Cancun is primarily known as a wild party destination for spring breakers in Mexico. But don’t let that scare you, there are tons of other things to do in Cancun.
Okay, the party scene is amazing, but not everybody is into that. Checking out a salsa bar to get your groove on can be a pleasant alternative to shake your booty and at the same time get in touch with the Mexican vibe.
Find out what to do in Cancun in this round-up. It also includes things to do in Cancun on a budget, so you don’t have to break the bank to do some fun activities.
Map with all the highlights
Things to do in Cancun on a Budget
1. Free walking Tour of Cancun
Everybody knows that Cancun has beautiful beaches. But what else does Cancun have to offer? The best way to become acquainted with this city is to join a free walking tour. A guide leads the way to the best spots in Cancun. Plus you have the chance to connect with other travelers.
2. Go swimming
This is the most obvious thing to do in Cancun on this list, but it couldn’t be excluded. The white sandy beaches and aqua blue water in combination with the hot sun make an ideal combination to swim your sorrows away.
A part of the beach is private as hotels offer their guests a part of the beach in front of their hotel as a service. But there are plenty of public beaches too.
Some options of public beaches are: Playa Tortugas, Playa Forum and Chac Mool.
! Watch out for the strong current at the Caribbean side of the Hotel Zone. At the North side of the Hotel zone the water is calmer and more suitable for swimming.
3. Visit Parque las Palapas
One of our favourite things to do in Cancun is to take an evening stroll around Parque las Palapas in downtown Cancun. This public square is mostly buzzing with atmosphere. There are some fixed food stalls and tables surrounding the plaza where you can enjoy your snack.
On one side of the square you see a large stage often used by different artists and locals alike given the best show they can to entertain you.
In the evening some extra food stalls and vendors open up shop. It’s a nice place to walk around, while enjoying amazing street food and a relaxed atmosphere.
Address: Margaritas, 22, Cancun
4. Stroll around Parque del Artesano
You can find this little artsy parque almost right next to Parque las Palapas. Local vendors and travelers sell their handmade jewelry and other small handicrafts here.
Mostly there are just a few tables set up around the parque where the ambience is regularly cheered up by live performances. This is the place to be to find a pretty and unique souvenir in a very nice environment.
Address: Margaritas 26, 22, Cancun
5. Visit Parque Urbano Kabah
Nature park in the heart of the city where you can spot small animals like birds, turtles, coatis and monkeys. There are even a few pools with crocodiles and turtles.
It’s a nice little getaway from the city life. You can find a playground and a walking path. In the weekends you can participate at multiple activities like painting work shops, yoga, tai chi and more.
In short, it’s a nice place for relaxation.
Address: Avenida Nichupté 13
6. Visit mercado 23 and 28
Mercado 23 is a market full of fresh produce. Taste some local specialties at the many food stalls. This market is frequented mostly by locals, but it is becoming more popular with travelers. You don’t get hassled by the vendors here as they do at Mercado 28 – next on this list. Good place to experience more of the local life and eat a great lunch at the same time.
Address: Ciricote 15, 23
Mercado 28 is a market where you can buy many souvenirs. It is however mainly focused on tourists and their money. Vendors often use an in-your-face tactic to try to sell you their stuff. I am not a fan of this technique that can come of a little aggressive from time to time. But it might be a good place to train your bargaining skills.
Address: Xel-Ha M 2 13, San Miguel de Allende 28
7. Eat tacos and other delicacies at Quesadillas Tierra del Sol
Don’t skip this place! It is a local’s favourite and one of ours too! Just go to the counter and place your order. They will call you when your food is ready. You can add extra toppings to your liking such as spicy salsa, sour cream, tomatoes, unions,…
It is cheap and delicious!
Address: Margaritas MZA 21 LTE 32 C, 22
8. Take a picture at the Cancun sign
This isn’t the most exciting thing to do in Cancun but you can combine it with a little walk through the famous Hotel Zone. Or opt for a walk on the beach to enjoy the Caribbean sea some more.
If you want to enjoy the Caribbean even more, you can easily plan a Caribbean getaway, right from Cancun.
Address: Hotel Zone – Boulevard Kukulcan, Punta Nizuc
9. Visit Maya Ruins El Rey
So you are strolling around the Hotel Zone and just shot that obligatory holiday picture at the Cancun sign. Just a little further you stumble upon the Maya Ruins El Rey. This small site holds 47 structures and you can complete your sightseeing in around half an hour. It’s always nice to have ruins so close to the beach front. If it gets too hot, just take a dip in the sea afterwards.
Address: Hotel Zone – Boulevard Kukulcan Km 17
10. Enjoy the panoramic views on Cancun’s Scenic Tower
This activity only takes a couple of minutes but it is nice to get a 360° view of the area. Grab a seat inside of the tower and enjoy the scenery as it transports you up in the sky. Don’t bother with picking “the best seat” as the tower slowly spins you around so you can have a look at all the angles. Maybe it is a bit pricey for the short time you spend on it but it’s up to you to decide. Admission costs around 15$ or 13,6€.
Address: Hotel Zone – Boulevard Kukulcan Km 4,5
11. Visit Meco ruins
If you want to do a small excursion that doesn’t cost you a lot of money or effort, then a visit to the Meco ruins is a good option. It is a self-guided excursion as there are no guides available on this Maya site. The entrance is cheap, the setting is nice and you can see lots of iguanas while exploring the ruins.
Address: Carretera Puerto Juarez, Lopéz Portillo
Visit Cancun’s Museums
12. Museo Maya
Learning more about Mayan civilisation makes you understand the background of this country. Museo Maya has exhibitions inside, spread over several rooms and floors and a small site with ruins outside. The museum offers a big collection of Mayan artefacts discovered in and outside of Cancun, that will shed a light on the Mayan culture of thousands of years ago.
After visiting the museum, head outside to explore the ruins of San Miguelito archeological site. You might be surprised to find Mayan ruins in Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Another reminder that a couple of hundred years ago this land was inhabited and ruled by the Maya people.
Address: Blvd. Kukulcan km 16.5, Hotel Zone
13. MUSA Underwater Museum
Explore a totally different kind of museum underwater! There is a collection of statues and sculptures not too deep under the water surface at the coast of Isla Mujeres. This is a small island that is easily reachable by ferry from Cancun. You have different options to get to the statues. You can choose to snorkel, scuba dive, or take a ride on a boat with a glass bottom.
Don’t worry if you have never dived before. There is a tour for beginner divers available to explore this underwater world. Plus you also get the chance to explore a colourful reef in the same excursion.
Address: Cerrada Las Golondrinas, Alfredo V. Bonfil 24
14. Planetarium Ka’yok’
Take a look into space at the Planetarium. Enter the dome and experience a 360° view of what is out there. Have fun in the virtual reality room and visit Mars, Mayan sites on earth, or embark on a rollercoaster ride. In the museum you can also find an18 inch diameter telescope to explore the universe.
Address: 77505 Palenque 156 21 MO5, 21
Visit two of the most enjoyable Ventura parks
Address: Blvd Kukulcan, at the end of the Hotel Zone
15. Enjoy the water slides at Wet and wild Water park
The setting of this park is sublime. You can gaze across the aqua blue ocean while you wait in line with your rubber boat to get your adrenalin levels up in a water slide. It might be a good idea to bring your own lunch as the food you can buy there is mostly junk food. But, we had a great time feeling like a little kid again, enjoying the slides and the refreshing water.
16. Get adventurous at AaahVentura Park
Get your adrenaline pumping at this Caribbean adventure park. Test your nerve and your skills on numerous zip-lines, hanging bridges, bungee jumps, and more. The park is also suitable for children but maybe not for all activities. Some activities or more challenging then others and surely not for the faint of heart.
Have a party in Cancun’s Hotel Zone
17. Coco Bongo
Get ready to enter the party arena of Cancun at Coco Bongo! This spectacle is a challenge for all your senses. Expect to be overwhelmed by light shows, music, confetti, live performances, flying acrobates, and much more during the night. The whole club is one big dance floor and you won’t know where to look first!
Address: Blvd Kukulcan km 9,5
18. The City
Welcome to the City, the Largest club in Cancun with a capacity of 5000 people. This is a popular club with regular performances by international artists and the best DJ’s from all around the world.
Address: Blvd Kukulcan km 9
Mandala is super popular thanks to its medium size with a capacity up to 900 people which makes it more cozy and personal than the City. Mandala is full of vibrant colours and the complex is very inviting with a completely open front to the street.
Address: Blvd Kukulcan km 9
Combine a visit of 3 of the hottest clubs in Cancun with this 5 hour all you can drink Club and pub crawl! Get skip the line tickets, get VIP Access, reserved tables, and more.
Have a party in downtown Cancun
20. The Grand Mambo Café
If you want a local vibe, away from the Hotel Zone, than this is the place for you. It is the best place in Cancun to go total loose on salsa and reggaeton vibes. Don’t worry if you don’t know how, there are plenty of people around who would be happy to teach you!
Adress: Plaza Hong Kong
Shop for the best Tequila in town
21. Explore the Tequila Museum
It is called the Museo Sensorial del Tequila, but in fact it’s a liquor store. Nevertheless, you can buy some really tasty tequila here at a decent price. You pay less here than in the duty free zone of the airport and it is great quality as well. Explain to the vendors what kind of tequila you are looking for and they will help you out to find the perfect match for your taste buds.
Address: Calle Rtno. Kukulcan, Hotel Zone
Go on an island excursion
22. Go on a day trip to Isla Mujeres
A day trip to Isla Mujeres is easy to arrange with a ferry from Cancun. Go and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of this little gem. Rest your bum on Playa del Norte which is considered one of the best beaches in Mexico. Visit Garrafon Park at Punta Sur or take a look at the Turtle Farm. Enjoy the fresh sea food and a good cocktail before you head back to the city.
You can also opt to take this catamaran tour to explore the island.
23 . Snorkel with whale sharks in front of Isla Mujeres
This activity is something totally different. The underwater world is fascinating and the creatures living there are even more spectacular. On this tour you learn more about whale sharks and their natural habitat. Get ready to swim with these large fish in the clear waters at Isla Mujeres.
On our next trip to Cancun this activity is high up on my to-do list as it can easily be the most memorable thing to do here.
24. Take a day tour to Isla Contoy
Go on an excursion to an uninhabited tropical island. Isla Contoy is a Caribbean National Park with beautiful fauna and picture perfect beaches. A guided snorkel swim at the Ixlache reef is included in this tour, as well as a guided walk on the island. An extra stop at Isla Mujeres is the perfect end of this trip.
25. Go zip lining and/or on an ATV tour
Combine adventure and thrill seeking in the jungle at Selvatica Adventure Park. You can choose between different tours including flying like Tarzan through the jungle trees, swim in a cenote, take a ride on a jungle coaster, and ride through the mud track with an ATV.
Conclusion things to do in Cancun
As you can see, this student paradise offers so much more than what you first expect. For us, the best parts of Cancun are the amazing weather, tropical beaches, and the tacos at Quesadillas del sol.
We enjoyed other parts of Mexico more, because the party scene isn’t really are main focus while traveling. Nevertheless you can find some amazing things to do in Cancun besides the beach and the Hotel Zone. If you don’t want to hurt your wallet you can focus on the things to do in Cancun on a budget and still have a fun time.
Where are you going to travel to next? Take a look at this 2 weeks in Mexico itinerary of Yucatan and Chiapas. Cancun is used as a starting point for this Mexican trip.