Cancun is always exciting. Although many can’t help but associate the city with its hard-knocked party image, Cancun is so much more. The glitzy resorts, buzzing swarms of spring break revellers on the waterfront, and the touristy restaurants barely scratch the surface.
Take a chance, explore Cancun, and you’ll find a city filled with unique attractions, cultural nuances, and opportunities for last minute seaside excursions. Here’s our list of what to look for when you’ve just touched down on this sunny beachside paradise.
1. Hotel Zone Beaches
The Hotel Zone in Cancun is one giant beach. This sugar-white sandbar arches out from the mainland boast spectacular shorelines hemmed in by crystal-blue waters and sweeping palms
Along the Kulkulkan Boulevard, beaches range from busy, resort-front retreats like Playa Forum to the more laidback, bohemian-like Playa Delfines, a Blue Flag certified beach considered to be one of the cleanest in the region.
The locals hang out at Playa Tortuga, near the north of the Hotel Zone. This tranquil beach by the ferry pier to Isla Mujeres and is within walking distance of lively open-air restaurants, with gentler waves for snorkelling and wind-surfing. For water sports, Playa Marlin by the Kulkulcan Plaza Shopping Mall brushes against thrashing waves and strong undertows, perfect for boogie boarding, parasailing, and surfing.
2. Downtown Cancun
Experience authentic Mexican life in the backdrop of the Hotel Zone by venturing into Cancun’s dynamic and colourful downtown core. Eat, breath, and shop like the locals by stepping into Mercado 28 (Market 28), and walk among this open-air market’s many handcrafted jewelry stalls, clothing stalls, and local eateries.
Grab a handful of marquesitas from the street vendors in Parque de las Palapas and enjoy weekly events at the city’s main park. Stay for the park’s live music performances or exhibitions on a quiet weekend evening, or browse through local handicraft on display at one of its many wooden cart stalls.
Catch a live bullfight at Plaza de Toros (Bullring) near the northern entrance of Kulkulkan Boulevard. The bullring also hosts live concerts and performances, with easy access to many bars and restaurants serving Cancun’s famous Michelada.
3. Underwater Museum of Art
Hundreds of life-like sculptures litter the ocean floor of the National Marine Park. Part of a conservation effort to divert tourists from the damaged coral reef systems nearby, the park features 500 different concrete sculptures in realistic but symbolic poses, with some adorning damaged coral reefs to highlight the impact human traffic has on the local marine ecosystem.
British artist, Jason deClaires Taylor, along with five other Mexican sculptors created most the sculptures. The park also hosts scuba diving, snorkelling, and submarine tours around different underwater galleries spread across the waters of Cancun.
4. Museo Maya – The Maya Museum
Nestled between an extravagant golf course and a scatter of all-inclusive resorts, the Maya Museum displays ancient history within its many modern halls. The museum’s sleek and contemporary exhibits house more than 350 Mayan artifacts found across the Yucatan Peninsula, some more than 14,000 years old.
5. Isla Mujeres
The sun rises first in Cancun from a slender 7 km long strip of land known as Isla Mujeres. On this picturesque, idyllic island are soft, velvety beaches touched by the azure, placid waters of the Caribbean Sea.
A mere 13 km from the bright lights of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is the place to unwind and escape from the excitement across the shore. On the island, you can do as little as you like, or hop on a golf cart and explore the jagged coastline and Mayan temple ruins of Punta Sur along the southern tip.
Surrounded by coral reefs and unspoiled underwater wildlife, Isla Mujeres is popular among scuba divers, snorkelers, and day-trippers visiting Quintana Roo. From Cancun, Isla Mujeres can be reached by ferry rides from Puerto Juarez, Playa Tortugas, Playa Caracol, and El Embarcadero piers.
6. Coco Bongo Cancun
Cancun is not a city that goes quietly into the night. At Coco Bongo Cancun nightclub, the nightly stage shows live up to that reputation. With bright light, disco music, rains of confetti, a mix of pop culture and Broadway, the live performances dazzle with acrobats in character costumes dancing to elaborate choreography.
Coco Bongo is not the place for mindlessly drinking the night away while nodding along to uninspired house music; it’s the place to experience the energy of Cancun in full blast. Jump into a bubble party and feel the excitement of the conga lines streaming through falling balloons, and cheer on its bombastic stage performances.
Located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, Coco Bongo opens its doors from 10:30 pm to 5:00 am, and tickets to the nightly shows can be pre-purchased online.