Cancun - Riviera Maya in Mexico

The Ultimate Cancun Travel Guide

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Contents

Discover | Where to stay | Where to eat | How to get around

Should you stay in Cancun?

Cancun has become famous all across the world as one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico. And a quick glimpse at the beaches will tell you exactly why that is!

Those picture-perfect beaches you’ve been dreaming of? Cancun’s beaches aren’t too far from this.

Cancun has over 13 miles of coastline to explore, made up of stunning white-sand beaches perfect for spending the day on. Venture into the turquoise sea and you’ll discover the second largest reef in the world.

Metres from the beach, you’ll find countless luxury resorts offering beach clubs and bars. The perfect oasis to escape all your worries.

There are so many restaurants, bars, clubs and shops all around Cancun that it’s virtually impossible to get through them all.

In a way Cancun has formed its own bubble. It has everything you could possibly need. Exactly the reason why the majority of the travellers spend their entire trip to Mexico in Cancun.

Arial view of Cancun Mexico
Aerial view of Cancun

When the sun sets, the city comes even more alive. Whether you chose to spend your night in one of the high-end restaurants or thriving clubs, Cancun will deliver you an unforgettable night.

Still, we think it would be a shame to spend all your time in Cancun. Mexico has so much more to offer and it would be a big shame if you’ll miss out on this.

Is Cancun for everyone?

Now as perfect as Cancun may seem, it doesn’t feel like the real Mexico. The city has moulded itself around its consumers, making it somewhat feel like an Americanised city.

If you’re travelling around Mexico and want to experience authentic culture, then we wouldn’t recommend staying in Cancun for too long. 1-2 nights is perfect!

Whether you’re staying for one night or a week, make sure to check out our Top Things to Do in Cancun.

Where to stay in Cancun

Hotels in Cancun Mexico
Hotel Zone and Cancun’s beach strip

Cancun is a hectic city that can be slightly overwhelming, so we’ll keep where to stay simple for you!

Effectively, Cancun can be split up into two areas – the Hotel Zone and Downtown. Despite being right next to each other, the difference between the two area’s is pretty vast.

The Hotel Zone is where you’ll find the all-inclusive resorts with beautiful sea views, whilst Downtown is more modest offering a more local vibe.

Here’s a breakdown of the two:

Location #1: The Hotel Zone – tons of beach-front all-inclusive resorts

Hotel zone in Cancun Mexico
Beachfront view in Hotel Zone

The Hotel Zone is the strip of land reaching out into the sea right in front of Downtown Cancun.

Lined with luxury all-inclusive resorts, restaurants, bars, clubs and shops, this strip offers pretty much anything a tourist would need. You basically would never have to leave if you didn’t want to!

The Hotel Zone area is perfect for those looking for a relaxing holiday, whether you’re a couple, with friends or as a family. No matter which hotel you pick, you’ll only be a stone’s throw away from the glorious white-sand beaches that Cancun is so well-known for.

How much is accommodation?

Of course, this premium location comes at a cost. The Hotel Zone is more expensive than Downtown Cancun, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t score a steal. If you book far in advance, you can find some lovely hotels from $40 a night. Or if budget isn’t an issue, it’s easy to splash $200 per night!

Location #2: Downtown Cancun – a more local feel and lower prices

Downtown Cancun Mexico
Downtown Cancun – close to the bus station and a more local vibe

For some people, Cancun’s touristy Hotel Zone is their idea of hell. If this is you, then Downtown Cancun offers a more local feel with local restaurants, markets and local businesses.

If you want to explore the Hotel Zone from downtown though, it’s only a short bus ride away that costs only 12 MXN ($0.60).

Another reason to stay in Downtown Cancun is that you’ll be close to the ADO bus station. If you’re just staying for one night, this makes it easier to get to your next destination in Mexico.

How much is accommodation?

In Downtown Cancun you can get a good deal for the night and be close to the bus station for the next day. The price for a private room in Downtown Cancun starts from $20 per night.

When looking for accommodation in Downtown Cancun, try to pick one around Avenida Tulum or Las Palapas. These are the safest areas.

Where to eat in Cancun

Al pastor tacos in Cancun Mexico
Traditional Al Pastor Tacos with spit grilled pork

Cancun is a city built for tourists. Restaurants and top chefs have flocked to the city to fill the demand that has grown over the years. This means you can find a vast gastronomy scene here.

Think of a cuisine and you’ll find it in Cancun – Thai, Mexican, Indian, Meditteranean – you name it, Cancun will have it.

With so many to choose from, here are some of our favourites:

Lorenzillo’s – delicious seafood eaten on the water

Set on the water in the Hotel Zone, Lorenzillo’s is a bit more upmarket and pricey compared to the two recommendations above.

This is the place to go if you want to try the best lobster in Cancun! They serve it whichever way you want it, and they do it perfectly.

In general the restaurant does seafood really well. Couple this with the romantic atmosphere and stunning views, and you’ve got yourself a night out to remember.

Surfin’ Burrito – huge and cheap burritos, you can’t go wrong

Surfin’ Burrito is a laidback establishment situated in the middle of the Hotel Zone. It’s easy to walk past this place as it’s pretty small with only a few tables, but make sure you don’t!

They don’t just do burritos though, you can help yourself to some ceviche and tacos too. A popular choice is their ‘build-your-own’ burrito where you have to choose the type of wrap, meat and veggies that you want. Plus they’re HUGE!

The Bowl Bar – a slice of healthy heaven in Downtown Cancun

If you’re looking for some healthy food, The Bowl Bar is where you’ll find it in Downtown Cancun.

Anything associated with health, they serve it – smoothie bowls, poke bowls, delicious wraps and sandwiches, plus smoothies brimming with vitamins.

You can take a seat at the front of the cafe and just watch as the world goes past along the main road.

Also read: Top 18 Things to Do in Cancun

How to get around in Cancun

street sign Cancun Mexico
Signs showing the way to Cancun

Cancun is an easy city to move around, especially as there’s only 2 places you will really be moving between – Downtown and The Hotel Zone.

However, the two areas are about 12km apart, so walking will be too long of an option for most people.  Therefore, you’ll mainly find yourself using the local taxis and buses when moving around the areas.

We go into this in more detail below:

By Foot

Cancun Mexico
Man walking around The Hotel Zone

If you’re staying in The Hotel Zone then pretty much everything you need will be within walking distance.

The beach will only be a few minutes away from your accommodation. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in that area too.

There will be distances you won’t want to walk, particularly in the heat. The Hotel Zone to Downtown Cancun and the length of the Hotel Zone strip are both around 12km, well over 2 hour walks!

By Taxi

Taxi in Cancun Mexico
Traditional white taxi in Cancun

There will be plenty of taxis roaming around the streets of Cancun, both in the Downtown area and the Hotel Zone. You can recognise the taxis by their white exterior and turquoise stripe.

Taxis aren’t exactly cheap, especially when you compare them to the price of the bus. They know that they can charge higher prices. A ride from the airport to The Hotel Zone should cost between $40-50. Rides between Downtown and The Hotel Zone cost between $10-15 for the 15-minute drive.

What about Uber?

Uber does operate in Cancun, and is a cheaper option, but there’s a long-running disagreement between the local taxis and Ubers. This can make getting an Uber rather difficult.

There have also been incidents where Ubers have been stopped by the taxis if they see them carrying passengers. Just keep this in mind if you do choose to use Uber.

By Bus

Bus in Cancun Mexico
Bus heading to The Hotel Zone in Cancun

The bus is one of the best ways to get around Cancun. They’re abundant and cheap!

There are 4 buses that run between Downtown Cancun and The Hotel Zone – R1, R2, R15 and R27. You can either flag these down off the street or wait for them to stop outside the pharmacy by the ADO bus station in Downtown.

A 20-minute bus ride should cost you 12 MXN ($0.60). You pay the money to the driver and then just press one of the bells onboard when you want to get off.

By Car

Car in Cancun Mexico
Renting a car can give you the flexibility to drive to nearby towns

If you’re just staying within the confines of Cancun, then a car isn’t really necessary as the bus network should do the job.

However, many tourists choose Cancun as a base to explore some of the attractions in the surrounding area. If you want to visit places like Chichen Itza or take a day trip to Playa del Carmen or Tulum, then a car may be worth it.

Car rental prices start from around $15/day. Don’t forget to check out our article with 10 tips that will help you save money when renting a car.

Do keep in mind that most hotels will have parking fees, so organised tours from Cancun may work out more cost-effective than organizing your own transport.

Also check out the Top Things to Do in Cancun

  Hotel

Our favourite places to stay in Cancun


Estancia Tulbayab 36 - Budget Friendly

If you prefer a homely feel compared to hotels then definitely stay at Estancia. The owners will instantly make you feel welcome and are always there to offer advice.

The homestay offers a very convenient location, close to the local markets and not too far from the ADO bus station. The rooms are clean and spacious, plus a steal for their price. If you fancy doing some cooking whilst in Cancun, you can make use of the communal kitchen.

  • Great location
  • Clean and spacious rooms
  • Helpful and friendly hosts
  • You’ll feel like home

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Yellow Capsule Hotel - Budget Friendly

Looking for a unique sleeping experience? The Yellow Capsule Hotel will definitely give you that. Instead of traditional rooms, you’ll get to sleep in a pod. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the future when you clamber into your bright and spacious pod.

The capsules are clean and include everything you need for a comfy stay, a mirror, outlets, a safe and storage space. When you’re done hangin around in your pod, you can chill at the hotel's terrace and enjoy their free breakfast.

  • Cool capsule sleeping experience
  • Friendly and helpful staff
  • Great location

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Viento Suites - Mid-Range

Viento Suites is somewhat of an escape from the busy and hectic cancun. Once you’re inside the walls of the hotel, chilling in the garden beside the swimming pool, you’ll forget about the outside world.

The location couldn’t be more perfect. It’s situated within Downtown Cancun but also very close to the Hotel Zone and beaches. The rooms look like those from a high-class hotel, but without the extortionate prices.

  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • BBQ facilities
  • Great location
  • Clean and spacious rooms

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Sina Suites - Treating Yourself

Resorts in Cancun can cost you a bomb! Sina Suites gives you that resort-style feel without the high prices. Ever wanted your own private marina in a hotel? Now you probably do, and Sina Suites has one. It also has a large swimming pool set amongst gardens that overlook the lagoon.

You can enjoy a continental breakfast and delicious Mexican food in their poolside restaurant and bar that sits underneath a traditional thatched hut! You’ll also get more than just a room, most suites also offer a kitchenette and balcony.

  • Views overlooking Cancun lagoon
  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Bar and restaurant
  • Great location

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Most popular ways to get to Cancun

Cancun Airport to the City Centre

Cozumel to Cancun

Isla Holbox to Cancun

Merida to Cancun

Mexico City to Cancun

Playa del Carmen to Cancun

Tijuana to Cancun

Tulum to Cancun

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