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Best Tours and Day Trips from Cancun

Cancun is undoubtedly paradise on earth. Be sure to visit its surroundings to discover it with your own eyes!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

17 min read

Best Tours and Day Trips from Cancun

Enjoy the wonderful beaches of Cancun | ©Saiful Molla

Cancun is a paradisiacal destination known for its fabulous white sand beaches and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. However, it is much more than only this. It is the dream destination for adventure and sports lovers thanks to its great weather for diving among sharks or snorkeling. Here are the must-see places in Cancun:

1. Day trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun

Pyramid in Chichén Itzá | ©Filip Gielda
Pyramid in Chichén Itzá | ©Filip Gielda

Accompanied by a certified guide, on this 12-hour excursion you will have the opportunity to go back in time to enter the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, an ancient Mayan city where important structures of this remote civilization are still preserved in good condition, such as the ball game range, the Temple of the Warriors, the Castle and the famous stepped pyramid of Kukulkán, among other monuments.

During this day trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun, which costs $ 60, you will also dive into the beautiful cenote Ik Kil, whose turquoise waters were considered sacred by the Mayans. You will also complete your visit to the Riviera Maya with a tour to the colonial city of Valladolid and the artisan village of Kaua.

About Chichen Itza

The adventure starts early, at 8 a.m., to avoid the heat and crowds. Together with your group you will set off for Chichén Itzá, the most important archaeological site in Yucatán and one of the new 7 Wonders of the Modern World since 2007.

It is an ancient Mayan city that stood out as the political and administrative center of this culture and was one of the largest settlements on the peninsula. In fact, in its period of greatest splendor, around 600 AD, it was the most powerful city in Yucatan. However, after centuries of dominance and prosperity, devastating droughts caused the collapse of the Mayan civilization and led to the disappearance of its cities as their inhabitants moved to other territories in search of water.

In this 45 minutes tour of Chichen Itza, your guide will unveil all the secrets of this lost town, the mysteries of its amazing architecture, and the meaning of its symbols. It is an experience totally recommended for everyone, especially if you like history and archaeology.

About the Sacred Cenote

The next stop on the day trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun is the sacred cenote of Ik Kil, an absolute natural spectacle. Stepping into this place and contemplating the landscape you understand why the Mayans considered it a holy place. From above, the roots of the trees fall in the form of vines trying to reach the deep blue water, giving it a magical look that invites you to dive into its refreshing waters.

The fascinating thing about this visit to the Ik Kil cenote is that you can bathe in this sacred place and rest body and mind. It is a sensational and unique experience that will awaken all your senses.

About Kaya

After the visit to the Ik Kil cenote the tour continues to Kaua, a small village in the Yucatan Peninsula where you will stop for a buffet-style lunch. The food is very tasty and they serve mainly regional dishes such as poc chuc, tacos al pastor, chayitas, soups or cochinita pibil tacos. If you are passionate about Mexican cuisine, you will feel like you are in seventh heaven.

Valladolid

The last stop of this excursion before returning to Cancun is the magical town of Valladolid, one of the oldest towns in the region, founded in 1543. Take advantage of the visit to make a brief tour of its historic center and discover this beautiful colonial town, some of its monuments such as the beautiful church of San Gervasio of the eighteenth century, the temple-museum of San Roque or the municipal palace as well as buy a nice souvenir in its craft market. The tour is available in English, as well as other several languages.

Why do I like it?

This Riviera Maya excursion allows you to visit some of the most outstanding places around Cancun in just one day. On the one hand, it allows you to learn about the history of the Mayan civilization with the visit to Chichen Itza and the Ik Kil cenote and about Mexico's viceregal period with the tour of Valladolid. On the other hand, with the gastronomic demonstration of Kaua, you get to know the region through its flavors and products, which gives you a very interesting global vision.

Isabel's Traveller Tip

Wear light clothing and comfortable shoes, as you will have to walk a lot and the terrain is somewhat uneven. Add to your backpack a towel and a swimsuit to go for a dive in the cenote.

2. Guided excursion to the cenotes of Tulum and Dos Ojos

Diving into the crystal clear waters of the Dos Ojos cenote | ©Roberto Nickson
Diving into the crystal clear waters of the Dos Ojos cenote | ©Roberto Nickson

Are you looking for an excursion that combines culture, nature, and fun during your trip to Cancun but you don't have much time? Then the guided excursion to the cenotes of Tulum and Dos Ojos, priced at $ 29, is the one for you.

Escape to Tulum, one of the last cities built by the Mayans, and Dos Ojos Cenote, one of the most amazing natural treasures of the Riviera Maya. Discover two of the Yucatan Peninsula's greatest attractions on this 5-hour tour from Cancun accompanied by a guide who will show you the highlights of both places to get the maximum benefit and where all transportation is included to enjoy a hassle-free visit.

The tour guide will be waiting for you at 8 a.m. to start your experience. Once in the vehicle, you will head to the archaeological site of Tulum, an ancient Mayan walled city considered one of the most beautiful for its excellent state of preservation and its privileged location next to the Caribbean Sea.

About Tulum

Tulum was an important trading center both by land and by sea, especially for obsidian and jade. It is characterized by its wall, in fact, its name means wall, which had a defensive function and is one of the few pre-Columbian cities with this characteristic.

Just for this peculiarity alone, it is worth the visit, but being located on the shores of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, it offers a magnificent scenery. In front of it is the second most important coral reef in the world. Here you will be able to contemplate the most relevant buildings of the city such as the temple of the Frescoes, the temple of the Descending God, and the Castle, which served as the main temple and navigation lighthouse to access the port.

About the Dos Ojos cenote

Once the tour to Tulum is over, the second stop of this Riviera Maya excursion will be the Dos Ojos Cenote. This is a system of open and closed anchialine caves with salt water and fresh water areas.

Contemplating this cenote is a fantastic experience because in the semi-open part there is a fascinating play of lights and colors, while in the closed part you can admire the stalactites hanging from the ceiling, as well as the remains of fossils embedded in its walls. For an additional cost, the conservation fee, you will have the opportunity to swim, refresh yourself in its transparent waters, or snorkel. The best way to rest up and get your energies back!

A 5 hour (approx.) outdoor experience where you will learn about cenotes and have a great time. The activity is available in English.

3. Cancun Whale Shark Swimming Tour: snorkeling for small groups

Diving with whale sharks | ©Marcel Ekkel
Diving with whale sharks | ©Marcel Ekkel

Have you ever lived the experience of swimming among wild animals? Being in harmony with them immersed in the immensity of the sea is an indescribable sensation, you really have to experience it first hand!

This day trip to swim with whale sharks in Cancun allows you to see up close these spectacular animals in their natural habitat, in a small group of a maximum of 10 people. You will learn about them and about the importance of taking care of the environment, an exciting experience that will make your hair stand on end and that will be etched in your memory forever. This activity has a cost of $ 143.

What is this excursion about?

Accompanied by a biologist or naturalist guide, you will embark with your group on an adventure that will take you to explore the waters of the Yucatan coast in search of whale sharks, one of the largest fish in the world (approximately 39 feet long).

It is a harmless animal that inhabits all the warm tropical seas of the planet except the Mediterranean but is rarely seen, except in some apparently preferred areas such as Cancun.

This 5 to 7-hour excursion around the quiet waters of Contoy Island, Holbox, and Isla Mujeres is one of the few where you will be able to see them and share a swim with these beautiful creatures. During the trip, you will learn about the features and habits of the whale shark from your guide and before you put on your snorkeling gear to dive into the sea, he will tell you how to interact with the marine life in a safe way for all of you to live an intimate and unforgettable experience.

In Isla Mujeres

At the end of the whale shark experience, you will return to the boat to go to Isla Mujeres, the next part of the activity. A paradise located only 7 miles from Cancun that is well known for its Mayan ruins, its nightlife, its impressive cliffs, and its beautiful beaches.

The North Beach is one of them, where you can sunbathe, enjoy the typical Caribbean landscape of white sand and turquoise waters and take a refreshing swim before tasting a delicious lunch of traditional Mexican dishes on the boat off the coast of Isla Mujeres. This is a great way to recharge your batteries after an intense day and to spend a pleasant time chatting with the group and enjoying the food.

Before the end of the excursion, the guide will tell you about the impressive natural environment of Isla Mujeres so that you can get to know in depth the birds and marine species that live on the island such as dolphins, manta rays, and turtles. Did you know that its waters are home to the second largest barrier reef in the world? The languages in which this tour is available are English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German.

4. Snorkeling excursion around reefs and shipwrecks in Cancun

Diving among the remains of shipwrecks | ©Ted Barrera
Diving among the remains of shipwrecks | ©Ted Barrera

One of nature's most amazing creations are the coral reefs, underwater ecosystems that form in the shallow, clean, and warm waters of tropical seas and are home to different forms of animal and plant life.

The Cancun Reef, with its 621 miles of extension, is known as "The Aquarium of the World" and is the second largest barrier reef on the planet after the Australian.

If you always wanted to experience how it feels diving among tropical fishes and see this valuable natural treasure while you're at it, this reef snorkeling excursion, for a price of $ 60, will make your dream come true and even take you to the remains of a shipwreck. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? It really is!

You will snorkel with a small group of no more than 10 people, which means that the professional guide will be able to give you personalized attention during the activity and you will be able to visit several sites of Cancun's underwater world in a short time.

Itinerary

Whether you choose the morning or afternoon departure, you will be picked up at your hotel by an air-conditioned vehicle that will take you to the marina to proceed with the check-in. Here, you will get your snorkeling equipment for the experience.

If you are not an experienced diver, don't worry because before you start you will receive preliminary snorkeling training, where you can try your equipment and learn the safety instructions and other tips that will help you to fully enjoy the experience. If you have any questions about snorkeling, don't be afraid to ask the guide: they are very friendly and strive to make the group feel comfortable at all times.

Once they make sure this is the case, the diving excursion begins, which consists of four different stages in which you will swim among fish, manta rays, and turtles while observing the coral reef and the remains of a shipwreck.

From an experience like this, it is a good idea to keep a photo as a souvenir. Don't worry about this, as your guide will take your pictures and send them to you for an extra bit of money. Once the activity through the Cancun Reefs is over, it's time to go back to the hotel to rest. This excursion lasts 3 hours 30 minutes (approx.) and is available in English and Spanish languages.

Why do I like it?

What I liked most about this excursion is that despite not having much knowledge about diving, I felt comfortable at all times thanks to the personalized attention we received from the guide who accompanied us during the tour. Before starting, he gave us an informative talk about snorkeling and the equipment that we would be using, as well as safety tips to be able to enjoy without any kind of worry. Also, getting a souvenir pic is a nice plus. Overall, it was a fantastic morning!

5. Catamaran Tour in Isla Mujeres

Paradise beaches of Isla Mujeres | ©Jeff Shewan
Paradise beaches of Isla Mujeres | ©Jeff Shewan

Located 7 miles away from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is one of the jewels of the Riviera Maya and one of the best tours and excursions you can do during your stay. Despite its limited size, it is a place that combines a little bit of everything to have a great time: Mayan ruins, spectacular beaches, restaurants, craft stores, and a wonderful natural environment where you can do multiple outdoor activities such as diving, hiking, kayaking or zip lines.

Exploring the tropical beauty of Isla Mujeres aboard a catamaran is a unique experience highly recommended, especially if you have never been on one before. This one-day catamaran tour has a price of $ 50, and takes you to sail, relax on the beach, and snorkel in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. Take home a memorable souvenir of your visit to Isla Mujeres!

Itinerary

During your stay in Cancun, be sure to reserve a day to visit Isla Mujeres, the Riviera Maya's beautiful island of turquoise waters and white sand. A little piece of paradise on Earth.

If you choose the roundtrip transportation option, a vehicle will pick you up at your hotel in Cancun and take you to the marina. Once there, you will board a large catamaran to Isla Mujeres. The views of the Caribbean Sea and the feeling of freedom on board with the sea breeze on your face are absolutely wonderful.

The Snorkel

The first stop of the excursion is the coral reef reserve, to dive into the crystal clear waters and do a snorkel experience. It is fascinating to see with your own eyes these beautiful coral formations and so many tropical fish in their habitat. In fact, the activity guide will lure them to the group's position with food so that you can see a school of fish up close.

After snorkeling, the next stop is the beach where you can enjoy the Caribbean scenery and sunbathe or relax under a palm tree.

Lunch

If you have chosen the option that includes it, you will savor a lunch buffet at the beach club before having some free time to explore Isla Mujeres on your own and visit the craft shops on Hidalgo street, the turtle farm for the conservation of the species, the Mundaca Hacienda or the other fabulous beaches of the island such as Playa Grande or Playa Lancheros. In addition, here you will find the Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA) with more than 400 underwater sculptures.

Return to Cancun

This 7 hour (approx.) tour of Isla Mujeres ends when you return to the catamaran that will take you back to Cancun, either to the port if you choose the option without transportation or to the hotel if you do. This activity is available in English.

6. ATV tour, zip lines, and cenote at Extreme Adventure Eco Park Cancun

Enjoy the zip line in Cancun | ©John Trainor
Enjoy the zip line in Cancun | ©John Trainor

Seeking the thrill of adventure and to unload adrenaline in an incomparable natural environment such as the Riviera Maya? Bring out your most intrepid side and dare to take a tour to the Mayan jungle on an all-terrain vehicle on the "Route of the Cenotes" combined with a zip line ride through the treetops and a refreshing dip in a cenote where you can dive into the water from a zip line.

If you are visiting Cancun with your family, this fun and exciting experience will delight children, who can participate from the age of four (minimum age) as long as they are accompanied by an adult at all times. This is a different activity to do something out of the ordinary in the middle of nature during a vacation. Are you up for it?

Itinerary

A vehicle will pick you up at your hotel in Cancun and Riviera Maya and take you to the Extreme Adventure Eco Park, where you will participate with a group of up to 50 travelers in a tour full of emotions and fun in the Mexican jungle.

The adventure begins as you soar like a bird over the treetops on a series of six zip lines. Then you'll test your balance by crossing three bridges while enjoying spectacular views of the landscape. Once you get your feet on the ground, take a quad to follow your guide on a 50-minute ride through the dense Mayan jungle and get ready to get muddy.

The tour ends with a bath in the cenote of Extreme Adventure Eco Park Cancun, a natural freshwater pool supplied by an underground river that the ancient Mayans considered sacred. Unlike other cenotes, this one can be accessed by zip line which makes the experience even more exciting.

Before returning to Cancun and the Riviera Maya, where the tour will end, a small snack is organized at the base to pick yourself up after such an intense day. Here you can also purchase some souvenir photos of the experience. The duration of this tour is 3 hours 30 minutes (approx.) and the languages in which the tour can be done are Spanish and English. This experience costs $ 75.

Isabel's Traveller Tip

Since it takes place in the middle of the jungle, bring insect repellent in your backpack and a pair of booties for the cenote activity. Also include a towel, snacks and some water.

7. Day trip to Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres with snorkeling at the Ixlaché reef

Wonder at the Ixlaché reef snorkeling | ©Kuruman
Wonder at the Ixlaché reef snorkeling | ©Kuruman

Declared a Natural Reserve and National Wildlife Refuge in 1961, Isla Contoy is an uninhabited paradise bathed by the waters of the Caribbean Sea. The only creatures that dwell here are reptiles, crustaceans, turtles, fish, and birds, so many that it is known as the Island of Birds.

If you are a lover of ecotourism and environmental protection, you can't miss this excursion to Isla Contoy. In addition to contemplating this beautiful landscape of the Riviera Maya, you can snorkel in the Ixlaché reef to see the corals and swim with colorful fish as well as take a tour around the island with a guide to learn about the biodiversity of the place and its conservation.

Itinerary

The excursion begins in the morning when, if you have chosen the transportation option, a vehicle will transfer you from your hotel in Cancun and Riviera to Scuba Cancun Marina to take a boat at 9 a.m. to the Ixlache reef, the second largest in the world. During the trip, in addition to enjoying the beautiful scenery, you will have a continental breakfast on board.

The first stop on this tour is Isla Mujeres, an island famous for its Mayan ruins and wonderful beaches, where you will have time to stroll around downtown and do some shopping. Afterward, the group will head to Isla Contoy National Park to snorkel with a professional guide at Ixlache Reef, home to manta rays, turtles, and tropical fish.

But there is not only life on Isla Contoy underwater, you will also find it on land. The island is a wildlife refuge that protects more than a hundred species of birds, and green, hawksbill, and loggerhead species of turtles nest on its beaches. Through an itinerary through the place accompanied by a guide you will learn about the biodiversity of the island and the conservation work that is done on it with visits to the Nature Museum or the Nesting Lagoon, among others.

Before returning to Scuba Cancun Marina around 5 p.m., you will have the opportunity to relax on the beach and have a buffet lunch including soft drinks and beer. This tour lasts 8 hours (approx.) and can be done in Spanish and English for a price of $ 134.

8. Cancun shopping and city tour including the Mayan ruins at El Meco

Mayan ruins of El Meco | ©Jason M Ramos
Mayan ruins of El Meco | ©Jason M Ramos

Are you interested in a tour that combines culture, gastronomy, and shopping? Then this is one of the excursions in Cancun that you will like the most. In this 6-hour tour you will discover interesting places such as the archaeological site of El Meco, a local handicraft market, or the Tequila Museum, where you can do a tasting. They have more than 400 different kinds!

However, on this tour, there is also time to visit the nature of the place and take a few pictures of Parque Kabah, a protected natural area, the bay of Cancun, and the coast at El Mirador de Playa Delfines.

El Meco

The tour of Cancun will begin after picking you up from your hotel in the morning in a vehicle bound for the outskirts of the city where the Mayan archaeological site of El Meco is located, perhaps one of the least known but certainly quite interesting. Its size is small but in the past, it was of great commercial importance. Accompanied by the activity guide, you will learn about the history of this site and the reasons for its abandonment.

Pyramid El Castillo

Its main tourist attraction is its 40 feet high pyramid known as El Castillo, which has a temple at the top. After this cultural visit, the next stop on the Cancun tour is a handicrafts market where you can buy some souvenirs of your stay in Mexico. Other places worth seeing that the guide will show you are in the downtown district and the hotel area (clubs, hotels, Cancun marinas, etc.).

Tequila Museum

In Kukulkan Square, you will make the next stop: the Tequila Museum. You will get to know another side of Mexican culture through its gastronomy and its iconic liquor that represents it so well in the world. Discover the manufacturing process of this drink, learn about the different brands of Mexican tequila, and enjoy a tasting of the national product.

Casa Maya Museum

Speaking of museums, at the Casa Maya Museum you will see how Cancun has developed from 1968 to the present and how much it has changed. It is truly amazing. Other fascinating places you will see during this excursion are Kabah Park, Cancun Bay, and the coastline at El Mirador de Playa Delfines. Take the opportunity to take pictures of the spectacular scenery and the occasional selfie with the colorful Cancun sign to liven up your socials.

Island Shopping Village

Before returning to the hotel in the late afternoon you can take a stroll through La Isla Shopping Village, Cancun's most popular shopping mall, and buy some gifts for your friends. This shopping tour lasts 5 to 6 hours (approx.) and is available in English and Spanish. This tour is priced at $ 39.