Deciding where to stay in Cancun isn’t always easy, as the region has grown to include a wide assortment of hotels and resorts. From downtown to the resort-filled beaches, choosing the right spot requires a closer look at each district.
Why You Should Visit Cancun in 2023
Cancun is a city on the northeastern corner of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It’s also one of the most well-known destinations for spring breakers and anyone else seeking year-round warm weather and vibrant nightlife.
The city is mostly comprised of two main areas. The downtown area, or El Centro, is like any other major city. It’s a mixture of locals, tourists, and dense commercial areas with shops, restaurants, and office buildings.
Zona Hotelera is the area that most people picture when thinking of Cancun. It’s a strip of land lined with beachside resorts. As the tourist industry in Cancun grew, new commercial developments popped up to the north.
You now have a variety of beachfront districts to choose from. While Cancun is mostly known for its beaches, resorts, and nightclubs, it also offers culture and history.
The area includes ancient ruins, museums, and galleries. The city has plenty to offer for everyone but choosing where to stay in Cancun depends on how you plan on spending your trip.
The 6 Main Parts of Cancun
Cancun has a variety of places to explore, from the beaches to the downtown area. If you’re planning on visiting Cancun, some of the best spots for tourists include:
- Zona Hotelera: Best for nightlife and shopping malls
- El Centro: Best for budget travelers and culture
- Isla Mujeres: Best for luxury travelers and white sands
- Puerto Juarez: Best for families
- Costa Mujeres: Best for fine dining and water activities
- Punta Nizuc: Best quiet beaches and scuba-diving
The Best Areas & Hotels in Cancun
Cancun is the second-largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula, giving you plenty of options for finding the right accommodations. Here’s a closer look at the most recommended places to stay in Cancun.
1. Zona Hotelera
Zona Hotelera, or Hotel Zone, is the area that most people think of when they picture Cancun. It’s a thin strip of land that extends from the port of Cancun and stretches south for several miles.
A single road takes you through the Hotel Zone and past a seemingly endless line of beachfront resorts and hotels. The strip of land is also packed with bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and small shops.
People often stay in Zona Hotelera for the nightlife, but the area also has historic sites. The El Rey Archeological Zone and the San Miguelito Archeological Site both feature Mayan ruins and are within walking distance of the hotels in the Hotel Zone.
The Hotel Zone is the most touristy part of Cancun and perfect for those that want to party. If you’re planning a quiet vacation, consider staying in one of the other districts.
Things to Do
- Check out the Mayan ruins at the El Rey Archeological Zone or the San Miguelito Archeological Site.
- Visit the Punta Cancun Lighthouse and explore the surrounding sandy trails.
- Spend the afternoon browsing the shops at the La Isla Cancun Shopping Village.
- Soak up the sun or splash in the water and one of the many public beaches in the Hotel Zone.
Where to Eat
- Restaurante Mextreme is a lively Mexican restaurant on the northern end of the Hotel Zone.
- La Joya is a large sit-down restaurant with live mariachi music and a menu that includes everything from fine dining to street food.
- Fantino is a classy Mediterranean restaurant with a fancy dining room, seafood, and cocktails.
Zona Hotelera Budget Hotels
- Real Inn Cancun – Budget hotel on the northern section of the Hotel Zone. The rooms are small, but you’re not far from the action.
- La Villa du Golf a Cancun Hotel – Small boutique hotel with comfortable rooms and low prices. The hotel also has a swimming pool.
Zona Hotelera Mid-Range Hotels
- Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla – Four-star accommodations with a pool, casino, and garden. Each room has a seating area and views of the Hotel Zone.
- Beachscape Kin Ha Villas & Suites – Comfortable resort/hotel with a swimming pool and a variety of dining options. Choose from two on-site restaurants and several nearby bars.
Zona Hotelera Luxury Hotels
- Royalton CHIC Cancun – This all-inclusive resort is one of the busiest spots during the tourist season. Enjoy luxurious accommodations in the center of the Hotel Zone and a short walk from the beach.
- Temptation Cancun Resort – If you want to party, this adults-only resort has you covered. From vibrant rooms to an onsite bar, the Temptation Cancun Resort is a lively place with a long list of amenities.
2. El Centro
El Centro is the downtown area of Cancun and the center of work and commerce for many locals. Instead of rows of nightclubs, the downtown area is more diverse. You’ll find large parks, markets, and a mall. However, El Centro still has a vibrant nightlife scene.
From street food to fine dining, downtown Cancun also offers more food options compared to other districts. Foodies should enjoy exploring the various restaurants and food trucks.
Other attractions include movie theaters, outdoor concert venues, and large public plazas surrounded by cafes and small shops. If you want to spend the day shopping, visit Mercado 28, which is a sprawling flea market with everything from t-shirts to handmade goods.
The distance from the beaches is the main drawback to staying in El Centro. Most beaches are too far for a comfortable walk, requiring you to drive or take public transportation. Yet, you also get to avoid the most crowded tourist spots.
Things to Do
- Get lost in the maze of stalls inside Mercado 28, which is the largest market in Cancun.
- Browse the retail stores at the modern Cancun Mall in the northern area of downtown Cancun.
- Visit Parque de las Palapas, which is the main central square in the downtown area and is surrounded by food stalls and small shops.
- Explore the northern end of downtown Cancun while searching for the city’s famous street art murals.
Where to Eat
- Peter’s Restaurante is a dine-in restaurant that offers tasty seafood, steaks, and key lime pie.
- Col Bigolo Ristorante Pizzeria & Shop is an Italian restaurant with pizza and other Italian dishes at great prices.
- Saint-Tropez is a top recommendation for a romantic evening with high-quality Mexican dishes and wine.
- If you want a cheap meal, visit Restaurant Marbella near Puerto Juarez.
El Centro Budget Hotels
- Villa Sofia Holiday Accommodations – Affordable hotel in the center of the downtown area. Vibrant décor and furnishings and a short walk from the shopping mall.
- Hotel Kavia Plus -Spacious accommodations at low prices. The hotel also has a year-round outdoor pool.
El Centro Mid-Range Hotels
- Extended Suites Cancun Cumbres – Comfortable hotel with minimalist interior design options and large rooms. Each room has a kitchenette, a desk, and a seating area.
- Nomads Hotel & Rooftop Pool Cancun – From wooden bunks to wooden furniture, the furnishings give this hotel a modern/rustic look. It also has a rooftop pool with amazing views of the surrounding area.
El Centro Luxury Hotels
- Hotel Plaza Kokai Cancun – A centrally-located hotel with a gorgeous resort, private pools, and highly-rated food and dining on the premises. Just steps from downtown’s finest restaurants and shops.
- Four Points by Sheraton Cancun Centro – This hotel offers spacious rooms with stylish furnishings. Guests can also enjoy an onsite bar, 24-hour front desk, and swimming pool.
3. Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is an island off the coast of Cancun. You can catch a ferry from Punta Sam or Puerto Juarez. It’s a 20-to-30-minute ride across the Caribbean Sea to the island paradise.
Isla Mujeres is a little over four miles long. Most of the hotels and resorts are found in the northern half of the island. The southern half includes a lighthouse and the remains of a Mayan temple.
Due to its distance from the mainland, Isla Mujeres isn’t as crowded as the Hotel Zone. The smaller crowds allow the hotels and resorts to better maintain the surrounding beaches. The white sand beaches on Isla Mujeres are the cleanest in the area.
Staying at Isla Mujeres also offers access to water activities, including snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s one of several popular areas for exploring coral reefs and getting a closer look at sea life. As it’s further from the action in the Hotel Zone, it’s not the top spot for partying.
Things to Do
- Walk the trails and take in the sights at the Punta Sur ecological park, which also includes a lighthouse and several large sculptures.
- View the partially reconstructed Mayan house at Hacienda Mundaca.
- Take photos of the colorful Crayola House found on the eastern side of the island.
- Take the kids to Parque Las Tortugas, which is a large children’s park in the center of the island.
Where to Eat
- Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner surrounded by plant life at the secluded El Chefcito in the middle of the island.
- Lola Valentina is a popular spot on the island that offers Mexican fusion cuisine and live music in the evenings.
- Try the best pizza in Cancun at Rolandi’s Pizzeria, which also offers lasagna, pasta, and other Italian dishes.
Isla Mujeres Budget Hotels
- Casa Barco Hotel Boutique – Quaint little hotel near Norte Beach. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool and a terrace with views of the ocean.
- Casa Azul Maya – Affordable hotel rooms with a fully equipped kitchenette and dining area. Each room has a microwave, fridge, and coffee machine.
Isla Mujeres Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel La Joya Isla Mujeres – Waterfront hotel with a rustic atmosphere and modern accommodations. Some rooms include a private terrace with a sea view.
- Hotel Secreto – Stylish hotel with spacious rooms. Rooms include a view of the courtyard, ocean, or pool.
Isla Mujeres Luxury Hotels
- Puerta al Mar 403 – Located near Pescador Beach, this large property has multiple guest units, each with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Other highlights include a hot tub, full kitchen, and balcony with views of the lake in the center of the island.
- Lotus Beach Hotel – This adults-only hotel has its own swimming pool, bar, and restaurant. It’s also a short walk from the top restaurants and shops on the island.
4. Puerto Juarez
Puerto Juarez is a district on the coast of Cancun, just east of the downtown area. It’s also a short drive from the Hotel Zone to the south and the northern resort districts. The central location of Puerto Juarez is great for those that want to explore the region.
You can easily reach any area of Cancun. Yet, Puerto Juarez also has plenty of reasons to stay put. The area has its own beaches and several commercial areas filled with shops and restaurants.
It’s also one of the more family-friendly areas of Cancun. Children and adults may enjoy a trip to El Meco Archeological Site, which is a short drive north of the district. It’s a collection of ancient Mayan ruins with a pyramid and a large population of iguanas.
Boat tours, kiteboarding rentals, and other water activities are also available in Puerto Juarez. Staying in Puerto Juarez is a good way to avoid the largest crowds, but if you want to visit nightclubs, continue to consider some of the other districts.
Things to Do
- Visit Playa El Nino to spend the day on the beach or in the water at the largest public beach in the district.
- Look for iguanas as you walk around the ancient Mayan ruins at the El Meco Archeological Site.
- Book a boat tour of the Caribbean Sea, as the area includes everything from shark tours to snorkeling tours and glass-bottomed boat rides.
Where to Eat
- Grab dinner and a view of the Caribbean Sea at the Bluewater Grill in Dreams Vista Resort.
- Puerto Santo offers seafood with dine-in, takeout, and delivery options.
- Order authentic Mexican cuisine at The Four Dish Joint in the center of Puerto Juarez.
- Show up early to avoid the crowds at the popular Marbella Fish Market & Raw Bar Grill.
Puerto Juarez Budget Hotels
- Corazon del Pescador – This low-cost location is just one-minute from the beach. The rooms are a little small, but you’re unlikely to find lower prices in the area.
- KABIL Ocean View – Stay in a comfortable budget hotel near the beach. This location also offers a free continental or a la carte breakfast.
Puerto Juarez Mid-Range Hotels
- Casa Namal -This mid-range hotel has budget prices. It’s a short walk to the beach and includes rooms with balconies and city views.
- Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina -Enjoy world-class service at a three-star hotel. It’s next to the marina and the Puerto Cancun Golf Course.
Puerto Juarez Luxury Hotels
- Dreams Vista Cancun Golf & Spa Resort – Golfers may enjoy a stay at this resort. It has an onsite restaurant, a children’s playground, and a golf course.
- SLS Cancun Hotel & Spa – This resort features 45 units with spacious rooms and stylish furnishings. It’s also cheaper compared to luxury hotels in other areas of Cancun.
5. Costa Mujeres
Costa Mujeres is an area north of Puerto Juarez and home to many of the most recent commercial developments in Cancun. Some of the newest hotels and resorts are found on the coast of this district, which tends to cater to affluent travelers.
This is also our absolute favorite part of Cancun.
The prices are a little more expensive in Costa Mujeres, but you’ll also find a wider selection of fine dining establishments and cocktail lounges. The area also has a few high-end shops.
Due to the prices and distance from the Hotel Zone, Costa Mujeres tends to be a little less packed during the busiest tourist seasons. It’s also further from the archeological sites and downtown Cancun.
With smaller crowds, you should have more time to enjoy the amenities and attractions in Costa Mujeres. This district includes an assortment of fun things to see and do, including kiteboarding and snorkeling.
Things to Do
- Swim with the dolphins at the Delphinus Playa Mujeres aquarium in the northern part of Costa Mujeres.
- Book a Cancun food tour to get a taste of the best dining options in Costa Mujeres.
- Play in the water or sand at Playa Amada, which is a beach at the northern end of the district.
- Take a ferry ride from Punta Sam to Isla Mujeres for a fun day trip to the island.
Where to Eat
- Flamingos is one of the best fine dining restaurants in Costa Mujeres, thanks to its tasty seafood and great views of the ocean.
- Restaurante Kukulcan is an affordable seafood restaurant on the beach near Punta Sam.
- Caprichos World Cuisine has a large menu with everything from seafood to burgers.
Costa Mujeres Budget Hotels
- Depa y Auto Punta Sam – Costa Mujeres isn’t an affordable area, but this apartment offers the best prices in the area. It’s just a few miles from the bus station and steps from Mujeres Beach.
- Punta Blanca Beachfront Suites – This hotel has a private beach area, bar, and restaurant. It’s also one of the most affordable hotels in a pricey part of the city.
Costa Mujeres Mid-Range Hotels
- Planet Hollywood Cancun – Enjoy the celebrity treatment at a lavish resort with reasonable prices. With 11 onsite restaurants, you also have a wide range of eating options.
- Riu Palace Costa Mujeres – This all-inclusive resort has everything needed for a fun stay, including onsite restaurants, bars, and a fitness center. It even has an onsite water park.
Costa Mujeres Luxury Hotels
- Estudio Playa Mujeres – This five-star resort is a short walk from the beach and includes a wide range of amenities and facilities, including a water park and evening entertainment.
- Atelier Playa Mujeres – Located just steps from the beach, this all-inclusive resort boasts large rooms, an outdoor pool, and more. It’s a five-star resort with an onsite restaurant that serves Italian and Asian cuisine. We booked a trip here through Costco Travel and it was our best all-inclusive experience yet!
6. Punta Nizuc
The Punta Nizuc coastline is technically part of the Hotel Zone but offers a different atmosphere compared to the resorts found further north. It’s a little less crowded and contains more plant life.
Punta Nizuc is also the southernmost section of Zona Hotelera and a short drive from the airport. It includes a nice selection of resorts and hotels for all budgets, each with access to the surrounding beaches.
No matter where you stay in Punta Nizuc, you can enjoy a variety of water activities. It’s an especially popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. The nearby coral reef is home to manatees, turtles, and many smaller species.
If you don’t want to get in the water, you can take a glass-bottomed boat tour of the reef. Punta Nizuc is a great area of Cancun for those that want quieter beaches and a short drive from the airport. For partying and shopping, try staying further north.
Things to Do
- Get a view of the Cancun coastline from the Punta Playa Delfines beach, which also includes rocky paths and a few interesting attractions.
- Enjoy the secluded Playa del Nizuc public beach on the western side of the district.
- Ride a zip line or splash in the water at Ventura Park, which is a large water park with amusement rides just east of Punta Nizuc.
Where to Eat
- If you want to avoid missing a game, visit the Sports Arena Bar, which has over a dozen large-screen televisions.
- Rio Nizuc is a small seafood restaurant that opens for lunch and is one of the first places you pass on the way into Punta Nizuc.
- If you grow tired of Mexican cuisine, try Indochine, which is a popular Asian restaurant near the beach in Punta Nizuc.
Punta Nizuc Budget Hotels
- Ocean View Apartment – The most affordable place to stay in the Punta Nizuc area is an apartment. It’s one minute from the beach and has a balcony that overlooks the ocean.
- Residence Inn by Marriott Cancun Hotel Zone – It’s not a fancy resort, but this hotel has comfortable rooms at low prices. It’s also a short distance to the nearest beach.
Punta Nizuc Mid-Range Hotels
- The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun – The Westin is a nice resort with a private beach and views of the Caribbean Sea. It also has an onsite restaurant with live music and gorgeous botanical arrangements.
- Royal Solaris Cancun – All-inclusive resort located just south of the archeological sites. It features a variety of fun activities, including water sport equipment rentals, kayaks, and windsurfing.
Punta Nizuc Luxury Hotels
- Nizuc Resort & Spa – Located in a secluded area of Cancun, this luxury resort offers privacy and a variety of amenities, including a private dock. It also features six onsite restaurants.
- Sun Palace – Sun Palace is an all-inclusive beachfront resort. The guest rooms include hot tubs, private balconies, and great views of the ocean.
Where Should You Stay in Cancun?
|🛍️ Best for Shopping||Zona Hotelera|
|💰 Most Budget-Friendly||El Centro|
|🥂 Most Luxurious Area||Isla Mujeres|
|👪 Best for Families||Puerto Juarez|
|🦞 Best Area for Restaurants||Costa Mujeres|
|🤿 Best Area for Water Activities||Punta Nizuc|
Cancun is associated with partying and beaches, but there’s more to explore. The area also has several commercial districts outside of the main Hotel Zone.
Whether you decide to stay on the beach or in downtown Cancun, you should also try to visit some of the local attractions, such as the archeological sites.
No matter where you stay in Cancun, you’re never too far from a beach or a restaurant. Next, choose a spot and book your accommodations to start planning the rest of your trip.