When visiting the Mayan Riviera, there are a variety of attractions to please just about anyone. Whether you like to party all night and get up in the afternoon, or spend the day sightseeing and go to bed early, you will find fun here. Here are some examples of things to do, to make your vacation enjoyable and complete.
Aqua Tours Day Cruises
This company offers great day trips to the nearby island of Isla Mujeres, or "Island of Women." Just sign up for a cruise on one of their multi-million dollar yachts and they will take you to the island, drop you off for lunch and to sightsee at different locations then bring you back, all in one day. During the trip, there is open bar, sometimes contests shows, too. On the island, go snorkeling, see a sea turtle farm called Tortugranja, or visit Hacienda Mundaca (supposedly the ruins of a pirate's home,) for example.
XCaret – a large park built into the Mexican jungle
This park is a nature and history lover's dream. Here, you can see native plants and animals, ride horses on the beach, swim with dolphins, go to the theater and see various historical shows or even go to a huge butterfly garden enclosure. There is an underground cave to swim through, which is wonderful for those sizzling hot daily temperatures. Bring a vat of sunscreen with you, believe me, it's a good idea. Also, there are many restaurants on the concessions, from snacks to full-course meals. It is a beautiful and well-maintained park designed to teach about Mexican history and nature.
This is a large archaeological site with a very impressive pyramid (El Castillo) in the once prominent city controlled by Mayan and Toltec Indians. Sign up to go on a tour through your hotel or resort, with trusted companies like Apple Tours or others. Do not just hire any guide who comes up to you because, having lived in Mexico for two years, I was told that freelance "tour guides" just make things up and then pocket your money. Get a good guide, and see everything from the ball court, El Castillo, the Nunnery and other famous buildings on this large site. Charters frequently have a lunch for you at the neighboring hotel, a lovely place with kind staff and entertainment as you eat. If you have a chance to go inside the pyramid, do it. I've been in there, and though it's claustrophobic inside, the stairs lead up to a Jade jaguar sculpture and a reclining figure used for ceremonies (Chac Mool.) This is real and well-preserved ancient history. You can even see hieroglyphics on some of the buildings.
From Cancun or Playa del Carmen, board a ferry over to the island of Cozumel. There, you can go to see Chankanaab Park, if you like scuba diving, snorkeling and nature walks. Or, shop for souvenirs at the many stores downtown. There are minor Mayan ruins on the island, too. Stop and eat at the many atmospheric restaurants, or take a buggy ride.
Playa del Carmen
This former fishing village is now a hotspot for many Europeans and has a different feel to it than Cancun. It is a bit more laid back, but definitely not boring, by all means. Walk Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) and shop or stop for a meal. Spend time on the beautiful, white sand beaches up and down the coast. If you want to snorkel or scuba, there are many dive shops that will gladly take you to prime coral gardens. There is an aviary in the Playacar section of Playa, where you can see a variety of beautiful native birds in their own habitat. The golf club at Playacar is impressive and top-class for anyone who loves to golf.
If you're into night clubs, there are a whole lot of them to choose from in the Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera.) Try Senor Frogs, Daddy-O, Christine, or Carlos n 'Charlies. These are not your average, small potatoes clubs, but world-class ones, with exotic light shows, drinks and fun for everyone who loves to party. Taxis are plentiful, so do not worry about getting back to the hotel when you're ready to go back early in the morning. Guaranteed, you will not be bored in Cancun.
Shoppers will love Cancun's Hotel Zone, too. Plaza Caracol or Plaza Flamingo are two good places to see, or go to the Mexican market (mercado) and dicker with the locals for native Mexican handicrafts. Exchange your money at the hotel or at Casas de Cambio but not at the market. Someone short-changed me there when I changed my money, hoping I would not notice, so it's better to do it somewhere else. Expect to pay less than the marked prices, the vendors expect you to dicker with them.
Enjoy your trip, and pick up maps when there, to see what else is going on that is not advertised in the travel brochures. Explore downtown Cancun, too, just outside the Hotel Zone. Be safety conscious, and make sure to tip the wait staff. Mexico is a wonderful country with so much to do and see. If you go once, you'll be hooked for sure.