Cancún has a glitzy hotel zone with its famous white-sand beaches, unabashed party scene and sophisticated seafood restaurants. Then there’s the actual city itself, with neighborhood taco joints and undeveloped beaches.
Tired of raucous discos in the hotel zone? Escape to a downtown salsa club. Tired of lounging around the pool in Ciudad Cancún? Simply hop on a bus and head for the sapphire waters of the hotel zone.
Or even better, venture out and explore more of Quintana Roo state. Just a day trip away from Cancún, the pristine national park of Isla Contoy beckons with a fascinating variety of bird and plant species. Cobá, with its Maya ruins, jungle, and croc-infested lagoon seems like a different world. Even further south, is Bacalar’s lagoon. To learn more about the Yucatan Peninsula go here, or visit the beautiful beaches of the Yucatan peninsula. Enjoy reading everything you need for a Cozumel Travel beach vacation. Now read our Cancun Travel Guide and start planning your beach vacation today.
When to Go (Weather)
Cancun’s location gives it sunny, warm weather throughout most of the year, with temperatures reaching the nineties in the summer, and staying around the eighties the rest of the year. May brings the beginning of the rainy season, with showers and thunderstorms in the evenings all the way through October. Hurricane season usually runs from June to November, and March and April bring a different kind of threat: spring breakers.
Entry & Exit Requirements
You’ll need a passport to visit Mexico, plus a tourism card (FMM) that can be issued at any Mexican consulate, border-crossing point, Mexican tourism office, or directly from your airline. FMMs are usually issued free of charge upon arrival. Be sure to hold onto this card for the duration of your trip, as you will need to present it upon departing the country. It’s also a good idea to leave your passport and FMM in a secure location and carry a photocopy of both documents with you at all times.
Getting Around in Cancún
Cancún has an excellent bus system that motors through the Hotel Zone on Boulevard Kukulcán as well as Avenida Tulum in the downtown area. You can flag down drivers along the strip; once inside the bus, you’ll find the stop-request button located above the handrails. Cancún buses charge a flat rate of 8.5 Mexican pesos per ride. If you’d like to travel in luxury, Bus One is the only air-conditioned bus in the Hotel Zone and costs 11 pesos. There are also regional buses that take tourists to and from Chichén Itzá and nearby tourist towns like Tulum and Playa del Carmen. These buses leave from the downtown area at the intersection of Avenida Tulum and Uxmal.
Taxis aren’t all that expensive, unless you compare it to the cost of taking the bus. The reception desk at your hotel can give you a zone card to determine taxi fare, but you should also negotiate the price with the driver before entering the cab.
You’ll have no trouble walking to the beach from your hotel. Walking is also an option along some parts of Boulevard Kukulcán, particularly if you’re situated around the northern part of the strip (or the curve in Cancún’s “7” shape). But most of the area is too spread out to explore on foot.
You should visit Isla Mujeres at least one day of your trip. To do so, take a ferry from the Punta Sam, Puerto Juarez or Gran Puerto. Ferries from Punta can accommodate personal transportation like bikes and cars.
Cancún has largely avoided the drug violence that has afflicted much of Mexico in the past decade. But while crime against tourists is especially low, the U.S. State Department advises constant vigilance. Your most important safety concern in Cancún is likely to be in the water. Beware of rough surf and only swim when supervised by a lifeguard. White or green beach flags signify safe waters while yellow or orange flags advise caution. If you see a red flag, swimming is prohibited.
Must See Places
Chichén Itzá is a large Mayan archaeological site and one of the most notable and recognized landmarks on the Yucatán. The site itself was originally a main hub of Mayan civilization and has since been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The focal point of the ruins is the pyramid-like El Castillo that was once used by Mayans as a temple for worship.
Despite the island’s sleepy reputation, it hosts a few sites worth checking out. One is the Hacienda Mundaca, the ruined mansion of a 19th-century slave trader named Mundaca. The mysterious death of the house’s owner adds to the colonial estate’s haunting charm. Isla Mujeres also remains popular for its sea turtles, and you can glimpse the creatures at the local tortugranja, or turtle farm.
Widely considered a beach spot for locals, Playa Tortugas is known for its relaxed atmosphere and clean sands. The area also has several open-air restaurants that make for great evening dining.
El Rey Ruins
While they may not have the awe factor of Chichén Itzá, El Rey Ruins have convenience on their side. Located in the heart of the Hotel Zone, these ruins are extremely accessible to visitors, and the site’s small size makes it easy to see in a short time. But for many visitors, the ruins themselves are not the primary attraction: people flock to El Rey to mingle with the hundreds of iguanas that have invaded the former Mayan town.
Things to Do
360 Surf School
Surf Lessons for all ages from N.S.S.I.A Certified Surf Instructors (Cancun Hotel Zone). English and Spanish Spoken. We are by appointment only. To make appointments/Booking write email or call. We also offer a World Class Stand Up Paddle Board Tour trough the Mangroves. We have the largest selection of Board rentals in Cancun. For more information call 52-998-241-6443, or visit them on the web at 360 Surf School.
Scuba Total Cancun
Be a part of an amazing experience. Share their love for the sea, caverns, sharks, turtles, and all the marine life. They will show you the treasures of the Mexican Caribbean: tropical climate, friendly people and the best diving of the world. For more information call 52-998-153-8644, or visit them on the web at Scuba Total Cancun.
Nautical Tours specialized in Boat Rentals varying leisure, sports, fishing, with a Nautik culture, easy to memorize and with a familiar breath of presence, attitude and elegance. For more information call 52-998-147-8454, or visit them on the web at Nautik Adventours.
Enjoy impeccable service, cleanliness, spacious comfort, char-grilled foods and open bar while sailing the Caribbean. Snorkel marine life filled reefs. Jump from a diving board before rinsing with fresh water Or, you can slide down the two story slide into the ocean. That’s Dancer’s floating reef club! For more information call 52-998-849-5809, or visit them on the web at Dancer Cruise.
Best Rated Restaurants
$-Inexpensive $$-Moderate $$$-Pricey $$$$-Ultra High End
$$$$ La Habichuela
La Habichuela has been a fixture in Cancun for over 30 years. You’ll find high quality food made with the finest ingredients and excellent service at La Habichuela. The restaurant’s signature dish is Cocobichuela, a mixture of lobster, shrimp, rice, curry sauce and tropical fruits, all served in a coconut shell. Complete your meal with a delicious Flambé dessert and Mayan coffee. For more information call 52-998-840-6280 (Sunset) or 52-998-884-3158 (Downtown), or visit them on the web at La Habichuela.
$$$$ Le Basilic
Le Basilic is located in the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun. The exquisite French Mediterranean cuisine they serve is prepared by acclaimed Chef Henri Charvet. Everything about Le Basilic is simply the best, from the gourmet cuisine to the service and ambiance. Relaxing piano music played at the perfect volume completes the scene. Le Basilic is only open for dinner. There is a strict dress code and children are not permitted. For the main course, try the beef with black pepper sauce. It literally melts in your mouth. For dessert, don’t miss the creme brulee. For more information call 52-998-881-3200, or visit them on the web at Le Basilic.
$$$$ The Club Grill
Elevated Continental cuisine in a venue that exudes an old world glamour. The Club Grill’s luscious menu blends timeless recipes with locally-sourced ingredients, and artistic presentations in order to deliver a sumptuous gourmet experience. The chef offers a parade of exceptional tastes, by combining the classical decadence of the past and innovative preparations. For more information call 52-998-881-0808, or visit them on the web at The Club Grill.
$$ – $$$ Peter’s Restaurante
This cozy restaurant in downtown Cancun has only been open for a few years, yet it’s one of Cancun’s most popular eateries. The restaurant is staffed by a family, the owner Peter, his wife Claudia and their son Eder. Dishes include shrimp, fish, veal, beef, vegetarian and pasta and a small but good wine list. Prices are considerably lower than they would be for a restaurant of this caliber in the Hotel Zone. You can easily take the bus to Peter’s by getting off at the first stop downtown and walking just a few blocks to their location on Bonampak. For more information call 52-998-251-9310, or visit them on the web at Peter’s Restaurante.
This is one of the most popular nightclubs in Cancun and is located right between The City and Coco Bongo in the Party Zone. Mandala feels like the nicest, most ornate VIP room you’ve ever seen… only it’s an entire club, not a VIP room. The fact that the front of the club is entirely open to the street adds to the ambiance. This is one of Cancun’s hippest and hottest clubs and it’s been extremely popular since it opened. For more information call 52-998-883-3333, or visit them on the web at Mandala.
Coco Bongo is Cancun’s most popular night club. Throughout the evening, a variety of performers put on shows. On any given evening at the club, Beetlejuice makes an appearance, Spiderman flies through the air, acrobats perform high above the crowd and a Michael Jackson impersonator lip-synchs some of MJ’s classic songs. The bartenders and wait staff even take the stage to sing and dance throughout the night. When you feel your feet start to move, don’t bother looking for the dance floor because there isn’t one. People just dance wherever they can find a little space. For more information call 52-998-883-2373, or visit them on the web at Coco Bongo.
It is the biggest club in Cancun and it’s often packed to the brim during Spring Break and in the summer months. The 3-story club often has performances by internationally known artists like Ludacris, Akon, Flo Rida, 50 Cent, Fergi, Snoop Dogg and celebrity DJs. Like Coco Bongo, The City Cancun also has performances by acrobats and other performers during the evening. They play music of all genres on the 1,000,000 sound system and 650 square feet of video screens. For more information call 52-998-883-3313, or visit them on the web at The City.
The inside of the actual club resembles a large cave. There is a dance floor in the center of the room and rows of tables line the walls of the multi-level club. Well-known DJs, celebrities, and bands often perform here, or host special parties. Even though this is one of the oldest clubs in Cancun, there is usually still a long line of people waiting to enter the club. For more information call 52-998-883-3333, or visit them on the web at Palazzo.
Casa Tortugas Boutique Hotel – Top Rated
This is a charming newly renovated property located in the heart of the hotel zone. These Mexican style apartments on the lagoon side offer personalized service and free wifi in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere with the beach across the street. They are nearby to a convenience store, restaurants, public transportation, Starbucks, a pharmacy, malls, nightlife, and a major grocery store. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Casa Tortugas Boutique Hotel.
The Royal Sands – All Inclusive
Live the maximum relaxation and fun for kids and adults in The Royal Sands Resort & Spa All Inclusive. The spacious and beautifully decorated villas, suites and junior suites of this All Inclusive Cancun resort offer the best in comfort and exclusive amenities. Here, you will enjoy delicious food and beverages in the restaurants and snack bars you will find all along the hotel, and have fun with the activities that we have prepared for you and your family. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit The Royal Sands All Inclusive.
Gran Caribe All Inclusive – Panama Jack Resorts Cancun – Family Friendly
With sun-kissed swimming pools and fun daily doings ranging from beachfront yoga to culinary classes and live music, each carefree day promises new adventures and unexpected delights. The young will love Camp Jack’s mini golf and water park, while adults won’t be able to resist the seaside serenity at Aura Spa. Beyond the resort, explore premier golf courses and ancient Mayan sites nearby or kick back in your indulgent accommodations to take in the ocean vistas from the private balcony. When hunger strikes, enticing restaurants and breezy bars serve an array of gourmet grub and cool cocktails to please all palates. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Gran Caribe All Inclusive.
Hyatt Ziva Cancun – Top Rated
Experience the Evolution of All Inclusive luxury, where you are inspired to live in the moment. Find your bliss on white sand beaches, and play in the clear-blue waters of the sea. Relax in luxurious suites with balconies and breathtaking ocean views. Indulge your senses at 8 unique restaurants and 3 lounges, featuring local and international cuisines. If you prefer your tastings in a more spirited form, there are 6 bars on property, including a microbrewery! Spend a day to rejuvenate body and soul at the oceanfront spa, with optional massages, holistic body treatments and a hydrotherapy circuit. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Hyatt Ziva Cancun.
Turquoize at Hyatt Ziva Cancun – Adults Only
Hyatt Ziva Cancun’s Turquoize is like a resort within a resort. It is the new adult-only, all beachfront tower with nearly 700 square feet of inspired design living area PLUS balcony with a private hot tub and seating section. Even the bath offers dazzling ocean views with its unique floor to ceiling glass corner shower. Exclusive private check-in and reception area, exclusive adult only dining, and rooftop infinity pool. Rooms have direct elevator access to spa. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Turquoize at Hyatt Ziva Cancun.