All Articles The best areas to stay in Cancun

The best areas to stay in Cancun

Aerial view of a resort in Cancun Mexico
Image: Suzy Brooks / Unsplash
Anchit Kher
By Anchit Kher14 Mar 2022 4 minutes read

You’ve made up your mind—it’s time for a trip to embrace the pristine natural beauty and action-packed adventure that Cancun offers. But there’s one key decision to make–where’s the best place to stay? There are many options, each with its own unique appeal and beauty. And in each area, you have hotels and resorts that vary greatly in price, proximity to attractions, and comfort level.

Here, we’ve picked the most amazing areas to stay in Cancun, with hotel recommendations and the top things to do to make the most of your vacation.

Downtown - El Centro

Aerial view of a resort in Downtown Cancun, Mexico
Mercado 28 market in Cancun, Mexico
Image: Andre L (left), Beto (right) / Tripadvisor

Best for: Singles or spring-breakers looking for an action-packed vacation

As the name suggests, El Centro, also known as Downtown Cancun, is at the center of all the excitement of the city and located right next to the beach. Our Tripadvisor community recommends this area as a great spot to immerse yourself in local culture.

Top things to do:

  • Visit the famous Mercado 28 to tick off all the items on your shopping list and enjoy local food from street carts.
  • Enjoy the bar scene along Yaxchilan Avenue, known as one of the best areas for nightlife in Cancun.

Best places to stay:

  • The Villa Del Palmar Cancun (average $400 a night) is an all-inclusive beach resort with an infinity pool and poolside bar. Get stuck in with canoeing and snorkeling or join their karaoke night.
  • The Marazul Hotel Boutique (average $50 a night) is a boutique hotel conveniently located with all the main tourist attractions within walking distance, allowing you to explore as much as you want to in a day.

Isla Mujeres

Boys jumping into the waters at Isla Mujeres in Cancun
Image: Management / Tripadvisor

Best for: Families or couples looking for a getaway from the bustle of the city

Isla Mujeres is a pristine island with clear waters and palm trees, away from the throbbing beats of the party scene. There are plenty of wholesome activities to do here if you’re planning to stay active.

Top things to do:

  • Head to the Garrafon Natural Reef Park for exciting zip-lining and snorkeling experiences, or choose to kick back in the pool.
  • Take a day trip to Isla Contoy, a beautiful island that has a wildlife reserve and bird sanctuary.

Best places to stay:

  • The Ixchel Beach Hotel (average $200 a night) offers fun activities including snorkeling, scuba diving and sea fishing.
  • The Hotel La Joya (average $120 a night) is a modern and chic spot where you can kick back and relax with a spectacular view.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen beach in Mexico
Image: Maria Jesus Errazuriz / Unsplash

Best for: Students or young families, especially for shorter trips

An hour away from Cancun city center, Playa Del Carmen is an up-and-coming small town that offers a good balance of relaxation and fun. Less than two decades ago, this seaside town was a sleepy fishing village covered in shrubs. Today, you can walk along the cobblestone streets to soak in the charming bohemian vibe, catch lively street performers or check out chic brunch spots. At night, have your pick of the bars and clubs in the area.

Top things to do:

  • Check out Punta Esmeralda, a hidden gem with a small palm tree-line beach on one side and a cenote on the other.
  • Be amazed by the underground river and stunning caves at the Rio Secreto (Spanish for “secret river”).

Best places to stay:

  • The Magic Blue Boutique Hotel (average $170 a night) has a luxury spa complex and a swim-up bar. They can organize hiking retreats for guests.
  • The Reef Playacar (average $180 a night) is an all-inclusive resort packed with family-friendly activities.

Hotel Zone

Cancun sign at Playa Delfines
Image: A Tripadvisor China Member / Tripadvisor

Best for: First-timers who want the quintessential Cancun experience

Arguably the most popular tourist spot, Cancun’s Hotel Zone (also known as Zona Hotelera) is a long, narrow island with a vast lagoon, Laguna Nichupté, made up of seven lakes.

This area has a great variety of activities and a pulsating nightlife. It combines the action-packed vacation you’re craving with stunning beachside views.

Top things to do:

  • Visit Playa Delfines for an Instagram shot in front of the huge “Cancun” sign.
  • Thrill-seekers, take a jungle tour through the mangroves.

Best places to stay:

  • Moon Palace Cancun (average $400 a night) is an all-inclusive resort with top amenities, located only a 10-minute drive away from the airport.
  • The Royal Sands Cancun (average $350 a night) is popular for its spacious suites and entertainment for all ages.

Puerto Morelos

People relaxing by the pool in a resort in Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Image: Sonny_Life / Tripadvisor

Best for: Families or travelers visiting in small groups looking to kick back and relax

Located less than half an hour from the main international airport, Puerto Morelos is a fishing village that lets you explore the country’s roots. Here, you won’t find many tall buildings or fancy places, but expect to fall in love with its warm and inviting local village charm.

Top things to do:

  • Take a day trip to Tulum to see the historical Mayan ruins, archaeological sites, and gorgeous cenotes.
  • Go on an unforgettable adventure, seeking sharks in the Caribbean Sea with Dive with Ruben.

Best places to stay:


A resort in Cozumel
Image: ckmommy / Tripadvisor

Best for: Couples or solo travelers

Cozumel is a hidden gem about 50 miles south of the city center. A popular cruise ship port of call, Cozumel is a perfect destination to embrace Mexico’s rich history and culture.

Top things to do:

Best places to stay:

  • The Westin Cozumel (average $210 a night) is renowned for pampering guests with incredible views and memorable hospitality.
  • The Casa Mexicana Cozumel (average $90 a night) is a beautifully designed hotel only 10 minutes from Cozumel airport with rooms offering either terrace or ocean views.

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Anchit Kher
Anchit Kher writes about exploration of the world, mind and soul through travel, laughter and friendships. As a freelancer, he writes to reflect, learn and express - always on the lookout for the next inspiration. Outside of work, he enjoys watching & playing football, singing bad karaoke, learning a new board game, or enjoying the hearty hawker food of Singapore.