It’s often said that Mexico bears similarities to the Caribbean, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the destinations on my travel bucket list. Perched on the Yucatán Peninsula, Cancun is one of the most well-known cities in Mexico, with thousands of tourists flocking there every year for the white sands, turquoise waters and golden sunshine. If you’re considering visiting Mexico for the first time, Cancun is one of the safest parts of the country for travellers. It’s almost impossible to be bored in Cancun, with an exciting range of activities and attractions that will appeal to all ages. I asked some of my fellow travel bloggers for their recommendations on the best things to do in Cancun – here’s what they said:
1. Visit Isla Mujeres
The beautiful Isla Mujeres is just a quick boat ride away from Cancun and therefore an optimal chance to escape busy Cancun for a day. The island is quite small, making it a perfect place to relax and enjoy the picturesque Riviera Maya.
After arriving at the island, several tour operators will offer their snorkelling tours and boat trips, taking you around the island to various spots – however, of course you can also explore the island individually, e.g. by renting a golf cart or a scooter. If you decide to go snorkelling, don’t miss out on the unique underwater museum! Isla Mujeres is a beautiful place and the ideal city break!
— Patrick Muntzinger, German Backpacker
2. Diving in the Cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula
The Yucatán Peninsula poses a large network of underground caves of hundreds of kilometres in limestone rock. Cenotes are sinkholes that provide an entrance into this cave system. These spectacular pools are filled with crystal clear, turquoise water; some of the caverns possess stalagmites and stalactites making them even more beautiful.
Diving in these cenotes is a huge attraction to divers from all over the world. These cavern dives can be done by recreational divers without cave training. Dos Ojos is a very popular cenote with divers of all levels and because of the shallow depth, it is also a fantastic place to snorkel in these amazing caves. This spectacular cenote is often dived from Cancun.
– Campbell Low, Stingy Nomads
3) The Ruins of Tulum
The walled city of Tulum, also known as the Ruins of Tulum, is a beautiful historical view into the ancient life of aboriginal peoples in Central America. Dating back to the 13th century, this Mayan structure is an example of living history and well worth your time.
From the parking lot (which is pay to park), you can either hop a train or walk yourself over to the ruins. Entry to the Ruins are about 80-100 pesos – free on Sunday. Consider hiring one of the local guides by the front desk if you’re interested in history. You’ll walk among the ruins, climb around in ancient rooms, and be swept away to a time long, long ago. If you’re into history, you must visit the Ruins of Tulum.
— Scott and Hayley Hornberg, International Hotdish
4) Dive at MUSA Cancun Underwater Museum
As an English woman in Mexico, it was of special interest to me that the art museum in Cancun hired an English sculptor. As a diver, it was pretty darned exciting that it was underwater! It was originally constructed in an attempt to recolonize the damaged reef between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. Today, the museum contains more than 500 permanent sculptures that were previously 420 square metres of barren seafloor.
Join Solo Buceo in diving eight metres below the surface in the Cancun-Isla Mujeres Marine Park to swim alongside the life-sized sculptures of people, houses and a VW Bug. You can snorkel the four-metre deep Salon Nizuc area of the museum, or take a glass-bottomed boat tour.
It’s a unique experience and one not to miss when you’re in Cancun!
— Sarah Carter, A Social Nomad
5) Museo Maya de Cancun
Cancun is better known as a mass tourism hot spot than a hotbed of traditional culture, but the Museo Maya de Cancun (a.k.a. Cancun Mayan Museum) offers an amazing overview of Mayan history, art, and archaeology that makes it a must-see. Designed by Mexican architect Alberto García Lascurain, the modern white building seems perfectly at home in the heart of Cancun’s bustling Hotel Zone.
The 55,000-square-foot property also includes the San Miguelito archaeological site, featuring 40 Maya structures (including a 26-foot-tall pyramid). The museum’s collection includes more than 3,500 artefacts, with 350 or so on display. There are two permanent exhibition halls – one on the archaeology of the State of Quintana Roo (of which Cancun is part), and one on Mayan culture as a whole – plus a third hall featuring a temporary exhibit. Seeing these ancient artefacts is a great reminder of the fact that Cancun lies at the heart of one of the world’s richest indigenous cultures.
— Bret Love, Green Global Travel
6) Xcaret Park
Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park is a lot of fun for kids of all ages, and it’s also one of the most popular attractions in the Cancun and Riviera Maya area. Xcaret offers everything from beaches to underground rivers, to a Mayan village and even archaeological sites directly within the park. There are plenty of animals to see, and an impressive new aviary, with waterfalls and ramping pathways on multiple levels. You can easily spend a full day or two here. At night, there’s also the well-rated Xcaret Mexico Espectacular night show.
The company that owns Xcaret also runs other adventure parks nearby including Xel-ha (which focuses more on water activities), X-Plor (which focuses more on high adrenaline activities like zip lining and amphibious vehicles) and a kids favorite, Xenses (which focuses on the five senses).
— Micki Kosman, The Barefoot Nomad
7) Take a Day Trip to Cozumel
— Michael Miszczak, Just a Pack
8) Visit Ek Balam
Ek Balam is one of the hundreds of Mayan ruins that cover the Yucatán Peninsula and was once the ruling city of the Mayan Kingdom. When you visit here, you’ll be greeted by defensive walls, arches, a palace, a chapel, a ball court, and an Acropolis. The Acropolis is the tallest building on the site and houses the remains of one of the kinds of Ek Balam. You can climb to the top of the Acropolis to get a closer look at the carved jaguar teeth that guard the entrance to the king’s tomb and get a breathtaking view over miles of the Yucatán landscape.
On days when it’s not raining, guides can be found hanging around the entrance to Ek Balam and I highly recommend hiring one to learn more about the fascinating history of this site.
— Erin Tracy, Traveling Thru History
After hearing about some of the best things to do in Cancun, I can’t wait to visit myself. Be sure to keep an eye out for holidays to Cancun in the New Year sales – I would love to start 2018 knowing that I was off to Mexico later on in the year!
Have you ever been to Mexico? Did you enjoy your time there?