Located on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun is a destination sought out by all types of travelers. The city caters to all types of visitors, ranging from extravagant party-goers to budget backpackers. There is a lot to do for tourists just staying in the hotel zone, but the real adventures await just outside the city.
Being one of the few ruins overlooking the sea, Tulum is the third most visited site in Mexico. Being one of the last cities built by the Mayans in 1200 AD, it is well-preserved compared to other coastal ruins. It is known for its picturesque views of the Caribbean Sea, many tourists flock here, including those on passing by cruise ships in Cozumel. If you feel like taking a break, there is open access to the beach in the grounds too where you’ll see lots of people swimming and enjoying the sun.
6. Cancun Underwater Museum
Perhaps the most unique museum in the world, the Cancun Underwater Museum is completely submerged and features three different galleries containing 500 sculptures. Created to protect the environment, this beautiful site is meant to attract tourists away from damaged reefs. Many companies offer diving tours or snorkeling tours of the museum.
5. Xcaret Park
This ecological park was actually built on an archaeological site containing Mayan ruins and nature-based attractions. The park has underground rivers, animal encounters, water sports, cultural shows, and more. It’s a unique experience and good for those seeking all-inclusive options. It is definitely easier for a family with kids to enjoy compared to other attractions near Cancun. You may want to get the tickets bundled with Xel-Ha and Xplor tickets if you want more activities past what Xcaret Park offers.
Cenote Ik Kil
These natural formations were sacred to Mayans, and sometimes their only source of water. Resulting from collapsed limestone, Mexico has many cenotes scattered all around the Yucatan. If you want your trip to focus on cenotes, make your way toward Ruta de los Cenotes (the Cenotes Trail) in which you will find eight of these natural pools. Highly recommended on this road is Cenote 7 Bocas, which is less touristy and surrounded by jungle. I personally highly recommend the Grand Cenote. During my visit there I saw lots of scuba divers and it’s a great location to include in your day trip to other temples. Also Ik Kil is probably the most known cenote, located near ruins as well.
3. Isla Mujeres
It only takes a 30 minute ferry ride to get to this small island to escape from the craziness of Cancun. Only 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) long, it’s best to rent a golf cart or scooter to get around to the different sites. If you want to swim, Playa Norte offers calm beaches and beach side restaurants. There are lots of boat tours, water sports, and you can catch a tour to the Underwater Museum from here as well. Make sure to visit the Temple of Ixchel on at the southern point (Punta Sur) of the island. The temple is worn down but the views you get walking along the cliff behind the temple are spectacular. I highly recommend it!
Cenote Ik Kil
This Mayan city were first settled between 50 BC and 100 AD, but the bulk of construction was probably between 500 to 900 AD. Unlike most of the other ruins you’ll see near Cancun, you can still climb its main pyramid, Nohoch Mul Pyramid. It’s a workout to get to the top, but the view is amazing! You’ll be able to see the the vast, dense jungle and other ruins from the top. These ruins are much more spread out than other ruins in the area and you have to walk through the jungle to get to the different sites. The trails are shady, but I would recommend renting a bicycle to get around. You can also hire a pedicab driver to taxi you around if you want to. Make sure to bring bug spray and utilize your camera’s panoramic mode when you get to the top of the main pyramid. By the way, this is a great day trip to do along with Tulum and the Grand Cenote.
1. Chichen Itza
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One of the greatest cities in the Mayan world and one of the most popular sites in Mexico with over 1,000,000 tourists visiting per year, Chichen Itza is an obvious choice for the #1 place to see from Cancun. The site was named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and definitely deserves the title with the sophisticated structures reflecting the Mayan’s advancements. Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, is the main pyramid on the grounds and is unfortunately no longer open for climbing. However seeing the structure is impressive makes any trip to Mexico worth it. The city also contains the largest known ball court, and the Sacred Cenote is a 10 minute walk from the main pyramid. I highly recommend paying for a tour guide to get the full experience of these ruins and learn about the complex Mayan culture.
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7 Best Day Trips from Cancun
Posted on December 3, 2015