What to see and visit in Cancun? Surely the first thing that comes to mind is the beach and a great hotel. However, there is so much more to experience in the bustling city of Quintana Roo, known as the gateway to the famous Riviera Maya.
At IATI, we have been fortunate enough to explore this part of Mexico on multiple occasions, and we are excited to share everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to Cancun. Let’s get started!
1. Explore Cancun’s finest beaches: Delfines Beach, Langosta Beach, and more
With over 20 kilometres of coastline and numerous all-inclusive hotels, you will have plenty of options to find a spot to relax.
Most of Cancun’s beaches are known for their pristine white sand and turquoise waters. However, certain areas within the “hotel zone” may have waves that make swimming challenging, and in recent years, there has been an issue with sargassum seaweed. The presence of waves depends on your location and the wind conditions, but you can find helpful information on websites like this one that provides updates on the sargassum situation.
To make your decision a little easier, here are some of the most captivating beaches to see and visit in Cancun:
- Playa Delfines: It is renowned as one of Cancun’s best and most famous beaches. You can find the iconic colourful Cancun sign, perfect for a memorable photo here. However, be aware that this beach often has waves and currents, so swimming should be done with caution.
- Playa Langosta: This beach is known for its comfort, especially if you are visiting Cancun with children. The water is shallow, making it a safer option for swimming.
- Playa Marlín: This beach offers a more secluded and intimate atmosphere, although the waves can be strong.
- Playa Gaviota Azul (or Playa Forum): As one of the well-known beaches in the hotel zone, this beach is known for its high waves, attracting surfers. It is also close to bars, creating a lively atmosphere if you’re interested in some nightlife.
- Chac Mool Beach: Another popular beach in Cancun, offering various opportunities for water activities.
- Caracol Beach: Although smaller in size, it has calmer waters. Walking towards the Hyatt Ziva hotel, you can reach the charming lighthouse.
- Tortugas Beach: This beach is usually calm and shallow, making it ideal for a family visit.
2. Excursion to Chichen Itza: A must-do when in Cancun
One of the essential activities to do in Cancun is a visit to Chichen Itza. This iconic site needs little introduction, as it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Undoubtedly, a visit to this renowned Mayan archaeological site will be on your mind.
You can reach the famous Pyramid of Kukulkan in approximately 3 hours from Cancun by renting a car or taking one of the ADO buses. However, considering the historical significance and convenience, we highly recommend joining one of the many tours that depart from the hotels in the city.
3. Visit Isla Mujeres
Another place to see and visit in Cancun, while enjoying the beaches in Cancun is a top priority, is exploring the beautiful beaches of Isla Mujeres as well. Located just off the coast of Cancun and only a 20-minute boat ride away, Isla Mujeres is home to one of the most renowned beaches in the Riviera Maya: Playa Norte. Its crystal-clear waters and stunning beauty make it feel like you’ve stepped into a natural swimming pool.
It is entirely feasible to explore Isla Mujeres in a day due to the frequent ferry services. Once you arrive, renting a golf cart to tour the island from end to end is a fun and popular option.
Aside from Playa Norte, other must-see spots on the island include Punta Sur, Lancheros Beach, and Parque de los Sueños.
Travelling safely in Mexico
IATI Backpacker (click here if your country of residence is within the European Union; click here if your country of residence is not part of the European Union) is highly recommended as the best insurance option for this destination. With its comprehensive health care coverage, you will have access to top-notch specialists without incurring any out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, the insurance provides coverage for theft, adventure sports, luggage issues, transportation incidents, and repatriation if needed.
Don’t take any risks while in Mexico; ensure your safety by obtaining your insurance now!
4. Explore Cancun City and dine at Palapas Park
To be honest, the city of Cancun itself may not boast the same level of beauty as Merida, Campeche, or Valladolid, which are also located on the Yucatan Peninsula. However, if you plan to spend a few days in Cancun, we encourage you to take a stroll through the city center and enjoy a meal at Palapas Park to get a sense of its atmosphere.
Avenida Tulum serves as the main thoroughfare and is adorned with parks, shops, restaurants, and, of course, affordable taco stands. Among the well-known places to purchase handicrafts is Mercado 28, but for a livelier experience, visit Parque de las Palapas, which is a popular gathering spot for locals (one of our favourites, Taqueria Coapeñitos, is located nearby), particularly on weekends. If you’re in the mood for more shopping, Plaza las Americas (located in the city) or La Isla Shopping (in the hotel zone) are the places to visit.
5. Archaeological Sites to Explore in Cancun: El Rey Archaeological Zone, Cancun Mayan Museum, and San Miguelito Archaeological Zone
You may not be aware, but Cancun offers several intriguing archaeological sites to visit, and they are for sure something to see and do in Cancun. While they may not reach the same level of grandeur as other Mayan ruins in Yucatan or the Riviera Maya, such as Chichen Itza, Coba, or Uxmal, they are still worth exploring, particularly if you seek a break from the beach. Among the most recommended sites are:
- Archaeological Zone of El Rey: This precinct derives its name from a sculpture of an unknown monarch discovered here. It is believed to have been one of the significant ports for the Mayans and is considered the most interesting archaeological zone to visit in Cancun. With 47 structures, the highlight is pyramid number 2, a temple where the remains of a high-ranking individual were found, along with a copper axe, a bracelet, and shell and bone ornaments. Admission fee is 70 pesos per person.
- Mayan Museum of Cancun and Archaeological Zone of San Miguelito: Arguably one of the top attractions in Cancun, this museum boasts an extensive collection of Mayan culture, featuring significant artefacts not only from the state of Quintana Roo but also from other sites such as Palenque, Chichen Itza, and Comalcalco. The entrance fee is 85 pesos and includes access to the San Miguelito archaeological site, where you can still observe a small Mayan pyramid. These sites are conveniently located in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone.
- Archaeological Zone of El Meco: You will be amazed at how beautiful and well-kept these Mayan ruins are. It is believed to have been an important fishing, commercial and religious centre for the Mayas. It is made up of 14 structures with a main temple, El Castillo, and a 5-level pyramid. Access costs only 70 pesos and they are full of iguanas.
- Yamil Lu’um: located in the middle of Cancun’s hotel zone, it is a group of two temples, the main one being the Temple of the Scorpion. It receives this name because the structure of this animal was found in one of its walls. It is believed to have been built between the 12th and 16th centuries. Admission is free.