City Guide to Cancun: Downtown & Hotel Zone

read the post
When you think of Cancun, you think of Panama City, Miami Beach, big resort hotels, no charm and lots of gringos (nicknames for American by the Mexican). However let me tell you that the other side of Cancun is truly vibrant, beautiful and authentic. If you did not know the “cheapest way” it’d be hard to get your way around since it is not really the itinerary suggested in the guides and also because the only people you’d meet on your way are locals. Still interested? Read below

TRANSPORTATION

Airport Shuttle

From Cancun International Airport to downtown Cancun, take the Super Shuttle (share ride van). As soon as you step out of the airport, you will see the kiosk on your left. Buy tickets there or online . It costs $10USD, Free wifi on board!
Super Shuttle Shared Van from Cancun Airport to Hotel Zone or Downtown
Camiones

The best way (and usually the quickest, depending on how many are in the bus) to get to one place to another is the bus (called camion in Spanish). Depending on where you’re staying you may have couple of options. Each bus has a number and the letter R in front that stands for Ruta (Route). Find your route here .

Buses from downtown to Hotel Zone: R1 and R2 mostly
Price: $8MX the ride. If you need to take two buses you will need to pay twice.


Make sure to have some changes.. Don’t pay $8MX with a $100MX bill, the driver will get annoyed as he is driving fast and don't want to waste time with counting how much to give you back. 

Note well: only in the Hotel Zone you have delimited stops, downtown you can stop anywhere, yes ANYWHERE
Ruta 2 Autobus Cancun Zona Hotelera
Here are a few Spanish words that may be useful when taking the buses and speaking to the driver. Ah yes because there is no button in the bus! 

- Chofer Driver  
- Baja porfa Stop please
- Bajo por favor I’m getting off please
- A la esquina At the corner
- Proxima Parada Next Stop 
- Pare Stop
- La siguiente The next one

Warning: Cancun (and Mexico in general) is full of topes (speed bumps). In a comfy car you don’t feel them, in camiones and colectivos you’ll hit the ceiling with your head!
Ruta 1 bus in Cancun Hotel Zone Playa Forum
Colectivos

Want to have a full immersion into living in Cancun like a local? Get into a colectivo (combi van with as many space as fits people). Same concept as the camions (buses), raise your hand anywhere on the street, get in, pay $8MX the driver, sit down or stay up depending how much space you have! Once you want to get off, us the same expressions as listed above. More than 1M of people live in Cancun now, and the number is growing, so are the colectivos. So don't worry if you’ve just missed one, there will be another one in a minute or two. Drivers are timed so they usually drive super fast, slaloming between buses and cars and opening the doors whilst driving still. So yes this is quite sporty and if you want to experience the sardine can, you’re in the right place! But above all, you will get to meet very nice and smily people, plus you’ll pass by streets and houses very poor, kids with dirty clothes and no shoes playing around. That’s when you understand that Cancun is not only hotels and coco bongo nightclub and that all these people working in the hotels do live in very precarious conditions
Taxi

You’ve always dreamt of raising your arm to call a cab in the street, the New York way? Well, you can do it in Cancun yay! And don’t worry if you think they did not see you, your “tourist” look will be a flashing light for them! They’ll honk or flash at you as soon as they see you. Before getting in (front or back seat as you wish) ask for the price, just so they know you kind of don’t want to get ripped off. Struggling in speaking Spanish? Here is what you should say:

- Hola, Buenos Dias / Buenas Tardes Hi, Good Morning / Good Afternoon
- Cuanto cuesta para …? How much is it for...?
- Vale, Gracias Ok, Thanks

A 10-minute ride shouldn't cost you more than $30MX.

ACCOMMODATION

Family Brun Airbnb in Cancun
Of course there are the big hotels, but do you really want to spend all your savings on an all inclusive resort with pool and spa? Are you an adventurer or not?! You’re nodding? Okay good, that’s what I wanted to hear! Here is the best quality/price solution for staying in Cancun not too far from the beach paradise. Airbnb ! Make sure you choose a strategic location i.e close to the buses to the Hotel Zone, supermarkets etc. Great news, Solene & Denis from Family Brun are the perfect hosts! Their house is just by Avenida La Luna near Soriana Supermarket and the bus R24 is just around the corner, passes every 20 minutes and brings you directly to the hotel zone where all the beaches are.

Price: $600MX per night (€29) 

FAST (not junk) FOOD

Tacos de Pescado y Ceviche at Las Tostadillas
Where to enjoy a cold cerveza and some delicious tacos for a cheap price? These are the top fast food restaurants you will encounter pretty much all over Cancun. 

- Los de pescado  (seafood)
- Las Quekas (quesadillas)
- Las Tostadillas (seafood)
- Los Aguachiles (seafood)

SUPERMARKETS

Chedraui Supermarket by Ceviche Square
Shopping malls and plazas where you find clothing and supermarkets can be found all around Cancun. The most famous chains and also the cheapest are:

- Chedraui
- Soriana
Salsa Picantes in Chedraui
Convenience Store: Oxxo

You know how the US only swear by their Starbucks at each block, well Mexico has its Oxxo everywhere. Convenient store that can be found every block and entrance of residential areas. Very convenient when you’re missing ice, water gallons, cigarette, mobile top up, bank transfer (local only) and snacks.
Oxxo Convenience Store in Cancun

PHARMACY

Self service pharmacy downtown and in the hotel zone, the most famous are these three:

- Farmacias del Ahorro
- Farmacia Yza
- Farmacia Similares

TOP 3 BEACHES

1. Playa Forum (stop at Coco Bongo) km most popular where both tourists and Mexican share music, beach bar, sun beds and a calm sea 

View Map
Playa Forum, Cancun
2. Playa Marlin (stop at plaza Kukulcan / Luxury Avenue Mall) km 12 no tourists, just locals with their family and ice cooler for the day. Catch some waves and make sure to swim in the area where lifeguards are. Don’t worry too much if the flag is red, just don’t go too far, either way the lifeguard will siffle at you if he thinks you’re in a dangerous zone. 

View Map
Turquoise sea in Playa Marlin
From Playa Marlin to Playa Forum, it's a 40-minute walk by the beach
3. Punta Nizuc  located at the very end of the hotel zone, the public access is between the hotel First American and Dreams. The guard will ask you where you’re going, no worries, our tip is to say you’re going to Solo buck (a diving center) and he will let you in. Well done you’ve just got in Paradise! And the bonus is it’s the best spot to watch the last rayons du soleil at sunset.

View Map
Note well: In Cancun, you must know that some beaches have private access by the resort hotels. To view all the public beaches access click here .
Want to read more tips about Cancun? Read the latest local news by Yo Cancun here . (Spanish readers)
Buen viaje!

Marion Payen, Founder of Hibiscus & Nomada

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself”

@Hibiscusandnomada

56 photo galleries