Situated on the northeast tip of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, Cancún is a popular Caribbean tourist destination. Next to 14 miles of beaches, you'll find a wide variety of resorts, spas, clubs, and malls.
Peak season in Cancún tends to run from December to April. Prices in both airfare and hotel increase dramatically during these times, while dropping in the summer and early autumn months. Late June is especially hot, so come prepared or try the off season. Hurricanes can be a major threat in late summer and autumn.
Resting on the northeast corner of the Mexican Caribbean, Cancún itself was built on a site selected as the ideal spot for a new tourist development by the Mexican government. The state of Quintana Roo was still a territory and this area had few habitants when Cancún was built. It is composed of fourteen miles of pristine white beaches shaped like a number "7", home of the Mayan archaeological wonders, turquoise seas, a bountiful underwater world, and world-class vacation amenities. It is still considered the gateway to the Mayan World ("El Mundo Maya"). Mayan temples and ritual sites are everywhere, some smothered by lush jungle, others easily accessible. Good tourist attractions.
The Cancún hotel zone is almost entirely built around the tourist industry. It abounds with all-inclusive resort hotels. Stay here only if you don't mind spending your vacation with many other tourists.
Downtown Cancún, especially once you get away from the ADO bus station and nearby hostels and hotels, is a real Mexican city. There are many restaurants, shopping centers, markets and clubs in the downtown area that you can visit during your stay.
Those mostly seeking beaches and scuba diving, or who are a bit adventurous, can easily find rooms on equally beautiful and less crowded beaches along the coast just an hour or two south of Cancún. Some Spanish language skills may aid in finding better deals. You can rent a car, or take the bus to Puerto Morelos (about 20 min) or Tulum (1 hr). Playa del Carmen (45 min, $80) is between the two, but caters to the all-inclusive crowd. Taxis are also available.
Those looking for a base of operations who want good or luxury hotels and the advantages of urban life but prefer more local flavor may wish to stay in the Yucatan's main city of Mérida. Many international flights in to Cancún continue on after a stop to Mérida's International Airport.
The climate in Cancún is tropical, with consistent hot and humid weather throughout the year, and very warm sea temperatures. You can expect a gentle breeze from the ocean to keep you comfortable. Temperatures reach their peak around May, and you may notice the extreme heat as you travel inland. Prepare for trips to archeological sites: wear light clothing, stay cool, and rest often.
Airlines that fly to Cancún from Mexico City include: Aeromexico, Interjet, Volaris; from the USA: AirTran Airways, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Jetblue, USA 3000, US Airways and from Europe: AirBerlin Air France, British Airways, Air Europa, Aeroflot and as of 2012 Virgin Atlantic.
One of Cancún's best features is its transport links, as most major air carriers in North, Central, and South America, have service to Cancún. There are some extremely cheap charter flight deals available from the UK (from around £100) as well as commercial flight deals from several European carriers.
The hardest part of the journey to Cancún (aside from your initial airport check-in) is getting from the luggage carousel to your transportation. Make sure you know who your transport is (in case of prebooking) and find them on the outside, as that is where they will be. Unless you are looking for a timeshare, free meal or looking to burn hours of travel time and money on your vacation, do NOT stop to chit-chat with anyone about booking tours and such. There is plenty of time for that after you get settled in. After you clear customs inspection (the red or green light baggage inspection), do not give your bags to any locals offering to carry them.
There are many companies that provide the transfer service to the hotels in Cancún or the Riviera Maya. All of them have the option of prebooking online; some of them can be booked when arriving but this may represent another waiting time. Some of the well-known companies offering shared and private transfers are:
- Cancun Airport Transportation
- ESL Transfers and tours
- Discovery Mundo
- Gray Line
- Yellow Transfers
- Cancun Taxi Shuttle
- Paradise Transfers Cancun Airport Transfers
There are other transportation firms that provide service to and from the airport for a reasonable price as well. Beware of touts who will surround you when you come out of customs clearance. If you proceed straight, you will find the official information center where they can help you with the ground transportation options. If you bought an online shuttle service reservation and you don't find your driver, call customer service yourself; do not trust local people who claim to be airport employees trying to help you (usually airport employees wait for you to come to them, and not the other way round). The legitimate drivers (and their reps) for these shuttle companies are outside the building, outside the exit glass doors, towards their vehicles.
The airport recently constructed a metal fence right outside of international arrivals. Only airport staff and licensed shuttle and travel agent employees are allowed in (they have to swipe a badge). If you are meeting someone who will be arriving, ask them to leave that area and walk towards the airport to meet their party.
ADO is the main long distance inter-city bus carrier in the Yucatan Peninsula. They offer regular bus service from both terminals at the airport into town and down to Playa del Carmen. The "airport bus station" is in the parking lot outside the domestic arrivals doors at Terminal 2. For international arrivals you turn right, after coming out of the building and walk across to the other side of the building. At Terminal 3 it's a right turn from outside the arrivals doors and past 'Air Margaritaville' (formerly 'Coconuts Welcome Bar') hut.
Also if you want to travel directly from Cancún to Cozumel there is an Airline called MayaAir the only commercial line in the Terminal 1 so you can travel directly through Cancún to Cozumel.
Be sure to pass the customs before looking for money exchange - for example inside customs zone in Cancún they offer $9.6 MXN to US $1, which is much lower than even greediest street vendors ask.
Beware of leaving Mexico with enough money. The Mexican Government charges a travel tax of around 500 pesos (US $45) to leave the country from the airport. Most major air carriers may already have the travel tax charged to the price of the ticket, though it is highly recommended that travelers check this before leaving to/from Cancún. For example, Thomas Cook is charging 660 pesos, and U.S. dollars are not accepted. -- The current collective travel experience (from TripAdvisor) shows that almost all airlines flying from the US have already included this tax in their airfare, so there is no need to pay again when leaving Cancún. It seems that only charter flights from the UK do not include this tax and UK travelers may need to pay upon leaving.
Also beware of going through security too early. Food and drink prices almost double and you can't easily go back.
Driving in Mexico can be an experience. For more information and tips refer to driving in Mexico
Cancún's bus station is located downtown on the corner of Uxmal Avenue and Tulum Avenue. Destinations served by bus include most destinations up to Mexico City (26 hr).
The bus station is served by a taxi rank in front of the station. Local buses to the hotel zone pass regularly behind the station on the Tulum Avenue.
Cancún is very easy to navigate. To the South is the airport, to the North is the city and in between on the stretch of land between the sea and the Nichupte lagoon are all the hotels, beaches and bars, referred to as the hotel zone or Zona Hotelera. Downtown is where most residents live and it stretches in on the mainland behind the lagoon.
Bus is the preferred way of getting around. Buses are cheap and come frequently. Most bus drivers are very courteous and will stop for you even if you are not waiting at a bus stop. After paying the fare, which is on a per person basis, the driver will hand you a ticket/receipt which are usually printed with advertisements. Just so there are no surprises, do not expect buses to have amenities such as air conditioning and seat cushions. Also, most bus drivers speak enough English just to help visitors get around. A great resource for finding your way around Cancún are the Can-Do Cancún maps & Guides by Perry & Laura McFarlin.
Buses head up and down the main thoroughfare, Blvd Kukulcan, named after the feather serpent which is the main Mayan deity, from the Mayan words kukul (bird) and can (snake). Buses pass constantly but be prepared for a cramped and rough ride. The rules for the bus drivers seem to be "he who gets to the next passenger quickest, makes the most money". Therefore, be prepared for a wild, but entertaining ride. Frequently, locals will get on with their instruments and "entertain". Some are quite good.
When you are ready to get off, you can either push the button on top of the hand rail, or if you're not sure of your destination, tell the driver where you would like to get off or point to the destination using a bus map. Most bus drivers speak enough English to understand non-Spanish speakers.
Be careful when the bus is full as pick-pocketing is a concern.
Companies serving the station include all attractions and towns along the coast: the Riviera Express for the Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Xel-Ha, etc.) and ADO for the major national destinations. For some Riviera Maya destinations, it's possible to stop the buses on the Tulum Avenue without having to go all the way to the station, however if you are unsure about where to catch the bus then it's best to go to the station.
Taxis are plentiful, a bit expensive for the hotel zone and airport, but cheap in the downtown area. Fares for the hotel zone depend on how far along the Blvd Kukulcan you want to go (fares available at hotel receptions and shopping centres), while within the downtown there is a general fixed fare of about 20 pesos per trip, it is best to just ask the driver upon boarding to avoid misunderstandings. By far, the best mode of transportation for the hotel zone is by bus. The bus fare is cheap and getting from Point A to Point B doesn't take very long.
Be careful and clear with your taxista. They have set rates on paper for how much they should charge for the trip per kilometer (no meter). You can also obtain a discount about 10% if you ask. If you are splitting a cab with friends, be clear on the number of services, people, and price he will charge to your destination. If your friends get out before you he can charge you twice the amount you negotiated for just a few more kilometers. A "service" is considered to be from start point to a requested stop point. If your taxista is non-cooperative there are about 10 more taxis around every corner.
Be very careful if you choose to drive in Cancún. The police seem to pull tourists over at the drop of a hat during spring break. When you pick up a rental, check that all the lights work. Also when you are pulled over for a light violation, do not be surprised if the police holds out an open palmed hand, while holding your driver’s license hostage in the other. Most police officers are underpaid and will for the most part demand a small bribe to let you off the hook.
See the related travel article driving in Mexico for additional information.
- Interactive Aquarium, Right in the middle of the hotel zone, this small but modern aquarium lets you get up close and personal with aquatic life. You can pet rays, nurse sharks, touch starfish, etc. There is also a chance to swim with captive dolphins in a large pool. Admission US $10.
- Water and sand, Cancún is possibly best known for its beautiful turquoise waters and powdery white beaches.
- Isla Contoy, is about 30 km (19 mi) north of Isla Mujeres and apart from its natural beauty it is considered to be the most important nesting place for sea birds in the Mexican Caribbean with more than 150 different species.
- Ocean and beaches, For the more advanced swimmers, the edge of the open ocean can make for a challenging and fun swimming experience. For less advanced swimmers, or those with little ones, pick a resort facing Isla Mujeres for a gentle and relaxing aquatic experience. Be aware that the island becomes extremely hot during day and there are few, if any opportunities to cool off. The sand found here is ground up coral and doesn't get hot like you might expect. The beaches are absolutely gorgeous and the water is crystal clear and warm. Spending the day on the beaches of Cancún is not only an opportunity to relax, but to shop as well. Many of the native people of Cancún make a living by selling different items to the tourists on the beach. There are a variety of items to be purchased from these vendors, items such as sarongs, jewelry, sea shells and more. However, as in the markets, you have to be willing to bargain to get the right prices.
- Xcaret (ecopark). Xcaret is an Eco-archaeological Park located about 76 km (46 mi) south of Cancún and less than 7 km (4 mi) south of Playa del Carmen, in the Riviera Maya. Here you can admire tropical flora and fauna typical of the region as well as different expressions of the Mayan culture. In its facilities you can find an archaeological site, snorkeling in underground rivers, beach, butterfly pavilion, orchid greenhouse, regional fauna breeding farm, Mayan village, jaguar island, among others. For additional cost visitors can swim with captive dolphins; enjoy the Temascal and Spa services. At night you can admire the unique night show “Xcaret México Espectacular” which features a variety of performances from ancient Mayan culture to traditional Mexican music and dances. Admission US $80.
- Bird watching at the airport, It may sound odd, but because the airport is basically carved out of a large block of forest, there are all kinds of birds and animals around, especially early in the morning. Look for the Mexican agoutis (large forest rodents) grazing on the lawns next to the forest.
- Swim with Dolphins, . Wet'n'Wild also offers dolphin experiences. (Beware: no cameras are allowed, then they charge 25 pesos for the first photo, 20 pesos for each subsequent one). Other great places to swim with captive dolphins are Delphinus Dreams and Dolphin Discovery.
- Jeep Adventures. Experience some of the most beautiful parts of Cancún in a self drive jeep safari. Tour prices ususually include an experienced guide, and the chance to swim or snorkel in underground caves, explore Mayan ruins and visit a jungle reserve.
- Aqua Tours. Exciting water tour. Choose either a jet ski or two person jet boat for a trip through the lagoon out to snorkel on the reef. Popular tours are the Jungle Tour and the Sailing Quest (Catamarans).
- The Lobster Dinner Cruise. Take a trip out on the calm lagoon on a beautiful boat with friends you have not met yet. The staff allow you to take part in the fun or settle back and watch the sunset. Steak and lobster is cooked on the boat and is extra tasty when eaten out on the high seas.
- Football, New in Cancún with the First Division team "Potros de Hierro (Iron Colts) of Cancún". The Atlante team, now based in Cancún, has a brand new stadium downtown.
- Hidden Worlds Cenote Adventure Park, Tulum. 9AM-5PM. Situated on the most extensive system of underwater caves and caverns on Earth, the park is home to some of the most stunningly beautiful cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, as featured in the critically acclaimed 2001 IMAX movie, Journey Into Amazing Caves, the 2005 Hollywood movie, The Cave and the award winning 2007 BBC Planet Earth television series. Enjoy Zip Lines, The Worlds only SkyCycle, and snorkel tours in the most pristine cenotes in the area.
- Punta Este Marina. Drive your own boat through the lagoon in the Jungle Tour and sknorkel on the reef. Diving lessons and dive trips to the best dive spots in Cancún such as underwater museum.
- Cancún Yachts Club, boulevardo kukulkan km. 5.8 (zona hotelera), ☎ . Yacht rentals in Cancún. exclusives luxury yachts for rentals tours in all the Cancún areas , snorkeling, diving, swimming the most save water activities in yacht.
- Exotic Rides Mexico, ☎ . Driving experiences on board of the most exotic and luxurious cars in the world, race them on a private racetrack in Cancún.
- Always Diving. Scuba dive with the most professional team in the area. Competitive prices and a wide catalog of diving programs.
- Cancun Catamaran Tours (Cancun Catamaran Tours), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Catamaran Excursions that run from the Cancun Hotel Zone to Isla Mujeres and back.
When shopping in Cancún, you can either go into the downtown area or the hotel zone. Downtown is much cheaper, but the Hotel Zone has brand-name goods.
- Markets, Bring your haggling skills and get ready for a vast shopping experience in any of the city markets. Great buys can be found, so stick to your price resolve.
- Market 28. This is the local market in downtown Cancún. Great shopping for souvenirs. It also has some great Mexican outdoor restaurants. Very cheap and good shopping. Don't forget to bargain.
- Market 23. This is more of a 'locals' market. Doesn't have the same range as Market 28, but is worth a visit.
- Plaza Las Americas. Main mall in Downtown area with lots of stores and great prices.
- Plaza La Isla. Shopping mall in the hotel zone. Features hundreds of stores ranging from American brands like Polo to Mexican brands like Senor Frogs. There are numerous restaurants including Chili's and McDonald's along with more local Mexican foods.
- Lapis Jewelry Factory, Blv. Kukulkan km 11.5 local 100 Int. Plaza Flamingo, Zona Hotelera, ☎ (+521) 998 110 87 87, e-mail: email@example.com. You are likely to be offered a coupon for free jewelry at this store. Their website also offers a free gift for individuals who book a shuttle through their website. However, if you do not have any evidence of this, the offer will not be honored. A free shuttle service is offered to take you to the store from your hotel. However, the prices in the store are exorbitant (even at the "discounted" rates), and much of the same jewelry is sold by street vendors and hotel gift shops, as well as online. Be sure to investigate other vendors first to get an idea of how much you should pay. One rule of thumb is to buy at 20-30% of the quoted price. For example, if a Mayan calendar pendant is offered to you at the discounted rate of $75, it's actually probably worth about $20. The salespeople will insist that it's worth much more, but stand your ground. If a salesperson agrees to your offer too quickly, you're probably paying too much. In addition, a number of people have reported difficulty obtaining refunds.
- Mikado, Blvd. Kukulcán, Retorno Chac L-41, Zona Hotelera (CasaMagna Marriott Cancún Resort), ☎ . 5:30PM-11PM. Japanese and Thai cuisine featuring teppanyaki tables.
- La Capilla Argentina, Blvd Kukulcán, Retorno Chac L-41, Zona Hotelera (CasaMagna Marriott Cancún Resort), ☎ . Argentine steakhouse with a Mediterranean flair.
- Champions Sports Bar, Blvd Kukulcán, Retorno Chac L-41, Zona Hotelera (CasaMagna Marriott Cancún Resort), ☎ . noon-2AM. Stepped up bar food with all the games on over 40 screens.
- Simply Seafood, Blvd Kukulcán, Km 14.5, Lote 40-A, Zona Hotelera (JW Marriott Cancún Resort & Spa), ☎ . Simply Seafood serves off the boat seafood in traditional Caribbean style.
- Gustino, Blvd Kukulcán, Km 14.5, Lote 40-A, Zona Hotelera (JW Marriott Cancún Resort & Spa), ☎ . Gustino has authentic Italian cuisine using the freshest Mediterranean ingredients.
- Cambalache, Blvd Kukulcán Km 9, at Forum By the Sea Mall, +52 998 883 0902. This Argentine Steakhouse serves up one of the best menus in Cancún. The atmosphere inside the restaurant makes you feel you have traveled an extra 1000 miles. The staff's attention to detail and desire to please make you feel like you're the only one they are serving that night. Great place to have a dinner with the one you love or enjoy the company of friends. The food alone could give this place a 4 star rating, the rest is just an added bonus.
- The Cove Cancún. On Playa Langosta (the lobster beach). One of the prettiest and calmest beaches of the Hotel Zone, The Cove offers an excellent variety of dishes. In the morning they have a delicious buffet with sweet bread, fresh fruit, juice, coffee, eggs cooked to order, and other Mexican delights. For lunch, a la carte service. Then at night, a romantic atmosphere with candles, to enjoy the nights of Cancún with a special selected menu with seafood and fish with Caribbean accent, as well as fine cuts, complemented with an ample wine carte.
- La Habichuela, Margaritas 25 (Near Parque de las Palapas), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. La Habichuela is a must-visit with its Mexican cuisine, Mayan setting and Caribbean seafood. This restaurant has been open since 1977 and is a legend in Cancún. The romantic, outside garden is a popular place to dine with the decoration of various native trees and plants that create a beautiful illusion of the Mayan ruins under the night sky. And not only did La Habicheula receive the National Best Restaurant Award but it is also a part of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America Organization since 2001.
- Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cancún, ☎ . Blvd Kukulcán. This establishment combines the atmosphere of a restaurant, bar, and a mini night club. During the daytime hours, Margaritaville is a restaurant and bar. At night, the place is a combination of the three. With an orange sailboat with images of a plane, shark, and the orange sun, Margaritaville attracts families of all ages as well as party goers.
- Laguna Grill, Blvd Kukulcán Km 16.5, ☎ . This grill serves seafood, steak, and pasta with a contemporary flair. There is a lush tropical garden at the entrance, intricate handmade tile work on the floor and walls, a small flowing creek that traverses the restaurant, and elegantly-finished tables hewn from trunks of tropical trees. The large terrace is right on the water’s edge. Elegant and comfortable, the next-door Lounge Bar Trágara offers a wide variety of wines and liquors, while you listen to soft background music and enjoy the charm of the lagoon.
- Salt. Mediterranean cuisine from a wood burning oven, show kitchen and an array of culinary displays. Restaurant overlooks ocean.
- El Pabilo, Ave Yaxchilán # 31. Art exhibitions every 15 days. Good baguettes and wine.
- Paloma Bonita. 6:30PM–11:30PM daily for dinner. Mexican cuisine with live music in an authentic Mexican atmosphere which recreates different regional ambiances based on architectural, crafts, and folkloric traditions. Features include a traditional Mexican kitchen with coal "comales" where you can watch as tacos and snacks are prepared right in front of you. There is also a tequila bar featuring more than 100 kinds of tequila, and a romantic outside patio separated from the main area.
- Roots Jazz Club Tulipanes and Parque de las Palapas. Live Jazz Music, the best place to hear live music in Cancún. Great food and drinks.
- El Rincón del Vino, Alcatraces & Parque de las Palapas. Good baguettes, gourmet tapas and wine.
- Las Tortugas, ☎ . Plaza Las Avenidas. Serving tortas, a kind of Mexican sandwich.
- Tumbaburros, in Plaza Las Américas (Downtown) and another one across the street from the ADO bus terminal (also in Downtown). Genuine Mexican cuisine and a great atmosphere. Real Mexican good humor and hospitality along with your taco order.
- La Destileria, Bulevar Kukulcán Km 12.65, across from Kukulcán Plaza, Cancún Island, ☎ . , Daily 1PM-midnight. Combines some of the most authentic Mexican cuisine in the hotel zone with good service and medium price. Very good tequila. Main courses $12-28.
- Atotonilco, Mercado 28 downtown Cancún (Right across from El Cejas). 8AM-6PM. An extremely good sampling of Mexican food from all around the country. Excellent value. Nothing fancy but a gastronomical delight. Try the "Huevos Motuleños". $4-10.
- Silk Asian Bistro. Blvd Kukulkan, km. 12. Sushi and sashimi, soy paper vegetarian rolls alongside bolder creations. Teppanyaki stations with theatrical chefs.
- Pescaditos, Ave Yaxchilán 59 (Close to corner of Marañón). Really nice and laid back seafood restaurant where everything's deep fried. Try the chiles rellenos, possibly the best ones in Cancún.
- Los de Pescados, Ave Tulum. Very simple Taco (specialising in seafood) restaurant. Fish tacos- a few pieces of fried fish with some tortillas and you put your own sauces and condiments on. About 22 pesos for a taco and 25 pesos for an ice cold beer.
- La Panza es Primero, Plaza Flamingos, Cancún Mexico Hotel zone, ☎ . Daily 1PM-midnight. Main courses $12-28.
- restaurante natura, Boulevard Kukulcan km 9.5 (Zona Hotelera), ☎ . 7:30AM-11PM. Natura is the only healthy choice restaurant to be found in the hotel zone of Cancún. Fit for Vegetarians and non vegetarians. Over 20 choices of fresh made juices and salads. Service fast and friendly, very clean place and inexpensive. Highly recommended to anyone looking to eat or enjoy some drinks outside in Cancún.
Cancún's nightlife is unlike any other destination on Earth. For some, a day in Cancún doesn't start until tasks like an 11AM breakfast, nap on the beach, and siesta are arduously completed. This is your place to shine.
The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, but it is not strongly enforced.
The Hotel Zone is a huge venue and gets top entertainers and DJs. Don't be surprised to see Vegas like shows spontaneously erupt while you are sipping your piña colada. These clubs can charge large covers ranging from US $20–60 per person, though the cover can include an open bar.
You may find yourself dancing in a conga line, laughing your cares away and speaking whatever Español you managed to pickup. A must for the first timers, and always good fun for returners also. Coco Bongo's entertainment includes a show, complete with girls swinging from the ceilings.
- Señor Frog's, Hotel Zone. Señor Frog's is a restaurant by day and a dance club by night, and is one of the most popular spots for vacationers to visit. The restaurant opens up for lunch and serves international types of food such as pasta, chicken and pizza as well as Mexican cuisine all day until midnight. A cover charge of five dollars will get you into the party after 8PM and includes a souvenir yard glass which you can then pay to get filled with your drink of choice. One of Señor Frog's famous attractions is the water slide that leads from the club out into the lagoon, just for a little bit of fun. As the evening progresses, Señor Frog's becomes less family friendly and more of a party establishment, waitresses will circulate, offering shots of tequila for a price. Waiters are also very "hands on", if you are not traveling in a family group, expect them to try to touch, hug, or kiss the female members of the party.
- O' Ultra Lounge, Hotel Zone. is a very sleek NYC type club and can take some time getting in and out of, but has had some great acts like "Infected Mushroom" rock the crowd till the wee hours.
- Basic Discotheque Cacun, Hotel Zone. The only night club over the lagoon with an amazing half opened architecture which offers an extraordinary view and the best wet t´shirt and bikini contest of Cancún.
- Dady'O, Hotel Zone (http://goo.gl/maps/KEVu). Dady'O has been known to host some of the world's top DJs, including Red Foo (LMFAO), Apl.De.App and Tiësto, features a casual atmosphere, laser shows, pole dancing go go girls and flashing dance floor opening shows.
- Cocobongo, Hotel Zone. A nightclub featuring a show that has been compared with Las Vegas. More than 50 professionals in scenery.
Also try the clubs at Yaxchilan Avenue, located in downtown Cancún, where all the locals hang out.
- Los 4 Elementos, Hotel Xbalamque (Ave Yaxchilan 31). Try the live music bar Los 4 Elementos. They open and play live music from 11PM until the last customer leaves. The music is great and prices are significantly lower than those found in the hotel zone clubs.
- Pericos Restaurante - cantina, Ave Yaxchilan 61. Be prepared to join the waiters for some fun games. They also play live music until around 9PM. The atmosphere is fun and relaxing, and prices are reasonable (for example 230 pesos for a large delicious plate of fish or shrimp). Their dessert serving is quite a show.
- 77 Sports Bars, Ave Yaxchilan.
- La Taberna, Ave Yaxchilan.
- El Pabilo Cafe, Ave Yaxchilan.
Cancún has a large range of 3-5 star hotels in the "hotel zone" and some more economical hotels in the city center.
Note that several aging resorts located on and around Punta Cancún are now relying upon heavily discounted vacation packages or all-inclusive deals to fill rooms. They market themselves heavily as a great bargain to starving college students as well as working-class and lower middle class tourists, many of whom are going overseas for their first time. The result is that Punta Cancún is jam-packed with people who can barely afford to be on vacation and perpetuate all the "ugly American" bad tourist stereotypes. If you prefer to spend your vacations around people who can handle their liquor and are sensible enough to only yell in real emergencies, it may be worth it to splurge on a newer resort in the central or southern part of the Hotel Zone. Then you can save Punta for a brief day trip, mainly to reassure yourself why you are paying $100 more per day for a much quieter (and more pleasant) experience.
- Hostel Quetzal, Calle Orquideas num 10, ☎ . A great hostel in downtown Cancún. Price includes dinner and breakfast. It is very social with everyone sitting down for dinner together every night. Close to Ave Tulum and ADO bus. They have dorms and private rooms.
- Villa Playa Blanca, Carretera Puerto Juarez-PuntaSam Km 3.8 SM86M4L11 fracciones 1 y 2 (A lado del restaurante Flamingos), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-out: 1PM. 10 min by bus from downtown (buses leaving every 5 minutes for 4,5 pesos). Very quiet and with a nice ambiance. Good rooms and free breakfast in bed every morning. Free wifi, swimming pool and views. Ask for the room "La Palma", it's 400 pesos, but you have more than 50² m of space. Doubles from 350 pesos (A/C).
- Hotel Rivemar, Av Tulum 51, ☎ 01 998 884 1199. In the downtown area near the bus station. 330 pesos for a private, two-bed room for two people. 440 pesos if you want air conditioning. Free wifi Internet. Front desk help is very friendly. You can keep your bags at the hotel even after checking out. You can take the Rt. 1 bus to the hotel/beaches district for 8.5 pesos.
- Temptation Resort and Spa (Temptation Resort Cancún), Blvd Kukulkan Km 3, ☎ , fax: 52+(998) 848 7994, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. 2-3 star with 3 restaurants. Reservations to be made from 10AM-11AM the previous day. Internet is US $15 per 24 hr. Beach front is calm mainly for boat use.
- Avalon Baccara Cancún, Blvd Kukulkan, Zona Hotelera. Small hotel but cozy. Central A/C, cable TV, and free Wi-Fi in the lobby. Swimming pool, and a restaurant that serves tasty food with ocean view. No jacuzzi, but you can use the jacuzzi and swimming pool at their sister hotel, Avalon Grande, that's nearby.
- Parador Hotel, Ave Tulum N°26, SM 5, MZA 5, Lote 1, Col Centro, ☎ . A/C, cableTV, and internet connection. Swimming pool, fitness room/gym, and a restaurant, bar, and café. From 510 pesos.
- Crown Paradise Club - All Inclusive Resort - Cancún, Blvd Kukulkan Km 18.5 | Zona Hotelera. Water park for the kids with a pirate ship and 8 water slides, a la carte and buffet dining, adult only areas, mini golf, disco, nightly entertainment.
- Oasis Cancún, ☎ . Blvd Kukulkan. Resort with a college-aged crowd. The rooms are clean and surprisingly spacious for the price. The pool is generally crowded during peak times but is large and features several swim-up bars. The bad part is that since the Oasis is all-inclusive you basically get what you pay for, the food and drinks are not the best quality. The buffet-style restaurants are bland and the food can get quite repetitive. An exception is the sushi restaurant. All bars also stop serving alcohol at midnight, which is unfortunate, but there is a 24 hr liquor store right across from the resort with prices somewhat expensive for Mexico. They also sell absinthe.
- RIU Cancún, Blvd Kukulcan Km 8.5, Manzana 50, Lote 5, Zona Hotelera. Resort with views of the Caribbean Sea. Several restaurants and bars. Choice of activities and entertainment options, including a sports bar, night club and theatre with theme shows.
- RIU Caribe, Blvd Kukulcan, Km 5.5, Lote 6-C. All inclusive resort with Mayan-style architecture overlooking the Caribbean. 506 sea view rooms with mini-bar and liquor dispenser. Several restaurants, bars and facilities including 24 hr snacks and beverages. Fun and relaxing atmosphere created by the large swimming pool and spectacular beach.
- The Royal Resorts. The Royal Resorts have been around since 1974 and include a string of 4 hotels all in close vicinity of each other. The Royal Mayan, The Royal Caribbean and The Royal Islander are side by side whereas the newest hotel, The Royal Sands, is no more than a five minute ride by bus. The Royal Resorts offer beautiful villas that overlook the Gulf of Mexico. Each villa is equipped with a kitchen, two bathrooms, two bedrooms, one with two double beds, one with a queen sized bed, a living room with two murphy beds, three televisions, one in each room, and a terrace that overlooks the other two hotels as well as the Caribbean Sea. These hotels include free activities such as snorkeling and sailing in the ocean, tennis, and free beach towels. Also on the premises are a number of different restaurants and bars at which the vacationers may dine.
- Soberanis Hotel (In downtown, 3 km to the beach). The rooms are all air-conditioned. They have cable television, a private toilet and bath, and safe. the rooms are further equipped with an IDD telephone, internet access, and a writing desk and chair. Rates include daily breakfast. Non-smoking rooms are available.
- Sotavento Hotel and Yacht Club, Blvd. Kukulcan Km 4 Zona Hotelera, Calle del Pescador, Lote D-8-4, ☎ . In front of Nichupte Laguna and is within walking distance to sandy beaches and downtown area. Internet and cable TV. Non-smoking rooms can be requested. From US $40.
- Soberanis Hotel, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Refurbished with 78 rooms including dorms and private rooms. From US $54.
- CasaMagna Marriott Cancún Resort, Blvd Kukulcan, ☎ , fax: +52 998 881 2085. Completely renovated in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. 418 rooms and 34 suites. Each room has a private balcony with a table and chairs. 3 restaurants on-site, including a steakhouse, a Japanese restaurant and a sports bar. The beach in front of the resort has been restored, as has the pool area. The hotel itself tends to be priced on the higher side for Cancún, but that also tends to weed out the younger crowd. This resort is adjacent to the JW Marriott Cancún and is directly connected to it through a pathway. There are up-charges for almost everything here, and they will try to sell you timeshares.
- Casa Turquesa Boutique Hotel, Blvd Kukulcan KM 13.5, Zona Hotelera (Next to Luxury Shopping Mall), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12noon. 29 suite boutique hotel has amenities including an infinity pool with swim up bar, spa, free WiFi, two restaurants and an onsite art gallery. Suites have 32” flat screen satellite TV, minibar and full bathrooms with separate bathtub and shower. Jacuzzi on the terrace/balcony. Airport transportation can be arranged. Rates depend upon room category/season. $267-2579.
- ClubMed, Punta Nizuc 77500, Estado de Quinatana Roo, ☎ . An all inclusive resort. A short distance outside the town, at the tip of the bay. The Caribbean Sea is on one side and on the other is a lagoon. Club Med was the first to establish itself here around 30 years ago. Traditional central square, bungalow-haciendas and speciality restaurants.
- Dreams Cancún Resort and Spa, Punta Cancún Zona Hotelera (Situated at the shore point known as Punta Cancún), ☎ . Surrounded by the sea on 3 sides. All rooms have private balcony views of the ocean, beaches, lagoon or gardens. Marble floors, dining area, mini-bar, satellite TV and 24 hr room service. Several have private whirlpools. A pod of 6 dolphins is held in the resorts lagoon. Swims with the captive dolphins programs are available for guests and the general public. NOTICE: property closing for rehab/reflag as Hyatt Ziva between Easter-Thanksgiving 2014.
- Temptation Resort Spa Cancún, Km. 3.5 Blvd Kukulcan. Zona Hotelera, ☎ , fax: +52 998 848 7994, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A hip vibe is the hallmark of this beachfront, topless optional hotel.
- Sea Adventure Resort and Waterpark, Km. 1.5 Carretera a Puerto Juarez-Punta Sam, fax: +52 998 848 7994, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Family hotel offers activities for children and events for adults.
- Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancún Resort & Spa, Blvd. Kukulcán km. 9.5, Zona Hotelera, ☎ . AAA 5 Diamond resort has 602 rooms. The hotel is outwardly hostile toward same sex couples. 5 restaurants, one of which is the Le Basilic restaurant is one of only three 5 diamond restaurants found in Mexico. 4 bars, a spa, fitness and business center, a very long swimming pool, and a sun deck.
- Gran Melia Cancún, Kukulcan Blvd, km 16.5 (Zona Hotelera), ☎ . Well known for its white sandy beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea. 4 pools, specialized a la carte restaurants, and activities program for children and adults. 9 hole, par three golf course, a tennis court, 2 paddle tennis courts and has received an award from The Leading Hotels of the World as a Leading Spa of the World.
- Hilton Golf and Spa Resort, Blvd Kukulcan, Km 17, Lote, ☎ , fax: +52 998 881 8093. The only golf & spa resort on the island. 426 ocean-view rooms, including 82 villas with a private lounge and executive services; 5 restaurants, including a gourmet-dining beachside grill and swim up bar; 7 infinity pools and the largest beach in Cancún. If you are having trouble with the local food, try the hotel's club sandwich. NOTE: Property now operated as Iberostar all-inclusive.
- Hyatt Cancún Caribe Resort, Blvd Kukulkan, km 10.5, Zona Hotelera (in the hotel zone), ☎ , e-mail: hyattCancúncaribe@hyattintl.com. 5 star hotel with 296 rooms and views of the Caribbean. NOTE: property no operated as Park Royal Grand Cancun Caribe.
- Hyatt Regency Cancún, Blvd Kukulcan, km 8.5, Zona Hotelera, ☎ , e-mail: sales.hrCancún@hyattintl.com. 5 star hotel with a seafront location. 295 rooms. NOTE: property sold; becoming NH Grand Hotel.
- JW Marriott Cancún Resort, lvd Kukulcan, Km 14.5, Lote (Zona Hotelera), ☎ , fax: +52 998 848 9601. Adjacent to the CasaMagna Marriott Cancún Resort and has a connected pathway. 448 rooms with private balconies and views of the Caribbean. 35,000² ft Mayan-inspired spa., 4 world-class restaurants and over 20,000² ft of meeting space. Caters to Mexico weddings, events and conferences.
- Live Aqua Cancún, Blvd Kukulcan 12.5 km, ☎ . 371 deluxe rooms, including 36 suites. The modern design is stunning. The service is a close second but the rooms are small. 3 restaurants, including one by celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein, 1 by chef Franco Maddalozzo, and a Mexican restaurant. There is also a wine and mescal bar. 8 pools which vary in temperature and 12 spa treatment rooms. The hotel is reserved for adults.
- ME Cancún, Blvd Kukulkan, km. 12 (Zona Hotelera), ☎ . Rooms offer views, custom art and furnishings by artist Yuri Zatarain, monsoon showers and Aveda bath amenities, MP3 player docking and digital, surround-sound theater.
- Omni Cancún Hotel & Villas, Blvd Kukulcan, L-48 KM. 16.5 M.55, ☎ . 5 star resort between the Caribbean and Nichupte Lagoon on Cancún Island. 341 guest rooms and villas with full service spa.
- Paradisus Riveiera Cancún Resort, SM. 11 MZ., 9 Lote 10 Puerot Morelos, ☎ . All inclusive resort stretches along a lush tropical mangrove preserve on a 5,000 ft long Caribbean coastline.
- Riu Palace Las Americas (hotel zone). 372 suites, ocean views, and all-inclusive dining, beverages and entertainment.
- Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita, ☎ . 90 suites, all have balcony/deck with ocean views, daily serving of champagne and fresh fruit, complimentary unlimited calls worldwide, welcome bottle of tequila and handmade beach bag. Hydrothalasoo pool and aqua gym, spa with private massage cabins and jacuzzi, and chauffeured airport transfer. NOTE: this property is located in Puerto Morelos, 20-30 miles south of Cancun. From US $416.
- Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort, KM. 12.5 Blvd Kukulcan, Zona Hotelera, ☎ (52)(998) 891 4200. Resort features villas with washer/dryer, dishwasher, full kitchen, living room, dining room, jetted tub, and free wireless internet. The property has two infinity pools.
You could also try out the growing vacation rental market as well. It's a chance to experience Cancún without having to share close spaces with thousands of tourists. They are an alternative if you are willing to go without the frills of room service or resort commodities.
Most resorts in the hotel zone have a travel agent on site during the daytime to assist you with making reservations around Cancún, including the Mayan ruins. It is often better to book activities through these travel agents as they are employed by the hotel and cannot easily cheat you. Activities are also sold at booths found in the busier areas. Prices for the same activities are cheaper in Cancún town than in the hotel zone.
It is highly recommended that you buy bottled water. Bottled water, depending on size, typically costs 30-50 pesos (US $2.75-4.55). Otherwise, do not drink the water unless your hotel has a water purification system. Most of the resorts in Cancún have purified water at all of the facilities located inside the resorts including the bars and restaurants. The upper-scale restaurants usually have purified water as well, but the water outside of these areas is not safe to drink.
The sun's UV rays are extremely strong in Cancún, even on cloudy days, and will burn any exposed skin on most persons from northern climates within a few minutes. Sunscreens that may be adequate elsewhere may not be sufficient in Cancún.
Because Cancún has powerful waves (see below), do not assume your sunscreen layer will remain intact. Always apply a fresh layer of sunscreen after taking a dip in the ocean.
Expect to be inundated with offers to get free tickets, tours, or other items in exchange for viewing a timeshare presentation while in Cancún. While you will generally be given what is promised for viewing the presentation, expect a very high pressure sales pitch lasting from one to two hours during which you may be given incorrect information or promises that later turn out to be untrue. In particular, despite claims of agencies that can buyback your timeshare, most timeshares are a money-losing proposition for purchasers. As with any major purchase, take the time to research before buying - claims that you must buy something right now should always be treated with skepticism. See also Common scams.
Ocean Currents— The ocean currents in Cancún, depending on the season you visit, can be strong. While the currents may not be strong enough to pull you under, keep your guard up at all times. Look for the coloured flags that are planted on the beach as well as ask your hotel's concierge or a lifeguard (if one is available). As a rule of thumb, if you're not a strong swimmer (or a non-swimmer) it is best to stick to the hotel's pool for water fun. Remember, beaches in Mexico are Federal Zones with no life guards on duty, lifeguards may only be found within the beaches at the hotels.
Weather— Cancún is a place where the weather can change in a matter of minutes rather than hours. As in most tropical places, rain storms will start quickly and leave as quickly as it came. When a storm lingers, use caution in the water; especially when lightning is present.
Timeshare and condos are a big business all over Yucatan, especially Cancún. "Tourist information" is another word for sales representative. If someone is offering you an "free" tour to anyplace or at a discount this means a 90 minute or longer presentation about condos and time-shares. There are 20 reps waiting on the righthand side when you arrive at the Cancún airport. There are also reps in Mexico city attracting tourists with free Xe-Hal and Chichen Ha tours. These timeshare presentations are not always a waste of time. Some of these timeshare presentations offer coupons or other free offers which can total to several thousand dollars of savings during your trip if you are willing to endure the presentation.
Nothing is free- Most important lesson. Someone comes up to you and says you want a shot of tequlia? Come on its fun. This means you have not negotiated the price.
Don't use ATMs out of the banks- There are ATMs all over Cancún. Use only ones that are inside banks or your hotel. Pharmacies, stores, gas stations are to be avoided. You will become a victim of identity theft or you will find big charges for the commission of using them.
The Buddy System- If you plan to have a long night out in the strip, take precautions and have a friend with you at all times (even walking to the bathroom). Unsuspecting tipsy tourists can be easy targets for petty robbery.
- United States, Blvd Kukulcan Km 13 ZH, Torre La Europea, Despacho 301, ☎ , fax: +52 998 883 1373, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 8AM-1PM. This consular agency mainly handles emergency US citizen services, such as passport applications, birth certificates, and notarials. Most services require an appointment. Visa services are not available here, but rather at the consulate in Mérida.
- Chichén Itzá Archaeological Site— The largest Maya archaeological site in Yucatan, Chichen Itza is often visited on a day trip from Cancún, but is rather distant and only a small portion of the site and attractions can be seen this way. If you find the ancient Maya of interest, spend a night at one of the hotels at Chichen so you can avoid having a rushed incomplete visit. You can take a public bus or a private vehicle, about 2 1/2 hours from Cancún by car. Also, close to the site is a cenote, which is a fresh water sinkhole, where you can swim. The Kukulcán Pyramid, one of the most impressive Maya structures and voted one of the World's New Seven Wonders, is now closed off to climbing to preserve it from wear.
- Tulum— The only major Maya archaeological site to overlook the Caribbean Sea is only 128 km (80 mi) south of Cancún. Not one of the larger Maya sites, but the seaside location gives it a beautiful setting. Bus services from Cancún run around 2 hrs and cost 60 pesos. Tulum contains over 60 different structures and is believed to be one of the most important ceremonial sites for the Maya people. This archaeological zone that date back more than 7 centuries show the remains of a huge walled city with roads, homes and businesses by the sea. The major highlight of Tulum is El Castillo which is a large pyramid that sits on a forty-foot cliff. El Castillo is thought to be a part of a series of lighthouses. The architecture is similar to Chichen Itza but on a much smaller scale; unlike Chichen Itza, you are not allowed to go inside or climb on the pyramids.
- Isla Mujeres— A great break from the Cancún tourist traps. This small island is just a 20 minute ferry ride from the hotel zone or from Puerto Juárez Federal Dock, located 5 minutes from downtown Cancún. Rent a scooter to get around the island fast and cheap. There is a beautiful ecological water theme park, Garrafon , with splendid vistas on land and a magical underwater world.
- Cozumel— A very pretty island and the most inhabited in all of Mexico, it is also an important Caribbean port of call. Chankanaab National Park is located here. Well known for its watersport activities such as diving, snorkeling, sailing, boating and fishing.
- Coba— A beautiful site; it was one the largest Maya cities in ancient times, but much is still hidden under lush jungle. It boasts the tallest pyramid of the Yucatan Peninsula, the Nohoch Mul. Muyil boasts a lake surrounded by many Maya constructions.
- Valladolid is a small city dating from the Spanish Colonial era with lots of period local charm, between Cancún and Chichen Itza. The selection of hotels and restaurants makes it a nice base for a night or two; it's a good deal closer to Chichen, and other impressive Maya ruins at Ek Balam are only about 15 minutes north of town.