Dream beaches, luxury resorts and hotels, Mexican food for a few pesos, Mayan ruins, nightlife, beach parties and spring breaks: these are just some of the reasons why thousands of tourists from all over the world visit the city every year. Cancun in Mexico, making it one of the most popular destinations in the entire Riviera Maya.
In this detailed guide, you will find practical information on what to see, what to do in cancun, tips for taking part in nearby tours and excursions, and everything you need to plan your trip or vacation.
Located in the northeast of the Mexican Caribbean, in the Yucatán peninsula (Mexican state of Quintana Roo, municipality of Benito Juárez), Cancun, Mexico, is relatively modern. It is a popular destination for tourists and travelers from all over the world.
Given the risk of investing in a virtually uninhabited area, the government funded the first 9 hotels, including Hyatt, Cancún Caribe, and the first hotel built on the hotel zone called Playa Blanca, now known as Temptation Resort.
However, things have changed quickly over the years, and Cancun has quickly gone from being a practically uninhabited place to a tourist city that welcomes thousands of travelers and tourists every year from the United States, Canada, Europe and South America. But Cancun has much more to offer than afternoons in the sun sipping a margarita and nights spent at the disco until the early hours of the morning.
Here, I will give you an overview of things to do and see in Cancún and its surroundings. You will find the best beaches in Mexico, nightlife, bars, pubs, discos and restaurants, local markets and parks, Mayan ruins and breathtaking archaeological sites to breathe the history of the peoples who inhabited this nation in the past. You can enjoy reading: What to see in Barcelona?
First, you need to know that the city of Cancun is divided into two parts; the downtown area and the hotel area. In general, the hotel zone is intended for tourists who like to stay in all-inclusive resorts and have a larger budget, while the center is the part of Cancún where the locals live and where backpackers and low-budget travelers stay.
Whether you decide to stop in the center or in the hotel area, you don’t have to give up visiting the other part of Cancun as well. Here is a detailed overview of the two areas:
Approximately 22 km long and located on Boulevard Kulkukán, the Cancun hotel zone is a 7-shaped strip of land. It encompasses luxury hotels, hotels and resorts, museums, shopping malls, and even Mayan ruins. Bordered by the Nichupte Lagoon on one side and Nizuc Point, there are numerous things to do and see in this part of Cancun.
Starting from the main attraction that attracts thousands of tourists every year, the long beaches of the hotel area have nothing to envy to the most beautiful of the Mexican Caribbean.
The most popular are Playa Tortugas and Playa Caracol, the former ideal for water sports, snorkeling and bungee jumping. At the same time, Playa Caracol is ideal for swimming and relaxing on the beautiful white sand of this area, far removed from the chaos of large hotels and beach bars.
Among the Cancun beaches of the hotel zone, you absolutely must not miss Playa Delfines, where you can take some photos with the giant CANCUN sign located at the edge of the beach and take part in a tour to see the dolphins.
If you have several days at your disposal, you can also visit Playa Langosta, Playa Linda, Playa Gaviota Azul, Playa Nizuc and Playa Punta Cancun.
Remember that there are no private beaches in Mexico, although you may find some hotels occupying the adjacent sandy area with deck chairs and umbrellas. Still, since there are several areas and many kilometers of sea and sand, you shouldn’t have any problems finding a space to lie down and enjoy the Mexican sun.
In Cancun, you never get bored, both day and night. Whatever your interests, you will find different activities to do, starting from the numerous amusement parks and the immense malls and outlets where you can shop, buy Mexican handicrafts, eat in the many clubs and restaurants or simply take a walk during the afternoon.
Among the most appreciated tourists on Tripadvisor, one of the best is Dolphin Discovery; even if it is not located in Cancun, there are free ferries to reach this water park in Isla Mujeres, every day departing from Playa Langosta at 9 and 11 in the morning.
There are two other parks that offer the same type of dolphin activity, respectively called Dolphinaris (within Ventura Park) and Delphinus, in addition to the Interactive Aquarium located inside the largest shopping center in Cancun, the famous La Isla Shopping Village, open every day from 10 in the morning until 10 in the evening.
In this huge open-air shopping center, you will find big brand stores at very affordable prices, especially during the sales period. The architecture of the shopping center is very characteristic, with canals and small bridges, which give it an almost “Venetian” touch.
Among other things to do in Cancun in the hotel zone, you can climb the observation tower for a breathtaking 360-degree view of the spectacular beaches and the city; However, pay attention that the entrance ticket is quite expensive, around 15 dollars, but in some tours, it is included for free.
The busiest nightlife center in Cancun is the area known as Forum By the Sea, where the most famous clubs of the entire Riviera Maya are concentrated: Coco Bongo, Mandala, Hard Rock, La Vaquita, Señor Frog’s, etc.
In many of these places, you pay for the entrance and you have access to the libre bar. In short, the unlimited consumption of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks during the night, usually until 3 am.
It is not over here; what to do and what to see in Cancun if you are curious to know more about Mexican history and culture?
If you have several days and time at your disposal, put it in your itinerary of things to do in Cancun, otherwise go directly to the largest and most important archaeological centers that I will list later in the guide.
The city center of Cancun, as previously mentioned, is much more residential and less touristy than the hotel zone. However, there are still a couple of things that are worth visiting if you are nearby.
If you want to buy some souvenirs for your friends and family, stop by Mercado 28, where you can find Mexican handicrafts and get lost among the many stalls of this typical Cancun market.
Some tips for shopping; always try to bargain prices if they seem exaggerated. Sellers always raise costs compared to the object’s actual value. In addition, he always pays in Mexican pesos to avoid cheap exchange rates.
Furthermore, outside the Mercado 28, there are some typical Mexican restaurants where you can try ceviche, enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas and other specialties of Mexican cuisine at reasonable prices.
However, during the evening, pop into Parque de las Palapas, a square not far from the ADO bus station where locals gather to eat, watch live shows and concerts, or simply chat with friends and family.
There are several street food stalls and some restaurants on the way to enter the park. The most authentic ones sell antojitos (tacos, empanadas, quesadillas, etc) for a few pesos.
As you can see, there are so many things to do and see in Cancun in the downtown area and in the hotel area, and you are spoiled for choice based on your interests and the time available.