Cancún NightlifeCancún provides something for everyone after dark, from rowdy spring break hangouts that are fun things to do with friends to traditional Mexican and Caribbean-themed dinner shows. Hotels also get in the act with lobby bars, happy-hour specials and varied entertainment. But it's the Hotel Zone dance clubs, the majority of them concentrated in the vicinity of Cancún Point, that give this resort destination its well-deserved reputation for wild nightlife.
Most clubs open around 9:30 or 10 p.m. and stay open as late as 6 a.m. Cover charges begin at about $15 (U.S.), go up considerably if there's an open bar, and may be waived on certain nights in low season; at some places women are routinely admitted free of charge. Inquire about the dress code, as some don't allow jeans or shorts.
For the Party Crowd
Coco Bongo , at Km 9.5 on Kukulcán (in the Forum-by-the-Sea shopping complex), draws young scenesters with a mix of recorded techno, hip-hop, house, salsa and '70s and '80s hits, as well as live bands. This cavernous space regularly packs in as many as 3,000 people. The cover charge, which includes an open bar, is about $70 to $80 (U.S.) and can reach upwards of $200 for a front row experience, so it pays to take advantage of promotional coupons or hotel excursion deals; both are readily available depending on the season.
The City , also at Km 9.5 in front of Coco Bongo, brings in international DJs who spin pulsating dance music accompanied by dizzying light shows. With multiple bars and lounges and a beach club that has a wave pool, cabanas and food and drink service, this is a 24-hour hangout during spring break. An open bar ticket is available.
Dady'O , at Km 9.5 on Kukulcán (near the Cancún Center), is a granddaddy as far as longevity goes but is still very popular. It has six bars, tables on multiple levels, a VIP zone, a first-rate sound system, laser shows and appearances by visiting DJs. Additional entertainment ranges from themed parties to bikini contests. An open bar ticket is available.
There's more of the same—thumping beats, flashing lights and dance floors packed with partygoers dancing to deafening electronic music—at Mandala and Palazzo , clubs on opposite sides of Kukulcán at Km marker 9. La Vaquita Cancún , across the street from The City, has an open-air layout and music that ranges from Top 40s to hip-hop to Latin American.
For those who love to party there are plenty of places that combine food, music and a frathouse sense of fun. Two Mexican chains—Carlos 'n Charlie's, in the Forum-by-the-Sea complex, and Señor Frog's, at Km 9.5 on Kukulcán—are noisy and invariably crowded, with waiters who get as crazy as the patrons.
All of these places target a younger crowd and are at their rowdiest during spring break, which begins in mid-February and lasts for about 2 months. Excessive alcohol consumption associated with partying is common; the legal drinking age in Mexico is 18 but is not uniformly enforced.
More Nightclubs and Bars
Somewhat less wild and more upscale is Noir Nightclub , in the Sunrise section at the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort complex (off Mex. 307 past the southern end of the Hotel Zone, about 8 kilometers/5 miles south of the airport). Lighting and audio systems are state of the art, and there are chic, comfortably furnished VIP areas where you can chill out in style. It's open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until 3 a.m.
Nearby restaurants and hotel lobbies offer more places to hangout after dark. If you prefer a quieter evening, most of the resort hotels have a nightclub or lobby bar with jazz or other live music; the lobby lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Cancún is particularly elegant.
Guided Party Tours
For those who don't want to stand in line—or pay exorbitant cover charges three times over—the escorted “Cun Crawl” Party Hopper Tour does the work for you. It gets under way at 10 p.m. and hits three venues that vary according to the day of the week; the meeting point is at the entrance of the first club on the itinerary. The cost is $80 (U.S.) per person Thurs.-Sat., $75 Sun. and Tues.-Wed., which includes a reserved VIP seating area at each club. Transportation to the meeting point is not included, but clubs on the itinerary are within walking distance of each other. You must be over 18 to participate; a photo ID is required. Reservations can be booked online, or inquire at your hotel for additional information.
Dinner Shows and Cruises
If you're wondering where to eat and see a show on your vacation. Hacienda Sisal Mexican Grill, at Km 13.5 on Kukulcán, presents weeknight buffet dinner shows featuring traditional Mexican folk dancing; phone (998) 848-8220 for schedule information. On nights when there is no show, dinner at this beautifully decorated restaurant—which re-creates the look of a 19th-century Mexican hacienda—comes complete with strolling mariachis.
Romantics searching for things for couples to do will enjoy a moonlit cruise. The Columbus Lobster Dinner Cruise sets sail for Nichupté Lagoon from the Aquatours Marina pier at Km 6.5 on Kukulcán (on the lagoon side, across from Playa Tortugas). A lobster or surf-and-turf dinner is served aboard the 60-foot galleon Columbus, along with dancing to live jazz.
Departures are Mon.-Fri. and Sun. at 5 and 8 p.m. (also Sat. in spring high season). Arriving 30 minutes before scheduled departure is recommended. Reservations are required; under 14 are not permitted. Transportation to the pier is not included. You can book reservations for this excursion through a local tour company, major hotels, or directly; phone 01 (800) 727-5391 (toll-free long distance within Mexico) or (866) 393-5158 (from the United States).
The Captain Hook Dinner Cruise departs from two locations: the Puerto Juárez Maritime Terminal, about 2 miles north of Ciudad Cancún via Avenida López Portillo (about 100 yards north of the Gran Puerto dock, departure point for UltraMar ferries to Isla Mujeres), and from the Captain Hook Marina at Boulevard Kukulcán Km marker 5. The cruise includes dinner and drinks aboard twin galleons that are “attacked” by pirates. The boats light up after the sun sets, with live entertainment, music and dancing under the stars.
The cruise departs daily (except Jan. 1 and Christmas) at 7 p.m. and returns at 10:30. The cost ranges from $70-$102 depending on the dinner selection; $35-$51 (ages 6-12). Adult dinner prices include an open bar. Hotel pickup and drop-off is available for an additional charge. A surcharge fee of $14 U.S. ($5 for ages 6-12) must be paid upon arrival at either dock. For reservations and additional information phone (998) 849-4452.
For a special occasion evening, head down toward Playa del Carmen and catch the Cirque du Soleil production “Joya” at the Cirque du Soleil Theater , off Mex. 307 at Km marker 48 (about 20 miles south of Cancún International Airport). The 70-minute show delivers the eye-popping production values and performances for which Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas are known. Dinner and show and VIP dinner packages also are available.
Round-trip transportation is included for an additional cost; pickup points are at La Isla Shopping Village in the Hotel Zone and at Plaza Playacar in Playa del Carmen (within the Playacar Residential Complex). Reservations can be made through Cirque du Soleil or a local tour company, or check with your hotel for details about booking arrangements. For show times and additional information or to make reservations via Cirque du Soleil, phone 01 (800) 247-7837 (toll-free long distance within Mexico) or (844) 247-7837 (from the United States and Canada).
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
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To contact the local police, dial 911.
Most major local hotels have their own in-house or on-call doctor. A list of physicians can also be obtained from the U.S. Consular Agency, in the Torre la Europea building, Boulevard Kukulcán Km marker 13; phone (999) 316-7168 in Mexico or (844) 528-6611 in the U.S. Local clinics do not accept U.S. health insurance, often charge fees well above U.S. rates and have been known to charge for services not rendered. The Red Cross (Cruz Roja) is in Ciudad Cancún on Avenida Yaxchilán, between avenidas Xcaret and Labná. It is open 24 hours; phone (998) 884-1616. In an emergency, dial 911 and request an English-speaking operator.
The Miami Herald and USA Today are available in the bigger local hotels.
Cancún Tips magazine has easy-to-read maps and information about local restaurants, shopping, entertainment and other things to do in Cancún. Pick up free tourist-oriented brochures at the airport, hotel lobbies, shopping centers and sidewalk booths.
Casas de cambio (currency exchange houses) and banks are along Avenida Tulum in downtown Ciudad Cancún. Most banks are open Mon.-Fri. 9-5; currency exchange normally is confined to the morning hours. Currency exchange houses also are at the airport and in the Hotel Zone shopping areas around Cancún Point.
Crime directed at tourists is not prevalent, but do use common sense. Keep jewelry and other valuables in the hotel safe, or don't bring them at all. Guard against petty theft or purse-snatching incidents in crowded public places or when using public transportation. If leaving a vehicle in Hotel Zone shopping areas, don't invite a break-in by leaving valuables in plain view.