Cancún Layout: A Guide to the Two Sides of the City

Discover the layout of Cancún, Mexico with this guide to Ciudad Cancún and Isla Cancún. From local life to luxury resorts, find everything you need to know for an unforgettable trip.

Cancún Layout: A Guide to the Two Sides of the City
Isla Cancún: Bask in the beauty of white-sand beaches and turquoise waters at the famous Zona Hotelera. Photo by Gerson Repreza on Unsplash

Cancún is a popular tourist destination located in the southeastern part of Mexico. It is divided into two main areas: Ciudad Cancún and Isla Cancún. While Isla Cancún is known for its beautiful beaches and luxury hotels, Ciudad Cancún is the hub of local life. Here’s a guide to the layout of both areas.

Ciudad Cancún: The Downtown Area

Ciudad Cancún, also known as Cancún City, is located on the mainland and is the original downtown area of the city. It is where most of the local population lives, and it’s a bustling commercial and residential center. The city’s main thoroughfare is Avenida Tulum, which runs north-south through the city.

It is home to traditional restaurants, shops, and less expensive hotels, as well as various services like pharmacies, dentists, automotive shops, banks, travel and airline agencies, and car-rental firms—all within an area of about 9 square blocks.

Heading south, Avenida Tulum becomes the highway to the airport and Tulum and Chetumal, making it the main transportation route in and out of the city. Heading north, it intersects the highway to Mérida and the road to Puerto Juárez and the Isla Mujeres ferries. Ciudad Cancún is a great place to experience local life and culture, and it’s also a good place to find affordable accommodations.

Isla Cancún: The Hotel Zone

Isla Cancún is a sandy strip 22km (14 miles) long, shaped like a 7, and is located on the eastern side of the city. It is home to the famed Zona Hotelera, or Hotel Zone (also called the Zona Turística, or Tourist Zone).

This is where most tourists stay, as it is lined with luxury hotels, resorts, restaurants, and shops. The Hotel Zone is connected to the mainland by the Playa Linda Bridge at the north end and the Punta Nizuc Bridge at the southern end. Between the two areas lies Laguna Nichupté.

Avenida Cobá from Cancún City becomes Bulevar Kukulcán, the island’s main traffic artery. This road runs through the entire length of the Hotel Zone and is dotted with high-end shopping centers, nightclubs, and restaurants. Isla Cancún is known for its beautiful white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, making it a popular destination for sunbathers, water sports enthusiasts, and nature lovers.

Cancún International Airport

Cancún’s international airport is located just inland from the south end of Isla Cancún. It is the second busiest airport in Mexico and serves as a gateway to the Caribbean coast. From the airport, visitors can easily access both Ciudad Cancún and Isla Cancún via taxis or buses.


Cancún is a vibrant city that offers something for everyone. Whether you prefer the hustle and bustle of the city or the luxury of a beach resort, there’s no shortage of things to do and see. Understanding the layout of the city can help visitors navigate their way around and make the most of their stay. So, whether you’re planning a family vacation or a romantic getaway, Cancún has everything you need for an unforgettable trip.