Mexico is so much more than a sun and sand destination. We know this. The food, art, culture, and design are famous all around the world. Still, the country has long been a world-renowned beach getaway — and for good reason. The beaches in Mexico are among the best in the world, and provide a little something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate escape with white sand and crystalline water, an adrenaline-pumping surf spot, a golden-hued stretch with more sea turtles than people, or a barefoot party destination, Mexico has a beach to match. By Meagan Drillinger
Though there are countless sandy stretches along the country’s 5,800-mile (9,334-kilometre) coastline, here are 21 of the best beaches in Mexico to help you start planning your next getaway.
Playa del Amor, Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas’ El Arco rock formation is one of Mexico’s most iconic backdrops. It also happens to sit perched above one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico — Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach). This famous stretch of golden sand lies south of Cabo’s downtown and is easily accessible by water taxi. Those in the know love the beach for its gentle waves — a rarity on the southern Baja peninsula — and warm, sun-baked sand. Keep in mind that you should only swim on this side of the beach. The opposite side, referred to as “Divorce Beach” is known for its choppy, rough waters and strong undercurrent.
Playa Sisal, Yucatan
While the Yucatan Peninsula is one of Mexico’s most famous spots, known mostly for Cancun and its beaches, the state of Yucatan, also on the peninsula, is an entirely separate destination. While less-visited than Cancun or Riviera Maya, Yucatan has spectacular beaches that combine the Gulf of Mexico lifestyle with the powder-soft sand of the Mexican Caribbean. Playa Sisal, in the Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) of Sisal, is one of these beautiful beaches. Don’t expect more than a few beachside palapas and quaint al fresco seafood restaurants. But that’s part of Sisal’s charm, along with its bone-white sand and crystal-clear water.
Playa Carrizalillo, Puerto Escondido
While everyone is soaking up the rays and downing margaritas on Playa Zicatela, you’ll want to make your way over to Puerto Escondido’s smaller, more secluded beach. Playa Carrizalillo has long been a favourite for locals. It sits at the bottom of more than 150 steps, but those who make the trek are rewarded with turquoise-coloured water and a crescent-shaped beach ringed by swaying palm trees. This is a beach that is beloved by beginner surfers, and locals are always on hand to offer a quick lesson. Beyond that, you’ll find a row of laid-back, barefoot casual beach shacks and snack bars. Pro tip: The one on the far right has delectable coconut shrimp. Don’t skip the ice cream man, either — he pushes his cart from end to end of the beach every afternoon.
Playa Delfines, Cancun
A massive swath of sun-drenched sand is what sets Playa Delfines apart as one of the best beaches in Mexico. This Cancun beach is beloved by locals and visitors alike because of its wide stretch of powdery sand, electric blue water, and relatively quiet atmosphere compared to other busier areas in the Hotel Zone. This also happens to be one of the rare surfing spots along the Caribbean coast in Mexico. The vibe here is different from other Cancun beaches, as it’s primarily a locals’ spot, thanks to the absence of hotels directly in front of it. But that’s precisely what makes it so special — it truly is a local beach in one of the most touristed spots in the world.
Playa Mayto, Jalisco
Playa Mayto may not be a name you know right now, but give it a year or two and that will likely change. One of the most remote beaches in Mexico, Playa Mayto also happens to be one of the largest, located on a secluded bay on the Pacific coast, roughly two hours south of Puerto Vallarta along what is known as Cabo Corrientes. The area is attracting a lot of development attention and things will likely look different over the next couple of years. But what will remain is this gorgeous, rugged beach surrounded by a ring of mountains and thick groves of palm trees. To reach the beach, travellers must brave a dusty, dirt road that branches off from the small town of El Tuito. But new developments, like the prospect of a Zodiac-themed hotel, will bring infrastructure, and chances are this secret spot will be one of the country’s most sought-after before long.
While in the past, tourists to Guerrero flocked to the glitzy and glamorous beaches of Acapulco, these days, travel to this part of Mexico has shifted to the lower profile tourist destinations. And Troncones, for example, is about as low profile as it gets — typically reserved for surfers looking to ride the perfect waves off the southern Pacific coast. But this relatively undeveloped beach town has one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Mexico. Though the three-mile (five-kilometre) stretch offers little in terms of development, visitors here are rewarded with pristine, golden sand, cobalt-coloured waves, and that laid-back lifestyle that attracted them to Mexico in the first place.
Playa Balandra, La Paz
About a half-hour north of La Paz (a town on the Sea of Cortez that should be on your radar), Playa Balandra is simply jaw-dropping. Far off the tourist trail, this postcard-perfect crescent of sand is technically a bay, but it masquerades as a lagoon. The calm, turquoise waters gently lap against the sugary shores. If you want to explore marine life, this may be the spot for you. The Sea of Cortez is one of the most magnificent places for snorkelling in the world, and from Playa Balandra, you are gifted the perfect perch from which to get out under the waves.
While checking out the colonial capital of Yucatan, Merida, you ought to bake in some time to explore the beach town of Progreso. The most popular beach in the state of Yucatan, Progreso is the local cruise port, as well as the main beach destination for boutique hotels, a renovated boardwalk, restaurants, and shopping. Grab a palapa on the shore, kick off your sandals, and tuck into some fresh ceviche, all with a view of the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps a pink flamingo or two.
Medano Beach, Cabo San Lucas
While many Los Cabos beaches are not safe for swimming, Medano Beach is one of the few that are. In fact, this is the main beach in Cabo San Lucas, as it’s several kilometres long and has some of the gentler waves in this part of Baja. It also happens to be one of the more energetic beaches, so you may have to compete for space at the bars and restaurants that line the shore. It’s for good reason, though — this is the place to be. The energy here is palpable, and you’re never far from a frosty beach cocktail or five-star resort.
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Quintana Roo
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a protected area that runs south of Tulum almost all the way to the border of Belize. Here, you’ll find undeveloped, white-sand beaches, languidly swaying palms, thick mangrove forests, and glittering cerulean waters. Pack your camera — the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is where you’ll see some of the Mexican Caribbean’s most exotic wildlife (think: dolphins, whales, manatees, spider monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, and more).
Playa Tangolunda, Huatulco
Huatulco, located in southern Oaxaca, is known for its nine picturesque bays — and the many beaches that go along with them. Playa Tangolunda is one of Huatulco’s most beautiful and luxurious beaches. You’ll find plenty of amenities here compared to the others in Huatulco, which can be far less developed — though some prefer them that way. Playa Tangolunda is also home to many of the resorts in the area, as well as boutiques and residential communities. It also happens to be a hub for sailing, scuba diving, dining, and, of course, those gorgeous Huatulco sunsets.
Playa Maroma, Riviera Maya
Ask anyone what the best beaches are in the Riviera Maya, and Playa Maroma is certainly on the list. This exclusive stretch is occupied by a few select hotels, whose guests enjoy the pearly white sand and calm, brilliantly blue water. Plus, this is one of the only places in Mexico where you can find a hotel with overwater bungalows. You won’t stumble upon beach clubs or bars here, as it’s mostly occupied by the El Dorado Maroma. Instead, you’ll find exactly what your imagination dreams up when you think of an idyllic, tropical beach in paradise.
Isla Holbox is located just off the northern coast of Quintana Roo, where the Caribbean Sea meets the Gulf of Mexico. Once a must on the backpacker and yogi trails, the island has quickly risen to become a haven for boho luxury. This dressed-down beach destination begs for bare feet, cold beer, and only the boutique. Bring your yoga mat (and plenty of bug repellent) and listen to the faint sound of steel drums from Raices, a beachfront seafood restaurant dishing out serious Caribbean vibes.
Playa Mujeres, Cancun
Up until a few years ago, Playa Mujeres had a collection of hotels that you could count on one hand. This area, just north of the Cancun Hotel Zone, was a bit of a secret spot, beloved for its fine white sand and relative seclusion away from the more raucous sections of Cancun. While the scene has certainly changed as more and more hotels have opened, the beach and its beauty remain the same. You can still find peace and tranquillity at resorts like Beloved Playa Mujeres, or you can bring the whole crew to larger resorts like the TRS Coral Hotel or its Grand Palladium counterpart.
La Punta, Puerto Escondido
Just down the beach from the world-famous surf spot, Playa Zicatela (the principal beach in Puerto Escondido), is the more intimate La Punta. Quite literally “the point,” this beach forms the southern end of the bay on which Puerto Escondido sits. It has always been a hippie haven in this section of town — roads are dustier, restaurants are more casual, and hostels reigned supreme. But its reputation is changing these days, with more and more design-forward boutiques, and even a new food park. What remains, though, is the picture-perfect beach that is still everyone’s favourite front-row seat at sunset.
Playa Paraiso, Tulum
You cannot talk about Tulum without mentioning Playa Paraiso — arguably the most beautiful beach in the area, and one of the very best in Mexico. Just south of the iconic ruins, this spacious beach is one of the top spots in Tulum for maximum chill. Day-trippers from the area flock just to see its picture-perfect colour palette (white, turquoise, and green). It’s also the activity hotbed for Tulum, whether you’re interested in snorkelling, scuba diving, cooling off at a beach bar, or soaking up the sun.
Playa Blanca, Zihuatanejo
Zihuatanejo may conjure up images of Andy and Red reuniting on what looks to be the whitest sand known to man. But while that iconic scene from Shawshank Redemption was actually filmed in the Caribbean, you can still find beaches that evoke the same “paradise found” feel. For Zihua, this has to be Playa Blanca, located outside of town near the airport. This seemingly endless stretch of undeveloped beach gives off major Robinson Crusoe vibes — and some of the most stellar sunsets we’ve ever seen. Hotel options are limited, but Las Palmas Luxury Villas will have you feeling like you’ve slipped off the beaten path and onto your own private beach estate.
To clarify, the Costalegre is much more than one beach — it is an entire stretch of coast along southern Jalisco, near the border of the state of Colima. But each beach here is worthy of this list, thanks to the sheer wild, rugged beauty. These days, most travellers come to this part of the state, south of Puerto Vallarta, to stay at luxury enclaves like Cuixmala and Careyes. But with the promise of a new airport, better highway, and many luxury hotels, this is an area of Mexico that could soon be on a Los Cabos level of luxury. It’s easy to see why — craggy cliffs spill down to pristine, golden-hued beaches, while green peaks climb in the distance. Palm trees and sea turtles outnumber tourists, and often you’ll only hear Spanish being spoken at the beachfront seafood shacks.
Playa Cerritos, Todos Santos
If Todos Santos was not on your radar before, it certainly should be now. The Baja coastal town is less than two hours north of Los Cabos, and has often been a hideaway for hippies and mystics. The boutique scene has caught up with it as of late, and today, you can expect unique shopping, art galleries, and an oyster-meets-Champagne crowd. Todos Santos has always been a choose-your-own-adventure type of place, and that’s still true these days. Its most famous beach, Playa Cerritos, has been a surfing mecca for decades, and it still is. Not only that, it’s one of the few Pacific beaches in Baja that’s totally safe for swimming. It may be a bit more populated now than in decades past, but it’s undeniably one of the most beautiful stretches in Mexico.
Playa Canalan, Nayarit
Playa Canalan was once one of the more remote beaches in the state of Nayarit. Today, it’s home to the Canalan Beach Club and Italian restaurant, Allora, part of the new Mandarina master-planned community. Bookended by lush, jungle-covered mountains, Playa Canalan is a long, wide stretch of warm, white sand. While it used to be completely undeveloped, today, the beach club and restaurant — accessible via the One&Only Mandarina and soon-to-open Rosewood Mandarina — occupy some of the most coveted real estate on the coast. Sip a glass of chilled rosé and share a decadent tuna carpaccio before taking a dip in the oceanfront pool or dipping your toes in the gently lapping waves.
Lagunas de Chacahua, Oaxaca
It’s going to take a little extra legwork to get to this beach. But for those who brave the journey, the reward is simply sensational. A water taxi ride through the Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, not far from Puerto Escondido, leads travellers to one of the most remote and pristine beaches in all of Mexico. This beach lies at the point where the lagoon spills out to the Pacific Ocean. Beach huts brim with adventurous surfers — many of whom have travelled from as far as Australia to catch the perfect waves. “Lights out” is taken seriously in this part of Mexico — with zero light pollution, you’ll see stars for days. Don’t expect flashy services, if any at all. This is truly a backpacker’s paradise, where fresh ingredients, simplicity, and a surfboard are really all you need.