There’s more to Cancun than beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and incredible nightlife, and if you head out of the main tourist areas, you’ll find local craft markets, underwater museums, and even ancient ruins of Mayan cities. If you’re planning to spend a few days in and around Cancun prior to visiting other regions in Mexico, here is our guide to 4 Days in Cancun.
Awake in the morning to a glorious sunrise and go for an early morning snorkel on your 1st of 4 days in Cancun. The coastal areas around the city are excellent snorkeling spots filled with colorful coral, sea turtles, manatees, tropical fish, and even shipwrecks. If you arrive early enough, you’ll have the place all to yourself. Alternatively, hop on a glass bottom boat and see Cancun’s Underwater Museum or MUSA. Founded in 2009, this museum was created with the goal of saving the regions coral reefs. The subterranean statues have deliberate holes in them so seaweed, algae and coral can continue to grow, and marine life can feed from them. There are 500 sculptures in total located around Salon Manchones, Punta Sam, and Nizuc, and it’s a superb way and unusual to begin your holiday.
In the afternoon you can explore the Hotel Zone. This bustling area of Kukulcan Boulevard is the main hub of activity in Cancun. Unbeknownst to many, it’s also home to the ruins of San Miguelito. Located aside the Cancun Mayan Museum, this awe-inspiring archaeological site gives great insight into the Mayan civilization and how it functioned. The site has four areas to explore – The Chaak Palace, North and South Complexes, and The Dragon Complex. The structures are surrounded by lush indigenous trees, swaying palms and winding pathways with tall stone carved structures depicting the Mayan God Chaak and a variety of hieroglyphics. Stay until late afternoon, climb to the top of the ruins overlooking the turquoise Caribbean Sea and imagine how life was during the Mayan era.
Afterwards, you can venture to one of Cancun’s state-of-the-art malls for a spot of gift shopping or dine on delectable cuisine overlooking Nichupte Lagoon at sunset. Our Cancun city guide offers a more definitive guide to the different neighborhoods and sights in Cancun to help you get oriented.
You’ve explored some of the Hotel Zone on Day 1, now it’s time to discover downtown Cancun. Located a short bus ride from the Hotel Zone, this is the beating heart of Cancun. A place where Mariachi bands play in local squares at sunset and bustling markets open all day to serve tourists and residents. Begin your day with breakfast at Marakame. This trendy restaurant set in an outdoor plaza beneath trees and twinkling fairy lights has some of the city’s finest coffee and a range of Mexican and International delights to energize you as you begin your day. For a taste of how Mexican people shop, spend an hour or two at Mercado 23. Only Spanish is spoken here so if yours is a little rusty, it’s an idea to bring an app or guidebook. The market vendors sell everything from tortillas, grains, and fresh food items to esoteric trinkets and medicinal plants. It’s a great opportunity to experience life as a local on one of your 4 days in Cancun.
Purchase some fresh produce for a picnic and take a leisurely walk in Kabah Park in the afternoon. This tranquil green area is a wonderful place to sit back, relax, and enjoy nature. There’s a museum which depicts the region’s history and the development of Cancun, alongside a zoo with spider monkeys and crocodiles. Later in the day, seek out a different experience at Spa Xbalamque. It’s located in a hotel adorned with Mayan wall art, statues and carvings, creating the ultimate haven of serenity in a bustling city. Their spa treatments are out of the ordinary, so don’t expect a hands-on massage or facial. This spa offers a traditional Mayan healing ceremony – Ritual Temazcal which involves meditation, sound therapy, and a steam bath with medicinal herbs. If you’re looking for something more traditional, look at this full spa and wellness guide. When your revitalization is complete, either head back into the Hotel Zone for a beachfront dinner or explore live music venues and chic restaurants of downtown Cancun with the help of our Cancun nightlife guide.
Isla Mujeres is accessible by boat from Cancun in around an hour. Charter a boat and enjoy a spot of sea fishing along the way. Many boat captains will allow you to fish, as long as you leave the spoils for them to sell to local restaurants on their return! On arrival in Isla Mujeres, there are options to hire a bicycle and cycle around the palm-lined island or shop for jewelry, clothing and ceramics in the quaint, pastel-colored Caribbean style town. Stay on the island for lunch, then take a boat ride to Isla Contoy 18 miles north.
Isla Contoy is a tropical paradise, not frequented by many tourists. This protected natural area restricts visitors to 200 people a day to reduce the effects of tourism. The island is home to over 150 species of bird, sea turtles and reefs teeming with corals, nurse sharks, and tropical fish, so don’t forget your camera! Return to Isla Mujeres for a romantic dinner overlooking the bright lights of Cancun in the distance before returning to the Hotel Zone by boat.
No visit to Cancun would be complete without taking a day trip to one of Mexico’s most famous Mayan cities – Chichen Itza. This ancient civilisation complex is located 2.5 hours inland from Cancun in dense jungle. Arrive early morning to avoid tourists and wander around this architectural masterpiece. Chichen Itza was a significant centre of economic and political activity around 600 A.D and one of the largest cities in the world covering almost 2 square miles. The main highlight is El Castillo, a huge pyramid which sits at the heart of the city. The towering structure was built with mathematical and astronomical precision and knowledge. It measures 91 steps on each side with a final platform at the summit, which in total represents each day of the calendar year. Walk around the base marvelling at this well-preserved structure before viewing Las Monjas the government building and the ancient ball court.
In the afternoon, head for the colonial city of Valladolid. Make your first stop Casa de los Venados, where you can discover 3,000 pieces of Mexican folk art – each piece with its own unique story. Afterwards stop for lunch in a traditional cantina before browsing cosy boutiques and colourful architecture along Calzada de los Frailes. Before you depart Valladolid, venture to the city’s underground Cenote Zaci to cool off. This incredible cobalt-hued cenote sits below ground level but opens to the skies. Natural vines drape from rocks and winding staircases and as the sun’s rays beam down as you swim; you realise it’s the perfect place to end your day, and to your 4 days in Cancun.