Nestled on the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun is one of Mexico’s most popular places to visit. With its stunning beaches, fun bars and ancient Mayan sites; there is something for every type of traveller that visits Cancun. This all being said, with so much choice comes lots of decisions. There are heaps of the best things to do in Cancun and the surrounding areas that I’m certain you’ll love.
Over the years, we’ve explored the area around Cancun many times. It’s an area of Mexico that’s stunning for a relaxing holiday. Though, if you’re anything like me, you’ll love a few days exploring the wider area of Cancun. This is especially true when you have stunning islands like Isla Holbox and Tulum not too far away.
So, to help you get the most out of your time, I’m sharing the top places in Cancun that we loved. Have an amazing time visiting Cancun.
1.) Chichén Itzá
The ruined Mayan site of Chichén Itzá is one place you really shouldn’t miss when visiting Cancun. Now, it’s around a 2-hour drive from Cancun itself but it’s easily one of the top places to see Mayan ruins in all of Mexico.
Occupying an area of 4 square miles, it’s located in the South-central Yucatan peninsula that’s best seen via a tour. Now, to get the most out of your time, book this Chichén Itzá tour that’ll pick you up from your hotel in Cancun.
Not only do they organise all the transfers, but you’ll also get to El Castillo, wider Chichén Itzá, swimming in a cenote and stopping in nearby Valladolid. It’s the best day trip from Cancun and takes all the stress out of organising everything yourself.
Just be sure to book this Chichén Itzá tour in advance. Tickets do sell out at peak times.
Once here, you’ll get to explore so much of the Mayan history that makes this area so special. The Great Pyramid, the vast columns within the Temple of a Thousand Warriors and the Grand Ballcourt. It’s so impressive to see.
2.) Isla Holbox
Nestled on the coastline, west of Cancun, visiting Isla Holbox is one of the best things to do in Cancun while exploring the coastline.
Now, you will need to arrive at the coastal port of Chiquilá, where you join the Holbox Express boat over to Isla Holbox.
The island itself is stunning and cars aren’t allowed on any part of Isla Holbox. This makes it so lovely to stroll around or hire an electric golf buggy to explore.
Once you arrive on Isla Holbox, make sure to spend some time on the stunning beaches, too. We loved Holbox Beach (Playa Holbox).
To make things easier, book this Isla Holbox tour that will pick you up from your Cancun hotel. They organise all the tickets you need and organise and visit Punta Mosquito and Passion Island. It’s so stunning.
Around 2 hours from Cancun, visiting Tulum is one of the best things to do in Cancun if you’re looking to explore more of the coastline here.
Now, of course, you have to visit the Tulum Ruins; one of the last Mayan cities to ever exist. You can stroll around the site and see the incredible pyramids and halls that once existed in this coastal city.
Fancy some beach time? Head down to the Tulum Beach ‘strip’ where the likes of Bagatelle and other beach clubs are. This area also has heaps of restaurants like Ilios and so much more.
Plus, you’ll get to see the Tulum sculpture of Ven a la Luz. Just be prepared to queue for around 30-60 minutes for a picture and pay a small fee in cash.
4.) Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is one of the stunning islands to visit that’s not too far from Cancun. Easily reached from Juárez or Punta Sam in Cancun, you’ll be able to hop on this ferry and explore the stunning coastline here.
Just be sure to book your tickets before the day – there’s only a limited number of seats on each ferry.
Not only that, there are so many activities available on Isla Mujeres, including; snorkeling through the coral reefs of Garrafon Natural Reef Park that’s actually so beautiful.
Also, don’t forget about strolling by the Cliff of the Dawn. It’s one of the most easterly points of Mexico and one of the first places in the country that sees sunlight in the mornings.
In fact, this is why it gets its name.
5.) El Meco
In Cancun itself, the Mayan ruins of El Meco are easy to visit while staying in the area. After all, it’s only about 10 minutes from the very heart of Cancun itself.
Now, visiting El Meco is one of the best things to do in Cancun if you don’t fancy a 2-hour drive to other Mayan sites like Chichén Itzá.
To give you a bit of content, El Meco was first inhabited in 300 AD and only came into ruin around the 17th century. It acted as a trading post and fishing area for the Mayans and it’s so incredible to see.
Visits take around 30 minutes, so it’s nice and easy to visit in the morning before the midday heat arrives.
Xcaret is one of the best natural waterparks in the world. It’s a site that sits around a 1-hour drive from Cancun and is easily reached with these transfers.
Just be sure to grab these Xcaret tickets before arriving. It’s a perfect trip for all the family.
Once here, make sure to check out the views from down the river and the underwater elements that are so unique. Just be sure to pack some sunscreen and spend the day chilling in the waters. At night, there’s even a show that concludes right before closing.
7.) Maya Museum
Located in the centre of Cancun, the Maya Museum is filled with so much rich history. It’s one of the best things to do in Cancun if you want to learn more about Mayan history in modern-day Mexico.
There are so many arts and artifacts to see in the Museum and guided tours are an option if you’re looking for extra details. Also, don’t forget to explore the pyramid ruins that you’ll see at the Maya Museum. Though, always take some insect repellent; you will get bitten otherwise.
8.) Coco Bongos
Probably Cancun’s most iconic night out, Coco Bongos is as fun, tacky, exciting and over the top as you can imagine. It’s so much fun and well worth a night out if you’re looking for a dance, drinks and a good time in Cancun.
Now, tickets can be a little pricey, but it’s worth it for the experience. Plus, you’ll be able to choose a cost and seat that’s right for you (for the shows). You can choose from these tickets that go from Premium to Front Row. Now, be prepared, you will be here for at least 4 hours, so wear those comfy shoes; especially if you’re dancing the night away.
If Coco Bongo’s isn’t your thing, head out in the day to the Cancun Wax Museum. Love them or hate them, the Cancun Wax Museum draws lots of crowds; especially if you get unfortunate with a rainy day.
You’ll see lots of famous faces; though, don’t expect the standards you might see at Madam Tussauds in London. The wax figures are a little bit ‘off’.
Not too far from the ruins of Chichén Itzá, Izamal is included in some tours as a stopping point during the day. If not, you can organise private transfers with your hotel or even drive if you’re feeling up to it.
Once you’ve arrived in Izamal, make sure to explore the Mayan pyramid of Kinich Kak Moo. It’s right in the heart of Izamal and you really can’t miss it.
Oh, and don’t forget to walk around the Church and convent of San Antonio. It’s so beautiful to see and one of the region’s best-kept religious buildings that Pope John Paul II even visited. Religious or agnostic, it’s worth a visit to explore this important site.
First off, be prepared, Edzna is far from Cancun. In fact, it takes nearly 6 hours to drive here. That being said, if you’re travelling through Mexico and heading further east, then make sure to stop off at Edzna.
This Maya site has been occupied for nearly 2,500 years and lots of elements of the city still stand to this day. Once here, make sure to stroll around the Plaza of Edzna and give yourself at least two hours to see everything.
Like I said, Edzna is actually incredible; but only bother visiting if you’re travelling as part of a wider trip beyond Cancun. This one isn’t a day trip.
11.) San Miguelito Archeological Site
Right within the hotel ‘zone’ of Cancun is San Miguelito. It’s a Maya archaeological site that’s been around for thousands of years and can still be visited today.
Once here, you will stroll through the lush vegetation that brings you to some of the Maya ruins that are pretty impressive to see. Yes, they’re not on the same scale as Chichén Itzá but it’s still well worth visiting.
Again, make sure to slap on some fly repellant whilst visiting here. Otherwise, you’ll leave with lots of bites on your legs.
12.) Cancun Cenotes
There are hundreds of cenotes in this region of Mexico; some big, some small but usually pretty impressive. Now, visiting a cenote is easily one of the best things to do in Cancun that’s totally iconic in the area here.
You see, they are all-natural land formations that you can swim within. Though be prepared, they are always cooler than the sea.
Now, we totally loved Cenote Mucuyche; but it’s quite far from Cancun if you’re visiting for a day trip. After all, it’s around 3.5 hours away by taxi transfer.
Around 2 hours away, from the centre of Cancun, is Cenote Zaci. It’s another stunning cenote to visit that’s huge. Just be sure to wear a life jacket if you’re not a strong swimmer. This goes for all cenotes.
Alterntiavely, if you’re looking for a closer cenote, head to the likes of; Cenote Tula, Cenote Elvira or Cenote La Noria. Each of these is around 50 minutes from Cancun and easy to visit for a few hours.
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