When urban planners were wondering about how to build up this as a resort town, we imagine that they had no idea Cancun would look almost 50 years on! The mixture of sun, turquoise seas and white sands is probably enough for your average holidaymaker. However, the presence of Mayan ruins and a fascinating pre-Hispanic culture just take Cancún to the next level! This is the perfect destination for partying, laying on the beach, and learning about Mayan culture. Oh, and did we mention how good the food is?!
In this article, we’ll take a look at the best places to visit in Cancun. Hopefully, it’ll help you plan your trip and stay safe during your stay in one of Mexico’s premier tourist destinations! First though, let’s take a look at some of the best places to stay in Cancun.
Best Places to Stay in Cancun
Wondering about where to stay in Cancun? It’s not always an easy choice. There’s so much choice, from wild party hostels, to high rise hotels, to cool vacation rentals. We’ve scoured the hippest neighbourhoods in Cancun to bring you a shortlist of 3 of the best places to stay for your trip. We’ve taken into consideration different travel styles and budgets. So, let’s check out the 3 best places to stay in Cancun!
Best Hostel in Cancun: Agavero Hostel
Travelling solo and thinking about where to stay in Cancun on a budget yet it’s easy to make friends? We might just have the place for you! This cool hostel is extremely colourful and sociable, with pool parties, movie nights, and BBQs a regular occurrence. It’s got some of the city’s best attractions within walking distance too, so you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to the best places to visit in Cancun with your new mates! There’s a free breakfast too, a perfect way to fuel up before tackling the places on our list!View on HostelWorld
Best Airbnb in Cancun: Loft footsteps from the Beach
Totally renovated and right off the sand of Cancun is this stunning Loft. When you’ve been at the beach all day cool off in this home.- That’s right good ol’ A/C, the home has 2 air conditioners to keep you from having a heat stroke! For those who are working abroad, the house that High-Speed internet- can we say hallelujah?! If you are looking to explore the island, right outside the apartment, there’s public transportation, so you can easily see whatever you want to see.View on Airbnb
Best Budget Hotel in Cancun: Real Inn Cancun
If you’re searching for the best places to stay in Cancún but you’re mindful of how much money you can spend, we’ve got you covered. The Real Inn Cancún is a three star hotel which isn’t quite as cheap as a hostel, but you’ll find that extra cash is well worth it for your private room and own space! Although it’s one of the cheapest hotels in Cancun, you can enjoy the use of a swimming pool and fitness centre, and all rooms come with a TV!View on Booking.com
Best Luxury Hotel in Cancun: Renaissance Cancun Resort and Marina
Located in one of the best neighbourhoods in Cancun for tourists, Zona Hotelera, you’ll be delighted with this luxury hotel. It’s right over the road from one of the city’s largest shopping centres, and just a hop, skip, and a jump to the nearest beaches and golf courses. Although you’ve got all this stuff on your doorstep, you might find that you don’t want to leave! The on-site facilities such as a swimming pool and a state-of-the-art gym will see to that!View on Booking.com
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Cancun:
- Dine on fresh and delicious seafood at El Fish Fritanga
- Enjoy the view at Fred’s House Seafood Market & Grill
- Swim in the shimmering turquoise waters of Playa Delfines
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Cancun!
#1 – Isla Mujeres
A nice quiet place to see in Cancun
- Just a twenty minute ferry ride from the city port
- Packed with white sand beaches and turquoise waters
- Best seen by bicycle, golf cart, or on foot
Why it’s awesome: Many people love Cancun for its beaches and its nightlife, which are both undeniably great. However, at times this can become a bit too hectic for some people. Luckily, we’ve found the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city – Isla Mujeres. It’s just 6km long and compared with Cancun, it’s hardly developed at all! It’s the perfect day trip from the city as it’s so easy and accessible, and there are a few hotels on the island should you want to extend your stay and see how quiet it is once the last ferry has returned to town!
What to do there: One of the best things about Isla Mujeres is not what there is to do there, but rather that you can relax and do nothing. In fact, you can totally disconnect from everything and just enjoy how tranquil the place is! One of the best places to do this is on the island’s western shores or the gorgeous Playa Norte. The white sands are replaced by turquoise water, warm and perfect for a swim. Don’t miss your chance to explore Cancun’s best-kept secret!
#2 – MUSA – Museo Subacuático del Arte
One of the more unique places to visit in Cancun
- One of the few underwater museums in the entire world
- Come here early in the day, when one of the premier attractions in Cancun isn’t too busy!
- A great place for first-time scuba divers and snorkellers
Why it’s awesome: Since 2009, the Museo Subacuático del Arte has been one of the most popular attractions in Cancun. And it’s not hard to see why! The initial idea behind the museum is to reduce damage to Cancun’s reefs, and the shallow waters are packed with beautiful sculptures designed by a British artist. Incredibly, in just 400 square metres of water, you’ll find more than 500 sculptures, which attract tropical fish. This is one of the more unusual places to visit in Cancun and definitely worth putting on your itinerary!
What to do there: If you want to visit Cancun’s Museo Subacuático del Arte, then you have a few options. For those who want to stay dry, you can take a glass bottomed boat trip. However, if you want to get up close to the sculptures themselves, then try scuba diving or snorkelling. It’ll give you a totally different perspective! Don’t worry if you’re new to this activity, this is a great place to try it for the first time, due to the shallow waters and the fact that so many people are around! You’ll be safe and able to explore the museum in the best way!
#3 – Xcaret Park
Easily one of the most fun places to check out in Cancun
- One of the largest theme parks in Mexico
- Easily enough activities to spend a day here – possibly even more!
- One of the best places in Cancun to visit as a family
Why it’s awesome: Xcaret Park started off as a theme park, but now has 6 different locations under its ownership. This was the first one, and quite possibly the best. Not just any old theme park, Xcaret Park blends Mayan culture and history with live shows, delicious food, and cool natural attractions. Over 1 million visitors descend on the park annually, and although it’s a day trip from Cancun on the Riviera Maya, it’s super easy to get here from the Zona Hotelera!
What to do there: There are more than 40 attractions set across this 250 acre park, so you’re sure to find something cool and interesting for you and your family. For those interested in wildlife, you can get up close and personal in the park’s nature reserve. Here, you’ll find jaguars, macaws, and other animals indigenous to Central America. If you’d prefer to learn about Mayan culture, watch one of the fantastic live shows that take place in the park. And of course, don’t miss out trying a tasty taco or enchilada. The park is home to some of the best places to eat in Cancun!
#4 – Playa Delfines
- One of Cancun’s most beautiful Blue Flag beaches
- A great spot for surfing
- Lifeguards always on hand
Why it’s awesome: If there’s one thing Cancun is known for above all others, it’s beaches. Or maybe nightlife… Okay, so it’s known for a few things! However, you don’t often find tourists who don’t have at least one beach on their Cancun itinerary! But how do you pick the best one? Well, Playa Delfines is our top pick because for some bizarre reason, it doesn’t quite attract the crowds you get on some of the other beaches. It’s hard to work out why though, it’s long, wide, and the sunsets are stunning!
What to do there: If you want to try your hand at surfing, the powerful waves here offer just the opportunity to do that. Perhaps Playa Delfines is quieter because it’s not as easy to swim here. Although we’re not suggesting you head out too far, it’s a good place for paddling. And should you face any trouble, there is always a lifeguard at hand. However you like to spend your time at the beach, don’t miss one of the best places in Cancun to relax and chill out!
#5 – Torre Escénica
- One of the best places to get views of the most iconic landmarks in Cancun
- Learn about the city’s geography and history
- Free entry if you have an Xcaret wristband
Why it’s awesome: So, we mentioned earlier that Xcaret has 6 different locations in and around Cancun. One such is the Torre Escénica, an 80m building that offers excellent views of the city. It’s the highest point in Cancun! If you’ve visited Xcaret, then take advantage of free entry to this cool monument with your ticket. Right in the centre of the Zona Hotelera, it’s a great place to go in the evening and catch the sunset!
What to do there: This tower, which is kind of like a theme park ride too, is probably one of the best places in Cancun to learn about the city’s history and geography. As you climb the tower in a rotating capsule, you’ll hear lots of statistics about the place, as well as having the most important landmarks in Cancun pointed out to you over the speaker. If you’re searching for what to do in Cancun in the evening or have a couple of hours spare in the morning, this is definitely something you should consider adding to your itinerary!
#6 – Coco Bongo
A great place to visit in Cancun at night
- Probably one of the best nights out in Cancun
- A cross between a mega-club and a choreographed cabaret show
- All inclusive drinks!
Why it’s awesome: Have you really visited Cancun if you haven’t experienced the city’s nightlife? We’d say probably not. And there’s no better place to enjoy the weird and wonderful nightlife scene than the crazy Coco Bongo club! It’s not your traditional nightclub with a dancefloor and a DJ, oh no. It’s so much more than that! The extravagant shows that are put on at this mega-club often include live music, gravity-defying acrobats, and even impersonators. Don’t miss this off your Cancun itinerary if you want a fun night out!
What to do there: Make the most of the all-inclusive drinks! $65 for a ticket may sound extremely expensive at first for a night out, but after a few cocktails, that price will be looking a lot more reasonable. If you don’t like pushing to the front to get served (you might have to do this as it gets crazy busy), then consider going VIP. You’ll have your own waiter service and a lot more room to manoeuvre, while still getting to enjoy the epic shows!
#7 – La Isla Shopping Village
A great place in Cancun if you love to shop
- The largest retail area in the Zona Hotelera
- A great place for some retail therapy and to pick up some souvenirs for family and friends
- Houses some of the best places to eat in Cancun too
Why it’s awesome: For the shoppers among you, Cancun has something that might just make your trip. La Isla Shopping Village does exactly what it says on the tin… it’s an entirely artificial island completely dedicated to shopping! Not only is it a great place to pick up some souvenirs and bargains, but it’s the perfect escape from Cancun’s relentless sun. Canopies shade the alleyways that connect the stores, while there are a number of squares set around fountains. It’s one of the best places in Cancun to relax and shop!
What to do there: Whatever you want to buy, you’ll find it here. La Isla is a mixture of Mexican chain stores, souvenir shops, and some well-known global retailers. That’s not all though – if you’re shopping you’re likely to get hungry, right? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several restaurants here. If you’re not sure about Mexican food, try some of the more familiar restaurants in Cancun. Global chains like McDonalds and Starbucks, rounded off with a Haagen Dazs ice cream will be the perfect reminder of what you’re missing from home!
Quick Note – Staying Safe in Cancun
It’s understandable to feel a little grain of doubt when it comes to safety in Cancun. As it’s a big tourist destination you do have to be on your guard against things like petty crime in Cancun. You can solve that by being aware of where your valuables are, and only carrying small sums of cash. Most tourists who travel to Cancun come back with nothing worse than a bit of sunburn, and hopefully, that will be the same for you too!
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
#8 – Museo Maya
- Learn everything you could possibly want to know about Mayan culture
- Built over San Miguelito ruins, which form part of the museum
- One of the best places in Cancun to learn something new
Why it’s awesome: Mayan culture may not always be on people’s minds when they’re booking their trip to Cancun, but when you arrive, you’ll see how important it is here. And there’s no better way to find out more than visiting the Museo Maya! The museum is home to thousands of artefacts found in the Mayan ruin around the Yucatan peninsula and it’s a fascinating insight into what life was like before the Spanish conquered the area. The exhibits walk you through how the Mayans lived – from their agriculture and belief systems to the regular battles cities fought against each other!
What to do there: Exploring the exhibits is obviously a must at this cool museum. As well as the artefacts and information you’ll pick up on your way around, you’ll actually get to explore Cancun’s city centre ruins! After all, the museum stands on the site of the San Miguelito dwellings. The pyramid is undoubtedly a highlight, and all of these are incorporated into the museum. Hopefully, this museum will whet your appetite for the nearby Mayan ruins such as those in Coba Village or Chichén Itzá! Both are Cancun must sees!
#9 – Parque de las Palapas
- Great place to visit if you’re travelling with the kids
- Some of the best places to eat in Cancun here if you like street food
- Lots of cool stalls to pick up traditional handmade souvenirs
Why it’s awesome: Cancun has a lot going for it, but one criticism people have is it’s not the best place for families. However, maybe these people haven’t been to Parque de las Palapas, as it’s a great place to go with the kids! This square in the city centre has plenty of activities for the whole family, and some of the best places to eat in Cancun too, especially for street food lovers. It’s the ideal place to spend a relaxed afternoon!
What to do there: If you’re small enough, you can rent a little electric car to drive around the square. Maybe it’d be best leaving this activity to the kids… even if you have always wanted to drive that Ferrari! Even if you’re travelling solo or an all-adult group, you’ll still find something to interest you here. Why not browse the beach hut-esque palapas, where vendors sell jewellery and souvenirs. Or, pick up tasty street food snack.
#10 – Chichén Itzá
One of the most amazing places in Cancun
- A UNESCO World Heritage site
- The most celebrated pre-Hispanic ruins in Latin America
- Well worth making the two hour day trip!
Why it’s awesome: Yes, we know Chichén Itzá is a two-hour drive from Cancun. However, it’s made up of the most important and best-preserved ruins from the Mayan Empire, so you should definitely find a space for it on your Cancun itinerary. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most famous Pre-Hispanic ruins in the whole of Latin America (up there with Peru’s Machu Picchu). Be awestruck by the huge Pyramid of Kulkulkan and the gigantic calendar stone!
What to do there: Most chose to visit Chichén Itzá in a day trip from Cancun. If you can stand being part of such a huge crowd, the spring and autumn equinoxes are great times to visit! The sunlight will resemble a snake slithering down the side of the main pyramid, a sight that you certainly won’t forget in a hurry. Day trips to Chichén Itzá often combine other nearby attractions, such as visiting the city of Valladolid and the Ik Kil cenote. This is another of the best places to visit in Cancun, especially if you want to have a swim!
Get insured for your trip to Cancun!
Remember, when you are traveling you may need insurance! World Nomads are one of the best insurers on the market and we have used them ourselves for years now.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
So, that’s all from our list of the best places to visit in Cancun. Hopefully, you’ll see that there’s more to this city than just partying and laying on the beach. Even though that’s definitely not a bad way to spend your holiday!
Whether you want to soak up knowledge, explore Cancun’s Mayan ruins, or just chill out on a white-sand beach, the capital of the Yucatan region has everything you could want from a holiday destination.
We hope that our lest of the best places to visit in Cancun hasn’t just shown you the best of what this city has to offer, but also has given you an idea of how the locals live. You’ll be able to fit right in on your vacation, especially if you know a bit of Spanish! We hope you have a fantastic time when you travel to Cancun.
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.
Need More Inspiration?
Like this post? PIN ME!!!
Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.