Bordered by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Nichupte Lagoon on the other, Cancun has both stunning sunrises and spectacular sunsets.
The most popular tourist destination in Mexico, Cancun is a world class strip that runs just under 30 km and offers hotels, shopping malls, impressive nightlife, and white sandy beaches.
Yet for too long Cancun has gotten a bad rap. Long looked down upon for the invasion of Spring Breakers each March and April, Cancun is often considered too touristy, too festive, and too Americanized.
To be frank, there is some truth to the stereotypes that Cancun earned itself over the years. However, it would be unfair to reduce Cancun to just one aspect of the town's complex identity.
One thing to remember about Cancun is that it is a young town, established only 40 ago as part of a governmental initiative to foment tourism in the region. Only now is the first generation of kids born in Cancun coming of age. In fact, they are the very ones who are now reshaping the town's identity in tune with their own needs, styles, and their own tastes.
The result is an ever-evolving mix of American/European youth culture and a new generation of hip initiatives, stores, and restaurants.
Cancun's Hotel Zone has over 100 hotels with different amenities and ambiances for everyone.
The bus system here makes it very easy to get around. The 24-hour buses charge just under $1 per person and run up and down the hotel zone and into downtown Cancun (el centro).
If you are staying in the Riviera Maya and just want to head up to Cancun for the day, it is very easy to do. Get the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to Downtown Cancun and then hop on the local buses that run up and down the hotel strip. There are also many tours that offer round-trip transportation so you can head in for your chosen activity.
Cancun Hotel Zone
One thing that distinguishes Cancun from Playa del Carmen is the fact that the town's Hotel Zone is separated from the mainland and downtown area. Unlike Playa, whose bustling 5th Avenue is set just two blocks from the Caribbean Sea, the main tourist area in Cancun is situated along a long stretch of beach surrounded by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Nichupte Lagoon on the other.
Cancun's Hotel Zone is, without a doubt, the heart of the town's tourism industry. The over 13-mile strip is lined with a plethora of major hotels, restaurants, shops, and discotheques.
The best thing about the Hotel Zone, however, are the strip's incredible coastline of white sand beaches and stunning views of the mesmerizing hues of the Caribbean Sea.
Also known as El Centro, unfortunately most tourists don't make it beyond the local Walmart and the nearby Market 28. Nevertheless, it's in downtown Cancun that local culture can be best felt and is thriving.
From the happening Nadar Street close to the Hotel Zone to a variety of different creative spaces strewn throughout the city, Cancun doesn't lack good places to go for a unique experience. Rather, the problem is often times finding out about what's going on in town.
Where to Stay in Cancun
There are no limits to your accommodations options in Cancun. From rustic hostels to five-star resorts, there are enough Cancun hotels to suit basically any travel style.
When looking for a place to stay in Cancun, first decide whether or not you want to stay in the Hotel Zone of downtown. Once that's been decided, your next decision should be based on what type of hotel best suits your needs and budgets.
Here are some of the more popular hotels and resorts in the Hotel Zone of Cancun:
Le Blanc Spa Resort, Nizuc Resort and Spa, Live Aqua Cancun, Hyatt Zilara, Secrets The Vine, and Dreams Sands are all popular resorts located in the Hotel Zone.
Downtown hotels include Fiesta Inn, Hotel Ramada, ibis, and a slew of hostels and AirBnB properties.
Getting from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya
There are many possibilities to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya any day of the week. For more information, please see our airport transfer page.
Things to Do in Cancun
Contrary to popular opinion, there is much more to do in Cancun than simply hanging out at the beach and all-inclusive disco-drinking. Here are some of our top suggestions for the top Cancun activities:
Where to Eat in Cancun
Escape those all-inclusive enclaves and venture out into the heart of Cancun for some truly spectacular cuisine. Once you discover the rich flavors and quality fare found at some of the local eateries, you won't be satisfied with just eating the hotel food.
Here are some of our recommendations for the top Cancun restaurants:
Va Q' Va - A seafood restaurant located far away from the tourist zone, Va Q' Va is hands down one of the most popular restaurants in Cancun. You'll need a taxi to get here, but more importantly one to get back home after you've downed a few micheladas with shrimps skewers.
El Pocito - Yet another off-the-beaten-track gem, El Pocito is a tribute to the delicious flavors of the complex Yucatecan cuisine. You won't find any better this side of Merida. Take a taxi as it too is a bit out of the way.
El Perro Negro - What do you get when you combine some authentic rock-n-roll with some of the best damn pizza around? El Perro Negro. Located in small shopping center a few blocks from Plaza de las Americas, here you'll enjoy craft beers, fanstatic pizza, and a little ear damage from the nearby amps.
Checandole - Checandole is a old-time restaurant serving up traditional Mexican food in the best of ways. With daily specials and a full-service menu of typical Mexican cuisine, Checandole is also close to Market 28, making it a no-brainer if you decide to wander amongst the market hawkers while souvenir shopping.
Mora Mora - This one isn't for everyone. Plus, shhhh. It's also kind of/sort of a secret. With no outside signage apart from a large mural, you'll need to ring the bell (and reserve a spot via Facebook) to get into this happening counterculture restaurant filled with great art and even better vibes. Did we mention the food is delicious?
Pescaditos - Pescaditos is a favorite for locals and tourists alike. With a diverse menu filled of fish and shrimp goodness, plus an awesome bring-you-back-to-life fish soup for those days after one too many drinks, Pescaditos offers great food at reasonable prices all in the most irie of environments.
Marakame - Marakame has great food. They also serve morning and afternoon buffets. However, while their cuisine is wonderful the ambiance and location of this culinary oasis is what truly makes Marakame so special. With outdoor and indoor seating, live music, tasty drinks, and a wonderful staff, Marakame is the perfect spot for a romantic night out.
Mezcalería La Sabina - Similar to Marakame, the Mezcalería La Sabina makes this list more for its cool vibes (and great drinks) than for its food. More than a knock on their fancy fare, however, it's a complement to the atmosphere they've got to keep you groovin' alongside some spectacular mezcal creations at their two locations.