What to Do in Cancun and the Riviera Maya
Collected by Tommy Alexander , AFAR Staff
Carretera Federal Cancún-Tulum, km 1266.8, Puerto Aventuras, 77734 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Swim in a mystical cenote believed to be the gateway to the Underworld by the ancients. These subterranean rivers, formed by the last Ice Age, are said to be sacred and are guarded by aluxes, or elves whose permission is needed to enter their...
Carretera Federal, Cancun - Chetumal Km 230, 307, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
While not as large as other ancient Mayan cities in the region, Tulum draws in visitors for its stunning setting of centuries-old temples perched on a cliff by the Caribbean Sea. You’ll pass a large market with souvenirs, a casual Mexican...
Blvd. Kukulcan 5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
For hundreds of years, Mexico’s ancient cultures have employed the temazcál, a purifying steam bath intended to heal the body and cleanse the mind and soul. Unlike steam baths or sweat lodges of other indigenous cultures, the temazcál was used...
Blvd. Kukulcan km 12.5, La Isla, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
If sitting on the beach is too boring or if you just need a shot of adrenaline, Cancun outfitters and resorts offer plenty of water sports lessons and equipment. There are the usual suspects: surfing, kiteboarding, and parasailing, as well as...
Carretera Chetumal Puerto Juárez Km 240, locales 1 & 2, módulo B, 77780 Q.R., Mexico
Xel-Há is one of the area's most popular attractions. The name identifies both the archaeological site and the ecotourism marine park and the site attracts hundreds of visitors from around the world, throughout the year. Ceremonial centers and...
Carretera Federal Cancun - Playa del Carmen Km 48, Solidaridad, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Cerrada Las Golondrinas 24, Alfredo Bonfil, 77560 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Located off the coast of Cancun, the Cancun Underwater Museum features more than 500 sculptures scattered across the ocean floor, allowing art lovers a unique perspective personal while snorkeling or scuba diving. Since 2010, sculptures have been...
Blvd. Kukulcan 19, Punta Cancun, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Delphines Public Beach, the first beach on the strip, offers a wide swath of cool white sand and fresh blue sea to explore. This is a great place to sit in the shade of your own palapa, watch the water change colors, and cool off with a romp in...
México 307, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico
Tulum, Mexico, is a magical place that has never yet seemed to be to crowded or overrun. It is the smaller sister of Playa Del Carmen on the Yucatan Peninsula. The whole area is made of limestone and lowland jungle with amazing, crystal-clear...
Boulevard Kukulcan Km. 9.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Look out Las Vegas, Coco Bongo is in town. This wild dance club, in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone, is packed with live shows—everything from faux Queen or Madonna to bar-top conga lines and airborne acrobats. Make sure to bring your dancing...
Blvd. Kukulcan, Punta Cancun, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
With ancient traditions and a rich history, Mayan society is a fascinating, integral part of Mexican culture and history. While immersed in the Museo Maya de Cancun you'll forget all about the resorts outside and instead be transported back onto...
Blvd. Kukulcan, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Under the waters of Cancun's coast, hundreds of statues are on display. Part unique art display and part artificial reef habitat, it's an environmentally friendly addition to the beach city. The Cancun Underwater Museum is best enjoyed on a...
Km 14.7, Blvd. Kukulcan, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Driving your own tiny speed boat will leave you exhilarated and breathless. Most travelers come to Cancun for its pristine beaches, but just across the narrow strip of land known as the hotel zone is an enormous lagoon. Zipping across the water in...
Carretera Chetúmal-Puerto Juárez Kilómetro 282, Solidaridad, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Each May since 2007, the area has been reenacting La Travesía Sagrada Maya (Sacred Maya Journey), a ritual which was conducted for more than 1,000 years by the ancient Maya. Tracing the steps of their ancestors, current inhabitants of the area...
Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Just when it seemed like the Riviera Maya Riviera had become nothing but a sea of all-inclusive beach resorts, you stumble upon the quaint little Mexican village of Puerto Morelos. There are almost no huge developments, no shopping outlets, and no...
Isla Mujeres, Q.R., Mexico
We love this little island... It's only the 12th time we visit and it does not get old. It's laid-back, friendly, authentic, relaxing, and yummie. Just a boat ride from Cancun, but don't come just for the day trip and buffet on the beach. Come to...
Isla Contoy, Quintana Roo, Mexico
The most remote and least visited of Cancun's outlying islands is Isla Contoy, a nature preserve where the number of visitors is strictly limited to no more than 200 per day. Typically, though, fewer than 100 people make the excursion to this...
Carr. Cancún - Tulum Km 31, 77580 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Cancun offers lots of opportunities for kids and adults alike to get close to marine life, including whale sharks, dolphins, and sea lions, both on the open sea and in contained environments such as the city's interactive aquarium. For younger...
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