Things to do in Cancun
Both on the Mayan trail and the classic beachfront experience, there are plenty of things to do in Cancun. If you’re interested in Mayan history, don’t miss the ruins of Tulum, perched on top of a cliff overlooking the Caribbean and only a short drive away from Cancun. The majestic ruins of Chichén Itzá un Yucatán are a little further away, but with their monumental temples, ball court and Platform of Skulls, they’re worth taking a day trip to.
Explore the region’s natural richness by taking a bird watching tour to the jungle (most companies pick you up at your hotel in the morning), or visit Xcaret, a beautiful eco-archaeological park where you can take a dip in the water with dolphins, swim through underground caves, snorkel, and buy local souvenirs. At La Isla Shopping Village, scout high-end shops like Kiehl’s, MAC, Lacoste and Palacio de Hierro, or dine at one of the several on-site restaurants, from a casual burger at Johnny Rocket’s to a fresh ceviche at Baby Lobster. For after-dark fun, head to Cancun’s most popular night clubs like CocoBongo and Daddy ‘O.
Located at the beachfront Azul Sensatori Hotel, this 14,000-square-foot spa provides a variety of treatments in a Zen-inspired environment, decorated with skylights, fountains, and handcrafted tile mosaics.
Tucked into faux townhouses overlooking Venetian-style canals and bridges, the 150 retailers at this gleaming new complex range from high-end chains like Bulgari to locally run kiosks, plus restaurants serving both international fare and Mexican standbys.
Equal parts disco, Vegas revue, and Cirque du Soleil, this coliseum-size dance club holds 3,000 revelers in vertiginous multilevel seating with an eerie resemblance to a Victorian theater. The festivities kick off at 10 p.m.
Try to nab a couch in front of the aquarium wall—a dramatic backdrop to lantern-lit cabanas and dining palapas rising from a lagoon on stilts.
With its passionate guides and open-ocean enclosures, Dolphin Discovery is the best of several companies in Mexico offering swims with dolphins. Under a guide’s tutelage from afar, you’ll hang onto fins for a ride, practice hands-free waterskiing—and collect a kiss.
Tall, blond southern boy Rory Dunaway might not seem the obvious choice to unravel the secrets of Mexican gastronomy, but the new recreational kitchen’s chef de cuisine has a way with a flan pan.
The Mayan city of Coba is situated around two lagoons in the heart of the jungle. This site features ancient temples that you can climb, strung together by wide, white limestone roads known as sacbe. Rent a bike for easy exploration of the ruins.
This tiny beach town has earned fame as the perfect spot for snorkeling with sea turtles!
This centuries-old Mayan city consists of breathtaking stone temples perched atop a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Of all the Mayan ruins I’ve visited, Tulum has by far the most beautiful location—get here by car or take a guided horseback tour from Cancun.
The growing beach city of Playa del Carmen, known fondly by locals as the Playa, is a vibrant place for a day of swimming, walking, and dining. Spend your morning exploring Mexico’s 5th Avenue, Quinto Avenida, a charming pedestrian street lined with some of the region’s best shopping.
This small, Caribbean island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun. Upon arrival, rent a golf cart for the day to tour the island and visit the tortugranja, or turtle farm, to watch baby turtles (Green Sea Turtles, Loggerheads).
Learn all about local wildlife on a guided tour at Crococun. At this one-of-a-kind zoo, kids and adults can pet, hold, and feed some of the area’s most fascinating animals. Get close to Mexico’s white-tailed deer, turtles, snakes, birds, spider monkeys, and crocodiles.
Nestled in the jungles south of Cancun, Selvatica is an action-packed park with treetop zip lining, ATV tours, aerial bridges, a giant rope swing, and a natural cenote perfect for cooling off after a long day at play.
Cancun’s Museo Maya makes it easy for families to experience Mayan history without straying too far from the hotel. Located in the Hotel Zone, the museum blends contrasts its streamlined, contemporary aesthetic style with ancient artifacts dating back more than 14,000 years.
Located at La Isla Shopping Village, this small aquarium lets you see some of the area’s most fascinating marine life up close.