Cancún’s most popular nightclubs are within walking distance of each other in the Zona Hotelera, at Punta Cancún. The Zona Hotelera also has some great lounge bars. Downtown, meanwhile, has nightclubs specializing in Latin music, and the city’s best live music, theater, and movies.
Cuncrawl (toll-free Mex. tel. 800/269-1317, toll-free U.S. tel. 800/975-4349, US$80 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$55-80 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. 998/883-2373, 10pm-4am daily) is a spectacular club featuring live rock and salsa bands, flying acrobats, and Rihanna, Michael Jackson, and KISS impersonators. Movie clips are also projected onto huge screens.
The City (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9, tel. 998/848-8385) is a megaclub with four levels and a total capacity of 6,000 (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.
Palazzo (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9, tel. 998/848-8380) books big-name DJs and draws raucous crowds. Recently updated, the interior has a sleek Vegas-like look, huge chandeliers, and a VIP section.
Mandala (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9, tel. 998/848-8380) is an upscale club with indoor and outdoor areas for partying. There’s plenty of VIP seating in case you want to splurge on a private table (and better service).
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.
Grand Mambo Café (Plaza Hong Kong, 2nd Floor, Av. Xcaret at Av. Tulum, tel. 998/884-4536, 10:30pm-4am Wed.-Sat., US$5 cover, US$8-12.50 open bar) is Cancún’s biggest Latin music club, and popular with locals, tourists, and expats alike. Live music–mostly salsa, cumbia, and bachata–doesn’t start until midnight, but the crowds arrive earlier than that, spinning to recorded Latin rhythms.
El Rinconcito de la Salsa (Av. Tulipanes 3, tel. 998/100-3429, 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 Azúcar, a former and much-missed salsa club in the Zona Hotelera. Live music starts at midnight.
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 CocoBongo, 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, tel. 998/883-0653) is about as lively as a bar can get without being called a club. Music is upbeat and drinks are plentiful. A conga line inevitably forms at some point (or points) and usually heads out the door and onto the street for a quick spin.
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.
Old standbys Carlos n’ Charlie’s (Forum by the Sea, Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 8.5, tel. 998/883-4468) and Señor Frog’s (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 14.2, tel. 998/193-1701) both open at noon for meals and stay open until 3am for drinking, dancing, and general mayhem.
El Pabilo (Hotel Xbalamqué, Av. Yaxchilán 31, tel. 998/892-4553, 6pm-midnight Mon.-Sat.) 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.
Located within the Centro Cultural La Pitahaya, Tu Café (Av. Yaxchilán near Av. Uxmal, cell tel. 998/118-0099, 4pm-11pm Tues.-Sat.) is a boho coffeehouse that has open jazz/funk jam sessions on Tuesday as well as screens independent films on Friday. There also are rotating art exhibits. It’s a good place to chill with friends and get a sense of the local art/music/cultural scene.”
On the southern end of Parque Las Palapas, La Terraza del Vino (Alcatraces 29, cell tel. 998/126-0131, 6pm-3am Tues.-Sat.) is a pleasant open-air wine bar that books live guitar soloists most nights starting at 9pm.
La Taberna (Av. Yaxchilán at Punta Nicchehabi, tel. 998/887-5433, noon-4am daily) is a locals sports bar with lots of big-screen TVs and drink specials every night of the week. Free appetizers come with each drink, plus meals are free 1pm-6pm daily.
Excerpted from the Twelfth Edition of Moon Cancún & Cozumel.