Where to Stay
More affordable eating and sleeping options, including an ample offering of hostels. Plenty of local flavor at bars and nightclubs. Shopping at old-school markets provides a more authentic experience compared with the modern Zona Hotelera malls. Bus station is within walking distance of many accommodations.
Closest beach is a 15-minute bus ride away; expect to spend more time on public transportation and/or taxis. More traffic, air pollution and a faster-paced lifestyle. You may have a harder time communicating with people in English at restaurants and hotels. Some of the non-touristy neighborhoods are more prone to crime, though the tourist center is generally safe.
Closer to major sights such as Maya ruins and the Museo Maya de Cancún. Gorgeous white-sand beaches at your doorstep. Safer than downtown, especially at the family-friendly all-inclusive resorts. Attracts some of the world's best chefs at gourmet restaurants. Easy to figure out public transportation.
Restaurants and bars cater to tourists and the prices often reflect that. Budget and midrange sleeping options are very limited. Parts of the hotel zone can be noisy and overwhelming at times, especially around the Km 9.5 nightclub zone, with its thumping discos and large crowds.