Cheap and free things to do in Cancun

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Cancun is a popular destination along Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, famous for all-inclusive resorts, white sand beaches and turquoise water. While it can seem like there’s a lack of inexpensive activities in Cancun, there are actually quite a few budget-friendly (and free) things to do while you’re there. We’ve rounded up some of the best low-cost or no-cost Cancun activities, so you can start daydreaming before you head to Cheapflights.ca to book your flights to sunny Mexico.

Check out the Mayan ruins

Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
El Ray ruins (Image: David Stanley)

Popular archaeological sites like Tulum and Chichen Itza are well worth visiting, but they can be expensive to access and get to. Luckily, there are a few other budget-friendly and more easily accessible ruins to explore. El Rey Ruins are right in the Hotel Zone (where most people end up staying) making them very accessible and the cost of admission is under $4. This site is also well known for the many iguanas that call the area home.

El Meco Ruins are located just north of Cancun and the site is comprised of 14 structures. The site is not very well known so it’s not likely to be very busy and cost of admission is also under $4.

Go snorkelling

Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
Snorkelling (Image: Grand Velas Riviera Maya used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Cancun’s crystal clear water makes it a prime destination for snorkelling and there’s lots to see under that sparkling Caribbean Sea. If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort you’ll most likely have access to snorkel equipment making it easy to enjoy what’s on offer under the water.

Explore Museo Maya de Cancún

Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
Museo Maya de Cancun (Image: David Stanley)
Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
San Miguelito ruins (Image: David Stanley)

Though Cancun is better known for its beaches and resorts than for its culture, you can get a unique and affordable learning experience at the Museo Maya de Cancun, which houses an extensive collection of Mayan artefacts. You’ll have the chance to see hundreds of pieces from important archaeological sites in the area, from sculptures to tools to ceramics. The cost of admission (about $5) includes access to the San Miguelito ruins that are on the museum’s vast property. The site is comprised of 40 structures.

Hit the beach

Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
Beach (Image: Ricardo Diaz)

Since Cancun is all about the beaches you don’t want to leave without spending some time on the sand. If you’re staying at a resort on the beach, then you can simply leave your hotel and nab a spot to sunbathe. Otherwise, there are many beautiful beaches to choose from. All of Mexico’s beaches are known to be public so technically you should be able to utilise any of them, but sometimes it can get tricky if you need to approach a hotel property (which is private) in order to access a certain beach. Some of the best public access beaches in Cancun include Playa Delfinas, Playa Tortugas, Playa Linda and Playa Langosta.

Hang out in Parque de las Palapas

Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
Food area of Parque de las Palapas (Image: Shinya Suzuki)

Get a taste for local life and take part in a free activity by heading to downtown Cancun and making time to wander through Parque de las Palapas, the city’s main square. The atmosphere is lively and there is lots to see. Here you’ll find food and drink vendors, an open-air food court, a playground, souvenir stands and artisans selling their wares. There is also a stage where you might catch a performance on a weekend evening.

Visit Isla Mujeres

Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
Isla Mujeres (Image: David Stanley)
Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
Isla Mujeres (Image: Michael Rael)

Isla Mujeres is a small island located off the coast of Cancun and only a 20-minute ferry ride away. If you have some extra time, it’s well worth spending a full or half day visiting. The cost of a one-way ticket is under $6 and once you’re there it’s easy to find cheap eats and exploring doesn’t cost a thing. There’s a beautiful white sand beach to swim at and many shops to browse for souvenirs to take home. The pace is relaxed and it’s easy to spend a few aimless hours wandering, browsing shops and taking advantage of the beach.

Browse Market 28

Cheap and free things to do in Cancun
Market 28 (Image: PriceTravel pictures used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Still in need of souvenirs or just want something to do? Market 28 (Mercado 28) is a large open-air market in downtown Cancun brimming with things to see, buy and eat. The market occupies almost a full city block and in it, you’ll find numerous souvenir stands and jewellery shops. There are also several restaurants at the centre serving quick, affordable meals if you need some sustenance during your visit.

Stroll Avienda Tulum

It doesn’t cost anything to stroll along downtown Cancun’s main street. The wide boulevard has pedestrian paths on either side and is lined with shops, small markets, bars and restaurants, making it an ideal spot to explore while you’re visiting Cancun.

If you’re ready to start searching for flights to Cancun, head to Cheapflights.ca to find the best deals and prices.

Featured image: Jorge Nava used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

Cheap and free things to do in Cancun was last modified: January 25th, 2018 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (419 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.