Latest update: 10 March 2023
Cancún is everything you’ve read about it: loud, crowded, touristy, and American. All good reasons for many to skip the city and continue traveling the region. All good reasons for many to skip the city and continue traveling the region. Check my Cancún tips for Cancún Downtown.
If you travel through Quintana Roo and Yucatán, you will probably end up in Cancún at some point. Either you fly to Cancún, or transit by bus. The hotel zone is perfect for a sun-sea-beach holiday. But for me, the hotel zone is anything but Mexican, so I prefer to stay in Downtown Cancún, just as a short stop. That is why you will mainly find tips in the ADO bus station area in this blog. Very logistically responsible, right?
Cool hostel: Nomads Hotel & Rooftop Pool Hostel
Book the Nomads Hotel & Rooftop Pool Hostel in downtown Cancún. This hostel is in the city of Cancún, so not on the beach. It is spacious, the dormitories are clean, and your bed has a curtain for privacy and a large safe. There is a roof terrace with a nice bar and a (small) swimming pool.
Breakfast and dinner are included in your stay. Both are pretty simple. Everyone gathers on the roof terrace for dinner around half past seven. Expect a simple plate of pasta or something similar. There are regular activities, such as a cocktail workshop or a yoga class. What else do you want, right? I spent my first two nights in Mexico in this hostel. My luggage got lost at the airport, and the staff helped me out massively.
The hostel is less than a five-minute walk from the ADO bus station (a good bus organization in Mexico for longer distances). Here you can also easily catch an R1 bus along the road: a local bus that will take you to the beach of the hotel zone for a few pesos. Please make sure you have the smaller bills and coins. The bus drivers are known to drop you off without returning the change when you pay big bills. Bienvenido en Mexico!
Chill hotel: Adhara Express
Do you want more privacy and prefer to stay in a hotel in Cancún center? Then go for Adhara Express. This hotel is also within walking distance of the ADO bus station. It is on a fairly busy street with plenty of restaurants and some discotheques. In the hotel, I don’t hear the busyness of the street though. The rooms are spacious and clean, and the shower is huge. Some rooms have a balcony that overlooks the pool. That pool is bigger than I expected for a hotel in the city: you can easily chill here all day.
The staff is helpful and nice, and the breakfast buffet is extensive. A heavily stuffed omelet is made for you on request, and you can choose from Western and Mexican breakfast items. However, the breakfast room is a bit sterile: very spacious, with lots of white and music that is a bit too loud. The bar is in the same room and leads to the terrace on the street.
Prefer a studio? Have a look at the lovely Studios Downtown Cancún.
Eat tacos in Cancún!
Next tip: get yourself some good tacos. Diagonally opposite the Nomads Hotel & Rooftop Pool Hostel hostel is Taqueria Coapeñitos (Google Maps location). It’s quite popular. On the menu are tacos, tacos, and tacos (and a few other things). For a few pesos, you can have a tasty typical Mexican snack, lunch, or dinner here.
Are you staying at the Adhara hotel? Then a little to the left is Picaña & Grill (Google Maps location). You can go here for tacos and other typical Mexican dishes, like guacamole. In Mexico, unlike in the Netherlands, you don’t order nachos with guacamole, but just guacamole, but you do get nachos too. My waiter is incredibly attentive and dares to speak a bit of English.
Hip coffee shop in Cancún Downtown
There are also lovely coffee shops in Cancún Downtown. Try Rooster (Google Maps location). They have delicious coffee, a good breakfast, and tasty lunch. The portions are big, especially the salads are a whole meal. I think the decor is creative and cool: chicken wire and a few slats make something unique from the walls, matching very well with the name Rooster.
Get your picture with the Cancún sign
If you’re in Cancún, you should also take a picture with the colorful Cancún sign, right? Almost every Mexican city in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo region has its name in letters somewhere. I don’t really know what the rest of Mexico is like. The letters of Cancún can be found on the Plaza de la Reforma (here).
Admire street art and parks in Cancún Downtown
Take a street to the left, and head into that street to the right: a surprise awaits on every street corner. Wandering through the streets of Cancún center also feels very safe to me. In this area of Cancún, you are in the middle of the residential areas. It is nice and quiet on the street; although there are no real sights, you will still be amazed. If it is not impressive graffiti, then it is a creative park.
Be sure to walk by the Parque Folklórico (Google Maps location), Jardín del Arte Cancún (Google Maps location), Parque del Artesano (Google Maps location), and Palapas (Google Maps location). Nice to explore early in the day, and as the day progresses and night falls, they come more and more alive with eateries and even performances.
More Mexico inspiration?
Helpful links for your Mexico trip
- Travel guides. I love the practical travel guides from Lonely Planet, buy them at Bol.com or Amazon.
- Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
- Travel documentation. Make sure you have the right documentation to travel to Mexico. iVisa can help you out.
- Bus. Book bus trips in Mexico with Busbud or 12Go.
- Accommodation. All-time favorite: Booking.com. Find hostels via Hostelworld.
- Money. Your bank cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel.
- Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. You could also try WithLocals. ‘Free’ walking tours are available at GuruWalk. And for bike tours, try Baja Bikes.
- Attractions and museums. Get a 5% discount on museums and attractions at Tiqets with the coupon code KIMOPREIS22.
- Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers. If you want more options, compare prices at Discover Cars.
- Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
- Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? You have many options! For the Dutch, try ANWB vakanties, Tui or Sawadee, or maybe you can find a sweet deal at Vakantie Discounter or D-reizen?
- Yoga retreat. Or: try a yoga retreat in Mexico!
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First published: January 2018. Updated since.