Presented in partnership with Marriott International
For global travelers dreaming of the day they can once again escape to a tropical Caribbean haven, add Cancun to the top of your wish list. Long beloved for its idyllic beaches and luxury resorts, the new Cancun is a rich, vibrant, eclectic mix of Latin culture, must-see museums, burgeoning street art, and ocean adventures worth getting off your beach chair to explore.
In partnership with our friends at Marriott International, Travel Curator presents the ultimate guide to Cancun’s best and most colorful cultural experiences. And, as Marriott Bonvoy members, during your next trip to this Mexican paradise, enjoy exclusive access to elevated tours and experiences curated by the travel and hotel experts at Marriott International.
While Cancun is an archaeological treasure with endless Mayan ruins and exhibitions to explore, don’t leave without seeing the city’s one-of-a-kind underwater museum, the flouring street art scene (hard to miss) and the magical coral reefs and native fauna in Cozumel.
Museo Subacuático de Arte
Take exploring Cancun’s museums to the next level – or rather to the deep sea – at this underwater art museum in the oceans of Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. Created by Artist Jason DeCaires Taylor, to promote ocean conversation, Museo Subacuático de Arte’s mission is to protect Mexico’s precious coral reefs. Featuring around 500 art installations – all made from biodiverse materials like kelp and sea plants – there are statues and sculptures inspired by people who lived in a local village. The museum is broken into two exhibits, one for divers and the other for snorkelers and can also be explored on a glass-bottomed boat tour.
Museo de la Isla de Cozumel
Organize a day trip to Cozumel (or spend the night) and explore the stunning coral reefs and diverse fauna and flora for which the island is famed. Make a stop at the Museo de la Isla de Cozumel on the waterfront housing a wealth of displays and artifacts speaking to the city’s natural and cultural history. The exhibits are as fascinating as they are easy to digest, and you’ll get a bit of everything from samples of Cozumel’s cultural heritage to its history of pirate attacks. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with the natural landscape, book a private Catamaran and Sail and Snorkel Tour where you can dive with a guide to explore the second largest barrier reef in the world, or just lay back on the catamaran and enjoy drinks (housemade Margaritas and Rum Punches) over Mexican salsa and chilled music.
*Museo de la Isla de Cozumel looks forward to welcoming guests soon
Street Art Scene
Thanks to a public art project aimed at rejuvenating the Mexican architectural scene while raising awareness of marine conservation, Cancun now has a burgeoning street art scene. There’s no official tour, but just walking the streets is like visiting an open-air museum to behold. Created by renowned Mexican and international street artists, the city is alive with large-scale public murals and stunning colorful art installations inspired by the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Yucatán. Most displays can be found at a residential development off Avenida Bonampak. On the building’s walls is a massive painting of a whale shark by Austrian artist Nychos, while Game Over by Spanish artist Spok Brillor, depicts sea life swimming in a gumball machine, highlighting the plight of marine mammal captivity.
There’s also the towering figure of Doña Margarita, a great-grandmother who lived in the building for two decades. Along Avenida Yaxchilán, Avenida Uxmal and Avenida Nader, look for the wall painting of an airborne pelican titled ‘Xiknal’ (Mayan for flying) by local artist Crea. And in the hotel zone off Kukulcán Plaza prepare to be greeted by the sight of a giant snake by famed Mexican artist Gonzalo Areúz.
MARVEL AT THE ARCHITECTURE
At the heart of Mexican culture is the architecture (ancient and modern), which pores out from Cancun’s sculptures, murals, and many archeological sites, especially in Riviera Maya. Here, you’ll find yourself captivated by the sight of pyramids aside azure blue waters under tropical skies. Be sure to visit these ancient wonders:
Book a Private Tour of Coba and deeply immerse yourself in Yucatan history and the mystical Mayan culture at the ruins of this once-thriving civilization. Each ruin has its own unique history, which your personal guide will explain in great detail, and you’ll also be able to climb the tallest one and swim in the underwater cave that is Cenote Multum-Ha.
Stroll through the ruins of ancient pyramids at El Meco in the Bay of Isla Mujeres, not far from the hotel zone. Climb to the top of the El Castillo pyramid, to take in the breathtaking ocean views of Isla Mujeres and the Caribbean.
Parroquia de Cristo Resucitado
Cancun is also rich in religion and spirituality and this beautiful Catholic Church is an architecturally designed gem and spiritual haven in the heart of the city. It’s worth entering to see the shrine to the virgin Our Lady of Guadalupe and visit the bookstore filled with religious treasure troves.
EXPLORE LOCAL MARKETS
To be captivated by the traditional folklore, food, and the vibrant culture of real Mexico, make sure you meander through the many local markets.
The first market in Cancun and one of the more popular, Mercado 28 is where locals flock to find pretty much everything – street food, artisan crafts, clothes, jewelry, tortillas, medicinal plants, and every souvenir you can imagine. To experience it, and hustle like a Cancun native, it’s best to book a guided downtown Shopping Tour, which includes visits to Mercado 28 and Tourmania Mexico.
Tianguis de la 94
Hidden from the tourist area of Cancun, and a bit of a local secret, Tianguis de la 94 is a mecca of food, clothes, homewares, vintage treasures, plants, and really everything you would expect to find at a typical Mexican street market.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant, colorful culture, music, and cuisine at La Avenida Kukulkan, a bustling walkway filled with Mexican cantinas, street food vendors, and where live Latin music pours out from every trendy bar and restaurant.
To get the full Mexican fiesta experience, Xoximilco is a must-see entertainment destination in the middle of the jungle. A UNESCO World Heritage site, just 15 minutes drive from Cancun, book the Most Mexican Tour in Xoximilco for an authentic Latin folklore experience complete with traditional Mexican fiesta and gondola ride through the waterways to the sounds of a live mariachi band. Olé!
For more traditional Mexican dance, put your feet up at the Continental Villas Plaza and watch in wonder as the Ballet Folklorico Nacional de México-Aztlan performs authentic Mexican dances in full traditional costume.
Swim with Whale Sharks
If swimming with whale sharks is on your bucket list, plan your trip to Cancun during whale shark season, mid-May through mid-September. Though, your best chance of a sighting is in July when the annual whale shark festival takes place on Isla Mujeres just across the Bahia de Mujeres from Cancun. Marriott Bonvoy offers eco-friendly small group Whale Sharks tours where you take a scenic boat ride to the Gulf of Mexico to snorkel with expert guides alongside these gentle ocean giants, spot dolphins, manta rays and turtles and enjoy a floating lunch on the boat.
Explore Tulum’s Spectacular Cenotes
No trip to Cancun is complete without a day trip to the beautiful ocean paradise of Tulum, a 45-minute drive south. Through the Tulum Ruins and Cenotes Discover tour, explore the only surviving Mayan ruins along the coast of the Caribbean Sea, before journeying into the subtropical rainforest of the Yucatan Peninsula to swim and snorkel in beach town’s magical cenotes (camera at the ready). A cenote, which comes from the Mayan word ‘dzonot’ meaning ‘well,’ are natural limestone pools. Some can be found in caves, filled with turquoise water so clear, you can gaze at your own reflection.