20 Best Under-the-Radar Activities in Cancún for Families and Seniors
Once regarded as mostly a honeymooners' destination, Cancún has become a go-to fun spot for families and seniors, with plenty of activities and fascinating things to see and do. We've checked out the beaches, ruins, and entertainment options and found some places just under the radar for that one-of-a-kind experience on your next trip.
There are more than 20 miles of pristine beach in Cancun, and while every hotel in the "hotel zone" has its own stretch of sand, most aren't private – you can go regardless of where you're staying. The most relaxing beaches are to the south, away from the discos and partiers. If that's your style, opt for Playa Marlin or Playa Punta Nizuc. Grab a book, a beach towel and prepare to relax.
The ruins of this majestic Mayan temple are far enough from Tulum to get less foot traffic, which means those who do visit are allowed to climb the 138-foot pyramid for an astonishing view of the surrounding lush, green jungle. Just remember the 120 steps are a lot steeper than they look, so use the safety rope. The ADO bus company charges reasonable rates for the 40-minute trip there.
Don't miss taking a dip in the azure waters of a cenote – essentially a sinkhole filled with water, some part of a deeper, underground river system. With more than 6,000 in the Yucatan, there's plenty to choose from. The closest is Casa Cenote, 15 minutes south of Cancun and off most folks' radar because it's tucked between houses. It's close to the ocean, so it has a sandy bottom and is accessible without use of a ladder or steps, making it great for all ages. Entrance is just about $6.
The Mayan Riviera is home to some of the most colorful species of birds. Expect to find lots of turquoise-browed motmots, Yucatan jays, woodpeckers, and perhaps a collared aracari or a ferruginous pygmy owl. Check out the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum, or any of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Reserve is massive (5,200 acres). The best access is either Punta Allen (on the beach side) or Muyil (inland), which is better for birding and available via bus from Tulum. Access to the reserve is roughly $5.
Playa Caracol (Snail Beach) is close to the hotel zone and has perfect turquoise blue water. It's an excellent option for families with kids, as is Playa Chac Mool, which is across from Señor Frogs. There is no parking, but it's worth a visit – it has one of the best stretches of sandy beach in the zone. The waves can be strong, so take care with smaller children.
This one-of-a-kind guided cave tour involves donning a wetsuit, walking in water and swimming a little to see stalactites and stalagmites and an underground turquoise river believed by the Mayans to be where the souls of the dead reside. It's $79 per adults and $39.50 for children up to 13; book online via the "chat feature," though, and expect 15 percent off.
While $70 per person may seem steep, the three-hour Captain Hook Dinner Cruise is the best deal in town (with similar shows starting at $100 a person and going up from there). The price includes an open bar, and children under 12 eat free. The cruise lets participants channel their inner pirate on a 93-foot replica of an 18th century galleons -- with modern kitchens and facilities. There are games and contests, music, dancing, and a mock battle between pirate ships. Arr!
More than 500 life-size cement statues by artist Jason deCaires Taylor were placed underwater off Cancun to reduce tourist traffic at a nearby reef – and made from specialized materials used to promote coral life. There are two galleries reachable by boat, Salon Manchones and Salon Nizuc, and while snorkeling is permitted at both, there's better viewing at the shallower Salon Nizuc. The least expensive trip is a 40-minute tour for $58 through Viator.
Touch and feed live crocodiles, white-tailed deer and wild spider monkeys, and get kissed by a blue and gold Macaw at this educational zoo, where a 75-minute guided tour gives participants a glimpse of the once remote and wild Cancun. Located near the sleepy village of Puerto Morelos, Croco Cun Zoo is $30 for adults; children and seniors pay $20; children 5 and under are free.
This archeology lovers' dream museum includes access to the San Miguelito Archaeological Zone and an exhibition on the Mayans of Quintana Roo. The Maya Museum includes artifacts from the Mayan population and skeletal remains purported to be 14,000 years old. Adult admission is $5, and those 12 and under – or 60 and over – get in free.
Wandering this quiet town 45 miles from Cancun reveals the Franciscan Convent of San Antonio de Padua and Mayan pyramids from a large elevated plaza, and offers horse and buggy rides for $17. This authentic colonial pueblo, rarely seen by tourists, is worth the day trip. The average hotel is $33 per night.
The Ka'Yok' Planetarium cultural complex explores the universe, educates visitors about environmental preservation, and delves into the significance of Mayan contributions to present-day society. It's open every day but Monday until 7 p.m. Adults get in for $3, and children for $2.
The Gran Rueda, or Great Wheel, which recently opened, is an impressive 197-foot ferris wheel offering views of an emerald lagoon and La Isla Shopping Village. Prices vary by season, but expect to pay at minimum $15 per person for four laps around. Generally, a ticket includes a free movie ticket and other local discounts, and buying tickets in combination with entry to the aquarium is $25 per person for both.
Why visit a traditional aquarium when an ocean of tropical fish surrounds you? The Interactive Aquarium is one of the coolest places in Cancún, letting visitors touch starfish and sea urchins while learning about the more than 140 different species that are on display. Visit for $14 – and pay an additional $65 to walk along the bottom of the aquarium – while wearing special diving helmets – and feed the fish for 20 minutes. Pre-purchase tickets online for discounts.
Reach one of the top-rated beaches in the world, Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, by a 15-minute ferry ride. The water is shallow and clear for about 100 meters before it becomes deep enough to swim, making it great for families with children who want to wade. A round trip is roughly $15.
To raise awareness for marine life conservation, long-term sustainability, and ecotourism, a group of contemporary artists volunteered time to create a series of large-scale, sea-themed murals. The project, led by PangeaSeed's public art program, spreads brightly colored murals throughout Isla Mujeres that can be appreciated on a free walk.
While Isla Mujeres is less than five miles, walking in the heat may not always be advisable. A taxi to pretty much anywhere on the island is less than $10, a bargain compared with $75 golf cart rental fees. Head to the southern tip of the island for the Punta Sur Sculpture Garden, filled with art from Jose Luis Cuevas at the highest elevation in the Yucatan Peninsula. On one side is a spectacular view of Cancun's bay; on the other, the Caribbean Sea. It's also home the ancient temple of Ixchel, the Mayan Moon Goddess.
Visit Cancun in November to enjoy the 10th edition of an unparalleled gastronomic event presented by sommeliers and chefs from around the world. In the summer, the World Tasting Village has exhibitors from top restaurants presenting an array of foods and beverages for sampling.
Ventura Park Cancun offers kid-friendly activities including Underworld, a virtual reality arcade experience, and go-kart racing at the Grand Prix. An unlimited access pass including food and zip lining is $64.50 for adults, but buying online saves 50 percent. Children get in for $44.
Cancun has several casinos. The Casino Palace has slots, roulette, poker, and even a sports book, and the equally popular Dubai Palace is smoke free. While not exactly Vegas, these entertainment centers can be a nice diversion from the beach on that occasional rainy day. Place your bets, and remember the betting is in pesos.
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