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Check out our list of the best things to do in Cancun this year, including new activities and restaurants.

By Emma Sloley

Whether you’re traveling with kids or as a couple, on a budget or looking to splurge, we’ve uncovered the best things to do in Cancun, Mexico, this year, from thrilling activities to buzz-worthy restaurants. 

Things to Do in Cancun on a Budget

Attractions

Explore the Ruins of El Rey
If a day trip to the legendary Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá feels too daunting, explore an archeological site much closer to home. The El Rey Ruins are located in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, and their compact size makes for an easy and accessible jaunt. The site is also home to a host of iguanas, so get ready for plenty of Instagram moments with these scaly residents. With an admission fee of around $3 USD, this is also an historic bargain. Boulevard Kukulkan, Cancun; Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Check out the Beach Scene at Playa Tortugas 
Considering Cancun is renowned for its gorgeous beaches, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to staking out a piece of sand. But if you’re looking to venture a little off the beaten path, head to Playa Tortugas, a hit with locals and visitors alike for its fun vibe, clean white sand, and cheap-and-cheerful thatched-roof al fresco restaurants. Playa Tortugas is located at the northern part of the Hotel Zone. 

Soak up Mayan Culture at a Local Museum
Escape the heat while immersing yourself in the local culture of the Yucatán at the bright and contemporary Museo Maya de Cancún, which houses one of the area’s most important collections of Maya artifacts. On display are around 400 pieces collected from around the peninsula, including sculptures, ceramics, and jewelry, along with a hall showcasing revolving Maya exhibits. Entry fee is around $4 USD. Boulevard Kukulcan km 16.5, Hotel Zone, Cancún; Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Related: 5 Things to do in Tulum

Shopping

Browse for Souvenirs at an Open-Air Shopping Mall 
The popular La Isla Shopping Village is the most visited along the hotel strip, and it’s easy to see why: the complex offers a pleasant open-air environment where visitors can stroll the boutiques, enjoy family-friendly entertainment, and snack at restaurants. There’s even a gondola-style boat that ferries guests through the canals. Blvd Kukulkan km 12.5 | Zona Hotelera, Cancun; Open daily 10 a.m-10 p.m.

Restaurants

Grab a Bite at One of Cancun’s Coolest Spots
Join the fun-loving crowd The Surfin’ Burrito, a Cancun restaurant known for its lively bar, great cheap cocktails ,and excellent food. Styled as a seaside shack and decked out with surfing paraphernalia, this hotspot attracts a diverse crowd and has a prime oceanfront location. Have the bartender fix you a cocktail served in a coconut shell, order a plate of tacos, and prepare to socialize the day away. A bus runs regularly from the main hotel to the Surfin’ Burrito, and the restaurant is open 24 hours. Kukulcan Blvd. Km 9.5, Cancun

Visit an Authentic Mexican Market
If you’re keen to experience a slice of local Mexican life, head to Mercado 23, a flea market that also sells groceries, prepared foods, clothing, and crafts. Here, you can sample some of the freshest tortillas in town, prepared with traditional fillings like cochinita (suckling pig.) Ciricote 15, 23, Cancún

Nightlife

Pull Up a Barstool at a Lively Cantina
The Blue Gecko Cantina is another thatched-roof, al fresco nightspot that attracts a young and spirited crowd who gather to sip on the bar’s signature mojitos, nosh on buffalo shrimp tacos, and occasionally dance on tables. There’s even a resident parrot. Kukulcan Blvd. Km 16, Cancun

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Things to Do in Cancun With Kids

Attractions

Marvel at Ocean Life
Cancún’s Interactive Aquarium, located in the La Isla Shopping Center, is a family-friendly attraction that gives kids a hands-on, interactive experience of the wonderland that lies beneath the region’s dazzling ocean surface. There are touch tanks, swimming with dolphins, and shark feedings, with around 1,200 aquatic species on display. Blvd. Kukulcan Km. 12.5 Hotel Zone, Cancún; Open daily, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Enjoy Close Encounters with Wildlife
If interacting with marine life in the wild is more your family’s speed, Cancun offers a world of opportunities. Swim with marine turtles in calm and beautiful Akumal Bay, located around an hour and a half drive from Cancun; join an exhilarating boat tour to swim with whale sharks during summer months (May to September); or go snorkeling just offshore in the reefs, where kids can spend hours discovering kaleidoscopic marine life.

Spend the Day at a Thrilling Eco-Park
The Riviera Maya is becoming renowned for its excellent eco-parks, and families have numerous options when it comes to picking an adventurous day out. Xcaret offers multiple activities through its magical rivers and lagoons, along with upscale restaurants and cultural landmarks; Xel-Ha is famous for its aquatic ziplines; while Rio Secreto takes visitors into a mesmerizing natural wonderland of underground rivers (called cenotes), rich with stalactites and stalagmites.

Restaurants

Spend the Evening with Pirates
Cancun’s rollicking Jolly Roger Pirate Show is bound to be a big hit with kids of all ages. Board an authentic pirate galleon for a three-hour extravaganza that includes live music, fireworks, and a cast of swashbuckling pirates. The experience includes dinner, with 13 choices ranging from lobster to surf and turf, and of course plenty of kid-friendly options for miniature pirates.

Mayan ruins in Tulum
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Things to Do in Cancun for Couples

Attractions

Get Captivated by Seaside Mayan Ruins
It’s worth a day trip to visit the legendary ruins near the chic resort town of Tulum. The remains of this thirteenth-century city are from the Mayan post-classic period and offer an edifying glimpse at history as well as one of the most breathtaking locations around. The site is set on a bluff overlooking the ocean and a perfect white-sand beach, which visitors can access via a staircase down to the sand.

Get Pampered at a Fancy Spa
The spa at Le Blanc, one of Cancun’s best all-inclusive resorts, is the place to indulge for a few adults-only hours between beach stints. The wellness center offers a comprehensive array of treatments, from hot stone massages to ocean scrubs and innovative facials. You can even sign up for the ultimate indulgence: a “Golden VIP” ceremony in a luxe sanctuary for two.

Dance the Day Away at a Beach Club
If you’re keen to join one of the many seemingly endless parties that Cancun offers up, head to Mandala Beach Club, where a day pass gets you access to 3 pools, lounge chairs, beach beds, private villas, a bar and restaurant, and music, all fronting one of Cancun’s most beautiful beaches.

Shopping

Flex Your Credit Card at an Upscale Mall
Cancun’s Luxury Avenue is home to all the top-shelf brands you’d expect—Cartier, Burberry, Fendi, and more—but beyond the posh international names, there’s also the opportunity to browse high-end Mexican designers, like Benito Santos and Vero Diaz, at the mall’s Concept Store, which even has a range of stylish vegan shoes. Blvd Kukulcan, km 13, Zona Hotelera, Cancun

Take Home a One-Off Treasure
At Ambarte Cancun, you can shop for unique jewelry crafted from Mexican amber, along with a wide selection of jewelry and sculptures made by Mexican artisans. The store also showcases interesting local folk arts and crafts. Forum By The Sea, Blvd Kukulcan, km 9.5, Cancun

Restaurants

Dine Out on Delicious Cross-Cultural Cuisine
Culinary fusion is a big hit in Cancun, and some of the most interesting examples of the movement can be found at Sakura Sunset, a swanky restaurant brand located inside two of the all-inclusive Oasis resorts in town, The Sian Ka’An at Grand Sens and the Grand Oasis Sens. The restaurants dish up a Japanese-Peruvian hybrid menu with an emphasis on fresh local seafood. Blvd Kukulcan lote 50, Cancún 

Make Date Night a Seafood Feast
If a fancy, old-school night out is on the agenda, make a beeline for Lorenzillos, a popular fine-dining restaurant that’s considered one of the best tables in town. On the menu: lobster, prawns, and fish served in a variety of classic ways. Request a table on the muy romantico deck overlooking the water. Blvd Kukulcan km 10.5, Cancun

Nightlife

Sip Cocktails at a Downtown Hotspot
Located in downtown Cancun, not far from the start of the Hotel Zone, Nebrina Gin & Cocina might be the closest Cancun gets to a hipster cocktail bar, sporting exposed brick walls, Edison bulbs, and cute tiled floors. It’s the ideal spot for a fancy cocktail. The menu leans, not surprisingly, towards gin-based concoctions—and for snacking, delicious bites like tuna tartare and sliders. Av Carlos Nader 3, Cancún