Cancun is well known for being a hit party spot, the go to vacation place for college spring breakers but besides the crazy parties and clubs, there is actually lots to see when it comes to culture and nature in this famous part of Mexico.
Sitting on the Caribbean coast of the country in the Yucatán Peninsula, this area has the second longest coral reef in the world with clear waters and soft sand. Many islands are close by, one of the most famous is Isla de Mujeres which now houses an underwater museum with 400 statues planted as artificial reefs.
If you’re a bit hesitant on visiting Cancun, you’ll be pleased to find out there’s plenty to do besides the parties. It’s incredibly family friendly and you can spend a good amount of time here exploring the outdoor, cultural and historical attractions!
You can skip to the activities we did by clicking below.
Cancun, a paradise vacation getaway
There are a bunch of different tours in Cancun such as snorkeling, parasailing, boating and more. With so much to do in the area, the four days we were there were really too short to explore it all! So we picked a couple of our favorites and saved the rest for next time.
Isla de Mujeres boat tour
One of the more popular tours is the Isla de Mujeres (Women island) boat tour which we decided to do. It was all day with lunch and drinks included on a boat ride from Cancun to the island.
Activities included snorkeling, swimming, taking a picture with a nurse shark, and island sightseeing. The catamaran we were on was beautiful and we met people from all over the world.
Cancun has become an extremely popular place for honeymooners as it is easy to find good deals on Groupon and the resorts are all-inclusive.
Along the way to the island, we stopped at one of the coral reefs to do some snorkeling, my first time snorkeling! We saw tons of the yellow butterfly fish among many others and our guide brought a line of fish food to sprinkle around so the fish swam all around us. The waters were fairly clear and you could see coral on the bottom.
Right as we docked at the island, they have an area near the shore where they have a nurse shark you can pet and take a picture with. To be really honest, I don’t agree with how they take care of the shark so we skipped it.
Lunch was served beach side as a buffet and they had a huge spread with rice, meat, salad, cookies, chips and various juices and drinks. Afterwards we were given a few hours to walk around, shop and see the island.
The beach is just stunning – we went in December during the beginning of dry season and there was a good handful of people there. For such a small island, there was actually a bunch of buildings, hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.
You can tell that this is an incredibly popular place for tourists who want to escape the intense concrete jungle of Cancun and opt for a quieter island vacation.
On the way back, you can watch the sunset over the water and relax after a fun day. Para sailing was also included but according to our guides, it wasn’t possible because of the wind.
But for the price ~$60 this was a trip worth the money. The guides were fun, food was tasty, water was crystal clear and we loved exploring the island.
For our next trip, really wanted to visit some of the ruins like Chichen Itza or Tulum but there was one activity that caught my eye.
Xcaret is an eco-archaeological park located in Quintana Roo where you can learn about the history and traditions of the Mayans, essentially a cultural center with extra activities. They have underwater caves, gardens, aquariums, bird centers, butterfly houses, museums, water and wildlife activities, watching a traditional Mayan football game, and a performance at the end of the night.
You have to pay extra for the special activities like the dolphins or shark feeding but the performances, lunch and underwater cave snorkeling was included in the ticket price.
The cave snorkeling was incredible. There were multiple caves you could snorkel in and each one was different. One of the caves was next to the manatee pool so we got to snorkel right up to the manatee since he was hanging out near the glass!
We still had the afternoon left so we wandered around the park, meandered at the aquarium, learned about the Antiguo Juego do Pelota (Old Mayan Ball Game), peeked around some replicas of old Mayan villages, smelled a delightful mushroom farm, gawked at the Flying Man performance, chatted with some dolphins and twirled around on the observation tower.
This place was a great way to discover more about the Mexican culture, specifically the Mayan people. Xcaret maintains many of the original structures which can be dated back to as far as 1200 AD and was a very important port and trading center.
Mexico is so full of history and culture that they deserve to be learned about properly and the park is a wonderful way to teach people about the Mayan history.
At the end of the night, there is a show that depicts the history of Mexico dating back to before and after the Spanish takeover with dances and performances. These were the only two tours Yeison and I did and the other days we walked around and spent a day at the beach.
One night we took the local bus to downtown and explored more of the city. The bus is really cheap so I highly suggest hopping on one to venture outside of all the resorts to see something different.
If you’re looking for a vacation that’s easy to plan, Cancun is the place for you. It has great weather and you won’t have to worry about food, transportation or activities.
Tours in Cancun Expenses
Isla Mujeres – all day, lunch included $60
XCaret – all day, lunch included $110
Airport transportation: 30 minutes, transportation included with hotel but $14 each way with shuttle (taxis will rip you off)
Hotel: Hotel Grand Oasis Palm (beautiful hotel, wonderful pool, great location and the best Brazilian steak house ever)
Yeison booked our vacation package through Destinostv in Costa Rica so I paid $300 for 4 nights, gold level + airfare from Seattle. He paid $600 for airfare from Costa Rica and hotel.
Check out our other travels!