Updated: January 24, 2018
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Cancun Hotels – Tips and Advice
- The absolute best hotels are Nizuc (most luxurious), Le Blanc (best adults-only), The Grand at Moon Palace (best family all-inclusive), and Ritz-Carlton (best family European-plan, best culinary experiences).
- The best areas for travelers in Cancun are Playa Mujeres (newest resorts on pristine beaches), Riviera Cancun (great beaches, family attractions, and cenotes just south of Cancun), and the Hotel Zone. The Hotel Zone is shaped like a number 7, running the length of Boulevard Kukulkan, and is divided into three areas: North (softest sand and gentlest surf, near nightlife), Middle (great beaches, near nightlife and aquatic activities), and South (quietest beaches, furthest from the nightlife and bars).
- Most activities, attractions, and tour operators in Cancun are located in the Hotel Zone. The best way to get around within the Hotel Zone or to get into Downtown from there is by bus. There are two bus lines serving the Hotel Zone, the R-1 and the R-2, both with buses running every 1-2 minutes all day every day. Bus stops along the main drag are abundant and clearly marked. To catch a bus, simply flag it down from the bus stop. Bus fare is 12 pesos (about $0.60 USD). Passengers are issued tickets for proof of purchase in the odd chance of inspection, but the tickets cannot be used to transfer to another bus. If you exit one bus and catch another, you must purchase an additional ticket. Bus drivers carry change for those paying in pesos. Passengers may also pay in US dollars, but the rate is higher at $1 per person, rather than $0.60, and no change is given. Bus stops do not have names, and are not announced. Keep an eye out for your destination, or follow along on your phone’s GPS. To request a stop, move to the rear of the bus and press the red button near the exit or simply shout “Alto!”
- Uber operates out of Cancun, and it is not illegal, despite all the warnings you’ll see painted on taxi cab windows. Aside from busing, Uber is by far the cheapest way to get around; unlike in Cancun taxis, rates are based on mileage and time. Uber is creating serious competition in the area, and the taxi union is not having it. There have been multiple incidents of taxi drivers violently attacking Uber drivers, so Uber drivers are understandably very cautious. To hire an Uber in Cancun, there are a few rules to follow to keep the process safe for the driver. First, move to an area where there are no taxis in sight, then call your ride on the app; if you are surrounded by taxis when the driver arrives, they will cancel the ride. Once your car is on its way, stop looking at your phone; only check it occasionally in case the driver calls or texts you. When the car arrives, greet your driver by name. Treat them like an old friend; at least one person from your group needs to sit in the front passenger seat. The driver may request a high five or a hug; oblige them. It needs to look like your buddy is giving you a lift. At the end of the ride, if you choose to tip, be discreet and don’t flash your cash.
- If you prefer to take a taxi, you will find them waiting in front of every resort, attraction, and shopping center along the Hotel Zone. Taxis in Cancun do not use meters; the charged rate is entirely up to the driver, and always too high. The Cancun Hotel Zone is the most expensive place to catch a taxi to or from in all of Mexico. Always settle on a price before you get in the taxi, and do not hesitate to haggle. Tipping is not customary for taxis, unless the driver helps you with your luggage. Pay in pesos whenever possible. Though drivers accept US dollars, rates are much lower if you pay in pesos, as drivers do not use a currency converter and will just make up a number that is always higher than the exchange rate. One way to save a little cash for a downtown trip is to take the bus from the hotel into downtown, then hail a taxi to your final destination. (You can do the same thing on the way back.) Taxi rates in Downtown are typically much lower than in the Hotel Zone, and you can easily save $10-$15 each way ($20-$30 round trip) by taking the bus partway.
- Finally, if you opt to rent a car to explore on your own, you’ll find that driving is very easy. Rules of the road are similar to the U.S. Highways are well-maintained, and streets are well-mapped and easy to follow via GPS. Two things that are different are topes and left turns. Topes (pronounced TOH-pays) are speed bumps, but there are no regulations on their height, steepness, or visibility; some are nearly impossible to see until it’s too late! Drive slowly in downtown, and keep an eye out for these. Standard left turns are usually OK in downtown but not on highways. To make a left, drivers will often need to use a retorno, which is a U-turn overpass. To use a retorno, drive past the road you want to make a left onto, get into the far right lane to take the retorno exit, make the left onto the overpass, and finally merge with traffic going the opposite direction. You can then make a right at the desired street or destination.
The 30 Best Luxury Hotels in Cancun
1. Nizuc Resort and Spa – South Hotel Zone
The most stylish resort in Cancun, Nizuc features five pools, sumptuous dining, and a Maya-inspired hydrotherapy spa. Rooms, suites, and villas are all generously-sized with private balconies; some add outdoor showers, soaking tubs, or private plunge pools. Ocean Junior Suites are adults-only (there’s also an adults-only pool and restaurant). Dining and drinks are top tier, with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and a wide range of cuisines from contemporary Mexican to Mediterranean to pan-Asian. La Havana features cigars hand-rolled onsite and paired with Caribbean rums. The kids’ club is well-loved with a caring staff, crafts, activities, beach toys, and its own pool. Located on Nizuc Beach, the quietest beach at the tail end of the Hotel Zone, with tame water, white sand, and a reef filled with colorful fish, perfect for first-time snorkelers.
Hotel phone: +52 998 891 5700
2. Le Blanc Spa Resort – Middle Hotel Zone
Wellness-focused, adults-only, all-inclusive Le Blanc offers three pools, indulgent suites, and exceptional dining. Its grand spa showcases a comprehensive hydrotherapy circuit (free for all guests), couples packages, and holistic body treatments. The relaxation theme continues with double whirlpool tubs, aromatherapy, pillow menus, and butler service included in all rooms and suites. Restaurants are truly superb with fine and casual dining spotlighting a variety of world cuisines, along with creative cocktails at the bars and onsite nightclub, and an extensive wine selection. Its resort credits program allows guests to customize their all-inclusive experience with excursions, romantic beach dinners, spa services, and more. Though only a ten-minute walk to Cancun’s famous nightlife, their particular stretch of beach is tranquil and well cared for, raked and cleaned daily, with ideal swimming and turquoise water.
Hotel phone: +52 800 262 9008
3. The Grand at Moon Palace – Riviera Cancun
Huge, all-inclusive, family-centric resort featuring an awesome water park, kids’ and teens’ clubs, and comprehensive kid and family amenities. All suites include a two-person jetted tub, private balcony, and hammock; Grand Family suites are double sized with one king and two double beds, a kids’ minibar, and an Xbox 360. Grounds feature two pools, a lazy river, flowrider, and bowling alley. The kids’ club is expansive with a splash pad, black light mini-golf, bumper cars, and much more. Parents will find plenty of adults-only areas, too, including a nightclub, day club, pool, and a French restaurant. Their resort credits program covers amazing family excursions, dolphin swims, spa days, and more. The beach has recently been renovated with excellent views and service, but it is not swimmable; for a more traditional beach experience, guests may use their all-inclusive privileges at their sister property Beach Palace.
Hotel phone: +52 998 193 2010
4. The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun – Middle Hotel Zone
Refined, family-friendly, beach resort boasting some of Cancun’s best restaurants, along with two oceanfront pools and a tranquil spa. Dining is at the forefront with a five-diamond restaurant, The Club Grill, serving sophisticated dishes with local flair, as well as romantic Casitas beachfront dining in private cabanas. Their Culinary Center offers unique cooking classes, demos, and experiences focusing on local Yucatan, regional Mexican, and Italian cuisines. An immersive kids’ clubs offer a range of cultural, crafty, and culinary activities all day, with night safari activities on Fridays and Saturdays. A teens’ club and game room serves older kids. Rooms and suites all include balconies, soaking tubs, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Some add private pools, outdoor Jacuzzis, or club level perks. The Ritz sits on a glorious stretch of white sand, with crystal blue waters perfect for swimming.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 0808
5. Hyatt Ziva Cancun – North Hotel Zone
Contemporary, family-friendly, all-inclusive hotel with dolphins, three infinity pools, and a microbrewery. Hyatt Ziva has a range of room and suite types, whether oceanfront, dolphin view, or swim up, some with soaking tubs or club level perks. The new Turquoize wing is adults-only, with outdoor Jacuzzis, butler service, and free access to the spa hydrocircuit. Family amenities include a kids’ club with a mini-water park, climbing pyramid in the ocean, and dolphin swims. Restaurants and bars offer international flavors and creative cocktails with a 24-hour lounge and room service. Located in a protected cove next to the Punta Cancun lighthouse, the sand is super soft here and the surf is particularly mild, ideal for beginning swimmers.
Hotel phone: +52 998 848 7000
6. Grand Residences Riviera Cancun – Riviera Cancun
Luxury, family-friendly, all-suite resort on a white sand beach with an oceanfront infinity pool, customized service, and thoughtful amenities, such as round-trip airport transfer included in the rates. Especially great for larger families, their spacious suites can have up to four bedrooms and sleep up to thirteen guests, with a combination of king, double, and murphy beds. All units come with kitchenettes and whirlpool tubs, while many others add washers and dryers, outdoor Jacuzzis, private pools, and butler service. Family amenities include an amazing kids’ club with sports, activities, and crafts; plus bike tours, craft workshops, and adult amenities like mixology classes and full-service spa. Guests can choose the all-inclusive, daily breakfast, or European plan to customize their stay. The beach is gorgeous, though rocky and coral-y in some spots, and swimmable, though surf is sometimes strong.
Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8148
7. Azul Beach Resort Riviera Maya – Riviera Cancun
Outstanding kids’ facilities, gourmet dining, and top-tier spa with hydrotherapy make this beachfront all-inclusive a top pick. Suites are spacious, with the Family Suite being the largest at 80 square meters. All rooms and suites include soaking tubs, private terraces, and customized minibars; some have swim up access, indoor Jacuzzis, or baby amenities. The kids’ club is Nickelodeon-themed, with character breakfasts and performances along with engaging activities, like cooking, yoga, and gymnastics; kids’ night programs are available as well, live shows and movies under the stars. Restaurants of all types have kids’ menus with a host of familiar favorites, along with more adventurous and sophisticated flavors for adults. The resort sits on a kilometer-long beach with crystal clear water, totally see-through for a long way out, and with coral reef snorkeling just a hundred-ish meters off the beach.
Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8080
8. Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun – Middle Hotel Zone
Lavish, adults-only, all-inclusive resort with a focus on re-awakening the senses through gorgeous views, bold dining, music, massage, and aromatherapy throughout the resort. Water has the spotlight here, with a tranquil beach, seven shimmering pools, and hydro-reflexology in the spa. Gastronomy is a close second, with regionally-inspired cocktails and indulgent dining in a range of styles and flavors, from molecular gastronomy served al fresco to Asian fusion served in a shady jungle garden. Guests are greeted with a welcome hand massage, and pool cabana rates include a foot massage. Daily live music is performed poolside and throughout the resort, with DJs every night at Egos Bar. Live Aqua sits on a broad stretch of white sand beach with warm, clear water and moderate waves.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 7600
9. Hard Rock Hotel Cancun – Middle Hotel Zone
Flashy, all-inclusive, rock-themed resort with fun amenities for families and couples. This lively property shows off with huge cascading infinity pools, three whirlpools, and a comprehensive spa. Their signature Sound of Your Stay experience offers loaner guitars, mixing stations, record players, and access to a recording studio, all complimentary. Anyone over 12 years has access to the Music Lab, with professional instrument, DJ, and vocal lessons; culminating in a live performance at the end of their stay. All rooms have a private balcony and two-person Jacuzzi tub; suites are all two-bedroom, and Family Suites add a kids’ minibar and Xbox. Couples should consider upgrading to Rock Royalty level to gain access to the adults-only pool on the third floor, complimentary couples’ massage, and a personal assistant. The beach here is gorgeous with brilliant blue water and attentive service.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 3600
10. Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach – North Hotel Zone
Located on one of Cancun’s best beaches, this upscale, family-friendly, all-suite resort boasts an enormous, free-form pool, extensive spa, and award-winning dining. Most suites are junior or master suites, all with balconies and ocean views; masters add jetted tubs and more space. Presidential and Governor Suites are the largest, with one and two bedrooms; the Presidential suite features a rooftop plunge pool and full kitchen. Five-diamond Le Basilic and four-diamond La Joya, serving French and Mexican fine dining, are the culinary highlights, though all restaurants here are superb. The spa is a palatial, three-story haven with expert massage and a hydrocircuit that’s complimentary for hotel guests. Open for ages three through twelve, the kids club here offers unique amenities like a water park, theater with costumes, a game room, and a night camp. The Grand Fiesta sits in a protected cove just to the inside of Punta Cancun, with the finest white sand and calm, turquoise water nearly as flat as a pool.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 3200
11. JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa – Middle of Hotel Zone
Posh, family-friendly, beachfront resort with three interconnected pools, including a scuba pool with a built in reef and dive lessons onsite. Rooms and one-bedroom suites are large and well-appointed, all with private balconies, soaking tubs, and dual vanities; connecting rooms are available. Their massive, three-story spa offers Mayan-inspired treatments for the whole family in a tranquil space. Dining is excellent, though not particularly adventurous, from their stellar, four-diamond Italian restaurant to their casual Southwestern grill. Guests also have access to the restaurants and kids’ club at their sister property, Marriott Cancun Resort, right next door. The beach here is wide, with plenty of loungers under shady palapas, attentive food and drink service, and the waves are just right for bobbing and body surfing.
Hotel phone: +52 998 848 9600
12. Secrets the Vine – Middle Hotel Zone
Beach-chic, adults-only, all-inclusive resort with four dazzling pools, a spa, and phenomenal foods. The Vine stands out for its unique wine concept, with a huge wine cellar (over 4500 to choose from!), wine-based spa treatments, and wine tastings three times a day guided by a knowledgeable sommelier. Rooms have private balconies and connecting options; suites range from junior to two-bedrooms, many with soaking tubs. The club level upgrade grants access to an additional infinity pool, private lounge, and rooms on the highest floors with the best views.
Restaurants are exceptional, with a great variety of cuisines all with optional wine pairings. Located on a heavenly beach, clean and well maintained, with shallow turquoise water.
Hotel phone: (866) 467-3273
13. Azul Beach Resort Sensatori – Riviera Cancun
High-end, family-friendly resort with six pools, a lazy river, excellent kids’ amenities, and private balconies and indoor Jacuzzis for every room type. Suites range from junior to two-bedroom, some with full kitchens and butler service; family suites have two sofa beds. Kids have a Nickelodeon-themed club with character visits, a splash pad and pool, gymnastics, and more. Teens have their own lounge with a pool table, air hockey, and outdoor activities. Couples and honeymooners enjoy plenty of adults-only spaces in a dedicated wing with its own pool and swim up suites, plus several bars, and Le Chique, their renowned five-diamond restaurant, serving Mexican molecular gastronomy. The beach here is beautiful and well-maintained, though not vivid turquoise of Cancun and further south in the Riviera Maya. Though a little rockier here, it is still swimmable with calm waves and good snorkeling.
Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8080
14. Moon Palace – Riviera Cancun
Giant, all-inclusive, family-centric resort with six interconnecting pools, water slides, flowrider, 18-hole mini-golf, and holistic spa. All rooms include two-person jetted tubs and private balconies, most with hammocks. Family Deluxe Suites are two connecting rooms with two double tubs, a kids’ minibar, and special in-room perks. The resort boasts two kids’ clubs for ages four to eleven, with indoor and outdoor playrooms, and a mini water park. The teens’ lounge has an arcade, air hockey, billiards, and snacks. Food is stellar, with eighteen restaurants and bars to choose from (not even counting the pool bars), with a range of cuisines and several adults-only spots. The beach here is calm and swimmable, though not as pretty as the beaches near Cancun or Playa del Carmen; however, guests have all-inclusive signing privileges at their sister properties for a more gratifying beach day, especially at Beach Palace or Sun Palace. Guests can also use their resort credits or purchase a day pass to access the huge water park and facilities at their neighboring property The Grand.
Hotel phone: +52 800 262 9008
15. Hyatt Zilara Cancun – Middle Hotel Zone
Hacienda-style, adults-only, all-inclusive resort on a broad, ivory beach with perfectly turquoise waters. Service is extraordinary here, with all staff consistently going above and beyond to create memorable experiences for guests. Rooms and suites all offer private balconies, double whirlpool tubs, a liquor dispenser, and a “magic box” for room service delivery. The grounds house an immaculate infinity pool overlooking the beach, plus a rooftop lap pool and a spa with a menu of Maya treatments, ceremonies, and a temazcal. Food and drinks are rich and flavorful; guests in oceanfront category rooms and above have access to exclusive dining at the Chef’s Plate, featuring a different menu every evening. With weekly pool parties, cocktails classes, wine and tequila tastings, and show cooking, guests have plenty of activities to indulge in, if they can bear to part from the beach.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 5600
16. Beach Palace – Middle Hotel Zone
Ideal for fun family getaways, this beachfront all-inclusive boasts sunny rooms, thoughtful kids’ amenities, three pools, three hot tubs, and a waterslide. Rooms and suites all include a two-person jetted tub, private balcony, and dual vanities. Family Deluxe suites are made of two connecting rooms with a kids’ minibar, plus an Xbox, beach gear, and kid-sized robes. Concierge Level upgrades grant highest floor rooms with the best views, plus two massages, nightly petit fours, and welcome wine. Their kids’ club is well-loved for its attentive staff, games, activities, and playroom. Like their sister properties, they have an amazing resort credit program that can be used toward excursion, spa treatments, or day passes to the water park at The Grand. Located on a stunning white beach with crystal clear waters and medium-sized surf.
Hotel phone: +52 800 262 9008
17. InterContinental Presidente – North Hotel Zone
Sitting on the single best beach in Cancun, this classic luxury resort offers two pools (one adults-only) and a spa with hydrotherapy and Maya-inspired treatments. The beach is the main attraction here: wide and clean, no seaweed, powdery-fine sand, and water so blue it looks like it’s been dyed that way. Dining is exceptional, especially the breakfasts at Café Urbano and the beachside service at Le Cap Beach Club. Rooms and one-bedroom suites are contemporary and well-appointed; club level upgrades add balconies, soaking tubs, and exclusive lounge access. Though this is a family-friendly hotel with a kids’ club and playground, the vibe here is very low-key and relaxed. Its location makes this resort a great home base for exploring downtown Cancun’s restaurants and attractions or for exploring the uptown nightlife district.
Hotel phone: +52 998 848 8700
18. Sun Palace – South Hotel Zone
Romantic, couples-only, all-inclusive on a quiet beach, with three infinity pools (one of them covered), a hydrotherapy spa, and incredible food and drinks. Décor is sleek and understated luxury with 96% of accommodations boasting ocean views. Rooms and suites all feature a double whirlpool tub, private balcony, liquor dispenser, and a welcome bottle of wine. Concierge level upgrades add a candlelight dinner, couples’ massage, pillow menu, and aromatherapy. Restaurants are all on point, with the pan-Asian and steakhouse being the standouts. Their resort credits can be used for any number of things, from Maya ruins and colonial village excursions to spa days or dolphin encounters. Sun Palace is located on a relaxing beach in the south end with soft sand, clear water, and very few vendors.
Hotel phone: +52 800 262 9008
19. Dreams Riviera Cancun – Riviera Cancun
Active, all-inclusive, family-friendly resort, especially for families traveling with younger kids. All rooms and suites here include whirlpool tubs and private balconies, many add private plunge pools. Most suites are one bedroom, some with kitchenettes and outdoor Jacuzzis. The kids’ club is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. for children as young as three years, with a playground, splash pad, and weekly campouts. Family activities include Euro bungee, cooking classes, and dance lessons. Dining is fantastic, especially at Bordeaux, their adults-only French restaurant. The beach is well-maintained, super clean, and great for swimming with mostly calm surf. Three pools and two hot tubs complete the experience.
Hotel phone: (866) 237-3267
20. Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun – Middle Hotel Zone
With a focus on Mexican hospitality, this family-friendly, beachfront, all-inclusive offers an upscale experience paired with a uniquely local vibe. Over half of the restaurants offer delightful, regional, Mexican fare on their menus, alongside several international restaurants. The spa uses Mexican products in all of their treatments. Décor features Mexican embellished tile, stonework floors, and palapa roofs property-wide. The kids’ club offers creative activities all day, as well as a pirate-themed pool, while the teens’ club features video games, billiards, and outdoor sports. Onsite activities include Maya language classes, Maya astrology, and tequila tasting. Room options are varied, from standard up to a two-bedroom suite with attached studio; some suites feature sofa beds and terrace Jacuzzis; the Presidential adds a full kitchen. The beach is absolutely beautiful with perfect white sand and medium surf; it might be a little much for beginners, but it is swimmable for those more experienced.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 4200
21. Hotel Riu Palace Las Americas – North Hotel Zone
Opulent, adults-only, all-inclusive resort with an all-suite layout, spa, and three pools. Suites are spacious, all with private balconies, dual vanities, and liquor dispensers; some have terrace Jacuzzis, wrap-around balconies, and super-king beds. With a total of eleven restaurants and bars, guests have a ton of options to choose, from French to Japanese and more, plus a lounge and café both open 24-hours, along with room service. Daily activities include volleyball, sailing, and kayaking, while their theater offers nightly shows. Riu Las Americas sits in a swimmable cove on the northernmost tip of Punta Cancun with pristine white sand, dazzling blue water, and gentle surf.
Hotel phone: +52 998 891 4300
22. Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun – Riviera Cancun
Set on a serene stretch of beach, Now Sapphire offers an all-inclusive, family-friendly experience with excellent kids’ amenities, four pools, and fantastic food. An all-suite property, most of the accommodations are junior and one-bedroom suites, with connecting rooms optional. All come with private balconies and whirlpool tubs, some with Jacuzzis on the terrace. Preferred level upgrades give the best ocean and beach views, plus access to an adults-only pool, an exclusive lounge, and the hydrocircuit at the spa. The kids’ club hosts children ages three to twelve from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., with fun activities like sandcastle building, campouts, and movie nights, while the teen club has video games, Euro bungee, and billiards. Restaurants feature a strong selection of cuisines, all expertly prepared. Bar service is attentive with great cocktails, especially at their nightclub and pool bars. The beach is stunning and swimmable, with drink service and plenty of loungers under shady palapas.
Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8383
23. Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort – Playa Mujeres
This gem of a resort, located on a vast beach in Cancun’s newest development, offers an exquisite all-inclusive, adults-only experience. Amply-sized junior and one-bedroom suites include hydro-spa tubs and balconies, some with swim up access or private plunge pools. Club level upgrades add a day pass to the spa hydrocircuit, lounge access, pillow menu, and an exclusive a la carte daily breakfast. Grounds include a huge free-form pool (actually three pools really close together), while the beach offers snorkel gear, catamarans, paddleboards, and a swing set bar. The beach itself is long, with soft sand, no rocks, calm water, and intense turquoise colors.
Hotel phone: (866) 467-3273
24. Now Jade Riviera Cancun – Riviera Cancun
This five-star, family-friendly, all-inclusive offers large suites and excellent kids amenities on a gorgeous beach next to a dolphinarium. Light-filled suites come in several styles, beginning at 65 square meters, all with private balconies and either indoor or outdoor Jacuzzis. The resort houses two free-form infinity pools, with the adult pool accessible with club level upgrades. Their kids’ club is open all day to children ages three to twelve, with a host of activities, arts, and adventures; the teens’ club features breakdancing lessons, video games, and more. Dining and drinks are fantastic and varied, with sixteen restaurants and bars to choose from; Mercure and Spice, the French and pan-Asian restaurants, lead the pack. The beach is beautiful, serviced by Mix Bar with stellar cocktails. However, it is a little rocky and sometimes rough; walk just five minutes south along the beach, though, and you’ll find better swimming.
Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8888
25. Marriott Cancun Resort – Middle Hotel Zone
A beachfront paradise, this family-friendly, luxury resort features hacienda-style design blended with traditional and contemporary Mexican décor. Its large infinity pool features a whirlpool front and center, overlooking the brilliant blue sea. Rooms and one-bedroom suites vary by size and view, but all feature a private balcony; connecting rooms are available. The Presidential Suite adds a second balcony and an outdoor Jacuzzi. Their popular kids’ club hosts children ages four to twelve during daylight hours with a pool and plenty of activities. Dining and drinks are fantastic and varied, with restaurants specializing in Argentine, Japanese, and Thai, among others, but there is no Mexican restaurant onsite. (There is a southwestern restaurant at their sister property, JW Marriott, right next door, and of course plenty of Mexican food within walking distance.) Located on a wide, white stretch of swimmable beach with moderate waves, served by the attentive staff at Bahia.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 2000
26. Hotel Riu Palace Peninsula – North Hotel Zone
Glitzy, family-friendly, all-inclusive resort with five pools (one exclusively for villa guests), a wide range of suites, plus phenomenal activities for kids and families. Suites all include private balconies, soaking tubs, and liquor dispensers; some add Jacuzzis, others are adults-only. There is a small kids’ club for ages four through twelve, with supervised pool and beach activities; for families and older kids, they offer art workshops, with classes in painting and ceramics, a free scuba lesson in the pool, nightly theater and entertainment, and non-motorized watercraft like kayaks, boogieboards, and catamarans. Food is delicious, with a good mix of a la carte restaurants (Mexican, French, Japanese, and more) along with high-end buffets serving lobster. Service at all restaurants and bars is prompt and attentive. The beach is just barely rockier than some of the other Cancun beaches, but it is still gorgeous with soft sand, turquoise water, and just enough gentle surf to keep it interesting.
Hotel phone: +52 998 848 8090
27. Dreams Playa Mujeres – Playa Mujeres
New, family-friendly, all-inclusive resort with dolphins and exceptional kids’ and teens’ amenities on a quiet beach. Suites and villas are all large and feature private balconies and sofa beds; options include swim ups, private pools, outdoor Jacuzzis, and two-person whirlpool tubs. Upgrade to Club Level for access to the lazy river, complimentary hydrotherapy, and access to a private lounge. The kids’ club hosts weekly camping, along with daily activities and a small water park; the teens’ club is open until 1 a.m. and features dance nights, video games, rock climbing, weekly bonfires, and more. Dolphin swims, a stellar full-service spa, and an 18-hole golf course are excellent add-on perks. The beach has soft sand and gentle waves, thanks to nearby Isla Mujeres acting as a buffer.
Hotel phone: +52 998 283 3600
28. Sandos Cancun Lifestyle Resort – Middle Hotel Zone
Beachfront, four-diamond, all-inclusive hotel with three infinity pools, delicious restaurants, and an amazing music program. Accommodations here are unique for Cancun with windows in every unit facing both the ocean and the lagoon, so that all guests may experience sunrise and sunset views from their rooms. Each room features a soaking tub, welcome wine, and floor-to-ceiling windows, most with one or two balconies; one- and two-bedroom suites add kitchenettes. Their Rhythm Experience music program offers live music and DJs, with a different genre featured daily; at night the music moves to the bars, with Bar One for a relaxing ambiance and Bar Two for a lively party. Food here is superbly prepared with fresh ingredients, with Gaijin Japanese and Zango international buffet the most popular of the restaurant options. Though there is no dedicated Mexican restaurant onsite, St. Trop has several Caribbean Mexican options on the menu. The beach is clean and well-maintained with crystal clear water, though waves can be a little rough at times.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 2200
29. Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas – Middle Hotel Zone
Located on a truly exceptional beach, the all-inclusive, family-friendly Omni offers an impressive selection of accommodations, fantastic activities, and heartfelt service. Spacious rooms, one- and two- bedroom suites, and huge villas all feature private balconies, some with jetted tubs, Presidential with a full kitchen. Larger families will appreciate the villas with three bedrooms and three bathrooms spread over three stories, plus a full kitchen and direct pool access. The grounds boast three cascading pools (one for kids), one mega hot tub for up to 35 guests, several small hot tubs, and a full service spa and salon. There is a small kids’ club here for ages five to twelve, plus dance and scuba lessons for all ages. Their perfectly swimmable beach showcases with breathtaking turquoise waves, clean white sand, and an absence of rocks, reefs, and barriers.
Hotel phone: +52 998 881 0600
30. Crown Paradise Club – South Hotel Zone
Beachfront, family-friendly, all-inclusive with kids amenities for all age groups and five pools, including one adults-only pool and one covered pool. Rooms and suites come with balconies, many with soaking tubs. Family Suites have king beds plus triple bunk beds. Club level upgrades add Jacuzzis (indoor or outdoor) and a lagoon cruise. Their Baby Club hosts tots from eighteen months up to three years old, with story times and a playroom; a Kids’ Club for ages three to twelve has a pirate ship pool, a castle with nine waterslides, and with plenty of activities. Older kids and families have access to a small waterpark, billiards, video games, and mini-golf. The beach here has plenty of shaded loungers, stunning white sand, and bright blue water with moderate surf.
Hotel phone: +52 998 848 9000
Cancun’s Hotel Zone
The vast majority of hotels and resorts in Cancun are located in the Hotel Zone. The Hotel Zone is shaped like a number 7, beginning due east of Downtown Cancun and running for about 22 kilometers along Boulevard Kukulkan. This long island strip of beach is bound to the north and east by the Caribbean, with the interior portion taken up by the Nichupte Lagoon. Most of the resorts line the northern and eastern beaches, while the restaurants, malls, and attractions face the lagoon side.
The Hotel Zone is roughly divided into three sections identified by their kilometer markers: The North (km 1-9, this is the horizontal portion making up the top of the 7, from the edge of Downtown in the west to Punta Cancun in the east), The Middle (km 9.5-17.5, beginning at the elbow of the 7, from Punta Cancun running south, just past Museo Maya), and the South (km 18-21.5, from El Rey archeological zone to Punta Nizuc at the southernmost tip).
Staying in the Hotel Zone, North
The North (sometimes called the “beginning”) of the Hotel Zone has the softest sand and the most pristine beaches. This is due to its geography; unlike the rest of the Hotel Zone, the northernmost portion is partially protected from hurricanes by Isla Mujeres to the northeast and the horn of Punta Cancun in to the east. Because it is shielded in this way, it still has its original sand, worn smooth and powdery over the years, contrasting with the rest of the Hotel Zone, which lost its sand to a hurricane a few years ago and had to have the sand replaced. Its prized location also shields it from the seaweed that tends to collect in the Middle and End Zones. This is the closest portion to Downtown’s amazing restaurants and cultural attractions like Market 28 and lucha libre at the Cancun Arena. It’s also just a short distance from the Uptown Cancun nightlife on the south end of Punta Cancun. With such proximity to dining, bars, and attractions, the Beginning of the Hotel Zone is ideal for guests who opt not to stay in an all-inclusive.
The Best Hotels in the North Hotel Zone
- Hyatt Ziva Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 848 7000
- Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 3200
- InterContinental Presidente • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 848 8700
- Hotel Riu Palace Las Americas • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 891 4300
- Hotel Riu Palace Peninsula • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 848 8090
The Best Restaurants in the NorthHotel Zone
Staying in the Middle of the Hotel Zone
The Middle of the Hotel Zone is where the action is. Uptown Cancun, with its famous nightlife, is located at the elbow on the south end of Punta Cancun. Travelers will find a cluster of nightclubs and bars here, the best known being Coco Bongo, Mandala, and La Vaquita, though The City and Congo Bar are the best loved night spots. Following the main drag south, you’ll find Cancun’s most popular family attractions, including Aquaworld, Museo Maya, and MUSA, the underwater museum. Beaches here are not as soft as those in the North Hotel Zone, and the waves tend to be a little bigger. However, this is the nesting spot for local sea turtles! Huge turtles come ashore every night to lay eggs from May through October. Baby turtles hatch and are released to the ocean from July through December. Most hotels in the Middle of the Hotel Zone have designated areas to protect the eggs from predators. Guests are invited to watch the adult turtles making their nests every night, or to watch as the babies are released later in the season.
The Best Hotels in the Middle of the Hotel Zone
- Le Blanc Spa Resort • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 800 262 9008
- The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 0808
- Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 7600
- Hard Rock Hotel Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 3600
- JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 848 9600
- Secrets the Vine • Reviews • Hotel phone: (866) 467-3273
- Hyatt Zilara Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 5600
- Beach Palace • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 800 262 9008
- Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 4200
- Marriott Cancun Resort • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 2000
- Sandos Cancun Lifestyle Resort • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 2200
- Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 881 0600
The Best Restaurants in the Middle of the Hotel Zone
Staying in the Hotel Zone, South
The South Hotel Zone, sometimes referred to as “the end,” begins at El Rey Ruins in the north and ends at Punta Nizuc in the south. It’s much quieter than the North or Middle, while still being highly accessible to all that the city has to offer. Travelers here will find the most relaxed beaches with fewer vendors interrupting their tranquil moments. Beach quality here is similar to those of the Middle, with moderate surf, soft white sand (though slightly coarser than that of the North), and lots of sea turtle activity. There is generally better snorkeling in the South Hotel Zone, especially at the southernmost end toward Punta Nizuc. Most resorts in this area are all-inclusive, as the immediate area only has a handful of restaurants. This is an ideal spot for travelers who want a true getaway, without straying too far from the conveniences of the city.
The Best Hotels in the South Hotel Zone
- Nizuc Resort and Spa • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 891 5700
- Sun Palace • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 800 262 9008
- Crown Paradise Club • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 848 9000
The Best Restaurants in the South Hotel Zone
Staying in Riviera Cancun
The Riviera Cancun is the northernmost part of the Riviera Maya, just south of Cancun down about as far as Puerto Morelos. It is fronted by the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which follows the coastline from Cancun all the way down to Guatemala. The Riviera Cancun is home to some of the largest all-inclusive resorts. Most of these sit in mangrove jungles on long stretches of beach protected by the reef, making for mostly gentle waves. Beaches here tend to be a mix of mostly white sand, with some rocky and coral parts. The sandy areas are great for swimming and body surfing with moderate waves, while the rocky and coral-y parts usually have great conditions for snorkeling, with a variety of colorful fish. The resort beaches here are nearly private with no vendors, because they’re not walking distance to anything. Near Puerto Morales, travelers will find a botanical garden and Croco Cun Zoo, with several refreshing cenotes just inland and lots of adventure parks just a little further south.
The Best Hotels in Riviera Cancun
- The Grand at Moon Palace • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 193 2010
- Grand Residences Riviera Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8148
- Azul Beach Resort Riviera Maya • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8080
- Azul Beach Resort Sensatori • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8080
- Moon Palace • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 800 262 9008
- Dreams Riviera Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: (866) 237-3267
- Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8383
- Now Jade Riviera Cancun • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 872 8888
The Best Restaurants in Riviera Cancun
Staying in Playa Mujeres
Playa Mujeres sits in the north end of Cancun, due west of Isla Mujeres and north of the main ferry terminals, Puerto Juarez and Gran Puerto. This is the newest resort development area in Cancun, with the oldest hotel here built in 2007. This area is designed expressly for leisure, mostly made up of resorts, beaches, and golf courses, with one dolphinarium on the main beach and campgrounds further north. Playa Mujeres is more accessible to the city and attractions than Riviera Cancun, but since it is so new, there are not many restaurants serving the area. This is the closest point in Cancun to Isla Mujeres; travelers wishing to visit the island can leave from the smaller Punta Sam ferry. The beaches of Playa Mujeres have soft white sand, vivid blue water, and gentle waves, thanks to the island acting as a buffer. However, there tends to be more seaweed than the more southerly beaches, especially when the wind is coming in from the east. To combat this, every resort in the area hires sweepers to clean the beaches twice a day.
The Best Hotels in Playa Mujeres
- Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort • Reviews • Hotel phone: (866) 467-3273
- Dreams Playa Mujeres • Reviews • Hotel phone: +52 998 283 3600
The Best Restaurants in Playa Mujeres