Where to Stay in Cancun - 2023 Best Places to Stay in Cancun
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Are you trying to figure out where to stay in Cancun? We got the Best Areas in Cancun for you. Just keep reading.
From a fishing village of only 70 people in the early ’70s to the present-day premier beach destination in Mexico, Cancun is an undeniable paradise. It’s no surprise why: blessed with perpetual warmth, 22 kilometers of pristine beaches just for its hotel zone; breathtaking Caribbean vistas at dawn, stunning Mesoamerican coral reef snorkeling, stunning cenotes and diving sites as well as limitless recreation from theme parks to nightlife and golfing opportunities – it doesn’t even end there! What other place offers such convenient access to Maya ruins, colonial villages, and tropical islands?
Though Cancun is primarily renowned for its lively nightlife and resorts, it boasts a deep cultural heritage with an abundance of activities to explore beyond the beaches and bars. For tourists looking for a safe place to stay in Cancun, there are plenty of accessible areas that cater specifically to them.
For those visiting Cancun, there is an endless array of things to do and of awe-inspiring colonial architecture to explore in modern Mexico, and the local Mexican culinary delicacies found in Cancun are simply unmatched by anything you’ll find elsewhere.
Where to stay in Cancun: Best areas to stay in Cancun
Exploring the resort town of Cancun is a breeze; where pedestrians and cyclists alike can simply stroll or pedal through its popular sites. To travel to outer islands and landmarks, hop on an affordable public bus system, private shuttles or ferries with ease. Moreover, count on reliable taxi services as well as Uber and Lyft when you’re in need of a ride around town!
In summary, don’t let accessibility limit you when deciding where to stay in Cancun. Instead, focus on the areas that spark your curiosity and pique your interest!
1. Zona Hotelera – Hotel Zone
Despite the mocking and condescension of tourist districts like Cancun’s Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera), there are still a wealth of reasons to call it home during your stay. From its proximity to the beach, an abundance of restaurants and bars, easy access to local attractions, and entertainment options galore – you’d be wise not to overlook this vibrant neighborhood!
Zona Hotelera is aptly named, as it houses a plethora of hotels. This thriving area sees activity day and night, making it an ideal spot to stay in Cancun if you desire the highest level of luxury throughout your holiday. From its architectural design to restaurant staff that are dedicated to providing guests with a memorable experience–all tailored for tourists!–it’s no wonder why this neighborhood has such glowing reviews from visitors who recommend visiting here again and again!
Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Zona Hotelera is the perfect destination. Here, American, Canadian, and European travelers mingle amongst a vibrant nightlife with easy access to beaches and pools. Shopping malls are plentiful while the Scenic Tower offers jaw-dropping views of some parts of the city. The real highlight here though has got to be Underwater Museum of Art – an aquatic museum housing magnificent sculptures among living sea creatures!
If you’re seeking an exquisite level of service and amenities, the Hotel Zone in Cancun is your go-to destination. Filled with some of the most extravagant hotels in all of Mexico City, it does come at a price; however, if ultimate relaxation and convenience are what you seek – on either a honeymoon or family vacation – then Zona Hotelera could be where to spend your stay without worry. On the other hand, backpackers who prefer more budget-friendly accommodation should look elsewhere since this isn’t usually their ideal area to set up camp.
2. Downtown Cancun – El Centro
Nestled in the core of Cancun Downtown, “El Centro” is the perfect location to stay if you want to explore beyond beachside bars and souvenir shops while still having access to some of the most popular beaches. Though it’s not possible to walk directly from El Centro towards these stunning shorelines, they are easily accessible via public transit buses.
El Centro offers a more genuine experience than those beachfront areas, while also allowing you to acquire essentials without having to bear the burdensome expense of tourist prices.
El Centro is the perfect destination if you’re looking to experience what Cancun truly has to offer. If this is your intention, then Mercado 28 should be at the top of your list! This open air market not only contains a vast array of souvenir shops but also plenty of other interesting finds worth exploring. Additionally, compared with more heavily trafficked tourist spots, what’s available here tends to be much more artisanal and reasonably priced.
Mercado 28 is a paradise of food stalls and standalone restaurants offering an array of genuine local delicacies. In addition, you must make sure to visit Parque Las Palapas – it’s the perfect spot for locals and tourists alike! Dusk or weekends are the best times to enjoy this park as it teems with life. You can mingle with the Cancuners here and get some valuable tips about places worth visiting such as bars, eateries, and attractions.
This destination is the perfect spot for young travelers, no matter if they’re struggling on a tight budget or looking to have one wild night out in Cancun. Backpackers and party-goers alike will find what they are searching for here!
3. Puerto Juarez
Cancun is uniquely blessed with gorgeous beachfront property, and Puerto Juarez and Zona Hotelera could not be more different in terms of atmosphere. The latter was designed exclusively to meet the needs of vacationers while the former offers a peaceful, authentic seaside village experience.
Just a mile and a half away from the bustling city center, Puerto Juarez is still considered to be an outsider in Cancun – only being incorporated into its fold as recently as 1990. Although less popular than other parts of the country due to fewer restaurants, nightclubs and shopping centers, what it lacks in grandeur it makes up for with its picturesque views and local charm.
Thanks to several stretches of beachfront property here that are not quite as clear or pristine compared to Zona Hotelera’s beaches across town, tourists tend to stay away making this neighborhood perfect if you’re looking for some peace among locals while vacationing!
On the other hand, Cancun is a haven for adventure-seeking boaters. If you’re looking to go fishing regularly, this spot should be top on your list. Moreover, it’s also considered as the chief ferry port of Isla Mujeres – so if this prime destination sets off all alarms in terms of budget constraints; Puerto Juarez can provide access without giving you an anxiety attack over finances!
If you’re looking to save a few dollars while also avoiding the hustle and bustle of Zona Hotelera, Puerto Juarez is an ideal choice for your Cancun stay. While it might take some digging around for lodgings, renting from locals via apps such as Airbnb can be very promising! You won’t find many amenities tailored specifically to travelers in this area; however, with its low prices and anonymous nature, Puerto Juarez offers a welcoming sanctuary if you plan on staying here long term.
Close your eyes and let yourself be transported to Isla Mujeres, a Caribbean oasis located just eight miles off Cancun’s northern coast. Here lies some of the most beautiful waters in the world; pristine and crystal-clear with snow-white sands caressing its shoreline, framed by lush palm trees creating an idyllic paradise.
Although it is located a bit away from the main neighborhoods of Cancun, Isla Mujeres Downtown district has made sure that you are within reach of any amenity and convenience. The streets in this area are filled with delightful stores for all your souvenir shopping needs as well as fine dining restaurants and nightlife hotspots. And even though this place caters to tourists, there’s still plenty of local charm! You can find beautiful sea wall murals at the center of town!
Isla Mujeres is the perfect getaway for those seeking a tranquil stay in Cancun yet still wish to be pampered. The island boasts several ecological theme parks, along with deep sea fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling opportunities! It’s isolated enough from the city of Cancun to feel like its own little world and far less overrun by tourists than other resort areas. So if you’re looking for paradise without enduring crowds or overbearing activity, let Isla Mujeres make all your dreams come true.
Rather than succumbing to the same luxurious yet expensive international hotel chains, you can indulge in a plethora of options that cater to any budget—from economical and affordable accommodation to chic boutique hotels.
5. Playa Mujeres
Although Costa Mujeres, or Playa Mujeres as it is known locally, often gets outshone by its illustrious brother Zona Hotelera in terms of tourist visits; both locations have been specifically crafted with tourists in mind. Nevertheless, the lesser-known younger sibling doesn’t get nearly as much traffic at Zona Hotelera.
The Hotel Zone is perfectly situated to provide convenient access to the city and its peripheries, whereas Playa Mujeres lies a little off the grid. If you select this destination for your lodging, be prepared to take advantage of all that the resorts on-site have in store. And rest assured–you won’t be wanting when it comes to activities geared towards international tourists! Almost every corner of this area teems with entertainment options tailored specifically for visitors from abroad.
The beaches at this location are stunning and provide a degree of solitude, which can be hard to find in the high-traffic parts of Cancun. Although they may not have all the color or clarity that Zona Hotelera offers, they still boast remarkable beauty with added benefits such as less noise and fewer people around.
Playa Mujeres boasts a plethora of activities, from snorkeling and scuba diving to yachting excursions. You can even go out into the Caribbean waters and swim with dolphins! Plus, there’s an 18-hole golf course for avid golfers. What’s more is that many hotels provide packages and trips to all the major attractions throughout Cancun as well as its surrounding territories so you don’t have to venture too far away for adventure.
Resorts and hotels are pricier than other areas with less tourism, but they’re still more affordable in comparison to Zona Hotelera. Bear in mind that if you wish to explore the rest of the city, it’s likely you will need a shuttle or car for transportation.
Best Areas in Cancún for…
Best Areas in Cancún for First Timers: North, Middle, and South Hotel Zone
If you are visiting Cancún for the first time, make sure to stay in the Hotel Zone. This stretch of beach spans 22 km and is filled with all kinds of activities that will suit any traveler’s needs – restaurants, nightlife spots, attractions and shopping centers abound! Many resorts have enough amenities within their walls such as lavish pools or water parks so guests can enjoy a true staycation without ever leaving their resort. It’s no wonder why this area is one of the most beloved destinations for travelers from around the world! The Middle of the Hotel Zone is bustling and alive with nightlife, an aquarium, water sports centers, and a few shopping malls. Meanwhile in the North area you’ll find gentler waves perfect for swimming or surfing; outstanding evening entertainment; and access to local culture at El Centro. Last but not least, if peace & quiet are what you’re looking for then head down South to explore less crowded beaches along with easy trips to Maya ruins like El Rey.
Best Areas Cancún for Sightseeing: Middle Hotel Zone, El Centro
To maximize your local sightseeing experience, including the aquarium, Maya museum, San Miguelito and El Rey ruins as well as snorkel and scuba tours, it is best to stay in the Middle Hotel Zone. This way you can easily access all of these attractions on foot or with a short bus ride. Furthermore, for visiting Isla Mujeres there are more frequent ferries leaving from this area than from Playa Mujeres port. If you want to explore nearby markets, watch lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), or take self-guided tours of the Chichén Itzá ruins, colonial Valladolid, modern Playa del Carmen or the bohemian Tulum area – then staying in El Centro is your best bet. With this location being so central and easily connected to various bus routes that run from downtown Cancún; it’s a great choice for easy access. But if you’re planning on taking a guided tour with an operator for either Chichén Itzá or Vallodolid; they usually offer free pickup at any Hotel Zone address which makes your stay location less important than before!
Best Areas in Cancún for Partying and Nightlife: Middle Hotel Zone, El Centro
If you’re in search of the ultimate nightlife experience, Cancun is the place to be. Just at the bend of North and Middle Hotel Zone (known as Punta Cancún or Uptown) lies a 500-meter stretch filled with an array of bars and nightclubs; popular ones like Coco Bongo, Señor Frog’s, Mandala, and La Vaquita. With its multi-level mega parties featuring live music & DJs plus stunning showgirls & acrobats–you’ll discover your perfect evening destination here! From mid-March to mid-April, the clubs in Punta Cancún become jam packed as American and Canadian tourists come for spring break.The largest club here, The City welcomes an astounding 5000 people! Here you’ll find a mix of both local residents and international visitors. If you’re seeking more atmosphere that’s authentically Mexican with better cocktails and diverse music genres then put on your dancing shoes head over to El Centro where spots like Antique, Mambocafe, Amarula Han Club or Kaan Brewpub are just waiting for you!
Best Areas in Cancún for Food and Restaurants: El Centro, Middle Hotel Zone
If you’re looking for the finest culinary experiences in Cancún, look no further than El Centro! This bustling downtown center is teeming with superb dining spots that range from traditional Yucatecan dishes to Mexican classics like tacos and even some exquisite French cuisine. But don’t bother heading over to the Hotel Zone – it’s packed with costly Americanized Mexican restaurants. You’ll find many high-grade eateries outside of resorts located between La Isla Mall and Aquaworld water sports center within the Middle Hotel Zone.
Best Areas in Cancún for Families: North and Middle Hotel Zone, Riviera Cancún
For families with younger children just learning to swim, Cancún is a premier destination! The North Hotel Zone has partially protected beaches that produce gentler waves and make it easier for kids to enjoy the water. Additionally, there are numerous activities available such as kid-friendly resorts featuring swimming pools with slides and mini water parks — making sure every member of your family will have an unforgettable experience in Cancun! For families with older kids and teens, the Middle Hotel Zone is a great choice as it offers easy access to popular attractions, water sports centers, snorkeling tours, and shopping malls. On the other hand, active families will find Riviera Cancún ideal; packed full of amenities specifically designed for children plus being in close proximity to adventure parks such as Croco Cun Zoo and cenotes near Puerto Morelos – this destination has everything your family needs!
Most Romantic Areas in Cancún: South Hotel Zone, Riviera Cancún, Playa Mujeres
Cancun, the preeminent spot for honeymoons and romantic escapes, boasts pristine white sand beaches that are perfect for sunset strolls or cozy beachfront dinners. For couples seeking a luxurious retreat, there is no shortage of adults-only hotels with private suites and pools to choose from; some even feature exclusive wings dedicated solely to their adult guests. So whether you’re planning your dream wedding or simply enjoying a much-needed break away with your significant other, Cancun has everything you need for an unforgettable romantic getaway! For a romantic escapade, look no further than the South Hotel Zone’s peaceful beachfront and its proximity to Cancún’s most renowned attractions. Playa Mujeres is another excellent option, offering guests modern hotels, immaculate beaches with mild waves for swimming or surfing. Lastly , Riviera Cancún offers couples an idyllic setting of lush mangrove jungles, botanical gardens amidst tranquil waterside settings; truly nature at its finest.
Best Areas in Cancún for a Local Vibe: El Centro, Riviera Cancún
If you are looking for an authentic experience with local restaurants, nightlife, outdoor markets and affordable shopping during your stay, El Centro is the place to be. Additionally, one could head south towards Riviera Cancún or even Puerto Morelos; a small village that has experienced change due to tourism yet still offers plenty of delicious eateries and unique bars away from the beachfront resorts. To get the most out of Mexico’s culture without having to pay resort prices come see what El Centro and Puerto Morelos have in store!
Most safe Areas in Cancún
Cancún is generally a secure city and the safest places are its beachside resorts. These have gated entrances monitored by security guards 24/7, as well as on-site personnel patrolling their beaches. When you’re exploring beyond resort boundaries, it’s wise to take precautionary measures that apply anywhere in touristy environments: be mindful of your belongings; watch out for your drinks while clubbing; move around in well-lit areas at night with companions or groups if possible.
Unsafe Areas in Cancún
Cancun is amongst the safest cities in Mexico. However, criminal activity does occur mainly around El Centro located north of Avenida Chichén Itzá. If you wish to dine downtown, it’s best to take a taxi there and back instead of taking long strolls during the night – for your safety, as well as reducing any risk associated with petty crime.
Traveling to 🇲🇽 Mexico soon?
I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:
🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Mexico, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.
🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.
🚙 CancunAirport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.
🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Mexico, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Mexico. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.
📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.
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