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Where to Stay in Cancun

There are only two distinctly tourist-friendly areas within Cancun proper, and the largest is best known as Zona Hotelera, or the Hotel Zone. This area is a roughly 14-mile strip of beach that is separated from the Cancun mainland by the Nichupte lagoon and connected by a pair of land bridges. The majority of the area’s accommodations are located on this strip, including all of the most elaborate resorts and those offering all inclusive Cancun hotel deals. This is where the greatest concentration of restaurants, shopping, nightlife and other destinations are, so you’ll likely be making several trips to Zona Hotelera if you opt to stay on the mainland.

Ciudad Cancun, the city on the mainland, is set up more for the locals than for tourists. There are a few hotels here, however, and their rates tend to be significantly more affordable than those in Zona Hotelera. Since the city is less oriented to international travelers, this is also where you’ll find more authentic Mexican restaurants, markets and cantinas. Even if you don’t stay here, the downtown area is worth exploring for the cultural experience.

Cancun Hotel Tips

If you’re seeking the ultimate resort experience, you’ll definitely want to stay in Zona Hotelera, and if cost is a concern, you may want to consider the city hotels as well. In the Hotel Zone, resorts that are more tranquil are fairly well-mixed among those with more of a party atmosphere, though the ones at the northern end of the strip are closest to the most popular nightlife destinations. Unless close access to this district is a high priority for you, which resort you choose should be less influenced by location and more influenced by each individual resort’s atmosphere, amenities and all inclusive deals.

While the hotels and resorts in the Hotel Zone are dominated by lodging chains and international resort companies, those on the mainland are largely operated by local, independent hoteliers.

Cancun Hotel Recommendations

For a serene resort experience, it doesn’t get much better than AQUA Cancun, a sleek and streamlined sanctuary that sets the standard for luxury in Zona Hotelera. All rooms include breathtaking ocean views and premium accommodations, with expanded suites that feature oversized hot tubs. Gourmet restaurants with celebrity chefs, professional spa and massage services, and eight distinctive swimming pools help round out an unforgettable stay for any traveler.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun may be even more to your liking, depending on your preference in luxury accommodations. Whereas AQUA is modern almost to the point of being futuristic, The Ritz exudes the type of classic luxury that its brand has come to typify. Crystal chandeliers, ornate furnishings and other touches of formal elegance offer a refined escape from the spring break scene.

The Flamingo Cancun, an all inclusive property, is much more casual and has competitive rates, particularly in the off-season between May and December. One of its best features is its location in the center of the most popular hotel, dining and shopping district. If you like to explore on foot, this may be a great choice for you.

On the mainland, the Rey del Caribe Hotel is one of the most interesting resorts in all of Cancun. Its mission, in addition to providing an impeccable guest experience, is to be as ecologically sound and energy-independent as possible. Extensive use of solar power, simplified recycling, collection of rainwater for later use and other innovative hotel concepts make this an intriguing getaway for the environmentally conscious. The landscaping and décor is enchanting, and it’s far more affordable than the island resorts.

Cancun Transportation

The area is easy to navigate and driving is safe on its well-maintained roads, but you should consider your plans before you rent a car after deboarding your flight to Cancun. If you expect to sample your share of Cancun’s never-ending array of creative cocktails and authentic tequila, your rental car might stay parked for most of your trip. Fortunately, Cancun’s public and private transportation systems can get you virtually anywhere you’d want to go, usually without costing you more per day than would a rental.

Taxi fare from the airport to the Hotel Zone costs around $60 U.S., but the rate going back to the airport is usually half that. It’s easy to hail a cab in the Hotel Zone, but drivers charge a higher minimum fare there than they do on the mainland. A cheaper form of transportation up and down the strip is the fleet of public buses that runs most hours of the day and night. If you want to go beyond the resort areas to see the Mayan ruins or other such sites, charter bus companies arrange affordable daily excursions.

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