Exploring Cancun, Mexico: Ultimate Travel Tips | Key Attractions | Perfect 7-Day Tour Plan

Cancun | Introduction

Cancun, located at the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula along the Caribbean coast, is a popular vacation destination in Mexico and an important gateway to exploring Mayan culture and Mexican history. Cancun attracts countless visitors with its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear Caribbean waters, abundant marine life, and rich Mayan cultural sites. In Cancun, you can visit nearby Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza, or participate in a variety of marine leisure activities, such as diving or snorkeling in the Caribbean's underwater world to admire the coral reefs and rich marine life. Additionally, activities like sailing, parasailing, and fishing are also very popular.

Cancun | Accommodations & Transportation

Cancun is divided into two main accommodation areas: the Hotel Zone and the downtown area. The Hotel Zone is located on a long island and boasts many luxurious resorts, nightclubs, shops, and restaurants. The downtown area, on the other hand, offers a more authentic Mexican experience with traditional markets, local restaurants, and handicraft shops, making it suitable for travelers who want to experience the local culture and lifestyle. Most foreign tourists who come to Cancun choose to stay in the Hotel Zone to enjoy the sunny beaches here.

Looking for a stay in Cancun?

In Cancun's city area, whether you stay in the Hotel Zone or the downtown area, taking the bus is a convenient mode of transportation for tourists. If you're staying in the Hotel Zone, you can take the R1 and R2 buses to travel to the city center, with buses running approximately every three to five minutes. The fare for the bus ride is 8.5 Pesos or 1 US dollar. In terms of fare, paying in Pesos is much cheaper, and it's common for drivers not to give change to most tourists, but locals usually receive change.

One thing to be aware of is to find a seat and secure it because the buses in this area can be quite fast, and there are no announcements for stops. If no one signals to get off, the bus will continue without stopping.

Although Uber operates in Cancun, as of 2023, it often encounters conflicts with taxis and may not necessarily be the most convenient option.

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If you book your airport pickup and drop-off in advance, it is much cheaper than taking a cab.

Cancun Airport Transfers

When traveling to the outskirts of the city, it is recommended that you choose to book a day trip or a half-day trip to a destination of interest.

Day trip to Chichen Itza

Day Trip to Tulum

Recommended Accommodation | Grand Fiesta Americana

For this trip, we chose to stay at the Grand Fiesta Americana in the hotel zone. The overall environment of the hotel was ideal - its convenient location impressed me, as did the clean, well-maintained beach and the excellent service. I've documented my accommodation experience in this article.

Recommended Accommodation: Grand Fiesta Americana

Cancun | A 7 day Itinerary

If you have an interest in the Mayan civilization, trips from Cancun to nearby Mayan cultural sites usually involve slightly longer travel times, and most of these trips include at least an hour of additional physical activity. Therefore, it's recommended to alternate between day trips to nearby destinations and relaxing on the beach. Here's a seven-day sample itinerary, including two days of day trips to Tulum and Chichen Itza

  • Day 1: Arrive in Cancun, Check-in at the hotel from the airport, rest in the room after having breakfast, and in the afternoon, enjoy a swim in the hotel's beach.
  • Day 2: Take a bus to a day trip near Cancun city center. Visit the Mayan Museum, Dolphin Beach, and the King's Archaeological Zone.
  • Day 3. Day Trip to Tulum.
  • Day 4: Snorkeling at the hotel beach.
  • Day 5. Day trip to Chichen Itza.
  • Day 6: In the morning, you can go on a sea excursion, such as half-day snorkeling at the Puerto Morelos reef or a trip to Isla Mujeres to see tropical fish and coral reefs. In the evening, head to Coco Bongo to watch a performance.
  • Day 7: Snorkeling at the hotel beach.

Day trip to Chichen Itza

Day Trip to Tulum

Cancun | Downtown Attractions & Experiences

Tourist attractions near the Cancun city center, including the Mayan Museum, Dolphin Beach, and the King's Archaeological Zone, are all located on the hotel zone peninsula where most tourists gather. You can easily explore these places in one day.

Attractions | Mayan Museum

The Mayan Museum primarily showcases collections related to Mayan culture, with an entrance fee of 70 Pesos. The indoor exhibits include important artifacts from Chichen Itza, Coba, and Palenque. While the museum may not be very large, it offers comprehensive English explanations about Mayan civilization, and the exhibition is well-organized. It's definitely worth visiting before heading to the Mayan archaeological sites.

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The Mayan civilization began in the New Stone Age and spanned from around 2600 BC to the 16th century when it was occupied by the Spanish. It is divided into three main periods. The most flourishing period was the Classic Period, from around 200 BC to 800 AD, during which they established hundreds of city-states in the rainforests of the Yucatan Peninsula. Some of the most famous cities during this time included Coba and Palenque. However, these cities declined after the 9th century.

Chichen Itza, which is closest to Cancun, rose to prominence during the Classic Period and became even more important after the 9th century, persisting until the 13th century before its decline. The remaining Mayan archaeological sites are known for their stone carvings, as the Maya did not use copper or iron tools and did not have the concept of the wheel. However, they had a highly developed mathematical system, precise astronomical calendars, and the engineering skills to construct massive religious buildings.

The outdoor portion of the museum featuring a small Mayan ruin and a garden may not be very extensive, but it provides a glimpse into the appearance of Mayan city-states.

Attractions | Dolphin Beach

Dolphin Beach is a highly popular attraction in the Hotel Zone. It's a public beach that is free for everyone to access and is marked by the Cancun sign at the entrance, making it a very popular photo spot for tourists. There always seems to be a long line of people waiting to take photos around it. The water at Dolphin Beach goes from shallow to deep, and the view from the observation deck is beautiful.

Attraction | King's Archaeological Zone

The King's Archaeological Zone, located opposite Dolphin Beach, is the most important archaeological site in Cancun. The entrance ticket for visiting is 55 Pesos. This city primarily developed between 1200 and 550 years ago, and it was once a closely connected maritime trading and commercial area with the small ruins found in the Mayan Museum. In the history of Mayan civilization, this site developed relatively late and was destroyed and abandoned only after the Spanish conquest.

Within the site, there is a main road that includes a pyramid, small temples, and palaces. While there are relatively fewer tourists, it offers a comprehensive experience for those interested in seeing Mayan ruins without the need for extensive travel from Cancun.

Experience | Coco Bungo

Coco Bongo is perhaps the most famous nightclub in Cancun's nightlife scene. It's located in the liveliest part of the hotel zone and is a great place to visit during the evening when your schedule isn't fully booked. This nightclub is not just a regular dance club; it combines elements of a nightclub, concert venue, and theater, offering an extremely entertaining and diverse nightlife experience.

Coco Bongo offers a variety of ticket options. The ticket prices vary depending on whether you have a seat or not, and all tickets include unlimited drinks. Prices may also differ based on the time you choose to attend, with weekends typically being more expensive and crowded. If you prefer not to have unlimited drinks, there are also tickets available that include only three drinks.

Coco Bungo Tickets

The performances at Coco Bongo start at ten o'clock, and it's recommended to arrive around 9:30 PM to queue up. You can take a stroll along the nightlife street outside the venue before entering. If your ticket includes it, you can also exchange for complimentary beer at the bar near the entrance.

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The official performance starts at 10:00 PM, and if you haven't chosen a seat with your ticket, you'll be standing to watch. The venue can get quite crowded, but there are several large screens, so you can still have a clear view of the performance. The show offers a diverse range of entertainment, mostly consisting of song and dance performances with elements of acrobatics. The music spans from the past few decades, making it appealing to a wide range of ages. The audience atmosphere is lively and interactive, with performers often inviting audience members onto the stage to amp up the excitement. The show continues until around 5:00 AM, providing a late-night entertainment option.

Cancun | Nearby Attractions

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is the most famous attraction on the Yucatan Peninsula and is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. "Chichen Itza" means "the city by the well of the Itza" in Mayan language. This largest Mayan archaeological site on the Yucatan Peninsula existed from the 6th century BC until the 13th century AD. Its decline was mainly due to civil wars in the 13th century, which eventually led to the burning of its wooden structures. However, overall, the preservation of the site's stone buildings and sculptures is remarkable, with many still existing today. The journey from Cancun to Chichen Itza takes just over two hours by car.

Day trip to Chichen Itza


Tulum was one of the last port cities built by the Maya, located about 130 kilometers from Cancun, approximately a two-hour drive away. During the late classical period, the Maya shifted their economic focus towards maritime trade. Tulum's peak period was around 1200-1450 AD, when it was a major trading hub in Central America. The city continued to thrive until the late 16th century when the Spanish arrived, leading to its eventual abandonment. Tulum is also listed as a World Cultural Heritage site. Apart from the ancient Mayan ruins, its stunning natural beauty is one of its most remarkable features.

Day Trip to Tulum

Cancun | Restaurants

When visiting Cancun, Mexico, apart from staying at an All-Inclusive resort, there are indeed several must-try restaurants in Cancun that offer delicious cuisine. During our stay in the hotel zone, we tried many restaurants and found four particularly noteworthy ones, which I'd like to recommend and share with everyone.

Further reading

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