen Itza, perhaps the closest and coolest one is Ik Kil Cenote. So, after visiting Chichen Itza, you can go swimming in the cenote. You can also book the Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik-Kil tour online.
7. Ride a Speedboat Through Mangrove Jungle
If you are looking for adrenaline rush activities in Cancun, you should definitely take the Mangrove Jungle Adventure tour. In this two-hour excursion, you get to drive your own speedboat through the mangrove jungle around Nichupte Lagoon. The lagoon is home to many creatures such as leopard frogs, iguanas, white turtles, and crabs. You also get the chance to snorkel over the underwater statues at the Punta Nizuc coral reef.
This tour is not suitable for pregnant women, and children from age 3 to 17 must be accompanied by adults. You can book the tour and read the reviews here.
8. Go to Playa Del Carmen
Only an hour south of Cancun, there is a lively beach town called Playa del Carmen. It is actually one of the largest cities in Yucatan. Playa del Carmen has a distinct European influence and unlike Cancun, there are no high buildings.
Apart from the beautiful beaches, the main attraction and my favourite place is the main car-free street, known as “Fifth Avenue”. In this street, you will find boutiques, hotels, restaurants, bars, local shops and street art performers.
9. Visit Las Coloradas Pink Lakes
Las Coloradas Pink Lakes are located on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, not far from Rio Lagartos. Las Coloradas means blush red in Spanish and this pink body of water has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years, thanks to a viral post on Instagram. People used to swim in these lakes, but because of their recent popularity, swimming is banned here to protect the algae and wildlife.
After visiting the lake, you can take a boat and go through the mangrove forests of the Rio Lagartos biosphere reserve. Where you can spot crocodiles, birds and flamingos. Honestly, the pink lakes were pretty but my favourite part was the boat tour in the mangroves when we saw a crocodile at a 1-meter distance.
You can book the Excursion Las Coloradas & Rio Lagartos online. Keep in mind, it will be a long day with lots to do and see.
10. Take a day trip to Tulum
Tulum has become a popular travel destination since it is home to some of the best beaches in Mexico and the ruins of Tulum. Playa Paraiso is definitely the most beautiful beach in Tulum. A trip to Tulum is something you don’t want to miss.
There are many amazing places and things to do around Cancun and in Yucatan, so don’t stay only in Cancun and try to explore as much as you can and have fun.