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Cancun is a hugely popular destination for American travelers. It’s got turquoise water, long stretches of beach and several neighboring hotspots along the Riviera Maya, like Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Besides excellent food and plenty of natural attractions, the hotel scene in Cancun is well-rounded, with everything from budget to luxury accommodations and lots of all-inclusive properties. If you want to travel to Mexico with points and miles, put them to work for you with a trip to Cancun.
Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Getting to Cancun
Cancun International Airport is the main gateway to the region. It's located between Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Regular taxi service is available at the airport for fixed rates, but many hotels can help organize a transfer via shuttle. Public buses don't stop at hotels, which makes them less useful for travelers. Using a pre-arranged transportation service is recommended. That way, the price is set in advance. While at the airport, don't accept any paid ride offers; soliciting passengers at the airport is illegal. Rental cars are also available.
Major airlines flying to Cancun
If you want to fly to Mexico with points, U.S. airlines have a slew of options to Cancun from their hubs, as well as from many secondary cities. These are just a handful of the U.S. carriers that have ample flights from around the country to Cancun. Take note that a new tourist tax of about $11 is now in effect and not included in airline ticket prices. This needs to be paid online before flying out.
Flying to Cancun on points and miles
The best airline for flying to Cancun most of the year is American Airlines, which bases its award ticket pricing on an award chart. A Saver Award costs between 12,500 to 15,000 miles each way in the main cabin depending on your travel dates.
Neither Delta nor United publish an award chart, and their redemption prices can be all over the map despite offering the occasional discount. Like Delta and United, Southwest and Spirit operate a dynamic pricing model, which makes it hard to know how many points or miles to save in advance for a trip. Sometimes, a dynamic pricing model can result in higher value, but it depends on when you're traveling. For best odds, start planning early.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
Hotels on points in Cancun
Cancun and Riviera Maya have so many options for earning and redeeming points, it's hard to even scratch the surface.
As a start, we highlight below a well-known property with some of the biggest loyalty programs. But in the end, your choice of hotel will come down to what area you want to stay in, what type of property you're looking for and how many points you want to redeem.
» Learn more: The best hotel credit cards right now
The Ritz-Carlton Cancun
As one of the most high-end hotels on the Cancun strip, The Ritz-Carlton Cancun is centrally located, but offers peace and quiet along the beach. If you’re looking for luxury in a tourist spot, this is it. Think polished chandeliers, marble floors, elegant dining and beachfront swimming pools. This Marriott Bonvoy property also offers a swanky club lounge, but it does not upgrade Marriott Bonvoy elites for free. To access the lounge, guests must pay a surcharge based on the nightly rate.
Marriott Bonvoy has a strong foothold in the region, with several Marriott brand properties — from Fairfield Inn and Suites to adults-only, all-inclusive resorts — honoring points at different redemption levels.
Cost to book in points: This is a Marriott Bonvoy category six property, which means rooms start at 50,000 points per night for standard rates, 40,000 during off-peak nights and 60,000 during peak nights. You can find cheaper rates using PointSavers bookings, when available. NerdWallet currently values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cent per point. A nightly $43 resort fee plus tax is imposed. Marriott typically does not waive resort fees on award stays.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points
If you have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, the Free Night Award (valued at up to 50,000 points) can be used here on nights where the redemption rate remains at or below 50,000 points. Terms apply.
If you don’t want to carry a Marriott Bonvoy-branded credit card, but still want status, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, which automatically comes with Marriott Gold status (enrollment required) and currently offers a welcome bonus as follows: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Generally, those points can be transferred to the Bonvoy program at a 1:1 ratio, but there are often transfer bonus promotions. Terms apply.
Canopy by Hilton La Isla
As one of the newest Hilton Honors options in Cancun, Canopy by Hilton La Isla is one of Hilton’s luxury properties in the area. Located in the hotel zone and featuring a rooftop pool, chic decor, and complimentary local wine and beer tastings, this property has an urban buzz.
If you're looking for something close to, but not on, the beach without the sprawling resort feel, this is it. Expect rotating art exhibitions, in-room swing chairs, live music and outdoor fire pits. The hotel is next to La Isla Entertainment Village, which has dining, shopping and nightlife options. Plus, there's a nearby Ferris Wheel.
Hilton Honors’ portfolio in the region is not as strong as Marriott Bonvoy's, but it's growing. Hilton has several new properties in the works, including more all-inclusive hotels and a new Waldorf-Astoria next year.
Cost to book in points: Hilton doesn’t have a set award chart, but rooms tend to cost between 38,000 and 60,000 points. NerdWallet values Hilton points at 0.5 cent per point. There's no resort fee at Canopy by Hilton La Isla. At Hilton properties that do charge resort fees, Hilton typically waives those fees on award stays, making it that much more desirable to book with points.
How to earn Hilton Honors points
Canopy by Hilton La Isla is a great place to redeem the free weekend night certificate that comes with some of the Hilton Honors co-branded cards. Gold or Diamond Hilton Honors members might be able to score one of the sunset-facing rooms on higher floors. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card also comes with automatic Diamond status. Terms apply.
If your goal is to get status or have the ability to book with points, but don’t want a Hilton-branded credit card, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, which gets holders automatic Hilton Gold status (enrollment required). Those points could then be transferred to the Hilton Honors program at a 1:2 ratio, getting you 2 Hilton points for every 1 American Express point. Terms apply.
World of Hyatt
Hyatt Ziva Cancun and Hyatt Zilara Cancun
Hyatt Ziva Cancun and Hyatt Zilara Cancun are excellent all-inclusive options with something for every age. The Ziva brand is family-oriented while Zilara is adults-only. Nestled between the resorts are loads of pools, restaurants and entertainment options. Zilara guests can also use the facilities at family-friendly Ziva, giving them two resorts for the price of one.
Cost to book in points: All-inclusive resort room redemptions start at 25,000 points per night for a standard room. It's important to note that this rate is good for a maximum of two people. NerdWallet values Hyatt points at 1.9 cents per point. These two Hyatt properties don't charge resort fees, but for properties that do, Hyatt typically waives them on award stays.
How to earn Hyatt points
The World of Hyatt Credit Card makes it easy to earn points — and bonus points — on everyday purchases when staying with Hyatt. You can also transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards® to World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.
» Learn more: How to travel to Puerto Vallarta on points and miles
If you want to go to Cancun on points and miles
With proximity to the U.S., Cancun offers plenty of flight options for redeeming miles and points, plus a wide array of hotel categories where you can redeem hotel points.
With so much supply in the market, sometimes paying in cash for a cheap flight or hotel may make more sense than redeeming hard-earned points. Do the math before you travel.
To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.
All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.
To view rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, see this page.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card