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Top 10 Things to Do in Cancún, Mexico

2 March 2023
By Justin Caton

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Cancún is known for its rich history and cultural Mayan heritage, beautiful beaches, turquoise ocean, warm weather, and inspired cuisine. While planning for your ICANN76 trip, you may want to schedule time to explore its many attractions before or after the meeting. Here is a list of 10 activities you may want to consider when visiting Cancún, Mexico.

  1. Walk along the Marina Adventure Bay Playa Tortugas, which is known for its relaxed atmosphere and clean sands. Located in the northern part of the Hotel Zone, Cancún 7, the area offers open-air restaurants for evening dining. During the day, umbrella and chair rentals are also available. From its pier, ferries depart for Isla Mujeres.
  2. Just a 30-minute ferry ride from Cancún, visit the Isla Mujeres, or the Island of Women. Many terminals in the Hotel Zone, including Playa Caracol and the Cancún center offer ferries to Isla Mujeres. On the island, rent a golf cart or drive to the island's southern tip, Punta Sur. There you will find an ancient Mayan temple and beautiful landscapes. You may also visit Garrafon Natural Reef Park, offering activities such as zip lining, kayaking, and snorkeling.
  3. Visit the beautiful, public beach, Playa Marlin. It is just a five-minute walk from the Kukulcan Plaza shopping mall. Although the waters can be too rough for swimming, they are ideal for water sports like parasailing. Lifeguards are present during the day and beach supplies are available for rent.
  4. While they may not have the awe factor of Chichén Itzá, the El Rey Ruins have convenience on their side. Located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, the ruins are accessible to visitors, and the site's small size makes it easy to find. Once a center for maritime trade, El Rey dates back to A.D. 1200. People flock to El Rey to mingle with the hundreds of iguanas that have invaded the former Mayan town. The El Rey Ruins are open between 8:00 and 17:00 Eastern Standard Time (EST), and admission is 55 pesos (roughly $2.50). As is the case at Chichen Itza, there are guides available for hire to learn more about the history of the archaeological site.
  5. The Museo Maya de Cancún houses archeological pieces from significant historic sites across Mexico. It is located on Boulevard Kukulcan in the southern portion of Cancún's Hotel Zone. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 18:00 EST, with final entry at 17:30 EST. Cost of admission is 80 Mexican pesos or about $4 per person.

    Within its three exhibit halls, the museum displays roughly 400 archeological artifacts, many of which were found at Chichén Itzá (see more below). It boasts floor-to-ceiling, hurricane-resistant glass windows – a necessary design element following the original anthropology museum's closure in 2004 due to hurricane damage. Adjacent to the museum is an archaeological site which offers walking trails to explore. Visit the museum on a rainy day, as most of Cancún's alternative attractions are outdoors.

  6. Visit Chichén Itzá. This Mayan pyramid-like El Castillo is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Mexico. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named it a world heritage site. Mayans built the temple to honor the god Kukulkan. The surrounding area served as a center of Mayan civilization for centuries.

    To avoid crowds, plan to visit Chichén Itzá in the early morning. Bring water, bug repellent, a hat, and appropriate footwear. Chichén Itzá is about a two- and half-hour car or bus ride from Cancún. It is recommended to hire local guides through the company Gray Line. If you're not planning to use an organized tour, the bus service provided by ADO departs every day at 8:45 EST. Bus tickets cost about 250 pesos (about $12) and do not include admission to the site. Chichén Itzá is open year-round from 8:00 to 17:00 EST. Admission costs 486 Mexican pesos (roughly $23) per person.

  7. The Mayan city of Tulum is about 130 kilometers (or 81 miles) south of Cancún. It was built late in the thirteenth century, during what is known as the Mayan post-classic period. The city was a seaport, trading mainly in turquoise and jade. Visiting Tulum is a perfect day trip. The site offers well-preserved ruins and an excellent beach.

    Most prominent among the remaining structures is the Castillo, or castle, which overlooks the Caribbean coast. Be advised, its steep steps are best approached sideways. Tulum remains popular because of its elegant setting and it is the only Mayan city built on the coast.

  8. Try the cuisine at the Mayan-themed restaurant, Labná, with its fabulous dishes prepared by chef Elviro Pol. The Yucatán Tour sampler platter offers a little taste of everything. Finish off your meal with some maja blanco (white pudding), and xtabentún-infused Mayan coffee.
  9. The family-based Peter's Restaurante offers some of the best cooking in the city. The restaurant is located near the Hotel district. Dutch chef Peter Houben has blended European, Mexican, and international cuisine.
  10. For authentic Yucatan home-cooking, locals recommend Lonchería El Pocito. Its menu changes daily and offers many regional classics. Wash your meal down with a refreshing agua de chaya (Mexican tree spinach water).


Justin Caton