If there’s one thing that sets Mexico apart from other vacation destinations, it is its selection of beautiful beaches. Whether looking to swim, surf, snorkel, or even just to relax, Mexico has beaches to fit every family’s taste and travel style. From the east to the west coast and spanning across four bodies of water, here’s where to find 17 of the best beaches in Mexico.
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17 Best Beaches in Mexico
When thinking about a vacation to Mexico, the first thing that usually comes to mind is sitting beachside, in the warm sun with a drink in hand. This shouldn’t come as a surprise– Mexico has nearly 500 beaches than span over the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf of California! Whether headed to Mexico for a family beach vacation, a trip with friends, or a solo vacation, choose any one of these 17 best beaches in Mexico and you’ll find at least one that suits everyone’s style.
Lovers Beach (Cabo San Lucas, Baja California)
Located in Cabo San Lucas, Lover’s Beach (or Playa de Los Amantes) is popular for its massive rock formations (El Arco) in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. To get there requires a water taxi that can be taken from the main beach. Most water taxis will provide a small tour around El Arco to talk about the diving areas and where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. Visitors are then dropped off on the “safe” side of the beach for swimming and snorkeling. The views of the rock formations and the city from Lover’s Beach can’t be beaten.
It is important to note that the waves on the opposite side of the beach are extremely dangerous with powerful, strong waves and currents. I wouldn’t recommend attempting to swim or play in that area, as injuries and drownings are not unheard of.
Playa Balandra (La Paz, Baja California)
Playa Balandra is regarded by some as Mexico’s most beautiful beach. Between the white sand, clear water, and calm, shallow waters perfect for swimming, it is perfect for families with young children.
Unlike many of the other popular beaches in Mexico, Balandra Beach is nearly deserted with the view of nothing but a blue ocean for miles. There are wooden beach umbrellas and a food vendor, and few locals and tourists on the beach at any given time. The best part is that as of 2008, the beach is a Natural Protected Area, preventing any future development from happening.
Playa Esmeralda (Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco)
Perhaps one of Puerto Vallarta’s best-kept secrets is Playa Esmeralda. It is, in my opinion, the most beautiful beach in the area, with blue waters, soft sand, and palm trees.
Tucked away behind private property, many may think this beautiful beach is inaccessible. At any given time, this small beach only has a few people visiting at a time. The temperature of the water is perfect, making it difficult to leave! Its cove-like shape makes the waters extremely calm, like a swimming pool, and perfect for toddlers and young children. It’s also a great place for fishing. Anyone who is lucky enough to find this beach will want to keep it a secret as well!
Playa Las Animas (Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco)
South of Puerto Vallarta in the Cabo Corrientes region, Playa Las Animas is a favorite among local families and tourists. To get there requires a scenic drive down the coast to the small fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan, followed by a 15-minute ride in a “panga” for roughly than $3 USD each way.
Water sports such as parasailing and jet skiing are available. The water is just right for young children– not too rough, but enough to catch some fun waves. It happens to be one of my son’s favorite beaches, and we can easily spend the entire day there.
Playa Las Animas isn’t just about the clear, blue waters. There’s also a line of delicious seafood restaurants right on the water that offer beach chairs to enjoy your meal and a cold beverage. My personal favorite restaurant is El Coral, which has a complimentary private water taxi that picks up and drops off in Boca de Tomatlan.
Playa Palmares (Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco)
Often noted as one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Vallarta, Playa Palmares is popular among both tourists and locals of all ages. It is one of the only beaches that has a restaurant and restrooms. In fact, in 2014 it was the first beach in the state of Jalisco to fly the Blue Flag, signifying international certification of quality.
While the restaurant doesn’t serve beachside, there’s no problem getting orders “to-go”. There are also family vendors who sometimes sell food on the beach. Chairs and umbrellas are available to rent for a small fee.
Playa Punta Negra (Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco)
Playa Punta Negra is popular among locals, especially during the evenings and weekends. Getting there requires a walk down a set of steep stairs, but it’s worth it. We’ve had the pleasure of viewing some of the best sunsets from this beach. Unlike many of the other popular beaches in the area, there are hardly any vendors trying to sell trinkets.
The calmer waters make it easy for children to play and swim, especially on the side closest to the rocks. However, the biggest downside is that there are no bathrooms or restaurants. There are also no palm trees to provide shade, so it’s best to bring an umbrella. Most visitors come prepared with their own coolers for a picnic and take to hidden areas if they need a bathroom.
Sayulita Beach (Sayulita, Nayarit)
Nestled in a small town north of Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita Beach is known less for its beauty and more for the waves for surfing, as well as the surrounding town.
A perfect day trip from Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita has its own vibe, different from other nearby beaches. The town itself is a colorful hippie town full of bars and restaurants, with a few right on the beach. On the beach are several vendors who rent umbrellas, chairs, and surfboards. There is even a hut for massages!
Sayulita Beach is almost always crowded with visitors of all ages, mostly tourists. As such, English is widely spoken.
Puerto Escondido (Oaxaca)
Puerto Escondido is a city known for its several beaches as well as nightlife. There’s a beach for everyone here, whether it be a beach lined with palm trees, a beach for surfing, or a quieter cove-like beach.
During the day, one can partake in activities such as surfing, scuba diving, fishing, and even yoga. At night it isn’t uncommon to find dance parties on the beach.
Overall, Puerto Escondido is more popular among surfers and backpackers. Families looking for quieter and less crowded beaches should head to the city of Huatulco.
Similar to Puerto Escondido, Huatulco isn’t just home to one beach, but more than 30 beautiful, clean beaches. Located on the Pacific side of Mexico, the city boasts nine bays, all of which offer several amazing beaches. Huatulco isn’t a typical tourist destination, so a visit provides the opportunity to really relax, mix and mingle with Mexican locals, and get a taste of the culture. However, that doesn’t take away from the opportunity to take part in activities such as sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, swimming, and surfing.
Akumal Beach (Akumal, Quintana Roo)
Less than a 30-minute car ride from Tulum in the Riviera Maya, Akumal Beach is the perfect beach for families. Although popular and a bit commercialized compared to some of the smaller beaches in the area, Akumal is large and great for swimming. Beach umbrellas are available to rent, and there are several beachfront bars and restaurants with palapa roofs. This is another one of those beaches where one can easily spend the entire day relaxing.
Isla Holbox (Quintana Roo)
Located north of the Yucatán Peninsula, Isla Holbox is a car-free island between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It is absolutely gorgeous, with white sands and clear waters. It is also home to flamingos, pelicans, sea turtles, and whale sharks.
Isla Holbox is very laid-back and relaxing, unlike Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Getting there, however, does take some work. To do so requires taking a passenger-only ferry from the small town of Chiquila, which is a 2-3 hour drive from Playa del Carmen.
Parque Fundadores (Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo)
The beach at Parque Fundadores in Playa del Carmen is busy, but spacious and offers endless views of the turquoise ocean. It’s a great beach to relax and enjoy some sun and sand for families of all ages. The heat from the sun makes the water the perfect temperature for swimming and soaking. The park itself features sculptures, shopping, vendors, restaurants, and bars.
The popular Fifth Avenue is steps away. It’s also easy to hop on a 45-minute ferry to Cozumel on the pier that stretches out into the sparkling, turquoise waters.
At night, family-friendly shows happen in the plaza and sometimes on the beach.
Playa Forum (Cancun, Quintana Roo)
In the busiest part of Cancun’s hotel zone sits Playa Forum, one of the most “happening” beaches in the area. It is especially popular during spring break. My son and I spent a bit of time on this beach during our mommy-son trip to Cancun. It is located right outside of a shopping mall and surrounded by beachside, restaurants, and bars. It’s not uncommon to hear music blasting from the nearby hotel swimming pools.
While the beach is a public and family-friendly beach, I find that the water can be a little rough depending on the time of day.
In the evenings, many locals will head to the beach with coolers to eat and drink while watching the sunset. For those looking for a white sand beach in the middle of all the action, Playa Forum is it.
Playa Delfines (Cancun, Quintana Roo)
Playa Delfines is one of the quietest and least busy parts of Cancun’s long stretch of beach. It features a small playground, restrooms, and plenty of open space to relax and enjoy the view under a palapa. The water is a little rough for swimming or playing; however, my son loves having the space to run around, play, and build sandcastles.
The colorful “Cancun” letters sit at the top of the hill, providing for a great photo op in front of the Caribbean ocean.
Playa Norte (Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo)
Playa Norte is part of Isla Mujeres, a small island just a 30-minute ferry ride from the coast of Cancun. Playa Norte is a beautiful and pristine soft, white sand beach with crystal clear and calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The waters are also very shallow, making it perfect for families with younger children. Although there are restaurants and bars right on the beach, there is still plenty of space to relax.
Playa Paraíso (Tulum, Quintana Roo)
Located in Tulum, Playa Paraíso (or Paradise Beach) is a stretch of soft, white sands surrounded by palm trees and cliffs. The beach is very large, so it never appears to be too crowded. There are several restaurants on-site serving delicious food and drinks. There are also boats that offer snorkeling trips for those who want to enjoy the warm waters.
Playa Ruinas (Tulum, Quintana Roo)
Also located in Tulum, Playa Ruinas has Mayan Ruins that overlook the Caribbean. It is the beach that most think of when visiting Tulum, as it is one of the most photographed sites. This is one beach that is not only beautiful, but also packed with history. A trip here is great for families of all ages, especially those with an interest in Mexican history and archaeology.
TravelingMom Tip: Before visiting any of Mexico beaches, it is important to note that most Mexican beaches do NOT offer lifeguards. It isn’t uncommon to find lifeguards in the more touristy beaches in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, but it’s always best to play safe. Before every beach trip, especially with children, I make it a point to check the beach flags to determine the safety level of the water.
With Mexico’s vast variety of beach destinations, there’s no doubt that every visitor will find one that best suits their interests and needs. Even visiting just a few still isn’t enough to scratch the surface of all the beaches that Mexico has to offer. The best thing to do is just pack a bag, head to one of the hundreds of coastal all-inclusive resorts or vacation rentals, and explore them all!