8 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Cancún
There are no landmarks, no grand museums, no major classical opera houses, no ancient temples. Mexico's most famous tourist attraction is its beaches. As any traveler will tell you, the beaches are varied, and because of the clear and calm water, they are ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
Aside from Mexico's beaches, Cancún offers other tourist destinations like the many museums and historic sights of the city's colonial center and the spectacular sea-side developments. It also has amazing views from the interior's lagoons. And Cancún's international airport is located right in the heart of the city, so you can quickly find a taxi, train or bus ticket to take you to your next destination.
Cancún is an excellent base for a vacation in Mexico. Plan your trip using our guide to the top attractions in Cancún.
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is the quintessential beach destination and has a long list of boutique hotels, restaurants, and bars. After a relaxing and fun filled day on the beach, travelers can also visit a number of historic ruins, such as El Castillo, El Cuyo, and Tulum. Be sure to also spend some time enjoying the region's various festivals, which include celebrated Christmas, Corpus Christi, Carnaval, and the Fantasea Festival. Playa del Carmen is just south of Cancún, and travelers to the region can easily access either city. Cancún's airport is well serviced by most major airlines.
Cancún is a beautiful city on Mexico's Caribbean coast, about 70 kilometers south of Playa del Carmen. The Hotel Zone is an upscale, resort area on the western coast, in a thin strip of land on both sides of the Cancún Reef. The Hotel Zone is home to many five-star resorts, some with private beaches, and a busy nightlife scene. The area also has many upscale restaurants, bars and nightclubs. If you want to experience some of Cancún's more local culture, head to the open-air Cenote Uxmal (see here). Other things to do in Cancún include visiting the ruins of Uxmal and Chichén Itzá, and sampling some local seafood. There are regular ferries from the Hotel Zone to Isla Mujeres, a small island at the southern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Read more 👉 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Cancún
Tulum is one of the best-preserved ancient sites in Mexico, dating back to around AD 700. During this time Tulum was a prosperous ceremonial city, the center of Maya civilization in the north. The ruins that are open to the public today date back to AD 200 and show the development of a long-standing civilization and their ability to cope with the climate and problems of water management. Several monuments and buildings are still intact, including the Main Temple, Palacio, Convento, and La Danzante. Tulum is one of the best places to see the great ceremonial avenues that were constructed between AD 500 and AD 1200 and show the transition from the Classic to the Post-Classic period, the pre-Hispanic Maya culture.
Isla Mujeres is a small island adjacent to the Mexican city of Cancún and within the limits of the city municipality of Zona Hotelera. The island is actually a small sandbar surrounded by a reef which protects the shallow coastal waters of the beach in front of the island from storm surges and tidal waves. Its small size and proximity to the mainland makes it a popular place to visit. The quaint island has a charming town and various resort areas. On the beach, visitors can enjoy spectacular sunsets. Local activities include snorkeling and scuba diving, and kitesurfing in the bay.
Pronounced 'Holly-box' - hence the island's name - Isla Holbox, located in the western Caribbean Sea, has an interesting history. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 as the location of his Caribbean port of call Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The Spanish moved the settlement to its present location in 1511 and built a fort to defend the port, but today the island offers some wonderful beaches and is a haven for tourists. It's also home to the 'Hollyman' in Mexico, a 12-meter-long canoe that can reach the island's famous beaches.
Chichen Itza is the most-visited archaeological site in Mexico and one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world. A massive Maya site once ruled by the Tulum, a small city that reached its peak in the 9th century AD, Chichen Itza became the capital of an empire during the Classic Period, with the main central structures (ceremonial platform) rising out of the center of the lake. Today, Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most important archaeological site in Mexico. Its two major attractions are the El Castillo and the Great Ball Court. At the end of April and early May, they undergo a magnificently dramatic festival, when 20-foot-high fireworks shows light up the night skies in these two symbolic temples.
The walled city of Campeche (across the bay from the tourist-friendly city of Mérida) was once the richest in the Americas, raking in gold, silver, and cotton. Today, the city is better known for its ornate churches, 16th- and 17th-century houses, colonial mansions, and historic parks. Top landmarks include the massive Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), the Casa de Cultura (House of Culture), and the Museo de Arte Popular (Museum of Popular Art), all rich with decorative arts and local crafts. Campeche is a fairly short flight or two from Mexico City, and buses depart every 30 minutes for Mérida and the Zona Hotelera.
Cenote San Angel
Often incorrectly spelled Cenote San Angel, Cancún's Cenote San Angel (or "Church cenote") is the most popular cenote in the region. Located in Xcaret Park, the most well-known attraction in Cancún, the cenote is the result of a natural dam that was formed thousands of years ago when the local sea rose to about 150 feet (48 meters) above the current water level of Lake Petén Itzá. Rising out of the cenote is the Museo del Cenote (also in Xcaret Park), an indoor-outdoor museum containing displays on the natural history of the region and the Maya, as well as video and audio programs.