The Best Beaches in Mexico
Playa del Amor, Cabo San Lucas
Eroded headlands tower dramatically over soft sand at Cabo San Lucas’s “lover’s beach.” Bodysurfers splash in the crashing waves on the Pacific side, while sunbathers and paddlers on the bay side drink in views of the Baja shoreline.
Sea turtle sightings are practically guaranteed at this beach: After all, Akumal means “place of the turtle” in the Mayan language. The white-sand beach is backed by the town of the same name, itself a lower-key alternative to other Riviera Maya destinations like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres
Clear, shallow waters, lively bars and restaurants, and tons of water-sports options make Playa Norte the best place to chill out on Isla Mujeres when you’re not out chasing whale sharks in the deeper waters offshore.
Hidden Beach, Marietas Islands
A bomb lobbed by the Mexican military helped create this unique beach on the uninhabited Marietas Islands off the Nayarit coast. Waves slide into shore under a shelf of volcanic rock, the sun beaming down through a circular crater blasted open to the sky.
Balandra Beach, La Paz
High cliffs nearly encircle this placid beach, creating the illusion of a lagoon with waters so shallow you can walk from one side to the other. Protected from development, this La Paz beach remains blessedly off the tourist path, and visitors can enjoy great snorkeling in the bay and over the reef beyond.
Medano Beach, Cabo San Lucas
Cabo’s main beach boasts safe swimming and a boatload of action, from jet-skiing and banana boats to beach volleyball and bikini contests. The beachfront cantinas ensure that the party never stops — Medano Beach is for sensation-seekers, not solitude.
Chileno Beach, Cabo San Lucas
Chileno Beach is the laid-back alternative to bustling Medano Beach, with clean waters and sand and no bars or restaurants. Rock formations, abundant sea life, and still, shallow seas make this an excellent snorkeling destination, and it’s the rare Baja beach with good natural shade and public restrooms — big pluses for families.
Sayulita, Riviera Nayarit
Early morning surfing on the beach at Sayulita
Holbox Island, Yucatan Peninsula
Far less developed than Cozumel or even Isla Mujeres, Holbox remains a sleepy destination where travel is by foot or golf cart. The white coral beach that runs along north side of the island is renowned for windsurfing and is part of the Holbox Yum Balam ecological reserve, which protects abundant local seabirds and marine life, including crocodiles lurking in the mangroves.
Yelapa Beach, Jalisco
The fishing village of Yelapa on Mexico’s Jalisco coast is tiny and isolated, yet sits on Banderas Bay, one of the largest in the world. Rimmed with a gold sand beach, the bay is great for kayaking and snorkeling, and Yelapa remains a true sliver of small-town Mexico.
Zipolite Beach, Oaxaca
Zipolite has a foreboding Mayan name — the “beach of the dead” — due to the area’s dangerous undertow and unpredictable currents. But you can play safely at this low-key Pacific Coast resort area with deep hippie culture by keeping to the safe swimming zones and heeding the lifeguards. And keep an eye out for nude sunbathers.
Cabo Pulmo, Baja California
Cabo Pulmo National Park, 60 miles north of Cabo, has miles of undisturbed beaches that give way to deserts and mountains. You’ll find inexpensive lodging in the Cabo Pulmo village, and the clear waters, shipwrecks and a rare Pacific hard-coral reef make this part of the Sea of Cortez outstanding for diving and snorkeling.
Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue overloads the senses with shops, restaurants, and tequila markets, but there’s a reason this bustling town was named for its beach. You can walk right off the city streets and onto the sand, and big resorts line the shore both north and south of town.
Playa La Ropa, Costa Grande
A mile-long strand south of Zihuatanejo, Playa la Ropa has gentle waves perfect for bodysurfing and wading into the surf with young kids; the calm waters also attract windsurfers and waterskiers.
Maroma Beach, Riviera Maya
A room at one of the oceanfront resorts at the gated Maroma community in the Riviera Maya guarantees access to one of the loveliest beaches anywhere, surrounded by hundreds of acres of jungle.