Here is a list with the most famous and popular excursions in Cancun and it's surroundings.

Isla Cozumel

Located 46 miles south of Cancun, Isla Cozumel is accessible via a 35 minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen. Originally inhabited by the Maya, followed by the Conquistadors including Hernan Cortez, and then by pirates such as Jeanne Lafitte and Henry Morgan, Cozumel has a colorful history. In modern times, it is the oldest town in the region established in the 1840's. The main square has real Mexican charm complete with a clock tower from 1924 and surrounded by shops, restaurants and typical Mexican snack carts. Historic Downtown Cozumel is great for duty free and souvenir shopping.

Activities in Isla Cozumel:
The island's wildlife refuge, Punta Sur Ecological Reserve, on the southern tip of the island offers snorkeling from secluded beaches, an ancient Mayan lighthouse, Faro Celarain (the contemporary lighthouse and nautical museum), crocodiles in their natural habitat, nesting sea turtles (in season) and bird watching. The reserve represents Isla Cozumel's natural beauty as a true tropical paradise. If visiting on your own, an all terrain vehicle is necessary to navigate the coastal sand dunes and jungle trails through the park. A scenic drive around the island's one main road also offers beautiful scenery unique to the island.

Tours from Cancun, such as the Isla Cozumel Highlights Day Pass, offer all inclusive day trips with a pickup/drop-off meeting point in Cancun, round trip ferry, island tour, activities in the wildlife reserve, food and free time to stroll Historic Downtown Cozumel.

Things to take on your day trip: Comfortable walking/beach shoes, towel, amphibious camera, change of clothing, biodegradable sunscreen and a hat.

Puerto Morelos

There is a lovely wide white sand beach in Puerto Morelos and it is the only real town on the coast until you get to Punta Allen - town square , church , schools, mostly private houses on the beach front, all public beaches, lots of restaurants and a calmer seaside town atmosphere. You can go snorkelling on the reef by picking up a guide on the dock or through the dive shops. The reef is protected  and has lots of fish life, really worth a trip.

Another popular activity is a day at The Little Mexican Cooking School, fun day of learning authentic Mexican food in a private house. Lots of reviews on Trip Advisor click here.

There are several interesting shops for handicrafts, silverware, an English bookstore ( Alma Libre Bookstore ), coffee shops, beach bars, healthy food restaurants.

You can also go horse back riding, ATV riding  and visit a cenote with the El Rey Polo Country  Club Tour. Puerto Morelos is a 30 minute drive south from the hotel zone,40 mins in the ADO bus (20pesos) from downtown.

Several locals have websites with local information see Catriona's, Frank's, Amber's and Alma Libre Bookstore

Playa del Carmen & Rio Secreto
Great shopping and restaurants along the Quinta, Playa´s Fifth Avenue.
Really worth visiting Rio Secreto, first possibility ever to enter the underground water systems that connect all the water canals and cenotes in the peninsula of Yucatan! Check if you want to see more.

Located halfway between Playa and Tulum, Akumal is a small town with great snorkeling offshore or at the Yal Ku Lagoon.

About 120 kms. south of Cancun. A great place to spend a day, visiting the ruins, snorkeling in cenotes.

Sian Ka´an
Just south of Tulum the Sian Ka´an Biosphere Reserve begins. Head south down a coastal dirt road through the jungle to Punta Allen, a small fishing village in the heart of the biosphere reserve. Great seafood at typical restaurants, or take a snorkeling tour or a boat ride out to the island of birds, or among the mangroves.

Chichen-Itza –

This is – by far – the most popular of all of the Mayan ruins and a MUST SEE. This is usually an all day excursion. It is roughly 3 hours from the zone because it is deep in the Mayan jungle, however the tour is extremely entertaining. This is usually a guided tour by some type of historian or archeologist who is full of information. You will also see a real Mayan village, and usually a small shopping trip on the way back to resort.

A long trip getting there so if you have children go on a tour bus.  A minivan tour can save you $10-15.  This is good for singles, budget traveler, but it is often uncomfortable. Pros are that there are few pick-ups and drop-offs, so got back from trip sooner than tour bus.  This place is beautiful.  A must see place for the ruins and history.  You can feel the energy when you arrive being in the jungle is amazing and hot. They no longer allow visitors to enter temples.  Many peddlers and tours ask you not to purchase from them, only certified merchants.  After the ruins, tours may take the group to a cenote (se-no-te), a natural underground spring you could swim in.  An 1.0 hour to frolic and take pictures.  Absolutely beautiful!  Water is cool and perfect after the heat from the jungle.

Xcaret Eco-Park:

If you go here you MUST go in the afternoon so that you can experience the night show! It is amazing! You can swim with the dolphins, there is an underground river you can go through, bat caves, butterfly pavilions. Enjoy, just don’t forget, if you visit here, the night show!

Xcaret link -

Xel-Ha : 

(Pronounced -- shell-hah.)  Xel-ha is a natural waterpark located about 2.5 hours south of Cancun. There you can enjoy many different activities like snorkeling, kayaking, biking, cliff jumping, and even swimming into a little cave.  For those who prefer to relax, there are also plenty of beach chairs and hammocks available.  Tour companies usually offer two types of packages -- all-inclusive  -- so consider what each offers and what will best fit your needs. Tickets are available for purchase online if you like to plan ahead.  This is a beautiful park with so much to see and do.  You can snorkel ($20 refundable deposit), swim with dolphins ($99), underwater dive ($55), kayak, inner tube through the river into bay, swim, go into natural caves, dive, and so much more.  This parks ticket is all inclusive, no longer an option for other.  Plenty of food (huge variety), drinks, all day long (breakfast, lunch, dinner).  Park includes towels, lockers, and a variety of shops in case you forget to pack the water camera. 

Isla Mujeres:

Isla Mujeres translates to "Island of Women."  It is located just off the northern side of the hotel zone which is an easy 20-minute ferry ride from the Hotel Zone or downtown Cancun.  The tranquil atmosphere whisks you away from the hustle & bustle of Cancun, which makes it a perfect place to lounge by the water or enjoy a meal at one of the oceanfront restaurants. Snorkeling tours are abundant and popular, with a price of around $20 per person.  Since Isla is only about 5-miles long, be sure to rent a golf cart for at least part of the day to explore the island because there are few sidewalks.     Attractions include the Turtle Farm, Garrafon Park, and Isla Contoy -- which is located a little ways off of Isla Mujeres.  Shopping here is much more calm, less expensive with no haggle crazy vendors. 

Puerto Morelos: Link: Puerto Morelos Information - Alma Libre Bookstore

An easy day trip by car, bus or taxi is to Puerto Morelos. Puerto Morelos is a throwback to what the Riviera Maya used to be. This is a real Mexican fishing village. The reef here is considered a Mexican national park, so it is protected. It must be visited with a trained accredited guide. as a result, the reef is healthier here that elsewhere on the coast. It is an excellent place to snorkel or dive.

Puerto Morelos is much quieter than Playa or Cancun. The beaches are much less crowded and quiet. It is a great place to relax. You may have the whole beach to yourself. There are many restaurants and places to get a drink, on and off the beach. Most are very good and less expensive than Playa or Cancun.

Shopping is a more relaxed experience too with less pressure from the shopkeepers, you can browse in peace. Puerto Morelos is also home to the largest and best new and used bookstore in the Riviera Maya, Alma Libre Bookstore.

To reach Puerto Morelos, you can drive south on the main highway for about 25 kilometers or take the ADO Cancun express bus (which leaves the station every 10 minutes or so) to Puerto Morelos. Fare is around 20 pesos, about $1.60 U.S.  

Isla Blanca & Fitness Adventures

25 minutes north of Cancun you can find undisturbed white sandy beaches and virgin jungle. Isla Blanca is framed by the Caribbean Sea and the Chacmuchuk Lagoon and is a secret little hideaway, a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of Cancun.

You can visit Fitness Adventures for some fun. To get here you'll definitely need to take their tour transportation or rent a car: it's down a remote stretch of dirt road, no public transportation (or traffic) here. Isla Blanca is not connected to city services so electricity is often provided by wind or solar energy or diesel generators and there is no phone service and no nearby convenience stores. This is truly getting away from it all.