One Day in Cancun Itinerary – What to do in Cancun, Mexico

Are you ready for a vacation of a lifetime? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll get in Cancun! Turquoise sea, incredible beaches,and loads of awesome hotels, bars and clubs all promise plenty of rest and relaxation. However, there is some sightseeing to be done here, too. It would really be a shame to miss out on the Mayan ruins in and just outside of the city. So, a detailed itinerary to plan your one day in Cancun will be a very handy thing to have. Come and see why so many people visit the place every single year – you’re in for something very special!

One day in Cancun itinerary

What’s the best time to visit Cancun, Mexico?

Cancun boasts a tropical climate, so the temperatures are pretty consistent throughout the year which can be divided into the dry season (from November to May) and the rainy season (from May to November). The latter is sometimes called hurricane season, but major hurricanes are actually fairly rare around here.

Peak season here is around Christmas holidays when many people from the US flock to its warm shores. This is also when you will see peak prices, so the best time to visit Cancun would probably be somewhere in February or March. Do keep in mind that Cancun is also a very popular destination for spring breaks, so if you come in spring you may encounter a lot of students here, too.

Cancun, Author: alyssa BLACK, Source: Flickr

Summer and fall are also worth considering. The temperatures remain high, although there is more rain. But if you can pick a sunny day for your visit, you will enjoy significantly lower prices than in winter.

Naturally, there are many events you can visit, as well. For example, Laugh Out Loud Comedy Experience is one of the most famous comedy festivals in the world. Of course, there are plenty of music festivals to choose from too, with several jazz festivals, the Ember Shores Festival and We Are Mexico leading the way.  Finally, you can also enjoy the Carnaval (i.e. Carnival) in March or late February, the Whale Shark Festival or the Spring Equinox celebration at Chichen Itza.

Street of Downtown Cancun
Street of Downtown Cancun, Author: Christian Córdova, Source: Flickr

A few facts about Cancun

Interestingly, the creation of the city of Cancun was carefully planned, with the goal of helping tourism develop. And they’ve hit it out of the park! The project started on January 23, 1970, on what was at the time a coconut plantation. Today, the city has approximately 900,000 people!

The name Cancun comes from kaan kun, a Mayan expression that is believed to denote a snake nest. This may be in reference to Kukulcan, the feathered serpent god, whose pyramid is at the center of Chichen Itza, close to Cancun.

Hotel Zone, Cancun
Hotel Zone, Cancun

Isla Mujeres, the island just in front of Cancun, is Mexico’s easternmost point.

Cancun also has the largest underwater cave system in the world! More than 350 kilometers of caves stretch under the city and throughout the state of Quintana Roo. Furthermore, the Great Maya Barrier Reef is 900 kilometers long and the second biggest coral reef in the world.

One Day in Cancun Itinerary – Top Things To Do in Cancun, Mexico

You are in Mexico’s prime tourist city, and that means you have plenty of options in front of you. Obviously, you will want to head to the beach, but do try and make some time for the city’s sights – you will be amazed at what can be found here. These are the best things to do and see during your one day in Cancun. Enjoy!

Enjoy a morning at the beach

Waking up and going for a stroll on a sandy beach before breakfast sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Well, you can easily do it here in Cancun, especially if you’re staying in the Hotel Zone which is one uninterrupted chain of beaches, hotels, bars, and even shopping malls.

Hotel Zone, Cancun
Hotel Zone, Cancun

Deli Barlovento is an excellent place for breakfast, for example, and the same can be said for The Surfin Burrito. But you are bound to find so many more options, and after a walk along the beach, you will certainly develop quite an appetite.

The Surfin Burrito

Visit the Mayan Museum

After such a nice start to your day, continue on to the Mayan Museum, i.e. Museo Maya de Cancun. Here you will find plenty of stunning Mayan artifacts from the region, including Mayan works of art. Pottery, jewelry, and burial masks all provide a fascinating insight into this lost culture.

The museum itself is not very big, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time here, but the place is modern (opened in 2012) and very pleasant, so it would be a shame to miss out on a visit. It is one of the very few cultural places in this part of Cancun.

Explore the El Rey Ruins

Speaking of rare cultural places, just a bit south of the Mayan Museum is the archaeological zone known as El Rey. Yes, there are Mayan ruins in the middle of Cancun’s hotel area!

El Rey Ruins
El Rey Ruins, Author: Dennis Jarvis, Source: Flickr

The ruins date back to approximately 1300 AD, although the place had been inhabited for centuries before that. There are 47 structures in the area in total, and some murals and drawings have also been discovered here. It is quite impressive to see Mayan ruins with your own eyes, and coming here after visiting the museum elevates the whole experience to a new level. Do make some time for it, you won’t regret it!

El Rey Ruins
El Rey Ruins, Author: Dennis Jarvis, Source: Flickr

Head downtown for lunch

When the time for lunch comes, head downtown for some more authentic Mexican food. You will have plenty of great restaurants to choose from, and the street food scene is especially interesting. Furthermore, the Hotel Zone is well connected to the city center, so you should be able to get there even if you don’t have a car.

Cancun Downtown
Cancun Downtown, Author: Shinya Suzuki, Source: Flickr

You can find all sorts of restaurants here, from Italian La Dolce Vita (which offers really good prices!) and French Les Cepages to La Habichuela, an excellent grill place right in the heart of the city. La Parilla is another good Mexican restaurant, and El Timon offers excellent seafood dishes.

Cancun Downtown
Cancun Downtown, Author: Shinya Suzuki, Source: Flickr

Stroll through the city center

Once you’re done with your lunch, take a stroll down Avenida Tulum. This is the main street in downtown Cancun, lined with numerous restaurants, clubs and shops. So, it can be a great place to pick up a souvenir or two.

You can also visit one of the open markets nearby to get a real feel of the life that goes on in this city. Plaza 28 is an excellent place for that, and it’s open 24/7. Put some time aside to visit it, you won’t be sorry.

Hit the beach for real

After a whole day of sightseeing, you deserve some time at the beach. And there are quite a few of them to choose from. White sand, warm sun, crashing waves… This is what vacations are all about.

You will want to visit places such as Playa Marlin or Playa Gaviota Azul for a proper Cancun experience. And there are many activities you can take up here, from surfing and kayaking to dancing to hot rhythms coming from nearby bars. The crystal-clear waters will allow you to spot tropical fish with no problems, so snorkeling is also an option.

Playa Gaviota Azul, Cancun
Playa Gaviota Azul, Author: Helge V. Keitel, Source: Flickr

However, if you’d like some peace and quiet, Playa Chac Mool is the perfect choice. While equally beautiful as the other beaches, there is less commotion and noise here. People with children may find this place particularly appealing. In short, there is something for everyone here.

Caracol Beach, Cancun
Chac Mool Beach, Cancun

Treat yourself to a night out

For a perfect end to your one day in Cancun, consider going out to one of this city’s many bars and clubs. Just having a drink and soaking in the atmosphere can be quite an experience in and of itself.

However, if you’re looking for some places to explore, you may want to check out Coco Bongo. Remember Jim Carrey in The Mask? Yes, this is the club from the movie! Mandala Nightclub is another great destination for those of you who want to party, and there’s even McCarthy’s Irish Pub in the city center.

Coco Bongo
Coco Bongo, Author: Helge V. Keitel, Source: Flickr

As you can see, Cancun really does have something for every taste. Just relax, chill out and finish the day in style!

Where to stay in Cancun?

Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun

Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun

Boulevard Kukulcan Km 9.5, 77500 Cancún

Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun is the perfect resort if you really want to live it up while visiting this incredible place. The suites have a wonderful ocean view, there is a huge spa center you can enjoy, plus you can choose between six restaurants and bars. There are also two outdoor pools here as well as a private beach. All in all, luxury at its very finest!


La Villa du Golf à Cancun Hotel Boutique

La Villa Du Golf A Cancun Hotel

Km 7.5 Zona Hotelera, Calle Quetzal 32-1, 77500 Cancún

La Villa du Golf a Cancun is just that – a villa turned into a wonderful boutique hotel. You can enjoy your time here by the pool, but there is a beautiful garden and a terrace, too. Each room is different, but they’re all very comfortable, plus the breakfast you get here is absolutely spectacular. On top of that, the staff are really remarkable and receive high praise from every guest. Add to that the location close to a beach and in a quiet part of the town, and you’ve got yourself a winner!


Sina Suites

Sina Suites

Quetzal 33 Fraccionamiento Club de Golf Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún

Another resort, Sina Suites has a lot of unique features that are sure to make an impression. Not only will you find a full-fledged marina here, but the outdoor pool has a spectacular view. Furthermore, you will find a minibar in each unit, with suites also coming with a kitchenette. A restaurant and a bar are also on the premises. The place is very quiet and relaxing, but you can get to the city quickly from the nearby bus stop. And all of that at a very fair price!


Mayan Monkey Cancun

Mayan Monkey Cancun

Blvd Kukulcan Km 9.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún

Cancun also has many hostels to choose from, and Mayan Monkey is certainly the best one. It has a swimming pool, it’s just a few steps from the beach, it has a nightclub… What more could you ask for? The staff will always be there for whatever you may need, plus the sunsets you get to enjoy here are absolutely magical. Naturally, breakfast is served, too. Backpackers, look no further than this! 


Day trips from Cancun

You will definitely be tempted to spend more than one day in Cancun. Don’t worry, nobody will blame you if you succumb to that temptation – the place is just that fantastic. However, staying longer will open up some interesting opportunities for day trips, opportunities you won’t want to miss. Just check out this list below and you will find some incredible destinations. 

Chichen Itza

Approximately two and a half hours by car from Cancun lies Chichen Itza, and you will be in awe as soon as you get there. This is because Chichen Itza is a wonderfully preserved Mayan city, with the jaw-dropping Temple of Kukulcan right in the middle of it all. It’s such a unique insight into the life and culture of ancient Mayans that you might even say that this day trip is a must. In any case, you will experience something very special.


Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a wonderful day trip destination if you want an active day on the beach. You can get there in just 20 minutes if you hop on a ferry, and the options there are quite numerous. Naturally, you can enjoy some beautiful beaches, but the island also has a turtle sanctuary and even some Mayan ruins for you to explore. However, the island is also an excellent snorkeling destination, and a part of MUSA (you know, the underwater museum) is in the waters surrounding it.


Sian Ka’an

Nature has created some truly fascinating things in this part of the world, and Sian Ka’an is the best example of that. This incredible place is a combination of coral reefs, jungles, and beaches, with a sprinkle of Mayan ruins on top of that just for good measure. No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site then. Absolutely a must for all nature lovers and a wonderful destination for a day trip from Cancun.


If you’d like to explore Mexico’s towns a bit more, Tulum is just the thing. It’s got a bit of everything, from Mayan ruins and sandy beaches to excellent restaurants and bars. So, you can mix it up and do some sightseeing before just relaxing with a drink on an amazing beach. Oh, and do be on the lookout for music festivals – Tulum can throw quite a party, too!


Extra tips for visiting Cancun

  • do not forget your sunscreen, you will certainly need it here
  • Mexico asks all visitors to fill out an immigration form before they enter the country. You can fill it out online, but do not lose it – you will need it when you’re leaving too, and there will be a fine to pay if you don’t have it with you.
  • downtown Cancun may be a better choice to visit than the Hotel Zone if you want to have a more authentic Mexican experience.
  • having a bug spray with you can be very useful because mosquitos come out at night in big numbers.

Make sure you have everything you need

What to pack for your next trip?

Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.