We fell in love with Cancun for so many reasons! First off, we learned some incredible history at Chichen Itza and immersed ourselves in our culture at Xcaret. We then spent time with the amazing locals in the city and swam in beautiful blue beaches. We ventured into green jungles and tasted delicious food!
Last but not least, we experienced thrilling adventures, partied like wild 21 year olds, and felt pampered at an all-inclusive resort. Located on the famous Rivera Maya, Cancun meets all your needs. Whether you want to party, relax at the beach, or go on some wildly fun or historic excursions, you will no doubt have fun!
Here are some of the best things to do in Cancun:
Have Fun a Fun-Filled Day at Xcaret
This eco-archaelogical park in Cancun is what I compare to Disneyland but in nature form. It is full of activities to experience such as seeing all the different animals and insects. You can enjoy delicious meals by the beach or simply swim in it or one of its stunning rivers. You can explore ruins inside the park and see awesome day shows, but none like the incredible night show!
The night show is formed by amazing performances that teach the Mexican and Mayan history, something we were able to relate to. No matter how tired you are after a long day at the park, stay for the show! If you go with a tour, they will drop you off at the park in the morning and you have an option to ride back to your hotel before or after the night show.
Be adventurous at Xplor
One of the most exciting ways to spend time in Cancun, is a day at Xplor Adventure Park in Playa del Carmen. If soaring above the treetops, swimming in caves, and riding in jeeps is your thing, Xplor will not disappoint. With Juan’s fear of heights and our first time trying this, we opted to start with zip-lining to get it out-of-the-way. Though we were up as high as 130 feet in the air at one point, we both absolutely loved it. Gliding over trees and splashing into the water when ending the course is quite the rush!
Xplor also has an underground river to raft and/or to swim as you admire the rock formations inside the cave. It’s and underground oasis with the dim lights. The best part was ending our swim in a circular room with a waterfall as water and light poured over us. Lastly, the amphibious 4X4 vehicles had us driving through hanging bridges and a rocky jungle. Did I mention Xplor is all-inclusive? That’s right, you get to enjoy a buffet for lunch and snacks throughout the day! And how awesome is it that the park prepares drinks such as smoothies to refuel your body for the long day of adventures!? Sorry, but no alcohol is served for everyone’s safety and this is probably a good thing!
Chichen Itza-Wonder of the World
Named one of the wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is a must while in Cancun. The ruins are actually located 3 hours away in the state of Yucatan, Mexico but easily reached by a tour or a bus ride there. There is so much history here that you need enough time to explore this amazing archaeological park. We opted for a day tour with a company that gave us a tour guide that was full of information about the history of the ruins. We were left in awe after our visit here and felt we needed more time to take it all in. The same tour we bought also took us to the city of Valladolid, Yucatan, stopped at a Cenote, and included food.
Swim in Cenotes
Let’s start out by saying that swimming in a cenote has been one of our favorite experiences thus far! If you have never heard of a cenote, it is a natural sinkhole or underground cavern that results from collapsing limestone bedrock. In return, it leaves the ground fresh and crystal clear water exposed. Most people stop at a cenote after touring Chichen Itza since it’s included in the tour, but many more cenotes may be found around the Yucatan Peninsula. We loved it so much that next time we go back, we want to take a whole day just to hop around swimming in cenotes.
Just two hours away from Cancun, Tulum is a small city well worth the escape. This archaeological site sits atop a cliff over the most beautiful turquoise waters. We managed to squeeze time to visit, but arrived too late to explore the Ruins of Tulum. However, we got to explore the surroundings and I must say we left impressed and with the mindset to go back.
Getting here was easy and cheap. We took a ‘colectivo’ with the locals, which is a shuttle bus that costs about 32 pesos (near $2). The original plan however before partying hard the day before, was to rent a taxi for the day which is common and not too costly. The taxi can take you to Tulum, stop at the ruins in Coba, and drive you to cenotes. We will leave that plan for next time we are there!
Shop and Dine at Playa del Carmen
If you’re looking for a more low-key, less crowded, and more affordable city than Cancun in the Yucatan Peninsula, Playa del Carmen is a great choice. This beach town is catered to tourists but one you can’t miss out on. We found some of the best food and bars here.
At Play del Carmen you can go snorkeling or scuba diving or simply sit out by the beautiful beach. If you’re like us and occasionally don’t mind the crowds, you can head to Avenida 5 (5th Avenue). This is an upscale road with interesting things such as top-notch restaurants, bars and clubs, and all kinds of stores-including ones you will find in American malls.
Explore Downtown and Market 28
At Mercado 28 located downtown, we found the perfect souvenirs, traditional handicrafts, and many goods at great prices. This is the place to practice your haggling skills as most vendors are willing to lower the price for items you want to purchase. The items had such great prices we were able to buy souvenirs for everyone in both of our large families. Nearby you can also visit Malecon Americas Shopping Center for some department store shopping or indulge in authentic Mexican food with a Yucatan touch of flavor. Best food and prices!
Dance the Night Away
The party scene in Cancun is always lit! Although we can’t party as hard as we once did in our 20s, we still enjoy experiencing the nightlife while traveling. We still love loud music, dancing, and drinking a few cold ones. Cancun was the perfect place to get our bodies moving and one club that cannot be missed is Coco Bongo!
This place is Vegas style standard, or do I dare say better!? Here you have characters performing as famous people around the world, such as Michael Jackson, The Mask, and one of our favorites, Pitbull. The place gets packed so book tickets with anticipation. Tip well if you want to be served quickly! Right next door you will find many more clubs such as Mandala, Daddy O, and Palazzo. These are next on our Cancun club list.
Drink and Eat All Day at the beach
All-inclusive resorts are the way to go in Cancun, at least for a couple of days. The Caribbean Sea has some of the clearest waters around and can be enjoyed right in front of your resort. Staying at an all-inclusive resort includes unlimited drinks and food without the need to leave the premises. We lost count of how many drinks we had while lounging in the pool and making friends with people from around the world.
If you’re looking for leisure and relaxation, this is it. If you prefer saving but still want to get the experience, only book a night or two like we did. We only used our room to sleep when going on full day tours so we found it unnecessary to stay in nice places on those days. Instead, we booked a more affordable hotel and all our tours the first 5 days.
Splurging and relaxing by the beach the last two days was the best choice we made. We recommend Hotel Krystal Cancun resort. It’s within walking distance to the nightclubs and sits at the end of the hotel strip curb, giving you an incredible view of the beach hotels.
Side note:, we visited during rainy season in June, and although we got a couple of rainy days, we loved having the beaches almost to ourselves.
There you have it! Some of the best things to do in Cancun! One week was not enough to see everything that this wondrous city offers. We still missed Xel-ha, Xoximilco, Isla Mujeres, Coba, and the Cancun Underwater Museum. All places people rave about online.
Who’s been to Cancun?! What were your favorite places there? Is there something you’d add to this list? If you’re planning a trip to Cancun, don’t forget to check our travel resources page to help you plan the perfect vacation!
Best Things to do in Cancun