This small city proves that size doesn’t really matter all that much. Stay in the city centre for access to entertainment venues and nature preserves or head to Zona Hotelera (the Hotel Zone), a strand of beaches flanked on the east by the Caribbean Sea and on the west by Lake Nichupté. For a more secluded escape, book accommodation in Playa Mujeres, directly north of Cancun.
You may be thinking, “I don’t want to do anything in Cancun but kick back”. When you can spend the day absorbing vitamin D on the sand with a margarita in your hand, a “can’t be bothered” attitude is only appropriate, after all. If this is you, consider Cancun hotels in the appropriately named Hotel Zone.
Once you’re settled, Playa Tortugas is the perfect beach for wading in still, blue waters or bungee jumping from a tower if you need a wakeup call. Further west, stake your umbrella at Playa Chac Mool, smack in the middle of the Hotel Zone.
In the Hotel Zone, don’t miss the El Rey Ruins, a Mayan structure dating back to 250 AD. Prefer to socialise with finned friends? Then hurry on over to Dolphinaris Cancun, where you can actually swim with dolphins. Repeat: You can swim with dolphins.
Of course, at some point, you’ve got to tap into the local history, but don’t worry—you can swim to see that, too. Grab some snorkelling gear and dive at the Cancun Underwater Museum MUSA, a non-profit preservation of over 400 sculptures submerged near a coral reef.
When you’re ready for some good eats, forget the resort food. Belly up to a beachfront stand and snack on tacos and tortas—some of the best food in Cancun. If you really want to get down on some authentic eats, head downtown to the food carts of Parque las Palapas and order up piles of deep-fried panuchos, empanadas and slow-roasted cochinita pibil. We’re talking piles, literally.
Flights to Cancun International Airport (CUN) touch down about 17km south of downtown. From there, buses offer thorough coverage of the main streets, sights and accommodation in Cancun. Seeing the city with one of our car hire options is pretty easy too, so pick up some wheels and get moving.
In Cancun, the party is always on, and you’ll find live music events, sporting events and more year-round. If you’re looking for something a little more cultural, though, it has that too. One of the coolest events is the Autumnal Equinox around the third week of September.
The pyramid of Chichen Itza has a neat optical illusion that occurs in the afternoon sunlight at the equinox. A shadow is created that looks just like a snake creeping down the stairs. Even better, it joins up with a serpent’s head at the bottom. Those ancient Maya definitely knew what they were doing. There are tons of day trips that will get you back to your Cancun accommodation in time for your own personal tradition: evening drinks.
The Maya weren’t the only ones who took tradition seriously. Today’s residents go all out on November 1 and 2 for Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Elaborate altars will be made in parks, town squares and even schools throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. Holidaymakers can head south to Playa del Carmen for a huge celebration with music, dance, food and sugar skull tattoos—temporary of course. Hopefully the spirits won’t follow you back to the hotels in Cancun. Spooooky!
Speaking of skulls, Chichen Itza really is a must-see any time of year, and it’s got a whole wall of them. Don’t worry, they’re not real human skulls, just carvings! For something less macabre and flat-out impressive, check out the Temple of the Warriors, which is protected by 200 soldier-like columns.
Next, head to the Great Ball Court, the largest game field in all of Mesoamerica. The game played here would have been called something like “shooting balls through tall stone rings”, and the losers would have been…sacrificed. Talk about dedication to the sport.
The ancient city of Coba is another great destination that certainly won’t “ruin” Cancun holidays. It’s undeveloped and significantly less touristy than Chichen Itza, which is either a plus or a minus, depending on how adventurous you are! But get this: You can climb the pyramid. Plus, befriend howler monkeys and trek through the jungle like Indiana Jones. That’s all pretty cool, if you ask us.
Of course, if you’ve only got one day in Cancun, you’re more than welcome to spend it lounging on the beach with a pina colada in hand. We won’t judge.
You hit the beach, swam with dolphins, snorkelled through a museum and explored ancient ruins…you’ve been outside this whole time! This is true, traveller, but you haven’t seen it like the unique Mayan Adventure snorkelling tour will show it to you. “Wave” hello to sea turtles and fishy friends in a gentle ocean inlet, then take a dive in a breathtaking cenote in the midst of the jungle.
You’re not done re-creating Indiana Jones yet. Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes that often appear to glow in the sunlight. Don’t look before you leap. Just jump right off the platform—and make sure you’ve got a friend with a camera ready.
Much like you trust your mate to get that perfect photo, you can trust Wotif to find you the best deals around. We’ve got a great selection of places to stay in Cancun, meaning you can focus on finding the perfect togs.
Hotels in Cancun start at NZ$102 per night. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.