Cancún

Taxis from the Zona to El Centro cost around MX$270 each way. A more affordable alternative is to catch a north-bound public bus to the Kukulcán–Bonampak intersection, which marks the beginning of El Centro (MX$10). From here, you can explore by foot or flag down a taxi to your area of choice. If you want to get a taste of downtown culture, start at the colorful Mercado Veintiocho or Parque de las Palapas. To return to the Zona Hotelera, take a taxi to the Chedraui on Avenida Tulum and then catch a bus that passes every few minutes toward the Zona. (Don't be alarmed if a man in a clown suit roams the aisle in search of tips: at night the buses come alive with all sorts of amateur performers, from accordionists to jugglers, hoping to earn a few pesos.)

South of Punta Cancún, Boulevard Kukulcán becomes a busy road and is difficult for pedestrians to cross. It's also punctuated by steeply inclined driveways that turn into the hotels, most of which are set back at least 100 yards from the road. The lagoon side of the boulevard consists of scrubby stretches of land alternating with marinas, shopping centers, and restaurants. Because there are so few sights, there are no orientation tours of Cancún: just do the local bus circuit to get a feel for your surroundings. Buses run until midnight, and you'll rarely have to wait more than five minutes.

When you first visit El Centro, the downtown layout might not be self-evident. It's not based on a grid but rather on a circular pattern. The whole city is divided into districts called Super Manzanas (abbreviated “Sm” in this book), each with its own central square or park. In general, walks through downtown are somewhat unpleasant, with whizzing cars, corroded pathways, and overgrown weeds. Sidewalks disappear for brief moments, forcing pedestrians to cross grassy inlets and thin strips of land separating four lanes of traffic. Few people seem to know exactly where anything is, even the locals who live in El Centro. When exploring on foot, expect to get lost at least once and enjoy it—you may just stumble on a courtyard café or a lively cantina.

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  • 1. Cancún Underwater Museum

    Locally known as MUSA, Cancún's Underwater Museum is made up of more than 400 lifelike statues sculpted by six artists. The stunning artworks, located off...Read More

  • 2. Cancún Scenic Tower

    Zona Hotelera

    This 262-foot rotating tower has a bird’s-eye view of Cancún and the bay. The experience, which includes ascent, a few rotations at the top, and...Read More

  • 3. Eco Colors

    El Centro | Ruins

    Bike tours, butterfly- and bird-watching adventures, as well as kayaking, diving, and eco-oriented snorkeling trips can be booked through Eco...Read More

  • 4. El Centro

    El Centro

    There really is a downtown Cancún, although you'll never see it if you confine yourself to your resort in the Zona Hotelera. El Centro's malls...Read More

  • 5. Interactive Aquarium Cancún

    Zona Hotelera

    The enthusiastic staff at this small aquarium incorporate concern for the environment into their presentations, and the animals are well looked after. For added fees,...Read More

  • 6. Playa Ballenas

    Zona Hotelera

    Also known as Whale Beach, this Blue Flag Beach is a raw stretch of sand and crystal water at Km 14.5 between the Hard Rock...Read More

  • 7. Playa Caracol

    Zona Hotelera

    The last "real beach" along the east–west stretch of the Zona Hotelera is near Plaza Caracol and the Xcaret dock. Located at Km 8.5, the...Read More

  • 8. Playa Chac Mool

    Zona Hotelera

    Located at Km 10 on Boulevard Kukulcán, this Blue Flag Beach can be accessed through the beach entrance across the street from Señor Frog's. As...Read More

  • 9. Playa Delfines

    Zona Hotelera

    Near Ruinas del Rey, where Boulevard Kukulcán curves into a hill, this local favorite is one of the last before Punta Nizuc. Hotels have yet...Read More

  • 10. Playa Gaviota Azul

    Zona Hotelera

    Heading down from Punta Cancún onto the long, southerly stretch of the island, Playa Gaviota Azul (meaning Blue Seagull Beach, but also commonly called City...Read More

  • 11. Playa Langosta

    Zona Hotelera

    Small, placid Lobster Beach has safe waters and gentle waves that make it a popular swimming spot for families and spring breakers alike. On weekends,...Read More

  • 12. Playa Las Perlas

    Zona Hotelera

    Pearl Beach is the first heading east from El Centro along Boulevard Kukulcán. Located at Km 2.5, between the Cancún mainland and the bridge, this...Read More

  • 13. Playa Linda

    Zona Hotelera

    At Km 4 on Boulevard Kukulcán, Pretty Beach is where the ocean meets the freshwater of Laguna Nichupté to create the Nichupté Channel. Restaurants and...Read More

  • 14. Playa Marlín

    Zona Hotelera

    Accessible via a road next to Kukulcán Plaza, Marlin Beach is a seductive stretch of sand in the heart of the Zona Hotelera at Km...Read More

  • 15. Playa Pez Volador

    Zona Hotelera

    The calm surf and relaxing shallows of Playa Pez Volador—the name translates as Flying Fish Beach—make it an aquatic playground for families with young children....Read More

  • 16. Playa Punta Nizuc

    You’ll find Cancún’s most isolated and deserted beach on the southern tip of the peninsula. Far from the crowds and party scene, Playa Punta Nizuc...Read More

  • 17. Playa Tortugas

    Zona Hotelera

    Don't be fooled by the name—this spot is seldom frequented by tortugas. It’s the opportunity to swim, snorkel, kayak, paraglide, and ride Wave Runners that...Read More

  • 18. Ruinas el Rey

    Zona Hotelera

    Large signs on the Zona Hotelera's lagoon side, roughly opposite Playa Delfines, point out the so-called Ruins of the King, though the noble who held...Read More

  • 19. Yamil Lu'um

    Zona Hotelera

    Located on Cancún's highest point (the name means "hilly land"), this archaeological site is on the grounds of the Park Royal Cancún and Westin Lagunamar,...Read More

  • 20. Museo Maya de Cancún

    Zona Hotelera

    A modern museum dedicated to one of Cancún's few archaeological sites sits in the middle of a small, lush jungle in the Zona Hotelera with...Read More

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