Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Overlooking a stunning beach by the southern tip of the Hotel Zone, this adults-only property oozes tranquility. Its serene white and red decor -- with billowy curtains everywhere -- and a somewhat secluded spot far from the booming nightlife set this upper-mid-range boutique apart from the mega-resorts located just north of it. The Bel Air Collection has 155 chic, minimalist (if low-frills) rooms, trendy common areas, a wonderful spa, and a gorgeous infinity pool with ocean views. In short, it’s a great pick for a relaxed, romantic getaway, and prices are extremely fair for what you get.
Gran Caribe Real Cancun Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The massive Gran Caribe is a four-pearl all-inclusive resort in Cancun's Hotel Zone with 487 suites. This beachfront option features a great location with bright white sands and clear waters just steps from the room. All rooms here are suites with living areas, balconies or terraces, and updated marble bathrooms. While there are eight on-site restaurants and eight bars, there are common complaints of mediocre food. This family-friendly choice -- with a kids' club, teen club, waterpark, and squash courts -- is good value, but Wi-Fi is not included in some room rates.
Privilege Aluxes Isla Mujeres Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Privilege Aluxes is one of the most affordable all-inclusive options in Cancun (cheaper, non all-inclusive rates are also available). Close to the bustle of downtown Isla Mujeres and along the beautiful sands of Playa Norte, Privilege Aluxes provides not only comfort but also a touch of luxury. The 124 rooms are spacious, feature a modern, minimalist decor -- though at times it may seem too austere -- and come outfitted with amenities such as alarm clock radios, minibars, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi. Many are suites and have impressive ocean views and large, private terraces with their own Jacuzzis. Outside, the grounds are well kept, dotted with tall palm trees and two glistening pools, and there are three restaurants on offer. The shoreline is just steps away and the hotel provides relaxing beach beds shaded by towering palm roofs.
Sandos Cancun Luxury Experience Resort Rating: 4.0 Pearls
A time-share and all-inclusive property, the Sandos Cancun Luxury Experience is located in Cancun's Hotel Zone. While ownership pitches from the concierge can be pesky, this property does have a variety of quality restaurants, considerable spa offerings, and three elegant infinity pools. The hotel overlooks a gorgeous strip of white-sand beach and some rooms have balconies with striking water views. There is 24-hour room service, a chic lobby bar, and well-equipped fitness center, but some guests complain about a lack of nightlife and limited number of pool and beach umbrellas.
Krystal Cancun Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Krystal Cancun's 435 rooms rise high above Punta Cancun, one of central Cancun's most picturesque viewpoints, with outlooks of both the lagoon and sparkling blue ocean. This Mexican-owned hotel is a contemporary, upper-middle-range resort with an all-inclusive option that's popular with Mexican and international guests alike. While there can be great discrepancy between the newer and older rooms (renovations are ongoing), guests can expect some great food, a social atmosphere, and a nice stretch of practically perfect beachfront.
The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort is located along the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. This resort in the heart of Cancun's Hotel Zone, with a lovely beach, attractive facade, and well-groomed grounds, delivers more for your money than many similarly priced properties. Rooms are either studios or villas, and both are complete with living areas, kitchens, washer/dryers, and balconies. Hints of traditional Mexican decor give the comfortable rooms -- furnished in rich brown and gold tones -- a bit of authentic flavor. Bathrooms are especially chic with tiled patterns along the walls. There are on-site restaurants serving international cuisine, and the Tierra Market provides ingredients for guests to cook in fully equipped kitchens.
Villa Del Palmar Cancun Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The Villa Del Palmar is a family-friendly resort set in one of the calmer locations of Cancun. Rooms are charming, with homey decor, and feature modern amenities such as iPod docks and flat-screen TVs. All units sport kitchenettes (full kitchens in suites), which can help guests save money on food; all-inclusive rates are also available, and are very fair when compared to all-inclusive rates at comparable hotels. The outdoor pool area helps make up for the slightly seaweed-y beach, sporting a waterfall bridge and tiki bar. However, as of late 2011, construction was still ongoing on the property: Make sure to call ahead and book a room facing away from the building sites.
Fiesta Americana Villas Cancun Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Compared to neighboring properties, the 179-room Fiesta Americana is a small hotel that offers a great value for families. It's less party-oriented than most of the Hotel Zone properties, and has a wide range of activities and amenities designed for travelers with kids: a kiddy pool, a playground, a kids’ club; plus large, clean, multi-roomsuites with at least a kitchenette with a mini-fridge and a microwave. The large pool, the nice beach, the spa, the spacious fitness center with sauna, and the central location are perks as well. But it’s an aging property, so expect a few flaking walls, as well as only the most basic resort amenities for adults.
Ixchel Beach Hotel Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Along the white-sand beaches of Isla Mujeres (the narrow island off the coast of Cancun) is Ixchel Beach Hotel -- a not-too-big condo complex that appeals to couples and families. The 117-room property comes in two wings: the East Wing (Phase One) with 48 rooms that opened in June 2006, and the slightly more modern West Wing (Phase Two) with 69 rooms that opened in August 2007. Standard, one- bedroom, two-bedroom, and penthouse condo options feature Mexican casual decor, marble bathrooms, and CD/DVD players. Most have fully equipped kitchens and balconies that overlook the ocean for beautiful sunsets, though standard rooms lack both. The friendly staff can arrange golf cart rentals and excursions such as scuba diving or deep-sea fishing in the Caribbean Sea. For those who just want to chill out, the small outdoor pool leads out to a small bar and restaurant. The beaches are great for strolling, and within a few blocks are a number of restaurants and shops, as well as the regular ferry to Cancun.
Holiday Inn Cancun Arenas Rating: 3.0 Pearls
The first thing potential guests should know about this mid-range, all-inclusive-optional Holiday Inn is that it's not in the heart of the Hotel Zone. It's actually located at the very northern end, and requires a bus or taxi ride to get to local shops and restaurants (at least there are bus stops right next to the hotel). The 214 rooms here are minimalistic -- all-white with pops of color (either blue, green, or red -- just one color) -- but clean and spacious, and have privatebalconies overlooking either the pool area or the ocean. The suites have well-equipped kitchenettes, which can come in handy for families who don't want to pay the all-inclusive rate. Standard resort amenities exist here -- twopools and a fitness center, though no full spa (just massages available) -- but the beach is full of seaweed, making swimming a less-than-pleasant experience. Still, this hotel is a good value, and families may especially enjoy it -- there are good kids' activities, and kids eat free in the three restaurants. Business travelers might also appreciate the free and reliable Wi-Fi.