Cancun, Mexico - best things to do in Cancun, Mexico
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Cancun bucket list: 15 top things to do in Cancun, Mexico

Let’s discover the best things to do in Cancun, Mexico – one of the most popular tropical destinations in the world! From turquoise white sand beaches and mouthwatering street food to adventurous day trips and water activities – Cancun has it all!

We spent three weeks in Cancun exploring everything in the city and all the bucket list destinations around it so I can safely say that there is something for everyone in Cancun!

In this blog post, you will find the best things to do in Cancun with descriptions, photos, and locations on the map. I also included the most famous day trips from Cancun that you mustn’t skip while there! Happy travels!

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Read more » 22 ultimate day trips from Cancun, Mexico

1. Hunt down the best Mexican tacos in Cancun!

Best tacos in Cancun, Mexico-Taqueria Coapeñitos
Taqueria Coapeñitos
Best tacos in Cancun, Mexico-El Socio Naiz Taquería
El Socio Naiz Taquería

Over the course of three weeks that we spent in Cancun, we went on a hunt to find the best tacos in Cancun. We tried more than a dozen places and it was one of my favorite things to do in Cancun – exploring the local culture through food.

Some of my favorite taco spots were Taqueria Coapeñitos, Taquería el Poblano, Tacos de la Yaxchilan, Tacos Los Parejas, and tacos with a unique twist at El Socio Naiz Taquería. Most of the best taco spots are located downtown in Cancun.

To fully explore the local taco scene and taste multiple different Mexican tacos I recommend going on the popular Cancun taco tour that will take you to some of the taco spots that I mentioned. But you can also visit them on your own schedule.

2. Take a photo at the colorful Cancun letters!

Cancun, Mexico - the colorful Cancun letters at Playa Langosta
Cancun sign at Playa Langosta
Cancun, Mexico - the colorful Cancun letters at Playa Delfines
Cancun sign at Playa Delfines

One of the most popular Instagram spots in Cancun is the colorful Cancun letters. Everyone who travels to this part of Mexico quickly finds out that these letters are a thing here in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Wherever you go, every city, town, and village has these photo-perfect letters somewhere in a central location and Cancun is not an exception. We found Cancun letters in multiple locations around the city.

The most popular signs in Cancun Hotel Zone are at Playa Delfines beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in Cancun – and at Playa Langosta beach. There are some in downtown Cancun too – at the Cancun Town Hall and at Market 28.

Location: Playa DelfinesPlaya LangostaCancun Town HallMercado 28

3. Go on a day trip to Chichén Itzá!

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
One of the most popular day trips from Cancun is to Chichen Itzá

One of the most popular day trips from Cancun is to the famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itzá. It is one of the most visited places in Mexico, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and voted among the New 7 Wonders of the World.

What now is a popular tourist destination, historically was one of the largest Mayan cities dating back to 600 AC. It existed as a major regional center for many centuries until its decline by the 12th century.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
Temple of Kukulcan in Chichén Itzá
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
Puuc architecture in Chichen Itza ruins

Chichén Itzá archaeological zone consists of multiple temples, pyramids, structures, and even a sacred cenote (cenote sagrado) where Mayans deposited valuables and gifts including human sacrifices as a form of sacrifice to their rain god Chaac.

The most famous structure is the great El Castillo pyramid (the castle) which is also known as the Temple of Kukulcan. The pyramid with the temple on top of it is 30 meters high and was built sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries.

Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
El Caracol – a Mayan observatory
Yucatan peninsula, Mexico - Mayan pyramids and Mayan ruins around Yucatan - Chichen Itza
Northeast side of the Chichen Itza pyramid

Visiting the Chichen Itza pyramid site is one of the bucket list things to do in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. And, obviously, this place gets super crowded so I recommend arriving as early as possible.

We visited Chichen Itza during our stay in Valladolid but you can easily do it from Cancun. There is a popular day trip group tour to Chichen Itza, cenote, and Valladolid from Cancun. Or you can opt for a private Chichen Itza tour to skip crowds.

Location: Chichén Itzá

4. Enjoy the famous Cancun beaches!

Cancun, Mexico - best things to do in Cancun - sunrise at Playa Delfines
Sunrise at Playa Delfines
Cancun, Mexico - best things to do in Cancun - sunrise at Playa Delfines
Playa Delfines

Cancun is all about gorgeous white-sand beaches and warm turquoise waters so exploring the most beautiful beaches is one of the top things to do in Cancun.

Playa Delfines is definitely amongst the most beautiful public beaches in Cancun. It is easily accessible as no hotels are blocking access and it features cute parasols, swings, and viewpoints.

Best Instagram spots in Cancun, Mexico - Playa Langosta
Playa Langosta
Cancun, Mexico - Cancun Hotel Zone
Cancun Hotel Zone

Another gorgeous beach and one of my favorite beaches in Cancun was Playa Langosta – a white-sand public beach with shallow turquoise water and a small lush palm tree garden right next to the white sands.

Other popular beaches to check out include Playa Marlin and Playa Chacmool both of which stretch along the Cancun Hotel Zone, as well as Playa Tortugas, located closer to downtown Cancun.

Location: Playa DelfinesPlaya LangostaPlaya MarlínPlaya ChacmoolPlaya Tortugas

5. Ride the Skywheel Cancun to see Cancun from above!

Cancun, Mexico - Ferris Wheel Cancun
View from the Skywheel Cancun
Cancun, Mexico - Ferris Wheel Cancun
You get to ride three roundtrips on the wheel

One of my favorite things to do in Cancun was winding the Skywheel Cancun – a ferris wheel inside La Isla shopping village in the Cancun Hotel Zone. It is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Cancun!

Your ticket includes three full roundtrips around the wheel to see the city and the Caribbean Sea from above. And get some of those scenic Cancun photos from a bird’s-eye view!

Cancun, Mexico - Ferris Wheel Cancun
Skywheel Cancun
Cancun, Mexico - Ferris Wheel Cancun
Skywheel Cancun at night

The ferris wheel operates from early afternoon to late at night and is one of the highest places you can get to see Cancun from above. We happened to go there right before the sunset and got amazing golden views over the whole city and lagoon.

It is not the cheapest attraction (nearly 20 USD per person) but you get your cabin all to yourself which is a big plus if you travel as a couple or with your group or family – makes for just another one of those unforgettable moments! We loved it!

Location: Skywheel Cancun

6. Go on a trip to Isla Mujeres – the Sunrise of Mexico!

Best Instagram spots in Isla Mujeres in Mexico
Isla Mujeres features gorgeous beaches
Best Instagram spots in Isla Mujeres in Mexico
Playa Norte is a famous beach in Mexico

One of the must-do day trips from Cancun is to Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) – a small island off the coast of Cancun known for its stunning turquoise waters and white sandy beaches including Playa Norte – one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico!

Isla Mujeres proudly boasts vibrant coral reefs and a unique underwater museum with sculptures so going on a snorkeling tour in Isla Mujeres is one of the most popular things to do. But many people come to simply enjoy its laid-back atmosphere.

Best Instagram spots in Isla Mujeres in Mexico
Sculpture of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel
Best Instagram spots in Isla Mujeres in Mexico
We loved spending the day at a beach club

Besides snorkeling, other popular things to do in Isla Mujeres include spending the day at some of those gorgeous beaches, especially Playa Norte, exploring the local food scene, and going on a road trip around the tiny island.

There is a special place at the South end of Isla Mujeres called Punta Sur Sculpture Park where you can wander around ancient Mayan ruins, explore coastal cliffs, and check out sculptures including that of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel.

Overall we really enjoyed visiting Isla Mujeres – very different vibes than in Cancun! If you can, I recommend walking up early for the sunrise. Isla Mujeres is often regarded as the ‘Sunrise of Mexico’ as it is the Easternmost point of the whole country.

Location: Isla Mujeres

7. Explore the colors, flavors, and smells of Mercado 28!

Cancun, Mexico - shops at Mercado 28 in Cancun
Cancun, Mexico - Mercado 28

Mercado 28 is the legend of Cancun! Visiting the vibrant, colorful, and bustling Mercado 28 in Cancun is one of the must-do things to do in Cancun! It is a big fun maze in the middle of the city and a popular spot amongst tourists and locals!

In this iconic downtown market, you can find all kinds of cool stuff – like colorful hats, handmade pottery, other souvenirs, unique jewelry, shoes, clothes, spices, and also food!

Cancun, Mexico - shops at Mercado 28 in Cancun
Cancun, Mexico - Mercado 28

As we strolled through the narrow aisles stuffed full of all kinds of goods, friendly and passionate vendors invited us to come to their stores to see and try their crafts. Suddenly I felt so famous – everyone wanted to be friends, haha!

The whole vibe of Mercado 28 is just awesome – like stepping into a lively, colorful world full of local culture. This is definitely one of the must-see places in Cancun – even if you are not planning to buy anything!

Location: Mercado 28

8. Try the famous local snack – marquesita!

Cancun, Mexico - marquesita street food in Cancun
You must try marquesitas in Cancun!
Cancun, Mexico - marquesita street food in Cancun
Street food stall in Cancun

Everyone knows about tacos but if there is one specific food you have to try in this part of Mexico it has to be a marquesita – a sweet Mexican street food that originated in the Yucatán peninsula.

Marquesita is basically a thinly rolled waffle with different sweet fillings like jams, fruit, dulce de leche (caramel), Nutella, and sometimes grated cheese. I have eaten like 20 marquesitas and my go-to order is with banana and nutella. Yum!

Marquesitas are a street food so you have to look for food stalls on the streets. They usually open in the evening. The two most popular street food hotspots in Cancun are Parque de las Palapas park and a square in front of the Cancun Town Hall.

Location: Parque de las PalapasCancun Town Hall

9. Go on a beach walk to Punta Cancun Lighthouse!

Cancun, Mexico - Punta Cancun Lighthouse
Punta Cancun Lighthouse is one of the most iconic places in Cancun

Punta Cancun is a rocky outcrop in the Cancun Hotel Zone and the Easternmost point of mainland Mexico. It also boasts a massive red and white striped lighthouse – Punta Cancun Lighthouse.

The iconic lighthouse is a worthy place to visit and a scenic photo spot in Cancun with waves crashing into the rocks.

Although hotels are blocking access to the lighthouse, you are allowed to visit it for free. Use this street to access Playa Caracol and then simply walk along the beach to the lighthouse. It will be a 10-15min walk. Your feet will be wet!

Location: Punta Cancun Lighthouse

10. Go on a snorkeling trip to the Great Maya Reef!

Snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Mexico
I tried snorkeling here in Mexico for the first time in my life! And it was epic!

This part of Mexico is known as one of the best snorkeling destinations worldwide. The shallow turquoise beaches and the proximity to the second-largest barrier reef in the world – the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef – make it the perfect place for this activity!

The Mesoamerican Reef is also known as the Great Mayan Reef and a snorkeling trip to see the coral reef to see the sea turtles, tropical fish, and other marine life is one of the bucket list things to do in Cancun and in the Yucatan peninsula.

I recommend doing a full-day snorkeling tour from Cancun to five different snorkeling areas including the coral reef but for a different experience, you can do a half-day snorkeling tour of the coral reef near Puerto Morelos, a charming fishing village near Cancun.

11. Wait for the sunrise in the Caribbean Sea!

Cancun, Mexico - best things to do in Cancun - sunrise at Playa Delfines
Watching the sunrise at the beach is one of the best things to do in Cancun

The area around Cancun is the Easternmost part of Mexico so we had to wake up early one morning to watch the sunrise in the Caribbean Sea. We drove to Playa Delfines – one of the most beautiful beaches in Cancun and it was wonderful.

There were already a few early risers waiting for the sun to come up. It was nice to enjoy the beach almost empty and to experience this moment – one that I will cherish for a long time for sure.

Location: Playa Delfines

12. Explore the ancient Mayan ruins in Cancun!

Cancun, Mexico - El Meco Archaeological Zone
The ancient Mayan temple in El Meco archaeological zone near Cancun

Did you know that there are archaeological sites in the Cancun area? And one of the Mayan sites is right in the heart of the Cancun Hotel Zone. Yeah, I didn’t know this but it is true.

One of the Mayan ruins is the El Meco archaeological zone located a 10-minute drive from Cancun downtown. This archaeological site dates back to the 4th-7th centuries when it was a small Mayan fishing village.

Cancun, Mexico - El Meco Archaeological Zone
El Meco Archaeological Zone
Cancun, Mexico - El Meco Archaeological Zone
El Meco Archaeological Zone

The highest structure in this archaeological zone is a beautiful temple that measures 12.5 meters high (40 ft). We arrived at the El Meco Archaeological Zone by taxi from Cancun. The site is full of curious iguanas and will take about 30 minutes to explore.

Another archaeological zone is located in the heart of the hotel zone. El Rey archaeological zone once was a Mayan village and it dates back to almost 2000 years ago.

Cancun, Mexico - El Rey Archaeological Zone
El Rey Archaeological Zone
Cancun, Mexico - El Rey Archaeological Zone
El Rey Archaeological Zone

However, most of the structures in the El Rey ruins you see today were built between the 14th and 16th centuries. It is said that most of the Mayan people in this village worked in salt extraction and as fishermen.

The name of this place – El Rey – means ‘the King’ and comes from a sculpture that was found on this site and resembled a monarch. There are 47 structures in these Mayan ruins with some temples (but no pyramids). If you have free time, check it out!

Location: El Meco Archaeological ZoneEl Rey Archaeological Zone

13. Try Mexican street food in Parque de las Palapas!

Cancun, Mexico - tortas street food in Cancun
Torta – one of the most popular street foods!
Valladolid, Mexico-best tacos in Valladolid - El Tigrillo
Cochinita pibil tacos are a must-try!

When in Cancun, indulging in Mexican street food is a must. There are many star-attraction street foods to try in this part of Mexico. With marquesitas being one of only a few sweet dishes to try from street stalls, there are plenty of savory options.

Everyone knows tacos as a must-try street food in Cancun but there are more. Check out tortas – the same taco meat but with other fillings stuffed into a piece of bread. Then there are elotes and esquites – dishes with grilled corn.

I also recommend trying some dishes that are of Mayan origin like cochinita pibil tacos (specially prepared pork), salbutes, panuchos, tamales, and more.

To make it easier, I recommend joining a Cancun Street Food Tour or you can go to Parque de las Palapas in the evening and explore on your own – it is the most famous street food spot in Cancun downtown.

Location: Parque las PalapasCancun Street Food Tour

14. Watch the sunset from the Cancun Scenic Tower!

Cancun, Mexico - view from Cancun Scenic Tower
Watching the sunset from the Cancun Scenic Tower was one of my favorite things to do in Cancun

One of my favorite memories from Cancun was watching the sunset over Cancun from Torre Escénica or the Cancun Scenic Tower located in the Cancun Hotel Zone.

The Cancun Scenic Tower is a large platform that takes you 260 ft (80 m) above the city while rotating on its axis so you get to see panoramic 360-degree views over Cancun, the Caribbean Sea, and the Nichupté Lagoon.

Cancun, Mexico - view from Cancun Scenic Tower
Nichupté Lagoon from above
Cancun, Mexico - view from Cancun Scenic Tower
One of my favorite sunsets!

It is one of the highest places you can get to see the sunset in Cancun but it will be just as beautiful during the day too. We didn’t reserve anything – we just went there, bought tickets, and that’s it.

The only downside is that you have to remain seated during the whole trip but I was totally okay with that – at least nobody blocked the view and we could enjoy the city skyline the whole time. I really liked this experience!

Location: Torre Escénica

15. Explore the downtown Cancun street art!

Cancun, Mexico - best Instagram spots in Cancun - street art murals in Cancun
Street art at Avenida Yaxchilán
Cancun, Mexico - best Instagram spots in Cancun - street art murals in Cancun
Street art at Avenida Yaxchilán

During our three-week stay in Cancun, we rented an apartment in Cancun downtown and it was the best decision. Yes, to get to the beaches we had to drive further but we got to explore the lively downtown to the fullest.

We walked around a lot in the center of Cancun to restaurants, shops, markets, cafes, and street food stalls in the evening to get some of those tasty street foods in Cancun like marquesitas, tacos, and others.

Cancun, Mexico - best Instagram spots in Cancun - street art murals in Cancun
Street art at Mercado 28
Cancun, Mexico - best Instagram spots in Cancun - street art murals in Cancun
Street art at Avenida Yaxchilán

While wandering around the downtown we noticed a lot of street art murals in Cancun. They love street art over here and I love how it showcases the creative side of this unique destination.

We found a lot of murals inside the Mercado 28 premises and a lot of street art was along Avenida Yaxchilán (we walked the distance from Avenida Xcaret to Avenida Sunyaxchen).

Other nearby downtown ‘avenidas’ are also popular street art spots so if you happen to be around keep your eyes open! Every time we walked to some nearby taco place we took a different route and found more and more cool street art!

Location: Avenida YaxchilánMercado 28

Happy exploring!

Cancun was such a gem! This buzzing coastal city in Riviera Maya is all about enjoying the sandy beaches with blue water, trying different tasty Mexican foods, and fun nightlife. It is also the perfect place for exciting day trips around the Yucatán Peninsula!

We had the privilege of spending a few weeks in Cancun enjoying the famous beaches as well as the local cuisine. We also spent a couple of months traveling around the Yucatán Peninsula and exploring everything it had to offer.

From white-sand beaches to dark underground cenotes, and ancient pyramids – there’s just so much to see! I hope you enjoy your time there as much as we did and I hope you get some travel inspiration from this blog post for your travels too! Happy exploring!

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Best things to do in Cancun in Mexico
Best things to do in Cancun in Mexico

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