8 min read

What to do in Cancun in 1 day? Nearby sites and activities

What to do in Cancun in 1 day

Have you arrived in Cancun and have little time to spare? Read on and explore our list of activities you can do in a single day in this beautiful destination and its surroundings.


On a map, the Mexican Caribbean area looks small, doesn't it? Actually, the coastline stretches for more than 900 kilometers along the state of Quintana Roo. But it's not all beaches and sea! 90% of the territory is covered with Mayan jungle and fascinating places you have to visit in Cancun, Costa Mujeres, and the Riviera Maya.

Playa delfines in Cancun

Don't stop reading because we will present you with a list of activities you can do in a single day in Cancun and Riviera Maya. It will help you put together the ideal itinerary when visiting the Mexican Caribbean. Take a look!

Take a look at our table of contents and click on the option you are looking for 👇


Aquatic activities in Cancun

 

Paddle Board

Paddleboard SUP in Cancun

Welcoming the sunrise in Cancun while paddleboarding in the sea is one of the most sought after experiences in this destination. You can find this sport in different variations, such as paddle yoga, paddle racing and recreational paddle, in one place ideal for everyone.

If you have your own equipment, you can enter the beaches and do it on your own (respecting the flags and the instructions of the lifeguards). You can also paddleboard the Nichupté lagoon to admire the mangroves with an ecological tour.

If you are staying at a hotel in the Hotel Zone or Riviera Maya, ask in the lobby if this activity is available at the water activities desk. 

Estimated duration of the activity: 2 hours approximately.

 

Snorkel

Snorkel in Cancun

Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities in the Mexican Caribbean area because here, you will find part of the second largest barrier reef in the world. That means you will find many beautiful snorkeling sites near the coast of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

For snorkeling in Cancun you can use your own equipment and go to the public beaches for a quiet experience. If you prefer to visit a reef, many boat tours include stops at the most popular reefs in the area. If you are staying at a hotel, ask at the water activities desk.

Estimated duration: 1 hour on the beach. 30 to 40 minutes in the open sea. 

 

SCUBA DIVING

Scuba in reef in Cancun

Like snorkeling, scuba diving is very popular because of the numerous coral reefs in the area. To dive in the reef, you need to own at least the PADI Open Water Diver certification. You can find tours that will help you get a certificate. If you are already certified you can go on excursions to different reefs.

The most common sites to do this activity near Cancun are:

Estimated duration of the activity: May vary. Commercial tours offer 6 hours of activity, including the preparation time and the immersions.

 

Watersports

Watersports in Cancun

With a little research on the internet you will easily find surf schools and bodyboarding groups in Cancun. If you are directly on the beach, you may find watersports counters or people offering activities such as Kitesurfing, Windsurfing and Wakeboarding in Cancun.

Estimated duration: Varies per activity. Most of these sports are managed by classes that last 1 hour and complete courses of up to 9 hours.

 

GO TO THE BEACH

Cancun beaches

If you are one of those travellers who come to Cancun for bussiness or are just passing through and you only have one day off, we suggest you spend that day at the beach. The plan is simple: visit a public beach, bring food, a towel, some friends, and just relax.

Cancun is world famous for the beauty of its beaches of fine white sand and turquoise waters. Some of the beaches you can visit here are:

  • Langosta Beach: The water level is so low on this beach that it is ideal for small children or people just looking to relax by the sea.
  • Tortugas Beach: It is a small and slightly rocky beach. It has a bungee jump, restaurants and tables and is usually frequented by locals.
  • Marlín Beach: It is a wide, clean beach with a relaxed atmosphere. The swell is somewhat strong, so be careful when swimming there. This beach has a Blue Flag badge.
  • Forum Beach: This beach is located in front of Cancun's Party Center. Visitors to this beach usually relax here before or after a wild night at the nightclubs in the area.
  • Delfines Beach: Better known as El Mirador. This beach is an important meeting point to enjoy the sunrise or to practice wellness activities. It also has a Blue Flag distinction.
  • Coral Beach: This beach is famous for being pet-friendly. It is somewhat small and far from the central area, but it is an excellent spot where you can relax with your pet. Playa Coral is also a Blue Flag beach.

Remember that in Mexico there are no private beaches, even if they are on hotel grounds. Most have showers and restrooms, and some offer chairs, tables, and umbrellas for an additional price.


Maritime activities in Cancun

 

Catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres

catamaran tour to isla mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a must-see destination when visiting the Caribbean. It is a small island just 7 kilometers long, ideal for a one-day visit.

There are catamaran tours to Isla Mujeres that include buffet, snorkeling and free time on the island. These types of packages are put together for you to live a fun full-day experience without having to worry about anything.

 

 

Tour to Isla Contoy

Isla Contoy tour

Imagine having access to a private and virgin beach in the Mexican Caribbean! Isla Contoy is a protected area inhabited only by scientists and park rangers, where only 200 visitors per day can enter through an ecotourism tour. 

There are tours to Isla Contoy with navigation and access to Isla Contoy, a buffet on the island, open bar, and an ecotour. Remember, only authorized agencies can sell them since, being a protected area, they require a special permit.

 

sport fishing

sport fishing in Cancun

The Caribbean Sea is one of the favorite places for sport fishing because of the diversity of species that inhabit it. If you decide to go fishing, you can choose between a private or shared tour. The trips usually last 4, 6, or 8 hours and you can choose between trolling or bottom fishing. Remember to research the best fishing seasons in Cancun as well as the restrictions and closures.

 

Private boat rental

private charter rental boat in cancun

If you want a comfortable and private experience, you can rent your own boat. Normally, these rentals include navigation, crew, open bar and freedom of movement, such as visiting a restaurant with a dock or swimming in a white-water beach. The best part is to choose the boat that best suits your taste, needs and budget

You can rent a private catamaran for the day to enjoy the sun and the beaches, or you can enjoy a sailboat at sunset in a more romantic atmosphere. The choice is yours!


NATURE ACTIVITIES IN CANCUN

 

Nature parks

Ecoparks in cancun

The jungle is the type of vegetation that covers most of Quintana Roo, therefore a great number of activities take place there. Throughout the Riviera Maya, there are several ecological and adventure parks that you can visit in a single day. Below are some options:

  • Grupo Xcaret: Xcaret is a very popular company in the Mexican Southeast with diverse natural and cultural attractions. Some of Grupo Xcaret's parks are Xcaret, the most popular park mainly based on historical-cultural attractions in Mexico, Xel-há, a natural water park located in a cove, and Xplor, an adventure park with zip lines and ATVs.

    These parks are large, so it will probably take you more than a day to tour them all. For a fast itinerary, Xenses is a good option with sensory scenarios that you can tour in half a day.
  • Selvática: A natural adventure park with different kinds of zip lines, all-terrain vehicles, swimming in cenote, and lunch. This park is suitable for all climates, and the estimated time in the park is 6.5 hours plus transfer time to your hotel.
  • allTOURnative: A company with adventure parks in the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan. You can spend a full day in their parks or enjoy a combo of park + Mayan ruins.
  • Rio Secreto: A park located in a nature reserve whose main attraction is an underground river covered with geological formations that tell the story of the evolution of the earth. The tour in the park lasts approximately 3 hours and includes a guide, equipment, and buffet.
  • Garrafon: Located in Isla Mujeres, this eco-park offers activities such as reef snorkeling, kayaking, zip lines, temazcal, and an infinity pool with a beautiful view of the Caribbean Sea, as well as tours around the island. To get to Garrafon Park, you can take a ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres and then take a cab from the marine terminal to the park.

To know the prices of cabs in Isla Mujeres, check our blog Taxi in Isla Mujeres.


Cenotes near Cancun

Cenotes near Cancun

Cenotes are one of the most amazing attractions of the Yucatan Peninsula and something you can't miss if you come from a different climate. Not only are they beautiful, but they also hold many historical and cultural mysteries. 

Near Cancun you will find the route of the cenotes that has more than 57 natural formations among which are the Siete Bocas cenote, the Zapote park with 4 different cenotes and Dos Ojos Park, where you can dive into a cenote.

 

Activities with animals

Animales en Cancún

Cancun's jungle is full of life, and many animal conservation centers open their doors to visitors. It is important to mention responsible places that manage protection programs. These are our recommendations.

  • Rancho Bonanza offers tours with horseback riding and interaction with rescued or rehabilitated animals in a natural and peaceful environment. The tour is suitable for people who have never ridden a horse before and includes cenote swimming and wildlife observation.
  • Whale shark swim: You can swim with these giants (but harmless) fish from June to September near Cancun. We ask you to book this tour in authorized sites that have permits and avoid clandestine packages that may endanger the lives of these amazing sea creatures.
  • Akumal Natura Rescue:A Glamping site located near the beautiful beaches of Akumal where you can volunteer to rehabilitate, heal, and even release abandoned or confiscated animals from illegal trade.

CULTURAL ACTIVITIES IN CANCUN

 

Mayan Culture

Tulum Archaeological Site

The Yucatan Peninsula is the cradle of the Maya culture. Here you can find thousands of vestiges of this ancient and intelligent civilization, and many of its customs and traditions were inherited to the modern people.

If you have a free day, you can buy a one-day tour to Mayan archaeological sites such as:

Chichen Itza Tour: The most famous cultural tour, as it takes you to see one of the new wonders of the modern world, Chichen Itza. These tours last between 7 and 12 hours.

Tulum Tour: This archaeological site is famous for its oceanfront location and its well-preserved buildings. You can also visit the beach and the boutique hotels in the surroundings.

Tour to Coba: In this archaeological site you will find the tallest Mayan pyramid of the Yucatan Peninsula with 42 meters high.

Visit to Ruinas el Rey: This small archaeological site is located at kilometer 18 of Cancun's hotel zone. A person of high rank was found buried here along with several objects that are now in the Mayan Museum of Cancun.

Museum of Mayan Culture: The Mayan Museum is located in Cancun's hotel zone at kilometer 16.5 and exhibits more than 350 pieces recovered from excavations in Palenque, Chichen Itza and Comalcalco. Inside the museum you will find the ruins of San Miguelito.


ENTERTAINMENT in Cancun

nightlife in cancun

COCO BONGO

Do you have a night off in Cancun? One of the best options is to visit Coco Bongo. In this popular place in Cancun you will enjoy a show with acrobats, live music and a party atmosphere, solo and rhythm. 

 

NIGHTCLUBS AND BAR CRAWL IN CANCUN

Cancun is also famous for its nightlife. One of the liveliest places at night is Cancun's Party Center, located at km 9 of the hotel zone, where you will find dozens of bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Here you will find dozens of bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Want to know more about Cancun's nightlife? Check out our blog: 9 places to enjoy an amazing night in Cancun.

Cancún también es famoso por su vida nocturna. Uno de los lugares más animados por las noches es el Party Center de Cancún, localizado en el km 9 de la zona hotelera. Aquí encontrarás decenas de bares, clubes nocturnos y restaurantes. ¿Quiéres saber más sobre la vida nocturna de Cancún? Consulta nuestro blog: 9 lugares para disfrutar de una noche increíble en Cancún.

 

Visiting plazas and shopping malls in Cancun

shopping malls in cancun

If you want to go shopping or just have a nice time you can visit a shopping mall in Cancun. In Cancun they are known as plazas, and they are everywhere. These are the most popular plazas in Cancun.

La Isla Shopping Village: It is located at km 12.5 of the hotel zone and you will find international and Mexican brand stores, restaurants, an interactive aquarium. Its main attractions are a river that runs through the plaza and the pier overlooking the Nichupté lagoon.

Malecon Americas: Cancun's largest plaza and most visited by locals due to its location in the center of the city. You will find stores with affordable prices, food court, a movie theater and ample parking.

Puerto Cancun: A modern open-air shopping mall with docks that receive different types of boats. It is located in an easily accessible area and has parking, a movie theater, national and international brand stores, food court, zip line, and is Pet Friendly.


What did you think of our list of activities? Are you interested in doing something that is not on the list? Write us a message if you think we missed an activity!

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