Where Should I Stay in Cancun (is the Hotel Zone or Downtown Better)?

The best place to stay in Cancun is the Hotel Zone. The main tourist area in Cancun, the Hotel Zone is concentrated with lots of tourist infrastructure, including delicious restaurants, upscale shopping, and a vibrant nightlife, which makes it a better place to stay than Downtown Cancun.
Where Should I Stay in Cancun
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That said, both the Cancun Hotel Zone and Downtown Cancun have their own advantages.

While the Hotel Zone offers gorgeous beaches, mega-clubs and fine-dining restaurants, seasoned tourists and budget travelers often choose to stay in Downtown for the affordable accommodations, markets and eateries, as well as to experience the “real Mexico.”

Read on for the ultimate guide to the best places to stay in Cancun.

What Area of Cancun Should I Stay in?

Here is a list of areas to stay in Cancun:

  • Zona Hotelera: One of the most popular and convenient places to stay in Cancun, the Hotel Zone is ideal for first-time visitors to Cancun. Located a short drive from Cancun’s Downtown area, this neighborhood caters to tourists with big resorts, white sand beaches, delicious restaurants and amazing views. It is also situated close to the amazing El Rey Mayan Ruins.
  • El Centro: Lively and vibrant, Cancun’s Downtown area is the best place for travelers on a budget. It offers many affordable accommodations, authentic restaurants, charming local shops, and a diversity of interesting attractions. Home to most Cancun locals, Downtown is the place to stay for those seeking to escape the tourist crowds and experience the “real Mexico.”
  • Punta Cancun: The neighborhood that never sleeps, Punta Cancun is perfect for party animals who want to experience Cancun’s world-famous night scene. As Cancun’s dedicated nightlife zone, the area features wild bars, exciting clubs, thrilling entertainment and alcohol that never stops flowing. Here, visitors can dance under the stars and enjoy drinks with new friends.
  • Puerto Morelos: The coolest neighborhood in Cancun, Puerto Morelos is a village brimming with charm and culture. It boasts amazing white sand beaches, sparkling turquoise waters, and stunning views. Here visitors can enjoy all the pleasures of paradise without the tourist crowds. There’s also lots to see and do, including ancient Mayan Ruins and Cenote adventures.
  • Isla Mujeres: Fringed by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea and blanketed in white sand beaches lined with swaying palm trees, Isla Mujeres is the definition of paradise. Ideal for families, the tiny island offers a wide array of attractions and activities, from exploring natural wonders and marine adventure sports, to turtle farms and dolphin swim experiences.

What is the Best Location to Stay in Cancun?

The Hotel Zone is the best location to stay in Cancun.

Nestled on a narrow peninsula, the Hotel Zone comprises a strip of hotels and resorts within walking distance of the beach and fun watersports. The area in Cancun offers an exciting selection of shops, nightspots, as well as several upscale seafood restaurants. Buses run frequently between this neighborhood and the Downtown area, making it easy to get from the Hotel Zone to other parts of Cancun.

Which Side of Cancun is Better?

In Cancun, the Hotel Zone side is better than the Downtown area.

Purposely built for tourism, the Hotel Zone caters for the vacation needs of all types of travelers. That is why most tourists choose to stay here, in addition to its being the safest area in the city. Located close to the Cancun International Airport, shuttles, buses and taxis link up the Hotel Zone with other areas all over the city, making it quite easy to get around.

The heart and soul of Cancun tourism, the Hotel Zone is where it all happens for most tourists. Here you’ll find miles of picture-postcard beaches, lined with some of the country’s most luxurious resorts. The beaches boast gorgeous sands and sparkling blue waters, ideal for diverse watersports, and are lined with a fantastic array of restaurants, cafés and shops.

Where Should You Not Stay in Cancun?

Here is a list of places you should not stay in Cancun:

  • Parts of Downtown Cancun: Downtown Cancun is generally safe for tourists to stay, particularly the areas closest to the Hotel Zone. However, the farther you get from the Hotel Zone, the less touristy and more dangerous it becomes.
  • Outskirts of Cancun: Cancun is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, which is considered generally safer than northern Mexico. It is therefore recommended that visitors should not stay in the outskirts of Cancun.

What Does Hotel Zone in Cancun Mean?

Locally known as “Zona Hotelera”, the Hotel Zone in Cancun is a narrow sandbar on which most of Cancun’s resorts and hotels are located. Boasting the finest amenities, some of the major hotels of the Hotel Zone have their own beachfront and clubs.

Teeming with tourists, Cancun’s Hotel Zone thrives on package tourism, and offers a great spot to enjoy the luxuries of an all-inclusive vacation.

How Long is the Hotel Zone in Cancun?

The Hotel Zone in Cancun is 15 miles long (24.1km).

Geographically, Cancun’s Hotel Zone is situated on Isla Cancun, a 15-mile-long sandbar in the shape of the number 7, found just off the mainland and linked by causeways on both ends.

Which Hotel Zone is Best in Cancun?

The southern end of Cancun’s Hotel Zone is ideal for visitors who plan to remain within the confines of their all-inclusive resort for most of their vacation. This is because the southern section is not within walking distance to most attractions. As such, you will always have to take a bus or taxi up the Cancun Hotel Zone strip, which can be costly and time-consuming.

The northern end of Cancun’s Hotel Zone boasts a retail area with many shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs. It’s a 10 minute walk to most hotels, which makes the northern section suitable for visitors who prefer a bit more variety. Moreover, staying in the north can save you money on taxi fares, budget accommodation options and a wider choice of eateries.

Is the Hotel Zone Safe in Cancun?

Yes, the Hotel Zone in Cancun is safe. In fact, the Hotel Zone is the safest place in Cancun.

Is It Safe to Walk Around Cancun Hotel Zone?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to walk around the Cancun Hotel Zone, as it is the safest area in Cancun.

This is because it is regularly patrolled by tourist police. Moreover, it is often highly-populated by day and well-lit with active bars and clubs by night.

How Do You Get Around the Hotel Zone in Cancun?

The best way to get around the Hotel Zone in Cancun is by bus.

Buses run up and down the main strip of the Hotel Zone day and night and cost around 12 pesos one-way.

What is Downtown Cancun Like?

Locally known as “El Centro”, Downtown Cancun has a fun social vibe and community atmosphere. This is especially so on weekends when locals and adventurous tourists flock here to enjoy its great shopping and some of the best bars and restaurants in the city.

A place of contrasts, Downtown Cancun features modern areas with unique scenery and new beautiful buildings, as well as older spots such as the popular Mercado 28 that have not changed in years. If you want to experience the “real Cancun” and see how the locals live, then leave your resort, hop on a bus and explore the charms of Downtown.

What is there to Do in Downtown Cancun?

Here is a list of things to do in Downtown Cancun:

  • Parque Las Palapas: The city’s main park, Parque Las Palapas comprises a big plaza with food vendors, an outdoor food court, handicraft stalls, a big stage and a playground. The park is popular on weekend evenings when local families come to hang out and enjoy events. Visit on a Saturday night to eat at one of the restaurants, then take a stroll around the park.
  • Mercado 28: The most popular market in Cancun, Mercado 28 features a colorful maze of souvenir stands and jewelry shops that span an entire block. There are several small restaurants in the middle where shoppers can grab a quick lunch. Mercado 28 offers a fun way to experience a real Mexican market, so be ready to bargain with the vendors.
  • Malecon Tajamar: One of Cancun’s newest and most beautiful areas, Malecon Tajamar is a delightful waterfront neighborhood. The area boasts a splendid walkway along the Nichupte Lagoon with stunning views of the Hotel Zone skyline. In the coming years, the neighborhood is set to be further developed with a large nature park, restaurants, shops and more.
  • Malecon Americas Shopping Center: The main mall in Downtown Cancun, Malecon Americas Shopping Center is where you’ll find most locals on weekends. The mall offers a pleasantly modern open-air atmosphere where shoppers can grab an ice cream, browse pretty shops, and enjoy a meal at a variety of eateries.
  • Avenida Tulum and City Hall: Nestled at the heart of Cancun, Avenida Tulum is the main street in Downtown Cancun. Ideal for a leisurely stroll, the avenue comprises wide pedestrian walkways, lined with small markets, shops, bars and the City Hall building. This bustling area is set to become even more tourist-friendly in the coming years.

Is It Safe to Go to Downtown Cancun?

Yes, it is generally safe to go to Downtown Cancun, as long as you stick to the areas closest to the Hotel Zone. This is because the touristy areas are well-populated and regularly patrolled by tourist police.

The farther you go away the Hotel Zone into Downtown Cancun, the less touristy and unsafe it becomes.

How Far is Downtown Cancun from the Beach?

The distance from the beach to Downtown Cancun is 11.2km.

It takes about 15 minutes to drive to Downtown Cancun from the beach via the Blvd. Kukulcan road.

How Do You Get From Downtown Cancun to the Beach?

The best way to get from Downtown Cancun to the beach is by bus.

You can take a bus at Avenida Tulum and get off at one of the public access points.

How Far is Downtown Cancun from the Hotel Zone?

The distance to Downtown Cancun from the Hotel Zone is 11.2km.

It takes about 15 minutes to drive from the Hotel Zone to Downtown Cancun via the Boulevard Kukulcan road.

How Do I Get From Downtown Cancun to Hotel Zone?

The best way to get from Downtown Cancun to the Hotel Zone is by bus.

Buses run every 5 minutes along various routes, including the popular R1 and R2. One-way fare is typically 10 pesos which is around 50 cents in US dollars.

How Much is a Taxi from Downtown Cancun to the Hotel Zone?

A taxi from Downtown Cancun to the Hotel Zone costs about 180 Mexican pesos.

Be sure to agree on the fare with your driver before starting your trip.