Wondering Where to Stay in Cancun? (MUST READ • 2019)

Not sure where to stay in Cancun? This guide covers what to do in each neighborhood, and the top hotels & hostels by area!

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Cancun is nothing short of paradise. It has incredible beaches, wild nightlife, cheap drinks, and delicious food, and all of it comes at an affordable price.

But as with any popular holiday destination, Cancun has a lot of places to stay, but not all of which will cater to your travel needs. That’s why we put together this one-of-a-kind guide to where to stay in Cancun.

This article was written for travellers by travellers. It breaks down the different areas of Cancun by interest. Whether you want to party all night long, lounge on the beach, or explore the Mayan ruins, you’ll know exactly where to stay in Cancun.

Let’s get into it. Here are the best neighbourhoods in Cancun.

 

Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Cancun

 

In a hurry? Here’s my top neighborhood for first timers:

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Zona Hotelera
Zona Hotelera is one of the most convenient and popular places to stay in Cancun. A short drive from El Centro, this area of the city caters to tourists.
Places to Visit:
  • Dine on fresh and delicious seafood at El Fish Fritanga
  • Enjoy the view at Fred’s House Seafood Market & Grill
  • Swim in the shimmering turquoise waters of Playa Delfines

 

Where to Stay in Cancun

Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Cancun.

 

Best Hostel in Cancun: Selina Hotel Zone

If you want to hit the beach while you’re here or join the nearby parties, this Selina location is perfectly positioned. Though you may have trouble breaking away from their property, which boasts amenities like a resort-style pool, a yoga deck, a movie room, and an excellent restaurant and bar. This Selina really has it all!

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Best Hotel in Cancun: Hotel La Joya Isla Mujeres

Hotel La Joya Isla Mujeres is our choice for the best hotel in Cancun. Just steps from the sea, this hotel has a private beach, an outdoor pool, and both a restaurant and bar. It is charming and cosy and has just 11 rooms.

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Cancun Neighborhood Guide

Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Cancun

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Zona Hotelera

  • Zona Hotelera is one of the most convenient and popular places to stay in Cancun. A short drive from El Centro, this area of the city caters to tourists.
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El Centro

  • El Centro is Cancun’s lively and vibrant downtown. Home to most of Cancun’s residents, this part of the city is where you’ll find delicious authentic restaurants, charming local shops, and a variety of interesting sights.
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Punta Cancun

  • Punta Cancun is a small neighbourhood that is located at the north end of Zona Hotelera. It has golden sand beaches, dazzling blue waters, and is where you can see spectacular views of the city, the islands and beyond!
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Puerto Morelos

  • Puerto Morelos is a village bursting with culture and charm. It has incredible white sand beaches, dazzling blue waters, and spectacular views. Puerto Morelos is where you can enjoy all the perks of paradise without the bustling crowds.
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Isla Mujeres

  • Measuring six kilometres long and nearly a kilometre wide, Isla Mujeres is nothing short of paradise. It is surrounded by the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and is covered in white sand beaches lined with vivid palm trees.
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Cancun is a sprawling city located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

It’s famous for its vibrant clubs, lively bars, and beach parties that last all night long. It’s no wonder that party animals and revelers travel from all around the world to enjoy the spoils of Cancun.

But there’s more to Cancun than wild nights out. From lounging on the beach and swimming in the sea to exploring ancient Mayan ruins and dining on delicious cuisine, there really is something for everyone in Cancun.

Cancun is divided into three main districts, which are further divided into a series of neighborhoods.

The Zona Hotelera is built exclusively around tourism. A hub of activity all throughout the day, this is where you’ll find large resorts, beautiful beaches and plenty of restaurants and bars.

Within Zona Hotelera is Punta Cancun. The ultimate destination for partiers and night owls, Punta Cancun is home to the regions most infamous bars and clubs.

West of Zona Hotelera is Downtown Cancun or El Centro. More authentic than Zona Hotelera, El Centro is where most Cancun residents live. It’s noticeably cheaper than the resort region and is where you can enjoy amazing meals of tacos, burritos, and cochinita pibil.

Travel south of the city and you’ll reach Puerto Morelos. A small fishing village, Puerto Morelos is packed with culture, charm and incredible views. Here you can enjoy all the perks of Cancun without the throngs of tourists.

A short hop, skip and a jump north is the incredible Isla Mujeres. A small island less than 13 kilometers off the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is an absolute oasis. It has pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, exciting animal attractions, and so many once-in-a-lifetime activities.

Still not sure where to stay in Cancun? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

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Check out this post to read our full review!

 

5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Cancun

Let’s take a look, in more detail, at the five best neighborhoods in Cancun. Each is special in its own way, so make sure you read through to find the best neighborhood for your vacay!

 

1. Zona Hotelera – Where to Stay in Cancun for First-Timers

Zona Hotelera is one of the most convenient and popular places to stay in Cancun. A short drive from El Centro, this area of the city caters to tourists.

It’s where you’ll find massive resorts, golden sand beaches, delicious restaurants, and incredible views. That’s why it’s our recommendation for where to stay for your first time in Cancun.

It’s also suitable for culture vultures and history buffs as the amazing El Rey Mayan Ruins are just a short drive outside of the zone. If you want to combine history and culture with a beautiful beach vacation, you’ve come to the right place!

Zona Hotelera, Cancun

Zona Hotelera

 

Things to See and Do in Zona Hotelera

– Grab drinks at the Blue Gecko Cantina.

– Dine on fresh and delicious seafood at El Fish Fritanga.

– Visit the El Rey Mayan Ruins.

– Lounge on the golden sands of Playa Marlin.

– Enjoy the view at Fred’s House Seafood Market & Grill.

– Explore the exhibitions about Mayan Culture at the Museo Maya de Cancun.

– Swim in the shimmering turquoise waters of Playa Delfines.

– Shop til you drop at La Isla Shopping Village.

– Watch the sunset with a glass of wine at Harry’s Grill.

– Eat incredible fresh seafood at Lorenzillo’s.

– Dig into a great steak at Captain’s Cove Steakhouse & Seafood Grill Restaurant.

 

Best Hostel in Zona Hotelera: Selina Hotel Zone

Yes! The Lagoon Hotel Zone has budget dorm rooms, and they’re at Selina! Seeing the huge pool, you’re not going to believe you can afford it, but we’d recommend you take a look for yourself.

If you want to hit the beach while you’re here or join the nearby parties, this Selina location is perfectly positioned, and their facilities even have a yoga deck and cinema!

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Best Hotel in Zona Hotelera: Real Inn Cancun

This is our recommendation for where to stay in Zona Hotelera. Just steps from the beach, bars, shops and restaurants, you won’t find a better location in Cancun.

This three-star property has an outdoor pool, a fitness centre, a terrace and BBQ. The rooms are comfortable and spacious, and each is equipped with great amenities.

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Best Hotel in Zona Hotelera: Sotavento Hotel & Yacht Club

Located at the heart of Cancun’s Zona Hotelera, the Sotavento Hotel is a great base for your time in Paradise. This three-star hotel is close to local restaurants and cafes, beaches and bars.

It has an on-site spa, rooftop terrace and even a golf course! Guests also receive free bottled water.

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2. Downtown – El Centro – Where to Stay in Cancun on a Budget

El Centro is Cancun’s lively and vibrant downtown. Home to most of Cancun’s residents, this part of the city is where you’ll find delicious authentic restaurants, charming local shops, and a variety of interesting sights.

This is the place to stay if you’re looking for a break from the throngs of tourists, or are keen for a glimpse into real Mexican life.

El Centro is also where you’ll find a high concentration of affordable accommodations. This part of the city has everything from budget hostels and guests houses to boutique hotels and apartments.

Colourful and quaint, El Centro caters to travellers of all ages, styles and budgets.

Downtown El Centro, Cancun

source: Eduardo P (Wikicommons)

 

Things to See and Do in Downtown – El Centro

– Take a stroll through Parque Las Palapas, a popular local hangout.

– Tease your taste buds at Gory Tacos.

– Sip a glass of wine at El Rincon del Vino.

– Enjoy great drinks at Las de Guanatos.

– Cool down with a cold pint at The Black Pub.

– Eat incredible and authentic Mexican fare at Loncheria El Pocito.

– Shop for souvenirs, trinkets, snacks and sweets at Mercado 28.

– Wander along the lively and vibrant Avenida Tulum.

– Jump to your heart’s content at Sky Zone Cancun, the world’s first indoor trampoline park.

– Catch the latest blockbuster at Cinepolis VIP Cancun.

 

Best Hostel in Downtown – El Centro: Selina Downtown

This hostel, based in the heart of the downtown area, you’re near all the attractions of the city, but insulated in the Selina community for when you want to have some chill time.

Trendy and high-end, the property has lots of spaces where you can get some work done, and then once the work is over, you can jump in the pool or head for some food and a well-deserved drink at the nearby bars and restaurants.

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Best Hotel in Downtown – El Centro: One Cancun Centro

One Cancun Centro is located in the heart of Downtown Cancun. It is close to a wide range of bars, restaurants and tourist attractions.

This charming three-star property has an outdoor pool, dining facilities and a friendly staff. It’s a great base from which to explore Cancun and beyond!

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Best Hotel in Downtown – El Centro: Ambiance Suites Hotel Cancun

Bright, airy and centrally located, Ambiance Suites Hotel is a great base for your time in the city. It has a gym, a golf course, swimming pool, and a sun-soaked rooftop terrace.

This four-star hotel is surrounded by dining options, bars and pubs, and is within close proximity of Cancun’s top tourist attractions.

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3. Punta Cancun – Where to Stay in Cancun for Nightlife

Punta Cancun is a small neighbourhood that is located at the north end of Zona Hotelera. It has golden sand beaches, dazzling blue waters, and is where you can see spectacular views of the city, the islands and beyond!

But that’s not why most people stay in Punta Cancun.

This is a neighbourhood that never sleeps. It’s Cancun’s dedicated nightlife zone with rowdy bars, exciting clubs, thrilling entertainment and alcohol that flows all day and all night.

It’s where you can dance under the stars or enjoy a few drinks with new friends. Whatever nightlife you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Punta Cancun.

Punta Cancun, Cancun

source: Manuel Canela (Flickr)

 

Things to See and Do in Punta Cancun

– Dance the night away at the City, the largest nightclub in Latin America.

– Drink margaritas at the iconic Senor Frogs.

– Enjoy great music and drinks at Carlos’n Charlies.

– Eat delicious American fare at the Hard Rock Café.

– Shimmy to new music at Coco Bongo, one of the best nightspots in Cancun.

– Relax on an exclusive pristine beach at the Mandala Beach Club.

– Shop for a new outfit Plaza Forum and Plaza El Caracol.

– Light up the dancefloor at Dady O.

– Visit three of the best bars and clubs in Cancun on a guided Cuncrawl.

– Devour delicious tacos, burgers, burritos and more at the Surfin’ Burrito.

 

Best Hostel in Punta Cancun: Hostel Natura Cancun

At the heart of Cancun’s nightlife district is the brand new Hostel Natura Cancun. Just meters from the best bars, clubs and restaurants, this hostel is ideally located for a night the town.

It has a mini-supermarket, an outdoor terrace, and each bed gets its own reading light.

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Best Hotel in Punta Cancun: Aloft Cancun

Aloft Cancun is our pick for where to stay in Punta Cancun. Set at the centre of the entertainment district, this hotel has a great variety of bars, restaurants and clubs at its doorstep.

It is modern and stylish and spoils guests with its outdoor pool, sauna, gym, steam room and a rooftop terrace.

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Best Hotel in Punta Cancun: Grand Royal Cancun

Right in the centre of Cancun’s nightlife neighbourhood is the Grand Royal Cancun. This cosy and charming hotel has an outdoor pool and a private beach for guests.

Its rooms are comfortable, spacious and outfitted with modern amenities. The hotel property features a restaurant and bar.

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4. Puerto Morelos – Coolest Neighbourhood in Cancun

Puerto Morelos is our pick for the coolest neighbourhood in Cancun.

A short 20-minute drive south of the city, Puerto Morelos is nestled between Cancun’s Zona Hotelera and Playa del Carmen. At first glance, Puerto Morelos looks like nothing more than a sleepy fishing village, but scratch the surface and you’ll discover it’s a true gem!

Puerto Morelos is a village bursting with culture and charm. It has incredible white sand beaches, dazzling blue waters, and spectacular views. Puerto Morelos is where you can enjoy all the perks of paradise without the bustling crowds.

There’s also plenty to see and do around Puerto Morelos, from ancient Mayan Ruins and Botanical Gardens to charming zoos and Cenote adventures.

Puerto Morelos, Cancun

source: Jose Antonio Navas (Flickr)

 

Things to See and Do in Puerto Morelos

– See local flora, fauna and wildlife at the Jardin Botanico Dr Alfredo Barrera Marin.

– Enjoy incredible seafood at Chipayas.

– Sit back, relax and enjoy the views on Unico Beach.

– Tease your taste buds at El Nicho restaurant.

– Sip a glass of wine and watch the sunset at Off the Wine.

– Visit your favourite animals at the conservationist and interactive Croco Can Zoo.

– Eat fresh and delicious Mexican dishes at DK Puerto Morelos.

– Go on an adventure at the Cenotes Kin-Ha.

– Start your day with a filling and delicious breakfast at Lola y Moya.

– Drink refreshing cocktails at Saas Bar & Café, a charming beachside bar with snacks.

 

Best Hostel in Puerto Morelos: Hostel Humanity

Rest and relax in paradise at the Hostel Humanity. Located in the small village of Puerto Morelos, this hostel has the capacity for just 34 people and offers dorm-style accommodations.

It has a swimming pool and four common areas, including a garden, a lounge and a rooftop terrace. Tea and fruit are available at breakfast time.

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Best Hotel in Puerto Morelos: Hacienda Morelos Beach front Hotel

This great four-star hotel is our pick for where to stay in Puerto Morelos. Its features include a private beach, an outdoor pool and a rooftop terrace. Ideally located within the village, this hotel is close to bars and restaurants, as well as Puerto Morelos’ top activities and attractions.

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Best Hotel in Puerto Morelos: Hotel Ojo De Agua

A private beach and an outdoor pool are just two of the reasons we love the Hotel Ojo De Agua. Located in Puerto Morelos, this hotel is a great base for exploring the region.

It has an on-site restaurant, terrace and a stylish bar – perfect for unwinding after a long day at the beach.

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5. Isla Mujeres – Where to Stay in Cancun for Families

Less than 13 kilometres off the coast of Cancun is the idyllic Isla Mujeres.

Measuring six kilometres long and nearly a kilometre wide, Isla Mujeres is nothing short of paradise. It is surrounded by the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and is covered in white sand beaches lined with vivid palm trees.

But there’s more to Isla Mujeres than rest and relaxation. This tiny island is home to a great variety of activities and attractions, from ocean adventure sports and exploring natural wonders, to turtle farms and dolphin experiences. That’s why it’s our pick for where to stay for families visiting Cancun.

Isla Mujeres, Cancun

 

Things to See and Do in Isla Mujeres

– Rent golf carts and cruise around the island in style.

– Visit Tortugranja, a small turtle farm where you can see turtles, fish, sea horses and other sea creatures.

– Explore the Ruins of Ixchel Temple, a Mayan temple.

– See the Seashell house, a quirky and curious seaside abode.

– Play on the sand at North Beach.

– Experience the wonders beneath the waves at Garrafon Natural Reef Park.

– Swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery Isla Mujeres.

– Wander throughout Punta Sur, a seaside park that is home to a lighthouse and large sculpture.

– Dine at Capitan Dulche, where the food is good and the views are spectacular.

– Sink your teeth into incredible Mexican food at Basto’s Grill.

 

Best Hostel in Isla Mujeres: The Mermaid Hostel Beach

Enjoy incredible views, comfortable beds and a friendly atmosphere at the Mermaid Hostel. Located in Isla Mujeres, this hostel is a short ferry ride to Punta Cancun. It has a rooftop deck, a grill and a chill common lounge. It is a short walk from the island’s best restaurants and bars.

View on HostelWorld

 

Best Hotel in Isla Mujeres: Hotel Plaza Almendros

Hotel Plaza Almendros may not look like much from the outside, but don’t judge a book by its cover. This charming three-star hotel is great for families visiting Cancun.

It has an outdoor swimming pool, free wifi and mini-golf. The rooms are spacious and basic, and the beach is just a short walk away!

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Best Hotel in Isla Mujeres: Hotel La Joya Isla Mujeres

This is our best recommendation for where to stay in Isla Mujeres. This stunning four-star hotel is located just a few steps from the sea. Its features include a private beach, an outdoor pool, and both a restaurant and bar. This hotel is charming and cosy, boasting just 11 rooms.

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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Cancun

The beaches, the clubs, the food and the sun – Cancun is an absolutely exquisite destination. Whether you’re looking to explore its rich Mayan history, dance the night away or lounge on the beach, you’ve come to the right place!

TL;DR, here’s a recap of our post. Isla Mujeres is our favourite neighbourhood in Cancun. Not only does it have an amazing seaside location, but it’s surrounded by great restaurants and fantastic attractions.

Our recommendation for the best hotel, Hotel La Joya Isla Mujeres, is also just a short ferry ride from Cancun’s best bars and clubs.

Our pick for the best budget accommodation is the Fiesta Party Hostel Cancun. By partiers, for partiers, this hotel caters to night owls, party animals, and fun seeking vagabonds.

Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below! Buen Viaje!

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

Concerned about safety in Mexico? Read our in-depth Mexico safety guide and our in-depth Cancun safety guide where we present lots of useful tips and stories about security in Mexico.

 

Do you own an awesome hostel, hotel or apartment? Want to be featured in our list? Email hostels@thebrokebackpacker.com to find out how.

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Not sure where to stay in Cancun? This guide covers what to do in each neighborhood, and the top hotels & hostels by area!

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