Best Outdoor Activities in Cancún

Cancun Outdoor Activities: Feel the Tropical Sun on Your Skin

Cancun is the perfect place for outdoor activites. It's warm, sunny and the area is packed with natural and manmade wonders that are begging to be explored.

Speaking of explore... Xplor is an eco adventure park located just south of Playa del Carmen where visitors fly high above the ground on zip lines and swim below the Earth's surface in underground rivers. Spend time outdoors where the ancient Mayans did, at Tulum archaeological site, which is located on an indescribably beautiful Caribbean beach. At Xel-Ha, visitors can "snorkel, fly, relax or discover". 

To escape bustling Cancun, travel to unspoiled Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, more than a million acres of protected land, or hop a boat to bird sanctuary Isla Contoy, where there is a limit on how many people can visit per day. Discover cenotes (spectacular fresh water sinkholes) through kayaking, zip lining, snorkeling, rappelling at Xenotes.

If snorkeling in Akumal is on your bucket list, Aventuras Mayas can help. To experience the beauty of what lies below the surface of the Caribbean, book at tour with Aquaworld. For the experience of a lifetime, swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Discovery.

Forget lying on the beach and work on your tan while enjoying these outdoor activities in Cancun.


Dolphin Discovery
Photo courtesy of Dolphin Discovery

You'll feel the excitement building during the boat ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres as you gaze out over the crystal clear aqua blue Caribbean waters while sipping coffee and enjoying a light breakfast. When you arrive at Dolphin Discovery complex, the dolphins will greet you by leaping joyfully in the air. After you store your belongings in a locker and don your life jacket, you will receive a short orientation. Finally it will then be time to meet the dolphins. Depending on which swim you have chosen, you may receive a hug or even a kiss from your new marine friends, or be pushed on a boogie board by them. Either way, this tour will create magic memories (and photos) for you and your family.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Dolphin Discovery provides an unforgettable experience and does not capture dolphins from the wild.

Kristin's expert tip: For the ultimate experience, book Garrafon Park with the Royal Dolphin Swim.

Read more about Dolphin Discovery →

The entire Yucatan Peninsula (the region of Mexico where Cancun is located) is made of pourous limestone. Below the surface freshwater underground rivers flow. When the limestone collapses the water is exposed partially or totally and a beautiful cenotes is born. They can be completely open (like a lake) or just have a small opening (like a cave). Cenotes were very important to the ancient Mayans, who considered them to be portals to the underworld. At Xenotes Oasis Maya, you'll explore four cenotes while kayaking, zip lining, snorkeling, rappelling or just relaxing and drifting in an inner tube.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Xenotes is the perfect place to explore different kinds of cenotes in many different ways.

Kristin's expert tip: Be sure to bring water shoes or aqua socks.

Read more about Xenotes Oasis Maya →

Aquaworld Cancun
Photo courtesy of Aquaworld

Aquaworld Cancun is a PADI Dive Center and teaches scuba classes, but it also happens to be one of Cancun's largest and most reputable companies for fishing excursions, dive trips, and other watersports & activities, like swimming with dolphins. Day trips to nearby Isla Mujeres are very popular and fun. During the Summer months, when whale sharks migrate to the waters north of Cancun, Aquaworld offers tours to swim with these gentle giants in the open sea. The Skyrider, Aquaworld's version of parasailing, is another enjoyable, once-in-a-lifetime activity that you can try while in Cancun. Traveling with kids? The Sub See Explorer is perfect for little ones or non-swimmers.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Aquaworld is a PADI Dive Center and offers many other water-based activities.

Kristin's expert tip: Tours fill up fast during peak travel times, spring break, the end of December and summertime. To ensure that you'll be able to take the tours you want, contact Aquaworld to make reservations before you go on vacation

Read more about Aquaworld Cancun →


This eco-park is part of the Grupo Xcaret family (Xcaret, Xplor, Xenotes, Xoximilco, Xenses and Xavage). Xel-Ha boasts the "largest, most beautiful natural aquarium in the world." You can swim in grottos & cenotes (natural sinkholes) and see local marine life, explore Mayan ruins, jump off the Cliff of Courage, cross the floating bridge, ride bikes or fly kites. There are plenty of other activities and exhibits to keep you occupied for the entire day or you can simply spend your time relaxing in the sun or napping in a seaside hammock. Xel-Ha also features a delicious buffet restaurant and a children's area.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: A day at Xel-Ha is a day in a tropical paradise.

Kristin's expert tip: Combine your tour to Xel-Ha with a stop at the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Tulum can be seen in about an hour, so it won't add much more time to the length of your tour, and it's a great attraction to see.

Read more about Xel-Ha →

Zona Hotelera
Isla Contoy
Photo courtesy of zhuzhu/iStock

To get away from it all, spend the day on Isla Contoy, an uninhabited island that is a nature preserve. The island is approximately 26.5 miles from Cancun and can easily be visited on a day trip. Isla Contoy is filled with various species of birds, some live on the island year-round, while others are migratory. Sea turtles lay eggs on Isla Contoy each summer. Tours are given by biologists, who live on the island in order to study the flora and fauna. Tours to Isla Contoy normally stop along the way to allow people to snorkel. Then, on the island, there is a beach barbecue of fresh fish. While waiting for lunch to be served, you can explore the island or simply relax on the pristine beach.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Isla Contoy is a beautiful, natural, protected island that doesn't get many visitors.

Kristin's expert tip: Only 200 people are allowed to visit Isla Contoy each day so book your tour early.

Read more about Isla Contoy →

Aventuras Mayas was created to show tourists the beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula through tours and excursions. Their motto is "avoid the crowds", guaranteeing that you will never encounter large groups of people during their tours. They are fully dedicated to the development of sustainable tourism in the area. They offer tours to Tulum, the ancient Mayan archaeological site, and zip lining excursions, cenote rappelling, and snorkeling in cenotes and Yal-Ku lagoon in Akumal. Aventuras Mayas has high quality and safety standards and follows strict sustainable practices as well. Aventuras Mayas also offers visits to Cenote Chukum near Valladolid, Yucatan.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Swimming with sea turtles is an unforgettable experience and Aventuras Mayas is dedicated to sustainable practices.

Kristin's expert tip: Try the Snorkel Xtreme package where you'll zip line, repel, snorkel in a cenote and swim with the turtles in the Caribbean Sea.

Read more about Aventuras Mayas →

Photo courtesy of SL_Photography/iStock

Another popular Mayan ruin site, Tulum is located a bit closer to Cancun than Chichen Itza, roughly 2 hours south. This is a smaller site and can be seen in about an hour but it's worth the trip simply for the breathtaking views. The Mayans knew good real estate when they saw it and the main pyramid of Tulum sits on a cliff above an amazing beach. Once a major port for the Mayan empire, the ruins site is the main attraction of the growing town. Tulum also boasts a downtown area (Tulum pueblo) and a bohemian "hotel zone" with relaxed cabana and boutique hotels and open-air eateries.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Tulum is one of the most beautiful Mayan ruin sites in the area.

Kristin's expert tip: You can either book a tour to see only the ruins of Tulum or you can combine it with a visit to Xel-Ha eco-park to make the most of your sightseeing excursion.

Read more about Tulum →

Pronounced "Sh-car-ret", this eco-archaeological park is filled with Mexican and Mayan flavor, color, music, nature and culture. Inside the park there is a butterfly pavilion, an aviary, an aquarium, as well as places where you can view flamingos, manatees, spider monkeys, jaguars and more. If that's not enough, you can also swim with dolphins, float down a lazy river, swim in underground rivers, climb a small Mayan ruin, visit the traditional cemetery, snorkel in the inlet, relax on the beach and more. For kids, visit Children's World aka Mundo de Niños. There are performances throughout the day, but Xcaret's night show, a celebration of Mexican and Mayan history, sport, dance and music, is an unforgettable experience and is not to be missed. The park holds amazing annual events like a Day of the Dead festival and the recreation of an ancient Mayan ocean crossing to the island of Cozumel.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Xcaret is simply amazing. This is the place to experience a taste of Mexican and Mayan culture.

Kristin's expert tip: Stay for the evening show, Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. It is excellent.

Read more about Xcaret →

Community Tours Sian Kaan is an eco-tourism organization that provides tours in the pristine Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean (1.6 million acres). What makes this enterprise so special, is that they are committed to sustainable tourism, genuine cultural exchange, and providing jobs to locals of Mayan decent. The offer various tours including bird watching, sport fishing, kayaking, hiking, snorkeling and exploring archaeological sites. One of the most popular tours is a boat ride on mangrove-surrounded rivers. You can even learn how chewing gum is made.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve is a must see when in the Cancun area, and Community Tours Sian Kaan is the perfect way to see it.

Kristin's expert tip: Bring biodegradable sunscreen so as not to harm any of the marine life in this pristine ecosystem.

Read more about Community Tours Sian Kaan →

Xplor is a natural eco adventure park located in the Riviera Maya, just south of Playa del Carmen, and is part of the Xcaret family. Activites include 14 zip lines, amphibious vehicles, and underground rivers that feature amazing stalactites and stalagmites created over millions of years. Recover from all the action in the buffet restaurant which features international favorites or the snacks bar which serve yummy juices, smoothies and cookies. Xplor is the place to find safe adventure in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya. Xplor is not for couch potatoes!

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Xplor is a natural high, an unforgettable day in the Mayan jungle.

Kristin's expert tip: Wear water shoes and surfing-type clothes, you are going to get wet!

Read more about Xplor →


Meet Kristin Busse

After vacationing in Mexico many times, Kristin decided to move to Cancun "for a year". That was in 2001.

Kristin grew-up in Michigan and studied Communications at Michigan State University....  More About Kristin