It used to be that the only reason you’d visit Cancun is to party during spring break. While it’s still known as one of the top spring break destinations for its all-inclusive resorts, vibrant nightlife, and flocks of visitors heading south for the winter to warm up, there’s so much more to this historic city than its famed hot spots like Señor Frog's.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for designer swimwear for spending most of your days on the beach. But lounging in the sun is only the beginning of all the things to do in Cancun. When planning a trip to this picturesque destination, make sure you add a few local adventures to your travel agenda.
#1: Snorkel at an Underwater Museum
The crystal clear, turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea makes scuba diving or snorkeling go-to Cancun excursions for the average traveler, but who said anything about average? Instead, prepare for an underwater excursion like no other where you can view artwork beneath the waves. Schedule a boat tour that takes you through the Nichupte Lagoon and into the ocean and prepare for a snorkeling tour where you'll see approximately 30 sculptures as part of the Underwater Museum of Art.
They’ll supply the snorkeling gear, which you then get to keep; all you have to do is wear one of your favorite designer bikinis (and bring a cover up and beach sandals for the boat). Not only will you see remarkable art in a fascinating way, you’ll have a chance to experience the marine life surrounding it as well. The Burgundy Diane One Piece swimsuit and the Black Dani Chemise make the perfect casual combination to wear for this afternoon adventure.
#2: Shop at Market 28
Whether you need to find a take-home gift or are on the hunt for jewelry made by a local artisan, you’ll find that and more at this busy outdoor market. There are hundreds of vendors selling everything from touristy souvenirs to one-of-a-kind handcrafted gifts. Price ranges vary but there are several options on the less expensive side. Plus, you can always test your skills at driving a good bargain.
There are also casual restaurants onsite to take a break from shopping. Market 28 can get chaotic, so you’ll need all your energy to make your way through the crowds. Vendors are abundant but the atmosphere is fun and laid-back.
You’ll want to wear something lightweight with either flip flops or tennis shoes depending on how much walking you plan to do. A stylish option is the Off White Bia Long Skirt paired with a solid colored top or basic tee to stroll the streets with ease, creating a chic look that you can still move around in. The only accessory you’ll need to enjoy a sunny day at the market is your favorite pair of sunglasses.
#3: Explore Mayan Architecture
One of the best things to do in Cancun is to venture outside of it, at least for a little while. A few hours outside of the city sits ancient Mayan pyramids in Chichén Itzá. The oldest structure there dates all the way back to the 5th century. However, probably the most photographed archaeological site is El Castillo(also known as the Temple of Kukulkan), a pyramid that’s nearly 100 feet tall and listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. In addition to this stunning structure, there are several other areas and buildings to explore that give you a glimpse of the Mayan culture.
Try to get there in the morning right as it opens, as it tends to get crowded throughout the day. There are tours that will take you there or you can reach it on your own by car or bus. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to and from Chichén Itzá and enjoy exploring at a leisurely pace. Here, you can leave your boutique swimwear and sandals behind because you’ll want sturdy shoes to walk along the grounds, as there are areas that aren’t level or paved that require sneakers. Wear casual clothes like shorts and a tee or athletic gear and don’t forget about the sunscreen.
#4: Visit the Ruins of Tulum
Another can’t miss historical and cultural adventure sits about 90 minutes from Cancun in Tulum. Walking among the stone structures feels other-worldly with a panoramic view overlooking the ocean from the cliffs. Don’t be surprised if you see giant iguanas walking by because they call this area home, which is a sight to see in and of itself. While you’re there, head down to the beach via the wooden staircase to splash among the waves or relax on the sand.
If you don’t have a car, you can schedule a tour, taxi, or bus to take you to the ruins. In addition to its ancient structures, Tulum is a beautiful place to snorkel, swim, and eat delicious food in photo-worthy spots. You’ll likely spend several hours, if not stay overnight. Pack a classic triangle bikini top and swimsuit cover up for the beach, but stick to activewear and sneakers when making your way through the ruins. Even if you only plan to stay in Cancun for a few days, a day trip to Tulum is worth the drive.
#5: Soak Up the Nightlife
Even though Cancun has more to offer than the party scene, it doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether. The nightlife is known worldwide for its music and dancing, which lasts until the early morning hours. A visitor favorite is Coco Bongo. On any given night, you’ll be entertained by DJs, acrobats, live bands and other surprises throughout the evening.
Another hot spot is Dady’O which hosts two floors of dancing and light shows to make the entire place feel like one extravagant house party. And, of course, there’s the longtime tradition of experiencing Señor Frog's, known for its foam parties and heart-thumping music. All of these clubs are located within the Hotel Zone and quickly fill to capacity on most nights.
If you want to see what the hype is all about and take in one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes, then any of these places will fit the bill. Dress-wise, skirts, and heels are perfect summer or spring break outfits and are common for a night out of dancing. Put on your party dress and experience the wilder side of Cancun.
#6: Swim in the Cenotes
Cenotes are natural swimming holes found in caves. They’re popular places to swim and snorkel. Discovering cenotes is one of the most unique activities to do in Cancun. Each has different depths, access points, and natural surroundings, which adds an air of mystery. Well-visited locations are the Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Yokdzonot, but each has its own qualities that make it special.
Keep things simple when setting out to find the most amazing cenotes by wearing your favorite designer bikini, a pair of shorts, and flip flops. Take a beach towel, snorkeling gear, and pack a light picnic lunch to spend quality time hanging out at some of Cancun’s most talked-about places.
#7: Zip Line Through the Jungle
If flying through the air sounds like your cup of tea, then zip lining is the adventure for you. Once you’ve had a chance to explore Cancun on its surface and below the water, the next logical choice is to view it from above. There are several zip lining tours that will safely take you the scenic route through the city.
Choose clothing that gives you freedom of movement as you zip from place to place. A one piece swimsuit with a pair of athletic shorts provides comfort and will prevent chafing from the harness that holds you in. Also, wear a t-shirt or flowy top to protect you from the sun while you fly through the trees. Water shoes, or at least shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, are recommended for the final splash. Leave the flip flops for after the adventure since they can easily fall off and don’t provide much support when you land.
#8: Sail to Isla Mujeres
Take the ferry from Hotel Zone ($14 USD one-way) for the 20-minute ride named after the Mayan goddess of fertility. With its sweeping views and low-key pace, it’s a welcome respite to the bustling activity of Cancun. On the island, there’s plenty to do including snorkeling, kayaking, watching sea turtles, fishing, and even swimming with sharks. Plus, there are multiple restaurants and shops to check out and make a full day of it.
A swimsuit and cover up is a must for water activities, but if you plan to stay into the evening, make sure you have an outfit to change into. A maxi dress or jumpsuit with dressy sandals is suitable for dinner on the island. Isla Mujeres is its own paradise in the middle of the sea and one of the top things to do in Cancun.
#9: Take a Self-Guided Food Tour
Get better acquainted with the locals and head to downtown Cancun for a self-guided food tour. Find the best tacos, sample the seafood, and indulge in the delicious desserts of the area. Eating is the perfect way to get to know a place better. Plan a stop by the city park and shop small vendors, eat from the food carts, and possibly stumble upon one of the weekly events.
Afterwards, take an urban stroll along the city’s main street and see what gems you can uncover. Get a feel for where the locals work, play, and dine on a daily basis and plan your food sampling accordingly. For a leisurely walk through town, wear flat shoes and loose, lightweight resort wear to keep cool throughout the day. The Black Nara Top and Jasper Julia Pant is a fashionable outfit optimal for spending time downtown.
#10: Relax on the Beach
Last but not least, visit as many beaches as possible when in Cancun. Although it should go without saying since most of your plans will lead you there eventually, schedule time purely to soak up all its beauty.
Walk along the shoreline, sunbathe, enjoy drinks on the sand, or sneak in a nap or two. However, you want to enjoy the beautiful crystal clear water is up to you. When packing for Cancun, just be sure to bring your go-to swimsuit and cover up, flip flops, sunglasses, and sunscreen for all those beach days. Add a sun hat for extra protection and you’ll be vacation-ready for quality time spent in the sun. Cancun offers plenty of activities for your vacation in addition to its pristine sands and ocean breezes. You’ll never find yourself wondering what to do in Cancun. Between the ancient Mayan architecture, delicious food, and turquoise waters, it’s easy to understand why traveling here is one of the top things to do for spring break. Next time you stay in Cancun, be sure to try one of these adventures!