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Things to Do in Cancun

Cancun may be known for its clubs and luxury hotels, but there's more to explore beyond the hotel zone. It is the gateway to world-famous Mayan pyramids, otherworldly dive sites, and family-friendly entertainment along the Yucatán Peninsula and Riviera Maya. It’s also a central place to start your Mexican vacation. Day trips begin with morning pickups from your hotel, allowing for some additional shut eye en route to archaeological sites like Tulum or Chichen Itza, where early-access tours get you into the impressive Mayan ruins before crowds start to arrive later in the morning. Top picks for thrill-seekers include horseback riding through the Yucatan jungle, ATV adventure tours, and ziplining at Xplor Adventure Park. Families can spend the day swimming and snorkeling at Xcaret and Xel-Ha aquatic parks in Playa del Carmen, followed by a Captain Hook dinner cruise. History buffs will want to make time for lesser-known sites such as Coba and Ek Balam. For scuba divers, Isla Contoy and the underwater museum MUSA are both musts. And for the revelers and spring breakers, VIP night tours showcase Cancun’s electric evening scene.
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Rio Secreto Nature Reserve
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Rio Secreto, or the “Secret River,” is a series of caves carved out by the flow of an ancient underground river in Mexico. While the reserve is most famous for its large half-sunken cavern—a popular diving spot—you can also explore eerie passageways, swim in the river, and admire dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and colorful mineral formations.

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Tulum
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Tulum, the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city and a port for Coba, is one of the best preserved coastal Mayan cities in the Yucatan, in tandem with Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Highlights of this archaeological site include the Temple of the Frescoes, which has spectacular figurines of the 'diving god.'

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Mayan Ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)
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In the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lie the ruins of Coba (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá), an ancient Maya city considered to be one of the most important settlements in Mesoamerican history. During its peak between AD 500 and 900, Coba housed 50,000 residents and was the central terminus for the complex Maya system of roadways. The jungle site is still being excavated, but visitors can experience the already discovered remains of thesesacbes, or stone causeways, as well as a number of engraved and sculpted monuments.

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Isla Mujeres
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Isla Mujeres (the “Island of Women”) is known for its rich marine life and pristine beaches. Here you can snorkel at Manchones Reef, scuba dive in the Cave of Sleeping Sharks, or stretch out on the white sands of North Beach (Playa Norte). On land you’ll find bustling nightlife, with oceanside bars and restaurants serving fresh seafood.

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Xplor Park
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Set in the middle of the Yucatan jungle, Xplor Park allows visitors to experience Mexico’s environmental treasures firsthand. Here you can raft down a stalactite-filled underground river, swim in cenotes, ride in an amphibious vehicle, or zipline above the canopy. There’s also a nighttime option to explore after dark.

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Chichen Itza
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One of the New 7 Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá is among Mexico's most visited and iconic archaeological sites. Known for its main central pyramid, this impressive Maya site—once the ceremonial center of the Yucatán—also features temples, ball courts, and a cenote (freshwater sinkhole).

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Xcaret
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With unparalleled access to the Caribbean Sea and all of its bounty, a visit to the Xcaret eco-archaeological park is a must when on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Snorkeling, ziplining, river rafting, exploring underwater rivers, and hiking tropical trails through jungle ruins are all options within this natural adventure park, which gives fast access to many of Cancun’s greatest attractions.

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Playa Norte (North Beach)
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Playa Norte (North Beach) is a relaxing strand on Isla Mujeres, a small island off the Yucatan Peninsula. Once considered a sacred site devoted to a Maya goddess, Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) earned its name when the Spanish discovered images of the goddess on the island. Today, Isla Mujeres and Playa Norte offer a laid-back alternative to bustling Cancun.

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CoCo Bongo Cancun
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CoCo Bongo in Cancun isn’t your typical nightclub and there’s no traditional dance floor. Instead, the popular venue hosts energetic performances including acrobats, bands, and musical impersonators who belt out tunes by artists ranging from Rihanna to Elvis. This lively spot is a must-visit for those looking for a fun night out in Cancun but don’t want to simply dance to DJs.

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Xel-Ha
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Named after a Mayan word meaning “the place where the waters are born,” the Xel-Ha aquatic park encompasses 14 acres (5.7 hectares) of jungle and ocean just south of Playa del Carmen. A must-visit family-friendly attraction, Xel-Ha is home to cenotes, a lazy river, fish-filled lagoons, and other natural attractions.

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More Things to Do in Cancun

Captain Hook Cancun

Captain Hook Cancun

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Aboard a Cancun-based Captain Hook pirate ship, spend a family-friendly evening that includes a buffet dinner served by salty seamen, dancing on the deck, and imbibing at an open bar. The 18th-century Spanish galleon replicas cruise the Caribbean while “pirates” entertain the crowd with tales of past escapades and dramatic sword fights.

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Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (Museo Subacuático de Arte)

Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (Museo Subacuático de Arte)

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Many cities boast art, history, and cultural museums, but Cancun’s version of these is a little out of the ordinary. The Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (Museo Subacuático de Arte) is an ongoing project promoting art as well as lively coral reefs. Snorkelers and divers can view its collection of more than 500 sunken sculptures that lie up to 20 feet (6 meters) deep.

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Xoximilco Cancun

Xoximilco Cancun

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Xoxomilco, whose name means “garden of flowers” in Nahuatl, is Cancun’s homage to the floating gardens and canals of Mexico City’s famous Xochimilco neighborhood. Here, visitors can experience a number of Mexican traditions, including floating boats strung with flowers, live music, and regional food.

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Selvatica

Selvatica

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Often considered the top outdoor activity in Cancun, Selvatica adventure park gives visitors the chance to shake up their beach routine with ziplines, off-road tours, a cenote dive, and more. Selvatica provides the perfect action-packed day trip just an hour north of Cancun and offers customizable options for the whole family.

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La Isla Shopping Village

La Isla Shopping Village

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Set along Nichupte Lagoon in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, La Isla Shopping Village is lined with boutique shops, waterfront dining, and luxury shopping. Stroll along the winding canals—which create a Venice-like atmosphere—sip cocktails in classy courtyards, and purchase souvenirs.

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Dolphin Beach (Playa Delfines)

Dolphin Beach (Playa Delfines)

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Dolphin Beach (Playa Delfines) is a welcome respite from the crowded beaches and bustling nightclubs for which Cancun has become known. Located just beyond the hotel zone at one of the city’s highest points, this quiet stretch of sand offers picture-perfect expansive views and an ideal setting for a leisurely stroll, catching waves, or simply relaxing.

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Cenotes Sac Actun

Cenotes Sac Actun

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Filled with crystal clear water and lined with limestone stalactites, Cenotes Sac Actun is the world’s largest known underwater cave system. The freshwater cave is home to colorful fish, bats, and animal fossils. Sac Actun is simultaneously one of the most impressive and least crowded cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Cancun Hotel Zone (Avenida Kukulkan)

Cancun Hotel Zone (Avenida Kukulkan)

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Avenida Kukulkan, also known as Cancun’s Hotel Zone, is a pulsing thoroughfare lined with oceanfront resorts that separate the Caribbean Sea from the Nichupte Lagoon. This long, flat strip is home to some of Cancun’s best shopping, dining, and nightlife. From Avenida Kukulkan, various paths lead out to a limitless stretch of white sand.

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Mayan Museum of Cancun (Museo Maya de Cancún)

Mayan Museum of Cancun (Museo Maya de Cancún)

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Take a break from the beaches to explore artifacts from Mexico’s ancient past at the Mayan Museum of Cancun (Museo Maya de Cancún), one of the largest and most important of its kind in Mexico. Here, visitors can see incredible items recovered from sites such as Chichén Itzá, or visit the adjacent archaeological site San Miguelito to stroll among the ruins.

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Xenses Park

Xenses Park

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Set in dense jungle south of Playa del Carmen, Xenses Park offers outdoor adventure with a multisensory twist. As well as a zipline, lazy river, and waterslide, the park also uses optical illusions, natural exhibits, and interactive features to get your adrenaline going, making it a top choice for thrillseekers of any age.

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Palapas Park (Parque Las Palapas)

Palapas Park (Parque Las Palapas)

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Try street food, pick up souvenirs, and do some people-watching at Palapas Park (Parque Las Palapas), which buzzes with locals, live music, food vendors, and shopping stalls. At this central plaza in downtown Cancun, you get an authentic look into Mexican culture that can’t be found at the nearby beaches and resorts.

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Ventura Park

Ventura Park

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This beachfront amusement park near Cancún, is a popular, family-friendly destination. It’s divided into different sections, including Wet’n Wild, Underworld, Aah!Ventura, Grand Prix, Fun World, and Dolphinaris, each of which offers attractions such as waterslides, ziplines, dolphin encounters, go-karts, a high-tech arcade, and more.

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Jolly Roger Pirate Ship

Jolly Roger Pirate Ship

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Offering family entertainment that both adults and children can enjoy, the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship sets sail from the Riviera Maya and sails the Caribbean seas while dazzling passengers with swashbuckling pirate shows and hearty food. The ship is a modern replica of the Santa Maria, which Columbus is said to have journeyed on when he discovered the Americas.

The Jolly Roger features four decks and can accommodate up to 240 passengers, with plenty of space for entertainment and dining. Filet mignon, lobster, a vegetarian option, plus a special pirate kids menu are on offer, not to mention the open bar with free domestic drinks. The pirate show is a blend of comedy and adventure, interspersed by dinner, fireworks, and dancing. Expect dramatic sword fighting, exploding cannons, and amazing acrobatics, all designed to entertain, delight, and draw you in to this unique pirate adventure.

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Interactive Aquarium Cancun

Interactive Aquarium Cancun

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As one of the top family-friendly attractions in the resort town, the Cancun Interactive Aquarium offers visitors a peek into the Caribbean and the chance to touch, feed, and interact with a variety of marine life. Home to schools of colorful tropical fish, seahorses, jellyfish, stingrays, tiger and bull sharks, sea turtles, and more, the aquarium provides the chance to learn about the animals’ natural habitats and their role in the underwater ecosystem.

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