[ Getting Oriented in Cancun


In many places on these pages, locations are indicated with compass references: west, south, ... and many may say they don't think that way. But it's easy here: the sea is to the east, so when you know where the sea is, you're oriented.

Addresses here seem odd to newcomers. Cancun is divided into neighborhoods bounded by main or through roads and referred to as supermanzanas, abbreviated SM with the zone number. Those are further divided into manzanas (think "blocks"), written as M plus a number. And then rather than a house number, there's a lot number, lote. If the lot has an apartment building or other complex, you can add an internal number to indentify a unit.

Look at Cancun on Google maps online, where supermanzana numbers are usually shown. Worth studying a bit!

There can be a lot of assumption and prejudice inherent in descriptions of neighborhoods and parts of town. Still, newcomers and tourists wonder what part of downtown is safe. And it's typical to hear that tourists should generally stay south of Lopez Portillo, and generally in the eastern sections of town - close to the sea. This will be supermanzanas with low numbers; say through the 60s.

There are exceptions. Puerto Juarez, SM 84 and 85, is reached by following Lopez Portillo when it turns north and starts paralleling the shore. And it's a fine area to live in or visit. And then there are the residential areas to the south, Cumbres, Campestre and more, plus new residences along Huayacan, which many ex-pats and seasonal residents have chosen.

Note that Crucero is pretty rough and dodgy, more so every year.

I'd say when new to town you should probably not be wandering into supermanzana or region numbers in the 90s and above (except say 500-510), unless you're with Mexican friends or are quite sure where you're going. I'm not saying these are no-go zones, just that they are know-where-you're-going zones. There are always exceptions! For instance, you may want to go to some of the many events at Universidad del Caribe. I'd go by taxi and pre-arrange a pickup, but I'd go without hesitation. And it was perfectly comfortable to attend a concert at the parish of Corpus Christi in Region 92.


Confirm the price before getting in. Fares are very low outside the Hotel Zone, but are always higher when you go to a taxi stand, such as at the ADO or outside some hotels. If you flag a taxi, do not get in if it has two men. Nor should you sit in the front passenger seat: someone could jump into the seat behind you. And if the driver stops to pick up another man, jump out. Of course I don't mean, if the driver decides to pick up a student or someone who's obviously been having a hard time getting a taxi. Your gut will tell you if the jumping-in is pre-arranged, so trust your gut. These are really universal taxi rules, not just for here.

Uber has tried to operate here but the taxi syndicates have reacted violently. There are taxi apps, though, like EasyTaxi, which regular, licensed taxi drivers respond to.

It's been my habit to get the name and phone (whatsapp) number of a driver who makes a good impression, and I also try to find who'll work at night, so that after dark, I can call a driver I feel I know.


Buses can be standard or mini-van, called combi or colectivo. Fares are 10 or 12 pesos. You will probably be surprised by how fast they move ... And you may also be surprised by how flexible most are about where you can flag them. There are fixed stops for the larger buses and they generally stick to them, but the vans will pick you up anywhere they can stop.

Route maps are at http://cancun.rutadirecta.com/. They are a bit out of date, but most will be accurate for the parts of town tourists frequent. The out of date part is that many routes have been extended, following population growth; also, a route that used to run on Andrés Quintana Roo has shifted to Lopez Portillo.


Named plazas are frequently used points of reference when directions are given. The large malls like Plaza las Americas will probably be known to you after your first explorations of the town, but smaller ones may not be noted on Google maps or elsewhere. Some are single buildings, not what you'd think of as a plaza space. So, here is a start on a guide to Cancun plazas large and small.

Mercados 23 and 28 are named for their supermanzanas.

I have noted the Supermanzana for each plaza, although it takes a while for those to become meaningful to visitors. Aside from Mercados 23 and 28, you may never be aware of which you're in. But they are a key part of Cancun addresses, and used daily by real estate agents, taxis and residents to indicate location, so it doesn't hurt to learn a few.

Plaza Bonita, SM 28
the northeast section of Mercado 28. Xel-ha is the road that rings Mercado 28, and Av Sunyaxchen brings you into it near Plaza Bonita, as does Av Tankah. Has businesses similar to the rest of the marketplace as well as a very recommendable dentist, Dra Rosario Sauza Aguilera (Whatsapp 998 7349313), and other offices.

Plaza Comalcalco, SM 97
out Av Andrés Quintana Roo past City Club, just before a Wal-Mart known as the Zona Industrial location. Home to a medical laboratory and a flower wholesaler.

Plaza Las Fuentes, SM 43
at Av La Luna and De Las Palmas, site of a couple of bar-restaurants and a small gym.

Plaza GaleriĀ­as, SM 2
east side of Av Tulum, about halfway between Av Chichen-Itza and Av Uxmal (ADO bus station)

Plaza Hollywood, SM 35
between Av Coba & Av Xcaret on the east side of Palenque, very close to the first Wal-Mart (which I believe is still open 24 hours).
Starbucks, several banks, and the largest location of La Europea wine and liquor store.

Plaza Monarca, SM 35
between Av Coba & Av Xcaret, west of Yaxchilan, east of Av Tankah/Labna. Thus, first block west of big IMSS complex

Plaza Nayandei, SM 4
East side of Bonampak about mid way between Kukulkán (road to Hotel Zone) and Sayíl (Plaza de Toros). Home to Office Depot, Taste of India, Mr. Pampas and one location of La Casa de los Abuelos.

Plaza las Palmas, SM 36
north side of Av Xcaret, east side of Av La Costa. This means, opposite Estadio Andres Quintana Roo to the north.

Plaza Solare, SM 6
east side of Bonampak, south side of Sayil, which means across from Plaza de Toros. Several restaurants.

Plaza Sunyaxchen, SM 24
on the stretch of Av Sunyaxchen between Mercado 28 on the west and Av Yaxchilan on the east. Two restaurants at plaza level, Rooster (with some sidewalk tables) and Patravali, with an unnamed salon in-between.

Plaza las Americas, SM 7
The main shopping complex outside the Hotel Zone (with Puerto Cancun being part of the Hotel Zone), between Av Tulum & Av Bonampak, south of Av Sayil (Plaza de Toros) and running all the way to Av Nichupte
Sears, Liverpool, Cinepolis, Chedraui, food court, Radio Shack, Sanborn's, many restaurants and boutiques.

Plaza de Toros, SM 4A
east side of Bonampak, north side of Sayil, placing it diagonally NE of Plaza las Americas.

Plaza Tucanes, SM 45
east side of Kohunlich, about five short blocks south of Av Andrés Quintana Roo. Has several small restaurants and stores.

Las Plazas Outlet, SM 39
A major shopping complex on the north side of Av Andrés Quintana Roo. (Note that Av Xcaret becomes Av AQR once you cross Kabah heading west, and this plaza begins shortly after. It extends to Av Tikal, or, coming from the south, Av. Kohunlich.) Home to City Club, a Cinepolis, and large mall of boutiques and small restaurants. To the east of this plaza, you find a Soriana and north of it, on Kabah, is Home Depot.

La Gran Plaza, SM 51
may be a little further west than many tourists go; south side of Nichupte down to Av Technologico, east side of Calle Tepich. More broadly, found in the stretch west of Av La Luna and east of Av Kinic. Another large shopping center including a Wal-Mart and a cinema complex. Its parking lot is one of the locations for monthly recycling collection.