The Best Things To Do in Cancun, Mexico

Photo of author

| Updated:

From sunny beaches to sparkling nightlife, there are plenty of things to do in Cancun, Mexico. A Popular tourist destination for years, there’s something for everyone, from kids to seniors, in this affordable vacation destination.

Paradise sign.
Image source: Depositphotos

Offering some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Cancun is famous for crystal-clear waters and soft, white-sand beaches. Perfect for vacationers looking to work on their tans, there’s plenty for history buffs, too. With archeological sites and museums, Cancun’s history and culture are there to explore. Plus, you can discover natural parks and reserves, or eat your way from restaurant to restaurant. From water activities to gorgeous resorts with secluded nooks to catch up on your reading, here are some of the best things to do in Cancun.

Beaches and Water Sports

Cancun is a water-lovers paradise located at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Surrounded by gorgeous beaches, warm, clear waters, and picture-perfect sand, these picturesque beaches are home to various watersports.

The beaches are split into two main areas, the hotel zone and downtown Cancun. You’ll find some of the best beaches in the hotel zone, but if you want to mix with the locals, head to the beaches closer to downtown. You don’t need to pack a lunch because many nearby restaurants offer tasty dishes like freshly made guacamole

Playa Delfines is one of the most popular beaches, but Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres is also a must-see. Playa Maroma is more secluded, but you’ll need a taxi to get to it. Other notable beaches include Playa Tortugas and Playa Forum. 

Cancun’s beaches are perfect for all kinds of water sports. Scuba diving and snorkelling are popular options, and with an abundance of colorful marine life and coral reefs, there’s plenty to see. There’s jet skiing, parasailing, and flyboarding for more adventurous types. Paddleboarding and kayaking are great for those looking for a slower pace.

Kayaking in the Nichupte Lagoon right in Cancun’s hotel zone is a must-have experience. You can find a few companies offering kayak tours of the lagoon, or you can simply rent kayaks and go it alone. It’s a wonderfully relaxing way to enjoy the flora and fauna of Cancun and if you’re lucky you may even spot a dolphin. — Kristen Wood, The Wander Bucket.

Easily booked from your hotel lobby or concierge, you can also hop on a boat tour. Often hosted on catamarans with open bars, some packages also include lunch and stops on the lovely beaches at Isla Mujeres.

Aerial view of Punta Cana beach resort, Dominican Republic. Summer holiday with parasailing, diving, swimming, sunbathing.
Image source: Depositphotos
Subscription Form

Save this article and we'll send it to your inbox. Plus we'll send you more great article links every week.

Culture and History

Cancun’s history dates back thousands of years. Originally inhabited by the Maya civilization, ancient ruins and archaeological sites are open to the public.  Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site about two hours from Cancun and offers ruins of pyramids and temples to explore.

The Coba ruins and the seaside ruins of Tulum are also must-see destinations for history buffs, and the museum at the El Rey archeological site is smaller but still impressive. Speaking of museums, there are several in Cancun, including the Maya Museum and the Museum of Popular Mexican Art.

Ruins of the Mayan fortress and temple near Tulum, Mexico
Image source: Depositphotos

Exploring Cancun’s Natural Beauty

For adventure-seekers or those just looking to get away from the Hotel Zone, Cancun is surrounded by natural beauty. From zip-lining to exploring caves, you can also swim with whale sharks or take a dip in a natural lagoon.

The Nichupte Lagoon is a large estuary home to crocodiles, manatees, birds, and more. You can take a boat tour, try stand-up paddleboarding, or go kayaking at this natural preserve.

In the nearby jungles, zip lining, rappelling, and ATV tours offer plenty for the outdoorsy types. Selvatica is an eco-park offering a variety of adrenaline-pumping activities in a jungle setting.
Also home to myriad caves and cenotes, be sure to visit Ik Kil, Dos Ojos, and Gran Cenote to enjoy these natural sinkholes filled with fresh, clear water.

An image of Ik-Kil Cenote,  Mexico.
Image source: Depositphotos

Nightlife and Entertainment

Cancun is also famous for its world-class nightlife. The Hotel Zone is home to some of the area’s most popular nightclubs and bars, including Coco Bongo, The City, and Mandala, which feature high-energy dance floors, DJs, and live shows.

For a more low-key night out, there are plenty of bars with drink specials or check out Mercado 28, an open-air market home to restaurants and bars. 

Take the kids to Xcaret Park, a must-visit spot for the whole family, or Ventura Park, which features a water park, roller coaster, zip lines, and more, and if you happen to be there for Cinco de Mayo, why not take a free Cinco de Mayo bingo printable with you for the kids to play? 

For more cultural entertainment, there are traditional dances and cultural exhibits or take in Cirque du Soleil’s show Joya at nearby Riviera Maya.


Cancun is a culinary paradise, with a wide range of dining options that cater to all tastes and budgets. From traditional Mexican cuisine to international flavors or even American fast food, there’s something for everyone here.

Fresh seafood is a regional specialty, and diners can enjoy the fresh catch of the day at many restaurants. From ceviche to grilled fish, some of the best seafood restaurants in Cancun include El Fish Fritanga, Marbella, and Mocambo.

If you’re looking for more traditional Mexican cuisine, stop by a busy-looking eatery and order tacos al pastor, mole, barbacoa, or chiles en nogada. 
From upscale picks like Harry’s Prime Steakhouse and Raw Bar to Porfirio’s, there are upscale dining options for a special night out. 

The Final Word

From beach adventures and working on your tan to zip lining through the jungle or enjoying a night out on the town, there’s plenty to eat, drink, see, and do in Cancun. Cancun is a fabulous vacation destination with something for everyone, so pack your bags, grab your passport, and have a fabulous vacation in sunny Mexico.

Jenn Allen is a retired chef turned cookbook author, blogger, and traveler. She lives at home with her family and the cats that rule them all. Get all of her travel tips, stories and more at

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.