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From an underwater museum to walking among crocodiles and exploring amazing rock formations, these are the most unusual things to do in Cancun!
As one of Mexico’s most popular destinations, Cancun often evokes images of massive all-inclusive resorts, loud spring break crowds, and hordes of tourists. However, this bustling tourist center is a place where contrasts abound.
So even though there is plenty of glitzy hotels and restaurants, if you want to venture off the beaten path, there is a whole other side waiting for you to explore it. In fact, you can find pretty some unusual things to do in Cancun and its surroundings. Some of which, you can only experience there! These are our top picks.
8 Unusual Things to Do in Cancun
1. Cancun Underwater Museum
One of the most unique things to do in Cancun is visiting the MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte), an underwater museum that features over 500 sculptures. This is one of the largest underwater art attractions in the world. The museum includes three different locations:
- Punta Nizuc – located at the southern tip of Cancun’s hotel zone, it has a maximum depth of 4 meters, so it’s only suitable for snorkeling.
- Manchones – located off the coast of Isla Mujeres, this is where most of the sculptures are. It is eight meters deep so it’s only suitable for diving.
- Punta Sam – a small site located between Cancun and Playa Mujeres. It features a small collection of nine statues by Cuban artist Elier Amado Gil.
This innovative initiative was created to divert visitors’ attention away from the nearby natural reefs, aiding in their conservation. The statues are made of special materials that promote the growth of coral.
Good to Know
The best way to visit the museum is by scuba diving, so you can better admire the artwork by swimming around the sculptures. It is not a complicated dive, but it definitely helps if you have some experience and are familiar with the equipment. Typically, a half-day diving excursion includes two dives at two different locations, all necessary gear, and refreshments.
If you are not comfortable diving, you can also take part in a snorkeling tour. However, keep in mind that you will be looking at the statues mostly from above.
2. Cancun Mayan Museum
In a city that is known for its pumping party scene, the Museo Maya de Cancún offers visitors the chance to see one of the region’s best collections of Mayan artifacts. Housed in a modern building built next to an archeological site, the museum is located right in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone.
Inside, you will find a well-kept collection of artifacts that have been found in the area. The museum also holds temporary exhibitions. Outside, you can walk around the jungle and admire the Mayan ruins, lush vegetation, and a few iguanas.
Good to Know
If you are planning to visit some Mayan sites during your trip, it is a good idea to visit this museum first. There is also a children’s area, where kids can take part in craft activities.
You can easily get there by bus for just $12 MXN. Entrance is $75 MXN (free for children under 18) and includes access to the museum and the adjacent ruins.
3. Isla Contoy
Located about 30 km (19 miles) north of Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy is one of the most important bird nesting sites in Mexico. Declared as a national park in 1998, the island is a sanctuary to some 150 bird species. But that is not all, the island is also an important nesting place for sea turtles and you can swim with whale sharks off its coast from June to September.
To help support the island’s pristine ecosystem, visits are limited to 200 visitors per day. If you feel like you need an escape from busy Cancun, don’t miss this idyllic spot with its white-sanded beaches, lush palm trees, and abundant wildlife.
Good to Know
Official tours to the island leave both from Cancun and Isla Mujeres. Given the daily cap on visits, it’s best to make the necessary arrangements in advance. And don’t forget to bring biodegradable sunscreen and mosquito repellent to help preserve the environment.
4. Xoximilco Cancun
If you’d like to experience an authentic Mexican fiesta, you should visit Xoximilco Cancun. Inspired by the original Xoximilco in Mexico City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this picturesque attraction showcases the traditional trajineras — colorful boats that were once used to transport vegetables, fruits and flowers.
Once onboard, you’ll be able to enjoy some typical drinks while you taste a great variety of local dishes and are serenaded by a Mariachi band. What else could you ask for?
Good to Know
The experience includes a typical Mexican dinner, an open bar (tequila, beer, soft drinks, and water), and live music. Also, keep in mind that Xoximilco Cancun is located in the jungle, so don’t forget your bug spray!
Given the party atmosphere (and flowing alcohol) of this attraction, it is best suited for people 18 and over.
More Cancun Travel Inspiration
- Cancun on a Budget – these 12 Cancun travel tips will help you get the best deals so you can enjoy your trip to the max!
- Best Time to Visit Cancun – find out when to avoid the crowds, when you can find the best offers, when the weather is at its best, and more!
- Playa Mujeres vs. Cancun – we give you five reasons why Playa Mujeres might be a better choice for your holiday!
- Best Things to Do in Cancun With Kids – if you are traveling with your family, here are some things your kids will love!
5. Croco Cun Zoo
Located in Puerto Morelos, in this unique petting zoo, you’ll have the chance to get very close and personal to crocodiles, snakes, and deer. And you also get to learn about the local wildlife from knowledgeable guides. Plus, if you dare, in Croco Cun Zoo you can hold a snake and feed the monkeys or the xoloitzcuintles — the Mexican hairless dog.
Good to Know
Entrance is $576 MXN ($32 USD) for adults, $396 MXN ($22 USD) for kids six to twelve years old, and free for children under five years old. This includes a 60 -75 minutes guided tour in English during which you can touch, hold and feed some of the animals.
The park is open every day from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
6. Street Art in Cancun
In recent years, the street art scene in Cancun has been booming thanks to a few different initiatives. For example, PangeaSeed Foundation’s Sea Walls project, which took place in 2017, and in collaboration with Proyecto Panorama worked together with local and international artists to create ocean-themed murals to beautify a central neighborhood in Cancun.
Some of the best places to find street art in Cancun are located around downtown Cancun. For example, you can find some great murals on Avenida Bonampak and Calle Lopez Portillo, as well as along Avenida Yaxchilán, Avenida Uxmal and Avenida Nader.
Good to Know
It can be hard keeping up with the ever-changing street art scene, so sometimes it is worth it to find a knowledgeable guide. This eclectic half-day tour combines some amazing hidden street food gems with urban art highlights.
7. El Rey Ruins
Located on the west side of Kukulcán Blvd., right in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, the El Rey ruins are definitely not the most impressive you can see in Mexico. However, with its small temple, ceremonial platforms, and legions of iguanas to greet you; it is definitely worth visiting.
The ruins got their name from a sculpture that was found on the site, which was wearing an elaborated headdress. It looked like something royalty would wear, hence the name El Rey (The King).
Good to Know
You can easily get there by bus for just $12 MXN. Entrance fee is only $55 MXN for adults and free for kids. The site is usually not very crowded, especially in the morning.
8. Rio Secreto
Located just about an hour drive south of Cancun (about 8 km south of Playa del Carmen), Rio Secreto is an underground complex of caves and tunnels. Its name means Secret River and is one of the most unique places you can visit in the Yucatan Peninsula.
With its dramatic limestone formations and crystal clear waters, this is a great place for a family adventure. During your visit, you will be guided along a 1 km walking and swimming route to admire the beautiful and impressive surroundings.
Good to Know
If you are based in Cancun, you can take part in one of their full-day tours, which include access to the Nature Reserve, a small guided group tour (10 people maximum), a locker for your belongings, as well as all necessary gear (wetsuit, life jacket, helmet with lamp, and towels).
After the tour, you can enjoy a regional buffet and non-alcoholic drinks (included in the tour price). Finally, keep in mind that no electronic devices are not allowed inside. However, a photographer tags along with the group and you can buy the photos later.
As you can see, there is a lot more happening in and around Cancun than what goes on in its famed Hotel Zone. Proof that not too far from your perfect beach destination there are also quite a few unusual things to do in Cancun!
Map – Cancun Off the Beaten Path
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Have you been to Cancun? Are there any other unusual things to do in Cancun that you would like to recommend? Leave a comment and let us know!
Bianca Bauza is a world citizen who spent almost four years traveling around South America and Europe. Her passions include photography, street art, outdoor sports, and cooking exotic dishes. She’s now based in the Netherlands where she lives with her partner and young daughter. She still enjoys traveling, on her own or with her family, and is always looking for an opportunity to see new places.