Cuncrawl (www.cuncrawl.com, US$79 pp) does fun guided bar/club crawls in the heart of Cancún, hitting three different clubs (they vary by night) with VIP entrance and seating, open bar, and available transport to/from your resort (US$10 pp).
Nightclubs in the Zona Hotelera charge US$40-50 admission with open bar included. The clubs open every day, from around 10pm until 4am or later. Special events, like ladies night or bikini parties, vary by the day, club, and season; check the clubs’ websites or Facebook pages for the latest info and deals, or ask the concierge at your hotel.
Coco Bongo (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9, tel. 998/883-5061, 10pm-4am daily, US$40 with open bar) is a spectacular club featuring live rock and salsa bands, flying acrobats, and Beyoncé, Madonna, and Guns n’ Roses impersonators. Movie clips are also projected onto huge screens.
The City (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9, tel. 998/848-8380, www.thecitycancun.com) is a megaclub with four levels and a total capacity of 4,000 (and allegedly the world’s biggest disco ball). Be sure to take a whirl on the movable dance floor, which descends from the 3rd floor to the center of the club below.
Dady-O (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9.5, tel. 998/883-3333) is, well, the daddy of Cancún’s nightclubs, with seven different “environments,” including laser shows, swimsuit contests, and theme parties on several different levels.
Next door to Dady-O, Dady Rock (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9.5, tel. 998/883-3333) is technically a restaurant and bar, so it opens as early as 6pm and doesn’t have a dance floor. Nevertheless, driving rock music, sometimes live, soon has partiers dancing every place possible, including on tables and the bar.
Palazzo (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9, tel. 998/848-8380) took over the building occupied by the late great Bulldog Café, which closed in 2012. Fortunately, the Palazzo (which is owned by the same company as The City and has a sister location in Playa del Carmen) has continued the Bulldog’s tradition of booking big-name live acts and drawing raucous crowds. The interior has been totally refurbished, with a sleek Vegas-like look and a VIP section.
Downtown clubs can be just as packed as those in the Zona Hotelera, but offer something different (and don’t open every day). There are two great spots for salsa and other Latin music and dancing, and at least one gay and gay-friendly club. Cover is much cheaper, but you pay for drinks.
Grand Mambo Café
Grand Mambo Café (Plaza Monarca, aka Plaza Hong Kong, 2nd Floor, Av. Xcaret at Av. Tulum, tel. 998/884-4536, 10pm-4am Wed.-Sun., US$5) is Cancún’s biggest Latin music club, and popular with locals, tourists, and expats alike. Live music doesn’t start until midnight, but the crowds arrive earlier than that, spinning to salsa, cumbia, merengue, and more.
El Rinconcito de la Salsa
El Rinconcito de la Salsa (Av. Tulipanes 3, tel. 998/187-5349, 10pm-4am Fri.-Sun., US$5) is a smallish salsa club with a great location, just a half block off Parque Las Palapas. It’s operated by the same person who ran Azucar, a former and much-missed salsa club in the Zona Hotelera. Live music starts at midnight.
Karamba (Av. Tulum at Calle Azucenas, tel. 998/884-0032, 10:30pm-6am Tues.-Sun.) is mostly gay, but not exclusively, with frequent drag shows and theme parties. There’s a fun mix of men, women, and cross-dressers. Look for the fabulous zebra facade.
Bars and Live Music
Several of the major nightclubs in the Zona Hotelera feature live rock music and even big-name concerts, most notably Palazzo and Dady Rock, while the lounges and bars tend toward DJs or recorded music. Downtown, you’ll find smaller venues featuring more intimate live music, whether jazz, solo guitarists, or trios.
Congo Bar (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9.5) is about as lively as a bar can get without being called a club. Music is upbeat and drinks are plentiful. A congo line inevitably forms at some point (or points) and usually heads out the door and onto the street for a quick spin.
Roots Jazz Club
Roots Jazz Club (Tulipanes 26, tel. 998/884-2437, 7pm-2am Thur.-Sat.) is arguably the best live music venue in town, the go-to spot for live jazz, funk, and flamenco, both traditional and contemporary, for over two decades. Music starts at around 10pm, but it’s worth getting there early for dinner and a good seat near the small stage. A cover (US$3-6) sometimes applies.
El Pabilo (Hotel Xbalamqué, Av. Yaxchilán 31, tel. 998/892-4553, 6pm-midnight Tues.-Sun.) is a small, artsy café with great live music on the weekends, including Cuban, fusion jazz, classical guitar, and flamenco. Music usually starts around 9pm; a moderate cover (US$5-9) is sometimes charged.
On the southern end of Parque Las Palapas, La Terraza (Alcatraces 29, tel. 998/126-0131, 6pm-1am Tues.-Sat.) is a pleasant open-air wine bar that books live guitar soloists most nights starting at 9pm.
For a more mellow scene, pop down to your hotel’s lobby bar to socialize with other guests.
Excerpted from the Eleventh Edition of Moon Cancún & Cozumel.