Reviewed on May 17, 2022
Reviewed on May 17, 2022
Reviewed on May 15, 2022
Famed for its ancient origins as much as its current-day bustle, Cancun's Mayan Ruins take in striking architecture, spectacular art, and culturally diverse structures. Between the 1980s and the present, Cancun has transformed itself from a jungle village into a diverse holiday resort comprising ancient relics and sandy beaches, and providing a haven for water sports fanatics and beach holidaymakers alike. Buttressing south-east Mexico's coastline, this part of the Yucatan Peninsula contrasts Caribbean-facing luxury hotels with bars and restaurants overlooking the romantic Nichupte Lagoon.
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If you're looking for an all-night mecca for cheap drinks, endless beer, and bikini contests, and a huge selection of cafe bars, pubs, clubs, and mega-clubs, Cancun is just that. However, if you want a more refined experience of top-shelf cigar bar ambience or quiet beachside cocktails, you've also come to the right place! Cancun has a watering hole for every thirsty vacationer. Most Cancun bars and nightclubs are in the Hotel Zone along Bulevar Kukulcán, which is basically one huge party venue. Downtown Cancun also offers many a fun night, but at a slightly slower and more subdued pace.
For serious partying, serious drinking, and serious ogling of flesh, your port of call should be one of the mega-clubs in the Hotel Zone. These massive nightclubs cater to several thousand partyers and are decked out with the latest sound-and-light shows which turn the dance floor into a pumping, pulsating ocean of bodies. Mix this with international DJs, Vegas-style floor shows, acrobats, go-go dancers, wet T-shirt competitions, foam-filled dance floors, indoor waterfalls, and all-you-can-drink cover charges, and you are up for a seriously big experience.
The Bulldog Cafe at the Krystal Hotel is anything but a cafe. This place rocks from 10pm 'til dawn with frequent live concerts by world-famous bands, nightly shows, and the latest dance music, as well as its famous women-only hot tub. Dady'O, in front of Plaza Forum, is a multi-level mega-club with six bars and a packed, smoke-filled dance floor that pumps out a wide range of music including dance, hip hop, and classics from the 80s and 90s—all illuminated by a laser light show. Coco Bongo in the Plaza Forum is one of Cancun's hippest venues, with a young and energetic crowd. Be sure to join one of the frequent congo lines that snake through the club and over the bars. The City is one of Cancun's largest and most impressive nightclubs. It's spread over three floors, has nine bars, and can accommodate up to 5,000 people. With a sound system that delivers a million watts of power, if you find yourself sitting down in this club, you’re in the wrong place.
"We went to CocoBongo with the hotel and got VIP treatment - a must see!"
- a traveler from New York
If you like the nightlife but you're not keen on gyrating with a thousand other half-naked partygoers, your best bet is one of the smaller nightclubs, especially those that don't offer a drinks-inclusive cover charge. The O Ultra Lounge is a relatively intimate space with a large selection of cocktails for the elegant crowd, while La Boom is a massive club with English pub-style decor, several dance floors, and state-of-the-art sound and lighting. Up and Down gives you several choices, with its cool bar/restaurant upstairs and a modern nightclub downstairs. Some other popular clubs along Bulevar Kukulcán are Dady Rock Cancun in front of Plaza Forum, Club Over 30 in the Hyatt Cancun Hotel, and Basic Discotheque Cancun in front of Hyatt Cancun.
If you want a more laid back experience, visit one of the dozens of bar/restaurants along the strip. Pat O'Brien's at the Flamingo Plaza is a relaxed venue for low key music and great views across the lagoon. Mango Tango, opposite the Ritz-Carlton, has great floor shows and live music, and the famous Señor Frog's is a restaurant with great views across the lagoon by day and a happening party venue by night. For a more refined evening, visit Very Wine, a wine bar in Plaza Caracol, where you can enjoy fine wines, liquors, and a great selection of tapas.
Other popular bars along Bulevar Kukulcán are Carlos'n Charlie's just outside the Plaza Forum, the Hard Rock Café in the Forum by the Sea, Planet Hollywood inside the Centro Commercial Plaza and Flamingo and Casitas inside Hyatt Cancun. To catch the latest game on TV, Champions at the Marriott Casa Magna Hotel and Kelly's Sports Bar in the Avalon Grand Hotel are a couple of options in the Hotel Zone.
Party with an open bar pass
If you find yourself in downtown Cancun be sure to visit Los Cuatro Elementos (the four elements) which is inside the hotel Xbalamque on Av Yaxchilán. This is a very laid back and intimate club with a bohemian ambience. Frequent live bands play Spanish rock and ballads.
Las de Guanatos is a welcoming bar/restaurant on Playa Tortugas. Be sure to try a “michelada," a flavored, beer-based cocktail and one of the house specialties.
Club 77, on Av Yaxchilán, is a sports bar for true sports lovers with multiple TV screens and a great range of drinks.
With 250 sunny days and very little change in temperature, which averages around 80 F (27 C), the weather in Cancun is perfect for at least nine months of the year. The climate here is definitely tropical, so there is a rainy season which typically occurs from October to mid-December which can have occasional heavy downpours. Between May and December there is a higher risk of hurricanes and tropical storms, but these are rare. Late December to early April is generally dry with low humidity and very pleasant temperatures.
Temperatures in December/January range from an average of 70 F (21 C) to 82 F (28 C), and in July/August they're around 77 F (25 C) to 92 F (33 C).
Because of the Hotel Zone's location on the coast, with the Nichupté Lagoon on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, temperatures here are usually a few degrees cooler than in downtown Cancun. This is mainly due to a refreshing sea breeze which is generally stronger in the afternoons, and provides welcome relief from the humidity.
During the rainy season, pack your swimsuit, sunscreen, hat, and an umbrella. In the dry season, just leave your umbrella at home.
After clearing customs, it is best to politely decline any offer by locals to carry your luggage as they will invariably demand money, and there is the chance your luggage could be stolen.
Taxis hailed on the street are cheaper than those from taxi ranks, especially ranks outside hotels and restaurants.
Exchange rates are much better once you have cleared customs.
If you like Mexican beer (and who doesn't?), stop at one of the small convenience shops away from the tourist centers and you will find many different varieties you probably won't have seen before, many of which are great. They often have a couple different varieties of Corona that are superior to those sold in the States and around the world.
Toll roads (Cuota) are generally much faster than free (Libre) roads, but they can be quite expensive. So consider whether you want to get to your destination quickly, but for a price, or take the slower route and enjoy the scenery. One great advantage of using toll roads is that any damage caused to your vehicle by potholes, etc. is covered by insurance included in the toll. So keep the toll receipt, if possible note the distance marker where the damage occurred, and report any damage at the next toll booth.
The cheapest and easiest way to get around Cancun is by bus, and several routes are available up and down the main Kukulcan Boulevard. The main difference between the bus routes is where they terminate, with some travelling only within the Hotel Zone and others heading into Cancun City and to the main intercity bus terminal. Buses are generally hot, noisy, and mostly full, but they can be a lot of fun to ride if you’re up for a local adventure. You may mistake some bus drivers for frustrated racing drivers as full speed is the only speed they know! It's best to have the correct fare whenever possible, as many drivers do not offer change.
"The bus system is actually easy and efficient, we didn't even have to use a taxi! We spent one day in downtown and we did an awesome tour in Xel-Ha on another day."
- a traveler from Seattle
If you're planning a trip out of Cancun, head into the ADO bus station (Estacion de Autobuses ADO) on Av. Tulum in Cancun City. Here you can catch a bus to locations along the coast as well as all the major destinations in the area.
Taxis are easy to come by in most parts of Cancun, and the fares are determined by the number of zones you pass through. When you catch a taxi from a cab rank, be aware that they will be more expensive than one you hailed off the street.
Rental Cars are available at the airport with all the international chains well represented, and concierges at many of the large hotels can arrange or at least assist with car rental. When driving out of Cancun, it's best to use toll roads —Cuota— wherever possible, and drive under the speed limit as the police are vigilant, especially with visitors. Driving can be a fun and rewarding experience in Mexico, but do make sure you have full insurance coverage, and buy Mexican Auto Insurance (it’s the only insurance recognized by local authorities). Avoid driving at night whenever possible as lighting is often poor, animals and pedestrians are difficult to see, and the chance of encountering drunk drivers is greatly increased at night.
Driving in Cancun during Spring Break does not make for a relaxing experience, as the police are out in force and a lot of Spring Breakers who have probably partied hard will also be out in force, so your best bet is to stick with buses or taxis.
If you want to take a trip to Isla Mujeres ferries operate out of Puerto Juarez, Gran Puerto Cancun and Playa Tortugas.
When you start exploring Cancun you'll realize there is so much more than lazing in the sun and partying until dawn. But deciding what to do while your here can be daunting, which is why we scoured the whole region to come up with top things to do in and around Cancun.
The Hotel Zone is really just one big beautiful stretch of sand with hotels and resorts stretched along some amazing beaches. Take care when swimming on the eastern beaches as the currents can be swift, Here are some of the best beaches in Cancun.
Near Punta Nizuc, this beach is a little removed from the hotel zone and has no public facilities, so be sure to take refreshments if you plan to spend the day here. It is possibly Cancun's prettiest beach and has absolutely breathtaking views. It's located at mile 11.2 (km 18) near the Ruinas El Rey. Do take care in the strong surf.
A very popular beach with great water sport options including jetski hire and parasailing. It is located next to Cancun Palace Hotel at mile 9 (km 14.5). Take care when swimming as there can be strong currents here.
Playa Chac Mool:
Located right in the heart of the Hotel Zone at mile 6.2 (km 10), this beach has great facilities including toilets and a change area, and access to water sports hires. Take care when swimming as there can be strong currents here.
This is a family friendly beach located at mile 5.3 (km 8.5) with calm shallow water ideal for children. It is a westward facing beach offering more shelter from the wind and currents than other beaches.
A great beach for sunbathing and for taking in breathtaking views along the coast. Located behind Plaza Kukulcán at mile 8 (km 13). Take care when swimming as there can be strong currents here.
Playa Las Perlas:
A sheltered beach with calm water that's ideal for families with children. It is located at mile 1.5 (km 2.5) and there are many restaurants and bars dotted along the shore.
Playa Linda has excellent swimming and some nice family attractions as well as water sport hire nearby. Located at mile 2.5 (km 4) it is also the departure point for tours to Isla Mujeres and scuba diving trips.
Another great family beach with generally calm water. There are also many options to buy refreshments and for beach-side dining. Located at mile 3 (km 5).
Good for swimming and water sports and with several good bars and restaurants. Located at mile 4 (km 6.5). There is access to Isla Mujeres via tours that leave from the dock.
Playa Gaviota Azul:
10In the heart of the Hotel Zone at mile 6 (km 9.5) this beach is usually busy and has great waves perfect for body surfing. If you want to get away from the crowds just take a stroll a few hundred yards to the south.
The turquoise waters around Cancun and all along the Riveiera Maya are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. The Mesoamerican Reef that extends from Isla Contoy down to Honduras offers spectacular reef diving in a colorful and unspoilt marine environment. So grab a snorkel and a pair of flippers and dive on in! Here are some of Cancun's best dive sites.
Located about 10 minutes by boat from Isla Mujeres the Reef Manchones is around 1,100 yards long and is filled with schools of fish and colorful coral. At a depth of only 45 feet (15m) this reef is ideal for all levels of diver.
Punta Nizuc offers some of the best off-the-beach snorkeling in the Hotel Zone with a wonderful reef running along the eastern side of the peninsula. Catch a bus or taxi to the Westin Resort & Spa Cancun and then it's only about a 600 yard walk south down the beach.
Cozumel is about 10 miles offshore from Playa del Carmen and is surrounded by beautiful, healthy coral reefs and warm, clear waters. Some reefs grow as deep as 400 feet below the surface, so scuba equipment is needed in these areas. However there are some fantastic shallow dive sites that are ideal for snorkelling, especially on the more protected western side of the island.
With clear, calm waters that are shallow enough for snorkelling, and reef dives within easy reach of the beach Isla Contoy is a diver's dream destination only 18 miles north of Isla Mujeres. And with a limit of only 200 people permitted to visit the island each day, the beauty of its natural environment is well preserved.
Known as the Gateway to the Mayan World, Cancun is a wonderful base from which to explore "el Mundo Maya." There are even Mayan archaeological sites within the Hotel Zone. When you feel like delving into some ancient culture, take some time to explore the remarkable Mayan ruins within easy reach of Cancun.
Only two hours from Cancun, the Mayan ruins in Tulum are built on a promontory which overlooks the beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Although the city reached its peak around the 13th century, the buildings which sit atop 40 foot seaside cliffs are some of the best preserved Mayan ruins on the coast.
3 hours west of Cancun is the spectacular Mayan site of Chichen Itza. This restored archaeological site was once the location of Mayan rituals and human sacrifices. The magnificent El Castillo Pyramid towers almost 100 feet high, and the Great Ball Court was the venue for sporting matches that often ended in the losing team being sacrificed to the Gods.
Cobá is a huge Mayan city ruin that seems to almost grow out of the surrounding ancient forest. Only about 75 miles southwest of Cancun, the impressive stone pyramids and crystal clear cenotes (waterholes) of Cobá are a great day trip from Cancun or nearby Tulum.
Deep in the Yucatan the mighty Ek Balam ruins were once covered by the same thick jungle that still surrounds it. Today, many of the ruins have been restored and it's possible to take in the whole site from atop the 96 foot high Acropolis pyramid.
About 230 miles south of Cancun, the Kohunlich Mayan ruins are set in natural parklands surrounded by Cohoon palm trees. The most striking structure is the Pyramid of the Masks whose giant eight foot high stone masks date back more than 1,500 years.
Top Night Clubs:
Cancun nightlife is designed for serious partying and serious fun. Everything from high-wire acts, trapeze artists, indoor waterfalls and foam-filled dance floors can be found here, all to the beat of the latest music or classic hits. There is a dizzying selection of venues to choose from. Here are some of the best.
25With a capacity of 1,800 this is of Cancun's mega-clubs and is also one of the coolest on the strip. Get ready for glitter-drops, foam fountains and spectacular lighting. And be sure to jump on the end of the famous Coco Bongo conga line that snakes through the multi level club and even along the bartops!
This club features a packed dance floor, six bars, the latest music, and a state of the art laser show. No wonder Dady'O is one of Cancun's most popular mega-clubs. It's located at the Plaza Forum and you can party from 10pm til 4am.
Able to accommodate 5,000-plus people, The City is one of the most spectacular clubs you're likely to visit. World class DJs pump out the latest rhythms through the 1 million watt sound system, and the walls of video screens and nine bars will keep you primed for partying across 3 floors and 8,000 feet of floor space!
More like a nightclub on steroids than a cafe, the 'Bulldog' is a party venue for bikini contests, beer contests and a special women-only hot tub, complete with waterfall,. Open from 10pm til dawn this is the place to be to enjoy a night with the 'beautiful people'.
On Bonampak Ave in Cancun City, La Cantinita is a Mexican bar/restaurant that's perfect for a more relaxed night out. Relax with a great meal and cool drink while enjoying more traditional Mexican entertainment including Mariachi bands and Mexican dancers. Later, mix it up on the dance floor with the resident DJ.
One thing for certain is that you'll leave with a great many more things than you arrived with on a Cancun getaway: wonderful memories, a bronze suntan, awesome photos, and probably a hangover or two as well! However, we spoke with the locals to find the five most important items you should pack for your tropical Cancun adventure.
Whether you wear them to look cool or need them for "the morning after", sunglasses are a must to cope with Cancun's dazzling sunlight, especially at the beach.
You came here for the beach didn't you? Make sure you pack your best swimming gear. In fact pack a few extras as the beach isn't the only place you'll find yourself wearing them.
The sun in Cancun can be very strong so make sure you bring high protection sunscreen. Don't worry, with more than 250 days of sunshine a year you're bound to leave bronzed.
The Hotel Zone is long, and although catching buses is very easy, you'll still find yourself putting a few miles under your feet during your stay. Bring dress shoes for the evenings, but make sure you've got some comfortable walking shoes during the day.
Casual elegant outfit for dinner:
Cancun may be on the beach, but when you decide to spoil yourself at one of the fancier restaurants you'll need to dress the part, and flip-flops and bikinis won’t cut it.
Cancun has in excess of thirty spa resorts that are designed to pamper you physically and refresh you spiritually. Indulge yourself in a huge range of treatments including the traditional Temazcal steam bath, the ancient Thalassotherapy, or the health giving Mayan massage. Here are some of the best spas you could ever wish to visit.
Gem Spa at Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach:
Experience the ultimate in luxury and feel like a queen from ancient Egypt in this jewel-inspired spa. There are several shared male/female areas, and a vast selection of therapies available including Ayurveda, Shiatsu, Massage and Scrubs and Wraps.
Le Blanc Spa and Resort:
The spa in this adults only resort focuses on couples sharing a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. The spa is filled with warm, earthy tones and blends traditional European and Asian techniques.
Zoetry Paraiso de la bonita Talasso Spa:
About 8 miles south of the Hotel Zone this exclusive adults only spa is right on the beach and offers guests all manner of luxury indulgences including Turkish baths, mud baths, aromatherapy treatments and even massages on the beach.
If hitting that one "perfect" shot is your idea of holiday heaven then Cancun's golf courses will give you a getaway you'll tell your golfing buddies about for years to come. Not only are the golf courses set in one of the most beautiful locations in the world but many are designed by the greats of the game including Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Nick Price and others. Here are some of our top picks.
Set amongst jungles and mangroves and bordering some spectacular beaches this Greg Norman designed course lives up to its name - the Chameleon. Some of the challenges include underground cenotes (waterholes), wide lagoons, and greens by the sea where a chip too far means a ball in the Caribbean. Course length is 7,024 yards, Par 72, 18 holes. This is also the home of the only PGA Tour event outside of the US or Canada, the Mayakoba Classic.
Moon Palace Golf Course:
A Jack Nicklaus signature course, this is one to be enjoyed by all levels of golfers and a challenge to even the best of them. It is set amongst beautiful lush vegetation and some of the holes will have you scratching your head (or throwing your club!), especially the 17th which is set on a tiny island that's surrounded by submerged balls. Course length is 7,165 yards, Par 72, 18 holes.
Riviera Cancun Golf Course:
Another Jack Nicklaus course, the Riviera Cancun is one of the most scenic in Cancun with beautiful views of the Caribbean on the 14th and 15th holes. Keep an eye out for crocodiles and iguanas during your round - if nothing else they provide a great excuse for a fluffed shot! Course length is 7,060 yards, Par 72, 18 holes.
Playa Mujeres Golf Course:
Designed to blend in with the natural ecology, the Playa Mujeres Golf Course overlooks the Caribbean Sea and Isla Mujeres and winds its way through jungle fairways that are just waiting to eat your ball. The fairways are carpet-like but the many sand traps can offer quite a challenge. Great ocean views on the back nine. Course length is 7,218 yards, Par 72, 18 holes.
Bahia Principe Golf Course:
This course was designed by Robert Trent Jones II and comprises an 18 hole professional course and a 9 hole, Par 3, executive course. The 27 holes of this course offer up different challenges throughout with jungle fringed fairways and holes incorporating devilish water traps. Professional course length is 7,272 yards, Par 72, 18 holes.
Iberoestar Golf Course:
This dynamic course challenges golfers with undulating greens, fairways bound by dense forest, and fiendish bunkers, but somehow it still manages to be a ton of fun. It's not unusual to see crocodiles while playing a round, but the rate of play is fast so you won’t be around long enough to get a good look! Lots of jungle and water hazards on this course. Course length is 6,800 yards, Par 72, 18 holes.