Cancun, Mexico: sights, monuments and places to see

14 Sights worth visiting in Cancun


Located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, the Mexican city of Cancun is one of the world’s top resorts. The mild maritime climate, snow-white beaches, azure water – once you get here, you can completely forget about the daily hustle and bustle of everyday life. Infrastructure of hotels, restaurants, entertainment facilities is also at the highest level.

The history of the city goes back thousands of years to the origins of the Mayan civilization – no wonder that many of the attractions of Cancun are connected with this mysterious empire.

Dolphin Beach – for lovers of high waves

Dolphin Beach

Beach Dolphin Beach.

The magnificent Delfines Beach is located at the highest point of Cancun. From here you have magnificent views of the sea and the city itself. It has everything for a wonderful holiday: sun loungers, umbrellas, cabins for changing, toilets.

The main feature of the beach is the high waves. Some people think it is a disadvantage, but for fans of surfing and windsurfing it is a real boon! On the waves it is so pleasant to engage in their favorite hobby: professionals easily conquer the ridges, and beginners master the first lessons with an experienced instructor.

Address: Playa Delfines, Punta Nizuc – Cancún, Sona Otelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The Ancient City of Chichen Itza – Mexican Mecca for tourists

The Ancient City of Chichen Itza

Ancient city of Chichen Itza. | Photo: Trans World Productions / Flickr.

Chichen Itza is one of the most mysterious and enigmatic places on the planet. Scientists still can not understand why in the 12th century, the population suddenly left their homes. There are still many unique historical sites: the huge pyramid of Kukulkan, temple of warriors, temple of jaguars, a sacred well, where they threw the sacrificed animals.

Going to visit Chichen Itza, it is important to take care about comfortable clothes, shoes and a must-have hat: under the scorching sun is so easy to get heat stroke. You can buy souvenirs and original products with national colors from the merchants who meet here practically at every step.

Address: Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

Museum of the Maya – a modern exposition of the ancient civilization

Mayan Museum

Mayan Museum.

The Mayan Museum is a must-see attraction. On an area of more than 5 thousand square meters are hundreds of exhibits. The museum has three exhibition areas. The first one is devoted to the archaeology of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The second hall tells about the cultural heritage of the Maya. The third hall has temporary exhibitions devoted to the main theme of the museum.

The collection consists of cult items and everyday objects of the tribe. Jewelry, weapons, jade products, funerary masks – each exhibit is thousands of years old! On the area in front of the museum is an open-air exhibition. Here you can see the Great Pyramid, the Temple of Dragons and the ancient Temple of Chaak.

Address: Museo Maya de Cancún y Zona Arqueológica de San Miguelito, Bulevar Cuculcán, Sona Othelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The ruins of del Rey are a valuable archaeological site

Ruins of Del Rey

Ruins del Rey.

Historians claim that the site where the ruins of Del Rey are located today were inhabited as early as 900 B.C.. At that time it was a large settlement, of which today the ruins of 47 buildings remain. The Mayan temple, the cemetery, where the most important people were buried, part of the central market, ceremonial buildings – archaeologists had to do a lot of work so that today tourists can see the one-of-a-kind buildings.

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There are remnants of paintings and frescoes on some fragments. The atmosphere is extraordinary, and in the midst of the ancient ruins, it seems that time has stood still.

Address: El Rey Archaeological Zone, Sona Othelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Torre Escenica observation deck – the tallest tower in the city

View from the Torre Escenica observation deck

View from the observation deck of Torre Escenica.

Located at a height of 110 meters, it is the highest observation deck in Cancun. Its uniqueness is in the fact that the structure is a large glazed booth that slowly rotates, allowing tourists to look around without any physical effort.

The platform can hold 60 people at a time. The panorama of the Caribbean Sea in front of your eyes is simply amazing.

Address: Torre Escénica Cancun, Blvd. Kukulkan, Kukulcan Boulevard, Sona Otelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Underwater Sculpture Museum – the best entertainment for divers

Museum of Underwater Sculptures

Museum of Underwater Sculptures.

Diving is hugely popular in Cancun: many seek to dive into the clear lagoon to see the picturesque underwater world playing with a multitude of colors. In addition to colorful algae, amazing fish and exotic sea creatures, divers have the opportunity to explore the museum of underwater figures.

On the bottom is a whole complex of unique sculptures created by talented architects. In addition to the sculptures, you can see exhibits in full size at the depths: a car, a table, an underwater mine and even a house.

Those who are not fans of diving also have the opportunity to see an unusual exhibition – just buy a ticket to a special semi-submersible boat. Through the portholes, the exposition appears as on the palm of your hand. All those who have been on this tour, claim that the place has a mystical attraction.

Address: Museo Subacuático de Arte, Alfredo V. Bonfil, Kukulcan Boulevard, Sona Otelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The ruins of Yamil Luum – “the hilly land.”

Yamil Luum Ruins

The ruins of Yamil Luum.

Historians believe that Yamil Luum was the most important religious center for the Maya tribe. The main temples are the Temple of the Scorpion and the Temple of the Hand. The walls of the former are decorated with figures of scorpions; the latter had hand prints everywhere.

Today, the floors and part of the walls remain of the former grandiose structures, but even these fragments are enough to feel their former power and grandeur. Once upon a time, the temples alerted locals to an impending storm or tempest: the walls were built in such a way that when the wind hit inside, it created a piercing whistle. Entrance to the ruins is free for tourists.

Address: Yamil Lu’um Archeological Site, Boulevard of Kukulcan, El Rey, Sona Othelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Plaza de Toros Arena – the epitome of Mexican culture

Plaza de Toros Arena

Arena Plaza de Toros.

Every Wednesday, the legendary Plaza de Toros Arena, the site of the famous spectacular bullfights, opens its doors to guests. The show is accompanied by loud Mexican music and rousing dances of the charros cowboys.

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For those who want to not only watch the show, but also participate in it, there is an opportunity to do so! For a fee you can wear a torero costume and go to the bullring. The bull in this case is young and not too experienced, and professional matadors are there to back you up.

Address: Plaza de Toros Cancún, Sona Othelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Women’s Island – a popular resort in Mexico

Women's Island

Isla de las Mujeres.

All travelers who have ever been to Isla de la Mujeres say it has a totally unique atmosphere. The quiet, measured life of a small fisherman’s village disposes to a relaxing vacation in a corner of paradise with a clear sea, clean beaches, beautiful palm trees. You can always try delicious dishes from fresh seafood in one of the local restaurants.

The island got its name after the first European, who came here, found statues of half-naked girls on the coast. To make tourists not be bored, locals have created a special program. Everyone can do scuba diving, climb the observation tower, roll down the mountain on a carabineer, attached to a special cable.

Address: Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The ancient city of Tulum – a unique Mayan fortress

The Ancient City of Tulum

The ancient city of Tulum.

Tulum attracts tourists with its ancient ruins, tropical nature and luxurious beaches. You can visit the ruins on your own or with a group, in the latter case, the guide will tell you many interesting and curious facts about the history of the city, which began in the 1st century AD.

The complex of buildings is very diverse. The ruins of the Temple of the Winds, the Temple of Frescoes, the huge El Castillo Palace and the watchtowers located on the edges of the fortress wall have been preserved. Tourists combine sightseeing of archaeological monuments with swimming in the sea: the beaches here are extraordinarily beautiful and picturesque. Pictures from the coast turn out very bright and saturated.

Address: Zona Arqueológica de Tulum, Cancun – Chetumal, Zona Hotelera Tulum, 307, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Ixcaret Park is a paradise for lovers of the exotic.

Ixcaret Park

Ixcaret Park.

Everyone who enters Ixcaret Park is immersed in an atmosphere of entertainment, rides, and cultural activities, all set against a backdrop of vibrant tropical nature. There is a huge natural reserve, where amazing plants grow and extraordinary beauty of birds and butterflies live.

Everyone can visit the underground tunnels, see the real coral reefs, examine the unique fragments of antiquity and take part in enchanting evening shows. In the park Shkaret is always fun and interesting.

Address: Ixcaret Park, Solidaridad, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Shel-Ha Park is a great place to relax

Shel-Ha Park.

Shel-Ha Park.

The main feature of the huge, beautiful park is the natural body of water. The lagoon is home to various members of the aquatic world: dolphins, manatees, stingrays. The park has two main areas: nature and outdoor activities.

Lovers of quiet walks can stroll through this jungle and enjoy the magnificent scenery. For those who are used to spending time actively, provides diving lessons, bike rides and even jumping off cliffs. To see everything Shel-Ha is famous for, you need to spend at least a day here. It will be remembered as one of the most unforgettable and impressive experiences of a lifetime.

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Address: Parque Xel-Há, Carretera Chetumal Puerto Juárez Km 240, locales 1 & 2, módulo B, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

The Dolphinarium Interactive Aquarium

Interactive dolphinarium aquarium

An interactive dolphinarium aquarium.

One of the shopping and entertainment centers in Cancun has an interactive aquarium-dolphinarium. Visitors are offered swimming sessions with dolphins and sea lions. You can also watch the behavior of real sharks (all activities are carried out in complete safety).

The huge aquariums, housing hundreds of species of bright tropical fish, are a real delight for all guests. There are exciting daily shows featuring various sea creatures.

Address: Interactive Aquarium Cancún, Boulevard Cuculcán, La Isla, Sona Otelera, Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Isla de Cosumel – Mexico’s largest island

Cozumel Island

Isla de Cosumel.

One of the best resorts in the country has gained popularity because of the incredible beauty of the underwater world. Here is the second largest coral reef in the world. Divers of all levels can dive under the water: experienced divers dive on their own, beginners – accompanied by an instructor.

Very interesting excursion on a comfortable boat with a transparent bottom – such an acquaintance with the depths does not require diving. The island is ideal for visiting at any time of year.

Address: Cosumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

It took about fifty years for a small fishing village to turn into a major popular resort, where thousands of tourists from all over the world come every year. There are excellent conditions for beach holidays, a lot of interesting entertainment, cozy restaurants, discos and clubs working around the clock. The azure Caribbean Sea is known for its clearest, most transparent water. Cancun is rapidly changing, but the atmosphere of hospitality and warmth remain the same.

Attractions in Cancun

Cancun sights

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Travel to Mexico: Sights of Cancun

Cancun. The inscription on the Delphine's flame. I love Cancun

Cancun. The inscription on the Playa Delphinez.

Mexico, vacation in Mexico, Quintana Roo, Cancun, Mayan, hotel area, beaches, diving, lagoon, center, museum, excavations, archaeological sites, Chichen Itza, Isla Cancun.

The creation of Cancun

In 1974 the Mexican National Foundation for Tourism Development, with the assistance of the World Tourism Organization, chose the city of Cancun on the northeastern coast of the state of Quintana Roo as the place to launch an international project to create an extensive recreational area. Within a few years, the fishing town, surrounded by pristine rainforests and pristine beaches of soft white sand, has become one of the world’s top resorts, surpassing Pacific Acapulco in popularity .

The Pacific resort of Acapulco

The Pacific resort of Acapulco

Cancun’s history before tourism

According to archaeological research, the Mayan civilization occupied the territory of Cancun until the middle of the 16th century. Experts of the ancient Mayan language believe that the name of the city can be translated as “snakes’ nest” or “yellow pumpkin” depending on the accentuation of the pronunciation. The first Europeans landed on this part of the Caribbean coast in October 1527 under the command of Captain Montejo, who had permission of the Spanish king to conquer the new lands. During the colonial period the city served as a shelter for French and Italian pirates, whose den was finally defeated by a detachment of Mexican soldiers in 1821.

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Modern Cancun. Photo taken during a helicopter ride

Modern Cancun. Photo taken during a helicopter ride

In the first half of the twentieth century, Cancun seemed to be just the backside of the mainland of Isla Mujeres, where the coconut ranches of the wealthy were located, but the word was already spreading about the development of tourism in the region. Cancun is divided into two sections: Down Town, a typical Mexican town on the mainland, with markets, restaurants and economy hotels, and the Hotelier’s Area (Isla Cancun), a resort area situated on a 22-kilometer-long sandbar shaped like a chain of seven, which is a center of upscale shopping centers, clubs and luxury hotels.

Cancun's waterfront in the hotel area. Behind the Nichupte Lagoon

The promenade of Cancun in the hotel area. Behind the Nichupte Lagoon.

The geography of modern Cancun

Between the hotel area and the traditional city stretches the Nichupte Lagoon, a system of seven bodies of water, the main attraction of which have been protected by the Mexican government mangroves inhabited by crocodiles, iguanas and white turtles. Sports fishing, extreme swimming, kayaking, and various sightseeing trails are practiced in the waters of the lagoon.

What to see in Cancun? Let’s open a map of attractions. Along the entire hotel area runs the Boulevard of Cuculcán, which has many objects of interest to visit, one of which is the Tequila Museum. The museum exhibition tells about the history and technology of the alcoholic beverage, and you can also buy it as a souvenir here. Punta Nisuk and Punta Cancun are privileged diving destinations, providing an opportunity to get acquainted with one of the largest coral reefs.

Beach strip in Cancun

Beachfront in Cancun

Cancun Beach

The beaches of the multi-kilometer spit of Isla Cancun are marked by fine sand of limestone origin, light turquoise waters and waves of varying intensity depending on the time of year. The most popular and crowded are Playa las Perlas, Caracol, Langosta, El Mirador, Tortugas and Marlin.

At weekends the beaches are organized performances of urban musical groups, are always open stores, restaurants and equipment rentals for diving, sailing, kayaking and windsurfing. In addition, almost every hotel organizes tours to the open sea for amateur fishermen. The recognized leaders of the local waters – barracuda, small sharks, sea bass and blue marlin.

Satisfied tourists returning from fishing in Cancun. Fishing in Cancun. Catch on a fishing trip in Cancun

Satisfied tourists return from fishing in Cancun

Cancun Center

The center of Cancun is located where Boulevard Kukulcan crosses Avenida Bonampak . Here you can find everything: banks, exchange offices, cultural centers, supermarkets, craft markets. The Plaza de Toros hosts music and dance performances every Wednesday, as well as bullfights and horse shows.

The “Mercado 28” is perhaps the busiest bazaar, selling all kinds of souvenirs, jewelry, traditional medicine, national clothes and shoes and quick snacks. Branded and designer goods are offered by large shopping centers such as “La Isla” and “Forum”. Good article about shopping malls in Cancun .

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Cancun's most popular shopping mall. Plaza La Isla shopping mall. Shopping in Mexico. Shopping in Mexico

The most popular shopping mall in Cancun. Plaza La Isla shopping mall.

In February, the downtown area hosts the traditional 5-day festival marking the beginning of Catholic Lent.

Historic sites in Cancun

Cancun has been called the “Gateway to the Mayan World”. In November 2012 the Mayan Museum was opened in the center of Isla Cancun, a museum complex that combines the San Miguelito archaeological site and a modern building with a café, a room for temporary exhibitions and two permanent exhibitions, one dedicated to the archaeology of Quintana Roo and the other to the culture of the Maya in general. San Miguelito is a small site near the Nichupte Lagoon that opens up to viewers like an oasis among the multitude of hotel structures. Of the 40 sites of the ancient settlement, which appeared on the Caribbean coast 800 years before the arrival of the conquistadors, five are available for public viewing, the largest structure – a 26-meter pyramid.

Ruins of El Rey city in Cancun. Ruins in Cancun. Historical and Archaeological Monuments in Cancun.

Ruins of the city of El Rey in Cancun

In the hotel area, in addition to San Miguelito, there is another archaeological site, El Rey . There are 47 structures, many with stone carvings and vivid paintings. The culture of the ancient civilization can also be seen in the traditional ritual steam baths, arranged in domed stone or clay rooms with a capacity of two to 20 people and called temascal . Mayan influence can also be seen in many aspects of Yucatan cuisine, which is not without spices, colorful sauces and hot peppers.

Temascal in Mexico. Indian baths. Most interesting tour in Mexico

Temascal in Mexico. Indian bathhouse.

Excursion programs in close proximity to Cancun

Chichen Itza.

The states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan offer famous archeological sites. The most famous among them is Chichen Itza – the ancient military and political center of the Maya civilization, a UNESCO site 200 km away from Cancun.

Coba and Tulum

Tulum, the ruins of a commercial port and a fortress on a cliff with a unique view of the sea, is located 115 km south of the city. Along with Tulum and Chichen Itza, the ruins of Coba are also a major scenic archaeological site and include the second largest temple in the Mayan world.

Shel Ha Park.

The freshwater lagoons of the Shel Ha Water Park near Tulum and the Shkaret Ecological Park are ideal places to explore the inhabitants of tropical ecosystems and begin snorkeling and other water sports.

Sian Ka’an.

Another natural site, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, inscribed by UNESCO in 1986, is a nesting place for rare wading birds and organizes activities such as guided nature trails, swimming with turtles and dolphins, kayaking.

Islands near Cancun

Women Island in Mexico. Excursion to the dolphins on the island of women

Women’s Island in Mexico

Cosumel and Isla Mujeres, a short distance from Cancun, are for a more relaxing vacation in a friendly Caribbean atmosphere. Their main attraction is the clear waters with a visibility up to 60 meters, coral reefs, lagoons and coastal romantic restaurants.

Towns near Cancun

Playa del Carmen, the third largest town in the state of Quintana Roo 55 km from Cancun, has changed from a fishing village to a cosmopolitan center with a lot of entertainment, beach and nightclubs but without losing its idyllic relaxed charm.

Evening street in Playa del Carmen. Strolling through the evening streets in Mexico.

Evening Street in Playa del Carmen

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