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Best Bars in Cancun: Skip the Nightclubs and Party in an Intimate Venue



Cancun boasts some of the best nightlife on the planet. From huge discos to theme bar/restaurants, Cancun has something for everyone. Whether you visit a nightclub or a small bar, music is always part of the experience. You'll hear Salsa, Techno, Hip-Hop, Reggaeton, Rock and more in Cancun.

If giant nightclubs, or “antros” as young locals call them, aren't your thing, try a smaller venue. In many bars in the Hotel Zone, employees spend much of their time socializing with and entertaining visitors, which makes for a more intimate experience. After a relaxing day of lounging in the sun and swimming in the azure Caribbean Sea, there's nothing like having a delicious dinner while watching the sunset and then heading to a lively nightspot.

In the Hotel Zone, old standbys like Senor Frogs and Carlos n' Charlie's never disappoint. Smaller dance bars like Congo and La Vaquita feature sexy dancers and a staff that is full of surprises. After many years, Hard Rock Cafe is still going strong while newer option Monkey Business has become very popular.

The new Puerto Cancun is home to some hip new bars like Cantina la No. 20 and Elton Dueling Pianos.

Downtown, McCarthy's Irish Pub downtown features live Rock and La Playita offers good bar food and DJs on the weekends.

Whichever you choose (Maybe try more than one on the same night!) Cancun's bars won't let you down. You are in for the time of your life!


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McCarthy's Irish Pub is located in downtown Cancun, not far from the Hotel Zone entrance, in Plaza Solare on Bonampak Avenue. They feature live rock most days of the week and also show the big game or fight as well. They are known for their amazing wings (Original BBQ, BBQ & Jack and BBQ & Chipotle) and but they also serve snacks, burgers, baguettes, ribs, steaks, pasta, salads and dessert. McCarthy's carries beer from Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, the US, the Czech Republic, Germany, Cuba, Denmark, China, Argentina, England and of course Mexico. Wow!

Recommended for Bars because: Mccarthy's Irish Pub serves yummy bar food and offers live music and beer from all over the globe.

Kristin's expert tip: Happy hour (2x1) is everyday from 4 to 9 pm.

Read more about Mccarthy's Irish Pub →




This bar/restaurant is a local favorite. Located on the corner of Bonampak and Sayil Avenues across the street from Plaza Toros (the bullring) and just steps from the Plaza Las Americas/Malecon Americas shopping mall, La Playita is open daily from 11 am to 2 am (Thursday - Saturday until 3 am) and each day they feature a different special from 10 peso mugs of beer to 2x1 mojitos. This is a great place to start your night out, hang out with friends or catch a sporting event on television. Try ceviche (a raw seafood dish marinated in lime juice) or one of their delicious tostadas or tacos.

Recommended for Bars because: La Playita is one of the most popular bars in downtown Cancun. They serve delicious food.

Kristin's expert tip: Don't miss the DJ on Fridays starting at 10 pm.

Read more about La Playita →


Cantina la No. 20


Located on the water in the swanky new Marina Town Center mall in Puerto Cancun, this beautiful cantina delights the senses with a modern twist on traditional Mexican cocktails, cuisine and fun, in a contemporary, upscale atmosphere. They often show the big game on their huge screen and feature live music, including Mariachis. Don't miss "toques toques", an odd but popular bar pastime which originated in Mexico City. A group of people hold hands and the two people at each end grab a metal tube which is attached to an electrical machine. The tubes provide a mild electroshock passing through everyone in the group.

Recommended for Bars because: Cantina la No. 20 is an upscale, authentic Mexican bar experience.

Kristin's expert tip: Sit outside on the terrace for a spectacular view of the marina.

Read more about Cantina la No. 20 →


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Elton Dueling Pianos


It's not clear whether Elton stands for Elton John, or why they don't have an actual dueling pianos show, but this super popular new bar-restaurant is located in Puerto Cancun and features a live showband and DJ every Wednesday through Sunday. Their small menu offers paninis, skewers, tacos, tostadas, and some steak and seafood. This club is packed with all ages so you'll feel comfortable if you're in your 30's, 40's or beyond. There is no cover. Call ahead and reserve a table and settle in because Elton Dueling Pianos is open until 3:00 am.

Recommended for Bars because: Elton Dueling Pianos is one of downtown Cancun's most popular new nightspots.

Kristin's expert tip: You may want to have dinner elsewhere and arrive around 11:00 pm, as things don't get going here until around midnight.

Read more about Elton Dueling Pianos →


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Hotel Zone
La Vaquita


La Vaquita (The Little Cow) is one of Cancun's best nightclubs. It sits smack in the middle of Cancun's Party Center at kilometer 9 of Boulevard Kukulcan. This casual open-air bar/nightclub is decorated in red, black and, of course, cow print, and sexy go-go dancers abound. Visitors can pay a cover charge and purchase individual drinks or go for the open bar option. The club sells "litros" or liters of beer and other drinks, which is very popular in Cancun. You can also find La Vaquita in Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta.

Recommended for Bars because: La Vaquita strikes a nice balance between a bar and club

Kristin's expert tip: Purchasing a bottle will get you a table.

Read more about La Vaquita →


Hard Rock Cafe
Photo courtesy of Susan R. Vincil


For over 40 years, Hard Rock Cafe has been known for delicious food, live music, and its amazing collection of rock 'n roll memorabilia. Each Hard Rock Cafe is different and the Cancun restaurant has a mural on the ceiling that represents the Mayan people that once ruled the Yucatan Peninsula. There is also a hot pink Cadillac sticking out of the wall above the stage, and a large stained glass piece that includes Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, the King of Rock 'n Roll himself. Hard Rock Cafe serves "new" and traditional American food. The restaurant is open daily, from 11am-2am. Occasionally, there are Battle of the Bands contests, but these special events are only held a few times a year.

Recommended for Bars because: Hard Rock Cafe is a bar, but it's also a restaurant that serves American classics. It's conveniently located in Cancun's Party Center.

Kristin's expert tip: Visit Hard Rock Cafe during the day for lunch and cocktails and sit outside on the balcony.

Read more about Hard Rock Cafe →


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Monkey Business


Monkey Business is located smack in the middle of Cancun's Party Center, but offers a different vibe that includes food, live music and karaoke every night. The menu includes appetizers, Mexican dishes, like tacos and burritos, and international dishes, like pasta and hamburgers. The full bar mixes both their special concoctions and old favorites. Monkey Business opens every day, there's no cover and they feature a different rock band and karaoke each night. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available. Best of all, they open at 3:00 pm so you can start partying early.

Recommended for Bars because: Monkey Business is located in the Party Center but offers a different atmosphere.

Kristin's expert tip: Charge up your phone because there are a lot of fun places to take pictures at Monkey Business.

Read more about Monkey Business →


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Zona Hotelera
Carlos n' Charlie's


Carlos n' Charlie's provides party seekers with an ideal atmosphere to enjoy a night out in Cancun. Live bands and DJs pound out music, drinks are reasonably priced, and the kitchen does a good job of keeping everyone from becoming too famished from all of the fun and dancing. Order guacamole and they'll make it at your table. Be sure to let them know if it's your birthday. Join the waiters when they jump on the dance floor to lead a group dance. Learn how to dance Salsa to a live band on Tuesdays and Friday nights.

Recommended for Bars because: Carlos n' Charlie's really focuses on the visitor's experience. This is a guaranteed fun night out.

Kristin's expert tip: Go early and have dinner in the large dining room. It's one big party from the first moment you enter the place and the food is pretty good too.

Read more about Carlos n' Charlie's →


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Zona Hotelera
Congo Bar


This small open-air bar is smack in the middle of all the action in Cancun's Party Center and is always full of fun-loving locals and tourists all night long. Since this is a smaller bar rather than a nightclub, the open bar prices are lower than those charged in larger venues. Also, since it's open on two sides, you can see how wild & crazy the party is before you even enter. There isn't really a dance floor to speak of, but that doesn't stop anyone from dancing. Expect go-go dancers, shot girls and every once in awhile, a strong burst of confetti. Grab a balloon and join the conga line.

Recommended for Bars because: Congo provides a nightclub atmosphere in a small, open-air venue.

Kristin's expert tip: The large nightclubs don't open until 10:30pm. If you want to start the party before then, Congo is a great place to do so.

Read more about Congo Bar →


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Zona Hotelera
Senor Frogs
Photo courtesy of Kristin Busse


The name Senor Frog's is synonymous with fun. This bar and restaurant has sawdust on the floor so you don't have to worry about your children making a mess. Kids can order "virgin" versions of the famous drinks in yard glasses that people love to take home as souvenirs. Around 9 pm this family-friendly restaurant turns bar/nightclub. The lively staff always makes sure everyone has a blast. Conga lines, balloons, confetti and craziness are the norm here. Senor Frogs know how to throw a party. They feature a glow party, foam party, reggae night, and have a Latin night with a live band.

Recommended for Bars because: Senor Frogs is the king of nightlife and there's never a dull moment.

Kristin's expert tip: If you are on vacation with your kids but you still want to visit Senor Frogs, go for lunch or dinner.

Read more about Senor Frogs →


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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

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