Cancun is peaceful. Cancun is wild. Cancun is romantic. Depending on where you decide to stay in Cancun, your vacation will have a completely different flavor. That’s why choosing the right area for your hotel is crucial.
I visited Cancun for more than two weeks to discover each neighborhood. In this massive guide, you will find:
- A practical and brief description of each Cancun area.
- A “Who are you” section to quickly decide where you should book your place.
Bring your map, and let’s go.
Decide where to stay in Cancun in 2 min
|For partygoers||Punta Cancun|
|For a relax family trip||Playa Mujeres|
|For saving money||Cancun Downtown|
|For your beach fix||The hotel zone|
|For a romantic trip||Isla Mujeres|
|For fewer crowds||Puerto Morelos|
Plan your trip around Cancun
In 2 months, I’ve spent more than 10,000 USD to test the best activities in the Riviera Maya. Stay with me to quickly decide which experiences you should do and learn how to make the most of your trip.
👉 Don’t hesitate to read our Cancun guide to plan your vacation and not make any more mistakes. You will find all our articles about this destination.
Takeaway for each area of Cancun
Cancun is such a vast seaside resort with many different facets!
Get a quick overview of each area to help you choose where to stay.
8# North Cancun Hotel Zone (including Punta Cancun): Fun
Up to Punta Cancun, the North Hotel Zone (horizontal bar of “7”) has lovely soft sand beaches and shallow, calm waters. The ambiance is relatively peaceful.
From Punta Cancun begins the party zone with its famous clubs and beautiful, crowded beaches with turquoise waters.
The North Hotel zone is close to the city center, restaurants, and shopping malls, and there is easy and regular transportation.
Accommodation is relatively expensive; you can find some good restaurants.
Partying, enjoying a water sport, or lazing on a paradisiac and quiet beach, this two-faced area suits families and party-goers.
Hotels & Resorts:
7# Middle Hotel Zone: Beautiful beaches
A little far from the joyful heart of Cancun, the middle zone is quieter and more suitable for chilling out—looking for a resort without kids?
Its beaches are known to be the most beautiful, but they are exposed to seaweeds, and the sea can be rough.
Families and couples can find accommodations to suit their budgets; several excellent luxury resorts exist.
Gastronomy is honored with several fine restaurants, especially on Nichupté lagoon.
Apart from lazing on a dreamy beach, there is a lot to do in the middle zone, such as water sports and discovering the Mayan culture through archeological sites.
The only way to get around is by bus during the day and by costly taxi at night.
Hotels & Resorts:
- Condo in Ocean Front Hotel Resort
- The Westin Lagunamar
- JW Mariott Cancun Resort & Spa
- Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun
6# South Hotel Zone & Punta Nizuc: Quiet
Far from the hustle and bustle of Cancun, this is the quietest part of the hotel zone, ideal for a romantic or family stay.
Bordered by the beginning of the coral reef, shallow waters bathe superb beaches, exposed to seaweed in season, and almost all privatized by hotels and resorts.
There are few hotels, but they are nicely styled and offer a great view.
You will find a few good restaurants outside the hotels and resorts.
Activities are mainly focused on scuba diving and snorkeling.
The South zone is close to the airport but a bit far from everything; regular buses serve the whole hotel zone; taxis are expensive.
Hotels & Resorts:
5# Cancun Downtown: Affordable
If you want to get a first taste of the Mexican vibe, you should stay in the city center.
The accommodations are mainly suitable for small budgets, backpackers, and groups of buddies. They are much more affordable than in the hotel zone.
You can also easily find good traditional restaurants and great food trucks for cheap.
There’s not much to do except mingle with the locals or chat on a rooftop with other travelers.
There are easy and affordable ways to get around, including taxis; You can party in Punta Cancun or go to the beaches by taking a regular bus to the hotel area.
Avoid walking alone at night in some neighborhoods.
Hotels & Resorts:
4# Puerto Cancun & Puerto Juarez: Modern
Apart from being very close to the ferry terminals for Isla Mujeres, this is not the most exciting area for tourists; the beaches are narrow and not the best.
This area owes its expansion to the recent construction of a huge complex, including a marina, a shopping mall with luxury shops, and a selection of hotels and resorts of all categories for couples and families.
There is not much to do here except some shopping and swimming on one or two public beaches.
A few restaurants cook delicious fish and seafood dishes.
The transport options are not great, except for the ferry to Isla Mujeres or very expensive taxis.
Hotels & Resorts:
3# Playa / Costa Mujeres: All-inclusive paradise
With large domains surrounded by jungle and long white beaches, this is a paradise for a quiet family or romantic getaway.
The shallow waters are well protected from Sargasso.
There are only all-inclusive beachfront resorts with access restricted to guests of varying standards, including luxurious ones; some are huge.
Outside the resorts, which offer a wide range of activities and events and on-site catering, there is nothing to do.
Costa Mujeres is far from everything (10 min from Downtown, 20 min from the hotel zone), with no public transport and expensive taxis.
Hotels & Resorts:
2# South of Cancun (including Puerto Morelos): Fewer tourists
This is the beginning of the Riviera Maya.
Its lovely beaches face the coral reef; they are exposed to the seaweeds.
Puerto Morelos is a tranquil fishing village, ideal for a relaxing stay with family or friends.
In the north, there are large and secluded all-inclusive resorts; some cheap hotels are in downtown Puerto Morelos, but most are on the beach, 10 minutes away.
You can easily eat well for a very affordable price.
Snorkeling, cenote exploration, horseriding, there are many things to keep you busy.
Avoid walking at night between the city center and the beach.
Hotels & Resorts:
1# Isla Mujeres: Paradise island
With its beautiful seaweed-protected beaches and stunning sea views, Isla Mujeres is perfect for a paradise-like stay in the Caribbean.
There is a good choice of hotels and resorts for all types of travelers.
The South and West coasts are quieter than the popular area around the famous Playa Norte.
If you want to eat well, try the good restaurants on the main pedestrian street of the lively town or in the middle of the island.
Exploring, snorkeling, enjoying a bath, you can’t get bored on Isla Mujeres.
Ferries operate regularly with Cancun, and I recommend renting a golf car to move around the island.
Hotels & Resorts:
I tell you what your ideal Areas of Cancun
Tell me who you are or what you want, and I will tell you which Cancun is the best for you!
Where to Stay in Cancun for Couples
Dreaming of a romantic escape with your lover?
Welcome to Cancun!
Long white sand beaches bathed by turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea, fine restaurants, and amazing sunsets, all the panoply is there!
You will find the most beautiful postcard beaches in the middle hotel zone, such as Playa Marlin or Playa Delfines.
The delicious Mexican restaurant Porfirio’s Cancun or the great Italian, Casa Rolandi, will delight your taste buds by the Nichupté lagoon at sunset.
If you want a peaceful place, I recommend a resort in the south hotel zone towards Punta Nizuc.
You can also escape the hotel zone by choosing Puerto Morelos, a small quiet beach town of the Riviera Maya.
Finally, if you want to escape with your lover to a paradise island with one of the most beautiful beaches, Isla Mujeres awaits you.
Where to stay in Cancun for a digital nomad
For you, travel is about enjoying without spending too much money on food and accommodation, meeting people, and keeping in touch with the world through a good internet connection?
Then I advise you to stay in El Centro.
There are much more affordable accommodation offers than in the Cancun Hotel Zone.
The Nomad’s or the Mayan Monkey hostel will be perfect for your budget, and you will exchange your impressions with other travelers on their friendly rooftops.
The city center is full of good food trucks and small local restaurants at reasonable prices. There are great bars, too, such as La Taberna de Los Amigos, frequented mainly by locals.
There are regular public buses, and you can take either the R1 or R2 bus to get to the hotel zone.
Where to stay in Cancun for a foodie
Cancun and the Riviera Maya are relatively new (Cancun was founded in 1970), so their Mexican culinary tradition has yet to be firmly established. Still, you can enjoy your belly if you are a foodie.
Some fine dining restaurants in the middle hotel zone cleverly explore the art of Mexican cuisine; Porfirio’s and Lorenzillo’s on the Nichupté lagoon are worthy representatives.
You will also make great culinary discoveries in downtown Cancun, where there are good affordable traditional restaurants like La Habichuela.
Don’t forget to try the famous tacos in the many food trucks or in the friendly ambiance of Parque Las Palapas, where you can mingle with the locals.
Finally, if you go to Isla Mujeres, you will be able to enjoy some delicious seafood dishes. An octopus concocted at Xcatik should not disappoint you.
Where to stay in Cancun with family
With a great range of family-friendly accommodations, shallow, calm waters, and safe areas, Cancun is a fantastic destination for your traveling tribe if you avoid the spring break rush.
With huge all-inclusive resorts nestled in the jungle and beautiful, quiet beaches, Costa Mujeres is an option away from the hustle and bustle of the hotel zone.
Many of these resorts have a kids club, and some have water parks. Your kids will love the pirate ship and the outdoor swimming pool at Planet Hollywood.
If you want to be closer to El Centro Cancun to eat cheaper and enjoy the most beautiful beaches, choose an all-inclusive resort in the northern part of the hotel zone, west of Punta Cancun, such as the Hyatt Ziva Cancun.
You can also decide to take your little family to Isla Mujeres.
Getting around in this quiet Caribbean paradise is easy, and you will undoubtedly love the sublime Playa Norte and its clear, shallow waters. The nearby Hotel Secreto is a dream come true for a family-friendly vacation.
Best areas to stay in Cancun for Nightlife
Cancun’s reputation as a fun-loving party town is certainly not overplayed.
It appeals to American students for the crazy spring break but also to many Bachelor and Bachelorette candidates.
Several resorts regularly organize great live concerts.
The party life is concentrated around Punta Cancun, with many restaurants, bars, and clubs, such as the famous Coco Bongo, and very lively beaches like Playa Forum.
If you want to have fun without spending too much money, I recommend downtown Cancun. There are excellent bars like Barezzito Puerto Cancun, a trendy nightclub with cool music and fancy light effects.
And nothing forbids you to take public transportation to party in the hotel zone if you want to.
Where to stay in Cancun for 1 night
If you are just passing through, I advise you not to stay too far from Cancun international airport.
If you feel like taking a bath on a beautiful beach of the Caribbean and being quiet even for one evening, choose a hotel in the South of the hotel zone, towards Punta Nizuc.
The luxurious and stylish Sun Palace, with its own private beach and amazing view, should leave you with a good memory.
If you just want to relax and have a drink in some lively bars or eat a Marquesita at Parque Las Palapas, I suggest staying in el Centro.
You’ll find a wide range of options to suit your budget.
Where to stay in Cancun: All-Inclusive fans
If you are a fan of all the amenities offered by all-inclusive resorts, Cancun has a wide range of budgets and ambiance to choose from.
The largest and best all-inclusive resorts are in Playa Mujeres.
The vast properties are calm and covered with palm trees, and the lovely beaches are endless.
Excellence Playa Mujeres is one of the most beautiful complexes.
You can also find up-scaled all-inclusive resorts in the middle hotel zone, but they are smaller.
Two fine options are both adults-only resorts, Le Blanc Spa with its luxury spa complex, and the elegant Live Aqua, just a walking distance from the Cancun underwater museum (MUSA).
You’ll find some luxury hotels when heading down to the south hotel zone and even beyond Punta Nizuc to Puerto Morelos.
And if you look for some lightness, you will find the heavenly swinger resorts “desire here” and “pearl here.”
Where to stay in Cancun for the first time?
If it’s your first time in Cancun, you’re probably excited to see as much as possible without wasting time on transportation.
I suggest you stay in the middle or north hotel zone.
You will enjoy the pristine beaches you dream of, such as Playa Marlin or Playa Delfines while staying close to the restaurants and bars and discovering the famous party vibe of Cancun around Punta Cancun.
Moreover, it will be easy to catch a ferry from the piers of Puerto Juarez or Playa Tortugas to reach the paradise island of Isla Mujeres.
The area of Cancun for a beach lover
Yes, we know that lovers want white sand beaches and pristine waters; well, this is just perfect!
Welcome to the beach paradise, darling!
You can differentiate two types of beaches on both sides of Punta Cancun. Just select the one you want!
To the left are narrow beaches with shallow waters like Playa Caracol. To the right, as you descend the peninsula, you’ll find the most famous and crowded white sand beaches, such as Playa Gaviota Azul and Playa Forum.
The most beautiful postcard beaches are in the middle hotel area with Playa Delfines, but they are less quiet for swimming; there can be waves and currents.
Playa Norte, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world on Isla Mujeres, will also make your lover dream.
However, I advise you to come early in the morning to avoid crowds.
Note that Punta Norte and the west coast of Isla Mujeres are usually well protected from seaweed.
The area of Cancun to live with locals
Do you like to mix with the locals?
Go to downtown Cancun where you’ll enjoy the greatest meetings.
Stroll through the friendly, family atmosphere of Parque las Palapas, listen to Mariachi bands, and taste a good taco or a local specialty like a Marquesita for cheap.
At sunset, you can also join the walkers and joggers on Malecon Tajamar, the pretty promenade that runs alongside the Nichupté lagoon.
If you like the charm and calm of a traditional Mexican fishing village, I recommend Puerto Morelos, which is still well protected from mass tourism.
The Cancun area for a peaceful vacation
Of course, you can spend peaceful holidays in Cancun, you only have to choose the right place and the suitable period.
I advise you to avoid spring break if you don’t want to be invaded by drunken American students, and if you can, avoid Holy Week and the New Year holidays.
For the best spot, it’s simple. Choose a hotel in the South of the Cancun Hotel Zone towards Punta Nizuc; the view is lovely, even if the water is less turquoise.
The South of Isla Mujeres can also be your little paradise.
And if you want even more peace and quiet, go to Puerto Morelos. and, if you’re a snorkeling enthusiast, don’t worry; you’ll find some cool coral reefs.
Where To Stay In Cancun On A Budget
Cancun and the Riviera Maya are not precisely budget-friendly destinations, but you need to know a few good tips to enjoy your stay without breaking the bank.
My first suggestion is to stay in downtown Cancun. The hotels are more affordable; there is excellent local food and street food for cheap.
Public transportation works well, and taxis are cheaper than in the hotel zone.
If you’re dreaming of Isla Mujeres, don’t miss out!
You can rent a bike to get around, and there are plenty of great restaurants in the small town in the middle of the island.
Finally, you will find some interesting hotels and restaurants on Puerto Morelos beach, less popular than the hotel zone or even Playa del Carmen.
However, it’s more challenging to get around from there, but there are colectivos if you want to explore the area.
The Cancun area to mingle with travelers
If you like sharing your travel experiences with other travelers, choose a hostel in downtown Cancun.
Nomads and Mayan Monkey Cancun are two great options at very affordable prices.
Sipping cocktails on their rooftop terrace with other backpackers is a great way to spend the night.
Punta Cancun is another excellent place to meet people.
The nightlife of Cancun concentrates here, so it’s an excellent place to meet adventurers like you.
Moreover, the area is not very wide, and the good bars are all within a short walk from each other; no need to take a taxi.
Where to stay in Cancun
Want to know a little more about each major area of Cancun? Follow the guide!
North Cancun Hotel Zone (including Punta Cancun)
Take your map; we start from the north of the 7.
👀 Atmosphere 4/5
With its shallow waters and narrow beaches reasonably well protected from seaweed, the left side between Puerto Cancun and Punta Cancun is generally quiet and more suitable for families.
From Punta Cancun, the ambiance switches. It’s the festive heart of Cancun, with bars, nightclubs, and beaches where you can dance to wild rhythms.
This is also where you find the famous long public pristine beaches.
This part is noisier and more suitable for friends who want to party.
North hotel zone has the advantage of being quite close to the city center and the piers where ferries leave for Isla Mujeres.
However, apart from a few exceptions, you won’t find super hotels at attractive prices there.
🏠 Best places to stay 3.5/5
- Budget-hotel: With dormitory formulas and a relaxed vibe, you will surely meet some nice people on the friendly Mayan Monkey Cancun rooftop terrace.
- Medium-range hotel: The beach is just a short walk from La Villa du Golf, a quiet hacienda-style boutique hotel with an outdoor pool and family suites.
- Upscale hotel: With its private beach and two beautiful outdoor pools, Intercontinental Presidente Cancun Resort offers excellent amenities in a quiet and comfortable ambiance.
- Resort: An exceptional location on the Punta Cancun strip with dream pools and great facilities, Hyatt Ziva is a must for all-inclusive resorts.
⚽ Nearby activities 3/5
- To discover mangroves
- To escape from mass tourism
You’ll have fun in famous clubs such as Coco Bongo and Mandala if you’re a party animal.
Or, if you prefer to feel the sun while dancing, you’ll love the vibe of beautiful beaches like Playa Chac mool, Playa Forum, Playa Caracol, and Playa Tortugas.
You can also enjoy water sports activities such as paddling or scuba diving.
Go and admire the view from the lighthouse, the emblematic figure of Punta Cancun. Ask nicely for a pass to the Hyatt Ziva Cancun.
Enjoy some great swings on the green at the Pok Ta Pok Golf course, overlooking the Nichupté Lagoon.
Board a kayak and explore the mangroves of Nichupté Lagoon with a professional guide.
Climb to the top of Torre Escenica for a breathtaking view of Cancun; great photos are guaranteed.
🌮 Bars & restaurants 4/5
The reputation of the north Cancun hotel zone is based on its party vibe rather than on the culinary quality of its restaurants.
You come to have fun, less to taste.
But don’t worry; I will give you some good places.
With its discreet look La Bamba “Mex-seafood” will serve you unique typical seafood dishes for very affordable prices. Mojitos are served by the liter.
Charm and delicacy make the Italian Casa Rolandi on the Nichupté lagoon the perfect place for a cozy and romantic dinner at sunset. The prices are well worth the quality.
If you want to eat traditional food and drink cocktails in a lively atmosphere while listening to a live concert, I suggest the Monkey Business Cancun. The prices are correct.
If you want an afternoon in the wild vibe of Cancun’s most vibrant beaches, I suggest Mandala Coco Beach; the music and food are good. You may find it expensive, but remember that you are in the heart of Cancun’s party zone.
🚗 Transportation 5/5
Getting around the North Hotel Zone is easy.
It’s well served by the very cheap R1 and R2 public bus lines.
Punta Cancun is not very wide, you can easily walk from one place to another, and you will even enjoy the shade on your way.
If you want to go to Isla Mujeres, take the ferry; the terminals are very close.
❗ Safety 5/5
Day and night surveillance by police patrols and many cameras make the North Hotel zone the safest part of Cancun.
You are in a very touristy and crowded area, so stay vigilant.
Middle Hotel Zone
Let’s go down a bit along the peninsula.
👀 Atmosphere 4/5
The middle hotel zone is more chill and romantic; lovers will be happy.
The most beautiful white sand beaches hide here. Unfortunately, they are not spared from seaweed during the season and the Caribbean Sea can be rough; respect the flag’s color.
If you’re a gourmet, you’ll be served; some fantastic restaurants here.
The middle hotel zone is reputed to be the most expensive area, even if there are only a few great deals on high-class resorts and luxury hotels.
If you fancy a lively night out, jump in a taxi, it will drive you to Punta Cancun. You’re pretty close.
From the terminal in Playa Caracol, you can take a ferry for a day trip to Isla Mujeres.
If you’re traveling with kids, there’s plenty to keep them busy.
🏠 Best places to stay 4/5
- Budget hotel: The Condo in Ocean Front Hotel Resort, close to la Isla shopping village, enjoys a great beach location. Family suites and a lovely water park make it ideal for families or friends.
- Medium-range hotel: The Westin Lagunamar is an elegant hotel between the sea and the lagoon. With a private beach, studios, and villas with kitchenettes, it’s a great option for families and friends.
- High-end hotel: JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa combines contemporary comfort with high-quality amenities, including a spa, private beach, and 3 beautiful pools. It is perfect for couples or families.
- Resort: Located 200 m from the lovely Playa Marlin, the Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun is a superb adult-only resort focused on well-being, with its luxury spa complex and good cuisine.
⚽ Nearby activities 3.5/5
- 100% fun driving your speed boat
- Many fish on the snorkeling tour
- No snorkeling if the weather is bad.
Shopping addicts will love La Isla Shopping Village, a lively and beautiful open-air mall with a Big Wheel. Enjoy the view of the lagoon at sunset.
Drive a speed boat through the mangroves and snorkel over the reef at Punta Nizuc with your Jungle Boat Tours guide.
Want to see a dream beach? Go to Playa Marlin, Playa San Miguelito or Playa Delfines.
Immortalize your holiday by taking your picture in front of the famous CANCUN letters at Playa Delfines.
Learn about the Mayan culture by visiting a great collection of objects and vestiges at the Museo Maya.
Walk through the lovely Mayan ruins of El Rey and listen to a guide tell you about the history of the Yucatan.
Learn to fly over the sea by taking a Kitesurfing class.
Perfect your swing on a nice Golf course under the watchful eye of a crocodile.
🌮 Bars & restaurants 4/5
Jump in a taxi or bus to Punta Cancun for a wild night out.
If you enjoy fine cuisine, you’ll find some tremendous high-end restaurants, most nicely nestled on the Nichupté Lagoon near Playa San Miguelito.
If you want to enjoy delicious Mexican food in a superb ambiance, go to Porfirio’s Cancun, at sunset. Furthermore, the service is top-notch. You won’t waste your money.
Dons Tacos and Burritos serve great tacos and chicken quesadillas, and you have many choices of sauces. The atmosphere is friendly, and prices are pretty low.
And if you fancy a good piece of beef in front of a show with dancers, pyrotechnics, and a crazy vibe, go to RosaNegra. You may find it expensive, but you should enjoy a great evening.
🚗 Transportation 3.5/5
I don’t recommend walking in the middle zone, there is no shade, and everything is spread out all around; it’s not the best.
However, public buses R1 and R2 pass every 5 minutes.
At night, you might have to take taxis; they are expensive in the hotel zone.
❗ Safety 4.5/5
Like the whole hotel zone, the middle hotel zone is well-patrolled, so it is safe.
Few people walk at night, even less than during the day, so avoid walking along the road in the dark, you’ll be all alone.
South Hotel Zone & Punta Nizuc
We’re now coming to the end of the hotel zone. Are you still following me?
👀 Atmosphere 3.5/5
Close to the airport, the South Hotel zone is far from Cancun downtown and Punta Cancun.
With few hotel and restaurant options, this part of the hotel zone will suit you if you are escaping the hustle and bustle.
The Caribbean waters are beautiful and shallow, but they are exposed to Sargasso during the season.
If you like snorkeling, you’ll find some good spots. The stunning and impressive coral reef begins at Punta Nizuc; it’s great for diving.
The beaches are quiet, but except for Playa Coral, where dogs are welcome, there is no public access, so you will only enjoy the beach of your hotel.
It’s easy to get out of Cancun, but only by private transportation.
🏠 Best places to stay 4/5
- Budget-hotel: A nice location, a modern design, and quality services make The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun a great choice for families and couples.
- High-end hotel: A dream location in a secluded bay of Punta Nizuc, and excellent wellness amenities (spa and cuisine), give the Nizuc Resort & Spa lots of charm and refinement. It’s ideal for couples.
- Resort: Elegant and comfortable all-inclusive resort for adult-only, the Sun Palace offers excellent amenities and facilities such as 3 lovely heated infinity pools.
⚽ Nearby activities 1/5
- Sea turtles, reef, and shipwreck
- Inflatable life jacket & friendly guides
If you travel with your dear pet, take him for a swim at Playa Coral, a lovely little beach specially designed for him.
Diving at the Musa will make you wander among unique stone sculptures colonized by the Caribbean’s underwater fauna and flora.
🌮 Bars & restaurants 1/5
There are few bars and restaurants in the South hotel zone, so I advise you to choose your hotel or resort carefully.
However, I can recommend some good spots to eat.
The Caribbean galleon is beautifully located on the shore of Nichupté Lagoon and serves good quality Mexican food cooked on an open fire in front of you. Prices are affordable.
Great view from Punta Nizuc for La Punta Grill & Lunch, which offers delicious seafood cuisine full of flavors. The atmosphere is amicable, and the service is top-notch. The prices are worth the food quality.
I suggest Rio Nizuc, a popular restaurant that cooks great traditional dishes such as ceviche and guacamole for lunch on a lovely beach. You can also choose the fish of the day, which is always very good.
The price/quality ratio is correct; they only take cash.
🚗 Transportation 2/5
The South Hotel zone is only 10 minutes from the airport, but you only have a few options for moving around.
You are too far from the ADO bus terminal and the ferry docks to Isla Mujeres.
Taking a taxi will quickly get expensive as you are far from everything and forget about walking; it’s too spread out.
However, you can take the R1 and R2 buses that connect to the Cancun hotel zone.
❗ Safety 5/5
The South hotel area is totally safe during the day, and there is nothing to do at night, so you won’t need to walk.
Now, let’s go to El Centro.
👀 Atmosphere 3/5
There are no high-class hotels in downtown Cancun, but there are some good deals for accommodation; in short, it’s perfect for you if you’re on a tight travel budget.
Moreover, prices are much lower than in the hotel zone.
I prefer the area between Carlos Nader Avenue and Bonampark Avenue, as there are more and more good restaurants and hotels.
You’ll feel the Mexican vibe the best in the center, among the locals, although Cancun is not a genuine Mexican city.
You should also know that there is little to do in the city center and you will be far from the beach.
Don’t worry; there is always an ADO station nearby and regular public bus services (R1 and R2) to the hotel zone.
Taxis in the city center are cheaper than in the hotel zone.
🏠 Best places to stay 3/5
- Budget-hotel: Humant – Coliving & Coworking Spaces offers spacious rooms with private patios and shared spaces (terrace, lounge, and kitchen) perfect to meet other adventurers. Teleworkers and geeks will appreciate the free wifi in the friendly business center.
- Mid-range hotel: With its pretty, colorful, and cozy hacienda look nestled around a garden and a pool, The Quetzal is great for couples or solo travelers. You’ll love the delicious breakfast that’s included.
- House to rent: This comfortable big house to rent, with a patio and pool, has a spacious, contemporary interior, fully equipped. It’s ideal for a large family or a group of friends.
⚽ Nearby activities 1.5/5
At night, enjoy a stroll through the locals and artisanal stalls at Parque Las Palapas and eat tacos in a family-friendly atmosphere.
For your souvenirs to bring back, go to the Mercado 28 de noviembre, a colorful flea market with lots of shops.
If you’re a foodie, take a street food tour to discover traditional Mexican cuisine with your guide. One stop, one taste!
If you need some exercise in a lovely, wooded, and peaceful place, go for a trot on the paths of the Kabah Ecological Park.
For a relaxing early morning walk, mingle with locals and joggers on the lovely Malecon Tajamar promenade that borders the Nichupté Lagoon.
- Discover authentic Mexican food and its history.
- Real local life, urban art & local market
- Transportation included
🌮 Bars & restaurants 4/5
For nightlife, El Centro lacks great clubs, but there is a good choice of cool bars.
There are also many excellent street food stalls with very low prices; no excuse not to arrange your own street food tour.
Enjoy delicious cocktails for very affordable prices and great music in the relaxing ambiance of The Tiki Mug.
Climb up to the rooftop of the MUMMA Rooftop Bar for a tasty dinner while admiring the view, and end your evening with a few rounds of billiards with your buddies. Service is great, and prices are reasonable.
For a delicious taco, mingle with customers at the friendly Porky’s Junior, one of Cancun’s best street food trucks Downtown. Great prices!
Hungry for lunch? Go to El POLILLA; generous and good tacos carnitas should satisfy your appetite. The service is super fast and good; the prices are really affordable.
At La Habichuela, you’ll discover authentic Mexican cuisine, nicely served in a lovely environment. The prices are high, and the service is slow, but it’s worth it.
🚗 Transportation 4/5
El Centro is big; think about that when you choose your hotel.
But public transport is well organized if you stay around Parque de las Palapas. You’ll be near the ADO bus terminal to travel around the Riviera Maya.
To go to the beaches of the Cancun hotel zone, you must wait for a bus on lines R1 or R2 on Avenida Tulum; they are regular.
Note that taxis are much cheaper in El Centro than in the hotel zone.
❗ Safety 3.5/5
El Centro is relatively safe.
No worries during the day; just take the usual precautions against pickpockets in tourist spots.
I advise you to avoid walking in the streets late at night, especially in deserted areas.
Avoid north of Carr. Costera del Golfo; the people there are a bit scary looking.
Puerto Cancun & Puerto Juarez
Let’s leave downtown Cancun and return to the seaside to explore the port area.
👀 Atmosphere 2/5
This area is less attractive for tourists, apart from being close to the ferries that operate to and from Isla Mujeres.
The beaches are narrow and not the best, the water is shallow, and many boats pass by, so it’s not great for swimming.
Puerto Juarez, near El Centro, is the city’s original location before the foundation of Cancun.
There is not much choice of hotels.
Its pier for Isla Mujeres has the most ferry traffic.
The tourist flow has increased since the recent construction of Puerto Cancun, a huge, luxurious waterfront complex with wide tree-lined avenues, a marina, a shopping mall, an IMAX theater, a golf course, hotels, and condominiums.
🏠 Best places to stay 3/5
- Mid-range hotel: In the heart of Puerto Cancun’s marina, just steps away from the mall’s shops and restaurants, the Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina, with its modern amenities and spacious rooms, is an excellent option for couples.
- Upscale hotel: With its private beach and marina, beautiful swimming pool, and a delicious Argentinian restaurant with Japanese influences, SLS Cancun Hotel & Spa is an acceptable option for couples looking for a stay full of elegance and attention.
- Resort: With its light and airy architecture, superb pool, and private beach, the all-inclusive Dreams Vista Cancun Golf & Spa Resort offers quality amenities for couples and families (4 pers. max).
⚽ Nearby activities 0.5/5
To get a little insight into the Mayan culture, walk through the ruins of El Meco Archeological Site. It’s small but interesting, it’s not very crowded, and you’ll see iguanas.
If you want to stare at fancy shops or eat in a good and expensive restaurant, go to the lively and chic ambiance of Centro Comercial Marina Puerto Cancun.
Cool off in the calm waters of Playa Las Perlas or Playa El Niño, two small nice public beaches with a family atmosphere.
🌮 Bars & restaurants 2.5/5
You can enjoy great fish and seafood in Puerto Juarez.
I recommend the Marbella Fish Market. It doesn’t look fancy, but everything is fresh, and the view is superb. They can prepare the fish of the day as you wish. The prices are reasonable.
Another place is the Kiosco Verde, which cooks delicious seafood specialties, such as octopus or ceviche, in a lovely environment. Prices are reasonable too.
If you are in the mood for cosmopolitan cuisine, you will find what you are looking for in the mall of Puerto Cancun.
🚗 Transportation 0/5
All other transportation is complicated except for taking a ferry to Isla Mujeres.
The public buses R1 and R2 don’t run and walking here is not really pleasant.
You can try to get a colectivo from Puerto Juarez to El Centro, but it’s not easy, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
You still have the option of taxis, but they are expensive.
❗ Safety 4.5/5
You will feel safe in this area; just avoid walking alone at night.
Playa / Costa Mujeres
We go up north to get away from the hotel zone.
👀 Atmosphere 4/5
Costa Mujeres is a haven of tranquility between the jungle and beautiful, large, white sand beaches with no crowds and shallow waters.
They are not as turquoise as in the hotel zone, but the proximity of Isla Mujeres protects them quite well from seaweed.
There are no hotels but only all-inclusive resorts, mainly for couples or families, relatively expensive, and most of them are pretty huge.
Here you will be far away from the lively life of the Riviera Maya, but don’t worry; many resorts organize night events.
In short, if you just want a peaceful stay in a dreamy place while enjoying your super resort, you are in the right place.
🏠 Best places to stay 4.5/5
There are only resorts.
If you want to relax with your lover in a refined and intimate atmosphere, I suggest the Beloved Playa Mujeres, a couple-only all-inclusive resort.
With its facilities for kids, the Finest Playa Mujeres is a great all-inclusive, elegant, and modern resort, ideal for a family stay.
If you want a stylish and comfy room, you’ll love the design and the noble materials of the Atelier Playa Mujeres. It is perfect for a couple’s stay.
You’ll move around with your lover with a cart in the Adult-only TRS Coral Hotel, a vast and comfortable all-inclusive resort. You will be well cared for by the staff.
⚽ Nearby activities 1/5
To have fun, just choose among the activities of your resort.
If you want to escape for a while, go to Isla Blanca, a beautiful and quiet white sand beach surrounded by water.
Access to the beach is via a dusty, chaotic road; you’ll need to rent a car to get there.
Golf addicts can enjoy a few swings on the beautiful green of the Playa Mujeres Golf Club. Its access is free of charge if you’re a guest of Atelier Playa Mujeres.
🌮 Bars & restaurants 0/5
You will find all you need to eat and drink at your resort.
🚗 Transportation 0/5
Costa Mujeres is a secluded area. You are far from the airport, el Centro, and the lively Cancun hotel zone.
The zone is not served by any public bus, and taxis are expensive.
❗ Safety 5/5
All-inclusive resorts are secure complexes where only guests are allowed to enter.
South of Cancun (including Puerto Morelos)
Now we jump further south of the hotel zone.
👀 Atmosphere 3.5/5
This area, located in the Riviera Maya, faces the beginning of the Mesoamerican barrier reef.
It’s a nice coast to swim on, but the lovely white sand beaches are not spared from seaweed.
Between Cancun and Puerto Morelos, there are even bigger and more expensive resorts than in Playa Mujeres. Some are very beautiful but very isolated.
If you prefer hotels, you should stick to the beach town, with quieter and more affordable accommodations.
It’s divided into two parts: The city center with a few hotels and cheap restaurants and the beach, small and quiet, 10 minutes drive away. Here you will find a few hotels, resorts, and restaurants.
There is little to do, so it’s not a good option if you’re a backpacker.
🏠 Best places to stay 3.5/5
- Mid-range hotel: I suggest Hotel Amar Inn, a colorful hotel in a garden 30 m from the beach with a cool atmosphere. With its family rooms, it is suitable for both couples and tribes.
- Apartments: With fully equipped flats, Casa Sonoma combines comfort and quietness. You and your lover can use the bikes to go to the beach or the nearby Puerto Morelos center.
- Resort: Whether traveling as a couple, with your family or friends, the Grand Residence Riviera Cancun, south of Puerto Morelos, is an all-inclusive option with great amenities in classic decoration.
⚽ Nearby activities 4/5
- Fun activities
- Not peaceful
Explore fascinating and mythic cenotes along the famous Ruta de los Cenotes.
Go for a peaceful stroll through the shady paths of the Botanical Garden, where you’ll meet iguanas and maybe monkeys.
Discover the underwater fauna and flora of the Caribbean on a Snorkeling tour to the reef with a guide.
Want to ride in the jungle before diving in a cenote? Saddle up your horse for Horseback riding.
If you’re a foodie, enjoy a Street food tour in Puerto Morelos; your guide will tell you about Mexican culture during your tasting.
And if you love cooking, Join a Cooking class to learn how to prepare an authentic Mexican meal in the lovely surroundings of a renowned cooking school.
🌮 Bars & restaurants 4/5
You will find several good restaurants in this area, especially with seafood specialties, at great prices. However, you won’t be able to go out after 10 pm.
If you want to taste good Mexican specialties, I recommend the friendly ambiance of the Blue Morelos by the sea. They also serve some good cocktails, like Margaritas.
Amor y Paz is a very good value for money. It’s a small restaurant near the beach offering delicious and generous Mexican food. They do not sell alcohol.
If you want to grab a bite to eat and drink a good cocktail or a craft beer with friends while listening to live music, I recommend the Micheladas del Semaforo, a cool and cheap bar in Puerto Morelos.
The Eneida Cafe hides in a small street in town. It serves good breakfasts and brunches in a peaceful and lovely shady garden.
🚗 Transportation 1/5
You will arrive in Puerto Morelos by colectivo or with an ADO bus that will drop you off in the center of Puerto Morelos.
If your hotel is in Puerto Morelos Beach, you can walk around easily; it’s small. There are also a few taxis.
The trip between the city center and the beach is cheap and easy by day; you can also ride a bike if you have one. At night it’s more challenging to get a cab.
If your resort is on the coast, you will be isolated; you will have to take a costly taxi if you want to move.
❗ Safety 4/5
There are no security problems in the resorts, as access is controlled.
I felt safe both in Puerto Morelos Beach and in Puerto Morelos town.
As I said, walking or biking at night between the beach and the town is not top-notch.
We leave the mainland, and we go to an island.
👀 Atmosphere 5/5
If you want to experience the vibe of a Caribbean island paradise, come to Isla Mujeres.
It is crowded in the high season, but most visitors only come for the day; it recovers its calm in the evening.
There are many hotels and apartments to rent, but only a few all-inclusive resorts.
On the side facing Cancun, the beaches are gorgeous and well-protected from seaweed all year round.
The island is small and easy to visit—only 25 min away by ferry from Cancun.
Bars and restaurants are concentrated in the island’s northern part around the famous Playa Norte. You’ll find a lively pedestrian street full of restaurants and boutiques.
The South of the island is the wildest and quietest part.
🏠 Best places to stay 4/5
- Hostel: With its pretty little oasis-like atmosphere in the South of the island, the Nomads hotel offers several room and dormitory options for backpackers or small-budget travelers who exchange with other travelers.
- Mid-range hotel: Located on the west coast of the island, close to Garrafon, a great diving spot, Hotel La Joya Isla Mujeres, with a superb sea view, is perfect for a cozy stay with your lover.
- Upscale hotel: Ideal for a romantic holiday, Hotel Secreto offers spacious suites with a private terrace opening onto a stunning sea view. Close to Playa Norte, it preserves tranquility in a stylish and refined design.
- Resort: Zoetry Villa Rolandi is an exquisite boutique hotel south of Isla Mujeres. It proposes all-inclusive high-quality amenities that will suit couples.
⚽ Nearby activities 4/5
- The perfect way to see the island
- Great drinks, delicious snacks & history.
- It is fun & cultural
In the South of the islands, you will find nice spots for snorkeling from the beach, like Garrafon de Castilla, and friendly beach clubs like Kin Ha Isla.
For a relaxing moment between snorkeling and a hammock nap or a zip line tour, go to Garrafon park. But don’t go swimming with the dolphins, please!
Don’t forget to admire the fantastic view from the cliffs of Punta Sur.
Go to Playa Norte, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, in the early morning to avoid crowds or at sunset.
Remember your stay on the island by taking a picture of yourself behind Isla Mujeres letters.
Explore the town and discover the many stunning graffiti inspired by Mexican culture.
Enjoy a funny Golf Cart Bar Crawl around the island, moving from offbeat bar to another to enjoy local beers and Mezcal.
🌮 Bars & restaurants 5/5
Avoid the tourist traps north of the island; you’ll find many cheaper restaurants and bars in the island’s center. The atmosphere is lively and more relaxed than in Cancun.
Go and watch the sunset while sipping a beer from a great spot, and then find a cool place in town with good live music.
Note that the beach clubs close at 8.00 pm.
Whether you prefer ribeye or lobster, you’ll love Limon Restaurant, a small restaurant hiding a pretty courtyard behind a facade that is not very attractive. The food is tasty and copious. Maybe a bit expensive, but worth it.
At Fuego de Mar, you can enjoy excellent seafood dishes in a charming and intimate ambiance for reasonable prices. For sure, you won’t be able to resist one of their delicious desserts.
Enjoy a sublime and generous Italian ice cream at paradICE-CREAM, where the Roman owner will propose a wide range of flavors.
Before you leave to explore the island, have a great Mexican breakfast at Q’Bravo. Don’t be too late; the little restaurant fills up quickly. The prices are good.
Go to EL PATIO CASA DE LA MUSICA for a delicious mojito and tacos while listening to good music. The atmosphere is super cool, and the prices are great.
Sip a cocktail while enjoying the beautiful sea view at sunset at Coco Snack Beach Bar. I don’t recommend eating there.
🚗 Transportation 5/5
There are ferries to Isla Mujeres every hour from Cancun.
You can take a taxi on the island, the prices are pretty reasonable, or use public buses, they are cheap.
If you’re sporty, rent a bike.
For me, the best option is the golf cart. It’s super fun, and you’re free to go wherever you want, whenever you want.
❗ Safety 5/5
I always felt totally safe on Isla Mujeres. Just watch your stuff at the beach; there are many people.
FAQs About Cancun’s areas
The answers to the questions you’re asking yourself before choosing where to stay.
Where to stay outside of Cancun
Outside of Cancun, you can stay in Isla Mujeres to relax on an idyllic island in the Caribbean Sea.
Or choose Puerto Morelos, a small seaside town where you can enjoy quiet and cheaper holidays.
What is the prettiest part of Cancun?
The prettiest parts of Cancun are the Middle Hotel Zone, with its beautiful white sand beaches, the South Hotel Zone, where nature is more well preserved, and the southern part of Isla Mujeres, which keeps its wild side.
Where not to stay in Cancun
The areas to avoid in Cancun are a few places in el Centro, especially in the northern neighborhoods. Anyway, you should stay near Avenida Tulum, or you will be far from everything.
What is the safest area of Cancun?
The safest part of Cancun is Costa Mujeres. There are only all-inclusive resorts, and access to the private areas is only for guests.
Is it better to stay in the Hotel Zone or downtown Cancun?
If you can afford it, staying in the Hotel Zone is better than living in downtown Cancun.
You are close to the famous white sand beaches and the nightlife scene of Cancun if you want to party. There is a broader choice of accommodation, restaurants, or bars.
Is the Hotel Zone in Cancun worth it?
The Hotel Zone in Cancun is worth it if you plan to spend most of your holidays on the beach doing nothing but drinking, eating, and possibly dancing with the party-goers in the busy, loud spots.
Cancun Areas To Visit
Places to visit in Cancun are :
+ Cancun Downtown to get a glimpse of the local life and eat some great street food.
+ Punta Cancun to enjoy beautiful public beaches such as Chac Mool Beach or Playa Caracol and dance all night.
+ Nichupté lagoon to discover a small haven of preserved tranquility with a beautiful mangrove and admire stunning sunsets.
Should I Stay In Cancun Or Riviera Maya
Choose to stay in Cancun if you want to enjoy a medium-sized resort on dreamy beaches and remain close to the lively restaurants and clubs.
Or choose the Riviera Maya if you want more tranquility and plan some day trips to the Yucatan, to explore Mayan archaeological sites or cenotes.
Should I Stay In Cancun Or Playa Del Carmen
You should stay in Cancun if you are traveling with your family; there's more choice of hotels and resorts than in Playa del Carmen.
On the other hand, Playa del Carmen is small, it's easier to get out, and there are more activities and tours to do in the area, like visiting ancient Mayan ruins or exploring cenotes.
If you're a beach fan, it's best to go to Cancun, as the coast is more protected from seaweed.
Should I Stay In Cancun Or Tulum
Choosing between Cancun and Tulum depends on what you are looking for; both have very different atmospheres.
Cancun is great if you want to enjoy a white sand beach vacation, party vibes, and the facilities of all-inclusive hotels with your lover, family, or friends.
If you're a traveler looking for a boho-healthy-barefoot-luxury vibe in beautiful beachfront boutique hotels, then you'd better choose Tulum.
Should I Stay In Cancun Or Isla Mujeres
I suggest you choose Isla Mujeres instead of Cancun for a cheaper and more relaxing stay. Furthermore, you will be less bothered by seaweed. You will have fewer choices in terms of resorts, but the atmosphere is very calm on the island, and the beaches are superb, especially when most tourists take the ferry back to Cancun in the evening.
Should I Stay In Cancun Or Cozumel
If you want to snorkel on a beautiful coral reef and ensure you won't get seaweed at any time of the year, choose Cozumel Island.
There are fewer choices of resorts than in Cancun, and it's more expensive, but it's also a great spot if you want a more Mexican and relaxing vibe.
Personally, I prefer Cozumel to Cancun.
More information about Cancun
You don’t want to come to Cancun without reading this: