The Most Non-Touristy Things to Do in Cancún

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Photo of Mónica Ramírez López
1 September 2021

There’s a long list of tourist activities you should do when in Cancún, Mexico, particularly along Avenida Kukulkan. However, if you’re in the mood to experience the charm of a different culture, check out this list of non-touristy activities in Cancún.

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Be part of a traditional Mexican family Sunday night

Natural Feature
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Parque de las Palapas, cancun, mexico - june, 2019 square carousel
© Irina Brester / Alamy Stock Photo

Going to a park on Sunday nights is a must for many Mexican families – it’s such a simple activity, but it leads to the best memories. Though it’s mostly families who partake, you’ll also find couples and groups of friends relaxing there in the evenings. Why is it so special? Because it’s all about hanging out, talking and enjoying delicious snacks while feeling the fresh breeze on your face. If you really want to get into the true Mexican spirit, visit the Parque de las Palapas. Try typical snacks beyond tacos, such as tortas, champolas, marquesitas, esquites, ice cream and more. What else will you find there? A lot of people, artisans, food stores, food vendors, electric rental cars for kids, a small esplanade for events such as dance and film festivals, and sometimes live music.

Shop at the market

Market
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Fruit and Vegetable seller in Market 23, Cancun, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
© Jane Tregelles / Alamy Stock Photo
Experience the markets, which are a vital part of Mexican identity and have survived globalization. Market 23, one of the first markets in Cancún, is frequented more by local consumers, who shop at butchers, grocery stores, tortillerías, locksmiths, creameries, and buy everything they need from children’s party accessories through to plants for the home. If you’re in the hotel zone just hop on bus R1 and get off at the stop right across from the market. Walk through the market halls to discover new flavors and smells, try a real corn tortilla, or have a traditional breakfast in the snack area amid the stallholders.

Cheer on the local soccer team

Stadium
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There’s nothing quite so different from the hotel zone than the soccer fields. As in every country, residents have their own way to have fun while supporting their team. Be part of the Mexican ambience and cheer on Cancun FC from the stands in the Olympic Stadium Andrés Quintana Roo. Take in a match, feel the atmosphere, listen to the chanting, have a beer and wear the official shirt if possible.

Chill out in the park

Park
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Baby Coati Following Mom
© Chris Hill / Alamy Stock Photo

Kabah is a big park located in the heart of Cancún city. The varied flora and fauna hark back to the Cancún of 20 years ago, when residents could see the jungle from their backyard. Many people exercise here – you’ll see joggers, but also people practicing meditation and tai chi. The park is also home to a Gum Camp, where you can learn how the Mayans used to produced gum, as well as the Mayan Solar (a representation of a house with its gardens and water well) and the Casa Mayan Museum, where you can browse through photos of old Cancún. Also look out for the birds, badgers, coatis, deer and some endangered species within the park boundaries.

Hit the local hangouts in Yaxchilan Avenue

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Mexico, Mexican, Yucatan Peninsula, Quintana Roo, Cancun, Avenida Yaxchilan, "Fonda Las Palomas", restaurant restaurants food dine dining eating out c
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While the bars of Kukulkan Boulevard are fun, they are mostly frequented by tourists. Most Cancún residents work in tourism, which though interesting and fun, means that in their down time they want to go to a place where they can eat authentic Mexican food and listen to music in Spanish. Yaxchilán is the spot where you’ll find this and more: an avenue of live music, bars, discos and mariachis, with plenty of tacos joints. Visit this zone and you’ll see a different side to the city nightlife.

Be captivated by Mexican art

Art Gallery
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A Mayan Jade artifact
© Wolfgang Kaehler / Alamy Stock Photo

Enjoy a trip to the Arte Garden, by the Lagoon Nichupté on Kukulkan Boulevard, and experience Mexican art in a journey full of color and folklore. Pay a visit and take in paintings and sculptures of talented Mexican artists, while also seeing the artists work in situ. For more, pay a visit to the Cultural Hall Paseo Tulum downtown, where you’ll find further local craft productions, theater exhibitions, sculptures, photography and engravings.

Explore space and time at the planetarium

Museum
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Planetario Ka'Yok',
© Planetario Ka'Yok'

Cancún is full of museums, which provide some unexpected non-touristy gems. Sidestep the ubiquitous Mayan attractions and pay a visit to the planetarium instead, where you can have fun amid the astronomical observations and robot workshops. For something else a little different, try the Iconographic Museum of the Panamerican Race, a site full of history and a large collection of cars.

These recommendations were updated on September 1, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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