Cancun is a tropical paradise in the Mexican Caribbean. Renowned for its unspoiled powder-white beaches, soothing aquamarine seas, and the remnants of mystic Indian civilizations, it is the ideal vacation resort. There are a variety of activities to enjoy in or near Cancun, which includes diving, snorkeling, water-skiing, deep-sea fishing, biking, golf, and tennis. A visit to the legendary archaeological sites should not be missed. Experience the magic Cancun has to offer, past and present.
There are significant Mayan ruins here, such as El Rey and the Yamil Lu’um, a crumbling tower of pale gray stone. Cancun, the seat of the municipality of Benito Juárez, is on the Caribbean Sea and is one of Mexico’s easternmost points. It is located north of Riviera Maya, Mexico’s Caribbean coast resort band. In older English language documents, the city’s name is sometimes spelled “Cancoon,” an attempt to convey the sound of the name.
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History of Cancun
The name Cancún, Cancum or Cankun first appeared on 18th-century maps. The meaning of Cancún is unknown, and it is also unknown whether the name is of Mayan origin. If it is, possible translations include “Place/Seat/Throne of the Snake” or “Enchanted Snake.” Snake iconography was prevalent at the pre-Columbian site of Nizuc.
The Maya originally called the area “Kan Kun,” meaning den of snakes, golden serpent, and abundant low-lying areas, which later evolved into “Can Cun” by the Spanish.
Cancun Mexico is a relatively new tourist destination. Only about 30 years ago, in the 70s, the former Mexican President Echeverria started an ambitious project to build up a tourism center larger and brighter than Acapulco was at the time. This brand-new, world-class resort was planned to be built on the Yucatan Peninsula in southern Mexico.
Best Time To Go To Cancun
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The best time to visit Cancún is from December to April during the peak season. Even though the crowds are heavier, you’ll experience near-perfect weather and find some of the cheapest flight and room rates for a winter getaway at the beach. Just try to avoid traveling from mid-March to early April — that’s when spring breakers descend on the Yucatán’s shores. There are also significant discounts in late spring, summer, and fall, but Cancún summers are sweltering and the fall months are prone to bad storms.
The worst time to visit Cancun is during the Caribbean hurricane season from June through November. It hits Cancun hardest in September and October. Average rainfall spikes in June drops back down in July and August, then goes up to more than 8 inches over the next two months. The number of days with rain is 14 in September and 16 in October.
Top 15 Things to do in Cancun, Mexico
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Isla Mujeres is a beautiful and peaceful paradise just across the Bahia de Mujeres (Bay of Women) from Cancun, Mexico. This breathtaking view is more laid-back and tranquil than Cancun, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do, it just means you can either do nothing at all or fill your day with water sports, shopping, exploring, and drinking in that special atmosphere that is Isla Mujeres.
Ideally situated in a tranquil fishing village on the island of Isla Mujeres, this luxurious all-inclusive resort offers endless activities and entertainment, along with gourmet dining options.
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Come and enjoy an unforgettable experience that includes entertainment, exquisite food, and the joy of a country that welcomes you with open arms at Xcaret eco-archaeological Park. Enjoy a traditional Fiesta Charra and the Mayan Ball Game, or if you are a nature-lover, visit the Jaguar Island and the colorful Butterfly Pavillion.
Xcaret’s Children’s World is a new and great attraction with water sliders, hanging bridges, cenotes, a parakeet habitat, and a playground in perfect harmony with the impressive Mayan jungle.
Delve into the trails of Xcaret to discover how the Mayan jungle and culture of Mexico combine in more than 50 exciting attractions. Located on the seashore near Cancun in the Riviera Maya, Xcaret has attractions for everyone.
Photo by Arian Zwegers
Mexico’s historical legacy is rich and varied and the Mayans have left a stunning mark on the country with their beautiful stone structures. To travel to Cancun and to not see one of these magnificent constructions would certainly mean missing out on the essence of this destination. The Chichen Itza, an ancient city that lies in the Yucatan Penninsula, is a part of the Seven Wonders of the World. The gorgeous, 24-meter-tall pyramid called El Castillo is a wonderful example of Mayan architecture.
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Regarded as one of the world’s greatest Natural Wonders, Xel-Há provides one of the best experiences in the heart of the Riviera Maya. Practice snorkeling and see hundreds of colorful fish and a great diversity of marine species that inhabit its cove and cenotes. At this all-inclusive-park, you can enjoy water activities, ecological attractions, restaurants, and the best scenery to admire while you relax in a hammock or while you stroll the nooks and crannies of Xel-Há. Come and immerse yourself in one of the cenotes, lagoons or caves, and enjoy the aquatic zip-lines you’ll only find at Xel-Há.
Swim and snorkel surrounded by rainbow-colored fish that have made the river and inlet their home; take long walks in the middle of the jungle; ride a bike; take the train or just relax while enjoying the lazy river! All these activities are included, too. The park offers wonderful scuba diving, snorkeling, and boating opportunities within the Riviera Maya.
Cancun Underwater Museum
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The Cancun Underwater Museum refers to the beautiful and eerie sculptures made by artist Jason deCaires Taylor. Today, sculptures by other artists have also been added to the mix of underwater art. The museum highlights the relationship between art and environmental science, and all of the sculptures are made from materials that promote coral life. Fruit and refreshments will be served on board.
The coral reef sites in Cancun have received a huge influx of visitors over the years and this has taken its toll on the natural areas and ecosystems. The Cancun Underwater Museum is a unique way to draw people away from the reefs and create an artificial one where coral can grow and marine life can breed.
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This island nature reserve is home to 100 species of birds, including pelicans. Isla Contoy in the State of Quintana Roo is located at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 30 kilometers north of Isla Mujeres. The island is only 8.5 kilometers in length and has a surface area of 317 hectares. It is also considered the most important nesting place of sea birds in all of the Mexican Caribbean.
As you explore the island and swim in its pristine waters, you’ll feel what it would be like to spend time on a deserted island paradise, far from land and where you are a part of nature.
El Rey Ruins
Photo by Tristan Higbee
El Rey Ruins have convenience on their side. Located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, these ruins are extremely accessible to visitors. Moreover, the site’s small size makes it easy to see in a short time.
The tiny place is surrounded by beautiful palms and make up a wonderful natural habitat. This makes a visit to the El Rey Ruins quite different from most other Mayan archeological sites. There is a sense of wildness here that is an amazing thing to see.
Sistema Dos Ojos
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Dos Ojos is a snorkel and dive site on the Caribbean coast, located just north of Tulum. This site was discovered in 1987 and has been a popular tourist destination since then. Dos Ojos has one of the deepest known cave passages that runs 118 meters deep. This cave system has crystal clear water and visitors can see various shades of blue and green. Activities here include cave diving, snorkeling, scuba diving, and visiting a bat cave. There are also bathrooms and restaurant on site along with changing rooms.
This dive site is a must-do for any divers who are looking for something a little different. The name means “two eyes” in English.
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Enjoy one of the most beautiful cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Cenote Ik Kil is located on the highway between Chichen Itza (it’s only a couple of miles away from the archeological site) and Valladolid.
Located about 190 Kilometers (120 miles) north and west of the world-famous resort town of Cancun, the Ik Kil is a cenote that offers amazing experiences to those who visit it. Cenotes are considered to be an integral part of any tour to Cancun and Yucatan. There are no surface rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, all rivers are underground. A cenote is a spot where the limestone has collapsed into the underground water system.
Museo Maya De Cancun
Holding one of the Yucatán’s most important collections of Maya artifacts, this modern museum is a welcome sight in a city known more for its party scene than cultural attractions. On display are some 400 pieces found at key sites in and around the peninsula, ranging from sculptures to ceramics and jewelry. One of the three halls shows temporary Maya-themed exhibits.
The museum is elevated high above the sea to prevent destruction from natural elements. As the Cancún’s original anthropology museum was shut down in 2006 due to structural damage from hurricanes, this new museum features hurricane-resistant reinforced glass.
Located in the Riviera Maya, Xplor is a natural adventure park just south of Playa del Carmen. Activities here include 14 zip lines, amphibious vehicles, and underground rivers that feature amazing stalactites and stalagmites created over millions of years. After you are done with your adventures, you can have refreshments in the buffet restaurant, which features international favorites or the snacks bar, which serve yummy juices, smoothies, and cookies. This is the place that offers you a safe adventure in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and the Riviera Maya.
Xplor Park ticket is the key to one of the most exciting things to do in Cancun and Riviera Maya. Get ready to fly over the jungle and discover the secrets hidden underneath the ground in caves and rivers, the fun starts as soon as you enter the park. This has rapidly become one of the traveler’s favorite so save your spot with Happy Shuttle.
Splash into the cool water of subterranean rivers; paddle through atmospheric caves filled with stalactites; glide over the jungle canopy on a high-velocity zip line; drive an amphibious vehicle on exciting off-road trails.
This road is Cancun’s prime destination especially for those who fancy shopping and dining. Pretty much every restaurant is a culinary delight and every store is a curiosity. It’s also one of the safest spots in the city, so strolling in the twilight with your beloved with the ocean on one side and a lagoon on the other makes for a romantic experience. The constant fresh breeze is a fantastic plus.
Kukulkan Boulevard is approximately 9 miles long if walked from end to end. The street is well-manicured and mostly safe, although it’s a better idea to arrange a ride than walk alone at night.
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Playa Delfines is a beautiful beach in Cancun. If you are looking for a place that is slightly off the beaten track, do visit this. It isn’t as popular as the other beaches and certainly isn’t as crowded which makes it a wonderful and relaxing place. The forgotten beach is described as a rather underdeveloped beach as it hasn’t been taken over commercially.
In English, Playa Delfines means “Dolphin Beach,” and the name isn’t just whimsical; on a good day, visitors to Playa Delfines can actually see dolphins. The best view is from the beach’s “mirador” or lookout platform. This white-sand beach has thatched palapas and umbrella rentals, lifeguards, and restroom facilities. It is easily reached by taxi, which is preferable than your own car due to limited parking.
This superb venue is closest to the real underwater experience you could have. The Interactive Aquarium is easily accessible by bus and reasonably priced. The dolphin and seal show really sealed the deal.
One great thing about Interactive Aquarium than its convenient location right in the heart of the Hotel Zone at La Isla Mall, Cancun’s most popular outdoor shopping mall, is that you will find here lots of shops and restaurants and entertainment venues. You can combine your trip to the aquarium with lunch at La Isla, visiting the shops, stopping for a coffee. This mall even has nightclubs, car rental facilities, you name it. Some of the big names you will find here include Hard Rock Cafe, Coco Bongo, Hooters, and Johnny Rocket’s.
Photo by biajoe
Located at a distance of around one and a half hours from Cancun, Tulum is one destination that leaves its visitors spell-bound with its spectacular coastline and bright sun. A visit to Tulum from Cancun will include watching its beautiful coastline, sugar sands, jade-green water, and balmy breezes.
One of the most important sites in Tulum is its Mayan ruins, located on a cliff facing the Caribbean Sea. With warm starry nights and clear turquoise waters lies the only archaeological site that sits on the seashore. It is the most photogenic site in the region and perhaps the whole country.