Latin America, Travel

Where to Stay in Cancun

Planning a trip to Cancun can be complicated. Despite what local tourist boards want us to believe, we’ve clumped the entire stretch of sandy paradise that runs from Cancun down to Playa del Carmen under the heading of Cancun. After all, the same airport does service the entire area and has the word Cancun in the name. But is all of “Cancun” the same? Will you get the same experience whether you stay in Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, or even Isla de Mujeres?

The answer is no. This guide will help you plan your perfect trip to Cancun!

Where to Stay in Cancun

Photo by Bryan Richards via

Cancun Hotel Zone

What we know as Cancun originated in what is called the Cancun Hotel Zone. Think of it as the metropolitan center of the world-class city that Cancun has become. Here is where you will find the majority of the nightlife, restaurants, and shops all offering options from budget-friendly to über expensive. During Spring Break, it’s where college students flock to for bad tequila, Corona, and up all night partying.

Here is where you will find more traditional beach hotels. While they’re still considered resorts, they’re not as sprawling as properties found in the Riviera Maya. Although many pack the same amenities. Some are even all-inclusive. But why stay in the Hotel Zone if you never plan to leave your hotel? Accommodations range from budget friendly like that Imperial Las Perlas to five-star luxury like Nizuc Resort and Spa.

Playa del Carmen

Even though it’s growing as a popular tourist destination, Playa del Carmen still holds some of its quaint fishing village charm, albeit with a modern touch. You have many of the amenities found in Cancun but in a more Mexican manner. Visitors enjoy some of the best beaches and diving in the world during the day and the entertainment of 5th Avenue at night.

Hotels choices range from boutique hotels along 5th Avenue, like Hotel Cacao, to beachfront resorts that the area is known for, like Viceroy Riviera Maya. Don’t discount the hotels along 5th Avenue. Most are very modern with pools and easy access to the beach.

Where to Stay in Cancun

Photo by Bryan Richards via

Riviera Maya

Also known as the Mayan Riviera, this is the stretch of beach that runs between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Outside of the resorts, there really isn’t much to offer in terms of tourist attractions. Never fear though! These properties were designed to keep tourists entertained in their all-inclusive villages from family focused resort like Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa All Inclusive to romantic adult-only resorts like Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso All Inclusive. Many resorts do offer free transportation to Cancun and Playa del Carmen for those itching to explore beyond the secluded walls.

Isla Mujeres

I remember my first daytrip to Isla Mujeres. Hotels were almost unheard of on this secluded island, as where many other tourist amenities. Today, the island has become a destination that tourists visit for longer than just a day. The island isn’t easy to get to, but the effort is worth the reward. You’ll experience your own private island at hotels like Privilege Aluxes Isla Mujeres Hotel.

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This article is part of the #HipmunkCityLove series.