Several of Cancún’s major nightclubs  in the Zona Hotelera feature live rock music and even big-name concerts, most notably Bulldog Café and Azúcar, 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.
Nectar Bar (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 8.5, tel. 998/883-3716, 10 p.m.–7 a.m. daily) has a laid-back lounge environment and an extensive menu of mixed drinks. The open-air design overlooking Nichupté Lagoon is perfect for warm Cancún nights.
A chic spot, Bling (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 13.5, tel. 998/840-6014, 6 p.m.–4 a.m. daily) is an airy bar and restaurant with champagne terrace and sushi bar, theme nights, and chill-out DJ tunes. It’s opposite Plaza Kukulcán, overlooking Nichupté Lagoon.
Old standbys Carlos n’ Charlie’s (Forum by the Sea, Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9, tel. 998/883-4468, www.carlosandcharlies.com ) and Señor Frog’s (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9.5, tel. 998/883-1092, www.senorfrogs.com ) both open at noon for meals and stay open until 3 a.m. for drinking, dancing, and general mayhem.
A lively jazz and blues joint, Roots Jazz Club (Tulipanes 26, tel. 998/884-2437, roots [at] cancun [dot] com, 6 p.m.–1 a.m. Tues.–Sat.) is arguably the best music venue in town. Get there early for a decent dinner and—more importantly—a seat near the small stage. Music starts at around 10 p.m.; cover (US$3–6) sometimes applies.
El Pabilo (Hotel Xbalamqué, Av. Yaxchilán 31, tel. 998/892-4553, 5 p.m.–1 a.m. Mon.–Sat.) is an artsy café with great live music 9–11 p.m. Music featured includes bohemia cubana, fusion jazz, classical guitar, and flamenco.
On Parque Las Palapas, El Rincón del Vino (Hotel Sol y Luna, Alcatraces 33, tel. 998/898-3187, 6:30 p.m.–1 a.m. Tues.–Sat.) is a lively wine bar that carries labels from all over the world (US$5–7/glass). The friendly staff can provide recommendations, and also tasty tapas, baguettes, and salads. Live music, usually a guitar soloist, begins at 9 p.m. most nights.
For bongo drum jam sessions, wandering guitarists, and other street musicians, head to Parque Las Palapas  on weekend evenings.