By Briana Seftel
Cancun...just the mere mention of this paradise on Mexico's Caribbean coast brings to mind white-sand beaches, spring breakers and all-inclusive resorts. Whether you're headed for some much-need R&R or for a fun-filled girl's weekend, there is something for everyone in Cancun. Add these ten things to do to your itinerary!
Hit the beach
Okay, so this one's pretty obvious, but Cancun's beaches really are something out of a dream. Can sand really be this soft and white? Yes. Can water be this clear and blue? Absolutely. While you can certainly choose to bask in the sun comfortably at your hotel or resort's beach, you can also choose from a wide variety of public beaches including Playa Juventud, Playa Delfines, Playa Ballenas, and Playa Marlin. The best part? They're all completely free!
Swim to the Cancun Underwater Museum
While Cancun has a number of great museums on land, it's the Cancun Underwater Museum (Museo Subacuático de Arte) that really takes the cake. Located southwest of Isla Mujeres, this underwater museum has over 500 life-size statues built to help rejuvenate the area’s damaged marine life. While you'll need to scuba or snorkel to this museum, the journey will certainly be worth it! Bring an underwater camera to snap photos of this incredible sight.
Travel tip: If you do not want to scuba or snorkel, you visit the museum aboard a glass-bottomed boat.
Unleash your inner thrill-seeker at an eco park
The area surrounding Cancun has two major eco parks worth visiting: Xcaret and Xel Ha. Located about an hour drive from Cancun in Playa del Carmen, Xcaret has more than 50 natural and cultural attractions. With underground rivers, a Mayan village, entertainment and more, it's fun for the whole family. Xel Ha, about a 1 hour and 30 minutes from Cancun, is another nature-filled paradise with plenty of snorkeling opportunities, a zip-line, mangroves and more.
Uncover history at ancient ruins
Mexico's Yucatan region is dotted with ancient Mayan ruins. In Cancun, you will find two lesser-known sites: El Rey and El Meco. Beyond Cancun, explore the more popular ruins of Tulum, Coba, and Chichen Itza. Just make sure you arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds!
Dive or snorkel through a cenote
A cenote, which means "sacred well," is a naturally formed sinkhole and a place of worship in Mayan culture. Created from fallen bedrock, there are over 6,000 cenotes found across the Yucatan Peninsula. One of the most famous cenotes in the region is Tulum's Gran Cenote, consisting of several cenotes with water is clear as can be! If you want to stay closer to Cancun, La Ruta de Los Cenotes in Puerto Morelos is the closest place where you can find several cenotes.
Go bird watching
Fancy a bit of wildlife spotting? Head to Isla Contoy, located off the northeastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Bird Island, as it's also known, is home to over 90 species of marine birds, plus thick mangrove forests and pristine white-sand beaches. A nationally-protected area, Isla Contoy limits its visitors to 200 per day, so you'll need to book in advance if you want to experience this bird sanctuary.
Visit an island
Just off the coast of Cancun are several islands that make a perfect day trip! One of the most popular is Cozumel, located 51 miles south of Cancun. With its extensive coral reefs, Cozumel is considered to be one of the best dive spots in the world. Equally as beautiful is Isla Mujeres, located just a 20-minute ferry ride away from Cancun. Lay out on Playa Norte or visit the island's turtle sanctuary and rehabilitation center. The sleepy island of Holbox is another great choice with some of the region's best unspoiled beaches.
Shop 'til you drop
If shopping is your idea of fun, Cancun will satisfy. With a number of American and international shops spread across several shopping plazas, you'll be able to find whatever you need. For a more local experience, head to Mercado 28, a massive flea market selling everything from locally-made souvenirs and pottery to traditional Mexican clothing.
Indulge in local cuisine
Cancun's culinary scene is much more than Señor Frogs. Not really an adventurous eater? You'll find plenty of familiar options like Italian and sushi. Looking to taste traditional Yucatan cuisine? Cancun's got you covered. Along with the super-fresh fish tacos, you'll find local specialties like lobster, tamales and cochinita pibil, or roasted pork seasoned with achiote, orange and other spices. Wash it all down with an ice-cold Corona or a margarita (hey, you're in Cancun after all).
Dance the night away
Cancun's nightlife is legendary. Within the Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera), you'll find a wide array of bars, clubs and family entertainment. Practice your salsa dancing skills at Grand Mambo Cafe or dance into the early morning hours at one of the many trendy nightclubs like Coco Bongo.