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Cancun Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated November 2021

Cancun Visitors Guide with the top things to do in cancun
Cancun Visitors Guide with the top things to do in cancun

Welcome to Cancun

Cancun is one of Mexico’s largest and most popular resort destinations, hosting millions of visitors from around the world each year. The beaches, the water, the amenities, and the nightlife are just a few of the things that make Cancun the ultimate Mexican Caribbean destination. With proximity to nearby Mayan cultural centers and offshore islands, there’s a little something for everyone in Cancun.

Cancun is one of Mexico’s largest and most popular resort destinations, hosting millions of visitors from around the world each year. The beaches, the water, the amenities, and the nightlife are just a few of the things that make Cancun the ultimate Mexican Caribbean destination. With proximity to nearby Mayan cultural centers and offshore islands, there’s a little something for everyone in Cancun.

Cancun At Sunset
Yucatan Map

A Bit Of History

Like all of the glittering beach towns in the Mexican Caribbean, Cancun was once a Mayan cultural center. This particular piece of land was essential for the Mayan fishing and maritime trades. After the Maya left the area and prior to the 1970’s, Cancun was all but forgotten. Surviving with just 100 residents.

Fast forward to the 1970’s, when the Mexican government deemed Cancun the best place to build the next tropical, tourist destination. It was a slow build. The Mexican government actually had to finance the first few resorts themselves because took a lot of convincing to get investors interested. Yet by the mid 1980’s, Cancun had achieved its goal. It was the IT destination in Mexico.

Cancun Visitors Guide With The Top Things To Do In Cancun

Cancun Today

Rich with history and irresistible nature, Cancun quickly became a mecca for local and foreign visitors. Since 1989 Cancun has been considered the most dynamic city in Mexico. Pillow soft sand, warm seas and dreams coming true keep patrons coming back year after year.

Below is our guide to making the best of your visit including many of the top things to do in Cancun. We hope you enjoy!

Where Is Cancun?

Island Life Mexico

Cancun City and the adjacent L-shaped island area known as Isla Cancun, are located on the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on the Caribbean seashore. Located just north of the Riviera Maya coastal area, Cancun is one of Mexico’s easternmost points.

Adjacent to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the second-longest coral reef system in the world), Cancun is in a perfect spot for turquoise Caribbean waters, white sand beaches, and world-class diving and snorkeling. This is DEFINITELY the island life!

When To Visit Cancun

The tropical climate in Cancun is quite predictable and easy to make plans around. Without much of a temperature difference throughout the year, (the average temperature lingers around 83 degrees F) it’s the rainy hurricane season that most travelers need to pay attention to.

January – April

Perfect weather-wise, but sees the highest influx of tourists. If you are not a people person, consider this.

May – October

The hottest and most rainy months of the year but still plenty of sunshine and fantastic warm water for snorkeling & diving. Also, the hurricane season peaks in September and October so keep an eye on the forecasts and definitely get travel insurance just in case. Fewer tourists mean you can typically expect lower rates at hotels, resorts and tour companies during this time.

November – December

The autumn-winter months are considered by many to be the best times to visit Cancun. The hurricane season has passed by this time and the humidity is low. Can be a little “chilly” in the evenings.

Sunset in Cancun

Getting There & Around

There are a few ways to get to Cancun and around the city. Note that many larger hotels in Cancun provide free airport transportation to town, so check ahead before planning alternative transportation.

Cancun Visitors Guide. How To Get To Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel.

By Air & Shuttle

Most people fly directly to Cancun as numerous international flights arrive in Cancun daily. The international airport is located in Cancun City (Centro) and is just 13 miles from the Zona Hotelera.

Shuttles can be pre-arranged to pick you up and take you from the airport to your accommodation. You can easily book ground transportation from the airport to your hotel here.

Island Life Mexico

By Car

Renting a vehicle may be the most convenient choice depending on how much exploring you plan to do on your own. It is an easy and affordable option. The roads between Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are very straightforward and safe. We recommend booking your car here for the best prices.

Island Life Mexico

By Taxi

Taxis are everywhere and will take you straight from the airport to your accommodation. Be sure to discuss the prices in advance of taking the ride so you don’t get overcharged. Taxis are a convenient way to get around Cancun but costs can add up if regularly traveling between the Hotel Zone and Centro. Taxi’s between Cancun and Playa del Carmen or Tulum are an easy option but can be quite expensive.

Island Life Mexico

By Bus

The most affordable and an increasingly popular form of transport, busses go most places you want to go and many are airconditioned. From the airport, there are frequent public busses available into the city. From Tulum and Playa del Carmen busses are also widely available. Consult your hotel for pickup/dropoff locations.

How To Get To Cancun

For more transportation information, check out our Getting Around The Yucatan Guide

Driving Into Cancun
Driving Into Cancun

Things To Do In Cancun

Cancun's Top Highlights

There is so much to do in Cancun! From live shows to sailing cruises and more, it’s really easy to make each day in Cancun a special experience. Here are just some of the activities you can enjoy!

1
Have A Beach Day
1

1. Have A Beach Day

The Hotel Zone beaches go on for miles and are sandy and fantastic. Most resorts have their own stretch of beach with loungers and day beds but feel free to walk down the beaches to find your favorite stretch of sand. Playa Delfines is the most popular (and beautiful) public beach and is a great place to take a swim and lay out for a tan. The water can get a little choppy at times so it’s not ideal for small children. Delfines is home to the famous colorful “Cancun” sign too for those looking for that classic Instagram shot. For better swimming, try Playa Chac Mool which is also in the Hotel Zone. Gentle, quiet and tranquilo.

2
Experience The Adventure Parks
2

2. Experience The Adventure Parks

About an hour south of Cancun are a cluster of world famous adventure parks that are unlike anything you’ve probably experienced before. The most famous is Xcaret with its meandering canals you can swim through, incredible beach coves, cultural shows, jungle hikes and so much more. They are a little pricey, but the adventure parks are widely considered a must do in the area. Other very popular parks include Xplor with its caves, ziplines, rafting and ATV’s, Xel-Ha with its waterslides, snorkeling, mangrove tubing and other water activities, Xplor Fuego nighttime torchlight adventure, Xenotes cenote experience, Xoximilco floating fiesta and the oddly popular Xenses optical illusion park.

3
Take A Day Trip To Chichen Itza
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3. Take A Day Trip To Chichen Itza

If you’ve never been to a Mayan ruin, why not start with one of the best! Chichen Itza is an epic collection of temples and monuments that are worth the trip to get there. Around a two-hour drive from Cancun, many people combine the adventure with a swim at a cenote on the way back to cool off. You can rent a car and do the drive yourself, but most people book either a private tour guide or take a group tour for simplicity. This also allows you to zonk out in the van on the way back! Note that group tours typically do not include the park entrance fee of $30 USD adult or $5 child.

  This top rated group tour to Chichen Itza includes buffet lunch, a trip to Valladolid, and swimming in a cenote on the way back. Here’s a great private tour.

  Don’t mind getting up early? Check out this awesome sunrise tour to Chichen Itza!

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

When going on vacation in the time of Covid, Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Most of the current policies cover Covid medical issues as well as vacation delays due to Covid. They typically even cover your hotel if you test positive in Mexico and have to extend your trip a few days until you get a negative test. Our visitors almost unanimously choose a Trawick International Safe Travels plan which was a Forbes top-rated travel insurance plan of 2021. Easily compare the different Trawick, Generali and other top travel insurance plans here.

4
Visit A Cenote
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4. Visit A Cenote

Talk about healing properties. The cenote choices in the Cancun area are vast and diverse as there are literally dozens of incredible locations nearby. You can swim, scuba dive, snorkel or just walk through one of these breathtaking and powerful forces of nature.

  Explore cenote tours from Cancun here.

 For more cenote info and great cenote recommendations, be sure to check out our Ultimate Cenote Guide.

5
Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
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5. Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

Hire a tour company to jet you around the lagoons or go with a dive shop and see what lies beneath. The Underwater Sculpture Museum at MUSA has become quite a popular attraction in recent years. Over 500 sculptures were built and installed in the blue shallow waters in an attempt to rebuild the reef system. But there are plenty of other diving and snorkeling options as well! Get in the water and explore, a true treasure awaits.

  This is one of the more popular snorkeling tours that visits several reefs and a shipwreck not to far from Cancun.

  Check out a variety of scuba diving options for beginners and experienced divers.

6
Enjoy The Nightlife
6

6. Enjoy The Nightlife

You are in the Mexican Caribbean’s party center after all! The northern part of Zona Hotelera is called Punta Cancun and is the nightlife party area with plenty of clubs and tourist bars. Some say the best club to dance and drink the night away is Coco Bongo but don’t let us sway your decision, there are many places to party on offer, mostly in the Zona Hotelera.

  This VIP Adnission package to Coco Bongo comes with skip-the-line VIP entry (the lines here can be crazy), excellent seats for the shows, 15 premium drinks and more.

  This Gold Pass to Mandala Club Cancun includes admission and $50 of food and drinks.

7
Explore The Rio Secreto Nature Reserve
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7. Explore The Rio Secreto Nature Reserve

This wild little day trip isn’t what you normally think of when you think of Cancun, but dont let that stop you from taking a break from the sunshine and trying out a new adventure! Rio Secreto (The Secret River) is an underground cave/cenote system filled with stalactites, stalagmites and beautiful fresh water that you’ll spend the day wading and swimming through. Small group tours include guide, transport, lunch, wetsuits, hard hats, water shoes and more. This is widely considered an unforgettable experience.

  This is definitely one of the most popular tours and has an option for hotel pick up for convenience.

8
Visit The Islands
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8. Visit The Islands

Just off the coast of Cancun are the magical islands of Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy. If you don’t have the time to spend a few days on the laid-back Isla Mujeres, be sure to take a day tour to visit. There are a wide variety of catamaran and snorkeling tours available departing from Cancun. If you feel like getting a little more “wild”, include a stop at the Isla Contoy nature preserve.

  Here are a number of excellent day tours to Isla Mujeres.

  These are the top rated tours to Isla Contoy.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

When going on vacation in the time of Covid, Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Most of the current policies cover Covid medical issues as well as vacation delays due to Covid. They typically even cover your hotel if you test positive in Mexico and have to extend your trip a few days until you get a negative test. Our visitors almost unanimously choose a Trawick International Safe Travels plan which was a Forbes top-rated travel insurance plan of 2021. Easily compare the different Trawick, Generali and other top travel insurance plans here.

Where To Stay In Cancun

There are all types of wonderful accommodations in Cancun. From all-inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For information about the different neighborhoods and great hotel recommendations, check out our Cancun Hotel Guide.

Cancun Hotel Guide

For hotel recommendations for every budget, check out our Cancun Hotel Guide

What To Eat In Cancun

Cancun is famous for its stunning beaches, pristine turquoise waters, and exciting nightlife. But on top of being an electrifying destination to visit, you can also find a wide range of wonderful bites to eat. If you’re looking for a culinary adventure in Cancun, check out our Cancun Restaurant Guide.

Cancun Restaurant Guide, The Best Restaurants In Cancun

For great restaurant recommendations, check out our Cancun Restaurant Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

The Mexican Caribbean is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure, one can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a list to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Mexico Vacation Guide.

What To Pack For Your Mexican Vacation

Check out our guide for what to bring on your Mexican vacation!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Oh man, as a first time visitor to Cancun I was completely overwhelmed and your guide just saved my life! Seriously thank you so much for posting this. It has made my visit so much more relaxed. I am going to read the Cenotes one next!

  2. We LOVE the lucha libre show idea. We will definitely look into that when we visit next month.

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