The 3 Areas
Cancun is divided into three distinct areas. The Hotel Zone or Isla Cancun is a 15 mile sandbar that contains the large majority of luxury resort hotels, shopping malls, night clubs and spectacular beaches. The downtown area of Cancun City or Ciudad Cancun offers lower-priced budget hotels, exciting local markets and authentic restaurants offering traditional cuisine. The body of water that separates the island from the mainland is the Nichupte Lagoon. The third area is a large ecological reserve filled with charming lagoons and beautiful mangroves.
Visiting the different areas of Cancun is very affordable and convenient. You can walk to many local attractions within the tourist zone or leisurely stroll the 22-kilometer beach strip. Mopeds, motorcycles and cars are also available for rental. If you prefer a longer, but more scenic route, make sure to book a ride on the Aqua bus. The water taxi makes 12 different stops along the Nichupte Lagoon.
A short 20-minute bus ride will take you to the downtown area any time, day or night. The public bus system runs 24/7 and provides the cheapest method of visiting the area. There are many well-marked bus stations, including an international bus depot right in the heart of the city. Many of the private long-distance buses are air-conditioned and offer a food and beverage service.
Taxis also offer an affordable option if you want to visit any areas located outside of the tourist zone. You won't find any meters in local cabs because the fares are determined by the number of 'zones' you must enter to arrive at your final destination. If you want to save a little cash, make sure to flag down a taxi from the street, rather than from the front door of your hotel. It's important to note that passengers can arrange for a taxi to take them to the airport, but they are not permitted to pick up passengers from there.