Activities in Cancun and Riviera Maya
Cancun and Riviera Maya are two of the most popular beach destinations in the world. These destinations are surrounded by a breathtaking beach and sea, the beauty of the landscapes is simply amazing. These places, located in the State of Quintana Roo in the southeast of Mexico, are a great option to make a trip with your couple, family, friends or even by yourself.
One of the main strengths of Cancun and Riviera Maya as tourist destinations is the wide diversity of cultural activities, fun activities and recreational activities that it offers to its visitors. No matter the age or size of the traveling group, there are activities that can be adjusted according to the preferences and needs of each person.
One of the factors that makes activities in Cancun so diverse is the combination of beaches and islands in a jungle environment with seas and rivers that protect an impressive biodiversity. In addition, it should not be overlooked that the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as a part of the territory of Central America, has a millenary cultural heritage since it was the territory where the Mayan civilization developed. So, in addition to the recreational activities and adventure activities, there are also cultural activities in this area. Definitely an interesting combo.
Now, let’s talk about the main activities in Cancun and Riviera Maya:
BEACHES AND WATER ACTIVITIES
As expected, Cancun has several kilometers of beaches surrounded by an impressive turquoise blue sea. Depending on the area where your hotel or accommodation is located you can enjoy a more relaxed sea or a rougher one. In general, the ocean zone in which Cancun is located allows you to enjoy the location in such many way as you can imagine:
- Catamaran rides. It is an ideal activity to relax and enjoy sharing the ride with friends, family or, even, with other group of people which may be ideal to make new friends. This recreational activity usually includes open bar and a meal service. It can last a few hours, or in if you are in a private tour, you can spend all day wandering the sea. Depending on the type of tour, it may include a stop at Isla Mujeres.
- Diving and Snorkeling. The calm Caribbean waters that surround Cancun are not only famous for their color but for their fauna and flora. Give yourself the opportunity to explore them and make a lifetime memory in the underseas. This activity requires a trip to Isla Mujeres or Cozumel, so it is best to start it as early as possible. You can even explore an Underwater Art Museum.
- Swimming with sea animals. Sharing a swim with dolphins, turtles and whale sharks is possible in theme parks and natural areas in Cancun and Riviera Maya. This recreational activity is just perfect to change the pace of your vacations.
- Kayak and Paddle boarding. The sea in the coast of Cancun, especially in the area that faces Isla Mujeres, is calm enough to get on a kayak or a paddle board. Then, you will be able to explore the sea beyond the beach. It is a recreational activity that hotels usually offer to their guests.
- Isla Contoy Among the most attractive tours in terms of exploring places beyond the coast, Isla Contoy stands out because of its beauty as a Protected Natural Area. But you have to consider that there are only 200 allowed per day for visitors, so your visit needs to be planned with enough days in advance to secure a place.
- Aquatic shows. Board a pirate galleon and jump back in time to the age when the shores of the territory that we know as Cancun were besieged by buccaneers searching for treasures. You will enjoy a pirate show with music with drinks (open bar) and food included. In this recreational activity there is a modality in which it is possible to make the trip with your couple in a more romantic atmosphere.
- Floating park. An ideal recreational activity for children and young people. This park is located on Playa Langosta in the hotel zone of Cancun.
In addition to these recreational activities at sea, visiting public beaches is another option. Some of the most famous public beaches in Cancun are: Playa Tortugas, Playa Delfines, Playa Gaviota Azul, Playa Marlin and Playa Ballenas. In the post about beaches we talk a little more about them. In each of these locations you can find various entertainment options or you can simply spend some time sunbathing and relaxing.
Cancun and, in general, the State of Quintana Roo, as well as its neighbor state, Yucatan, were part of what was the Mayan World a few centuries ago. It is no coincidence that this area is also known as Riviera Maya. Thus, Cancun and the rest of its neighboring towns have a vast millenary heritage full of traditions, mysteries, surprising revelations, as well as impressive constructions that still flash their splendor when witnessed on site.
Among the most interesting archeological sites in the Mexican Caribbean, you will find:
- Chichen Itza. One of the modern wonders in the world. It still preserves most of its main buildings, including the Juego de Pelota (Ball Court) and a cenote that was originally used for ceremonies in which human sacrifices happened. The main building, the Pyramid of Kukulkan, is an impressive display of architecture, mathematical sciences, and astronomical knowledge developed by the Mayan culture. This place is a must visit for all tourists in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. One of the biggest annual events in this park is the spring equinox (March 20th – 21st). In this day, the attendants can witness the “descent of Quetzalcóatl” through the stairs of the Pyramid of Kukulkán (main building). So, if your visit to Cancun is planned for that date, don't forget to schedule the excursion to see this incredible phenomenon.
- Tulum. Here, you will find one of the walled cities of the Mayan culture. The main difference compared to other cities is its location, since most are located inside the jungle. Instead, Tulum was settled right in front of the sea, in such a way that it allows to appreciate the ancient Mayan architecture in front of the extraordinary turquoise sea. In fact, it is possible to go all the way down to the sea from the city and bathe on the beaches close to these ruins. This activity is more popular among those who visit Playa del Carmen and Tulum city due to their proximity.
- Cobá. It was an old commercial city that developed inside the jungle. It still keeps several of its buildings and the main ones are similar to those in Chichen Itzá. One of the main differences is that here you are allowed to climb to the top of the main building (110 steps). Therefore, in Cobá you’ll have a view of the jungle and its surroundings like in no other place in Riviera Maya.
In this case, it is best to set aside a full day for the visit to each archaeological site since they are located more than an hour away by car or bus from Cancun.
Most of the excursions providers to these sites offer packages that include: the trip to the archaeological sites, a visit (and swim) to cenotes, a walk through current Mayan reservation towns and also to some towns that emerged in colonial times such as Valladolid. This is an interesting combo that mixes culture and fun.
It is a perfect activity for any tourist. In addition to the awesome views, it will also provide a deeper knowledge of one of the most interesting ancient civilizations in the history of mankind.
The presence of long extensions of jungle in Riviera Maya has set the perfect conditions for the creation of several theme parks. These places are full of different attractions and recreational activities. Most of the things to do in the parks are a mix between adventure activities, Mexican themed shows and local fauna exhibitions. You will also find food courts and places where you can rest.
Among the most popular theme parks are those that belong to Xcaret corporation:
The largest and most diverse park. Here it is possible to swim on the beach, swim in underground rivers, watch different shows based on Mexican traditions, history and folklore; enjoy natural attractions (aviary, butterfly farm, Jaguar Island), as well as Mayan ruins. With a doubt, you will find a lot to see and many activities to enjoy in this park.
A park designed for those looking for adventure activities. There is a wide diversity of activities like: zip lines, rides in amphibious vehicles through the jungle, raft navigation through rivers, swimming and exploration in underground rivers, walks through caves, among others. The park can also be visited in the afternoon / night in the Xplor Fuego mode.
Here you will find the famous slide in the lighthouse. From the top of the lighthouse you can take a look to the jungle, and later have a fun descent through the slide. In this park, you will also find areas to snorkel and appreciate a great diversity of fish and aquatic fauna. Other activities to do are cenote exploration, swim through underground rivers and even swimming with dolphins.
A park inspired by the traditional Xochimilco Neighborhood in Mexico City. Here you can navigate through the river in “trajineras” (colorful boats) enjoying Mexican food and drinks, as well as traditional Mexican music such as the famous mariachis. It’s a different experience compared to those offered in other theme parks, with a doubt a great one for those who want to have a taste of the traditional party life in Central Mexico.
A park with fun and experimental activities where the objective is to give yourself the opportunity to use all your senses and have a relaxing time walking through the jungle. Among the activities offered in this park are: the journey through the path of dwarfs and giants, walks through caves with atmospheres designed to sharpen the perceptions through each sense, sanctuaries where you can appreciate different species of birds and fish, as well as a lush vegetation sprouting.
For a visit to these parks, the best idea is to schedule each for a full day. In addition to its extension, diversity of activities and things to see, most of these parks are located more than an hour away from Cancun, since most are located a few minutes away from Playa del Carmen Downtown. However, it is important to consider that all the service providers keep Cancun and the entire Riviera Maya well connected with a modern transportation system that is in charge of taking tourists from the hotel to any activity, park or destination.
Besides these famous parks there are other options such as Ventura Park, which is located in Cancun and offers a wide diversity of water slides, pools and water games; as well as other traditional fun park games (Go Karts, rides, Laser tanks, etc.).
Another interesting option is El Garrafon Park in Isla Mujeres where you can find a zip line over the sea, swimming pools, kayaks, meditation activities, snorkeling, among others activities.
Another activity in Cancun and Riviera Maya that has become extremely popular is cenotes exploration and underground swimming. Although this activity can be part of a visit to a theme park or an archaeological site, there are also several excursions totally focused on cenotes.
Cenotes are part of a network of underground rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula. So, by immersing yourself in them you will do so in the most crystalline fresh water you have ever imagined.