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How to Tackle Cancun as a First Timer

How to Tackle Cancun as a First Timer

You may head to Cancun thinking you’ll simply spend a week blissed out on the beach, but there are a number of ways to experience this Yucatan hot spot, including historical and cultural attractions, water sports, and day trips. Here are our top recommendations for first-timers.

 

Sail to Isla Mujeres

A small island just 8 miles (13 kilometers) off the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a popular day-trip destination for all ages. Catamaran sailing tours and other cruises transport visitors to the island, often with a few hours on the water for snorkeling and swimming. Some tours are party-themed, while others offer a more relaxing experience suitable for families.


Swim with Whale Sharks

The biggest fish in the sea, whale sharks gather in the Caribbean waters off Cancun in the summer, typically from mid-June to early September. Tours to swim with them are a splurge but worth it for the unparalleled experience of seeing the gentle giants up close in the wild.

 

Check Out an Adventure Park

South of Cancun near Playa del Carmen, a collection of family-friendly parks offer the chance to see a different side of the Maya Riviera. Depending on your interests, choose one of four aquatic, outdoor-adventure, jungle, and eco-archaeological parks—Xel-Ha, Rio Secreto, Xplor, or Xcaret. Activities such as ziplining, water rides, and swimming in underground rivers make for a fun alternative to another day on the beach, plus some parks are built around Maya ruins.

 

Visit Maya Ruins

For those interested in learning about the cultural history of the Yucatan, there are a few Maya archaeological sites that can be visited on tours from Cancun. Chichen Itza is the big one—a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest and perhaps most mythical of the Maya cities. Tulum is known for its perch right on the coast, with a view of the turquoise sea, while Coba features the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan.

 

Discover a Cenote

One of the Yucatan’s most distinctive features, cenotes are sinkholes that create natural underground swimming pools. Associated with sacred Maya ceremonies, today they are much-visited attractions where you can swim in cool fresh waters. Many tours combine time at a cenote with a visit to a Maya archaeological site.

 

Check Out the Nightlife

Cancun’s nightlife scene is the stuff spring-break dreams are made of, and for those interested, there are dozens of bars and clubs to check out. CocoBongo is one of the most legendary, but different clubs are the place to be on different nights, so consider a nightclub tour to hit the best parties at the right time with a ready-made social group.

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9 Tours and Activities | All Cancun Tours

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3-in-1 Discovery Combo Tour: Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling Plus Cenote and Caves

3-in-1 Discovery Combo Tour: Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling Plus Cenote and Caves

star-5
Explore coral reefs, ancient history, and nature in the Riviera Maya on an combination tour that features some of the best of Yucatan in a single day. Snorkel through the coral reef in the Caribbean Sea, visit the Tulum archeological site, and swim in a cenote, then explore a limestone cave and take a jungle walk. This tour includes entrance fees, a buffet lunch, and door-to-door transport from hotels in Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$109.00
From
$109.00
Taking safety measures

Exclusive: Early Access Tour to Chichen Itza From Cancun & Riviera Maya

Exclusive: Early Access Tour to Chichen Itza From Cancun & Riviera Maya

star-4.5
Discover the ruins at Chichen Itza with a private archaeologist guide on this all-day Viator exclusive tour. Skip the lines and the crowds with early morning access and view parts of the ruins that most traditional tours don't visit.  Learn about Mexico's past through your guide's insightful commentary about this UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. A boxed lunch is also included for your convenience.
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  • 10 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$47.00
From
$47.00
Taking safety measures

Sightseeing, Snorkeling, and Dancing Catamaran Cruise from Cancun

Sightseeing, Snorkeling, and Dancing Catamaran Cruise from Cancun

star-4.5
Cruise the Caribbean Sea on this triple-decker catamaran for a full day of sightseeing, snorkeling, shopping, and salsa dancing. Take advantage of the open bar and enjoy a Mexican fajita feast on board. Explore the beach and town of Isla Mujeres, snorkel in the warm water of El Meco reef, or take salsa dancing lessons on this booze cruise from Cancun.
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  • 7 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$64.90
From
$64.90
Taking safety measures

Priority Access: Xcaret Day Trip with Transportation

Priority Access: Xcaret Day Trip with Transportation

star-4.5
Escape for the day to Xcaret, Mexico's ecological and archeology park located in Riviera Maya. On this full-day trip from Cancun to Xcaret, swim in a lagoon, snorkel in the clear aqua waters of the Caribbean, and discover a network of subterranean rivers. Watch for monkeys, birdlife, and butterflies as you stroll through the jungle at Xcaret and take tours of the ancient Mayan archaeological sites. After the sun sets, enjoy folkloric entertainment that highlights the ancient Mayan culture around Cancun, Mexico. This Xcaret outing includes pickup and drop-off at most hotels in Cancun.
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  • 6 to 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$139.99
From
$139.99
Taking safety measures

Half-Day Sailing Trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun

Half-Day Sailing Trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun

star-4.5
Get door to door service and a chance to snorkel in the Mexican Caribbean during this 4.5-hour boat excursion from Cancun. Relax on board the comfortable boat and enjoy included refreshments, then go ashore in Isla Mujeres to check it out. Pickup and drop-off from Cancun hotels is included.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Taking safety measures
From
$69.99
From
$69.99
Taking safety measures

Rio Secreto Underground River Tour with Crystal Caves

Rio Secreto Underground River Tour with Crystal Caves

star-5
Explore the Rio Secreto Nature Reserve outside of Cancun on this full-day excursion, where you swim and wade in one of the most spectacular underground caves in Mexico. See the famous crystal caves on a tour that showcases the spectacular natural wonders of the Yucatán. Choose round-trip transportation from your Cancun hotel, or meet your guide at Rio Secreto directly.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$85.87
From
$85.87
Taking safety measures

Priority Access: Xel-Há All-Inclusive Day Trip with Transportation

Priority Access: Xel-Há All-Inclusive Day Trip with Transportation

star-4.5
Explore Xel-Ha Park, the Riviera Maya's stunning natural aquarium, on this all-day trip from Cancun. Relax on Xel Ha's hidden beach, swim in cenotes and lagoons, go snorkeling, and spelunk in caves. Watch out for wildlife like angelfish and iguanas. Xel-Ha is all-inclusive, so enjoy Mayan cuisine, seafood and burgers with your admission. This tour is family-friendly and includes round-trip transportation to Xel-Ha from Cancun.
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  • 9 to 10 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$129.99
From
$129.99
Taking safety measures

VIP Nightclub Tour in Cancun

VIP Nightclub Tour in Cancun

star-5
Dance and party the night away at the best nightclubs in Cancun, Mexico. Party-hop to 3 of the top clubs in Cancun on this 6-hour evening that includes VIP service and unlimited drinks. Skip standing in long lines with VIP entry. Cancun's nightlife scene is yours to explore on this VIP nightclub experience.
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  • 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$95.00
From
$95.00
Taking safety measures

Priority Access: Xplor Adventure Park with Hotel Pick up and Drop Off

Priority Access: Xplor Adventure Park with Hotel Pick up and Drop Off

star-5
Satisfy an appetite for adventure on a full-day tour of the exhilarating Xplor Adventure Park from Cancun. 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; and drive an amphibious vehicle on exciting off-road trails. Feast upon an all-you-can-eat buffet of flavorsome and fulfilling dishes while sipping refreshing beverages from an open bar. On this all-inclusive tour, hotel transport, entrance fees and lunch are all completely covered.
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  • 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$159.99
From
$159.99
Taking safety measures


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