Our list of cheap things to do in Cancun proves that a trip to this beautiful coastal paradise doesn't need to be expensive. Cancun can be a rather costly place as its many unique museums, natural parks, and Mayan sites often require hefty admission fees. However, even if you’re on a tight budget, there are still options. Go for a stroll around Cancun’s city centre and you’ll see the thriving arts community, with quirky street murals and street performances throughout the day.

    The beaches that line Cancun’s coastline are free, so pack your own blanket and umbrella if renting a sun lounger will put a huge dent in your wallet. Playa Delfines, at the southern end of the main strip, is a great choice if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter. For some more ideas of how to save a few pesos while vacationing on the Yucatan peninsula, check out our guide of Cancun for budget travellers.


    Mural art in downtown Cancun

    Cancun’s local community is actively involved in street art that pays homage to its Mayan and Mexican heritage. Take a walk around downtown Cancun’s northern end to see colourful wall murals by notable Brazilian and Mexican street artists. One of the most popular artworks is the Boy, Jaguar, and Eagle mural, located 1 km south of Playa El Nino Beach. Many murals are also inspired by global maritime issues, showing dolphins swimming inside a gumball machine and a transparent whale shark.

    Open: Downtown Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico


    photo by Miguel Discart Photos Vrac 2 (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Playa Tortugas Beach

    Bungee jump off the pier tower

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    Playa Tortugas is a relatively small stretch of sand about 6 km northeast of Cancun’s Zona Hotelera. The beach is free to enjoy all year round, and its shores are shallow enough for children to swim in. Be sure to check out the pier, where thrill-seekers get to enjoy bungee jumping from the top of a 25-metre-tall tower. There are ferries departing for Isla Mujeres from Playa Tortugas every day.

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    Location: Playa Tortugas, Zona Hotelera, Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico


    Playa Delfines Beach

    Escape the tourist crowds on this quiet shore

    Playa Delfines is a quiet stretch of beach at the southern end of Cancun’s Zona Hotelera. You may not find tourist amenities like public showers or restaurants, but there are many thatch umbrellas along the coastline. There are lifeguards patrolling the beach during the day, but stay close to the shore if you’re planning on swimming. Playa Delfines often attracts surfers as the waves here are rougher than they are on most beaches in Cancun.

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    Location: Punta Nizuc - Cancún 335, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico


    Parque Las Palapas

    Enjoy cultural fairs at the main stage

    Cancun has a vibrant performing arts community and is a popular stop for national and international musicians on tour. Parque Las Palapas is a sprawling park in downtown Cancun, which has a large central stage and plaza hosting cultural fairs, concerts, and plays. On weekend evenings, you can often catch live theatre and street performances. When there’s no show, the park is still usually packed, but with joggers and cyclists, as well as locals enjoying outdoor games and picnics during the day.

    Location: 77509, Ciruela 27, 25, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico


    photo by Autharite (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Playa Langosta

    Take a photo with the Cancun sign

    Playa Langosta, located 6 km south of downtown Cancun, is a local beach that runs along Cancun’s Nichupté Lagoon. You’ll find outdoor showers, kayaks and paddleboards for rent here, as well as street vendors during the day. When you’re here, be sure to take a photo in front of the ‘Cancun’ sign, which is spelled out in vibrant letters. Families may enjoy Playa Langosta’s outdoor playground and football field. Couples get to explore Jardín del Arte, a beautiful garden decorated with sculptures by local artists.

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    Location: Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico


    photo by Shinya Suzuki (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Kabah Urban Park

    Spot wild birds and iguanas at this forest park

    Kabah Urban Park often attracts joggers with its downtown location and a running trail that runs through a 410,000 sq m forest reserve. The local park is home to native wildlife such as birds, spider monkeys, iguanas, and coatis, which you may be able to spot during your visit. There are also many playgrounds and recreational areas for picnics. Kabah Urban Park is free to enter all year round, and its lush jungles are popular among tourists looking to escape Cancun’s crowded beaches.

    Location: Av. Nichupté 13, Benito Juárez, 77534 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 6 pm


    photo by Mauro I. Barea G. (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Mercado 28

    Get a henna tattoo from a local vendor

    Mercado 28 (Market 28) is a local crafts market with over 100 stalls set along Avenida Sunyaxchen in downtown Cancun. You get to browse through beautiful handicrafts made from leather, silver and glass, as well as sunglasses and kitschy T-shirts for tourists. Henna tattoo and hair braiding services are available for a few pesos. Head to the middle of the market to find restaurants serving authentic Mexican dishes. Must-tries include cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork), Panuchos Yucatecos (tostadas with refried beans) and papadzules (Mayan-style enchiladas).

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    Location: Xel-ha M 2 13 SMZ 28, 28, 77501 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 7 pm


    photo by David Stanley (CC BY 2.0) modified


    El Rey Archaeological Zone

    See over 45 stone structures from the Mayan civilization

    The El Rey Archaeological Zone is an ancient Mayan site in the southern end of Zona Hotelera. The Mayan ruins reveal a civilization that was dedicated to fishing and maritime trade. After paying a $2.50 admission fee at the entrance, you get to explore more than 45 stone structures, including a temple and the burial site of an important figure. If you want to learn about the history of this ancient civilization, the Mayan Museum of Cancun is a just a few minutes away on foot.

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    Location: El Rey Zona Arqueológica, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +52 983 837 2411


    El Meco Archaeological Site

    See one of the tallest Mayan pyramids in Cancun

    The El Meco Archaeological Site is a complex of Mayan ruins located about 8 km northeast of Cancun City. The site was once a port for Isla Mujeres, and features many stone structures built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Its centrepiece is El Castillo, one of Cancun’s tallest Mayan pyramids. Entrance to the El Meco Archaeological Site cost around $3.30, which is a steal compared to most Mayan archaeological sites in Cancun.

    Location: Carretera Puerto Juarez, López Portillo, 77520 Cancún, QROO, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm


    Akumal Beach

    Snorkel with sea turtles

    Akumal is located 110 km south of Zona Hotelera, yet still attracts beachgoers looking for a remarkable experience away from the crowded shores of Cancun. The pristine beaches alone are well worth the 2-hour drive, but it's the opportunity to go snorkelling and diving in a protected cove that makes the difference. The main village has several restaurants and dive shops where you can rent equipment. Akumal Beach is a popular nesting spot for sea turtles between May and November. If you’re lucky, you get to swim among these endangered creatures, but be sure not to touch them.

    Location: Carretera Tulum, Cancún, Q.R., Mexico

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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