Water activities in Cancun

Meagan Drillinger

Travel writer

With mysterious aquatic caves, vibrant reefs and endless expanses of turquoise sea, no trip to Cancun is complete without fully experiencing its greatest asset – the water.

For adventurers

For adventurers

From the most leisurely snorkel tour to hardcore diving, Cancun has so much to see above and below the water’s surface. A must for snorkellers or divers, the Museo Subacuatico de Arte is an astonishing underwater gallery with hundreds of life-sized sculptures – and for those who wish to remain dry but still see the exhibit, glass bottom boat tours are available.

Cancun and the neighbouring Riviera Maya are also home to an impressive network of natural underground caves and caverns, known as cenotes. These subterranean water channels were considered to be mystic places by the native Mayans. Today it is possible to swim, snorkel, and dive to catch a glimpse of this hidden world.

For activities above the waterline, consider jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding – most hotels have these options available. You can also try your hand (or foot) at JetSurfing atop a motorised surfboard, while the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort has a ‘Flowrider Simulator’ so you can practice catching the perfect wave before even hitting the beach.

For nature lovers

For nature lovers

During the summer, enjoy a trip to the coast of Cancun to swim with whale sharks – a truly unique experience as you paddle peacefully next to these larger-than-life gentle giants. Also depending on the season, visitors to certain hotels can release baby sea turtles back into the ocean. The Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun, for example, has released more than 61,000 baby turtles out to sea since 2011.

Off the coast of Cancun, you’ll find the island of Cozumel – and off the coast of that, you’ll find the second largest barrier reef in the world. Most dive sites are found within the boundaries of Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, which was founded in 1996 to protect the reef and is home to 26 types of coral with more than 100 subspecies, not to mention more than 500 species of fish.

Want something with a bit more bite? Then snap up a crocodile tour at Isla Holbox to get up close and personal with these reptiles in their natural habitats, including lagoons and mangrove forests.

For food fans

For food fans

With the glittering ocean as a backdrop, eating and drinking by the water is always a treat. Most hotels have beachfront options, whether it’s a restaurant with far-reaching views or a private, romantic dinner on the beach. Ritz-Carlton Cancun’s Casitas restaurant (pictured above) is one of the area’s most spectacular dining experiences – book one of their private, grass-roofed cabanas on the sand for a meal to remember.

Another scenic setting is offered by Thai Lounge in La Isla Shopping Village. Each table has its own private cabana in the garden area or over the lagoon. Tip: don’t leave without ordering a Watermelon Martini.

If romance is on the menu, consider a sunset catamaran ride out on the Caribbean Sea, where you can toast with cocktails and watch as the sun sinks behind the horizon. Bliss.

For families

For families

For those who’d rather just splash about at the hotel, you’re in luck as most have spectacular pool scenes that will delight adults and children alike. Often, you’ll get the best of both worlds where you can play with kids by the pool while overlooking the ocean – although some hotels are adults-only, so be sure to check first. Find poolside paradise at the Hyatt Ziva, plus a waterslide in the kids play area, what more could you want?

If getting out and about is more your style, Cancun has a range of theme parks that cater to everything from history buffs to nature lovers, but water-lovers should head to Xochimilco and Xcaret.

Created to pay homage to the decorative boats that sail along the canals in Mexico City, Xochimilco has live music, dancing, games, food and the chance to ride aboard the traditional ‘trainers’ (gondola boats). Animal-mad families will adore Xcaret (pictured above); set on the seashore just outside Cancun, this eco-archaeological park has more than 50 attractions, including snorkelling, cenote swimming, and swimming with dolphins.

If you find yourself reaching for your swimming gear and sunglasses, pack your bags and get booking. Click ‘book your trip’ now to start your adventure

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