9 Best Things to Do in Cancun
Planning your next Cancun vacation? Here are the best things to do in Cancun.
Packed with culture and adventure, while tapping into Mayan influences and environmental ethos, Cancun feels like an exotic getaway, but is just a quick flight from most U.S. cities. The Caribbean Sea's aquamarine hues and the region's balmy year-round temperatures have enticed dozens of all-inclusive resorts to fan out their pampering amenities along the shoreline. Whether you are happiest chilling on the beach (fruity drink in hand, of course) or snorkeling in the wide-open sea, there are plenty of angles to explore Riviera Maya's largest city. Here are the best things to do in Cancun.
Visit a locals' beach
Cancun beaches, beautiful as they are, can get crowded with tourists. Stray from the pack and head to Playa Delfines, a public beach where locals like to unwind. While there might not be roving waiters with trays of margaritas, palapas are available and drinks can be brought in.
El Rey Mayan Ruins
Explore Mayan ruins
Coba, Chichen Itza and Tulum are all doable for a day trip, but still quite a trek. El Rey, named for a skeleton unearthed at the site, is right in Cancun's Hotel Zone —and not everyone knows about it. The region’s rich Mayan heritage comes alive through 47 stone sculptures dating back to 1250 A.D.
Snorkel among statues
Out of all the things to do in Cancun, this one is a must. The best way to see MUSA, an underwater sculpture garden of 470 statues, is from just below the water's surface. Book a snorkeling excursion with Aqua World which includes fins, masks and vests, plus drinks and tunes onboard. You’ll also spot colorful exotic fish.
Check out street art
Artists from around the globe are transforming Cancun's urban walls and abandoned residential areas into murals bursting with color and ocean-conservation themes. The first of these murals (on four buildings) were unveiled in late February, a partnership among three government agencies. The next collection, spanning eight buildings, debuts in early July.
Take a food tour
Departing from downtown Cancun, the nightly 2½-hour Taco Tour fills your belly with grub at four stops, led by locals who know the food scene in and out. Sure, Cancun resorts are flush with fine-dining options but street-food fare is equally trending, and off the beaten path.
Shop local markets
Sidestep the luxury, designer-label shopping malls for artisan-made crafts, fashion accessories and home decor Mercado 28, a market in downtown Cancun with 100 shops. From embroidered pillow covers to hand-painted pottery, check off the items on your souvenir and gifts list and have pesos left over to splurge on a beautiful scarf just for you.
Ik Kil cenote
Swim in a cenote
Mexico boasts nearly 7,000 naturally occurring cenotes, swimming holes formed when limestone rock collapses, and most are found on the Yucatán Peninsula. The Ik Kil cenote is a two-hour drive from Cancun, and worth the drive: explore gorgeous caves and jungle foliage, and cool off with a dip in the chilly water. Bonus: the cenote is near Chichen Itza's Mayan ruins. To see both in one day, book a tour with Entertainment Plus.
Hop a ferry to Isla Mujeres
Just a quick 15-minute ferry ride from bustling Cancun is Isla Mujeres, a laid-back island practically free of cars — everyone cruises around in a golf cart. Ferries depart from Gran Puerto and Terminal Martima Puerto Juarez, 10 minutes north of Cancun by taxi, every half hour between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. Consider activities like kayaking at Garrafón Reef Park or exploring the sea-wall murals.
Xenses Theme Park
Part of the Experiencias Xcaret family of eco-oriented parks (its siblings are Xcaret and Xel-Ha) Xenses opened last June in Playa del Carmen, an hour's drive south of Cancun. Built around 15 sensory experiences on land and in water — such as bathing in mineral-rich mud, walking in a dark faux jungle and zip-lining in a bird costume — this family-friendly park takes about a half day to explore.
When and where possible, we are working to repatriate travelers who are stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Our teams are working closely with government officials here in the U.S. as well as in other countries where flying has been restricted to gain the necessary approvals to operate service. In regions where government actions have barred international flying, we have coordinated with the the U.S. State Department and local government officials to re-instate some flights. Additionally, we have been operating several extra flights to countries in Central America and South America as we continue to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world.
We have operated more than 85 repatriation flights from Panama City, Guatemala City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, bringing nearly 12,000 people home. We will continue working with government officials to operate extra flights to Houston from Quito, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and from Lima to Washington Dulles and beginning April 5, we will begin operating multiple charter flights between Delhi and San Francisco. We continue to review more opportunities for flights between the United States and other countries to bring citizens home.
Video provided by the U.S. Embassy Ecuador of Americans returning home on United.
Additionally, our Customer Solutions and Recovery team is working with customers in the following markets to rebook them on flights back to the United States as capacity allows, either on our aircraft or on one of our airline partners' planes:
- Quito, Ecuador
- Managua, Nicaragua
- Roatan, Honduras
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras
- Seoul, South Korea
- Melbourne, Australia
We also recently reinstated several international flights back into our schedule to support customers and essential businesses which depend on these routes. As a result, we will be the only airline to offer service between Newark/New York and London, San Francisco and Sydney, as well as Houston and São Paulo, Brazil.
Throughout these unprecedented times, we remain committed to doing what is right and fair for all of our MileagePlus® members and are pleased to share the steps we are taking to reciprocate the trust and loyalty that you have placed in United. These steps include not only Premier status updates, but also an extension of current memberships and subscriptions. The updates will happen automatically over the next few weeks — there's nothing you need to do.
The big news: If you have current 2020 Premier status, it will be extended to January 31, 2022. At a minimum, you will enjoy the same published status next year that you have today, up to and including Premier 1K®.
For the 2021 status year, United is reducing thresholds for Premier qualification by 50% for each status level, to make reaching an even higher tier easier. You'll still need a minimum of four flight segments on United or United Express®.
Earn Premier qualifying flights
… or meet a higher PQP goal
We're also doubling PQP for United Explorer cards and quadrupling PQP for the United Club cards.
At the same time that we're decreasing the published program's PQP requirements, via a promotion from May 1 – December 31, 2020, we're doubling (for United Explorer cards) or quadrupling (for United Club cards) the maximum number of PQP that Cardmembers can earn from card spending during 2020 to help achieve a higher level of status than you already have. More details to come later.
1K® and Platinum members, we're increasing your ability to upgrade by extending PlusPoints expiration dates by six months and expanding Skip Waitlist.
- This means a six-month extension of any PlusPoints set to expire on or before January 31, 2021.
- Last year we introduced Skip Waitlist on select flights as a benefit to 1K members, giving you more opportunities to confirm an upgrade request at the time of booking. This benefit will now be available for the rest of 2020 in a significantly expanded selection of long-haul international regions and will have expanded availability in 2021 as well.
We're extending all annual membership and subscription benefits by six months.
- We want to make sure your benefits are still there when you're ready to start flying again. That's why we're extending purchased United Club℠ memberships purchased directly from United and purchased subscriptions for Economy Plus®, United Wi-Fi℠ and checked bags by six months. You should see this reflected in your MileagePlus account soon.
All electronic travel certificates now have 24 months to be used.
- If your travel plans have been disrupted, and you have an electronic travel certificate from us for the value of your ticket, you now have two years from the date it was issued to book a new flight, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. This includes all currently valid and all new electronic travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020.
We have removed some redeposit fees for the rest of the year.
- We are currently waiving all award redeposit fees for travel through end of May 2020.
- We are now also waiving all redeposit fees for award ticket cancellations made more than 30 days before departure for the remainder of 2020.
Finally, we'll be making it easier to earn status in 2021 for the 2022 program year. We recognize that getting back to travel will occur at a different pace for different members. Keep an eye out for changes we will make to help you earn status in 2021 for 2022, as we'll share details later this year.
Over the years, you have placed your trust and loyalty in United, and we are honored to do the same for you. We are all in this together.
Status extension to January 31, 2022, applies to all members that met the published criteria of the MileagePlus program in 2019, status match associated with the United/Marriott Bonvoy partnership and status offered as part of a Sales nomination. Status granted from other programs and policies may not apply.
To help with the uncertainty around future travel — be it summer vacations, conferences, events and more — customers now have until April 30 to make changes to, or cancel, any travel they have booked through the end of the year without fees. This is in addition to existing waivers already in place which allow customers to change or cancel plans for travel through May 31.If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a fee. These electronic travel certificates are now valid for 24 months from the date they were issued. This includes all currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020. You might not see this policy change reflected everywhere right away – we appreciate your patience as we work to make that happen.
Eligible travelers on domestic flights and international tickets can request a refund on united.com or may call our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19.
Certain tickets cannot be changed on united.com or the mobile app, including tickets booked through another airline (if the ticket receipt does not begin with 016). Please contact the original ticketing airline for changes.
Follow the steps below to stay up to date, change or cancel your flight.
Change your current flight:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your flight information to retrieve your flight.
- Select "Change flight" and then "Edit" to make the following changes:
- Date of travel or destination
- Add a flight
- Remove a flight
- Select "Continue" and choose a new flight option
- Continue through booking to confirm your new flight
Note: The change fee will display as waived, but any difference in fare may apply.
Cancel your flight and rebook later:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your reservation information to retrieve your flight
- Select "Cancel flight"
- Confirm flight cancellation
- If you have future flight credit, when you return to the reservation, select "Use Future Flight Credit" to shop for new flights and apply the credit towards a new flight.
Canceling or changing an award flight:
When you select "Cancel flight," you will have the option to cancel your award reservation and redeposit the miles or to cancel your award reservation and use those miles for another trip in the future.
*We're currently experiencing heavy traffic to united.com. If you experience an error while trying to change or cancel your flight, please try again later.
Click through the slideshow below for more detailed instructions:
Start on the United homepage:
User can select 'My Trips' on the homepage widget to find and retrieve their reservation.
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This is the story of Jason and Shantel. You see, Jason and Shantel love each other very much. They also love traveling and they love the classic Adam Sandler film, The Wedding Singer.
It all began when Jason reached out to United's social media team, hoping for assistance with his upcoming plan to propose. Some phone calls and one borrowed guitar later, the stage was set for Jason. Put all that together, mix in some helpful United employees and, voila, you have a truly memorable marriage proposal. Congratulations to this fun-loving and happy couple, and here's to many more years of making beautiful music together.
A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.