Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Cancun (Mexico), along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Cancun is one of the most popular destinations on the Yucatan peninsula, well-renowned for its lively nightlife and paradise beaches with turquoise water and fine white sand.
It’s also a great base for those who wish to travel further to Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, Chichen Itza. Cancun is also home to the international airport that serves millions of tourists every year, who are staying in the hotel zone in Cancun as well as Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Cancun as well as interesting facts and attractions that shouldn’t be missed while visiting.
Playa Delfines is Cancun’s huge public beach, which is generally a bit quieter than the beaches of the Hotel Zone resorts. This is in part thanks to the rough waves, which make this beach better for surfing than for swimming.
The beach also has a spacious hilltop lookout point with a life-sized Cancun sign, perfect for snapping a picture. Its name translates as Dolphin Beach because they’re often sighted nearby.
Right off the Yucatan Peninsula and easy to reach from Cancun, the Isla Mujeres is the perfect escape for sunbathing and snorkeling.
The island, which gets its name from the temple of Ixchel, the Maya goddess of fertility, is an example of tropical perfection, with gorgeous white sand and clear, warm water. It is also a great place to snorkel and dive thanks to the diverse marine life.
Mayan Museum of Cancun
The Mayan Museum holds one of the world’s foremost collection of Maya artifacts. Much of its collection comes from the famed archaeological site Chichen Itza.
Rebuilt in 2004 after hurricane damage to the previous museum, the building is a gorgeous glass construction. It houses over 400 pieces, ranging from jewelry to weapons to pottery items.
Learn about the Mayan’s daily life and their customs. The entry fee also includes admission to San Miguelito, the nearby archaeological site.
Underwater Museum (MUSA)
Cancun’s Underwater Museum is one of the world’s most unique museums. And to visit MUSA, you’ll have to don scuba gear or a snorkel.
Dive down 20 feet below and observe the 500 sculptures that lie below the sea. The museum also offers a glass-bottomed boat ride for non-swimmers.
Selvatica is an adventure park for adrenaline seekers. The park, located in the forest, or selva, is a base camp in the jungle formerly inhabited by Mayans.
Visitors can choose from ziplining or extreme canopy, which takes you above the trees on a system of ropes and pulleys that actually make you feel like you are flying. The 4×4 tours are also extremely popular, and a really fun way to see the inside of the jungle.
Sometimes a good old-fashioned lookout tower is a great way to spend an afternoon, looking out over a city and relaxing on top of it all.
That’s what you can do at the Torre Escenica, a structure that towers over 300 feet above Cancún. The views from its location on Boulevard Kukulkan are amazing.
The geometric lift container holds up to 60 people. Entry costs $5.
Experience Cancun’s nightlife
Cancun is famous as a North American Spring Break destination, and Americans have come here to party for a long time. That mean that you can expect a vibrant nightlife as wild as you wish it to be.
Cancun has plenty of places to dance the night away, from outdoor club Mandala Beach Club to Dady O, a two-floor super club with light shows and professional dancers.
One of Cancun’s favorite clubs is Coco Bongo. A must-visit for any clubber, be prepared for long lines. If your goal is nightlife, however, the wait is totally worth it, as Coco Bongo is a mix between a spectacle and a nightclub.
Downtown Cancun stands in stark contrast to the crowded, touristy Hotel Zone. It is where you’ll find more residents and evidence of actual local culture.
It’s a great place to stop for some authentic street tacos and other Mexican food. Stroll down Avenida Tulum, one of the main thoroughfares lined with shops. Downtown Cancun also features green areas, such as the lovely Parque Las Palapas.
Market 28, or Mercado 28, is downtown Cancun’s major shopping center. Rather than a modern mall, however, Mercado 28 is more flea market, with over 500 vendors that sell anything you can imagine.
It’s a great place to grab an authentic souvenir, like some maracas or a handcrafted leather bag. When shopping at Mercado 28, be sure to negotiate that first price—bargaining is encouraged, and if you want cheaper prices, pay in the local currency of Mexico.
Xoximilco is a cross between a theme park and a party, all piled on top a floating gondola. Boats float down the canals, in a play on the local tradition of renting boats and taking a day on the water.
Xoximilco combines the boat ride with a display of local culture, complete with live music, games, and even food and drinks. Enjoy norteño and mariachi music as you float through the jungle on a Xoximilco ride.
Watch a Lucha Libre game
The Central American phenomenon that is Lucha Libre is a combination of wrestling and entertainment. Lucha Libre can be seen at Arena Cancun three times a week, and tickets are just over $10 each.
This unique spectacle is worth seeing at least once—fighters are dressed in colorful masks and costumes, and drag queens and other characters often share the stage.
The combination of wrestling and theater is fascinating, both as a cultural activity and as good old fashioned entertainment. Watching a Lucha Libre game is one of the best things to do in Cancun for a local experience.
Isla Contoy is a breathtaking sanctuary, just north of the Isla Mujeres. The gorgeous green palms, turquoise water, and white sands is jaw-dropping, but people don’t visit just for the scenery.
Isla Contoy is renowned for its birdwatching. It is a National Park, and within its protected borders are over 100 species of birds. It’s a fab place to snap photos of birds, snorkel (and see some of its famous sea turtles), and just relax in peace and quiet.
The island is reached by a special boat and has a limited number of entries per day, so make sure to book your tickets on arrival.
El Meco Ruins
El Meco is one of the area’s most important archaeological sites, although it has remained somewhat hidden from the tourist radar. These ancient Mayan ruins include a pyramid that reaches 41 feet high and dates back to the period between 900 and 1500 BC.
There have been ceramics found on the site that date as far back as 400 BC, and it is suspected that the site has been populated by different groups. The area was an important port for the Mayan people.
In addition to learning more about the Mayan culture, visitors can also marvel at the large lizard population that can be found around the ruins.
La Isla Shopping Village
La Isla Shopping Village is a popular shopping area in Cancun, with over 160 stores in the mall. Right off Kukulcan Boulevard, the central location makes it both easy to get to and a popular hang-out spot.
The mall complex also features an interactive aquarium, where visitors can swim with the dolphins! Of course, there are plenty of restaurants to replenish your energy after a day of shopping, as well.
Despite being called “White Island”, Isla Blanca is actually not an island. It is a 20-kilometer stretch of coast to the northeast of the Isla Mujeres, which reaches a width wide as eight football fields in parts.
It is bordered by the Chacmuchuc Lagoon and the Caribbean sea, dotted with mangroves and palm trees. This quiet area is mostly frequented by kite surfers—as there is nearly always a breeze or wind, it is the ideal spot for the sport.
Isla Blanca is just 20 minutes outside of Cancun, but even on weekends, it remains a fairly quiet spot mostly frequented by locals.
Want more recommendations on things to do in Cancun, Mexico? Leave a comment below!