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

Cancun might be most well known for its beaches – among them Playa Delfines – but there are plenty of other things to see and do if sea and sand aren't your thing
Cancun might be most well known for its beaches – among them Playa Delfines – but there are plenty of other things to see and do if sea and sand aren't your thing | © Sébastien Lecocq / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Andrea Henthorn
7 January 2021

Crystal waters and golden sands make Cancún a gorgeous piece of paradise on the tip of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. Mayan ruins, swimming with dolphins, tequila-fueled nightlife and plenty of Latino culture mean there’s something for everyone. Here’s our guide to what to do and see – with experiences you can book through Culture Trip.

Try watersports in Nichupté Lagoon

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Cancún is the home of watersports, particularly in Nichupté Lagoon, where you can get surfing lessons, sail on a speedboat or try your hand at jet skiing. You can also go snorkeling or kayaking in the clear blue waters here, as the excellent visibility and warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea increase the chances of spotting marine life.

Swim with turtles in the Riviera Maya

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Mexican Sea Turtle underwater swimming
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Not scuba certified? Don’t worry, there’s still a chance to get close to marine life in Cancún by arranging to go swimming with turtles in the Riviera Maya. This is a great way to interact with the gentle marine life of the Caribbean Sea in a safe environment, not to mention an unbeatable photo op. Perfect for young families, parents and children alike can bond over this activity, which will remain a lifelong memory.

Explore the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá

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El Castillio, Chichen Itza, Mexico
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Chichén Itzá, an excavated Mayan ruin on the Yucatán peninsula, is one of the most visited sight in Mexico and was a thriving city from around the 5th to the 13th century. It comprises several structures, the most famous of which is the step-pyramid El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, a towering edifice that gives a stunning visual perspective to the deep history within its walls. Full-day tours of Chichén Itzá are easily bookable from Cancún.

Absorb centuries of history at the Cobá ruins

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Tourists climbing Nohoch Mul pyramid, Coba Archeological Area, Yucatan Peninsula, Quintana Roo state, Mexico
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The Cobá archeological site is another great way to gain some insight into Yucatán history. Although it’s a full day trip from Cancún (about a two-hour drive each way), it’s well worth it. You can climb the tallest of the Mayan ruins, or rent a bicycle and cycle around the site. There are dozens of other structures within the complex, each with its own history, so it’s a wonderful way to blend an outdoor adventure with an intellectual quest.

Experience the Cancún Underwater Museum

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Cancun, Quintana Roo state. 30th Sep, 2016. A tourist dives to visit the Underwater Art Museum (MUSA) in the resort city of Cancun, Quintana Roo state, Mexico on Sept. 30, 2016. MUSA is created in waters of the Mexican Caribbean and believed to be the big
© Mauricio Collado / Xinhua / Alamy Live News
Founded in 2009, the Museo Subacuático de Arte is an underwater art museum on the coast of Cancún in the water off Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. Dedicated to the art of conservation, it was designed to draw vacationers to less-visited parts of the reef so that other, highly disrupted parts have a chance to recover. The two exhibits are made up of around 500 sculptures, with one side suitable for divers and the other side just for snorkelers. All the artwork is made from materials designed to promote biodiversity and the growth of different types of kelp and underwater plants. You can visit the museum by yourself or join a guided snorkelling tour, departing from Cancún by speed boat, to see it in style.

Stroll down Avenida Kukulkan

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Boulevard Kukulkan in the Hotel Zone, Cancun, Mexico
© Michael Dwyer / Alamy Stock Photo
The Avenida Kukulkan is the hub of everything there is to do and see in Cancún. A bustling and dynamic walkway in the Hotel Zone, it’s a hotspot for restaurants, bars and shopping. You 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, busy place to be, day or night, it’s accessible to everyone.

Get some sun on Playa Delfines

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Cancun beach Mexico, ocean, vacation, caribbean, tropical
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This beautiful beach is a picturesque 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 lunch; this beach does not have the jumble of tourist restaurants and food stands that others do.

Explore Parroquia de Cristo Resucitado

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This beautiful Catholic church is a spiritual retreat offering peaceful respite from the frenetic action 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 a highlight. You can also visit the bookstore and shop for a variety of religious paraphernalia or rosaries, for yourself or as a gift.

Lose yourself in the Museo Maya de Cancún

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Museo Maya de Cancun, Cancun, Mexico
© Michael Dwyer / Alamy Stock Photo
The Museo Maya de Cancún acknowledges the influence of the Mayans in Mexican culture, both in the ancient world and the present day. The exhibits are quite small, making it possible to see everything the museum has to offer in a few hours. The building spans the centuries to reveal the Mayan influence today, and houses some particularly beautiful ancient Mayan architecture.

Sample the Hotel Zone nightlife

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CANCUN, MEXICO - JANUARY 10, 2018: Unidentified people at outdoors of Hard Rock Cafe in Cancun at the Forum center in Cancun's hotel zone enjoying the night life
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A trip to Cancún wouldn’t be complete without a few party stories to tell. You can find vibrant nightlife almost anywhere in the Hotel Zone with all types of entertainment on offer. After a day spent surfing or sunbathing, sip cocktails at a Mexican cantina, then hit the nightclubs for live Latin music and dance the night away.

These recommendations were updated on January 7, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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