On my recent road trip in Mexico, I spent a few nights in Cancun. I stayed in a hotel in the downtown area, because it was easier for the airport and I wasn’t too bothered about spending three days in a packed, expensive resort hotel.
Most holidaymakers will rarely leave the Hotel Zone, but Downtown Cancun also has some ace places to check out. Downtown, or El Centro, is where the locals live, so you’ll get more of a flavour of the ‘real’ Cancun, beyond the strip of the Hotel Zone. And even in the Hotel Zone itself, there are a couple of unexpected attractions which make a pleasant change of pace from sunbathing and partying.
So if you’re planning on taking a Cancun holiday any time soon, here are five things to do in Cancun that won’t require swimwear…
Shop for souvenirs at Mercado 28
As well as beach life and parties, another big draw for Cancun visitors is the shopping – with plenty of malls and designer hotspots to visit. But if you’re more interested in handicrafts and souvenirs, head out to Mercado 28. You do need to have a level of confidence as the traders can be quite pushy here as soon as they spot you’re not a local (which, when you have pale skin and bright pink hair, is pretty easy). However, it’s definitely worth it for the bargains and fun experience!
Explore the El Rey Ruins
When it comes to things to do in Cancun, many visitors will take day trips to nearby ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum – but did you know, Cancun has its own archaeological site too? The El Rey Ruins can be found within Cancun’s Hotel Zone, and its 48 structures date back to approximately 900 AD. As well as fascinating archaeology, hundreds of tame, friendly iguanas also call El Rey home.
Hang out with the locals in Parque Las Palapas
If you’re looking for things to do in Cancun that will give you a real taste of local life, head over to Parque Las Palapas – a community hub where locals go to spend time with family and friends. On a weekend night in particular, you’ll find live music, stalls from local vendors, performances and food. It’s lively and vibrant, and shows you a side of Cancun that those who stay within the Hotel Zone’s confines rarely see.
Eat at La Habichuela
One of Downtown Cancun’s best-loved restaurants, La Habicheula was firmly on my list of places to eat. To start with, the décor is absolutely bloody gorgeous, including a fish tank as you enter and a fairytale-like outside dining space. When we arrived we were presented with Mayan pendants and a traditional tea drink, and the food was absolutely fantastic. If you’re looking to eat somewhere in downtown Cancun – definitely go here.
Maya Cancun Museum
Although Cancun isn’t known for its cultural attractions, the Maya Cancyun Museum showcases around 400 artefacts found across the Yucatan peninsula. Your ticket also gives you access to the San Miguelito archaeological site, featuring more Mayan ruins in the Hotel Zone area.
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