How to Do it Right in Cancun

Cancun is unique in that it offers its visitors the best of both worlds. You have the opportunity to experience the real city with its many authentic locales from corner taco joints to undeveloped beaches, while also having the chance to bask in the pampered resort area, flawless white sand beaches and lively party scene. Not everyone takes the opportunity to do Cancun right by enjoying both sides of the coin and daring to step outside of their resort. Let’s take a look at ten experiences outside of the tourist-packed hotel zone that you can’t miss in the colorful city that never sleeps.

Stroll Through Parque Las Palapas

Everyone knows that Cancun has one of the craziest party scenes in Mexico. However, you’ll rarely find locals partying along the hotel strip. To enjoy a night on the town like they really do it in Mexico, check out Parque Las Palapas, which has a carnival-like atmosphere. Cancun’s Central Park is an expansive plaza where you’ll find activities around the clock. There’s an outdoor food court, center stage, souvenir shops and a playground. My recommendation is to check out one of the countless local restaurants and then walk through the park on a weekend night. You’re sure to be entertained by all of its lively sights, sounds and smells!

Relax at Playa Tortugas

Get away from the tourist trap beaches and check out a beach spot that is considered a local favorite--Playa Tortugas. Here, the water is calm, the sand is clean and the atmosphere is much more laid back than the frenzy found on the beaches right outside the bigger resorts. Additionally, you don’t have to pay an entrance fee to get in and you’ll find plenty of enticing restaurants and shops nearby when you get hungry.

Snorkel in Akumal Bay

Snorkel amongst the turtles in this unscathed part of Cancun. Akumal Bay is known to be a turtle haven and so you’re almost guaranteed to come across a few on your snorkeling adventure. In fact, “Akumal” means “Place of Turtles.” You’ll also want to head to Half Moon Bay to get your fill of colorful coral reefs, tropical fish and stingrays.

Experience the Colorful Side of Mexico with Xoximilco Cancun

Celebrate Mexican culture with this colorful town constructed to resemble the original Xoximilco in Mexico City. When strolling through the picturesque streets, don’t forget to stop to check out the trajineras, which are colorful boats that used to be the main mode of transportation for fruits, vegetables and flowers.This is also a great place to go to for a night of drinking, dancing and listening to Mariachi bands.

Eat Fresh Fruit at Mercado 23

Most tourists visit Mercado 28 (Market 28) to sift through the souvenirs and trinkets in the maze-like flea market, as well as grab a bite to eat at one of the many traditional Mexican restaurants found there. Although, it’s definitely worth a visit, if you want a more traditional and local market, then check out Mercado 23. You’ll find it to be more similar to a farmer’s market with shops selling fruits, decorations, home goods, folk art and almost everything else you could imagine. It is much more authentic to Mexican culture and the ins and outs of life in Mexico.

Visit The Uninhabited Isla Contoy

To get away from the crowds of Cancun take a day trip to the uninhabited island of Isla Contoy. This nature preserve is only 26.5 miles away from Cancun and so it’s an easy day trip from the city. The Island is filled with all kinds of bird species and sea turtles lay their eggs there year round. You can take a group tour here, which will typically stop along the way so that you can snorkel. After which, you can spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach or exploring all of what this pristine island has to offer.

Enjoy Live Rock Music in Downtown Cancun

There are a handful of bars that play live music along Yaxchilan Avenue. Most bands play a mix of Latin and American/British covers such as Led Zeppelin and Soda Stereo. However, you’ll also find some bands that play their own original music. If you’re interested in listening to live music then check out Ruta 666, El Chikito, and El Asador as they are some of the most popular live music venues.

Explore the “Island of Women”


Isla Mujeres or “Island of Women” is a short 20-minute ferry trip from Cancun. However, once you arrive, you’ll feel like you stepped into a whole new world. The island was named by Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba, a Spanish conqueror who found Mayan temples filled with statues of women there there. Not only is this island steeped in Mayan history, but it is a great place to soak in some sun and relax on its beaches without the masses. It is also home to a turtle protection center, as well as numerous local shops and restaurants.

Drink at the Tequila Museum

Tequila is the pride and joy of Mexico and is something you should try in its country of origin. If you’re not well-versed in its history then check out the Tequila Herradura Sensorial Museum. Not only does the museum teach visitors about the process of making tequila, but it also offers them the chance to smell and properly slurp a round of different kinds of the agave-based liquor. You’ll also learn about the Mexican drinking etiquette of Tequila, as well as its long history.

Take a Dive into the Cancun Underwater Museum

This one of a kind museum allows you to swim through an art gallery and look at underwater sculptures. The clear Caribbean Sea allows for the ideal setting to look at 400 original sculptures by famed artist Jason deCaires Taylor by diving or snorkeling into the water’s depths. This attraction is much less popular than the Manchones Reef and so you won’t find it overly crowded. However, it likely won’t be this way for long so take advantage of it while you can.