One of the very best parts of traveling internationally is being able to see the different architectural styles. I love seeing how different buildings look from one country to the next. The lines, the shapes, the colors. So I was especially excited to see some highlights on my trip to Cancun, Mexico. So in this post, I’m tipping you in on the Cancun architecture that you’ll definitely want to check out.
But first, take a look at one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen flying in. That clear, aqua water!!
what Cancun architecture looks like
Cancun is such an interesting place, because I learned that it essentially didn’t exist (as we know it) until the mid-1960’s. Prior to this time, it was a Mayan civilization. But mid-century Mexico developers wanted to turn it into a resort town. So because of this unique history, it’s a really interesting mix of architectural styles.
Of course, you’ll still see a lot of the Mayan influence. The limestone and tiered architecture are probably the most evident display of this. But there is also a major influence of the colonial Spanish architecture – the origin of the ranch-style house. You’ll see the signature stucco siding, lots of arches, and burnt orange tile.
Where it really gets interesting is the influence of the modernist movement that was happening as Cancun was being built. The Cancun architecture style ends up being this really cool and modern look with sprinkles of classic Mexican style sprinkled in.
So where should you go to check out the best that Cancun has to offer?
We stayed in the city of Cancun – as opposed to the super touristy hotel strip – and this is where we got to see a lot of the really interesting residential architecture.
Here was the view from our airbnb right off of Avenida Tulum.
residential Cancun architecture
In my opinion, if you’re looking to see some really amazing and authentic residential architecture in Cancun, walk all the side streets surrounding Avenida Tulum to the East and the West.
The houses are not mansions, but it gives you a really great peek into all of the different architectural styles blended together.
commercial Cancun architecture
The commercial architecture in Cancun is where you’ll see a lot more of the fun, modernist influence.
The materials are still consistent with the traditional Spanish and Mayan architecture. Stucco is a really common material to see on the exterior of buildings.
But where the modern influence is shown is in all of the very geometric details – straight lines, spheres, etc.
There are also some cool architectural moments of totally unique design.
And as you’ll see in a lot of Mexican design in general, there are lots of colors. There’s no shortage of murals putting this bright and colorful motif on full display.
And if you’re looking for some large-scale, cool and modern architecture, check out some of the resorts in the hotel zone. This is where you’ll see a lot of the ultra-modernist inflluence.
The Temptation Resort is honestly one of the coolest resorts I saw there. This pink photo above is just one little piece of this massive, colorful resort. Definitely swing by here if you have the chance while you’re there.
for a different vibe, check out the colonial city about an hour outside of Cancun
This colonial city has a lot more of a classic, slice of time architectural vibe. It’s directly influenced by the Spanish colonizers who came centuries ago and then left, as well as the Mayan culture that was already there.
If you have a chance to go on a bus tour through this town and to Chichen Itza, 100% do it.
And of course, if you’re looking for a peek into some of the earliest architecture in Central America, you must go to Chichen Itza. This is about 2 hours outside of Cancun.
Although these structures were built centuries ago, they are a true engineering marvel. If you have to chance to do a guided tour, do it. If not, I would highly recommend doing some reading into just how insanely smart the ancient Mayan people were to construct these buildings so intentionally.
I mean, Chichen Itza is considered one of the wonders of the world for a reason.
Also, if you’re looking to visit one of the best designed restaurants in Cancun, Taboo is for you
This is more interior design than architecture, but I had to include it because I was truly blown away by the beauty of this place.
Not only was the food amazing, as was the entertainment, this has to be one of the most Instagrammable restaurants I’ve ever been to. If you want to check it out, it’s Taboo Cancun in Zona Hotelera.
And it’s right on the water. You truly can’t beat it.
Have fun exploring Cancun and I hope you enjoy seeing this amazing, unique architecture just as much as I did!
Hey my name’s Hannah Michelle Lambert, the voice behind homey homies. I’m an LA-based blogger and interior designer. I’m passionate about fun, adaptive, and affordable design that is filled with personality. And I’m a huge believer in a good DIY. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you find the inspiration you’re looking for – and maybe a little extra 😉