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Planning a beach vacation in Mexico in 2021? There are hundreds of sunny destinations, from the Pacific to the Caribbean. Whether you’re heading to Mexico to to swim, surf, snorkel or just relax, there’s a beach to fit your family’s needs. Check out TravelingMom’s guide to the best beaches in Mexico.
17 Beaches in Mexico for Families
When thinking about a vacation in 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 that access the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. The lure of the surf is one of the reasons Mexico is the first country to reach pre-pandemic travel levels in 2021.
Before visiting any of Mexico’s beaches, it is important to note that most Mexican beaches do NOT offer lifeguards outside of the touristy beaches in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. Play it safe, especially with children. I make it a point to look for green beach flags indicating safe waters for swimming.
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If you’re heading to Mexico soon – on a trip with friends to an all-inclusive resort, with the kids or on a solo vacation, one of these 17 best beaches in Mexico will suit your travel needs, whether you’re looking for a spot to surf, snorkel or splash!
Beautiful Baja California Beaches
Baja California is the westernmost Mexican state. It’s a peninsula, with beaches facing the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California.
1. Lovers Beach in Cabo San Lucas
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.
TravelingMom Tip: 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.
2. Playa Balandra in La Paz
Playa Balandra is regarded by some as Mexico’s most beautiful beach. Between the white sand, clear water and calm, shallow waters, it is ideal 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 the beach is a Natural Protected Area, preventing any future development from happening.
TravelingMom Tip: Bring what you’ll need for a day at the beach when visiting Playa Balandra since there’s little in the way of concessions.
Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta
Located on the Pacific coast in Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s most popular resort towns. Here are three of the top beaches in the area, including one that’s a fave with the locals.
3. Playa Esmeralda
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. 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. Anyone who is lucky enough to find this beach will want to keep it a secret as well!
TravelingMom Tip: Bring your fishing poles to Playa Esmeralda. The beach is a terrific spot to cast a line.
4. Playa Palmares
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.
There are also family vendors who sometimes sell food on the beach. Chairs and umbrellas are available to rent for a small fee.
TravelingMom Tip: While the restaurant doesn’t serve beachside, there’s no problem getting orders “to-go.”
5. Playa Punta Negra
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. Most visitors come prepared with their own coolers for a picnic and take to hidden areas if they need a bathroom.
TravelingMom Tip: There are also no palm trees to provide shade, so it’s best to bring an umbrella.
6. Playa Las Animas in 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.
Best Beach in Nayarit
7. Sayulita Beach
Nestled in a small town north of Puerto Vallarta in Nayarit state, 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!
TravelingMom Tip: Sayulita Beach is almost always crowded with visitors of all ages, mostly tourists. As such, English is widely spoken.
Best Beaches in Oaxaca
8. Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido is a city known for its beaches as well as nightlife. There’s a beach for everyone here, whether it’s 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.
TravelingMom Tip: 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.
Best Beaches in Quintana Roo
Well known for the resort towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo is a popular Caribbean destination. Here are our favorite beaches in the state.
10. Akumal Beach
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.
11. Isla Holbox
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.
12. Parque Fundadores
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.
13. Playa Forum
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.
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.
TravelingMom Tip: 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.
14. Playa Delfines
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.
TravelingMom Tip: The colorful “Cancun” letters sit at the top of the hill, providing a great photo op in front of the Caribbean ocean.
15. Playa Norte
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.
16. Playa Paraíso
Located in Tulum, Playa Paraíso (or Paradise Beach) is a stretch of soft, white sand 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.
17. Playa Ruinas
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.
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!