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What to do in Cancun in one day

If you’re lucky enough to have a day to explore in Cancun, there is plenty available to keep you occupied and you might be tempted to spend more time there!

What is Cancun known for?

Located in Quintana Roo and surrounded by the crystal-clear Caribbean sea, Cancun is the quintessential Mexican retreat. Famed for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters and unparalleled weather, Cancun is the beating heart of the Yucatan Peninsula and one of Mexico’s most popular destinations.

If you’re researching what to do in Cancun in one day, take a look at our handy guide for some inspirational ideas.

First things first, you may be asking yourself; is Cancun too touristy?

There’s no denying that Cancun is a popular destination for tourists. With miles of endless sand beaches, beautiful Caribbean seas and hundreds of the world’s best all-inclusive resorts, Cancun does (purposely!) attract plenty of tourists from all over the world. But, it is all with good reason as many of the nearby tourist attractions are well worth visiting, so don’t let the potential crowds deter you from spending your day in Cancun.

Plus, there are plenty of things to do in Cancun that allow you to experience Mexican culture if off-the-beaten-track is what you’re looking for!

You might consider visiting one of Cancún’s markets for an insight into how the locals shop for produce, groceries and hand-crafted goods. Maybe you’d prefer to relax and watch the world go by in Cancun’s main central park, Kabah, before hitting the bars frequented by locals on Yaxchilan Avenue.

While there are plenty of things to see that are less-frequented by tourists, here are some of the best ways to spend one day in Cancun.

Watch the sunrise over the Caribbean sea

If you’re staying in the hotel zone your resort will have a private beach where you can grab a spot to watch the sunrise. If not, there are six public beaches in Cancun where you can start your day right with the sunrise, and maybe even a dip in the ocean.

Submerge yourself in the Cancun Underwater Museum

For a truly unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience, you should visit Cacun’s underwater museum which houses hundreds of sculptures along the seabed across three different galleries. The marine concrete figures have been built by artists with the aim of giving a home to the coral and marine life that resides in the crystal clear waters. There are various tours available depending on whether you wish to scuba dive, snorkel or stay dry on a glass-bottomed boat, but whatever your preference one thing is for sure – this is an attraction not to miss!

Indulge in some water sports before heading into town

The average annual temperature in Cancun is 27° C / 80° F so it is a year-round holiday destination for beach-lovers. With water activities such as jet-skiing, parasailing, kayaking and more on offer there are plenty of sports you can do in the beautiful Caribbean sea! Maybe you’d like to swim with dolphins, or spend the afternoon on a jungle tour instead.

Visit the El Ray Ruins in southern Cancun

There are plenty of larger archeological sites to be seen around the Yucatan Peninsula, but if you’re strapped for time in Cancun the El Ray Ruins are a great taste of ancient Mayan civilisation, and entry costs only around $3, so it’s a real bargain. The ruins were thought to have once been a Royal retreat during the 12-1400’s, based on some of the remains found at the site that are believed to have belonged to Kings.

Learn about Mexico’s rich Mayan history at the Cancún Archaeological Museum

Once you’ve tired of your fun in the sun it’s time to learn about the culture and history of the ancient Mayan civilisation. The museum has three exhibition halls displaying more than 3,500 pieces of Mayan skeletons, sculptures and other artifacts that take visitors on a journey of discovery into ancient times in Mexico. 

Eat like a local in Downtown Cancun

Many tourists stick to the Hotel Zone when visiting Cancun, but Downtown is worth a visit for a taste of the local cuisine alongside locals. Stray away from the resort restaurants and head to Yaxchilan Avenue for bars, restaurants and cafes frequented by locals for a taste of true Mexican cuisine at local prices.

End your evening with a walk down the hotel strip

Cancun’s Hotel Zone is the most popular spot for tourists and is filled with all-inclusive resorts, bars, restaurants and clubs. It gets lively at night and the parties can be wild. Whether you’re up for a drink or just want to people-watch, you can top off your night with a stroll down strip for an insight into Cancun’s tourist party culture!

What can you do for free in Cancun?

Just because Cancun is popular with tourists doesn’t mean visiting has to break the bank. In fact, you might have noticed our list of what to do is quite budget friendly. Cancun’s biggest draw, the miles of white sand beaches and the bright blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, are completely free. The amazing Underwater Museum is only $1, so that’s another thing you can basically do for free in Cancun. And away from the water, you can stroll the downtown area admiring the colorful murals, or immerse yourself in local life at the bustling market. 

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