Island hotels -- almost all of them offering modern facilities and English-speaking staffs -- line the beach like concrete dominoes. The water on the upper end of the island facing Bahía de Mujeres is placid, while beaches lining the long side of the island facing the Caribbean are subject to choppier water and crashing waves on windy days. Be aware that the farther south you go on the island, the longer it takes (20-30 min. in traffic) to get back to the "action spots," which are primarily between the Plaza Flamingo and Punta Cancún on the island and along Avenida Tulum on the mainland.
Following Hurricane Wilma's devastation, the news item that received the most coverage was the destruction of Cancún's famed white-sand beaches. Immediately following the storm, literally all of the sand was washed away from the northern border of Isla Cancún, and from Punta Cancún. The Mexican government has since made a series of efforts to pump the dislocated sand back to the beach. The southern beaches of Isla Cancún actually benefited from the storm, and now have especially wide beachfronts.
In the wake of the international economic crisis, hotels and resorts here have increasingly turned to all-inclusive concepts, either in full or as an option. This puts an emphasis on quantity of consumption at lower prices, but with quality sometimes sacrificed. This means a dip in service, programs, and amenities, particularly at hotels that have dramatically reduced prices. Some of the more expensive hotels have struggled to survive in this environment, and more changes to Cancún's hotel landscape are likely.
Almost all major hotel chains have real estate on Cancún Island (the "Hotel Zone"). The reality is that Cancún is so popular as a package destination from the U.S. that prices and special deals are often the deciding factor for consumers rather than loyalty to any one hotel brand. Ciudad Cancún offers independently owned, smaller, less expensive lodging. For condo, home, and villa rentals, check with Cancún Hideaways (tel. 817/522-4466; www.cancun-hideaways.com), an American company specializing in luxury properties, downtown apartments, and condos, as well as air/hotel packages -- many at prices much lower than comparable hotel stays. Owner Maggie Rodriguez, a former resident of Cancún, has made this niche market her specialty.
Unless otherwise indicated, parking is free at Cancún's hotels.
Deciphering Hotel Prices -- In all price categories, Cancún's hotels generally set their rates in dollars, so they are immune to variations in the peso. Travel agents and wholesalers always have air/hotel packages available. Cancún also has numerous all-inclusive properties, which allow you to take a fixed-cost vacation. Note that the price quoted when you call a hotel's reservation number may not include Cancún's 14% tax. Prices can vary considerably throughout the year and have dropped considerably during the global financial crisis, so it pays to consult a travel agent or shop around.
You won't find much in the way of authentic Mexican charm in the Hotel Zone, although you can get a glimpse of this in Ciudad Cancún, where most of the local population lives. You'll find good value hotels, a number of outstanding traditional restaurants, and some excellent shopping.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.