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Located along the turquoise shores of the Mexican Caribbean, Cancun is best known for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture. It’s one of Mexico’s primary vacation destinations for good reason. As a planned city, Cancun is chock full of hotels and resorts nestled on its pristine beaches that are next door to some of the world’s most fascinating ancient ruins and natural wonders. There are plenty of cool places to visit in Cancun, but you’ll want to make sure these hidden gems make your list.

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Swim with Whale Sharks

Between June and mid-September, adventure-seekers have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to plunge into the Caribbean Sea to swim with these 35-foot gentle giants. Harmless to humans, whale sharks eat plankton in warm waters, making Cancun a prime location for them. Tour guides take guests into the heart of whale shark schools and get them up close and personal with these stunning creatures.

Check Out the Underwater Museum

The MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum blends jaw-dropping art with critical marine conservation efforts. The Underwater Museum is a collection of more than 500 life-size sculptures submerged throughout the waters surrounding Cancun and nearby Isla Mujeres, which is just a short ferry ride from the city. Serving as artificial reefs for marine life, the museum aids in coral reef restoration, which helps maintain the diverse aquatic life below. Visitors can snorkel and dive around the museum or view these sites from above on glass-bottom boat tours.

Cool Off In Cenotes

Cenotes are natural groundwater sinkholes formed from collapsed limestone bedrock that tap into underground water reservoirs. If you want a place to beat the heat and the crowds at the beach, these hidden gems offer the perfect place to chill in tranquility. Cancun is dotted with various cenotes ranging in size and shape, including open-air, cavernous, and cave-like cenotes. Swimming, snorkeling, and diving are permitted in most cenotes, but remember to do so safely, since some locations are a little off the beaten path. Check with local guides for excursions.

Explore Ancient Mayan Ruins

Cancun and the surrounding cities and regions are on lands formerly controlled by the Maya civilization. The ruins of their many of their city-states are still preserved to this day, offering an unforgettable glimpse into the past. Cancun itself is home to the San Miguelito, El Meco, El Rey, and Yamil Lu’um archaeological sites. If you’re looking for more famous ruins, it’s worth taking a day trip to Chichén Itzá, one of the largest Mayan cities, or heading south to Tulum, whose ruins lie along 39-foot cliffs over the Caribbean Sea.

Stroll By Street Art

While Cancun is beloved for its outdoor adventures and beach-side relaxation, few visitors know just how thriving the arts scene is in the city. One of the more secret things to do in Cancun is to seek out murals across the Hotel Zone and beyond. Celebrated Mexican artists and other international street artists alike have left a lasting mark throughout Cancun, turning the city and building walls into a free open-air gallery for all to enjoy. There is no organized tour to view these masterpieces, but the majority are located in downtown Cancun near Avenida Bonampak.

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