Live Rock, Jazz and Salsa in Cancun's Bars and Nightclubs

Cancun is known for having some of the best nightlife on the planet. The party nights in Cancun don't end until the sun comes up over the Caribbean Sea. In addition to the huge nightclubs with shows, DJs and sophisticated lighting systems, there are many bars that offer live music including, rock, jazz, Mexican trova and salsa.

Cancun is home to singers and musicians from Cuba, the US, the Domincan Republic and of course, Mexico. In addition, more and more international stars are holding concerts in Cancun. World famous stars like Usher, Luis Miguel, Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony have performed in Cancun.

The Black Pub and McCarthy's Irish Pub in downtown Cancun feature live rock bands a few times a week.

Carlos n' Charlie's offers live Salsa music two nights a week. The best place to dance salsa, merengue and bachata in Cancun is at Grand Mambo Cafe, which is located downtown in Plaza Hong Kong. Sirenas Raw Bar features a Buena Vista-style live band every Friday.

In addition, most resorts offer live music most nights of the week in their restaurants, bars and nightclubs.


Zona Hotelera
The City

This gigantic club claims to be the largest nightclub in Latin America, with a capacity for over 5,000 people. It is most definitely the biggest club in Cancun and it's often packed to the brim during Spring Break and in the summer months. The 3-story club has featured performances by internationally known artists like Ludacris, Akon, Flo Rida, 50 Cent, Fergi, Snoop Dogg and celebrity DJs. Like Coco Bongo, The City Cancun also has performances by acrobats and other performers during the evening. They play music of all genres on the 1,000,000 watt sound system and 650 square feet of video screens.

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Zona Hotelera

Those looking for a good time with 3,000 or so of their best friends have at least one alternative in Cancun: Congo Bongo. Live bands regularly hit the stage and play a variety of music ranging from techno and 70s rock classics to salsa. There are also varied nightly shows including Michael Jackson and Madonna impersonators. When you feel your feet start to move, don't bother looking for a dance floor because there isn't one. People just dance where they can find a little space, whether that means shaking it right where they are or "let's get up on the table and dance." The cover charge includes open bar.

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Las de Guanatos is a local favorite. There are various locations in downtown Cancun. The most popular is the Plaza Toros (bullring) location and on weekends they feature live music. All locations feature drink specials like seven beers in a bucket for 100 pesos or 2 x1 micheladas. Guanatos is known for its delicious "tortas ahogadas" (baguette sandwiches drown in savory sauce) and "micheladas" (prepared beer cocktails). Favorites include the Ojo Rojo (Red Eye) and a Mango or Chamoy michelada. All locations are open in the early afternoon until the early morning hours.

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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.

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Sirenas Raw Bar is a bar/restaurant located at El Embarcadero next to the Calinda Bridge at kilometer 4 of Boulevard Kukulcan. The open-air space offers a spectacular view of the Caribbean and the pirate ships that dock there. The specialties here are cocktails and seafood but they also serve pizza, tacos, nachos and paninis. This is a great place to grab a meal before or after the Ultramar ferry to Isla Mujeres. On Friday nights locals gather here to hear a Cuban Buena Vista-style band that plays from around 11:00 pm to 1:00 am while the lights twinkle and the palm trees sway in the ocean breeze.

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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!

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Grand Mambo Cafe

Grand Mambo Cafe is the number one spot to dance Salsa, Merengue and Bachata in Cancun. Located downtown in Plaza Hong Kong, Mambo Cafe features live music Wednesday through Saturday. Open bar is available on Thursdays. If you're celebrating a birthday and make a reservation on a Friday, they will give you a free bottle of rum, vodka or tequila if 10 of your friends pay cover. On Saturdays if reserve a table for 15 people you'll get a free bottle of Captain Morgan or Smirnoff. Bottle service will get you a front row seat right next to the dance floor. There is live music every night and the party doesn't end until about 4 am.

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The Black Pub is located in downtown Cancun across the street from Plaza Toros (the bullring) in Plaza Solare on Bonampak Avenue. This fashionable bar/restaurant is one of the most popular nightspots in downtown Cancun because of the food, ambiance and live music. They're open from 2 pm to 3 am Tuesday through Saturday and offer specials some nights. They feature live rock music almost every single day and regularly show sporting events. Ladies drink free on Wednesdays from 9 pm to 1 am and they often have 2 X 1 drinks and open bar specials.

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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.

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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 Live Music because: Hard Rock Cafe is a classic. They serve good food and feature live music most nights.

Susan's expert tip: Located in the heart of Party Center, where Cancun's major nightclubs are located. Start the evening out with dinner and drinks at Hard Rock Cafe, before moving on to the big clubs, or stay and watch the band play.

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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