The first thing that comes to visitor’s mind when they think of visiting Mexico are white sand beaches. If you ask tourists to name some beaches in Mexico most of them come up with Cancun. However, Mexico has many more beaches than Cancun that are less full of tourists and offer different types of experiences. Where are the best beaches in Mexico?
Best & Most Famous Beaches in Mexico (UPDATED for 2017)
Probably the most famous of all Mexican beaches, Cancun doesn’t need much introduction. This party city on the top of the Yucatan Peninsula attracts crowds of Americans every year.
Cancun might appear as a beautiful place for a lot of foreigners, however most of them only get to know the hotel zone and not the actual city of Cancun. Every big hotel has its own access to the white beach, but unless you’re staying in one of these hotels your access to the beach is very limited.
Personally, I didn’t like it so much and I’d rather recommend you other beaches in Mexico. However, Cancun is the best place to reach other touristy (but still beautiful) beaches such as Isla Mujeres.
Unfortunately, over the last couple of months, Cancun has become quite violent. While the hotel zone is still save, the city itself is experiencing a lot of violence and most of it isn’t reported by foreign (non-Mexican) media.
Located just 30 minutes from Cancun airport Playa del Carmen is a smaller town on the Caribbean coast. Between Cancun and Playa del Carmen I’d definitely recommend the second choice, as the beach is more accessible not only for guests of an expensive hotel.
If you’re a nightlife fan then you’re definitely going to find yourself in the right place. There’s a party going on pretty much every night and during the day the beach is full of young hangover people wanting to enjoy their holiday. And there is a lot of enjoy, because the beach is absolutely stunning!
Fans of diving should visit some nearby places, like Dos Ojos or other cenotes where you can dive in amazing caves.
Due to erosion most of the beach in Playa del Carmen has disappeared. While it’s still a nice place to visit, despite the situation with the cartels, for the better beach you should check out Xcacel and Akumal (both around 20 minutes away). If you’re wanting to visit Akumal to swim with turtles, bare in mind that rules have changed and you can’t just swim with them anymore – read the latest news.
North of Yucatan Peninsula there’s little island called Isla Holbox. Unspoiled by mass tourism, this little piece of paradise is a perfect getaway for everyone. You can lie in a hammock over the blue water, bike on the beach or even diving with whale sharks.
The place is peaceful with just enough tourists around and everything within a walking distance. The second you step outside the boat, you can walk barefoot on the island. Streets are made of sand and you won’t see any cars.
During the summer, you can also take a boat and swim with whale sharks. Unlike the encounters in the Philippines, fishermen from Holbox aren’t feeding the sharks and don’t let you touch them, so the animals don’t get distressed.
Tulum is a small town in the Yucatan Peninsula where everyone wants to go these days. Approximately 2 hours south of Cancun Airport, it can be a destination for luxury travelers, travelers, but also budget backpackers. It has so much to offer for offbeat adventures and healthy enthusiasts as well.
The beaches are truly unspoiled, but remember that if you want to experience a nice beach you need to stay in a beach resort instead of the town center. The town center is quite far from the beach, and similar to Cancun public beach is very small.
Tulum has everything for a healthy traveler – yoga classes, raw vegan food, jungle spots and you can even stay at the treehouse hotel. The only problem: cheap it is not, so prepare your wallets.
Known from the famous song from the 60s ‘Acapulco’ is a well-known retreat the beach town is probably the most popular place for locals from Mexico City. The place is a lot of fun if you’re going there for a weekend with a bunch of friends, but not so much for a solo exploration, especially for foreigners.
There are plenty of things you can do in Acapulco, such as jet-skiing, snorkeling, clubbing or eating dinner at one of the Senor Frogs restaurants that despite being a chain is a lot of fun! If you’re looking for a party you should stay in one of the beach hotels in Puerto Viejo district, but luxury lovers should probably search for a nice suite in Acapulco Diamante area.
PLEASE NOTE: Before you start to google Acapulco and freak out about the violence and shootings there I must tell you that Acapulco had it’s bad moments due to the Mexican drug war, but it’s all fine now.
Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit
Puerto Vallarta can be often compared to Cancun, as it probably receives more American tourists every year than Mexican visitors. I can name at least a few foreign friends who got married in one of Puerto Vallarta’s resorts, as it seemed exotic and the wedding was way cheaper than it would have been back home in the US.
But if you’re expecting a white sand beach, then it might not be the place for you.
What Vallarta does have for sure is a great nightlife. There are some crazy bars and clubs, such as a place where you can sit on a swing over the bar or dance or a club where you can dance in a cage with your friends.
Puerto Vallarta is also known for the hidden beach. However, due to the extreme volume of tourists, the beach is now unaccessible unless you have a special permit. If you have a special ticket (there is boat police and they do check everyone), you can take a guided tour around the island to see Blue Footed Boobies, but no beach unless the tight is particularly low.
I also tried to visit some of the other island beaches near Puerto Vallarta with Vallarta Adventures sailboat. I can tell you that you should definitely save yourself some money and time on going there, as the excursion was terribly overpriced and I didn’t really see any pretty beach.
Huatulco is located on the Pacific coast of southwestern Mexico, about 500 miles from Mexico City in the state of Oaxaca. It’s way less known to visitors than other places in Mexico, and this is exactly why I recommend it – because it’s still unspoiled.
It’s much less developed than Cancun or Los Cabos, but with many of the same luxuries and amenities. The water is turquoise, the beaches are crowded and there are plenty of nearby beautiful forests and waterfalls to hike to. There is even an ancient city of Copatitlan to see around!
Puerto Escondido is another beach destination in Oaxaca. It’s a perfect blend of tourism infrastructure and authentic Mexican small town with dozens of hotel and restaurant options as well as boat tours, fishing excursions, eco-tourism, horseback rides and much more! You can even see dolphins!
The place is surely prepared for tourists, but with a unique local flavor that you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re looking for some authentic Mexican food you should visit Benito Juarez market for lunch – trust me, you won’t regret it!
Located in the gulf of Mexico, this beautiful town with white buildings is a popular retreat for mid-ages people looking for a weekend getaway. It’s quiet, local and you probably won’t find a party to attend at night. Veracruz is ideal for a romantic getaway, weekend away for older people, as well as going solo.
If you’re looking for other recommendations for Mexico check my Travel & Live in Mexico section!