A travel guide featuring the 7 best things to do in Downtown Cancun, Mexico. Get off-the-beaten-path in Cancun and discover the hidden gems of the urban core.

Cancun is the official party capital of Mexico, with over 15 million tourists flocking here every year for its white sand beaches, tequila and 24-hour nightlife.

Most of these visitors will be heading straight to the main tourist hub, known as the Hotel Zone. But, for those looking to exploring the real heartbeat of Cancun, you’ll want to check out Downtown Cancun City. Considering how easy it is to get around and that most tours will also do pickups from Downtown, staying here also makes lots sense if you’re on a budget.

In this quick travel guide, I’ll run through 7 things to do in Downtown Cancun to help you plan your visit. At the bottom of this post, I’ve also got tips and things to know about visiting the region as well.

7 Best Things to do in Downtown Cancun

1. Mercado 28

Mercado 28 (Market 28) is a long-running flea market located at Plaza san Miguel.

Visiting this market is always among the top recommended thing to do in Downtown Cancun. Here, you’ll find a sprawling scene with stalls offering a wide range of items for sale including handicrafts, jewellery, souvenirs and more.

There’s also a bunch of restaurants and small street-food vendors here offering traditional Yucatan meals and of course, tacos.

Mercado 28, Cancun Downtown Things to do, Mexico
Downtown Cancun, Mercado 28

2. Parque De Las Palapas

Parque de las Palapas is the main central square in Downtown Cancun City. In fact, it was the first main sqaure to be created here and is still a lively meeting place for the people of the city. You’ll find it just behind Avenida Tulum (the main street).

The park (square) has an array of food-stalls and carts selling mostly tortilla-based snacks and meals including fresh tacos and quesadillas. This spot is popular with locals and is often the scene of open-air performances after sundown.

Nearby, you’ve also got the first Catholic Church constructed in Cancun Downtown, called Cristo Rey.

Street food stalls at Parque de las Palapas
Parque de las Palapas, Cancun Mexico

3. Book a Day Trip

Perhaps one of the biggest draws to people visiting Downtown Cancun is that you can find accommodation here at a fraction of the cost of staying on the Hotel Zone Strip.

If you’ve come to Cancun to visit the nature, explore the historic sites and swim in the many cenotes, then you’re in luck. Most tours will also do pickups from Downtown Cancun. Below are some of the top-rated activities you can book at the best prices I could find:

4. Go Taquerìa Hopping

They say that in Mexico, every meal is a celebration. This is definitely true in Downtown Cancun, where one of the best things to do is to do a “Taquerìa Crawl”. There are loads of great taco joints in the city where you can taste authentic Mexican street food without paying extortionate prices like you will in the Hotel Zone.

My favorite taquerìa is Taqueria Coapenitos, an awesome little bar-style taco joint with fresh flavors and Cancun-famous tortas. Some other places you might want to check out include:

  • Gory Tacos
  • Taquería el Poblano
  • Tacos Rigo

Tip: If you want to taste the best street food in Cancun then you can book a guided street food tour that runs for approximately 3 hours and stops at the most famous spots.

Tacos in  Mexico

5. Mercado 23

While Mercado 28 is the main market draw in Downton Cancun, Mercado 23 is a worthwhile visit for visitors looking to stock up on fresh fruit and produce. Mercado 23 is located closer to Avenida Tulum, making it more convenient stop.

You won’t find bustling restaurants or quite the variety as you will at Mercado 28. However, strolling through this particular market definitey felt a bit more “local”.

Mercado 23, Things to do in Downtown Cancun

6. Stroll Down Avenida Tulum

Avenida Tulum is the main street in the city. Consequently, most hotels, restaurants and supermarkets are on this strip. If you’re running out of things to do in Downtown Cancun, go for a wander down this street or jump in a colectivo and see where it takes you.

Avenida Tulum

7. Discover Mexican Street Art

What I didn’t know before visiting is that Cancun Downtown is a bit of a street-art capital! There are awesome murals painted all over the city.

Below are a few photos of some that I stumbled upon. However, you can also book a street art tour that takes you to all the best ones in the Downtown Area. The best part about booking a tour is that you’ll also get the back-story behind the artist’s vision. This is something I definitely missed when walking around.

Best Downtown Cancun Hotels – Where to STay

Looking for the best Downtown Cancun hotels? Below I’ve got you covered with the three best options that are all close to the best things to do and see in Downtown Cancun.

You’ll find hotel rates are much cheaper in the city when compared to staying on the hotel strip.

New hotel in Central Downtown: Mex Hoteles

  • Great location in Downtown Cancun, just 5 min walk to the ADO (bus station)
  • Great wifi 
  • Very clean throughout entire hotel
  • Gym and roof-top pool
  • Delicious breakfast served in an in-house restaurant
  • Close to great local restaurants
Mex Hoteles Cancun Downtown Hotel

Best Hostel in Downtown: Nomads Hotel

  • Rooftop pool with huge bar for sunset
  • 3 minutes walk from ADO
  • Across the road from Taqueria Coapenitos – my favorite taco joint in Cancun
  • Private rooms and dorms available 
  • Great atmosphere for meeting people
  • Shared kitchen
Nomads Hotel & Rooftop Pool

Budget accommodation with pool: Selina Cancun Downtown

  • 2 min walk to ADO 
  • Great outdoor pool onsite
  • Great kitchen to use
  • Privates and dorms available
  • Free meditation and salsa classes included
Selina Cancun Downtown Hotel

How to Get from Downtown Cancun to The Hotel Zone

Perhaps the best part about staying in Downtown Cancun City is that within 20 minutes, and for less than 0.60 USD, you can be on the white-sand shores of the hotel strip– without paying hundreds per night for accommodation!

I recommend getting either the number 1 or number 2 bus from anywhere along Avenida Tulum. Both of these busses will take you to the hotel strip. The fare is only 12 pesos per person. I recommend paying in pesos as the bus drivers rarely have change for US dollars.

Alternatively, you can book a taxi or Uber as well for 150-200 pesos each way.

Tips For Visiting Downtown Cancun

Q. Is Downtown Cancun safe?
While it doesn’t feel like a tourist-beat, walking around Downtown Cancun certainly feels safe. However, most people will tell you not to walk around outside of the main areas (Avenida Tulum and Parque de las Palapas) at night time.

Q. How do you get to Downtown Cancun from the airport?
The most convenient way to get to Downtown Cancun from the airport is to book an airport taxi. However, what I didn’t know (and I got stung by this) is that there is a taxi mafia operating here. These guys will charge you crazy priced (upwards of $90 USD) for a 25 minute ride. I’d suggest not walking out of the main airport building and choosing one of the authorized taxis just outside the bag carrousels. Whatever you do, don’t walk left out of the airport area immediately after exiting the airport building.

The second option is to take the ADO bus. You can book a ticket at the “ADO Booth” just before you exit the airport building. This is the public airport bus service running to Downtown Cancun.

Q. How do you get around in Downtown Cancun?
Your best bet to get around is to walk, take a taxi, jump in a colectivo (mini-van ride share), or get the bus. There are Ubers in Cancun but apparently taxi drivers do not like them and there are frequent clashes. Uber drivers are apparently very secretive in Cancun and I’ve been told that they might not pick you up in front of taxis.

More Things to do in the Mayan Riviera

I hope you’ve enjoyed this travel guide featuring the best things to do in Downtown Cancun City, Mexico. While you’re here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other articles and off-the-beaten-path travel guides I’ve written for the Yucatan and the Mayan Riviera.

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