Skip the Hotel Zone and Live Among the Locals in Downtown Cancun

When planning a trip to Cancun, you can choose between staying in the Hotel Zone or in downtown Cancun (also known as "El Centro"). The two areas are very different, but each place has its advantages.

The Hotel Zone has huge nightclubs, great beaches, and miles of comfortable beachfront hotels. Millions of people visit Cancun each year. The vast majority of them stay in the Hotel Zone and never set foot in downtown Cancun. Those people never get a true taste of Mexico and don't fully experience everything Cancun has to offer. 

Downtown Cancun is a typical city, where most of the locals live. It is only a couple of miles from the entrance to the Hotel Zone and the beaches on the Caribbean Sea are only about a 20-minute bus or taxi ride from downtown Cancun. In downtown Cancun, you'll find supermarkets, shopping malls, incredible Mexican food (both in fine-dining establishments, as well as from street vendors and the little take-out restaurants in El Parque de las Palapas), and affordable, conveniently-located hotels.  Budget-minded travelers or people that wish to experience what life is really like in Mexico, will find that downtown Cancun a great alternative to the glitz and glitter of the Hotel Zone. 

Krystal Urban Cancun-Malecon is one of downtown Cancun's newest and nicest hotels. It is the perfect spot for business travelers or families. It is within walking distance of Plaza Las Americas mall, Malecon Americas mall, nice restaurants and bars, and Plaza de Toros, which is packed with bars and restaurants. This high-rise hotel has views of downtown Cancun or of Nichutpe Lagoon and the Hotel Zone.

For a bit of Mexican flavor, Xbalamque is a great choice. The hotel is filled with original artwork and the outside of the hotel is a work of art in itself. It is covered with a beautiful, intricately-painted Mayan mural. There is a pool surrounded by lush foliage and a small spa where you can get inexpensive but very nice spa treatments. The hotel is walking distance from Cancun's largest and most popular market, Mercado 28 (Market 28), as well as from restaurants, bars, Parque de las Palapas, Walmart, Sam's Club, and bus stops where you can catch the bus to the Hotel zone.  

Less-expensive lodging options include the brand new La Quinta Inn & Suites Cancun, Hotel Ibis Cancun Centro, City Express Cancun and City Express Junior Cancun.  



Hotel Bonampak
Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse

Hotel Bonampak is located on, well, Bonampak Avenue, just steps from the entrance of Cancun's Hotel Zone. All 80 of this small, economical hotel's rooms were recently remodeled so the rooms are new and comfortable and offer LCD TV, telephone, wireless internet, hair dryer, alarm clock with iPod dock and iron and board. The charming pool area is located in the courtyard. A continental breakfast is included in the price of the room. Hotel Bonampak is located just steps from Plaza Las Americas/Malecon Americas mall. There is a convenience store right outside the entrance and there are a couple of small but good restaurants that are very close. For a quieter room ask for one that is on the side facing away from the street.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: Hotel Bonampak is economical, has a convenient location and was recently remodeled.

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Eco-Hotel El Rey del Caribe
Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse

El Rey del Caribe is a lush, green oasis that happens to be located in the heart of downtown Cancun on Uxmal Avenue. It looks like a basic colonial-style hotel from the outside, but there is a whole other world waiting inside. The lush, green courtyard makes you forget that downtown Cancun surrounds the property. All 31 rooms open to the courtyard which contains a small swimming pool and a jacuzzi. El Rey del Caribe does its best to care for the environment by using solar hot water heaters, recycling by separation of trash, composting garden and kitchen wastes, and capturing rain water. They also have an unusual solar clothes drier. All rooms have two full-size beds, air conditioning and ceiling fan, television, hot and cold water and a fully equipped kitchenette.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: El Rey del Caribe is a oasis in the city. You'll forget that you're downtown.

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ibis Cancun Centro
Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse

The Ibis Cancun Centro hotel is located in the city's largest commercial and financial district, a short walk from Plaza Las Americas and Malecon Americas shopping centers, just 10 minutes from the airport and 5 minutes from the crystal-clear Caribbean beaches of Cancun. The hotel offers 190 modern and comfortable rooms, the "Rendez Vous" restaurant and a bar with a 24-hour snack service. There is free internet which can be used for business or pleasure, parking and access for people with reduced mobility. Breakfast is included if you book directly with the hotel.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: Ibis Cancun Centro is quite new and offers a convenient location for business or leisure travelers.

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Fiesta Inn Cancun Las Americas
Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse

Fiesta Inn is a chain of Mexican hotels, and Cancun's version is located in Malecon Americas mall. Yes, a hotel in a mall! This is a business class hotel but they welcome all guests. Fiesta Inn offers 152 rooms, La Isla restaurant, a bar, a fitness center, an outdoor swimming pool, 24 hour room service, free high-speed internet access, a business center and various different types of multi-use rooms for meetings and group events. Four types of rooms are offered including a Superior Room with one king bed, a Superior Room with two double beds, a Junior Suite and a room for physically challenged guests.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: Fiesta Inn Cancun is located in the best mall in Cancun.

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Ramada Cancun City
Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse

Ramada Hotel Cancun City is located in downtown Cancun on Yaxchilan Avenue. Within a few blocks of the hotel there are popular bars and nightclubs as well as many great restaurants. La Habichuela, La Parrilla, and Pericos are three very popular restaurants and all are just a short walk from the hotel. The beach is a short bus or taxi ride away. The hotel has a small pool, as well as a gym and a restaurant. Free WiFi is included. If you wish to take the bus to the Hotel Zone, the nearest bus stop is approximately a five-minute walk from the Ramada. Market 28, a large flea market that is great for souvenir shopping is only about a ten minute walk from the hotel.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: Ramada Hotel Cancun City was recently remodeled and is an economical option for a Cancun vacation.

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Airport - Cun

The Oasis Smart is situated on Tulum Avenue, the main drag in downtown Cancun. It's only 20 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes from the Hotel Zone. Located very close to restaurants, cinemas and shopping centers, Oasis Smart has 58 rooms equipped with air conditioning, king-size bed, cable TV, WiFi, radio alarm clock, telephone, minibar, safety box, hair dryer, iron, and coffee pot. Guests have access to the beach at Oasis Palm. The hotel also features an outdoor swimming pool, gym, business center, executive floor, convention facilities and the Coffee & Me coffee shop.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: Be Smart has a convenient location, a lot of amenities and is geared towards business travelers.

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With its central location, La Quinta Inn & Suites Cancun is within easy reach of most tourist attractions and business addresses in Cancun. This 4.5-star hotel offers 132 comfortable guestrooms with a range of in-room facilities suitable for the modern traveler. Each guestroom features amenities such as air conditioning, internet access – LAN, television, internet access – wireless. Guests can enjoy a wide range of hotel facilities such as executive floor, laundry service/dry cleaning, restaurant and shops. The hotel offers an outdoor pool. Guests staying at this hotel will find its convenient location and tranquil atmosphere pleasurable.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: La Quinta is a new, modern hotel located in the heart of downtown.

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The Adhara Hacienda Cancun is located downtown, just steps from the main drag, Tulum Avenue, and close to shopping and dining. Guest can take a bus or taxi to the Hotel Zone, just 10 minutes away. The charming pool area is located in a courtyard, so you'll forget you're downtown. The hotel includes both fitness and business centers. Guests enjoy complementary high speed internet access, a poolside bar and a restaurant, El Agave, which serves Mexican and international dishes. in room amentities include a coffeemaker, hairdryer, iron and ironing board and a safety deposit box/safe. Try a Bioharmony room, "an encounter with nature and its energy".

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: Adhara Hacienda Cancun has a cozy feel and the courtyard/pool area makes you forget you are downtown.

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The Xbalamque Hotel is perfectly located for both business and leisure guests to Cancun. The hotel provides all the amenities that today's travelers desire in all of its 93 rooms. Each guestroom features amenities such as air conditioning, internet access (wireless) and a television with satellite/cable TV. Hotel facilities include shops, bar/pub, restaurant, room service, salon and tour desk. To unwind, guests can enjoy the leisure facilities provided on the hotel's property, including spa, outdoor pool and garden. These top-class facilities are complemented to excellent services to meet the needs of visitors to Cancun.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: Xbalamque is unique hotel and provides a very different Cancun experience.

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The Krystal Urban Cancun-Malecon is located in the heart of downtown Cancun, close to the best shopping, dining and downtown nightlife. It is also just 5-10 minutes from the Hotel Zone by taxi or bus. The hotel is only a few years old, and caters to business and event travelers. Many events are held at the B2B, as their meeting rooms have a capacity for up to 500 people. The hotel also boasts a pool on a large terrace and super views of the Hotel Zone and downtown. Executive Suites feature amenities like an iPod docking station, wireless internet and a flat panel TV.

Recommended for Downtown Hotels because: B2B is only a few years old and is located close to all the action in downtown Cancun.

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Meet Kristin Busse

After vacationing in Mexico many times, Kristin decided to move to Cancun "for a year". That was in 2001.

Kristin grew-up in Michigan and studied Communications at Michigan State University....  More About Kristin