Cancun/Riviera Maya is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Mexico, but here’s a secret – Cancun International Airport is actually a gateway to a number of unique resort areas, each with its own vibe. Think of it as six-destinations-in-one. Looking to stay at a luxurious oasis without ever having to leave the resort? No problem. Do you prefer to be close to the action with excursions around every corner? You can do that, too.
As you may have guessed by the name, Isla Mujeres is a small picturesque island that’s a 25-minute ferry ride off the coast of Cancun. The pace here is slow and tranquil so if you’re someone who appreciates a quieter kind of escape, this is a great option. Just offshore, the Manchones Reef and MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum offer spectacular views from glass bottom boats, or scuba diving opportunities for beginners and pros alike.
Costa Mujeres is another option for travelers seeking a serene retreat. Calm waters, quiet beaches, and fewer hotels make it feel perfectly secluded. This area is fairly newly developed and was designed with luxury travel in mind, making it the perfect place for anyone wanting a Cancun vacation that feels truly exclusive.
If you want to be in the heart of the action, Cancun’s Hotel Zone is the spot for you. Days can be filled with down time at your resort, shopping, or watersports on the Caribbean. At night, head to Punta Cancun to one of the area’s famous nightclubs like Coco Bongo or Mandala. Here, you’re close to everything, including the airport, so you can get from plane to palapa in no time.
Where to stay (families): Occidental Tucancun (budget-friendly) or Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach (luxury)
Where to stay (adults-only): Golden Parnassus (budget-friendly) or Hyatt Zilara Cancun (luxury)
Once a small fishing village, Puerto Morelos has never lost its old-world charm. It’s a short 20-minute drive south from Cancun and filled with all the quaint shops and eateries a person could hope for. If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to explore small towns in search of hidden gems and Instagram-gold, you’ll want to stay here. Oh, and the beaches are great, too.
A little farther to the south, the town of Playa del Carmen is known for its fun-loving personality and enchanting pedestrian-friendly town square. The town is full of cafes, boutiques, and nightclubs, particularly along 5th Avenue which is definitely a stretch worth checking out. You’re also a short ride away from Xcaret – a popular natural adventure park, or a quick ferry ride away from Cozumel.
Where to stay (families): Riu Playacar (budget-friendly) or Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda (luxury)
Where to stay (adults-only): Ocean Maya Royale (budget-friendly) or Royal Hideaway Playacar (luxury)
Tulum/Puerto Aventuras are other options in Riviera Maya and the farthest area from Cancun on our list. For intrepid travelers looking to get away from it all and experience some of Mexico’s authentic Mayan beauty, it’s well worth the drive. In contrast to many of the other resort-heavy places, this area is more laid-back with smaller boutique-style hotels. It’s also home to one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans and we definitely encourage a visit to the ruins.
Where to stay (families): Barcelo Maya Grand Resort (budget-friendly) or Dreams Tulum (luxury)
Where to stay (adults-only): Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an (budget-friendly) or Secrets Akumal (luxury)
Taylor is the partner and promotional Social Media Manager at Sun Country Airlines. What she loves most? Sun Country’s love of all things Minnesota and the airline’s focus on making everyone – from crew to passengers – feel right at home. If she were hopping on a flight tomorrow, she’d be headed west to Portland or south to Puerto Vallarta.