There are dozens of Cancun day trips, allowing you to curate the perfect blend of all-inclusive convenience while satisfying your cultural curiosity and sense of adventure.
Mix up your Mexican vacation by including some of the best Cancun day trips. Cancun is one of the most popular beach resorts in the world, attracting around 7 million visitors annually to Mexico’s Caribbean coast on the Yucatán Peninsula. With such a high volume of tourist traffic, it’s no wonder that the area is filled with towering all-inclusive hotels, vibrant nightclubs, and restaurants, along with miles of sandy beaches.
Look Beyond The Bright Lights
While the usual tourist attractions provide an adrenaline shot of fun and entertainment, many visitors also want to know what’s beyond the bright lights, bountiful buffets, and endless beaches. There’s good news if you are one of them. Only a short distance from Cancun, you’ll find nature, culture, serenity, and more — all close enough to allow you to be back to your hotel buffet in the evening. Here are some of the nearby attractions.
There’s no excuse not to visit Isla Mujeres, as it’s only a 15-minute ferry ride from Cancun. This gorgeous, intimate island is run by local family-owned businesses and surrounded by white sand. It’s a haven for marine life, with boat rides, snorkeling, or scuba expeditions readily available to see colorful fish, turtles, sharks, and more. Deckchairs and golf carts are all affordable, and the Na Balam Hotel caters essential local cuisine with an overnight stay if you wish.
Given its proximity to Cancun, it’s not surprising to discover a downtown area with shopping, cafés and bars. Expect to pay around $32 for roundtrip ferry transportation with boats leaving every 30 minutes.
Puerto Morelos takes a step further into tranquility. This bohemian fishing town is located 25 miles south of Cancun and lacks crowds and heavy tourism. The only time you’re likely to see large groups is during it’s annual fishing tournaments. The water is clear and calm, making it perfect for scuba diving. The National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef—the second-largest in the world- is a favorite of snorkelers and scuba divers alike.
This reef also runs along the length of Quintana Roo. Puerto Morelos is unique because this part of the reef is just 400 meters away from the shore! Driving ATVs through winding trails in the Mayan jungle, zip-line, rappelling to the cenotes, horseback riding, bird watching, and more have also helped turn Puerto Morelos into an outdoor adventurer’s paradise.
The Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá are a 2.5-hour drive from Cancun but well worth the journey. Your Instagram account will thank you in perpetuity. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the ruins are considered one of the world’s seven wonders and were once home to 35,000 people.
The El Castillo Pyramid and the imposing Temple of Warriors are centerpiece attractions. The great Great Ballcourt is another top attraction. It used to host a game similar to basketball, with one major exception. The winning captain would be beheaded, as depicted by nearby wood carvings, rather defeating the purpose of beating the other team.
A former bohemian enclave that has increased dramatically in tourism, Tulum benefits from scenic beaches and fascinating Mayan history. Just an hour south of Cancun, plenty of sunny Mayan ruins and cliffs overlook the Caribbean Sea. Afterward, relax on the pristine beaches, swim in cenotes, or explore the charming town with its boutiques and restaurants.
Xcaret Eco Park
Xcaret Eco Park is a natural wonderland that combines culture, wildlife, and adventure. Located just an hour from Cancun, this eco-archaeological park offers a variety of activities, from exploring underground rivers and snorkeling in cenotes to witnessing traditional Mayan performances and enjoying authentic Mexican cuisine.
Accessible by ferry, Cozumel is a diver’s paradise with some of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs. Whether you’re PADI certified or a beginner, the underwater world of Cozumel is a stunning scuba sanctuary. On land, the island has a bustling downtown area and San Gervasio Mayan Ruins with ocean views.
Coba is an ancient Mayan city located deep in the jungle, about two hours from Cancun, and is known for its towering Nohoch Mul pyramid. Unlike Chichen Itza, Coba allows visitors to climb the pyramid, which is well worth the experience for its breathtaking forest views — assuming you’re not scared of heights.
Akumal, meaning “Place of Turtles” in the Mayan language, is a tranquil coastal town famous for its crystal-clear waters and its resident sea turtles. Snorkelers and nature enthusiasts will love swimming alongside these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Akumal is just an hour’s drive from Cancun, making it a convenient day trip.
Rio Secreto, a hidden river system about 90 minutes from Cancun, takes some beating for a unique underground adventure. Explore the mesmerizing subterranean world filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites as you wade and swim through the crystal-clear waters. This unique experience offers a glimpse into the geological wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Valladolid is a charming colonial town that offers a glimpse into Mexico’s rich history and culture. Located about two hours from Cancun, this picturesque town boasts colorful streets, historic churches, and delicious local cuisine. Take advantage of visiting the Cenote Zaci, a natural sinkhole perfect for swimming and cooling off on a hot day.
A vacation to Cancun can be whatever you want. It can be teaming all-inclusive hotels, packed beaches, and all-you-can-eat buffets or idyllic, sleepy islands, adventure sports, scuba, historic cultural sites, and local family-owned cuisine — the choice is yours. Mix and match a resort or Airbnb holiday with convenient day trips from the city to curate the perfect vacation.