3 Days in Cancun: Itinerary with Top 30 Things to Do

Cancun Itinerary with Top 30 Things to Do

Planning to visit Cancun and looking for the best things to do and see?

You are in the right place!

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula (in Mexico ), the city of Cancun offers a wide range of attractions and activities, from the fascinating underwater art museum to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, passing by the park of Xcaret eco-adventure .

In this guide, you’ll find the 30 best things to do in Cancun, along with my tips and recommendations for making the most of your trip.

I’ve also included the best things to do with kids, how to explore Cancun on a budget, where to sample local cuisine, and my hotel suggestions for all budgets.

So what are the best places to visit in Cancun, and where to stay?

1. Explore Cancun’s Hotel Zone

The first place not to be missed on a trip to Cancun is, of course, the Hotel Zone. This lively place is full of luxury hotels, resorts, bars, clubs and beautiful beaches.

You can spend a day or two exploring the beautiful beaches such as Playa DelfinesPlaya Tortugas and Playa Marlin, where you can swim, sunbathe or enjoy water sports such as jet skiing and parasailing.

In the evening, head to the lively bars and clubs to experience Cancun’s famous nightlife. Don’t forget to sample the local cuisine at one of the many restaurants in the area.

Cancun’s Hotel Zone has something for everyone, making it a must-see during your stay.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
The hotel zone of Cancun with its white sand beaches

2. Visit Downtown Cancun

Outside of the hotel zone, you should also venture into downtown Cancun for an authentic experience.

Known as El Centro, this vibrant neighborhood allows you to immerse yourself in the real local culture. As you walk through Mercado 28, you will find handcrafted souvenirs, traditional clothing and of course street food.

Don’t forget to indulge in delicious tacos or agua fresca (soft drink made with water and fruit) while enjoying the lively atmosphere.

You can also take a trip to Las Palapas Park, one of the locals’ favorite spots to enjoy live music, food vendors, and several events.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Las Palapas Park in Cancun

3. Go Snorkeling at the Underwater Art Museum

One of the best things to do in Cancun is to dive into the Underwater Museum, commonly known as MUSA, to see over 500 underwater sculptures.

The MUSA is more than just an art exhibition in an unusual setting; it also serves as an artificial reef that promotes coral growth and marine life conservation.

To really appreciate this extraordinary underwater gallery, I recommend you take this snorkeling excursion to see the sculptures up close or, for a more immersive experience, you can also choose the scuba diving excursion (2 tanks).

Cancun itinerary 3 day
« Inheritance » by Jason Decaires Taylor at Punta Nizuc. Photo du Cancun Underwater Museum of Art

4. Lobster Beach

If you’re looking for a family beach in Cancun that’s great for relaxation, head to Playa Langosta.

Located north of the hotel zone, there are calm and shallow waters, white sand and many activities to do.

You can rent jet skis or banana boats, go parasailing, or just swim and sunbathe on the sand.

There are also public toilets, showers and a play area for children. The beach is popular with locals in and around Cancun, so you can experience a more authentic atmosphere here than elsewhere.

You can also take a ferry to Isla Mujeres, or join a catamaran trip to snorkel and explore nearby reefs.

Playa Langosta is one of the best beaches in Cancun for fun and relaxation!

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Langosta Beach in Cancun

5. Cool off in a Cenote

Another must-do activity in Cancun is swimming in a cenote.

These natural wells, filled with fresh water and surrounded by lush jungle, provide an unforgettable experience for any traveler wondering what to do in Cancun.

The ancient Maya considered cenotes sacred and used them for various rituals. Today, they offer visitors a refreshing break from the heat and the chance to immerse themselves in the nature of the Riviera Maya.

Some of my favorite cenotes near Cancun are Cenote Dos Ojos ( Tulum ), Cenote Verde Lucero ( Puerto Morelos ), and Cenote Azul ( Playa del Carmen ).

Each cenote offers a different experience, whether you are looking for crystal clear waters, startling rock formations or a secluded paradise.

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:
To know all the most beautiful cenotes in the region, I invite you to read my full article: The 15 best cenotes near Cancun!

Cancun itinerary 3 day
the blue cenote

6. Explorer Chichen Itza

While in Cancun, make time to visit Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This ancient Mayan city bears witness to the incredible architectural and astronomical knowledge of the Mayan civilization.

Chichen Itza’s most iconic structure is El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan. As you explore the site, you’ll also come across other important structures, like the Great Maya Ball Court , the Temple of the Warriors, and the El Caracol Observatory.

To get from Cancun to Chichen Itza, you have several options:

  • You can rent a car  (2h30). Parking costs 80 pesos.
  • Take a bus from the ADO bus terminal in Cancun, but be aware that there is only one bus per day (departs 8am and returns 4:30pm).
  • The easiest and most comfortable way to visit Chichen Itza is to take an excursion. It includes a guided tour, pick-up at your hotel, swimming in the Ik Kil cenote, buffet lunch and a stop in Valladolid. You can book it here.
Cancun itinerary 3 day
The famous site of Chichen Itza in the state of Yucatan

7. Discover Xcaret Park

One of my favorite things to do in Cancun is to spend a day at Xcaret Park , an ecological and cultural theme park, which offers over 50 activities!

Here you can snorkel in underground rivers , explore its coral reef aquarium , see their butterfly greenhouse , and even stroll through a recreation of a typical Mayan village.

To end the day well, do not miss Xcaret Mexico Espectacular, a great production with 300 artists that presents the historic journey of the Mayans.

How to get from Cancun to Xcaret Park:

  • By bus: take the ADO bus from Cancun to Xcaret (1h30), departures 7:30, 7:50, 9:00, 10:30. There is only one round trip at 9:30 p.m. , so remember to buy your tickets in advance!
  • By car: you can drive (1h15) from Cancun to Xcaret taking the MEX-307
  • By bus: some tickets also include hotel transport. It allows you to avoid worrying about transport (especially the return which can be complicated!)

You can choose the ticket that suits you best (all include the night show and the buffet):

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:
The best way to enjoy the theme parks of Cancun and the Riviera Maya is to stay at Hotel Xcaret 

In addition to meals, you will have full access to all the parks for free! (Xcaret, Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, Xoximilco, Xel-Ha and Xenote)

Cancun itinerary 3 day
The Xcaret park

8. Xplor Park

Spending a half or full day at Xplor is one of the best things to do in Cancun!

Xplor Park is owned by the same company that runs Xcaret, and offers activities for all ages, like ziplining, driving amphibious vehicles, and exploring caves.

It’s a great option for families, couples, or solo travelers who want an adventure in a natural setting with some adrenaline rush.

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:

To book the ticket of your choice, simply click on the link below – all include full access to activitiespick-up, equipment and buffet!

How to get from Cancun to Xplor:

The Xplor park is located 1 hour from Cancun, in the heart of the Riviera Maya.

  • By car: 1h, taking federal road 307 (the park is just after Playa del Carmen)
  • By bus + colectivo: first, take an ADO bus to Playa del Carmen (1h). In Playa del Carmen, take another colectivo at the corner of Calle 1 Sur and Avenida 45 Norte (to Tulum). Remember to tell the driver in advance that you are going to get off at Xplor.
Cancun itinerary 3 day
The zip line on hammock, Xplor

9. Xoximilco Cancun

I had one of the most memorable nights in Cancun going to Xoximilco with my friends!

Inspired by Mexico City’s famous floating gardens (which I absolutely love and recommend if you’re  visiting Mexico City! ) , Xoximilco Cancun is a celebration of Mexican traditions.

We embark on a pretty trajinera (traditional Mexican boat) which takes us through the canals, with meals, and musicians who set the mood (mariachis, marimba, bolero, etc.).

We danced, laughed, sang. Our captain was great and the open bar (especially the tequila) definitely helped!

You can book your Mexican night at Xoximilco here.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
The Xoximilco party in Cancun

10. Attend the JOYÀ show by Cirque du Soleil

Being from Montreal, I was particularly happy to discover that Cirque du Soleil, the circus company from my hometown, presents a permanent show in Cancun called JOYÀ.

Set in an intimate, custom-built theater in Vidanta Riviera Maya, JOYÀ combines breathtaking acrobatics and visual effects with music and colorful costumes.

The show tells the story of a young girl who embarks on a fantastical journey through the jungles of Mexico to uncover the secrets of her family’s past.

It is without a doubt one of the best things to see in Cancun!

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:
You can choose from several formulas (show only, dinner-show, or VIP access) when purchasing your ticket.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Joya, Cancun

11. Taste the Best Street Food

You can stop at a street food stand or a local market to taste some typical dishes like tacos, ceviche and cochinita pibil.

Here are some street food dishes to try:

  • Tacos al Pastor : this is the emblem of Mexican street food. These tacos are made with  marinated pork cooked on a vertical spit, much like shawarma or gyro. The meat is thinly sliced ​​and served in a small corn tortilla with pineapple, onion, cilantro and a variety of sauces. A must try during a stay in Cancun!
  • Ceviche : This is a refreshing dish made with fresh fish or shrimp in lime juice, with tomato, onion, coriander and sometimes avocado. Ceviche is usually served with tortilla chips or crackers. It’s a perfect light meal for a hot day at the beach.
  • Cochinita pibil : This is a traditional Yucatan dish prepared with braised pork, and marinated in a mixture of achiote paste , orange juice and spices. The meat is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground until tender and flavorful. It is usually served with pickled red onions and habanero sauce on a warm corn tortilla.
  • Marquesitas : for dessert, you must of course taste the marquesitas, originating from the state of Yucatan. They are rolled and crispy crepes filled with sweet or savory ingredients, such as Nutella, cajeta (caramel made from goat’s milk) or even cheese. They are made to order in front of you.

And do not hesitate to ask the locals for recommendations to find the best addresses!

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:
To really dive into Mexican food in Cancun, you can also join the Taco and Local Beer Tour or the Food and Street Art Tour 

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Tacos are the best option for cheap food in Mexico
Cancun itinerary 3 day
The brandsitas

12. Shopping in La Isla

For a shopping spree in Cancun, the best place is La Isla Shopping Village.

It is a shopping center with more than 150 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues such as Ripley’s Museum, Ferris Wheel, Wax Museum, Kid’s Paradise (children’s games), Chocolate Factory, Tequila Museum and the Labyrinth of Mirrors.

Here you’ll find everything from luxury brands to local crafts, so you can find the perfect souvenir or gift to take home.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
La Isla Shopping

13. The Market 23

Going to Mercado 23 is one of the best things to do in Cancun to experience local life and sample traditional foods (like tacos, tortas, tamales, and juices).

It’s a colorful and bustling place where you can practice your Spanish and your negotiating skills.

You can find fresh produce, meat, cheese, spices, flowers, souvenirs and handicrafts at reasonable prices.

  • The market is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cancun itinerary 3 day
Market 23 Cancun

14. Diving in Cozumel

Cozumel is a diving paradise, with some of the most amazing coral reefs and marine life in the world.

Jacques Cousteau declared the island to be one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, and it’s easy to see why when diving in its crystal clear turquoise waters.

From shallow reefs to underwater caves, Cozumel has more than 40 dive sites, with hundreds of species of fish, coral, molluscs, marine mammals, and plants to discover.

Cozumel offers dives for all levels, from beginners to experts. Personally, I loved Palancar Reef, where I got to see some of the most colorful corals, sponges, and tropical fish I’ve ever seen!

The island of Cozumel is located in the Caribbean Sea, about 50 km from Cancun. To get there, you have to take a ferry:

  • First, go to Playa del Carmen (1h10): if you don’t have a car, take  a bus or a colectivo that leave regularly from the center or the hotel zone of Cancun.
  • From Playa del Carmen, take the ferry to Cozumel (45 min): the ferry pier is on Quinta Avenida. Book your ferry tickets here!

The best way to enjoy Cozumel is to take a snorkeling tour.

I recommend this excursion that takes you snorkeling in 3 reefs, with all the necessary equipment, water, soft drinks on the boat, and beers included after the dive.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Snorkeling in Cozumel

15. Isla Mujeres

Another Cancun must-see is Isla Mujeres, an island known for its gorgeous beaches, like Playa Norte, marine biodiversity, and laid-back atmosphere.

The perfect destination for a day trip, Isla Mujeres offers activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming with whale sharks, or just relaxing on the beach.

Don’t forget to visit the southern tip of the island, Punta Sur, where you’ll find a beautiful sculpture garden and stunning views of the turquoise Caribbean waters.

To get to Isla Mujeres from Cancun, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a ferry departure point : Ferries depart from several locations in Cancun, including Puerto Juarez, the Hotel Zone, and Playa Tortugas. You can buy your return ticket to Isla Mujeres here (valid for 6 months after the departure date)
  2. Board the ferry : The ferry ride takes 15-20 minutes and offers a nice ride to the island.
  3. Explore the island: once you arrive on the island, you can rent a golf cart, bicycle or motorbike

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:
If you want to fully enjoy Isla Mujeres, you can book this 45-foot catamaran day trip to Isla Mujeres.

It includes transportation from Cancununlimited alcohol, snorkeling equipment (mask and snorkel), swimming at Playa Norte and a buffet lunch at a beach club.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Part of Playa Norte at Isla Mujeres. Photo Dronepicr

16. Nichupte Lagoon: A Natural Oasis in Cancun

Lagune Nichupte is a large lagoon of more than 3,000 hectares, located behind the hotel zone.

It is a real tropical paradise which represents an important natural reserve for the ecosystem of the mangroves and the different animal species that live there.

It is actually made up of seven lagoons, including Laguna del Amor, Laguna Bojórquez, Laguna San José and Laguna Ciega. It also communicates with the Caribbean Sea through two channels: Sigfrido and Nizuc.

You can do many activities there such as fishing, kayaking, canoeing, jet skiing, diving, snorkeling, etc. It is also an ideal place to admire the sunset!

During the day, you can explore the mangroves and islands of the Nichupte Lagoon, and see different types of flora and fauna, such as flamingos and crocodiles.

A visit to Nichupté allows you to appreciate the beauty and diversity of this unique habitat, in the heart of Cancun, in addition to discovering the conservation efforts that have been made to protect this natural wonder.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Speed ​​boat trip to Nichupté

17. Discover Mayan Culture at the Museum

If you’re looking for more history-focused activities in Cancun, don’t miss the Mayan Museum of Cancun.

It presents the rich archaeological heritage of the ancient Maya civilization, with not only the most important artifacts from the State of Quintana Roo, but also a selection of emblematic pieces from other sites such as PalenqueChichén Itzá and Comalcalco.

The entrance also includes access to the archaeological site of San Miguelito (13th-16th centuries), which was used for residential, administrative and ceremonial purposes by the Mayas.

The most prominent structure in San Miguelito is the Chaak Palace, a tall pyramid with four staircases and sculptures depicting the rain god Chaak. Another interesting element is the dragon complex, where you can see the hieroglyphics of a bird and a crocodile on a small building.

18. Surfing at Chac Mool Beach

To learn to surf in Cancun, go to Playa Chac Mool, located in the hotel zone.

You can rent a surfboard or bodyboard on the beach, or take surfing lessons .

I had a lot of fun surfing at Playa Chac Mool although I found it a little difficult (the waves aren’t huge, but I’m really not that good ).

Either way it was great fun, and my instructor Santi was really encouraging, so I would definitely do it again!

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:
The surf at Playa Chacmool was great, but I was told Playa Gaviota Azul was even better for beginners. Apparently the waves are calmer there than elsewhere, so will try next time to compare!

Gaviota Azul Beach is accessible between Plaza Forum By The Sea and the Beach Club, in Punta Cancun.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Surfing at Chac Mool, Cancun

19. Relax at Playa Delfines

Playa Delfines is one of the best beaches in Cancun, with fine white sand, crystal clear turquoise water where we all dream of swimming and a view of the iconic colored letters of Cancun (a must-see place to take photos !).

Plus, Playa Delfines is less crowded than other beaches in the Hotel Zone, making it a great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Dolphin Beach Cancun

20. Party at the Coco Bongo Club

Coco Bongo is a mythical club in Mexico, located in the hotel zone of Cancun.

Why is he legendary? Because much more than a nightclub with DJ, it’s a super production with dancers, colorful costumes, light shows, acrobats, which create a vibrant atmosphere.

  • Buy your Coco Bongo tickets here – Choose from: Regular, Premium, Gold, Gold Front Row or Double Gold tickets which additionally gives access gives access to the Coco Bongo beach club!
Cancun itinerary 3 day
Coco Bongo Cancún

21. Visit Xel-Ha Park

Xel-Ha Park is one of the best things to do near Cancun, to enjoy nature, have fun, and experience local culture.

It is an eco park where you can slide down the river, cycle through the jungle or zipline over the water, sunbathe on the beach, explore different cenotes and snorkel to see a multitude of colorful fish and corals.

Admission also includes unlimited access to the park’s 2 restaurants, 6 bars and snack bars. The choice is endless!

There are different ways to get from Cancun to Xel-Ha, depending on your preferences and budget.

Here are some possible options:

  • By car : you can go from Cancun to Xel-Ha by car on the MEX-307 in about 1h48
  • By bus : You can take a bus from Cancun to Xel-Ha with Autobuses Mayab or ADO (2h20). There are several departures in the morning. For the return, ADO has three times: 4:55 p.m., 6 p.m., and 6:10 p.m. – and I highly recommend purchasing your ticket in advance.
  • Book an excursion : A trip to Xel-Há from Cancún will allow you to make the most of the day without worrying about transport or organization – You can book your Xel-Ha All-Inclusive ticket here!
Cancun itinerary 3 day
Xel Ha Park

22. Tulum Ruins

Located a few hours south of Cancun, the ruins of Tulum are a must visit for history buffs and nature lovers.

This ancient Mayan city sits on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, offering visitors a cultural experience as well as sweeping views of the turquoise water and surrounding area.

Wander among well-preserved structures, like El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God.

After exploring the site, you can descend to the beach of the ruins (Playa Ruinas) access to which is included in the ticket.

How to get to the ruins of Tulum from Cancun:

  • Car rental : by car the journey takes about 1h45. Parking is available at the archaeological site.
  • Bus: Take an ADO bus from Cancun to the ruins of Tulum (be sure to choose  “zona arqueológica de Tulum” as your destination and not just “  Tulum ”). The bus journey takes 2h30
  • With an excursion : for convenience, book a guided tour of the ruins of Tulum (click here!) which includes transport from your hotel in Cancun and the guided visit of the archaeological site
  • Colectivo : take a colectivo (a shared van) from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, then another from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. It is an affordable option, but more time consuming due to stops and changing.

Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, water and a hat, as the site is hot with little shade.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Tulum Ruins Beach

23. Rio Lagartos Flamingo Sanctuary

To see one of Cancun ‘s most impressive natural spectacles , you must visit the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve: it is home to the largest colony of flamingos in Mexico!

Rio Lagartos is a coastal lagoon that is home to over 300 species of birds, as well as crocodiles, sea turtles, dolphins and other wildlife.

The best way to explore the Rio Lagartos is to take a boat trip with a local guide, who will show you the different ecosystems and wildlife of the reserve.

You’ll see hundreds of flamingos feeding and flying over the lagoon, as well as pelicans, herons, egrets , and spoonbills.

You can also soak in a natural mud bath which has healing properties for the skin.

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:
It is possible to see flamingos year round, but the ideal time to visit Rio Lagartos is during the nesting season, from April to June.

How to get from Cancun to Rio Lagartos:

Rio Lagartos is about 250 km from Cancun, in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula.

In my opinion, going to Rio Lagartos by car (3h15 each way) or by bus (Cancun-Tizimin + Tizimin-Rio Lagartos) takes too long in a single day, that’s why I recommend taking an excursion instead who will take care of the transport for you.

You can book this excursion in Rio Lagartos with pick up, lunch and the boat trip in the reserve. It also includes a visit to Las Coloradas, which has a striking pink color due to the algae and bacteria that live there.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
A colony of pink flamingos

24. Isla Blanca: A hidden slice of paradise from Cancun

Isla Blanca is a peninsula that stretches for 20km, frequented mainly by local families who want to enjoy a sandy paradise in a relaxed atmosphere.

It is bordered on one side by Laguna Chacmuchuch and on the other by the Caribbean Sea :

  • The lagoon side is calm and shallow, perfect for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding. You can also see some wild animals like flamingos and crocodiles.
  • The ocean side is wilder and windier, ideal for surfing, kitesurfing, fishing or sunbathing. The sunsets here are breathtaking!

How to get to Isla Blanca:

  • There is no public transport to get to this area. You can go there by car or booking this excursion.
  • You will have to drive on a 9 km sandy road that crosses the peninsula and ends about 6 km from its northern tip
Cancun itinerary 3 day
Isla Blanca Cancun

25. Colonial Town of Valladolid

Valladolid is one of the most beautiful cities in Yucatan!

Through its colorful streets you can explore the main square, the Church of San Servacio, the Calzada de los Frailes, the Convent of San Bernardino and the Casa de los Venados museum, a private house that exhibits a large art collection popular Mexican – I was impressed by the variety and creativity of the pieces!

How to get to Valladolid from Cancun:

  • Car: it takes 1h44 from Cancun to Valladolid
  • Bus : you can take the ADO bus from Cancun Centro station to Valladolid (1h30). There are buses every hour from 4am to 9.30pm.
  • Organized excursion : you can join an excursion from Cancun that includes a visit to Valladolid, and other places like Chichen Itza, Ek Balam or Cenote Zaci. The excursion includes transport, guide, entrance fees and sometimes lunch.
Cancun itinerary 3 day
The Road of the Friars in Valladolid

26. Rio Secreto

Want to live a real adventure in Cancun?

Head to Rio Secreto, which won Best Nature Reserve in Mexico and Central America at the World Travel Awards!

You will be able to explore an impressive underground river dotted with a multitude of stalactites and stalagmites, and feel a real connection with nature.

The experience lasts approximately four hours and is suitable for people of all ages and physical conditions. Visits are only in small groups for the sake of preservation and safety.

It is mandatory to book in advance. Admission includes guide, equipment (life jacket, headlamp, thermal suit, etc.), transport, lunch and access to nature trails and the museum.

Book your tickets to Rio Secreto here.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Rio Secreto

27. See the Sunset from the Observation Tower

Of course one of the best things to see in Cancun is its magnificent sunset, from the Torre Escénica.

It is a rotating observation tower that rises 80m in height and offers magnificent panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, Isla Mujeres, the Nichupté lagoon and the hotel zone of Cancun.

You’ll see the sky change color from orange to pink and purple as the city lights up beneath your feet.

Access to the tower is included when you buy your ferry ticket at Xcaret Xailing. You can also buy the entry separately for 15$usd.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
The panoramic tower of Cancun

28. Coba Jungle City

Coba is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. At its height, this Mayan city would have welcomed more than 50,000 people!

As you walk through the jungle (on foot or by bike) you will be able to see several structures that reflect the architectural and artistic skills of the Mayans. The most impressive building is the Nohoch Mul, the 2nd highest pyramid of the Yucatan Peninsula (42 m) after Calakmul.

Tips for your Cancun itinerary:
Some blogs that haven’t been updated say it’s possible to climb to the top of Nohoch Mul, but it’s well and truly forbidden since 2020!

Despite everything, Cobá remains a magical place to visit from Cancun, where you can learn more about the beliefs of the ancient Mayans, their knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, as well as their social structure.

How to get to Coba from Cancun:

  • Driving   along the coastal road south to Tulum, then turning right inland (1h45)
  • By taking a bus from Cancun to Tizimin, then another bus to Coba
  • By booking this very complete excursion  which includes transport from your hotel in Cancun, lunch, a guided tour of Coba, Tulum and swimming in a cenote.
Cancun itinerary 3 day
Nohoch Mul in Coba, when you could still climb it!

29. Contoy Island

50km off Cancun is Isla Contoy, a paradise island of fine sand, palm trees and calm, transparent water.

It is a nature reserve and a protected area whose access is limited to only 200 visitors per day, which allows you to enjoy the place in peace.

It is definitely one of my favorite beaches in Mexico! 

To go to Isla Contoy, you must book an excursion with a company authorized to go there.

The excursion includes a (rather brief) break at the Ixlache reef to do some snorkeling, lunch on Contoy Island, enough free time to enjoy the beach, and a stop (about 1h30) at Isla Mujeres on the way back to Cancun.

If your vacation dates are already fixed, I strongly recommend that you book now :

Click here to book.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Isla Contoy Beach

30. Swim with Whale Sharks

Swimming with whale sharks is one of the best things to do in Cancun.

They are the largest fish in the world, measuring up to 12m in length and weighing up to 20 tons! They are very calm creatures that feed on plankton and small fish.

You will undoubtedly feel a mixture of adrenaline and wonder as these gentle giants approach you. The activity will allow you to learn more about their biology, their behavior, and the initiatives that have been put in place for their conservation.

You will be able to see these amazing creatures by booking this snorkeling excursion which will first take you to the Cancun Marina and then the boat will stop in the waters of Isla Mujeres.

You will be able to swim and snorkel  in sets of 15 minutes, following the safety rules and respecting their environment.

  • The whale shark excursion includes transportation from your hotel, breakfast, lunch, drinks, equipment, and a professional guide.

Cancun itinerary 3 day

Accommodation in Cancun

  • Mayan Monkey Cancun : a party hostel in the hotel zone of Cancun, very close to the beach and bars. Terrace, outdoor swimming pool, bar with happy hour, air conditioning, table tennis, good wifi. Private rooms and dormitories, from just 22 euros!
  • Bed and Breakfast Pecari : if you are looking for more comfort, I recommend Pecari without hesitation! This is a beautiful bed and breakfast located on a quiet street close to the city center and the ADO bus station, with a relaxation area by the pool, spacious rooms and a good breakfast. From just 46 euros per night!
  • Beachscape Kin Ha Villas & Suites : rooms, suites and villas that can accommodate from 2 to 12 people with direct access to the beach Outdoor pool, children’s pool, spa, gym, restaurant, beach bar. With breakfast included, from  200 euros
  • The Royal Sands Resort & Spa : spacious rooms and suites with sea views, in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone. Large outdoor swimming pool, gym, spa, good restaurants, sports bar and several activities. With all-inclusive formula, from 443 euros.

Best things to do in Cancun with kids

Cancun is a great destination for families, with plenty of activities to keep kids entertained.

Here are some of the best activities for families in Cancun:

  • Cancun Interactive Aquarium: Discover the impressive marine life, from colorful fish to sea turtles (tour lasts around 30-40 min)
  • Ventura Park : This water park offers several activities, with water slides and a wave pool. It’s a great way to spend a fun day out with the family.
  • The beach with the kids: Spend a relaxing day on one of Cancun’s many beautiful beaches with calm waters, like Playa Delfines or Playa Tortugas. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and beach toys.
  • The SubSee Explorer is a unique boat that sits halfway between a submarine and a glass bottom boat, and in which you can explore the beautiful Nichupte Lagoon.
  • Xcaret : This large park is a must for families in Cancun! With over 50 attractions, it offers a mix of adventure, culture and entertainment. Your kids will love the underground rivers, wildlife encounters and cultural shows. Don’t miss the  “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular” night show
  • The Jolly Roger Pirate Show lets you witness a thrilling pirate battle, complete with acrobatics, fireworks and music, while enjoying a gourmet dinner and open bar on a replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship!
Cancun itinerary 3 day
subsee explorer cancun

Cancun on a Budget (tips and advice)

Even on a tight budget, you can have a great trip to Cancun. Here’s how:

1. Visit public beaches: Cancun is home to several free public beaches, such as Playa Delfines and Playa Langosta

2. Explore local markets: Visit Mercado 28 or Mercado 23 for affordable souvenirs and cheap eats

3. Stroll along Avenida Kukulkan: This main thoroughfare is perfect for a leisurely stroll, with public art installations, malls and restaurants along the way.

4. Visit the El Rey Ruins: These Mayan ruins are located in Cancun’s Hotel Zone and offer insight into the area’s history. Admission is only 65 pesos per person

5. Book accommodation in downtown Cancun rather than the Hotel Zone for better deals (although the Mayan Monkey is a surprising exception!)

6. Eat at local restaurants, markets or street food stalls for cheap and tasty meals

7. Use public transportation, like buses or colectivos, to save on transportation.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Le Mayan Monkey Cancun

Where to party in Cancun?

  • Coco Bongo: one of the best places to party in Cancun! This nightclub combines nightlife with acrobatics and pop culture shows, such as “Michael Jackson”, “Spiderman” and other artists. Coco Bongo is open every evening from 10:30 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. You can buy your tickets here (with different categories of tickets which also gives access to the beach club! )
  • Coco Bongo Beach Party : shows and disco on the beach in Cancun, overlooking the sea. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cover open bar, beach club and show.
  • The City Cancun: Nothing Less Than Latin America’s Biggest Nightclub . It can accommodate up to 6,000 people and has 3 levels, 9 bars and a huge dance floor. The City Cancun hosts international DJs, live concerts and theme nights. Friday and Saturday from 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Mandala Night Club: chic and exotic open-air club. Mandala Night Club has a VIP area, a terrace and a stage for shows. Electro, house and hip-hop music, with a casual dress code. Mandala Night Club is open every evening from 9:30 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
  • Señor Frog’s: a bar and restaurant with a festive atmosphere. Live music, karaoke, quizzes, games and souvenirs, along with burgers, nachos, tacos and cocktails. Open daily from noon to 2 a.m.
  • H Roof: a very nice club with a huge 15-meter screen on the roof, electronic and house music in the VIP area. H Roof is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Cancun itinerary 3 day
Cancun is the best place in Mexico to party!

Where to have a drink in Cancun?

Cancun is known for its amazing nightlife, but you can also have a great time in plenty of bars if you’re not a club fan.

In the hotel zone, don’t miss Cotorritos, a beer garden that offers beers and good cocktails with music, games and a great view from the terrace. You can also go to the Hard Rock Café, a bar inspired by the movie “Forrest Gump”.  

The experience and the views of the Caribbean Sea are breathtaking. These two places are perfect for having fun with friends and enjoying the nightlife of Cancun.

If you prefer to live immersed in the  authentic atmosphere of Cancun, you absolutely have to go to the El Caballito bar! Here, you find a much more local atmosphere, with banda Mexican regional music), good barbecue dishes, friendly service and affordable prices.

Where to eat in Cancún?

There are good restaurants in Cancun, for all tastes and all budgets. Here are my favorites, in the center and in the hotel zone :

Cancun Hotel Zone

  • Harry’s Steakhouse & Raw Bar: Abeachfront eatery that features top cuts of meat  like Kobe Beef, Black Onyx, and USDA Prime. You can also taste seafood such as oysters, lobster and caviar. Harry’s offers high quality products and excellent service.
  • Wander Rooftop: A spectacular rooftop terrace with swimming pool, located in the Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla hotel. Mixology and creative cuisine (sushi, Caribbean and Mexican dishes), in a trendy atmosphere, with the best sunsets in town. You can relax in the hammocks or dance to live music or DJs.
  • Tacún: a Mexican restaurant with very good tacos, enchiladas, pozole and fresh juices. Their margarita was perfect!
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cancun: This is a family restaurant inspired by the famous film “Forrest Gump”, with entertainment, a children’s area and a beautiful view from the terrace. There are shrimp dishes, as well as hamburgers, salads, ribs.

Downtown Cancún

Food precautions

Drinking water: Use bottled water and avoid tap water (unless filtered) to avoid possible health issues.

Hygiene: Choose restaurants and street food stalls that appear clean and have multiple customers

How long does it take to visit Cancun?

Cancun is a little paradise and you could spend weeks exploring the area!

But if you only have a short time in Cancun, don’t worry because I have good suggestions for itineraries to visit Cancun in 1, 2 or 3 days :

What to do in Cancun in 1 day?

If you only have one day in Cancun, here are my 2 itinerary recommendations:

Option 1- Friends and family

Option 2- Romantic Getaway

Visit Cancun in 2 days

If you want to visit Cancun in 2 days, here is what I suggest:

Day 1

  • Scuba dive at the Cancun Underwater Museum.
  • Head to the best beaches like Playa Delfines, Playa Tortugas, or Playa Chac Mool, where you can relax or do fun activities like Jet Skiingparasailing, flyboarding, or driving a speedboat
  • In the evening, grab a drink at  La Isla or the Plaza Forum.
  • Then go party at a club in the hotel zone of Cancun, like the famous Coco Bongo!

Day 2

Visit Cancun in 3 days

If you want to visit Cancun in 3 days, for the first and second days, follow the same program that I have already proposed. 

Then, on the third day:

Visit the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres ( book your ferry tickets here! ). There are so many things to do locally that you can easily spend the whole day on the island:

  • Visit Playa Norte, one of the best beaches in Mexico
  • Punta Sur Sculpture Park
  • The Garrafon Park, (with zip line, swimming pool, hammocks, snorkeling, kayaking)- You can get your VIP tickets for the Garrafon Park here which gives access to a private area with premium food and drinks.

Another interesting option is to take a trip to Isla Contoy : it’s one of my favorite places in Mexico and a true tropical paradise!

Relax on its white sand beach, swim in its crystal clear waters and savor a delicious grilled fish lunch.

It is important to reserve your place in advance because the island only admits a limited number of visitors per day. To make your reservation, click here: Book the excursion to Isla Contoy

How to get to Cancún

Airplane flight

Cancun International Airport ( CUN) receives flights from all over the world. Many airlines fly direct, while others may have stopovers in Mexico City or other major cities.

How to change terminal

You can take the free shuttle that connects the airport terminals.

Don’t listen to taxi drivers who tell you that the shuttle doesn’t work or that it will take too long – they are lying! I have experienced this myself several times, just wait a bit.

You can also walk between terminals if you prefer (for example, it takes 13 minutes to walk between terminals 2 and 4)

Cancun itinerary 3 day
One stop from the free Cancun airport shuttle. Do not rely on the posted schedule, it is never exact
Cancun itinerary 3 day
Free shuttle from Cancun airport

How to get from the airport to the hotel

You have several options to get from Cancun airport to your hotel:

  • Take a cab

Cancun airport taxis are reliable in the sense that they are official and safe, and they will take you to your destination without stops or detours.

However, they can also be very (too!) expensive if you don’t book in advance, as on-site rates are much higher than online rates, and that’s also often up to the customer…

You can save money and avoid hassle by booking a taxi online before you arrive in Cancun, here:

Cancun itinerary 3 day
Shuttle from the airport to the hotel
  • the ADO bus

It is possible to book your tickets online on the ADO website, but to avoid any problem (eg delay of your flight), I advise you to do it only once on site.

You will arrive at the ADO station in downtown Cancun after an hour on the bus.

Then you have two options to get to your hotel in the hotel zone : a taxi or the local bus R-1 ( here ) , which is cheaper.

Cancun itinerary 3 day
ADO bus at Cancun airport

Top tips for enjoying Cancun

– Plan your trip in low season (April-May or September-November) so that there are fewer people and prices are lower.

– Respect local customs and traditions, especially when visiting religious or archaeological sites

– Learn some basic Spanish phrases to help you communicate with the locals and respect their culture

– Always carry some cash for tips and small purchases

Cancun or Playa del Carmen: which one to choose?

If you are looking for what is the difference between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, here is a small summary that will help you make a more informed choice for your next Mexico itinerary.

They are both popular tourist destinations in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, but each offers a unique experience for visitors.

It all depends on your personal preferences and the type of holiday you are looking for.

  • Cancun is known for its lively atmosphereall-inclusive hotels and resorts, and vibrant nightlife.

It is perfect for party goers who want to have a dynamic holiday. Cancun’s Hotel Zone has beautiful beaches, shopping malls, and plenty of entertainment options.

If you are looking for a destination with a wide range of activities and a lively atmosphere, Cancun might be the best choice.

  • Playa del Carmen, on the other hand, offers a more relaxed atmosphere.  The city has a charming atmosphere with its pedestrian street, Quinta Avenida, lined with shops, restaurants and bars.

Playa del Carmen’s beaches are also beautiful and tend to be less crowded than Cancun’s.

If you prefer a more cultural experience and the chance to explore the natural wonders of the Riviera Maya, such as cenotes and ecological parks, Playa del Carmen might be the best option.


For a lively and active vacation, choose Cancun.

For a more relaxed experience and cultural immersion, Playa del Carmen is the best choice.

What is the difference between Cancun and the Riviera Maya?

They are very different in terms of size, atmosphere, attractions and accessibility.

Cancun is a major tourist city located at the northeast end of the Yucatan Peninsula. It has nearly a million inhabitants and a famous hotel zone that stretches over a narrow strip of land between the Caribbean Sea and a lagoon.

  • Cancun is known for its nightlife, shopping and all-inclusive resorts. It also has an international airport which provides easy access to many destinations.

The Riviera Maya is a tourist region that stretches along the coast, south of Cancun. It is made up of several towns and villages, each with its own charm and personality. Some of the most popular include Playa del CarmenTulumAkumal, and Cozumel.

  • The Riviera Maya is known for its natural beauty, cultural diversity and archaeological sites. It offers a more relaxed and authentic experience than Cancun. However, it does not have its own airport, so you have to take a bus, taxi or car from Cancun to get there.

Are you going to Mexico? Read also

All our articles on Mexico are here:  Find all our guides on Mexico!

Camille L.

Passionate about foreign languages, cooking and writing. I wish to share with you the places, the meetings and the gastronomic discoveries which gave relief to my travels.

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