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The Top 10 Things to Do and See in Cancún
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The Top 10 Things to Do and See in Cancún

Picture of Andrea Henthorn
Updated: 9 February 2017
Cancún is a versatile, idyllic city which can satisfy any type of vacation goer; whether you’re searching for a spring break to remember, a lively holiday with friends or a romantic getaway with a loved one, the crystal waters and golden sands here are a piece of Mexican paradise, and provide the setting for a wealth of wonderful memories to be made. With a vivacious nightlife as well as strong ties to Latino culture, Cancún offers music and parties as well as an interesting taste of tradition. Here’s The Culture Trip’s definitive guide on what to do and see during your stay in this vibrant city.
©  Andy Blackledge/Flickr
Watersports in Cancun I | © Andy Blackledge/Flickr

Try a New Watersport

What more could one ask for on a beach vacation than the opportunity for a new adventure? Water sports abound in Cancún, and it’s a great place to get surfing lessons, sail on a speedboat or try your hand at jet-skiing. Visitors are particularly encouraged to go snorkelling or scuba diving in the clear blue waters here, as the excellent visibility and warm temperatures of the Caribbean sea increase the chances of spotting a wealth of colorful sea creatures. You can almost feel the warm salty breeze on your face just thinking about it.

Watch out for: the wide variety of trusted and reputable tour operators offering watersport excursions. For brilliant boat and fishing tours try Cancun Adventure.

Swim with dolphins

Not scuba certified? Don’t worry, because there’s still a chance to get close to marine life in Cancún with companies that let guests swim with dolphins. This is an unbeatable photo-op and a magnificent memory for anyone looking for a unique experience whilst on vacation, and it’s a great way to interact with the gentle dolphins of the Caribbean sea in a safe environment. Perfect for families with children, parents and children alike can bond over this once in a lifetime activity, you’d be made to miss it!

Watch out for: a unique and enlightening experience for both adults and children

Swimming with dolphins ©Josh Grenier/Flickr
Swimming with dolphins | ©Josh Grenier/Flickr
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Visit Chechen Itza

This excavated Mayan ruin on the Yucatan Peninsula used to be an ancient inhabited city. One of the most visited sites in Mexico, Chechen Itza encompasses several structures, the most iconic of which being the step-pyramid El Castillo, also sometimes called the Temple of Kukulcan. The towering figure gives a stunning visual perspective on the deep history entrenched in the walls of the structure, which itself was built around 440 A.D. This is a great site to visit for those seeking a cultural insight into Cancún.

Watch out for: one of the largest ancient cities of the Yucatan Peninsula, and the most visited tourist spot in Mexico

Address and telephone number: Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico, +52 985 851 0137

Chechen Itza ©Comvaser/WikiCommons
Chechen Itza | ©Comvaser/WikiCommons
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Go to Coba

The Coba archeological site is another great way to gain insight into Yucatan history whilst travelling abroad in Cancún. Although going from the city to the site requires a full day trip, it’s well worth it. Guests have the opportunity to climb the tallest of the Mayan ruins, or they can rent bicycles and cycle around the site, as there are dozens of other structures surrounding it, each with their own history. This experience is a wonderful way to blend an outdoor adventure with an intellectual quest.

Watch out for: a way to gain insight into Mayan culture and interact with nature whilst taking a day trip

Address: Cobá, Tulum, Cobá, Q.R., Mexico

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Experience the Cancún Underwater Museum

This is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. Started in 2009, the Museo Subacuático de Arte is an underwater art museum established on the coast of Cancún in the water of Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. Dedicated solely to the art of conservation, this museum was built with the protection of the reefs in mind. It is an attraction designed to draw holidaymakers to less-worn parts of the reef so that other, highly disrupted parts have a chance to recover. The two exhibits are comprised of around five hundred sculptures, with one side suitable for both divers and snorkellers, and one side suitable for just snorkellers. All the artwork is made from materials which are designed to promote biodiversity, such as different types of kelp and underwater plant.

Watch out for: an art museum which is a work of art itself by promoting biodiversity

Address and telephone number: Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 15.3, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R. Mexico, +52 1 998 848 8312

Sculpture from the Cancun Underwater Museum ©2il org/Flickr
Sculpture from the Cancun Underwater Museum | ©2il org/Flickr
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Traverse Avenida Kukulkan

The Avenida Kukulkan is the hub of everything there is to do and see in Cancún. A bustling and dynamic walkway, the street, located in the Hotel Zone, is a hotspot for restaurants, bars and shopping. Visitors can stroll down the street and try different food from vendors, or go to the variety of restaurants and bars with live music situated on the strip. A safe, populated place to be day or night, this is a great stretch of road ideally located close to many hotels, making it easily accessible to those new in the area.

Watch out for: a vibrant collection of restaurants, live music venues and bars on a stretch of road out of the Hotel Zone

Address: Blvd. Kukulcan, Zona Hotelera, Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

Cancun hotel zone ©Christ Martino/Flickr
Cancun hotel zone | ©Christ Martino/Flickr
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Lounge at Playa Delfines

This beautiful beach is a picturesque and beautiful spot in which to spend a lazy day on vacation. A bit secluded from the distracting hustle and bustle of the tourist hangouts, Playa Delfines is located at the end of the Hotel Zone and is enjoyed by both tourists and locals alike. Boasting white sand and crystal blue waters, as well as being free from city noise, this is the ideal place to get lost in a daydream. Be sure to bring snacks and lunches; this beach does not have the jumble of tourist restaurants and food stands right off its shores like most others do.

Watch out for: a beautiful beach enjoyed by both locals and visitors

Address: Boulevard Kukulkan Kilometer 19.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

Playa Delfines ©Tristan Higbee/Flickr
Playa Delfines | ©Tristan Higbee/Flickr
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Explore Parroquia de Cristo Resucitado

This beautiful Catholic church is a spiritual retreat offering peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The stunning architectural design invites light and openness into the large floor plan, and the shrine to the Mexican religious figure of Our Lady of Guadalupe is noted by many as a highlight. Patrons can also visit the bookstore and shop for a variety of religious paraphernalia or rosaries, to either keep for themselves or to take home as gifts for friends or loved ones.

Watch out for: an architecturally beautiful Catholic church in the center of the Hotel Zone

Address and telephone number: Avenida Kukulkan Kilómetro3.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Benito Juárez, Q.R., Mexico, +52 998 849 5454

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Lose Yourself in Museo Maya de Cancún

The Museo Maya de Cancún is a recognition of the Mayan influence over Mexican culture, both in the ancient world and in the present day. The exhibits are quite small, allowing guests to be able to see everything the museum has to offer without having to spend the entirety of their day in the museum. The building successfully bridges the gap through time to show how Mayan influences still abound today, and houses some particularly beautiful ancient Mayan architecture.

Watch out for: a cozy museum packed with information, geared toward bridging the gap in time between ancient Mayan culture and present day Mexican culture

Address and telephone number: Blvd. Kukulkan km 16.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., MX, +52 998 885 3842

Sample the Nightlife

A trip to Cancún wouldn’t be worthwhile without a few party stories to remember it by. Engage with the vivacious nightlife offered both inside and outside of the Hotel Zone and enjoy almost any kind of party. Sip cocktails at a Mexican cantina and spend the day surfing or sunbathing, or visit a nightclub playing live Spanish music and enthusiastically dance the night away.

Watch out for: a variety of bars and live music events for every occasion

Bar in Cancun ©Timo/Flickr
Bar in Cancun | ©Timo/Flickr