Things to Do in Cancún + The Riviera Maya

Morgan & Owens

Between the international pier and Punta Langosta, this good-looking bar (with a crowd to match) sits right on the waterfront and is named for the... Read More

Get your fix of Mayan criollo chocolate—bitter and complex, with hints of fruit, smoke, and vanilla, a “food of the gods” that’s... Read More

This tiny beach town has earned fame as the perfect spot for snorkeling with sea turtles! Have lunch with an ocean view at Lol-Ha restaurant (calamari... Read More

Run by a group of Playa del Carmen adventurers dedicated to sustainable tourism, this company works with Mayan communities to preserve their heritage.... Read More

Snap up beach reads, bestsellers, classics, tomes on Maya culture, and local guidebooks and maps—the largest selection of (mostly used) English... Read More

Bargoers here, a short taxi ride from Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, descend by candle-lined stairs into a subterranean lounge, trying to recall the... Read More

Divers shouldn’t miss an excursion to see the first phase of artist Jason de Caires Taylor’s underwater sculptures series, a collection of... Read More

Divers touring this reef can expect to find everything from endangered turtles to barracudas and elusive sharks. Located near the island of Isla Mujeres... Read More

The heart of Cancun recently got a facelift: Downtown Cancun’s main street, Avenida Tulum, was upgraded to feature wide pedestrian paths on either side,... Read More

This is one of downtown’s most famous streets. Yaxchilan is a small avenue in the heart of town, lined with traditional Cancun restaurants and bars.... Read More

Whenever I go to Blue Gecko, I always see tourists of all ages having a great time, from college students to retirees. This bar is known for its awesome... Read More

The Blue Parrot dates to 1984, making the club one of Playa del Carmen’s elder statesmen. What started as a casual hotel and bar now includes the... Read More

Located at La Isla Shopping Village, this small aquarium lets you see some of the area’s most fascinating marine life up close. While parents browse the... Read More

While it may sound cheesy, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve taken this entertaining tour on a number of occasions. Captain Hook is Cancun’s most... Read More

This popular chain restaurant offers tourists a way to experience the wild excitement of Party Center without going too crazy. Grab a late dinner at... Read More

Enter the underground rivers and caves of the Yucatan Peninsula through a cenote— a natural spring found only in this part of the world. Cenote Dos Ojos... Read More

Many cenotes—sinkholes in the subterranean rivers that riddle the Yucatán—are either limited to divers or overrun with crowds, but... Read More

One of the most powerful cities of the Mayan civilization is now a history-packed tourist attraction. Most people know Chichen Itza for its central El... Read More

By far the most famous Mayan ruins in Mexico, Chichen Itza is a popular day trip for travelers staying in Cancun. The main highlight is the famous El... Read More

Once the most powerful Mayan city-state in the northeastern Yucatán, this 26-square-mile site, crisscrossed by raised limestone roads is called sacbéob... Read More

Once the most powerful Mayan city-state in the northeastern Yucatán, this 26-square-mile site, crisscrossed by raised limestone roads called sacb... Read More

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... Read More

Less than three hours from Cancun, the ancient Mayan city of Coba is built around two lagoons. Adventurous travelers fall in love with Coba for its... Read More

If you only choose one nightclub during your vacation, make sure it’s Coco Bongo. Cancun’s best and most famous nightclub is known for an over-the-top... Read More

Coco Bongo is the city’s most famous nightclub, so make this stop the final one on your list. A high cover price is worth its weight in pesos: guests... Read More

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... Read More

On an unassuming side street, this little shop run by two sisters—owner Beatriz Urtuzuastegui and Victoria Lemus, the attentive but unobtrusive... Read More

Even with a 1,800-person capacity, this open-air club is packed with people every single night! Live bands (rock and roll; salsa), a cheap open bar, and... Read More

Tangle with a snake, feed a peccary, walk through a crocodile den, and be accosted by an affectionate spider monkey at this 150-acre nature reserve,... Read More

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... Read More

An enormous disco ball and pole-dancing platforms set the stage for this laser-lit disco. The iconic Cancun hotspot hosts some of the destination’s best... Read More

Dady’O in the Party Center area guarantees a wild night out. This electrifying venue has thrilling Spring Break celebrations every year with beach body... Read More

This huge, multi-level party boat embarks on its trip from the Cancun Hotel Zone. Their full-day tour includes visits to amazing nearby attractions such... Read More

Cozumel's new "culture park" provides an intriguing window into the Mexican Republic. In the screening room of the eye-catching modern building, you can... Read More

With the world’s second largest barrier reef located just off the coast of the Hotel Zone, Cancun has spectacular diving opportunities. Choose from a... Read More

Where It Is: The limestone bedrock that underlies Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is pocked with freshwater-filled sinkholes called cenotes. For... Read More

With its passionate guides and open-ocean enclosures, Dolphin Discovery is the best of several companies in Mexico offering swims with dolphins. Under a... Read More

These climbable ruins are nestled in the jungles of Yucatan state, about two hours west of Cancun. The site has several large structures including a... Read More

This 18-hole par 72-course is nestled within a luxury resort complex in the heart of the Riviera Maya, less than an hour south of Cancun. The Audubon... Read More

Modest compared with those on the Yucatán peninsula, Cozumel's Mayan ruins are still distinct. San Gervasio, in the interior, was occupied by the... Read More

Most Cancun vacationers never hear about this ancient Mayan city, even though it’s right under their nose. Located within the Cancun Hotel Zone, El Rey... Read More

Flyboarding is one of the newest and craziest water sports, and is now offered by several Cancun tour companies. Head to the ocean or lagoon for an... Read More

Here, a beautiful sensations pool (featuring bubble geysers and cascades) overlooks the lagoon, and is the centerpiece of the immense, 40,0000 square... Read More

Tulum is full of cenotes—natural pools where you can go swimming, often with caves. The Grand Cenote is one of the most well-known, because it’s great... Read More

Parties of epic proportion spring up on the grounds of this large, all-inclusive beach resort in the Cancun Hotel Zone. Themed festival’s are a... Read More

The spa at this stunning beach resort offers a number of Mayan wellbeing treatments utilizing a blend of traditional plants and herbs, but the highlight... Read More

A mix of guided jungle and water activities are offered at this park in an up-close, jungle environment. Water activities are focused on snorkeling and... Read More

This nature park is good for jungle zip lines and exploring caves. It’s ideal for travelers who want to see some of the region’s famous cenotes, or... Read More

This stunning 18-hole par 72-course sits between the Nichupte Lagoon and El Rey Mayan ruins in the Cancun Hotel Zone. Enjoy a game surrounded by... Read More

Only a handful of tour companies have permits to take visitors to this secluded Caribbean island, allowing only 200 people a day onto Isla Contoy’s... Read More

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... Read More

This 17-room luxury spa boasts an extensive menu of Mayan-inspired services. Experience treatments using traditional Mayan elixirs such as balche and... Read More

This spa, housed at the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, is named after the Mayan phrase, to be reborn. In addition to its relaxation gardens, infusion baths and... Read More

This outdoor shopping mall has the ideal ambiance for a romantic evening stroll. Filled with bridges, canals, and beautifully lit fountains, La Isla... Read More

Tucked into faux townhouses overlooking Venetian-style canals and bridges, the 150 retailers at this gleaming new complex range from high-end chains... Read More

Cancun’s beautiful outdoor shopping mall straddles inland water channels, and is easily recognizable for its white, modern buildings and decorative... Read More

Cancun’s most popular mall is located at Kilometer 12 of Boulevard Kukulcan. The marina area of this attractive outdoor shopping center features... Read More

One of Cancun’s newer nightclubs, La Vaquita (meaning “The Little Cow”) has quickly become a favorite among vacationers and locals alike. Opened only... Read More

Located at the bullring, Guanatos is the most iconic bar in downtown Cancun. On Fridays and Saturdays, this indoor-outdoor bar fills up with locals... Read More

The most famed spa in the Cancun Hotel Zone can be found at Leblanc Resort, known for its sophisticated, nature-inspired design (polished stone walkways... Read More

A series of mini-shops in a restored colonial building, this market has the highest quality artisan crafts, clothing, tabletop goods, ceramics, and toys... Read More

Downtown’s main mall is where you’ll find most locals on any given weekend. Malecon Americas has a lovely and modern open-air atmosphere where you can... Read More

This waterfront neighborhood is one of Cancun’s newest and most beautiful areas—over the next few years, the city will add a large nature park, shopping... Read More

This stunning waterfront walkway is situated by the breathtaking Nichtupe Lagoon, where you can see the Cancun Hotel Zone skyline on the horizon. At the... Read More

This new waterfront neighborhood is still being developed, but right now it has a half-mile walkway along Nichupte Lagoon. Located in Downtown Cancun... Read More

This breathtaking reef is situated just off the southern tip of Isla Mujeres, a quick and easy boat ride from the Cancun Hotel Zone. It’s one of the... Read More

Cancun’s top market offers a colorful maze of souvenir stands and jewelry shops that cover a full city block, with several small restaurants in the... Read More

Sure, you could book shiatsu, but this spa’s specialty is heavenly Mayan-inspired treatments. Everyone’s visit begins with an outdoor steam... Read More

The tour takes small groups on snorkeling trips to lesser-known underground rivers like the recently opened Kin-ha. Read More

This ever-popular thatched-roof beach bar is located on the less-frequented eastern half of the island. Take note: it's only open in daylight hours ... Read More

This eerie museum features more than 500 underwater sculptures off the coast of Cancun. MUSA combines contemporary art with reef conservation, using... Read More

Four compact galleries chronicle the island's Mayan history, Spanish conquest, Caribbean pirates, and ecological diversity (with a focus on the coral... Read More

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... Read More

This sleek and modern resort in southern Cancun is home to a breathtaking spa that blends modern technology with ancient Mayan techniques. The 30,000... Read More

Although it’s not located in the Cancun Hotel Zone, North Beach is close enough and amazing enough that I had to include it in this list. North Beach ... Read More

Located at The Embarcadero, Cancun’s rotating observation tower (known as the Torre Escenica) is the best way for visitors to see the full scope of the... Read More

Cozumel is a duty-free shopping zone. The collection of luxury products found in this enormous store runs the gamut from perfumes and Baume &... Read More

Almost any time you go to the beach in Cancun, you’ll spot parasailers hovering over the shallow shores of the Caribbean. For the spontaneous visitor,... Read More

Open from sun-up to sun-down, this colorful nature park is a favorite spot for families, school field trips, and local runners. Parque Kabah has a... Read More

The city’s main park is a large plaza where you’ll find food carts, a small outdoor food court, local handicrafts and souvenirs, a playground, and a... Read More

In the very heart of Downtown Cancun, Parque Las Palapas comes alive at night. You’ll find numerous restaurants and bars in the surrounding streets,... Read More

Even if you don’t plan on entering any of the nightclubs in Cancun’s main party district, I still recommend a walk through the infamous Party Center... Read More

To make your Spring Break vacation as easy as possible, this fun-loving local agency serves as your in-town host by personally taking you to the best... Read More

This beach is situated right next to the busy Playa Forum and has the same white sands, amazing water and central location, but without the crowds.... Read More

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... Read More

One of Cancun’s largest beaches, Playa Delfines has some of the brightest blue water in the city. Whenever I visit, I get to see plenty of parasailers,... Read More

Located in the famous Punta Cancun area just behind Coco Bongo nightclub, Playa Forum (also known as Playa Gaviota Azul) is the city’s most popular... Read More

Situated 20 minutes north of Cancun in the Playa Mujeres area, this 18-hole, par 72 course was designed by Greg Norman and features beautiful lagoons... Read More

One of the only Hotel Zone beaches with almost no waves, Playa Tortugas is a popular choice for families and locals. This beach has an oceanfront... Read More

This 18-hole course winds its way through the upscale residential and resort neighborhood of Playacar in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, about one hour... Read More

This small but beautiful shopping center is a social hub for Cancun locals. Located on the up-and-coming Avenida Bonampak, Plaza Peninsula is home to... Read More

Named for the ancient Mayan ball game, this course’s signature feature is 1,000 year-old Mayan ruins. Located in the Cancun Hotel Zone, the 18-hole Pok... Read More

The elegant Ritz Carlton Cancun serves up a vast array of innovative recipes, including an enticing margarita list. The classic “Margarita the Ritz... Read More

Tall, blond southern boy Rory Dunaway might not seem the obvious choice to unravel the secrets of Mexican gastronomy, but the new recreational kitchen... Read More

Modest compared with those on the... Read More

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... Read More

Come here for a high-adrenaline jungle adventure. Fly through the fast-paced zip line circuit, explore jungle roads on an ATV, walk across aerial... Read More

If you want a bar that’s a wild mix of bar and nightclub, Señor Frog’s is the place for you. It’s open for dinner, or you can stop by later for a night... Read More

Off the coast of nearby Isla Mujeres lie two shipwrecks for intermediate and advanced divers to explore: the C55 Barrera and the C58 Anaya. Both of... Read More

This massive natural reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage site—the area has been home to a Mayan community since 600 B.C.—and it’s absolutely stunning.... Read More

Mexico is famous for its silver, and the most celebrated craftsmanship still comes from the town of Taxco, near Mexico City. One of Taxco's most famous... Read More

The three-story spa at the JW Marriott Cancun expertly combines Mayan ingredients with Asian techniques for an impressive menu of treatments and... Read More

The exciting speedboat tour at Aquatours is one of the most popular activities in the Hotel Zone, giving you the opportunity to explore the lush... Read More

The calmer waters of the northern Hotel Zone are ideal for a day of stand-up paddle boarding—also known as SUP. This relaxing water sport has travelers... Read More

With the moonlight shining on the water and the evening’s breezes filtering through the palms, Cancun’s beaches are transformed into the most romantic... Read More

The biggest nightclub in Latin America frequently hosts live concerts and the world’s best DJs, but my favorite events at this immense discotheque are... Read More

Explore the waters of Nichupte Lagoon with this picturesque tour. Cancun’s favorite romantic boat ride offers sunset and nighttime cruises every evening... Read More

The lovely spa at The Royal Sands resort is known for its extensive menu of massages. Not to be missed? The new 90-minute bamboo massage, performed with... Read More

This is one of my absolute favorite places in Cancun! I’m in love with the laid-back atmosphere and the social scene at Surfin’ Burrito. Locals and... Read More

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... Read More

Picture an ancient temple set atop a rocky cliff with the waves of the Caribbean Sea crashing on the beach below. That image is Tulum. This centuries... Read More

You cannot find a Mayan ruin with a more dramatic location. This small but breathtaking city is set on a cliff top by the Caribbean Sea, just two hours... Read More

This one-of-a-kind space opened in downtown Tulum in early 2016 and is dedicated to arts and culture. There's a café with seating in the front, and the... Read More

This beach, which runs the length of the Tulum, is open to the public. It’s absolutely gorgeous here—after all, it is the area’s main attraction. Tulum... Read More

The ruins of the 11th-century walled city are a popular attraction for visitors staying in Cancun and Riviera Maya, so come early to beat the crowds.... Read More

The small island of Isla Mujeres is situated just a few miles off the coast of Cancun, with ferries crossing between these two destinations several... Read More

Located at the beachfront Azul Sensatori Hotel, this 14,000-square-foot spa provides a variety of treatments in a Zen-inspired environment, decorated... Read More

Here, you'll find two floors of well-priced T-shirts and Mexican vanilla, Mexican dolls and Xtabentum, a smooth-as-brandy Mayan liqueur that is flavored... Read More

Every May through September, whale sharks migrate to the Mexican Caribbean to feed on the plankton-rich waters. During the summer season, you can book... Read More

Located at the iconic Xbalamque hotel in the heart of Downtown Cancun, this small-but-impressive spa offers ancient, regional techniques and rituals at... Read More

An ecological theme park, Xcaret has a plentiful roster of activities and attractions focused on the surrounding natural environment and Mexico's... Read More

Located one hour south of Cancun is this immense nature park in the Riviera Maya. Visitors are invited to snorkel in the Caribbean shores, to partake in... Read More

This is a smart choice for families who want to see everything in one day. Xcaret is a vibrant blend of adventure, culture, and relaxation. Here, you... Read More

You can actually swim with parrot fish and manta rays in lagoons. You can also hike tropical trails, picnic under a palapa, and sack out in a hammock. Read More

This immense nature park is paradise for families who love to swim. Situated around a large inlet, Xel-Ha features amazing snorkeling and on-site... Read More

Xel-Ha is a huge nature park situated around a stunning bay that’s filled with wildlife. You’ll spend most of the day lounging and snorkeling, but the... Read More

This park is inspired by the famous Xochimilco area of Mexico City, featuring colorful 20-person boats known as trajineras that take you on a four-hour... Read More

This park is great for an underground to sky-high experience. Xplor is beautifully designed, with the tallest zip lines in all of Latin America. You can... Read More

The spa at Sunset Royal Beach Resort has an enticing list of signature rituals that combine Mayan, Aztec, and other Mesoamerican techniques with pre... Read More

There’s no lack of places to do yoga in Tulum, and the Sanara hotel is one of the absolute best places to take classes. Most hotels have daily morning... Read More

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