Where to stay in Cancun: Best areas and neighborhoods
The best areas to stay in Cancun are the Hotel Zone, Downtown, and Isla Mujeres. Each one is very different from the others, and in addition to these three areas, we recommend a few more. We explain how they are so that you can decide based on what you are looking for for your vacation.
Cancun is an indisputable member of the top of the most recognized Mexican tourist destinations in the world. Those who visit it for the first time cannot help but be surprised by the beauty of its beaches of fine white sand, and by the sublime shades of blue of the sea, which range from emerald to turquoise.
The state of Quintana Roo is a tropical paradise full of wonders. It is home to Xel-Há, an ecological park nestled right at the point where the subsoil currents meet the Caribbean Sea. It is not surprising, therefore, that it is a setting rich in freshwater and saltwater species, a true natural aquarium.
Cancun has remarkably preserved vestiges of one of the most developed civilizations of pre-Columbian America. Such is the case of the sites known as the Temple of the Alacrán and El Rey.
Rio Secreto is also located here, a turquoise underground tributary that passes just below a gallery of stalagmites and stalactites.
For its part, Xcaret combines the best of both worlds: natural and cultural treasures. It houses a park with lush vegetation, cenotes, hidden rivers, and Mayan ruins.
Also, the destination has a peculiar underwater museum that can only be explored with the proper diving equipment and some of the best nightclubs in the country.
Depending on what you are looking for, you should sleep in Cancun in one area or another. Basically, we recommend 5 large areas with well-differentiated profiles: Downtown Cancun, the Hotel Zone, Puerto Juárez, Playa Mujeres, and Islas Mujeres.
It is to be expected that one of the must-see destinations in the Caribbean has a great infrastructure in terms of services and accommodation to make visitors feel welcome. This is especially true on Boulevard Kukulkan, the quintessential tourist area. Here you will find options suitable for the whole family.
You cannot leave Cancun without having come to Ventura Park, a water park overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Without a doubt, its main attraction is the Dolphinaris, an area to swim with dolphins.
On the other hand, history lovers will be able to learn more about the culture that prevailed in southeastern Mexico and part of Central America, before the arrival of the Spanish, when they visit the Mayan Museum in Cancun.
La Isla Cancún Shopping Village is a modern plaza located on the shores of the Nichupté lagoon. It is the ideal place to go shopping and spend unforgettable moments. In its dozens of stores, you will find all kinds of articles from the main local, national and international brands.
Fun is guaranteed at the Cancun Wax Museum, with highly realistic wax representations of more than a hundred celebrities.
It doesn’t matter if you prefer to practice water sports or a quiet ride on the water aboard a yacht. Lighthouse Marina offers you both modalities.
You cannot miss a visit to Isla Shopping. This mall is, at the same time, the headquarters of the Interactive Aquarium Cancun, where you can swim with dolphins, sharks, and manta rays, enjoy a live animal show, and see more than one hundred and forty aquatic species on display.
As night falls, the party continues at the Forum By the Sea, a beach-access complex that houses the best clubs in the city, such as Cabana Beach, Coco Bongo, Daddy’O, Mandala, and The City.
Get the best view of the city, and perhaps of the Mexican Caribbean, from the Torre Escénica Cancún, a building almost thirty meters high with a panoramic elevator. Enjoy scuba diving, jungle tours, jet ski rides, fishing, and sky riding at Aquaworld Cancun.
Many of the best accommodations in Cancun are in the hotel zone. Our selection for you includes hotels with affordable prices and All-Inclusive packages, along with some of the most luxurious options to stay in Cancun.
Only five kilometers after the hotel zone is the center of the city, known by Anglo-Saxon tourists as Downtown Cancun.
We recommend you visit El Meco, an interesting archaeological site that many tourists overlook when they come to the city due to the lack of publicity it receives, compared to Tulum and Chichen Itza.
Its main building is El Castillo, a pyramid with five levels. At the foot of its central staircase, there are two representations of Kukulcán, one of the many deities worshiped by the Mayans.
It’s more than twelve meters high making it the tallest pre-Hispanic structure in the north of the state of Quintana Roo. Since the site is not that extensive and only one section is open to the public, it shouldn’t take you more than an hour to walk around.
At lunchtime, you can head to La Habichuela, a popular restaurant that is very popular with both locals and visitors. The dimly lit garden has the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a romantic alfresco dinner.
The specialty of the house is Yucatecan food, as well as various dishes typical of Caribbean cuisine and international haute cuisine. Do not leave without trying the famous Cocobichuela.
Downtown Cancun is the ideal place to enjoy rock classics. Many of the bars located along Yaxchilán Avenue offer live music of this genre almost every night.
Generally, the bands play from twelve at night until four in the morning. However, depending on the capacity, the presentation could last until dawn. You will find the best atmosphere in El Asador, El Chikito, Los Arcos, and Ruta 666.
For shopping, nothing better than Mercado 28, a complex with dozens of shops selling handicrafts, clothing, pottery, and souvenirs. You can get better prices if you dare to haggle, that is, to negotiate with the sellers.
The center also offers a large number of alternatives to staying in Cancun. If in the Hotel Zone the “all-inclusive” predominate, in the center of Cancun you have a variety of hotels that offer more traditional urban formulas and with a wide range of prices.
North of Cancun, traveling along the road that leads to Punta Sam, you will arrive at Puerto Juárez, from where ferries leave for Isla Mujeres. The boats leave every half hour, between half-past six in the morning and half-past eight at night.
The service from the island to the port runs every half hour between 6:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night and every hour outside these hours.
Now, Puerto Juárez is more than a simple access road to another destination. Like the rest of Cancun, Puerto Juárez has dream beaches. In addition, its privileged location allows you to obtain an unbeatable view of the Caribbean Sea.
Being a less crowded destination than the Cancun hotel zone, the atmosphere is calmer. Therefore, it is an excellent alternative for those who want to enjoy the sun, the sea, and the sand in a relaxed environment.
Along the highway that passes through Puerto Juárez, there are several establishments with palapa roofs where you can eat delicious seafood dishes. One of the best is the Flamingos Restaurant & Bar. Dare to order the exquisite grilled octopus.
Puerto Juárez is a good place to sleep in Cancun, away from the hustle and bustle of the busiest area of the city and very close to Isla Mujeres. It’s good that there are good accommodation options!
Another alternative to staying in Cancun to the tumult that characterizes the downtown area and Boulevard Kukulkan is Playa Mujeres, a location that retains its original wild appearance.
Isla Mujeres, which faces the coast, looks even more beautiful at night, offering a first-row show for those who contemplate its coastline from the homonymous beach.
Best of all, you don’t have to leave Cancun to enjoy the charms of Playa Mujeres. A trip of about twenty minutes from the center, heading north, is enough to get there.
Visiting this site is equivalent to going back to a time before the tourist boom that the city and practically the entire coast of Quintana Roo have suffered.
The few hotels that currently exist in this place had to comply with a series of measures in order to inflict as little damage as possible on the environment. Since they were not built directly on the beach, the sand dunes were spared.
Each hotel has viewpoints that make it possible to contemplate nature without problems. The regulation even requires that earthy tones be used when painting the exteriors of buildings, thus ensuring that they are fully integrated into the environment.
And since these tourism projects are recent, visitors who choose to sleep in Cancun on this beach will spend their stay in modern facilities, with all the comforts they could wish for.
In our count of places that you have to know, we could not miss a fascinating island that is located less than thirteen kilometers north of the Cancun coast.
We are talking about Isla Mujeres, a place whose attributes have made it very popular in recent years. When you visit this site you will feel like paradise.
The ideal means of transportation for tourists to this little slice of paradise is golf carts. You can rent them for a full day or for half a day.
Take a tour of La Granja de Tortugas to admire the newly hatched turtles and other marine life.
At certain times of the year, anyone who wishes is invited to take part in the sea turtle release, an event in which humans help hatchlings make their way from the beach to the sea.
At the southern end of the island is the Temple of Ixchel, a vestige of the Mayan civilization.
In the center and north of Isla Mujeres, you will come across a wide range of restaurants. In many cases, their seafood was caught the same day by local fishermen: literally from sea to table.
Minino’s, just steps from the Ultramar ferry docks, is a good option for fresh produce at affordable prices.
The island’s nightlife is almost nil. It is true that there are a few bars open, but nothing compared to the clubs in mainland Cancun. Of course, there is always the option of taking the ferry to the city, where you will find endless options.
The hotel offer in Isla Mujeres is wide for the small size of the island. Options for lodging in Cancun include bed & breakfasts, boutique hotels, condominiums, and luxury resorts.