One of the Caribbean’s most lauded and visited destinations, Cancún’s well-managed, resort-peppered Hotel Zone offers both pristine, snow-hued sandy beaches (bordering startlingly turquoise waters) and a rowdy urban entertainment district that rivals the party power of Las Vegas (think all-night discos and high-end shopping).
“I love that you can find white-sand beaches, sophisticated resorts, and an energetic nightlife,” says Caroline Wallace. Cancún runs a glitzy gamut, with a range of experiences for families, honeymooners, girlfriend getaways, and business meetings. Ever-growing, it boasts stately marinas, gated communities, and new developments. In Cancún, tourists tend to enjoy beachside activities at their hotels, but many venture outside the city limits to explore other parts of the Quintana Roo region, such as Isla Contoy, a wilderness-rich national park, or lesser-known Isla Holbox for a whale shark swimming adventure. It’s close enough to the Riviera Maya to allow for trips to Mayan sites, such as Tulum, but Cancún boasts its own ancient wonders amid the Hotel Zone: El Rey Ruins and the Scorpion Temple, plus the beautifully curated Maya Museum, which holds a wealth of relics.
Close to the airport and near the strip’s buzz, but separate enough to ensure repose, NIZUC Resort & Spa is great for family trips or romantic getaways. “They position themselves as the gateway to the Riviera [Maya],” notes Meredith Broder, who also recommends The Ritz-Carlton, Cancún for its “club-level stays, nice beach, great service, and cabanas.”