What do you think of when you think of Cancun? Is it just a beach? Your college years? Maybe a friend’s honeymoon pictures on Facebook?

 

Beyond the festive beverages—little umbrellas!—beach chairs, and waterside tacos, there’s plenty of things to, you know, do. People forget that Cancun, which sits on the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, is just hours away from Mayan ruins. The two sides of the city are what make it truly special. It’s just as easy to ruin your liver as it is to see historic ruins, just as convenient to hang glide as it is to nurse a hangover.

 

The best trips to this party paradise involve a balance in extremes. For every sun-soaked nap by the pool, take an afternoon to swim the depths of the stunning Caribbean Sea. For every electrifying night in the city center, fill a morning with some of the history surrounding you. Also, activities. Depending on where you live, you probably don’t often have a chance to zipline over a rainforest or come face to face with a 50,000-pound sea creature.

Here’s our choices for the seven best things to do in Cancun.

1. Swim with a whale shark.

1. Swim with a whale shark.
The ride to Isla Contoy is easy, but a memory this unforgettable is hard to come by.

2. Take a tour of Tulum.

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Throw a rock in any direction here (be careful, though) and you’ll hit a breathtaking view: Mayan ruins, turquoise water, and pristine sand in between.

3. Go snorkeling (obviously).

3. Go snorkeling (obviously).
Water this clear deserves to be seen. Or not seen? Seen through? Head out to Cozumel for a particularly vibrant adventure or get up close with Cancun’s underwater museum.

4. Cruise on a catamaran with an open bar.

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Meet new people, have a sip, maybe learn to salsa dance.

5. Zipline at Xplor Park.

5. Zipline at <a href=
After you take on the 14-line course atop the Mexican jungle, raft, swim, 4-wheel, and eat to your heart’s content.

6. Do something extreme.

6. Do something extreme.
Ride a speedboat, go off-road, parasail over the ocean. Whatever you choose, getting your blood pumping will make your down time that much sweeter.

7. Stay up late.

7. Stay up late.
Make the most of your stay by seeing a show—like JOYÁ by Cirque du Soleil—bar hopping, and letting loose in one of the area’s nightclubs. If lines aren’t for you, then the Cancun Party Ticket is.