With more than 32,000 hotel rooms in Cancún alone — from ultra-chic, all-inclusive resorts to laid-back beach bum hideouts — you’re spoiled for choice here when it comes to where to stay.
Cancún's famous Hotel Zone occupies a skinny island shaped like the number 7, tracing a path between the Caribbean beaches on the east and Nichupté Lagoon on the west. It’s connected to the mainland by two causeways. The mainland city to the north, where Mexicans live and do business, is called El Centro (downtown) even though it sprawls far beyond the city center.
Like most of the coastline, the Hotel Zone is dominated by all-inclusive mega resorts that many a guest never even ventures out from. And if you think the Hotel Zone is just hotels with cheap buffets and rooms stuffed with college kids, think again. Cancún lures the global jet set, too, and everything in between, with ultra-luxurious properties such as the Iberostar Cancún and Grand Velas. There are many adults-only properties along the coast, too, ranging from Excellence Playa Mujeres north of downtown Cancún to the wellness-themed Le Blanc Spa Resort and the 28-room the Beach Tulum, an adults-only eco-hotel on the Riviera Maya.
Cancún hotels include grandes dames Ritz-Carlton, J.W. Marriott and Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancún. The Beachscape Kin Ha is a smaller, moderately priced independent hotel on prime beachfront. A few affordable hotels hug the lagoon shore, too, such as Sina Suites and Real Inn, both of which draw travelers seeking relaxation removed from the club zone.
In Cancún Centro, Adhara Hacienda Cancún is a great bargain, while the modern Fiesta Inn Cancún Las Américas offers beautiful views and proximity to one of the city’s best malls.
Many major hotels have wheelchair-accessible rooms, and even more have ramps and wide entrances in public areas. The Four Points by Sheraton in El Centro, part of the Cancún Medical Tourism Complex, is fully accessible and completely smoke-free. It’s one of only a handful of Cancún hotels with pool lifts, along with Westin Lagunamar. A few others have ramps leading to their beaches.
If you’re traveling with children, Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya has an incredible onsite water park that feels like its own theme park and a free kids club they’ll love.
Vacation rentals are another popular option and can be particularly handy when traveling with a multigenerational group. With a range of apartments and villas, Loco Gringo stands out for its deep local knowledge and concierge service. HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb all offer rentals, too.
Other areas to consider include:
The Riviera Maya. South of Cancún, the Riviera Maya has its share of huge beachfront all-inclusives strung between towns, as well as boutique hotels, simple inns and vacation rentals.
Puerto Morelos. The guardian of the region’s most pristine stretch of coral reef is still a traditional small town with friendly, modest hotels such as Casa El Moro, just two blocks from the water. South of town, Mayakoba is a luxury master-planned resort with four hotels and a championship golf course united around an ecological mission.
Playa del Carmen. Once a sleepy seaside village, Playa del Carmen is home to busy pedestrian-only Fifth Avenue and now rivals Cancún not only for size and lodging capacity but also for noise, raucous clubs and traffic. While modest boutique hotels, such as the intimate Hotel Lunata, built Playa’s reputation, northern Fifth Avenue has sprouted stylish upscale hotels including La Semilla and Hotel Cacao. The appealing location of La Pasión, a few blocks off the beach, makes it a good bargain.
Akumal. Farther south, Akumal, “Place of the Turtles” in Mayan, is a small, ecologically minded diving and snorkeling haven where you can swim with sea turtles. It has a smattering of hotels and abundant vacation rentals. Mellow, boho-chic Tulum boasts that famous Maya temple overlooking the Caribbean and has become incredibly popular with partying millennials and Gen Z. Lodging options are divided between a string of pricey, semi-rustic palapa (palm thatch-roofed) hotels on the long white beach — Cabañas Tulum is among the best — and the hostels, B&Bs and affordable hotels such as Don Diego de la Selva and Posada Luna del Sur in El Pueblo, the funky city on the highway.
Ways to save: Save on accommodations just prior to Christmas, from mid-January until Presidents’ Day and in low season, when rates fall by 20 to 30 percent. The region’s abundant air-hotel packages can also save hundreds of dollars on a week’s vacation.