The Most Non-Touristy Things to Do in Cancún

Mexican caravans in Cancún | © Fraser Mummery/Flickr
Mexican caravans in Cancún | © Fraser Mummery/Flickr

There is a long list of tourist activities to do in Cancún along the famous Kukulcan Avenue. However, if you’re in the mood to experience the charm of a different culture, check out the following list of non-touristy activities to discover the Cancún of the locals.

Be part of a traditional Mexican family Sunday night

Going to a park on Sunday nights is a must for most 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 like in the old times, face to face, 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 the popular tacos so familiar to tourists, such as tortas, champolas, marquesitas, esquites, ice cream and more. What else will you find there? A lot of people, hippy artisans, food stores, food vendors, electric rental cars for kids, a small esplanade for events (dance and film festivals, etc) and sometimes live music.

Parque de las Palapas, Calle 10 Margaritas 22, Cancún, Mexico

Shop at the market

Map View
Mercado 23
Mercado 23 | © Irene Vizcaíno/Flickr
Feel the folklore and day-to-day life in Cancún’s markets, which are a vital part of Mexican identity that have survived in the face of globalization. Market 23, one of Cancún’s first markets, 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 local sports

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

Estadio Olímpico Andrés Quintana Roo, Avenida Circuito Mayapan S/N, 21, Cancún, Mexico

Chill out in the park

Kabah is a big park located in the heart of Cancún city. Its many and varied flora and fauna hark back to the Cancún of twenty years ago, when natives 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 photos of old Cancún. Children and the young at heart will also enjoy seeing birds, badgers, coatis, deers and some endangered species within the park’s boundaries.

Parque Urbano Kabah, Av Nichupte, Benito Juárez, Sin Nombre, Cancún, Mexico

Hit the local hangouts in Yaxchilan Avenue

While the bars of Kukulcan Avenue are fun, they are mostly frequented by tourists. Most of Cancún’s 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’s nightlife.

Yaxchilan Avenue, Cancún, Mexico

Be captivated by Mexican art

Yes, bars and beach are fun, but so is art. Enjoy a trip to the Art Garden, located by the Lagoon Nichupté on Kukulkan Boulevard, and experience Mexican art in a journey full of colors 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.

Art Garden, Blvrd Kukulkan, Benito Juárez, Zona Hotelera, Cancún, Mexico

Explore space and time

Cancún is full of museums, which though some might argue aren’t exactly non-touristy, do provide some unexpected non-touristy gems. Sidestep the ubiquitous Mayan attractions and pay a visit to the Planetarium instead, where adults and children alike 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.

Planetario Ka’Yok’, Av. Palenque s/n, M05, Lt 1, SM21, 21, Cancún, Mexico

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