Cancun, and the Yucatan peninsula, have a double personality: the more touristic, party-life, cocktails and music on the beach side and then there’s the more Mexican side (where its not that pretty, but the food, the music, and the people are amazing!).
Mainly known as the favorite destination for spring-breakers, there is definitely much more than just fun pool/beach parties and streams of alcohol. The area of Cancun is characterized by Mayan period attractions: the Museo Maya de Cancun holds some of the best artefacts from the period, the San Miguelito archeological site and the Zona Arqueológica El Rey and the Yamil Lu’um Templo del Alácran. All the history is enveloped in a rich natural background that you can explore in some areas, such as in the Parque Nacional Isla Contoy – with hundreds of bird species and whale sharks (visibile between June and September), at the Crococun Zoo instead developed from a crocodile farm into a conservationist zoo and hosts many endangered species.
If you like swimming and the underwater world then a must is the Cancun Underwater Museum, which is the largest underwater museum in the world with an astonishing set of 500 sculptures. It originally developed as a project to safeguard the natural coral reefs that were being destroyed by tourists. They understood that art is extremely valuable in conservation and sculptures could be used as artificial reefs.
If you’re looking for a shopping day then you’d probably want to visit the main shopping mall in Plaza Las Américas and Avenida Tulum with stores and restaurants. And of course the beaches here are a must stop, and the list is extensive: playa Ballenas, Caracol, Chac-Mool, Delfines, Gaviota Azul, Langosta, Las Perlas, Marlin, Pez Volador, Tortugas, … (unfortunately public parking areas are an issue).
So I definitely recommend leaving your hotel’s bars to explore Cancun, as you always have all night long to party!