From the Yucatan Peninsula to the Pacific Coast, you don’t have to go far to find a beach town that fits exactly what you’re looking for. You don’t have to stick to resort towns either—I’ve come to realize that even the most quiet fishing village sometimes has stunning beaches to explore.
Don’t know where to begin? Here are 15 amazing beach towns in Mexico.
Chances are if you’re considering a beach vacation in Mexico, Cancun comes to mind immediately. This busy city on the southeast coast of the country often serves as the gateway to the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula (and the Riviera Maya) and all its tropical allure.
Other than epic beaches and turquoise waters, Cancun is well known for one very specific thing: spring break. It’s party central for sun-seeking travelers every spring. But there are lots of things to do in Cancun—it’s so much more than glitzy nightlife and beach bars. Cancun is home to Maya culture, tons of watersport activities, ecotourism tours, artisanal markets, golf courses, and beautiful beaches.
Playa Delfines is where all the locals like to hang out. It’s not owned by any resort or major hotel, so you’ll have uninterrupted views of the Caribbean Sea. The vibe is super chilled out here, and it’s entirely public, so you’ll find lots of local food stalls.
If you’d like to go a little further out of town, check Puerto Morelos. This sleepy fishing village is calm and quiet, and the coral reef here is popular for divers and snorkelers.
Tulum makes for an excellent alternative to Cancun, although it certainly has exploded in popularity in recent years with beach resorts popping up all over the place (there are tons of places to stay). Tulum is an artsy, upbeat place with lots going on, so come here to enjoy a busy nightlife, some great dining, and of course, the famous Tulum Beach.
Tulum Beach is known for its Mayan ruin precariously perched at the edge of a cliff. There’s a good chance you’ve seen photos of it already: a solidly built fortress overlooking a white sand beach, with a staircase built into the cliffside leading straight up to it.
If you’d prefer something a little more private, try Las Palmas also on the Caribbean Sea. It’s more secluded than Tulum, so you won’t find any food vendors or drink options at your fingertips, but you’ll certainly escape the larger crowds.
3. Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is my favorite beach destination on the Yucatan Peninsula. As far as coastal cities go, it’s a fairly big one with a lot of trendy restaurants and bars, and plenty of art galleries near the city center. Although the beaches aren’t as nice as they are in Tulum and Cancun, the reef diving and snorkeling here is excellent. You don’t have to go far offshore to encounter rays, moray eels, bright corals, and even sea turtles.
Playa del Carmen is also a quick visit to the ruins at Cozumel, Tulum, and Coba. If you’re as fascinated by Maya culture as I am, a day trip to one of these places is a must-do.
Emerald Point is one of the best beaches in Mexico, complete with a shallow cenote for relaxing (although often a whole lot of kids hang out here as well). For something livelier, check out Parque Fundadores, marked by the enormous Playa del Carmen arch. There’s also a full-size volleyball court here, and lots of drinking and dining options (but no nightclubs).
4. Puerto Vallarta
And now for something completely different: Puerto Vallarta, on the Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Puerto Vallarta has the best of both worlds because it’s located on the coast and framed by the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains.
The town of Puerto Vallarta itself has plenty of charm, with cobblestone streets, colorful homes, and lush jungle foliage full of tropical plants. You’ll never be bored here thanks to the many restaurants, galleries, and shopping options…but its beautiful beaches are definitely the best part.
There’s Playa de Los Muertos, which is popular for locals and visitors alike (especially surfers). You can also just head 20 minutes outside of town for a secluded getaway at Las Gemelas Beach, or even spend a day at Yelapa, which has a hidden beach that is only accessible by boat.
5. Cabo San Lucas
Also on the Pacific Ocean (but on the southern tip of the Baja California Sur peninsula near La Paz), Cabo San Lucas is definitely a resort town…but also a big party town with swanky spas and upscale restaurants. It’s a trendy spot for the rich and famous traveling down from Los Angeles, but even so, it’s impossible to have a bad time here.
I love this part of Mexico because the landscape here is unique and dramatic, so be sure you take a boat trip out to see the Rock Arch (El Archo)—a massive sea arch best viewed from the water. Rent a paddle-board or enjoy the golden sands at Medano Beach or Relax at Lover’s Beach (Playa del Amor).
6. San Jose del Cabo
Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo together make up a specific region on the Baja California Sur peninsula: Los Cabos. The name “Los Cabos” might sound familiar to you as a luxurious destination for the rich and elite of California. It’s not uncommon for people in San Diego to fly to Los Cabos just for a weekend getaway.
If you’re a history buff, this town is right up your alley. It’s like the tamer, milder version of Cabo San Lucas, and has a more old-timey, classic feel to it. It’s best explored on foot: wander around the Old Town and see the lovely Plaza Mijares, as well as its historic church dating back to the 1700s.
When it’s time to hit the beach, I recommend heading over to the quiet beaches of Playa Palmilla or Playa Santa Maria, or check out La Paz. Both of these options have pristine sandy beaches and lots of opportunity for snorkeling. If you’re into golf, check out the Palmilla Golf Course with three separate 9-hole courses.
7. Isla Mujeres
On my first trip ever to Mexico, Isla Mujeres was my favorite beach town (well, island) that I visited. It used to be considered a holy place by the Maya, and so the history of the island dates back to 1500 years ago when it was the sanctuary of the goddess Ixchel (the goddess of fertility, medicine, and happiness). Translated, it means the Island of Women.
Nowadays this tropical Caribbean island is a quick retreat from the busy hotel zone of Cancun. It has some of the best beaches on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, complete with white sand and friendly locals who really love welcoming you to their paradise. I suggest heading to Playa Norte, which is one of the most gorgeous beaches in this area with plenty of space to sprawl out.
8. Isla Holbox
It may be clear to you by now that I’m a big fan of the secluded beach towns in Mexico that are far from the spring breakers, and Isla Holbox is the perfect example. Also located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Isla Holbox is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve and is a small island crisscrossed by dirt roads and covered in chilled out beach bars and towering palm trees.
Despite the quaintness of the area, Isla Holbox is still bit of a party destination and you’ll have no trouble finding luxury hotels or tourist amenities here—but it’s not nearly as chaotic as Cancun. There are no cars on the island, but it’s easy to get around via golf cart or scooter, and there’s tons to do. Definitely try snorkeling with whale sharks and don’t forget to see the bioluminescent water at night.
If you’re into scuba diving, Cozumel is the place to be. Cozumel Island is the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, and it’s absolutely surrounded by beautiful coral reef and powdery sand beaches. Even if you just want to hang out on a stunning beach or stay at one of the all inclusive resorts or boutique hotels, as far as tourist destinations goes, Cozumel lives up to the hype.
Some of the best beaches in Cozumel include El Mirador and San Juan. It’s definitely a place for adventurous types: you can go off-roading, snorkeling, kayaking in a glass-bottomed boat, sailing, and a whole lot more.
Smack dab between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Akumal is a beach town in the Riviera Maya with a lot of heart. Its name literally means “turtle”, and while you’re here you may be lucky enough to encounter one (or several, for that matter).
Akumal is teeming with marine life. Half Moon Bay is one of the best beaches in Mexico for snorkeling, while the Yal-ku Lagoon is absolutely filled with tropical fish, stingrays, and even barracudas. Then there’s nearby Aktun Chen Natural Park with its many caves and cenotes, and even an underground river.
If you’re snorkeling here and happen to encounter a turtle, don’t touch it. It’s actually prohibited by law! Turtles are protected here, so be respectful.
Bacalar, on the far southern tip of Quintana Roo near the Belize border, isn’t technically a beach town…but it is most definitely worth including on this list. It’s named for the surreal Laguna de Bacalar, a lake with electric blue water made up of turquoises and teals.
Most people come here specifically for the lake, but you should also check out the Cenote Azul. If you’re unfamiliar with cenotes, they’re natural sinkholes that fill with water to create a sort of cavern where you can swim, snorkel, and even dive. At 90-meters deep, Cenote Azul attracts experienced scuba divers from around the world.
There’s so much more to do here, though. You can explore the Maya ruins at Kohunlich, dating back to 300 BC, or spend the day on a stand-up paddleboard. You can take a boat tour, or simply hang out on the docks. Despite this place not being a beach town, you’ll get your fill of sun and water.
Sayulita is one of those beach towns that has flown under the radar for some time, but in recent years has turned into one of the most popular beach destinations for digital nomads and travel bloggers. This small Mexican beach town is not far from Puerto Vallarta, and is a hip-and-trendy spot for surfers, yogis, and expats from all over.
For some, that might take away from the authenticity of the place, but I assure you you’ll have a wonderfully relaxed time here. Although it’s a small fishing village, it has some of the best beaches in Mexico for surfers of all skill levels, while the Sayulita main beach is a chilled out spot for solo travelers and families alike. It’s a little slice of paradise on the Baja Peninsula!
Mazatlan might be a resort town on the Pacific Coast, but in my opinion it’s one of the most historically rich places in the country. In recent years, it’s historic city center has been completely restored to its former neoclassical glory, complete when an amazing beach promenade where you can watch the sunset from one of its many bars or restaurants.
Mazatlan has 479 buildings designated as historic landmarks, and you’ll get to see a fair number of them by just wandering around Old Mazatlan.
There is also over 12 miles of beaches around the city. Playa las Gaviotas is the main beach area along the hotels of the Golden Zone, but head further out to Playa Los Cerritos to escape the crowds.
14. Puerto Escondido
Puerto Escondido might be one of the most underrated surf towns in Mexico, and Playa Zicatela is considered one of the best beaches in Mexico for surfing. One look at the 20-foot crashing waves, and you’ll understand why this Mexican beach is such a hit for the pros.
Other than surf vibes, Puerto Escondido is a relaxed, mellow town to simply hang out in. There’s a large expat community here but it flows in perfect harmony with the local lifestyle. Explore the trendy area of La Punta, dine out at one of the many restaurants in Rinconada, or just lay back and work on your tan at Playa Carrizalillo. Puerto Escondido has it all!
Here’s another off-the-radar beachy destination: Troncones, 46 miles north of the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport, on the Pacific Coast of the state of Guerrero. It’s an incredibly quiet town (there’s only about 600 permanent residents), but its sandy 3-mile beach attracts surfers from all over.
Other adventurous types come here for horseback riding or hiking in the mountains. Otherwise, take it all in from one of the many open-air restaurants (or from the perfect Mexican beach, of course).
Final Thoughts on the Best Beaches in Mexico
Mexico really is a destination for any traveler. Whether you’re here to party in Cancun or relax at one of the many virgin beaches on the coast, you’ll find something that suits you just fine. In fact, it might be a little hard to leave (as many expats can commiserate).
And, of course, maybe you’ll prefer the bustling metropolis of Mexico City, or the lush jungle landscapes of a national park. But when it comes to beaches in Mexico, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. Sink your toes in the sand, and enjoy!