Top 10 beaches in Mexico
1. Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres
Reachable via a short ferry trip from Cancún, Playa Norte lies at the far northwestern edge of Isla Mujeres. This Caribbean island beach is a well-kept ridge of powder white sand, which faces back toward mainland Mexico. Protected from currents and waves by its positioning, the calm, shallow waters off the beach make it an ideal spot for swimming and snorkelling, especially for families travelling with young children. With a lively, casual atmosphere enhanced by a choice of top quality beachfront restaurants, Playa Norte is certainly the best on the island, and one of the top beaches in Mexico.
Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres is one of the top beaches in Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock
2. Akumal Beach
Located between Tulum and Playa del Carmen on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, Akumal Beach is arguably the best beach in Mexico for nature enthusiasts, as a major breeding ground for turtles. From May to October, hundreds of green sea turtles nest on the beach to lay their eggs, before retreating back to the safety of the shallow, clear waters. During the summer, the water is busy with turtles as well as a rich variety of other marine and plant life. The beach itself is extraordinarily beautiful, with palm-shaded patches and sunbathing areas peppering its long stretch of white sand.
3. Playa del Carmen
Perhaps the most famous – and lively – beach in all of Mexico, Playa del Carmen is hugely popular as one of the country's top party beaches. Extending beyond the town in both directions, the palm-fringed, white sands have volleyball nets and football areas for daytime fun, while, for after dark, there is a wide variety of beach bars to choose from. There are also numerous restaurants along the beach and in the town itself, serving fresh seafood and delicious Mexican and international cuisine. Experience Playa del Carmen for yourself as part of Insight Guides' Mexico Mayan Trail trip.
Playa del Carmen, one of our favourite beaches in Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock
4. Playa Palmilla, San Jose del Cabo
The coastline of San Jose del Cabo is famous for its windsurfing, but it would be unfair to call Playa Palmilla a one-trick pony. Sometimes busy, but rarely overcrowded, it is one of the best beaches in the area for swimming, although the waves tend to be larger and more powerful than at most other beaches in Mexico.
The fine sand is delicate to the touch, softer than the sand on other beaches in the area. Playa Palmilla is the most popular beach with the locals, which is usually a good recommendation! Fishermen haul their fresh catch in each day to the handful of beachfront restaurants that serve it up for dinner just a few hours later.
5. Playa del Amor, Cabo San Lucas
Meaning Lovers’ Beach in English, Playa del Amor can be found on the southernmost tip of the state of Baja California Sur. The beach can only be reached by a glass-bottom boat or water taxi from the nearby town of Cabo San Lucas. There are no docks at the beach, so the boat will literally drop you on the beach.
The beach itself is a crescent of sand, framed by a dramatic backdrop of jagged sandstone cliffs. The main attractions here are the stunning rock formations along and off the coast, with the highlight being the arch of Cabo San Lucas, a spectacular 40-metre high arch that extends from the coast into the sea.
On the other side of the peninsula is Divorce Beach, which is on the Pacific Ocean, and is equally as beautiful but the water is rough and the undercurrents dangerous. This whole area is a photographer’s dream, so be sure to bring your camera!
Natural rock formations at Cabo San Lucas make it one of Mexico's most beautiful stretches of coastline. Photo: Shutterstock
6. Playa Pariaso, Tulum
This secluded, palm-fringed stretch of pristine white sand well and truly lives up to its Spanish name of Paradise Beach. Found on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, the warm, still waters at Playa Paraiso are crystal clear – ideal for snorkelling and swimming. Despite its abundant beauty, this peaceful gem of a beach remains relatively quiet and crowd free. There are a handful of restaurants and bars lining the beach where you can sit and watch the waves breaking on the sands. A 20-minute walk up the coast, the Mayan ruins of Tulum stand on a promontory overlooking the Caribbean, making for a spectacular spot for a cool sunset swim.
7. Pichilingue Beach, La Paz
The geographical location of this long, wide beach makes it a wonderful spot from where to watch the sunset over the Gulf of California and the Baja in the distance. The beach is around a 30-minute drive north of La Paz, and is usually reasonably quiet. Ample parking is available and there are two small restaurants and a few snorkelling, kayaking and diving tour operators.
The rocky headland helps keep the turquoise waters calm, making it a great place to take a cooling dip too.
8. Playa Delfines, Cancún
If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing spot in close proximity to Cancún, then Playa Delfines is the beach for you. Little more than a long stretch of powdery white sand, this beach is popular with locals looking to escape the hustle of Cancún, which is just a 30-minute drive away.
The beach is so quiet that no public transport comes this far, so you may have to get a taxi. However, those who make the journey will be rewarded by shallow picture-perfect, blue-green waters complemented by pristine white sand and a handful of angled palm trees.
Playa Delfines, Cancún, Mexico. Photo: lunamarina/Shutterstock
9. Sabancuy, Campeche
The region of Campeche, located on the western coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, is home to a number of beaches, many of which are almost totally unspoiled. This stretch of coastline was devastated by Hurricane Roxanne in 1995, but thankfully has now fully recovered. The newly-constructed coastal highway runs along the stretch of coast from Ciudad del Carmen to Campeche, passing rainforests and limestone cliffs on one side, and some of the best beaches in Mexico on the other.
The sleepy little town of Sabancuy, just north of Ciudad del Carmen, is a charming old colonial settlement, which is home to a beautiful beach. The town itself sits on the lower side of an estuary, which must be crossed (via a bridge) to reach the shore.
The long, expanse of white sand is often practically deserted, except for a few palapas (thatched-roof, open-sided shelters) selling drinks and snacks. The waters are crystal clear, and closer to green than blue. There are also a few small but pleasant restaurants in the town.
10. Playa Gemelas, Puerto Vallarta
Around a 30-minute drive south of the Pacific coast resort town of Puerto Vallarta, Playa Gemelas is actually a pair of small unspoilt beaches – gemelas means twins in Spanish – with clean, soft golden sands washed by waves from the turquoise ocean. Swimming and soaking up the sun will keep you entertained, but you might want to pack your own picnic and drinks as there are no facilities available on the beach itself, although there is a restaurant overlooking it. The north beach is easily accessible, while to reach the south stretch there is a rocky outcrop to climb over, but snorkelling is possible in the waters just off the rocks.
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Updated 18 July, 2019