PHOTOS: Top 5 attractions in Downtown Cancun

There’s more to Cancun than beaches and body shots.

It’s clear why Cancun is a popular tourist destination for Americans– it offers pristine beaches, a thriving club scene and a convenient location near the United States. But many tourists are missing one of the area’s most interesting attractions: the city center.

Downtown Cancun offers plenty to see and do– including dining, shopping and nightlife– for a fraction of the price at the beach resorts. Yes, the city can be a bit gritty, but it’s also more authentic and will give you a taste of Mexican culture.

Keep reading for tips on exploring Cancun Centro.

Cancún, México

Cancún, México (Photo: The Cuillivo/Flickr)


If you are looking for a bargain and don’t mind haggling, head to Market 28 (great for souvenirs) or the less-touristy Market 23 (strong on fresh produce) in downtown Cancun. If you aren’t comfortable with the high-pressure sales tactics at Market 28, then Market 23 us your best bet. The Centro also has plenty of shopping malls, which are less intense and represent a dry option during rainy spells.

Money handler at Market 28

Stall at Market 28 in downtown Cancun (Photo: Foqus, Flickr)

Delicious Food

Tacos, burritos and other delicious Mexican food can be found near the public markets in downtown Cancun. But cuisine isn’t limited to traditional dishes; the best Cancun restaurants include upscale sushi and Italian joints.

If you prefer to self-cater, there are plenty of supermarkets where you can stock up on cheap groceries, sunscreen, or just about anything else. If you are longing for American brands or bulk purchases, you can even find WalMart, Sam’s Club and Costco nearby.

mexican port tacos in Cancun Mexico

Pork tacos in a Cancun eatery (Photo: ddaarryynn/Flickr)


Cancun is known for its wild nightlife, which is centered around the Hotel Zone and Centro neighborhoods. You can dance to the beats of a different international DJ each night; the party starts at midnight but often lasts all night long.


If you’re looking for a tamer way to experience local culture, catch one of the Mariachi bands that perform each Wednesday near the downtown shopping centers. The Plaza del Toros (bullfighting ring) also features traditional Mexican dancers before bull fights on Wednesdays. (Note: This isn’t for the squeamish).

Lucha Libre...

Pick up a Lucha Libre mask in the market for hours of hotel roughhousing! (Photo: Christine Zenino/Flickr)

The Aquarium

If you want to get close to sharks and other marine life but aren’t comfortable in a scuba suit, head to Cancun’s Interactive Aquarium. Located in the middle of the hotel zone, if offers family-friendly opportunities to touch starfish and nurse sharks and even swim with dolphins.

Aquarium Shark

The safe way to see a shark-- at Cancun's aquarium (Photo: Scanudas/Flickr)

Transportation Options in Cancun

Visitors who wish to go straight to downtown Cancun from the airport should take a bus or taxi. Buses are the most affordable option, but are best suited for an experienced traveler. Taxis are more convenient but come at a steeper cost; the fixed price from the airport is US$40 per ride (US$50 in the high season).

Like every major city, Cancun offers many ways to get around the downtown area. Most travelers opt to take taxis, which are inexpensive (provided you are aware of the appropriate price). Make sure to ask your hotel staff what the usual taxi fare is to your destination to avoid being overcharged. If you are on a tight budget, the local bus is a good alternative. Fares start at 50 cents (US) per ride.

Once you arrive in the downtown area, you can easily orient yourself if you know a bit of local geography. Downtown Cancun starts with Kakulcan Boulevard and meets Bonampak Avenue just north of Cancun’s hotel district. The downtown area can easily be walked around to see the splendid sights the area has to offer.

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Finding a Cancun Hotel

There are many hotels in Cancun, ranging from affordable hostels to luxurious all-inclusive resorts. As in most tourist destinations, hotels close to the beach are the priciest. Save money by sharing a room in a downtown Cancun hostel or opting for a property that isn’t right on the shore. Visitors who know how to speak Spanish are also in for better deals.

Travel Insurance

If you are concerned about safety or unforeseen emergencies while on your Cancun vacation, then it’s worth looking into travel insurance. There are different types of travel insurance and it’s important to choose a plan based on your needs. Plans may cover medical emergencies, cancelled flights and lost/stolen medication or baggage; some even help travelers get emergency cash and make it easier to replace IDs. Travel agencies and other companies offer insurance plans and can answer questions about coverage.

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