The first stop in my year ling backpacking trip was Cancun, where I landed from Manchester. When I thought of the Yucatan, I imagined I was going to see uncontaminated white beaches, blue seas, Mayan ruins and amazing wildlife.

However, the Riviera Maya capital is famous to be more like a party city, with clubs, salsa bars and shopping centres, and less like an uncontaminated paradise. Nevertheless, it could still be worth paying a short visit to try one of the best burritos ever and see iguanas walking freely in the streets. Moreover, you will probably need to fly into here to move on to your next destination, so you may as well take advantage of the time you have here.

Though, being a nature lover, I wouldn’t spend too long here, there are still a few things you can do to pass your time, if you don’t like clubbing!

Things to see and do in Cancun:

  • Relax on its white-sanded beaches
  • Visit El Rey Site
  • Have lunch at The Surfing Burrito
  • Go to Mercado 28
  • Visit an underwater museum
  • Snorkel with whale sharks

Relax on its white-sanded beaches

Even though swimming in the tall waves and strong currents might be a scary thought for someone, there is nothing better than relaxing on a white sand beach, maybe after a long flight or bus to get there. If you are an early morning person or you are suffering the jet leg, you can just have a stroll on the beach, where you will meet lots of people who are here to read a book, jog, or just relax.

Playa Delfines – Cancun

Visit El Rey Site

One of the afternoons, we decided to pay a visit to El Rey Site, small Mayan ruins site. When you walk in here, you will feel like you are not in Cancun anymore. Located in the zona hotelera, this place is a small complex of Mayan ruins, full of big iguanas walking around, with a pond in the middle and a small wood full of vines in the back. It is apparently one of the oldest Mayan sites in the Yucatan and it’s the perfect break from the hustle and bustle and party vibe on the city for only 50 pesos. A nice way to spend an afternoon!

Have lunch at The Surfing Burrito

I love Mexican food and, after less than a week away I was already missing “Burrito Thursday’’ back home, so we decided to try Surfing Burrito. In one word: perfect! In Mexico, you will find out that real burritos are nothing like the ones you find in Europe or the US, and this can be quite shocking. However, in this place, they will make the perfect burrito that is a pretty good compromise between the European and Mexican versions, for just a few pesos. How to get there? From downtown, get a bus number 2 towards the zona hotelera for US$1 that you can pay directly on the bus.

Surfing Burrito

Go to Mercado 28

There are plenty of food and flea markets in Cancun. Walking through one of them can be quite overwhelming because of people shouting at you to try to get your attention. These places are extremely colourful and an ideal place to buy souvenirs and have a taste of the typical comida. The biggest of these markets is Mercado 28.

If you want to try some delicious tacos (any meat, fish or vegetarian), Mercado 28 is the place to go, though it’s a bit pricey compared to other places. Their menu includes a big variety of traditional food, so make sure not to miss it. You can also try micheladas, a typical drink made with beer, lime juice, sauces and spices.

Cancun sign
Cancun sign outside Mercado 28

Visit an underwater museum

MUSA is an underwater museum between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. Here you can either snorkel or dive, while admiring over 500 sculptures by six artists, which were installed to encourage the growth of coral and restoration of an ideal habitat to encourage tropical marine life.

These sculptures include different subjects, such as giant hands, cars, people, etc….

Depending on the tour you choose, prices will go from US$50 to US$70.

Image from MOMA.

Snorkel with whale sharks

Did you know that whale sharks are the largest fish in the world? But unfortunately they are also endangered. The Yucatan coast, particularly near Cancun, is one of the best spots in the world to see one of these amazing animals.

Unfortunately, you can only enjoy this natural wonder during certain months of the year – June to September – and so, during our trip we couldn’t take this tour.

If you do take one, please remember to choose an ethical tour – one that makes sure these animals are protect and that humans cannot get to close to them, but that also supports conservation efforts.


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