Last Updated Sep 7, 2023

Let’s start with some history regarding Cancun growth and development...

The year 2020 marks the 46th anniversary of Cancun, a project that emerged to promote the tourist and economic development of one of the most beautiful areas in the country: the Mexican Caribbean. At the same time, this allowed Quintana Roo, previously a territory of Yucatan, to gradually have its own economy and consolidate as another state. The first hotel in Cancun and Riviera Maya opened in September in 1974. It was the Bojorquez Hotel. After one year, the total hotel rooms in Cancun was just 332 rooms. However, by 1975, the hotel room supply in Cancun grew to 1,322 rooms. Hotels of brands such as Camino Real and Presidente began operating. Just three years after its creation, Cancun already had 30 hotels and about 2,500 rooms. The Mexican government, in conjunction with private corporations and businessmen, was succeeding promoting this destination as the best touristic hub in the Caribbean. By 1984, the number of hotels grew to 57 and more than six thousand rooms. This growing trend in hotel infrastructure has not stopped even when some major hurricanes, such as Gilberto in 1998 and Wilma in 2005, have hit the area causing severe damages. There no stronger evidence for this that than saying that in 2019, the number of rooms in Cancun was around 36,000. In 2020, 2,711 more rooms are planned to open, both in Cancun and Playa Mujeres.



The hotel development in Quintana Roo has not only boomed in Cancun, but it has spread to the entire Riviera Maya, all the way to Tulum. Other places to the South, such as Bacalar and Mahahual are also starting to have a boom in hotel development. Currently, the municipality with the largest number of hotel rooms in this region is Solidaridad (Playa del Carmen), which is already very close to 40,000 (39,845). Cancun is second with the number previously exposed, next is Tulum (7,124), Puerto Morelos (4,950) and Cozumel (4,687) follow.

These numbers let us get an idea of the hotel distribution in each zone of Cancun and Riviera Maya. At a first glance, it is clear that Playa del Carmen and Cancun have the most diverse hotel supply. It is important to note that one of the most important differences between both destinations is that, in Cancun, the concentration of hotels is very defined since there is a hotel zone. Of course, there is also a new hotel development hub in the Playa Mujeres area (Isla Mujeres continental territory). In the other hand, in Playa del Carmen, the hotels are scattered everywhere from the road that connects Cancun Airport with this location, to residential areas such as Playacar and Puerto Aventuras which are located to the South of Playa del Carmen. Next, we will talk more about the characteristics of the hotels in Cancun.


Cancun has the second largest hotel supply on Riviera Maya coast. Currently, there are just over 100 hotels in Cancun. According to their location, we could classify Cancun hotels in three:

  • Hotels in the hotel zone.
  • Hotels in Playa Mujeres.
  • Hotels in the city.


The hotel zone is where all touristic development began in Cancun. It is a strip of land totally surrounded by water, on one side by the sea and, on the other, by the Nichupté Lagoon. It extends for about 15 miles (24 kilometers). The famous Kukulkán boulevard goes all the way from one end to the other end of this area. A curious fact about this place is that, from an aerial view, the land of the hotel zone is almost a perfect seven "7". Both ends of the "7" are the two accesses to this area that connects with: the center of the City of Cancun and the road to Cancun Airport. There are just over 60 hotels established here. Most of those hotels have direct accesses from Boulevard Kukulkán and are located just in front of the sea, so you’ll have direct access to the beach too. About the category of these hotels in this area at least three-star hotels. Although it is very common to find four or five stars. So, if you’re looking for luxury and exclusivity, you’ll surely find them in the Hotel Zone.

From a geographical point of view, Forum by the sea shopping mall can be considered the Hotel Zone middle point. This is where you’ll find the Night Clubs and where tourists from all the hotels in Cancun usually meet to have fun at night. So, to have a better understanding of this area, we could divide the hotel zone in two sections.

  • Hotel Zone A: Downtown (Bonampak Avenue) to Forum by the Sea mall.
  • Hotel Zone B: Forum by the Sea mall to Punta Nizúc.

Hotel zone A was the first to be built, that’s the reason why there are some "old" hotels. However, that does not mean that their infrastructure is outdated. Cancun authorities and businessmen make sure that high quality standards for service, facilities and products are kept everywhere in this area in order to make all tourists feel welcomed and comfortable regardless of where they decide to stay. One of the advantages of staying in any of the hotels in this section is that the access to the city of Cancun is easy and fast. Therefore, the distance to Puerto Juárez and the pier to Isla Mujeres is short. In addition, the sea in this area tend to be much more relaxed, the island is just in front and it works as a natural barrier for the strong currents that come from the open sea. Among some of the hotels present in this area are:

Hotel Zone B has been growing according to the hotel expansion in Cancun in the last two decades. The newest Hotel are here. In this area, you can find about 35 hotels and the largest shopping center in Cancun: La Isla. In this mall, there are several designer stores, an aquarium, restaurants and movie theaters. Its proximity benefits those who stay in this area of the hotel zone and want to do some shopping. Cancun airport is also closer. The connection is much more direct since you can skip most of the traffic caused by vehicles going into the city. On the other hand, the beaches in this area face the open sea, so it is more common to find a rougher sea. Among the hotels in this area are:

In addition to all the hotels and resorts, in the Hotel Zone you will also find restaurants, bars, convenience stores, designer stores, handicraft stores, tour and activity agencies, travel agencies, public beaches and even museums. It is also important to say that there are residential areas within the hotel zone. However, most of the local people living here also try to enjoy as much as tourist all the atmosphere in the area.


For public transportation in the Hotel Zone, there are two options: taxis and buses. But are very simple to use. Whenever you want to get on a taxi, the main rule is to confirm the rate of your trip with the driver. Taxis in Cancun have no meters. So, you won’t know how much you are getting charged if you don’t ask. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, always confirm how much you will have to paid according to your destination. For buses, you will find several stops along Boulevard Kukulkán and inside the city. Most of the buses stop regularly in each, but, if they don’t just wave your hand to make them stop. Bus service is 24 hours in the Hotel Zone. Although, the service is more sporadic after midnight and until 5 a.m. The route in the hotel zone goes from downtown Cancun to Punta Nizúc (and back).

Hotels in Playa Mujeres

In the last ten years, the North area of Cancun has begun its transformation as another hotel and resort zone. A few Grand tourism Hotels have already been built in the Playa Mujeres area and more are coming. This area is still kind of isolated. The main (almost unique) economic activity is the hotel industry. In other words, the infrastructure present in the area is only made up of hotels. Traffic is very low, so the atmosphere in the area is perfect if you want to rest and relax. The sea in this area is also extremely calm. However, despite this apparent isolation, the hotels have all the services and activities that could be found in a hotel located in the Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Some of the hotels in this area are:

In case you choose to stay in this area, it will be important to check the transportation options directly with the hotel or the agency you made the reservation with because public transportation is scarce here. There just a couple of routes and most people using them are the hotel’s employees.


Inside Cancun City, it is also possible to find a wide diversity of hotels. Many of these belong to hotel chains focused on business people, but you still can find the regular touristic hotel and among them the so-called boutique hotel. Of course, one of the main differences between city hotels and the hotels located in the areas we previously reviewed is that none of the city hotels have access to the sea. However, most of them at least have a pool, so it’s is possible to still enjoy the warm weather and have fun.  One of the main advantages of these hotels is that usually their price is way lower than any in the Hotel zone. Regarding activities, tours, excursions, theme parks and other things to do, it doesn’t matter where you stay, someone will be selling tickets or packages, and service providers will always be willing to pick up as long as you pay.


The diversity of hotels in Cancun is not only based on architectural styles or their location in different areas, but also on their type of service. In Cancun, two main service modalities have been established:

  • All Inclusive
  • European Plan

The All Inclusive, as it is implied, is the type of service where you get a global fee for the accommodation, meal service (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), as well as drinks, both regular and alcoholic. All Inclusive service modality has become quite popular in Cancun in the last decade. In fact, this type of service was a key factor for the destination to become one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

How to know if your hotel is all inclusive? Usually, hotels straight advertise themselves as All Inclusive to be totally explicit about the modality in which they work. Or, on the other hand, if you purchase a vacation package through an agency, it will also tell you if the modality is All Inclusive.

All Inclusive Pros and cons

The Pros of All Inclusive:

  • All services (lodging, food) in one place.
  • It is ideal for rest, since you don’t have to be driving around or using public transportation to get to restaurants.
  • Unlimited consumption of food and beverages.
  • It is easier to assign and adjust a vacation budget.
  • Ideal for large groups traveling together.

The Cons of All Inclusive

  • It’s risky because you may not like a meal service that has already been paid.
  • Too much food, too much drinks.
  • It limits the tourist experiences by preventing them from going out and taste the different culinary options that this destination offers.
  • It Isolates the tourist from the true local culture.

In this way, it is important to take a look to what All Inclusive hotels have to offer and how this type of service can benefit the experiences you are looking to have in your vacations.

In Cancun, you can find All Inclusive Hotels everywhere in the Hotel Zone and in Playa Mujeres.

European Plan (EP) Hotels

Hotels working a European Plan service are those in which the rates only include the accommodation service. This does not mean that these hotel and resorts do not have restaurants and bars, but that consumption in these will be charged separately.

In Cancun and Riviera Maya, it is common to find this type of hotels within cities or, in the case of Playa del Carmen, along 5th Avenue and in the surrounding streets. All Boutique Hotels work this way.

Some other things you may consider before choosing a hotel in Cancun:

  • Minimum age. Some hotels are for adults only. So, if your intention is to make a family trip with children or teenagers, it is important to check that the hotel does not have any age restriction.
  • Beach cleaning policy in sargassum season. In recent years, the presence of sargassum has increased on the coasts of Cancun and Riviera Maya. So, it is pertinent to know the hotel’s course of action to keep the beach clean and safe.
  • Parking lot availability. This is important if you have decided to rent a car.



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