From Cancun down to Tulum and beyond, the coast of the Riviera Maya is lined with all-inclusive hotels where you can soak in vast swimming pools and feast on endless buffets. But there are also plenty of smaller and quieter places to rest your head, offering a more tranquil and low-key experience for the independent traveller. For those travelling to Mexico, here are a few recommendations of where to stay in Cancun.
Best on a budget
It’s not easy to find wallet-friendly beachfront hotels in the Riviera Maya, especially in an idyllic place like Half Moon Bay (the relaxed beach haven in Akumal, 60 miles south of Cancun). So the Del Sol Beachfront is a real find, with crisp and clean sea-view hotel rooms and larger apartments with kitchens, which are perfect for families travelling with kids. There’s a corner store, pool, scuba dive shop and the cool beach hangout, La Buena Vida Restaurant, right next door. Minutes away you’ll find the Yal-Ku lagoon, which is a beautiful spot for snorkelling.
Best for luxury
Across the water from Cancun on Isla Mujeres there are a cluster of beautiful hotels hidden away towards the south point of the island. Couples looking for secluded comfort will find just that at the Casa de los Sueños boutique hotel with its contemporary Mexican design, infinity pool and sweeping ocean views. The presidential suite offers an alfresco shower and Japanese garden, while the restaurant serves gourmet local seafood and there’s also a water park below the hotel with snorkelling, zip lines and kayaking.
Best little hideaway
Tucked away in a quiet marina in Puerto Aventuras, LM Hotel Boutique is a high-end, gated community less than an hour’s drive south of Cancun. With just six cosy suites, each with their own balcony and hammock, as well as an excellent restaurant and two small pools (one fresh water, one salt water), this attentive and friendly hotel provides a quiet base away from the Cancun crowds. It’s a handy place to stay if you want to spend a day at nearby Xcaret Park, and the hotel has its own private catamaran for sailboat tours.
Best for the beach
For the classic Caribbean combination of powdery sand and azure waters, head to the stunning Xpu-ha beach and the luxury Al Cielo Hotel, located between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. This whitewashed establishment has eight rooms, spacious villas with king-sized beds and smaller suites, all furnished with bright Mexican fabrics and set into the jungle overlooking the ocean. There’s an excellent restaurant, housed under a natural palapa roof, and to keep you busy on the beach, boogie and paddle boards are available for guests. If swinging in one of Al Cielo Hotel’s hammocks enjoying the ocean breeze isn’t enough, there are several beautiful cenotes (natural fresh water swimming spots) nearby.
Best for a retreat
Travellers to Cancun in need of a relaxing escape will find Tulum is the best place to stay. The 90-minute drive south from Cancun is worth it. Tulum is eco, chic and hippie all rolled into one endless pristine beach, and of course, there’s plenty of yoga on offer. The Amansala Resort + Retreat is a well-established favourite, with 24 rustic cabañas and a selection of flexible retreat options to choose from including yoga, detox and fitness. Ideal for solo travellers, friends or couples who want to get away from the daily grind, this laid-back hotel is all about walks on the beach, pampering massages and healthy eating.
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Cancun from London Gatwick, bringing these hotels closer to home.
What are your recommendations of where to stay in Cancun? Let us know in the comments section below.