You might be wondering where you can find the top things to do in Cancun, one of the top tourist spots in Mexico. Cancun was one of the first places I visited when I went to Mexico, and it’s a city I’ll never forget!
With clear water beaches and soft white sand, I spent the majority of my time at the ocean. But Cancun has many other things to do that are worth seeing.
Since it’s a huge tourist destination and one of the most visited places in Mexico, it’s a great solo vacation location as well as a great place to travel to with kids! When you’re not swimming or taking a fun day trip, you can explore the endless food and drink scene.
To get the best Cancun experience, you will want to stay on the hotel strip. This ensures you are within walking distance of the beach and some of the top spots.
You will also have endless cuisine options at your fingertips. When you get tired of the tourist vibe, head to downtown Cancun. Or, head to another nearby beach city!
Here are my top things to do in Cancun and recommendations for food and hotels. I also included a short section on my favorite Cancun day trips to help you plan your trip!
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Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Cancun is one of the top places in Mexico for snorkeling and scuba diving. Many tour companies offer package deals where you can either dive or snorkel and then go jet skiing or parasailing. If you have your own gear, you can just hire a boat driver and have them take you to the best reefs.
I recommend seeing Punta Nizuc. It’s the closest offshore reef to the hotel zone. Some resorts also offer free boat trips to this reef if you have your own gear, so you can always ask the reception and see!
When I went to Cancun the second time, I booked a snorkeling excursion with Total Snorkel Cancun. They know the best places to find large sea turtles, which is what I most wanted to see. They also have tons of other packages as well, so you can see shipwrecks or swim with whale sharks!
Total Snorkel Cancun is located at Carr. a Punta Sam 05-Mz.2, Sm.80, 77520 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico. They’re open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tours start at $75.
Suntan on the Beach
You can’t take a trip to Cancun without spending time at the beach. If you’re staying in the hotel zone, you’ll be within walking distance of the water. Most resorts and large hotels have their own private beaches so you can tan or play with the kids in the sand without being disturbed.
If you don’t want to visit your hotel’s beachfront or you are looking to explore more of the beach area, I recommend going to Playa Delfines. It has the Cancun sign which is a great family photo op!
If you are searching for one of the top things to do in Cancun for adults, head to Playa Forum! It’s full of the best Cancun bars. There is also a nightclub right next to the beach if you stay until the evening!
Swim in a Cenote
Cancun is famous for its cenotes. If you’re like me before I visited Cancun, you might have no idea what a cenote even is. I had to have a tour guide explain it to me on my first trip! Cenotes are swimming pools naturally formed into caves located all around Cancun.
The water in cenotes is usually a deep stunning blue color. You can’t swim in all of the cenotes. So, make sure to ask the hotel or a tour company which is best for swimming! Some snorkeling excursion companies also offer deals where you can snorkel one day and then head to a cenote the next!
Verde Lucero is the most popular cenote in Cancun. You can also swim in Cenote La Noria and Cenote Mojarras. If you’re not a comfortable swimmer, most of the cenotes offer tube rentals so you can just float along!
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go zip lining in the jungles near Cancun! This is also one of the great things to do in Cancun with children as long as they’re not afraid of heights!
For a full day of adventure, head to Selvatica tours. They also offer ATV tours and swimming in the nearby cenote in case there are some people in your party that don’t want to zipline.
You can choose your package based on the activities you want to do or the duration you want. Make sure to book all the things you want in the same package to save money!
Selvatica- The Adventure Tribe is located at Ruta de los cenotes Km 18 Carretera, Quintana Roo Puerto Morelos – Leona Vicario, Sin Colonia, 77580 Puerto Morelos, Q.R., Mexico. They are closed on Sundays but open every other day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The basic tour package starts at $70.
Do Some Shopping at Mercado 28
If you need a break from the sun or there is a day on your trip with poor weather, head to Mercado 28! It’s in downtown Cancun, so you can also spend some time exploring the downtown food and drink scene once you are done shopping!
Unlike traditional malls, Mercado 28 has over 600 vendors and is set up more like a flea market than a shopping mall. It’s a great place to buy souvenirs or gifts to bring back to family and friends.
Mercado 28 is located at Xel-ha Mz 13, 28, 77509 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico. They’re open every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Take a Romantic Catamaran Ride
Looking for the best things to do in Cancun for couples? Take a catamaran ride during sunset! My aunt and uncle do it every year for their anniversary. They rave about it as it offers such nice views and it’s a top romantic thing to in Cancun!
Isla Mujeres near Cancun is known for having some of the best sunsets in the Caribbean. Pink and orange colors streak across the sky every night. Most of the cruise options in this area offer an open bar and some light snacks as well.
While there are many companies that offer catamaran cruises at sunset, my aunt and uncle recommend going with Cancun Adventures. They’re actually located in Playa del Carmen, which is about an hour from Cancun.
If you are near there, you can visit their office and set off from there. They can also pick you up from your hotel in Cancun and take you to the place the boat sets off from.
Cancun Adventures is located at Fase II Av Balamkanche, Mz 30 Lote 4 Loc 16, Playacar, 77717 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico. Prices start at $89 per person, and you have to book in advance.
Go to the Top of the Cancun Scenic Tower
If you aren’t afraid of heights and you want to get the most stunning views of the Caribbean, make sure to carve out some time in your schedule to go to the top of the Cancun Scenic Tower. You take a slow 5-minute ride up to the top. No climbing or exercise is required to get 300 feet above the city.
Once at the top, they give you about 20 minutes to take some photos. The deck slowly spins, so that you can get views of the entire city of Cancun and the gorgeous water below.
This excursion is not for everyone with the height and spinning! It does spin very slowly, but it can make people feel a bit nauseous. It happened to my mom, so if you’re unsure, you might even try something like Dramamine to see if it helps.
Cancun Scenic Tower is located at Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 4.5, Kukulcan Boulevard, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico. They’re open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $15.
How to Get to Cancun
Cancun has a large international airport (CUN) that services all major airlines from all over the world. If you are flying from the United States, especially the southern region, you can often find flights to Cancun for less than $100 roundtrip. The airport is close to the hotel strip, so you won’t have to travel far to get to your hotel.
If you are traveling from Playa Del Carmen, I recommend you get a taxi for the hour long drive. You can also take the ADO bus, but it will take longer since it will stop more frequently.
From Cozumel, you will need to take a ferry to Playa Del Carmen and then either take a taxi or the bus to get to Cancun. Since Play del Carmen is the main ferry stop between the two places, I recommend visiting Playa del Carmen for a few days before heading to Cancun if you are in Cozumel.
Both the ferries and the buses depart about every two hours, so you have plenty of chances to get from one place to the other.
How to Get Around Cancun
All-inclusive resorts are very popular in Cancun. If you booked a stay at one, the price usually includes airport transfers. Most excursions you book will also pick you up from the hotel and bring you back.
Alternatively, you can use the bus system which is great and really easy to navigate. Cancun has very extensive bus routes and many stops along the hotel strip. Taxis are also everywhere and inexpensive.
When to Visit Cancun
Although I usually recommend people not to visit places during peak season, Cancun is the exception. December through April bring large crowds, but the perfect weather makes it worth it.
With cloudless skies and a perfect 75°F (23.8·°C) every day, you can enjoy the water or lay in the sun without getting too sweaty.
Best Places to Stay in Cancun
Budget: Residence Inn by Marriott Cancun Hotel Zone has sleek and modern suites with sea view balconies and separate sitting areas with pull-out couches. Make sure to also visit the rooftop pool and bar with stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.
Mid-range: Casa Tortugas Boutique Hotel is a great option if you want more apartment-style lodging rather than a hotel. Choose from a one or two-bedroom apartment with Wi-Fi, separate living areas, and kitchenettes. There’s also an infinity pool and a kid’s pool.
Luxury: Club Med Cancun is one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Cancun. Unlike other all-inclusive resorts, the price you at Club Med all includes free watersport rentals, fitness classes, and access to three restaurants and four bars. Make sure to book a suite so you can get a sea view balcony and an expresso machine in the room!
Best Restaurants in Cancun
Cambalache is a large restaurant right on the main strip of Cancun. They have all the traditional Mexican food you could dream of as well as steak and seafood. Make sure to try the homemade queso with chorizo as an appetizer!
Lorenzillo’s is definitely pricey but is well worth the money. Make sure to reserve a table in advance or view the delivery menu to have food brought to your hotel. They specialize in lobster and I recommend the langosta con rajas de chile poblano al gratín. The lobster melts in your mouth, and it’s topped with a spicy, creamy sauce.
Fred’s House is right on a lagoon with stunning views of the deep blue water. They are best known for their extensive freshly caught fish menu. They also have a large cocktail menu with professional mixologists always behind the bar.
The Best Day Trips from Cancun
There are some great day trips from Cancun, and here are the top choices.
Chichén Itzá Ruins
Chichén Itzá is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Cancun. It’s one of several Mayan ruins you can find in Mexico and is now a Unesco World Heritage site.
While there are plenty of things to see there, make sure you check out the Temple of Warriors and the El Castillo Pyramid.
To get to Chichén Itzá, you can rent a car or take the ADO bus system. Many people also choose to book tours that will pick them up from their hotel early in the morning and then bring them back at night.
You’ll also find day trips to other ruins in Riviera Maya including Tulum and Coba.
Isla Mujeres is probably one of the most popular day trips from Cancun and is one of the best things to do in Cancun with kids. It’s only a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun, so you can even make it a half-day trip if you are pressed for time.
The island has the MUSA Underwater Museum and plenty of opportunities for swimming and snorkeling.
Isla Contoy should be on your day trip list if you’re an avid snorkeler as it’s the main activity on the island. Isla Contoy is also home to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. You can book a speedboat to the island and get there in about 40 minutes from Cancun.
The Top Things to Do in Cancun are Waiting For You!
Now that you know all the best things to do in Cancun, you’re ready to start planning your vacation! Cancun is a breathtaking city with amazing access to the beach and water activities.
When you’re not hanging out in the ocean, you can find many other activities around the city to keep you, and the family occupied.
Have you been to Cancun? What was your favorite thing to do?
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