Cancun is a Mexican city renowned for its beaches, resorts and thriving nightlife. Found on the Yucatan Peninsula that borders the Caribbean Sea, Cancun is composed of 2 distinct areas – the beachfront strip and the traditional downtown area.

Planning a trip to Cancun? Most people visiting this idyllic beach city use it as an adventure base for discovering lagoons and caves, and exploring the temples of the Mayans. It’s also a great spot to indulge in the world-renowned vacation resorts and embrace the vibrant beach strip.

Whatever your reason for visiting the Mexican City of Cancun, this dynamic region offers visitors an action-packed beach style holiday. So whether you are spending 3 days in Cancun, 4 days in Cancun or simply wondering how many days to spend in Cancun – this guide is for you.

For this Cancun itinerary, 5 days is enough to see the best of the city. We will look at the best activities and places of interest on the peninsula to ensure a fun-filled Caribbean getaway that will leave you feeling listful of sunshine-filled days, salty beaches and sandy shoes.

Best time to visit Cancun

Wondering when to visit Cancun? For the perfect mix of good weather, uncrowded tourist areas, and great rates and discounts – the best time to visit Cancun is in the shoulder seasons of April, May, November and early December.

You’ll find the best weather in December, while the endangered wildlife like whale sharks and turtles visit the tropical waters in May. November offers the best prices and fewer crowds with a couple of expected showers – but you can expect pretty good beach weather all year round.

when to visit Cancun
These are the best times to visit CANCUN! | Source: jdross75 (Shutterstock)

 The best time to head to Cancun for the absolute best weather is from the end of December through to the end of April, with January to March being the peak season. This is when you can expect the least amount of rainfall, the sunniest skies and the balmiest temperatures!

Expect gorgeous beach days, pleasant ocean waters, and perfect weather for exploring the ruins and jungles inland. For more insight into the weather you can expect for a 3, 4 or 5 day trip to Cancun – Here’s a monthly overview of the weather for your vacation in Cancun, so you can start planning your exciting itinerary for Cancun.

 Average TemperaturesChance of RainCrowdsOverall Grade
January23°C / 73°FLowBusy😐
February23°C / 73°FLowBusy😐
March25°C / 77°FLowBusy🙂
April26°C / 79°FLowMedium😀
May27°C / 81°FLowMedium😀
June28°C / 82°FAverageMedium😐
July28°C / 82°FAverageMedium😐
August28°C / 82°FHighCalm🙁
September28°C / 82°FHighCalm🙁
October27°C / 81°FHighCalm😐
November25°C / 77°FAverageMedium😀
December24°C / 75°FAverageBusy😀

Where to Stay in Cancun

Choosing where to stay in Cancun depends on what you’re prioritizing on your itinerary for Cancun. If you want to explore the ruins and be immersed in culture and activities, then the traditional downtown area, El Centro, and surrounds are great areas to stay.

Zona Hotelera is the long beachfront strip of high rise hotels, resorts, nightclubs, shops and restaurants. So if you’re hoping to conveniently stumble home after partying the night away or indulging in Caribbean cuisine – this is the place for you! 

You’ll find a range of lodging available in the Hotel Zone, found on the strip between the Nichupté lagoon and the Caribbean Sea, made up of beaches and luxury hotels. Fly to the Cancun international airport and get a taxi or bus for about 30 minutes towards the northeast to get to the heart of the Hotel Zone. 

where to stay in Cancun
These are the best places to stay in Cancun! | Source: Lev Levin (Shutterstock)

For a first time visit, Zona Hotelera is the most convenient and popular place to stay in Cancun. It’s just a short drive from El Centro and caters to tourists every need. For budget accommodation, El Centro has many options and is a lively and vibrant part of downtown Cancun. Plus there are loads of delicious authentic restaurants and a variety of engrossing sights.

If you’re heading to Cancun for the nightlife, then Punta Cancun is the place to be. It’s at the north end of Zona Hotelera and offers pristine golden sand beaches, aquamarine waters and spectacular views of the city, islands and surrounds. For culture and charm, Puerto Morelos is a piece of paradise away from the madding crowds and offers all the perks of an ideal beach vacation.

The city of Cancun is around an hour north of Playa del Carmen and it takes about an hour and 45 minutes to reach the north of Tulum by car.

Cancun itinerary
Mezcal Hotel Hostel & Bar is our pick for the best hostel in Cancun!

Best Hostel in Cancun – Mezcal Hotel Hostel and Bar

Choose to sunbathe in the pool, relax in a hammock, or chill at the bar. This is one of the best hostels in Cancun. The hostel invites you to socialize with guests from all over the world. They even have an HD TV to watch sports while you’re hungover, as well as hosting entertaining activities like Yoga, Zumba, Salsa Lessons, Karaoke and so much more!

Loft footsteps from the Beach
Loft footsteps from the Beach is our pick for the best Airbnb in Cancun!

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.

Cancun itinerary
Hotel Kavia is our pick for the best budget hotel in Cancun!

Best Budget Hotel in Cancun – Hotel Kavia

Perfectly located in the heart of Cancun, this hotel offers comfortable accommodation with a restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool and a bar. They have a variety of rooms available and many popular points of interest within walking distance! Guests are also free to use the indoor pool and business center.

Cancun itinerary
Oh! Cancun – The Urban Oasis is our pick for the best luxury hotel in Cancun!

Best Luxury Hotel in Cancun –  Oh! Cancun – The Urban Oasis

This elegant hotel has an outdoor pool and sun terrace. With WiFi throughout the property and an on-site restaurant, they have everything you need for your stay in Cancun! Rooms have a view of the pool or the city, and transport is available near the property.

Cancun Itinerary

Cancun, on the Yucatan Peninsula, is Mexico’s largest and most popular resort area. With paradisiacal beaches, clear waters, palm trees, luxury hotels and resorts, fine dining, fascinating and impressive nearby archeological sites and activities for solo travelers, couples, and families.

There’s no wonder that over 3 million tourists visit Cancun each year, with so many things to do and such perfect beach weather – it’s the ultimate vacation destination and the ideal place to plan anything up to 7 days in Cancun to really experience its magic.

Cancun itinerary
Welcome to our EPIC Cancun itinerary!

In this guide we’ll lay out the best ways to plan 3 days in Cancun, and give you the best tips for longer stays and day trips from Cancun. We’ll also help you make the most of the short distance from Merida to Cancun.

Cancun is fairly easy to navigate and to get around. Most of the main attractions and top Cancun sightseeing spots are easily walkable if you’re located in the Hotel Zone. Besides walking, there are loads of taxis available and great public transportation options. The most common is the bus, which runs regularly and is very affordable.

You’ll only need a car if you’re planning on exploring lots of areas outside of the heart of Cancun. Unfortunately, renting a car can be fairly tricky with insurance policies and regulations so we don’t advise it. Read on to find out about the most exciting sights and activities to fill your Cancun trip itinerary for 3 days in Cancun or longer.

Day 1 Itinerary in Cancun

El Rey Ruins | Acuario Interactivo | Playa Tortugas | Maya Cancun Museum | Playa Delfines

On the first day of your Cancun itinerary, you’ll be visiting old sights and learning about Cancun’s fascinating history.

Day 1 / Stop 1 of Your Cancun itinerary – El Rey Ruins

  • Why it’s awesome: It’s one of the most important Mayan ruins in Cancun
  • Cost: $2.50 USD
  • Food nearby: Many restaurants and resorts in the Hotel Zone

The El Rey Ruins are one of the most popular Cancun points of interest and part of any Cancun walking tour. They are conveniently located in the heart of the Hotel Zone in Cancun, making them easy to get to for just one day in Cancun.

The ruins are part of an important ancient Mayan trade route. The site is named after an important sculpture of ‘The King’ found on the site and is a historical location with a lovely botanical garden.

Head out on an adventure to discover the Mayan ruins and spot some of the many iguanas that live around the area. The iguanas are used to people and will come right up to you! Making this an interesting visit as well as an exciting one. 

El Rey Ruins
El Rey Ruins, Cancun | Source: Xe3osc (Wikimedia Commons)

Kids will enjoy climbing up and down on every structure and making friends with the iguanas, while the adults will get to learn about the interesting history of the Mayan culture in Mexico and see the fascinating pieces of archaeology that have been left behind.

The major development of this ancient Mayan city occurred between 1300 and 1550 AD, and the main inhabitants were fishermen and traders of salt. The ancient city was abandoned after the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century and became a haven for pirates for a long time!

Admire the incredible structures and the scenic area at one of the most popular Cancun landmarks, and be sure to check out the interesting artifacts and vestiges of Mayan mural paintings.

Day 1 / Stop 2 – Acuario Interactivo

  • Why it’s awesome: It’s the best way to learn about the incredible marine life surrounding Cancun!
  • Cost: Access to the aquarium and the interactive and temporary room is $25 USD
  • Food nearby: Try the Italian food at Vapiano within walking distance of the aquarium

This interactive aquarium is the best place to get to know about the intricate underwater world that exists around Cancun. You’ll get to see some amazing exhibits as well as interactive exhibitions that teach you more than you could imagine about the marine life!

Visit the rooms that show you the extreme weather conditions in Antarctica and the evolutionary processes of the different species that live there – from algae to mammals. Next, learn about rays and stingrays, as well as why and how they are different species.

Acuario Interactivo
Acuario Interactivo, Cancun | Source: juan carlos tinjaca (Shutterstock)

You’ll get to see the coastal ecosystem of Forest Kelps and discover the brown algae that live in the environment. These algae can reach up to 50 meters, and this aquarium is the only place to see and learn about it.

There are also exhibits on the Amazon and the largest river that runs through the ecosystem leaving a big blue stain. You’ll also get the chance to discover fascinating facts about the great barrier reef.

This aquarium has literally everything you could imagine about the underwater world and is a great stop on a beach holiday to learn about what is going on under the blue waters and the conservation efforts that are taking place to keep them alive!

Day 1 / Stop 3 – Playa Tortugas

  • Why it’s awesome: It’s known for its relaxed atmosphere and clean sands
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Choose from any of the open-air restaurants that line the streets near the beach

After learning all about the marine life and ecosystems, it’s time for another beach swim and some lunch alongside the Caribbean waters. Playa Tortugas is known for having a relaxed atmosphere and nice clean white sand. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing lunch break. There is a lot of things to do in Cancun but you still need a few beach days right?

Playa Tortugas
Playa Tortugas, Cancun | Source: dronepicr (Flickr)

Wander along the beach to the pier, admiring the crystal clear waters and pondering the wealth of knowledge that you’ve gained from the aquarium visit. Adrenaline junkies can also choose to bungee jump, which is sure to get the blood pumping!

The beach is free to visit and the water is calm and perfect for a dip in the sea to cool off. It’s located on the northern part of Cancun’s Hotel Zone and is accessible by bus or rental car. You’ll also find umbrella and chair rentals available at the beach if you feel like having a relaxing lie down on the beach after your lunch.

The Best Travel Backpack?!
Nomatic 30L Travel Bag

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Bag.

Read our full review!

Day 1 / Stop 4 – Maya Cancun Museum

  • Why it’s awesome: It’s one of the most interesting Cancun points of interest!
  • Cost: $4 USD
  • Food nearby: Grab some Mexican food at La Chilanguita Cancun.

After enjoying some more fun in the sun, it’s time to learn about some of the fascinating history of Cancun and the Mayan civilization that developed in the area. The Maya Museum opened to the public in 2012 and is located in the heart of the Cancun Hotel Zone. 

It’s an interesting place for history lovers to understand what has made Cancun the place it is today. There is also an archaeological site called San Miguelito on the same grounds, stretching over 85,000 square meters!

Maya Cancun Museum
Maya Museum, Cancun | Source: David Stanley (Flickr)

The museum is housed in a white modern building that has large windows and white columns. The fountain at the museum’s entrance is made with delicate leafy patterns that represent the vegetation of the area.

The exhibition halls are found on the second floor of the building – two of which are permanent and one temporary. The museum’s collection contains more than 3,500 pieces. The first room teaches visitors about the archaeology of the State of Quintana Roo in chronological order. The second is dedicated to the Mayan culture and is the best place to learn about what existed in Yucatan in the past and how this has influenced Mexico today.

If you’re looking for more than just a beach holiday, this museum is the best way to learn more about the area and find out some interesting facts to take home with you!

Day 1 / Stop 5 – Playa Delfines

  • Why it’s awesome: It’s the best beach for sweeping views of the Caribbean and the best sights of Cancun.
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: A variety of food offered by the local vendors.

When traveling to Cancun, one of the top things on any Cancun itinerary has got to be hitting the beach. Playa Delfines is the only beach in Cancun with a public car park and the one that offers the best views of the aquamarine waters.

Spend the remainder of your first day of this Cancun itinerary soaking up the sun and enjoying the sprawling views of the white sands and the clear waters. The beach has some of the best views and is rarely crowded, meaning you can enjoy the beach atmosphere in peace and make the most of the miles of stunning coastline that most travel to Cancun for.

Playa Delfines
Playa Delfines. Cancun | Source: Tristan Higbee (Flickr)

Playa Delfines, (Dolphin Beach) also has the nickname El Mirador (The Lookout), due to its completely unspoiled area without the common masses of hotels, restaurants and resorts that seem to take over much of Cancun. This allows for a completely blissful morning on the beach and a relaxing getaway enjoying the sun and surf.

You’ll be able to rent chairs or beach umbrellas at the beach so that you can enjoy complete relaxation and make the most of the Mexican morning sunshine. There are also clean restaurants and nearby playgrounds for the kids to keep entertained.

Insider Tip: Time your visit to coincide with the sunset to get the perfect beach holiday photograph on the Lookout. There’s a colorful ‘Cancun’ sign that has the stunning Caribbean as the backdrop!


Mezcal Hotel Hostel & Bar

Choose to sunbathe in the pool, relax in a hammock, or chill at the bar. This hostel is the best place to stay in Cancun.

  • $$
  • On Site Swimming Pool
  • Free WiFi

bus iconNeed to travel to Cancun on the cheap? Use Bookaway to find the best deals on bus, plane, train, and ferry tickets. It’s easy to use and saves you time and money. Once you’ve arrived, why not use what you’ve saved to treat yourself to a cold beer and a bite to eat?

Book your transport on Bookaway now to guarantee your seat and for the right price.

Day 2 itinerary in Cancun

Surf Lesson | Cancun Wax Museum | Aquaworld | MUSA Underwater Museum |Maroma Beach 

Your second day in Cancun will have you taking part in fun water activities and learning a little more about this wonderful city!

Day 2 / Stop 1 – Surf Lesson

  • Why it’s awesome: Enjoy the best of Cancun with a surfing lesson!
  • Cost: $42 USD
  • Food nearby: Choose from one of the restaurants in the Hotel Zone nearby.

Tick off your bucket list with a surfing lesson in Cancun! It’s one of the most popular things to do when touring Cancun and will guarantee you stand on your board by the end of the 90-minute lesson!

Cancun has perfect waves for learning how to surf and it’s a great way to enjoy the pristine waters and beach life. You’ll find the surf school on the beach near the Hotel Zone and you’ll be trained by professional surf instructors in the best part of Cancun to enjoy Mexico’s favorite water sport.

Surf Lesson
Surf Lesson, Cancun | Source: Drew and Merissa (Flickr)

All equipment will be provided and the lesson will start with some on beach training before heading into the waves to practice your newfound skills. The knowledgeable instructors will be with you in the water the whole time to help you out, and you’re guaranteed a good time!

The trainers are also the best people to ask for some insider knowledge about Cancun attractions. They will know all the best places to dine, so you can head to the Hotel Zone for a refueling breakfast after your surf.

Day 2 / Stop 2 – Cancun Wax Museum

  • Why it’s awesome: Enjoy a bit of Mexican culture with a visit to the Wax Museum!
  • Cost: $27 USD for adults and $20 USD for children.
  • Food nearby: Cambalache is a great nearby restaurant for a variety of options.

Next on your Cancun itinerary is a visit to Cancun’s wax museum, located in the Hotel Zone of the city. The museum offers a hyper-realistic experience that showcases emblematic national and international figures.

It’s noted for its amazing collection of characters from the world of TV, cinema, sports, children and horror. The perfect place to have a fun photoshoot with your family and create some more exciting Cancun memories to take home with you.

Cancun Wax Museum
Wax Museum, Cancun | Source: Vic201401 (Wikicommons)

You’ll want to take some time to enjoy a bit of the Mexican culture, so plan to spend about 2 hours at the Wax Museum in Cancun. They have more than 1000 life-like wax creations on display, and it’s a fascinating visit to discover the people who most inspire Mexico.

The wax creations are of people from around the world, including Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth. It’s a fun and educational visit for families in Cancun or those who want to learn more about Mexico’s most important people.

Day 2 / Stop 3 – Aquaworld

  • Why it’s awesome: Choose from a variety of fun water-based activities
  • Cost: Depends on which activity is chosen.
  • Food nearby: There are a wonderful variety of on-site restaurants!

Aquaworld promises a load of fun for everyone! You could easily spend a whole day here – depending on how any activities you’d like to participate in. You can choose from a variety of options, from surfing and diving to ziplining, there is something for everyone!

Aquaworld, Cancun | Source: V_E (Shutterstock)

Families with smaller children will be able to offer a smart alternative to surfing on the FlowRider, which offers an hour of uninterrupted fun in a controlled environment with artificially generated waves and is the best way to learn how to surf or bodyboard out of the ocean.

There are also flyboards, hoverboards and a fun aqua-bounce experience. The under the sea tours are a fun and educational way to learn all about the marine life and ecology of the area too.

Day 2 / Stop 4 – MUSA Underwater Museum of Art

  • Why it’s awesome: Enjoy some scuba diving in one of the world’s most spectacular locations.
  • Cost: $90 – $140 USD
  • Food nearby: Enjoy some traditional Mexican tacos at Tacos El Güero de la Colosio.

Diving in Cancun is probably one of the most popular activities to do on any Cancun itinerary. The MUSA Underwater Museum in Cancun offers some of the most spectacular diving experiences in the world, and there are many different tours available at the museum.

You could go diving to discover the incredible underwater sculptures and marvel at the colorful marine life, or enjoy a glass-bottom boat cruise to admire the underwater habitats. You can even go snorkeling in Musa for some of the best sights in Cancun.

MUSA Underwater Museum of Art
MUSA Underwater Museum of Art, Cancun | Source: 2il org (Flickr)

Explore the remarkable exhibits at the museum as you make the most of the Caribbean waters and learn how to dive. You’ll get to enjoy the turquoise waters as you descend to depths of 30 feet and discover the collection of underwater sculptures.

If you’re a water baby, then this is definitely one of the best Cancun attractions to add to your 2 day itinerary in Cancun!

Day 2 / Stop 5 – Maroma Beach

  • Why it’s awesome: It’s the perfect place to end off 2 days in Cancun!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Pavo Real is a great place to indulge in a great dinner!

Maroma Beach is a public beach that is most certainly one of Cancun’s best-kept secret! You’ll have to dine at the restaurant with a reservation for access to the beach. For the last of your 2 day itinerary in Cancun, it’s definitely worth booking a table and heading to the pristine beach to watch the sunset before enjoying some delicious food at the restaurant.

maroma beach
Maroma Beach, Cancun | Source: lunamarina (Shutterstock)

It’s a small paradise that is hidden away from the other more popular Riviera Maya destinations and is not known by many people. This will make you feel like you’re worlds away from the tourist zone and offer you a peaceful idyllic last night of your Cancun itinerary.

Witness the true peace and tranquility of the Caribbean coastline and the white sand beaches, with an incredible tropical landscape backdrop. Backpackers in Mexico rejoice, because this is possibly one of the most exquisite places in Mexico, a perfect hideaway intent on preserving the ecology of more than 500 acres of beach and rainforest! You’ll feel as if you’re miles away from Cancun.

Want to keep your money safe?
money belt compressed png

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

Get your money belt here.

Day 3 and Beyond

Xel-Ha | Chichen Itza | Coba ruins | Mercado 23 | El Meco Archaeological Site

If you have more time than just 2 days in Cancun, there’s still so much to discover. Here are some more fascinating places to explore if you’re planning on spending 3 days in Cancun.

Xel-Ha (near Tulum)

  • Discover the unique Quintana Roo coastline.
  • Experience the impressive archaeological sites in Tulum.
  • It’s the most beautiful Natural Wonder of the Riviera Maya.

Xel-Ha Tulum takes you on a journey along the coastline to discover the icon of the Mayan culture in the Mexican Caribbean. You’ll get to marvel at the spectacular views of the ocean on the way to the site, as you witness the incredible turquoise color of the sea. Explore the ancient ceremonial center and learn all about the history of the place, plus all the secrets of this walled city.

Xel-Ha, Cancun | Source: Grand Velas Riviera Maya (Flickr)

The tour of Xel-Ha will give you insight into the beautiful Natural Wonder of the Riviera Maya and offers the perfect place for snorkeling. You’ll get to witness the many tropical fish and amazing marine life that exist there, thanks to the enormous natural cove that meets with the open sea and creates the perfect habitat for underwater ecology.

It’s one of the best places to visit in Cancun. There are many activities to enjoy at the park, including cliff jumps and zip-lines. You can also visit the Meliponary and the Mayan Wall, or simply explore the grounds.

It’s a day of fun for the whole family! Plus, there are many restaurants in Xel-Ha that offer delicious buffets of Mexican cuisine and exotic drinks to go along with them. This is definitely the perfect combination for your 3-day itinerary in Cancun.

Chichen Itza

  • It’s a ruined ancient Maya city that occupies an area of 4 square miles.
  • Discover the cenotes and sinkholes.
  • Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Discover the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, located in the south-central Yucatan state outside of Cancun. You’ll get to marvel at the ancient ruins, and discover the only source of water in the arid region. Two big cenotes on the site are what made it a suitable place for the city and where the city got its name.

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza, Cancun

The cenotes are fascinating to see – formed by sinkholes in the limestone formations. They play a pivotal point in the existence of the city and the reason that the Maya tribe settled there. The name comes from Chi, meaning ‘mouths’ in Mayan, and Chen, meaning ‘wells’. Itza is the name of the Maya tribe that settled there.

The site was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 and is the perfect trip to add to your 3-day itinerary in Cancun. You’ll leave with some amazing knowledge of the Mayan tribe and how they existed in this amazing place. You are able to explore the ancient ruins, take some amazing photos and learn more about the fascinating history in Cancun.

Coba ruins

  • Discover the amazing archaeological site of the Mayan ruins of Coba.
  • Learn about the incredibly important city for the Maya people.
  • Explore the city of white roads.

Coba ruins are some of the most interesting Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. They are lesser known with tourists than the other ruins in Mexico, as they are in a remote location. Visiting these ruins is a perfect day trip for an itinerary in Cancun. 

You can also get some amazing views of the jungle that looks like a living green carpet from the top of Coba’s ancient pyramid, which you can climb to the top of. This site is considered one of the most important cities for the Maya people, according to archaeologists. 

Coba ruins
Coba ruins, Cancun | Source: Sven Hansche (Shutterstock)

There are many reasons to visit the city of white roads when visiting Cancun in 3 days. Coba’s other claim to fame is its large network of stone causeways that were known as sacbes in the ancient world. There have been more than 50 of these roads discovered at the site and 16 of them are open to the public. 

These roads connect the clusters of residential areas to the main pyramid area of Nohoch Mul, as well as the small lakes that were used as a nearby water supply. You’ll get the opportunity to explore these roads by walking along the raised stone pathways or by renting a bike to cycle around. You can also hire a bivi taxi if you’ve had enough exercise for the day! Either way, the white roads are an amazing sight to add to your Cancun itinerary.

Mercado 23

  • An authentic market to discover more about the Mexican culture.
  • This is the oldest of a series of markets in Cancun.
  • A great place to really experience the lives of the locals in Cancun.

Although Cancun is a vacation paradise that offers visitors stunning beaches, turquoise waters, and perfect beach weather – it’s also majorly catered to tourism, and so you are unlikely to really experience the local culture in Cancun.

Mercado 23 is the oldest and most authentic market that you’ll find in Cancun and will give you insight into the ways of the local people and a real piece of Mexico. It’s further away from the manicured Hotel Zone and immersed in a vibrant neighborhood that is inhabited by the local workers and their families.

Mercado 23
Mercado 23, Cancun | Source: Giulian Frisoni (Flickr)

If you have more than 3 days in Cancun, or if you’re spending a weekend in Cancun and want to understand what life is like for Mexicans in Cancun – then this market will offer you the perfect authentic experience away from the resort life.

Pick up some souvenirs to take home with you, or just wander around the market looking at all the food stalls and the amazing local crafted goods that are sold at the market. It’s also the perfect opportunity to be friendly with the locals and get to know what it’s like living in Cancun.

El Meco Archaeological Site

  • Discover these Mayan ruins just outside the center of Cancun.
  • It is said to have been inhabited in the 3rd century!
  • Get an impressive view from the top of the ancient structure.

El Meco is a small Mayan archaeological site located in a remote part of Cancun that was highly influential in Maya culture. The site is well preserved and has recently been opened to the public. It’s the perfect place to discover if you are interested in the history of Mexico and the Maya people and is the highest pyramid in the Cancun area.

If you’re planning 4 days in Cancun or 5 days in Cancun, it’s highly recommended to stop at this influential site on the way to one of the Cancun beaches or before hopping on the Isla Mujeres ferry. You’ll get to explore parts of Cancun that you’ve never seen before, and see the serpent heads that decorate the Castillo staircase which leads you to the pyramid.

El Meco Archaeological Site
El Meco Archaeological Site, Cancun | Source: Lev Levin (Shutterstock)

The site is clearly influenced by Itzamna and Chichen Itza, and offers a look into the history of Mayan culture. There are also many carvings that have remained unscathed at this small site, due to the shade covering that has been protecting them from damage.

It’s also a great stop to make on your Cancun itinerary to marvel at the trees standing over the impressive site, and discover a part of Cancun that is off the beaten track and highly influential in the history of Mexico. 

The site is said to have been left empty up until the 11th century and was an important port in the history of Cancun, offering a great vantage point to survey incoming ships.

book-iconDon’t forget to pack a good book! Lonely Planet Pocket Cancun & the Riviera Maya (Travel Guide): is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.

Staying Safe in Cancun

Cancun is a relatively safe destination, with very rare incidents of serious crime against tourists. As with any new and unknown location, it’s best to keep your wits about you and to maintain awareness of what’s going on, so that you can respond appropriately should you need to.

There are a few scams and dangers that you should simply be aware of, in order to give you peace of mind and the ability to preempt a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. It’s best to keep your belongings on you at all times and be aware of pickpockets if you happen to be in a crowded area or slightly intoxicated.

You can also avoid becoming a victim of a crime or accident by staying away from dark streets and places that may look unsafe, as well as making sure that you have someone with you if you are walking around at night. By taking the appropriate precautions, you should be able to avoid becoming a victim of a crime.

Another thing to be aware of is that many tourists go to Cancun for the nightlife. You may be more likely to fall victim to circumstances or drug cartels should you be unaware of your surroundings or leave your drinks unattended. This important to be aware of in all of Mexico.

And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.

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!

world nomads insurance banner

Day Trips From Cancun

If you’re lucky enough to be spending more than 3 days in Cancun, there are a plethora of possibilities in and around the city that would make a great day trip. You’ll really get to experience the Yucatan Peninsula in a whole new sense and enjoy every aspect of your Cancun itinerary.

Coba, Cenote, Tulum and Playa del Carmen Tour

Coba, Cenote, Tulum and Playa del Carmen Tour

Have an incredible experience enjoying the gorgeous beaches and fascinating archeological zones of the Mayan Riviera. You will discover some of the most important attractions in Quintana Roo and swim in a sacred cenote of the ancient Maya civilization. 

You’ll get to enjoy the Mayan culture with a knowledgeable guide, starting from the seashore of the old Mayan city where you’ll see incredible vestiges like El Castillo, El Templo de Los Frescos and its stunning powdery white sand beach. Next, discover Cobá, a hidden Mayan town with the tallest pyramid in the Yucatán Peninsula, surrounded by beautiful jungle scenery.

Isla Mujeres Day Tour

Isla Mujeres Day Tour

Spend a day visiting the famous island of Isla Mujeres on a catamaran. You’ll get to enjoy the splendor of snorkeling the second largest coral reef in the world, admiring the incredible marine life and visiting the breathtaking Isla Mujeres and Playa Norte. 

You’re guaranteed a day of sunshine on the boat with the option to enjoy a variety of drinks from the bar, before admiring the incomparable biodiversity of the underwater world surrounding the rich corals. Next, enjoy a Mexican buffet prepared by the beach club where you’ll get to enjoy the kayaks, swings, and paddleboards.

Riviera Maya and Cenote Tour

Riviera Maya and Cenote Tour

Enjoy the impressive Mayan walled city of Tulum as you spend the day snorkeling with sea turtles and discovering some incredible cenotes and underground sinkholes of the Yucatan Peninsula.

You’ll get to see the best of the reef and the impressive marine life in the crystal clear waters, as well as learn some fascinating facts about the local ecosystems and the Mayan culture. A day on the turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea promises a good day tour from Cancun and will give you a whole new perspective on the impressive Mayan city of Tulum!

Discover Xcaret Park

Discover Xcaret Park

Explore underground rivers and marvelous sights like the Manatee Lagoon and House of Whispers on a trip to the Xcaret Park in Riviera Maya. Discover a musical journey through the history of Mexico featuring more than 300 local artists!

You’ll get the chance to submerge yourself in the stunning waters of some beautiful cenotes, as well as swim in caves and natural pools that are surrounded by lush tropical flora. The excursion also gives you the chance to enjoy festivals and ceremonies that have been called Intangible Cultural Heritage Humanity by UNESCO as you learn more about Mexico!

Explore the Jungle

Explore the Jungle

Enjoy the adventure of a lifetime as you head out of Cancun on a speedboat and traverse through the beautiful mangrove canals of the Nichupté Lagoon. You’ll also get the chance to snorkel in the amazing Punta Nizuc coral reef and visit the underwater museum.

This full-day experience will allow you to experience the mangrove jungles as your guide provides interesting information about the flora and fauna, discovering all that the unique area has to offer and snorkeling along the way!

Need some extra energy?
Power Adapter

One of the best investments you can make is a worldwide travel adapter that will work anywhere! The one featured here is tough, reliable and a solid buy – Don’t leave home without one.

Buy your travel adapter on Amazon now.


Traveling to Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula promises to be a perfect beach vacation for any traveler wishing to spend time between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. With world-famous archeological sites and an enchanting colonial city – there is just so much waiting to be discovered on a 5 day trip to Cancun.

If you’ve ever wondered what to do in Cancun, you’ll discover that you get to make the most of resort-living, walk around a strip of incredible restaurants with distinct and delicious cuisine and bars, feel the sand between your toes, and enjoy all that encompasses the beautiful beaches and the oceans clear waters.

The Yucatan Peninsula is a great vacation destination and any Cancun itinerary can be filled with numerous activities and Cancun points of interest to fill any adventurer’s plans. With many day trips from Cancun, and many ways to spend your days on the island itself, you’re guaranteed the perfect Caribbean beach break no matter how many days in Cancun you have to enjoy.

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.