The Zona Hotelera’s one and only youth hostel, Hostal Mayapan (Plaza Maya Fair, Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 8.5, tel. 998/883-3227, www.hostalmayapan.com, US$18–22 dorm with a/c) occupies, of all things, a defunct mall, complete with escalators and faux Maya artwork. But for 20 bucks, in the heart of Cancún’s nightlife, who’s complaining? The cheapest beds occupy a large, fairly well air-conditioned dorm area, or you can pay slightly more for four-bunk rooms with en suite bathroom and air-con. Continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, clean linens, and 24-hour security all included.
Located on Laguna Nichupté, Hotel & Marina El Manglar (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 19.8, tel. 998/885-1808, www.villasmanglar.com, US$120 s/d with a/c) has simple, spacious rooms with colorful decor. Each has cable TV, air-con, a king-size bed, and two couches that double as twin beds—perfect for a family with children. There is a well-maintained pool on-site, and daily continental breakfast is served in the palapa-roofed dining area facing the marina.
Removed from the action, Laguna Suites Golf & Spa (Paseo Pok-Ta-Pok No. 3, tel. 998/891-5252, toll-free U.S./Canada tel. 866/760-1843, www.lagunasuites.com.mx, US$85–99 pp per night all inclusive, kids under 13 free) is a restful place, offering simple but modern rooms on the Pok-Ta-Pok golf course. There’s a small pool with a chic palapa lounge, though if you’re looking for quality beach time, you’ll have to head to Laguna Suites’s sister hotels—Royal Sunset, Sunset Laguna, and Ocean Hotel—just minutes away. Access to all the facilities at these hotels is included in the rate, plus there’s a free shuttle. All in all, a good deal if you don’t mind resort hopping.
A budget hotel all the way, Condominios Carisa y Palma (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9.4, tel. 998/883-0287, toll-free U.S. tel. 866/521-1787, www.carisaypalma.com, US$125 s/d with a/c) rents out private condominiums with magnificent views of the ocean or the lagoon. Accommodations vary significantly in style and comfort, and strangely, some feature kitchenettes within a few inches of the bed—be sure to look at your room before moving in. A tennis court and large pool also are on-site.
Located on a thin stretch of beach, the rose-hued Omni Cancún Hotel & Villas (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 16.5, tel. 998/881-0600, www.omnihotels.com, US$159–189 s/d with a/c, US$209 suite with a/c, US$595 three-bdrm villa with a/c) has contemporary rooms and villas with muted colors, marble floors, luxurious linens, and amenities like flat-screen TVs, MP3 clock radios, and in-room safes. A series of three refreshing pools and a massive hot tub (seating 40) lead to a beach with plenty of palapa sunshades. There also is a full-service spa on-site—a visit here is a perfect way to end a day at the beach (or to start the evening). All-inclusive packages are available, though many guests prefer to eat à la carte at one of the four restaurants and snack bars. Service is top-notch—the only downers are the “customer service” agents near the lobby bar who try to rope guests into time-share presentations.
The Hilton Cancún Golf and Spa Resort (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 17, tel. 998/881-8000, www.hiltoncancun.com, US$129–189 s/d with a/c, US$149–209 villa with a/c, US$249–309 suite with a/c) is a classy resort spread over 150 acres of beautiful gardens and beachfront. Cascades encircle the grounds, pools upon pools stretch to the ocean, and a seemingly endless array of windows look out onto the Caribbean and Laguna Nichupté. Rooms range from deluxe standards to oceanfront villas. All are decorated similarly in cool blues and whites, and feature top-of-the-line amenities. Besides being more spacious, villas include a $25 credit at the spa and golf course. Two tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, a modern gym, and a full-service spa round out the resort nicely.
Casa Magna Marriott Cancún Resort (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 14.8, tel. 998/881-2000, toll-free U.S./Canada tel. 888/236-2427, www.marriott.com, US$149–209 s/d with a/c, US$249–269 suite with a/c) offers over 400 rooms, all with private terraces, sleek decor, and modern amenities like flat-screen TVs and wireless Internet. Guests can choose from five eateries, including an Argentinean steak house and a Japanese and Thai restaurant. There’s also a full-service spa, two illuminated tennis courts, and a gym with separate men’s and women’s saunas. The main drawback of the hotel is the pool—it’s well maintained but too small for the size and caliber of the resort; fortunately, it’s just steps from the Caribbean. All-inclusive packages are also available.
Catering to families and older couples, Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9.5, tel. 998/881-3200, www.fiestamericana.com, US$290–395 junior suite with a/c, US$459–669 master suite with a/c) is an elegant hotel offering over 600 spacious and comfortable suites, all with ocean-view balconies that will leave you breathless. It features a series of lovely infinity pools, lush and manicured gardens, and one of the calmest beaches of the Zona Hotelera—perfect for wading in. The hotel has five distinct restaurants, a huge spa, kids club, and activities ranging from Spanish lessons to golf.
The Ritz-Carlton (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 13.9, tel. 998/881-0808, www.ritzcarlton.com, US$379–429 s/d with a/c, US$549–779 suite with a/c) is unparalleled in its elegance. Fine art, chandeliers, and marble floors greet you the moment the white-gloved porter opens the door. All rooms have stunning ocean views and boast special features like goose down comforters, espresso machines, and downpour showerheads. The resort’s common areas include a full-service spa and gym, a Culinary Center (a gorgeous kitchen where guests can take cooking classes), and, of course, a spacious and well-maintained beach. The resort’s two pools are nice though rather plain, an odd oversight given the luxuriousness of everything else here.
Hotel Riu Palace Las Américas (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 8.5, tel. 998/881-4300, www.riu.com, US$284–404 pp) is the most elegant of the three Riu hotels in the Zona Hotelera: a starkly white Victorian-style hotel with crystal chandeliers, bronze statues, and an enormous stained-glass ceiling. The 350-plus junior and full suites don’t quite measure up to the rest of the hotel in elegance but are quite nice nonetheless. Each has a separate sitting area, a minibar that’s restocked daily, and amenities that you’d expect from a high-end hotel (e.g., satellite TV, air-conditioning, hair dryer, in-room safe); most rooms have ocean views, and some have hot tubs on the porch. Beds are ultrafirm—ask for a foam topper if that’s an issue. Outside of the rooms, the beach is narrow but well maintained; there are also two infinity pools, endless water activities, six restaurants, and five bars—all of which make for many repeat customers.
An adults-only resort, Le Blanc Spa Resort (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 10, tel. 998/881-4740, toll-free U.S. tel. 866/323-9371, www.leblancsparesort.com, US$668–693 s/d with a/c, US$855 suite with a/c) is a luxurious hotel offering all the amenities a couple could want on vacation: infinity pools, à la carte gourmet restaurants, a fully equipped gym and spa, Pilates and yoga classes, bars and lounges, and yards and yards of beautiful white-sand beach. The guest rooms are minimalist chic with white tones; all have views of the Caribbean or the lagoon. Each has a double whirlpool tub, marble bathroom with double shower heads, flat-screen TVs, premium liquor dispensers…even a pillow menu. Best of all, there is a butler assigned to each floor to assure that your every need is met—from unpacking your bags and running a bubble bath to delivering your morning paper and coffee.
Set on the Zona Hotelera’s southernmost tip, Club Med Cancún Yucatán (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 20.6, tel. 998/881-8200, toll-free U.S. tel. 888/932-2582, www.clubmed.com, US$300–750 d all-inclusive) has a secluded feel that is rare on the strip. Secluded, however, does not mean boring. A huge variety of activities are available—from wakeboarding and waterskiing to flying trapeze and salsa dancing—and like all Club Meds, all are included in your rate. If you’ve got kids, the Mini Club keeps the little ones happy and busy all day long with activities like tennis lessons and tie-dyeing. Two excellent restaurants, a snack bar, and free-flowing drinks keep guests full and happy.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition