Heading to Cancun and Quintana Roo for your holidays? Then check out this ultimate travel guide with some of the best things to do in and around Cancun!
Are you looking for beautiful beaches, amazing ancient history, all-year-round sunshine and the best tacos you’ve ever had in your life? Then you really can’t go wrong with Cancun in Mexico!
With its bright colours, cracking cuisine and some of the world’s best tourist attractions (put it this way, there aren’t many places where you can go scuba diving in an underwater cave filled with a thick smokey cloud and climb to the top of an ancient Maya pyramid), Mexico is easily one of my favourite countries in the world – and it’s got nothing to do with the fact that my sister-in-law is Mexican!
Cancun and Quintana Roo is an area I know fairly well – the last time I was there was a couple of years ago – but I jumped at the chance to go back again with Teletext Holidays.
Based at the Moon Palace, the 5* all-inclusive resort just south of Cancun, I hired a car and looked at exploring as much of Cancun and Quintana Roo as possible. There are so many activities to do here it’s easy visiting a different destination each day and never get bored.
With beautiful beaches, paradise islands, the world’s only underwater museum and a party that’d put any in Las Vegas to shame, these are some of the best things to do in Cancun!
If you’re looking for the ultimate travel guide to Cancun then this is it!
Holbox, you beauty.
Holbox is a little slice of paradise just off the northern coast of Quintana Roo, and for an island Holbox is as cute as they come.
Only two hours from Cancun, it is easy to catch the ferry and visit Holbox for a couple of days, and it is quickly becoming one of my favourite places in Mexico.
Holbox is the best of Mexico all on one little island with a number of hotels and beach clubs dotted along the coast. The main town is just a 10-minute walk from the port and is made up of a few cluster of streets.
Here, everyone is on island time, and the only things you have to worry about is where you left your flip-flops or which restaurant to eat in for dinner.
With no cars on the island, everyone gets around by golf buggy (which costs around $150 peso to hire for two hours; a taxi ride is usually $30 peso).
Or if you’re looking at doing nothing at all, you can grab lunch, a pina colada and a bed on the beach at one of the beach clubs and laze around for the afternoon (which is what I did at Coquitos while I was there and it was blissful).
If you’re looking for a great guide on Holbox then check out Emily Luxton Travels guide here.
One of the best things about travelling around Cancun and Quintana Roo are all the cenotes everywhere.
These are natural pits and sink holes in the rock completely filled with water, and some of them you can even swim and dive making them the most unusual swimming pools around.
The ancient Maya people used to believe cenotes were connections to the underworld and they used to make human sacrifices there. However, these days people use them to splash around in for an underwater adventure.
The most popular cenotes are Ik-Kil – this is next door to Chichen Itza and a lot of tours include this cenote in a package combo – and Dos Ojos very close to Tulum.
Ik-Kil is great fun as there’s a high platform you can jump off for those brave enough, and Dos Ojos is like an underwater themepark where you can snorkel and dive (it’s also now officially the longest underwater cave in the world at 216 miles long!)
However, if you’ve got your own car then it’s really worth while driving to a few of the lesser visited cenotes. Places like Samula and X’Keken are arguably more beautiful than the other more popular cenotes with a 1/10th of the crowds.
Also, if you’re into your diving then Cenote Angelita gets my vote as the best dive site in Quintana Roo – that’s the one where you dive through this alien-like cloud underwater. It’s quite hard to explain it all so you’re better off reading all about it here!
Cost – varies between $70 to $150 peso depending on which cenote; lockers and towel hire are separate
Chichen Itza is actually the most visited tourist attraction in Mexico, and it is by far the most magnificent of all the ruins in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan.
Built around 600AD, Chichen Itza was once an ancient Mayan city situated in the jungle. Today, it has one of the best preserved Mayan pyramids and was voted as one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’.
Chichen Itza is always extremely busy, but if you come as soon as it opens at 8am or an hour before it closes at 3:30pm you’ve got a good chance to see it without the coach loads of crowds.
El Castillo is the main pyramid here but there are a number of other sites dotted around Chichen Itza such as Skull Platform and The Great Ball Court. It takes a good two hours walking around Chichen Itza and taking it all in, so bear that in mind.
It’s amazing to think this was once a great city and it really is worth seeing on any trip to Mexico!
Cost – $140 peso (adult)
Coba is tucked away deep into the jungle, and if I had to pick just one ruin to visit in Quintana Roo it would probably be this one.
What I really love about Coba is two things – one, you can climb to the top of one of the pyramids with some of the most amazing views of the jungle around – and two, you can get little cycle rickshaws through the jungle from temple to temple.
Coba seems much more rustic than the other ruins in Quintana Roo and it really shows what a Mayan city would’ve been like right in the heart of the jungle centuries ago.
Again, two hours is a good amount of time to visit Coba and it is up there as one of my favourite things to do in Cancun.
Cost – $55 peso (adult)
Further down the coast of Quintana Roo is the Tulum ruins. Perched on a cliff edge overlooking the beautiful blue sea, these ruins are in the most spectacular setting.
One of the names for the ruins is Zama, which means the Temple of Dawn. The ruins directly face sunrise, and if you get here early in the morning you’ll see why this was such a cherished and holy place for the Maya people.
Like with all of the ruins in Quintana Roo, they’re especially busy around 10am till 3pm – this is when most of the tour buses will be there. However, if you visit outside of these times it’ll be much more peaceful and quiet.
The ruins are much more compact than the other major ruins in Mexico and you can get around the site here in about an hour. Oh, and if you want a dip in the sea then make sure you bring your swimming trunks!
Cost – $70 peso (adult)
Isla Mujeres is without a doubt one of the most popular day trips in Cancun.
Just 45-minutes off the coast, Isla Mujeres is a little island with pristine beaches and palm trees.
If you’re looking at doing a day trip through someone like Aquaworld, then this includes all transfers to the island, access to a beach club for food and drink (all included in the price), a snorkelling tour, and then things finish up in the cute fishing town in the north of the island before heading back to Cancun.
Instead of being stuck in a resort for a week, a day trip to Isla Mujeres is one of the best ways seeing what Mexico is all about, and it is definitely up there as one of the most popular things to do in Mexico.
Cost – US$74 including all transfers, a snorkelling tour and all-inclusive food and drinks
Another place for an underwater adventure is MUSA, the underwater museum in Cancun. This is a dive site just off the coast of Isla Mujeres where there are over 500 different sculptures that have been sunken which you can swim in and out of.
Like a lot of places around the world, the reef around Mexico has taken a battering, but with MUSA they’re trying to tackle this in a very different way. Not only do the sculptures attract divers from all over the world but they also create an artificial reef from marine animals to breed on, so it’s creating a new reef and preserving life.
Some of the sculptures that they’ve sunken at MUSA are a couple of cars, a house and groups of people which is rather eerie when you’re diving around them.
Companies like Aquaworld offer both snorkelling and diving half-day trips and it really is one of the best things you can do in Cancun.
Cost – US$80 including all transfers, dive gear and snacks (biscuits and water). Wetsuit and marine park fee are separate (US$13 together)
Halfway between Cancun and Tulum is Puerto Morelos, a sleepy fishing village with more than its fair share of beautiful beaches.
Puerto Morelos is quickly growing as a cute day trip from Cancun or Tulum for its laid-back beach vibes and to see the wonky lighthouse (it was blown over by a hurricane in the 60s but still standing strong!)
I spent the day at Unico Beach Club, the first beach club in the area.
Not only is this in a pretty cool spot at the end of the beach but it also had the best ceviche I’ve ever had in Mexico.
All the food here is amazing and it’s worth visiting this place just for lunch on the beach. Also, the cocktails are killer too!
Are you looking for one of the best nights out that rival any in Las Vegas? Of course you are!
Coco Bongo is like no other night I’ve ever been to. It’s like a cabaret show crossed with a huge dance club, all with a Mexican twist of course.
Different acts include Chicago, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Queen, Rio and a whole host of other acts too.
Even though tickets are a little pricey at £56 (US$80), that does include unlimited drinks and house spirits from 10:30pm till 03:00am (it’s a long night), and it is 100% worth it.
Alternatively, you can get a gold ticket is £91 (US$130) which gives you a table (handy if you don’t want to be up on your feet all night) and access to premium drinks.
My top tips is to make sure you’re wearing very comfortable shoes because you’ll be up on your feet dancing all night!
Top things to take with you to Cancun
Sunscreen – obviously things can get pretty toasty out in Mexico.
Layers – sometimes it can get very cool in the evenings, so make sure you pack an extra pair of trousers and a shawl/cardigan.
A water bottle – most hotels and restaurants will fill up your water bottle for free – this saves you having to buy bottled water everywhere and cuts down on plastic waste too.
Insect repellent – if you’re heading to Chichen Itza or Coba, there can be quite a lot of mosquitos in the jungle. Especially take some for Holbox – there’s a place there called Mosquito Beach and it’s called that for a reason.
My trip to Mexico was in association with Teletext Holidays’s campaign #TeletextDoesCancun promoting one of their best selling destinations. As always, views are entirely my own and without bias.
Have you ever been to the east coast of Mexico before? If so, what are some of your best things to do Cancun and Quintana Roo? Help others out and let them know in the comments below!
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