Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cancun Part I – Where to stay?

Where is the best area to stay in when visiting Cancun, Mexico?

Visiting Cancun sounds simple enough, but when you begin exploring, you will quickly realize that are many options available. Depending on what you are looking to get out of your vacation, there are different areas in and around Cancun that might better suited to your needs then others. And I’m here to help! But before we get started, you need to be honest with yourself, and with those traveling with you, about you are looking for and set expectations. So think about that as you read this so you can pick the perfect place for your Cancun getaway!

Let’s get started!

I’m looking for: Relaxation 24/7

If you just want to do nothing except relax on the beach, read, and drink pina coladas, then a resort in Riviera Maya, also known as the Mayan Riviera, might be right for you. Riviera Maya is a district located roughly between the city of Playa Del Carmen and the Tulum ruins about an hour/hour and half south of Cancun. This area is well known for its large scale, often all inclusive, resorts. As you drive along Highway 307 you will see humungous and elaborate entrances to the resorts complete with guard gates. You cannot see any further than that, and that’s probably the point. These resorts are usually stunning and offer everything that you could ever want. Most importantly, they are located along a stretch of beach that you typically only see in travel magazines. White sands, turquoise water, and blue skies.

The water is so incredibly clear and warm!

Although there are numerous attractions located near this area, they are not within walking distance of the resorts. Actually, nothing is within walking distance. If you plan on venturing outside of your hotel, you will need a car or you will need to go with a tour group. Some of these nearby attractions include the Mayan ruins of Tulum, the small snorkel village of Akumal, and Xcaret and Xel Ha Parks.

 The view from the top of the Tulum Ruins is stunning! The colors are out of this world!

If you are staying at a resort in Mayan Riviera, you should pick a hotel that you really love and offers all the amenities you are looking for because chances are you, you won’t leave the property. And that’s perfectly ok! Pick your perfect cabana, grab a fruity cocktail, and relax!

I’m looking for: A little relaxation and a little exploration

If you want the best of both worlds, relaxing and a little sightseeing, choosing to stay in the Hotel Zone might be right for you. The Hotel Zone, or Zona Hotelera, is located on a stretch of land (sort of like a peninsula) between the Caribbean Sea and the Nichupte Lagoon that houses mostly hotels, restaurants, and some shopping centers.

 A view up and down the Hotel Zone in Cancun. The beaches and water are pristine!

Although it is quite touristy because of the number of large hotels located here, you have the option of staying at your hotel and relaxing or venturing out on to do a little shopping or dining outside of your hotel. There is a bus that runs up and down the main throughway making it easy to get around. The bus runs often and because it is on a straight road, it is easy to navigate. Within a few minutes you can travel to another hotel, several shopping centers, restaurants, and downtown Cancun. If you want to visit some of the more  popular attractions, such a Tulum, Xel-Ha, Xcaret, Akumal, or Playa Del Carmen, you will need a car or book a tour. These attractions are about an hour and a half away from the Hotel Zone.

The indoor mall, Kukulcan Plaza, near the Hotel Zone in Cancun

 La Isla Shopping Village is an outdoor shopping center complete with movie theater and aquarium

I’m looking for: Something different

If you are in the mood to stay someplace a little different but that still offers relaxation and some sightseeing, consider staying on Isla Mujeres, a small island just north east of Cancun.  Most tourists simply take a day trip to this island but don’t stay much longer than that and don’t venture past the downtown area/ It’s small and quaint and offers tourist amenities as well as little local flavor and the same gorgeous water and beaches. 

 The downtown area of Isla Mujeres is lined with shops and restaurants

 A few blocks off of the main street you can a bit more authenticity

 The water and beach are beautiful in Isla Mujeres

The main land is a short ferry ride away, depending on where you are landing, so you can still see the major attractions. 

It would take a little extra planning to get yourself to and from the island and a little extra work taking your luggage on a boat, but if you are looking for something a bit unusual, give Isla Mujeres a try!

 The lively downtown beach area is beautiful, you can even get a massage on the beach!

I’m looking to: Party!

Believe it or not Cancun has been working hard to diminish its “Spring Break/Party” reputation, but that doesn’t mean the party has stopped. If you are looking for a party, you should look for the right hotel, not necessarily the right location. Hotels like the Hard Rock, Riu Cancun, Oasis Cancun, and Barcelo Tucancun are known for their younger guests, party atmosphere, and foam parties….yes, that’s exactly what you think it is. Even if your hotel isn’t bumping there are plenty of clubs that offer themed parties like the Coco Bongo and Senor Frogs.  In addition to more foam, they also have “Glow” parties that feature black light throughout and white clothing is a must.

 How about attending a "foam party" at Senor Frogs?

I’m looking for: adventure!

If you are the adventurous type you should focus your attention on the wide variety of tours and attractions that offer adventure activities.  Eco-archaeological parks such as Xcaret, and Xplor offer a vast variety of activates.  Xplor park offers zip lining, amphibious vehicles rentals, and underground raft rides. Xcaret is a bit more laid back and offers snorkeling in underground rivers and high speed boat rides. There are also many cenotes located throughout the Maya Riviera area that are sure to get your blood pumping. Cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes that have collapsed and expose the water beneath. Some are bigger and deeper than others, but you can go beneath the surface of the earth and snorkel, scuba, or float.

Most of these attractions are located in the Maya Riviera area so if you plan on taking part in any of these activities it would be a good idea to stay nearby so you do not have to drive a long ways.

 Hola from Sonar Travel!

In a nutshell, the area is not so big that you can’t get around and see a few great attractions. With a little planning you can make sure you have an awesome Cancun vacation. Whatever you’re into, you’ll be sure to find it in Cancun, especially if you’re looking for fun and relaxation!

What are your favorite things to do in Cancun? Let me know!


  1. Very informative. Thank you

  2. Very Helpful ideas... thank you very much for your great info.

  3. I'm interested in going to Cancun for the first time. My 21 year old daughter and I will be going after Christmas. The hotels are super expensive so we are considering Airbnb. We would like to explore as much as possible and spend maybe 1 or 2 1/2 days at the beach. Which part of town would you recommend we stay?

  4. I visited there last year. I was an excellent experience. Cancun and Isla Mujeres are amazing places. isla mujeres scuba diving, isla mujeres local fishing were my favorite there. Very exciting.

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