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  • Cancun-beach-1 - Get recharged by relaxing along a gorgeous beach in Cancun, Mexico.
  • Cancun-swimming-with-dolphins - Swimming with dolphins in Cancun.
  • Playa-del-Carmen-Xcaret - Sunbathing at Xcaret Park, south of Cancun, Mexico.
  • Cancun-snuba - A snuba (snorkel and scuba) trip near Cancun, Mexico.
  • Playa-del-Carmen-Xcaret-snorkel - Snorkeling at Xcaret Park in Quintana Roo, south of Cancun, Mexico.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding-7 - A kiteboarder catches some air along the coast of Mexico. Try it or just watch at Morph Kiteboarding in Tulum or El Cuyo, Yucatán.
  • Playa-del-Carmen-Xcaret-Aquarium - One of the reefs in the Aquarium at Xcaret, south of Cancun.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding-2 - Ever want to try kiteboarding? It's a new extreme sport that combines windsurfing, paragliding and wakeboarding.
  • Morph-Kiteboarding-4 - A woman preps for a kitesurfing outing in Mexico. Try it at Morph Kiteboarding in Tulum or El Cuyo, Yucatán.
  • uxmal-pyramid-yucatan.jpg - The massive Pyramid of the Magician, part of the Maya ruins at Uxmal in Mexico's Yucatan.
  • woman-sunbather-mexico.jpg - Soak in the rays on the beaches of Mexico.
  • jetski-rider.jpg - A jetski rider makes some waves in the Caribbean.
  • beach-cocktail.jpg - Beach + tropical cocktail = the perfect way to unwind.
  • cancun-waterfront.jpg - Turquoise waters finger the sun-dappled waterfront of Cancun, Mexico.
  • mexico-wakeboarding.jpg - If you're game, try the sport of wakeboarding and perform some acrobatic maneuvers while trailing a speedboat.
  • cancun-ruins.jpg - Preserved site of Mayan ruins near Cancun, Mexico.
  • Playa-del-Carmen-Xcaret-Aquarium2 - The Aquarium at Xcaret Park, south of Cancun, Mexico.
  • Playa-del-Carmen-Xcaret-bird - Xcaret, a park south of Cancun, features a wild bird aviary.
  • Playa-del-Carmen-Xcaret-flamingo - Graceful flamingos are among the wildlife you'll spot at Xcaret Park, south of Cancun, Mexico.
  • Chichen-Itza-Castillo.jpg - The Mayan pyramid El Castillo at Chichen Itza, in the Yucatan, Mexico.
  • Chichen-Itza-Centore-Sagrado.jpg - Cenote Sagrado in Chichen Itza, Mexico. It's roughly a two-hour drive from Cancun, Tulum or Playa del Carmen.
  • Chichen-Itza-Warriors.jpg - The Warriors at Chichen Itza, a day trip from Cancun, Mexico.
  • chichen-itza-near-cancun.jpg - The massive step pyramid El Castillo dominates the 2.5-square-mile ancient Maya city of Chichén Itzá on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.
  • mexico-ruins-near-cancun.jpg - See Maya ruins during a day trip from Cancun, Mexico.

Cancun: Gateway to modern fun & ancient culture

our guide

The vibe

As one of the most popular beach destinations in North America, Cancún, on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, is famous for its 14 miles of white-sand shores, luxury hotels and endless nightlife.

The popular resort destination attracts more than 2 million visitors a year from around the world. Although its turquoise waters are too shallow to welcome cruise ships, it's possible to ferry and bus over from nearby Cozumel, a regular port of call. Be forewarned, however, that the trip  will take about two hours in each direction.   

Unseen by most day-trippers or by vacationers who don't stray from their resort hotels, downtown Cancún offers a mix of tradition and modernity, and is home to many restaurants, shopping centers and outdoor markets where locals spend their time. Day-trippers will have to watch the clock if they want to visit the famous Maya ruins of Tulúm, Chichen Itzá or Cobá, each of which is up to two hours away. But no worries: Even those with only a few hours to spend in Cancún will find plenty to occupy their time. And the people watching is great!

Cruise ships that call on Cancun

Cancun has a shallow reef so nearly all ships dock at Cozumel and passengers ferry over. See the ships that call on Cozumel.​ 

Top reasons to go

  • Beautiful beaches and luminous, gin-clear waters a shade of turquoise you won't see anywhere else. On a sunny day, you can't take your eyes off it.
  • Eye candy everywhere, including some of the most spectacularly over-the-top resort hotels in Mexico.
  • Endless recreational opportunities, from parasailing and kayaking to fun pirate shows aboard tall ships.
A snuba (snorkel and scuba) trip near Cancun, Mexico.
Ricardo Espinosa / Courtesy of Mexico Tourism Board A snuba (snorkel and scuba) expedition near Cancun.

World-class fishing, scuba diving & snorkeling

While Cancún City is on the mainland, the hotel strip is situated on a narrow, seven-mile-long peninsula shaped like a fish hook, with the open Caribbean on one side and the less scenic Nichupte Lagoon on the other. Most water-sport activity takes place on the ocean side, with virtually every resort, as well as scores of independent operators, offering windsurfing, parasailing, jet-skiing, kayaking and other active pursuits. Fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving require a boat trip, and there are many rewarding options from which to choose . Championship golf courses overlooking the Caribbean and eco-parks with underground rivers and cavern tours are also popular draws.

Best bets for dining

Showcasing everything from traditional Mexican cuisine downtown to chic bistros and upscale international restaurants, the Cancún dining scene is nothing if not diverse.  Simply Seafood, on Boulevard Kukulcán, serves off the boat seafood in traditional Caribbean style. Salt features Mediterranean cuisine from a wood burning oven, with tables that overlook the ocean. Puerto Madero is an Argentine restaurant specializing in steak, seafood and specialties such as serves a fusion of Spanish cuisines. Menu highlights are the spicy beef empanadas, lobster tail and grilled ribeye Madero. Pik Nik is a wonderful and inexpensive lunch spot serving up homemade localized Mexican dishes such as fish tacos and ceviche.

Getting around

The most efficient way to get around Cancún is by taxi. They are plentiful, but make sure a price in negotiated before taking off. There are also public buses that have frequent stops throughout the downtown and Hotel Zone areas.

ADO is the main inter-city bus carrier serving the Yucatán Peninsula. It offers regular  service from Playa del Carmen, where the ferry from Cozumel docks, to Cancún. The ferry takes about 45 minutes and the bus ride is about an hour. The cost for both for one adult round trip is about $30.

The other way to get from Cozumel to Cancún and back is an airline called MayaAir. It costs about $130 round trip and takes 15 minutes.

Sunbathing at Xcaret Park, south of Cancun.
Ricardo Espinosa / Courtesy of Mexico Tourism Board Sunbathing at Xcaret Park, south of Cancun.

Best time to go

Cancún has a tropical climate characterized by warm year-round temperatures, high humidity and a pronounced rainy season. The average annual temperature stays around 80.8° F. You can expect a gentle breeze from the ocean to keep you comfortable, but dress comfortably when visiting ruins because the temperatures rise as you go inland. The tropical storm season lasts from May through December, with peak precipitation  in September.

The best times to visit Cancun are in the late winter and early spring,  when humidity and rainfall is at a minimum. Late June is especially hot, so come prepared if you try the off season. Hurricanes can be a major threat in late summer and autumn.

Stay healthy

Yes, you can drink the water so long as your hotel or restaurant has a water purification system. If in doubt, order bottled water or stick to soda or beer and go without ice.

The sun's UV rays are extremely strong in Cancún, even on cloudy days. Sunscreens that may be adequate elsewhere may not be sufficient in Cancún. Always apply a fresh layer of sunscreen after taking a dip in the ocean.

Stay safe

In the water: Be aware that, depending on the season, ocean currents can be treacherously strong.

On the streets: Don’t use non-bank ATMs. Watch out for pickpockets, especially on the local buses.

Hucksters: “Tourist information” is often code for timeshare offers. A free tour is usually a sales pitch to buy.

Your take

Have you been to Cancun? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you?

Help improve this article! See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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The Cruiseable editorial team consists of award-winning travel writers, cruise bloggers and journalists.

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Overheard

“Take the tour from Cancun to Chichen Itza. It's an all-day trip but worth it for the transportation there — over 125 miles. Don't expect to climb to the top as it is no longer allowed.”

San Jose Mercury News

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