Just a few miles from Cancun’s hotel zone is El Centro, otherwise known as downtown Cancun. Unlike the hotel zone, one can experience “real Mexico” in downtown Cancun, and see how the locals live. Sadly, many tourists only ever ventureinto downtown Cancun when they need to make a pilgrimage to Walmart, but they don’t bother staying to see anything else. When you visit Cancun, leave the hotel zone (and, perhaps, your comfort zone) and trek downtown to see what the real Cancun is like.
See & Do
Activities and entertainment options in downtown Cancun are quite diverse. In one day, you can visit the ancient Mayan ruins of El Meco; located a few miles from downtown Cancun, watch a bullfight at Plaza de Toros, and then see a movie at the cushy CineVIP theatre, in Plaza Las Americas mall. El Meco is a small site, dating back approximately 1,000 years ago, and can be seen in about an hour. Bullfights are only held on Wednesday afternoons, from late-December to mid-May. CineVIP is an upscale theatre with reserved seating. All seats are wide, comfortable, and they fully recline. There is a full bar, waiter service inside the theatre, and a wide-variety of food items are offered, including sushi.
A fixture in Cancun for over 30 years, La Habichuela is popular with both tourists and locals. The restaurant is perfect for a special occasion, but you don’t needto wait for a birthday or anniversary to visit this fine establishment. Both the food and service are excellent and the décor is very nice. There is a gorgeous, softly lit, garden area for outdoor dining. Seafood, steaks, and Mexican cuisine are offered here. Order the Caesar Salad, which is made table-side, and the restaurant’s signature dish, the Cocobichuela.
Fans of live rock ‘n roll will be in heaven in downtown Cancun. Along Yaxchilan Avenue, there are several bars that have live bands perform most nights of the week. The bands usually start around midnight and play until 4am or, depending on the bar and the size of the crowd, maybe even until dawn. Most bands play covers of songs by major Latin acts, like Soda Stereo, as well as songs by American/British bands, like Metallica and Led Zeppelin. Occasionally, you'll hear bands play some of their original tunes, as well. El Asador, Los Arcos, El Chikito, and Ruta 666 are the liveliest spots for live music.
This small hotel isin a wonderful location; within walking distance of Mercado 28 flea market, El Parque de Las Palapas, and the best restaurants and bars, in downtown Cancun. The hotel also has a lovely pool area and a small, but nice spa. The hotel’s restaurant leaves much to be desired, but delicious food can be found just steps from the hotel. The front of the hotel is painted with a mural depicting Mayan history and there are unique Mayan-inspired art throughout the building. Rooms are rather basic, but spacious and pretty, with unique decorating touches, like the floor accents that are made from pebbles.
Mercado 28 is a large, maze-like flea market that has an abundance of handicrafts, pottery, t-shirt & souvenir shops, and Mexican restaurants. Bargaining is expected in the shops and salespeople are normally very aggressive, but there are some good deals to be found, if you are willing to haggle and overlook the pushiness of the sales staff. In the center of the market, there are many small restaurants that serve seafood and authentic Mexican food. The quality of food at the food stands has declined greatly, in recent years, but a good, reasonably priced, seafood meal can still be had at El Cejas.