With its stunning white-sand beaches and clear turquoise waters, the Cancun Hotel Zone has been a vacation hot spot for decades.
And while the sand, sea and spectacular array of beachfront hotels may get most of the attention, this sun-soaked strip of Caribbean coast is also home to a variety of interesting attractions, restaurants, nightlife and shopping areas, making it an especially fun place to explore.
The beauty of Cancun’s Hotel Zone is that everything is nearby, making it easier for visitors to spend more time enjoying and less time traveling. Rather than relying on private transportation and pricey taxis on long rides, vacationers staying in Cancun can take a quick car ride, hop on a public bus or even stroll to nearby attractions and restaurants. Here are some of the top activities that await in the Hotel Zone.
Chichen Itza and Tulum may be some of the Yucatan peninsula’s most legendary Mayan ruins, but travelers without the time or budget to visit those noteworthy sites can still gaze upon impressive ruins and learn about the region’s ancient history without even leaving the Hotel Zone.
The best place to start is at the Museo Maya de Cancun (Mayan Museum of Cancun) and the adjacent Zona Arqueológica de San Miguelito (San Miguelito Archeological Zone). Housed in a strikingly modern building, the museum showcases hundreds of Mayan artifacts from sites around the peninsula, while the San Miguelito Ruins, which lie just behind the museum, provide a memorable opportunity to stroll the remains of a civilization that thrived between CE 1200 and 1350.
Additional Mayan ruins in the hotel zone include Yamil Lu’um and El Rey; guided tours are the best way to learn about the full array of ruins in the region.
Travelers can learn about local marine life and other creatures of the deep at the Interactive Aquarium, where more than 1,500 species of fish are on display and visitors can even interact with rays and swim with dolphins.
There’s also an Aquarium Trek experience, which includes the use of Sea Trek equipment to allow visitors to immerse themselves and walk around a giant tank for up-close views of orange-tail triggerfish, African surgeon fish and other species.
The facility also aims to educate guests about conservation, with information about the negative effects of overfishing, invasive species and solid waste pollution, as well as the importance of buying local and sustainable food.
Shopaholics will find lots to love in Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Among the top places to browse is La Isla, a shopping “village” with a variety of retail establishments that range from budget-conscious to truly luxurious. But the complex is more than just a shopping hub, it’s also an epicenter of entertainment, with everything from a Tequila Museum to a Ripley’s Mirror Maze and a Sky Wheel that offers bird’s-eye views of the destination.
Visitors can also witness the excitement of a live lucha libre wrestling match at Luchatitlan, a venue that offers a full dinner and show package.
Also popular with shoppers is Kukulcan, which is home to multiple stores and restaurants. In addition to offering lots of shopping options, the mall hosts a free “Legend of Kukulkan” show every Saturday, a lively presentation that explores the story of the Mayan serpent god. For handmade arts and crafts, travelers should also consider a visit to Mercado 28, a popular artisan market that’s a perfect place to pick up souvenirs.
Many people who check into all-inclusive resorts in the Hotel Zone don’t even think about leaving the property to dine elsewhere. But those who do will find lots of tasty options, with an impressive variety of international menus and sophisticated settings around the area.
Puerto Madero, for example, is an upscale Argentinian steakhouse that serves prime cuts and fresh seafood with inspiring views of Nichupte Lagoon. Memorable lagoon views are also a big draw at Lorenzillo’s, which is a favored spot for lobster and other expertly prepared seafood dishes.
Another rewarding foodie destination in the Hotel Zone is Bohemian Square, a complex developed by RosaNegra Group, a Mexican restaurateur that specializes in diverse dining offerings with creative flair.
The venue aims to be a “party spot for Bohemian souls,” according to the company, and offers live entertainment to accompany its varied menus. Among the options are Rosanegra, a stylish Latin American restaurant that hosts fire shows and sparkler shows, Funky Geisha, an Asian eatery that stages Taiko drum shows and Asian dance performances, and Confessions, which provides after-dinner DJ sessions to accompany its extensive cocktail menu.