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Cancun beach and city hotel zone, Mexico

Itineraries for Your Trip to Cancun

Cancun locals share their perfect days.
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1 Day in Cancun for First Timers

Curated by Jen Rose Smitha writer who covers adventure, remote places, and food.

In Cancun, you only need one day to taste Mexican food, get some beach time, and dive into the city’s buzzy nightlife. Get the most out of a quick trip by staying close to the heart of the action, skipping longer tours and time on the road in favor of immersing yourself in all Cancun has to offer. Here’s how to experience Cancun’s best in one day.


After a Caribbean sunrise, go beyond the Hotel Zone to discover some of Cancun’s culture. A guided markets and street food tour is a great introduction to a side of the city that differs from what you’ll find on a resort beach. Bring an appetite for something new, as most food tours feature a series of included tastings. With your tour guide, you’ll discover Yucatan specialties that are completely distinct from the rest of Mexico’s cuisine and get the backstory on every dish you try.


There are endless ways to enjoy Cancun’s spectacular coral reefs and beaches, with options ranging from leisurely to adrenaline pumping. A horseback riding tour by the ocean combines jungle trails and time on the sand, while renting a speedboat means spectacular views of postcard-ready beaches and resorts. Some of Cancun’s most beautiful scenery, though, is beneath the waves—check out the Great Maya Reef on a snorkeling tour, search for massive whale sharks in their seasonal breeding grounds, or opt for a submarine tour that lets you get up-close views of the reefs without getting your hair wet.


Cancun has legendary nightlife, but that doesn’t mean that evenings are only for those who like to party. To catch the beaches at their best, go for a walk along the shore or take a sunset flight that offers aerial views of coral reefs through crystal-clear water. Family-friendly evening options include dinner cruises on the sheltered Nichupté Lagoon and Riviera Maya Cirque du Soleil shows. And if you do want to spend your night taking in Cancun’s party scene, nightclub tours get you into a series of the hottest local spots, with many tours including cover charges, drinks, and transport. It’s a recipe for a wild, worry-free night.

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