16 miles of beach resorts, swanky waterfront restaurants, wild nightclubs and crumbling Mayan towns line Kukulcan Boulevard, Cancun’s iconic hotel strip. If you really want to show off those vacation pictures, it’s time to spice up your travel itinerary and discover why this city is way more than just tequila and tan lines (we have those, too)!

Sights and attractions

Sights and attractions in Cancun

If you can force yourself to ditch the hotel swim-up bar for a few hours, Cancun presents a world of white Caribbean coastline, enviable views, sumptuous jungle surroundings, ancient Mayan history and glittering cityscape to captivate the eyes. El Mirador (The Lookout) at Dolphin Beach has an ocean view even better than the one from your room, complete with a colourful “CANCUN” sign for profile picture posing. The best of the hotel strip converges at Punta Cancun, home to casual open-air restaurants, the busy and bikini-clad Forum Beach, and the pulsating late-night lights of Party Center with some of the best nightclubs on the planet.

Art and culture

Art and culture in Cancun

Cancun might appear to be no more than a resort city at first glance, but centuries-old traces of Mayan civilizations can be explored amongst the modern beach hotels without leaving the strip. Delve into the region’s history by viewing ancient artefacts at the sleek and contemporary Museum Maya de Cancún, where a small path guides you alongside twisted black tree roots beneath the shade of jungle leaves toward San Miguelito Ruins. To check “climb a Mayan temple” off your bucket list, head to the southern end of the Hotel Zone and spend a morning exploring the remains of an ancient port city at El Rey Ruins, now home exclusively to an immense iguana population. Cancun’s performance art scene is just beginning to blossom; take in musicals, comedians and kids shows at Teatro de Cancun, or head into the iconic Las Palapas Park in Downtown any Saturday evening to see local events on the outdoor main stage under the stars – you just might catch a dance recital, a play by a local theatre group or even a Caribbean beauty pageant.

Food and drink

Food and drink in Cancun

When in Cancun, set aside a few nights of your vacation to escape the comfort of your resort and savour the rich atmospheres and flavours of Cancun’s culinary scene. La Isla mall is home to some of Cancun’s best dinners on the lagoon, most notably the private cabanas in the picturesque gardens of Thai Lounge. If you fancy seeing your lunch flayed and fried just a few feet from your table, El Galeon del Caribe is a popular Sunday lunch spot for Cancun locals, serving up lime-soaked ceviches and hot pescadillas right by the lagoon. When planning an evening at the clubs, indulge in cocktails on the terrace at Chuchito Perez for up-high views of Party Center, then feast on late-night noshes at nearby Taco Factory or The Surfin’ Burrito. Travellers in search of gourmet cuisine with a view will fall for eateries like Harry’s and Porfirio’s. In Downtown Cancun, Las Palapas Park has food stands selling authentic Yucatan Peninsula staples and snacks, while Avenida Nader has become a hotspot for cool restaurants and bars brimming with atmosphere, like fashionable Amarula bar or outdoor Italian restaurant El Tigre y El Toro.

Shopping

Shopping in Cancun

The designer brand-obsessed should start at the lavish Luxury Avenue boutique mall at Plaza Kukulcan, then walk up the strip to La Isla. Designed after the canals of Venice, Plaza La Isla not only houses high-end brands and a stylish row of designer shops, it’s also the most scenic place in Cancun for a simple stroll: buy an ice cream cone and revel in lagoon views with a walk along the marina, or take the kids to see sharks, seahorses and more at the interactive aquarium. Savvy travellers should keep an eye on social media to find out when and where local bazaars like Co’ox Cancun or Rapsodia Bazar will be setting up; both of these events hosts local artists and designers selling their products along Downtown Cancun’s most charming parks and streets.

Unique to Cancun

Unique to Cancun in Cancun

Ever-shifting tones changing from blue to silver to green to turquoise, depending on where the sun sits in the sky, make Cancun’s Nichupte Lagoon a breath-taking expanse for water sports and exploration. Here, you can race between the lagoon’s mangrove islands on a two-person speedboat before jumping into the Caribbean Sea for snorkelling on the reef, or fly over the sparkling waters on a water jet pack known as a Flyboard. If motoring’s not your style, try stand-up paddle-boarding through the lush green mangrove for a relaxing workout to the sounds of birds chirping and fish jumping. In the evenings, romantic dinner cruises on Nichupte Lagoon provide incomparable vistas of Cancun’s skyline, lit up by the moon, the stars and the glistening resort lights.

Day trip

Day trip in Cancun

Dart across a stretch of blue-and-turquoise striped water on the Ultramar ferry to see the island that sits on Cancun’s horizon: Isla Mujeres. A rental golf cart is just right for driving the perimeter of the island to scope out evocative tropical homes and lookout points over the ocean; after your morning golf cart drive, North Beach provides the clear, pool-like waters and bar-swing beach clubs you crave to cool off. True jungle adventures hide just below Cancun: drive south to La Ruta de los Cenotes, a small jungle highway lined with the region’s famed clear natural springs known as “cenotes”. Cenote Verde Lucero, for example, has its own zip line and cliff-jumping for the brave of heart. After a dip in these limestone pools, stop by the beach town of Puerto Morelos for fresh-caught seafood cooked to perfection by local chefs.

Hotel Offers

Worldwide deals and discounts for American Express Cardmembers