The best things to see and do in Cancún

Cancún is a must-visit resort in Mexico, known for its array of idyllic beaches and range of stunning attractions close to the hotel zone. From swimming with dolphins to the world-famous underwater museum, we’ve gathered the best things to do in Cancún.

1. Chichén Itzá

As the most famous and best restored of the archaeological Yucatán Maya sites, Chichén Itzá is a must-see for all visitors to Cancún. The 6.5km sq site is considered to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, with the spectacular Pyramid of Kukulkan and the 25 metre-long calendar stone real highlights.

If you visit during the spring equinox, March 19-22, watch out for the moment when the sun creates the illusion of a feathered serpent god descending the stairs of the Pyramid of Kukulkan – one of the great sights of the world. But whenever you go, make sure you stick around for the nightly sound and light show.

2. Museo Subacuático de Arte

Translated as the Underwater Museum of Art, the Museo Subacuático de Arte is one of Cancún’s top attractions, as well as a vital lifeline for the region’s coral reefs. The museum was created to draw people away from nearby reefs, which were being damaged by the huge amount of visitors, and now thousands visit this unique underwater art collection every year instead.

Located between the coast of Cancún and Isla Mujeres, the underwater museum consists of 475 submerged sculptures, which provide a stunning experience for visitors and an important home for local marine life. You can either look at the exhibits in a glass-bottomed boat or grab a snorkel and mask and get really close up.

3. Sistema Dos Ojos

Known simply as Dos Ojos, this world-famous spot for snorkelling and diving is part of a flooded cave system north of Tulum on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, and attracts thousands of visitors every year to its gorgeous blue ‘cenotes’, or sinkhole entrances.

These entrances feature amazingly clear blue water, so are ideal for snorkelling or even just taking photos of the turquoise waters and lush jungle surroundings. If you’re really brave, some cenotes offer visitors the chance to cave dive, throwing yourself off a cliff and plummeting hundreds of feet down into the pool below.

4. Mercado 23 & 28

If you like the hustle and bustle of a local market, then head to Mercado 23, one of Cancún’s first and most famous. With stalls heaving with meat, fish, fruit, grains, tortillas, groceries and plants, many locals do their food shopping here, and just walking around gives a real sense of Mexican culture.

If you fancy buying a few souvenirs, head to Mercado 28, which features brightly coloured stalls selling a vast range of Mexican arts and crafts, as well as plenty of clothes and accessories. Remember that negotiating a good price is part of the experience, so as long as you have your haggling head on, you should grab a few bargains.

5. El Rey Ruins

A little closer to the main hotel district, these excavated ruins date back to 1800BC and feature 47 stone structures that recall the atmosphere and history of the Mayan World. Look hard and you’ll see images of kings engraved on the walls.

While you’re there, watch out for the site’s hundreds of iguanas, which have become used to the thousands of visitors El Rey attracts every year.

6. Museo Maya de Cancún

The Mayan Museum of Cancún is a haven for lovers of Mayan history, with one of Mexico’s finest collections of art and archaeological discoveries from this ancient civilisation. The huge building is not only home to more than 3,500 priceless artefacts, it features the San Miguelito archaeological site, an oasis of calm containing around 40 Mayan structures, including a 26 foot-tall pyramid.

Look out for the La Mujer de las Palmas (The Woman of the Palms), the remains of a woman who’s believed to have lived in the Yucatan Peninsula around 12,000 years ago and is covered in jade and malachite jewellery.

7. Playa Tortugas

There’s no shortage of idyllic beaches in Cancún, but one of the best is Playa Tortugas. Widely known as a beach for the locals, it has a more relaxed atmosphere than many other beaches in the hotel zone and boasts a number of open-air restaurants that are great whether you’re eating during the day or at night.

If you fancy a bit more action to go with your beach break then Playa Tortugas also has volleyball courts, a nearby coral reef, and a pier you can bungee jump from.

8. Coco Bongo

If you still have some energy left at 10.30pm, head over to party till the early hours at Coco Bongo. This nightclub is famous around the world for its procession of conga lines, acrobats, live bands, dancers and performances, turning a normal night out into a fantastic experience for all the senses.

Every night at Coco Bongo is completely different, with special effects, balloons, soap bubbles and confetti adding to the loony atmosphere of cocktails and general weirdness. Most clubs you won’t remember in the morning – this one you definitely will.

9. Isla Mujeres

If you need a break from the fast pace of Cancún then head to Isla Mujeres, a small island just a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancún. Translated as ‘Island of Women’, Isla Mujeres has some of the world’s best beaches to go with its famous laid-back atmosphere. Head to Playa Norte for fine white sand, clear blue waters and an inviting hammock.

The island is also a haven for wildlife, both in the sea and on the land. El Farito reef, a natural water park, offers a huge variety of tropical fish and coral reef to explore, while Isla Contoy National Park is home to a vast range of sea birds, as well as an impressive array of plants and flowers.

If you fancy taking in the full range of attractions in Cancún then take a look at Club Med’s range of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico.

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