Mexico boasts a mesmerizing coastline of around 9,330km, with millions of tourists coming here solely for the country’s exceptional beaches. The following have been selected as much for the scene – whether backpacker or spring-breaker – as for sand quality, water and scenery. Taken from the Rough Guide to Mexico, here are some of the best beaches in Mexico.
Tulum town is generally empty of visitors by day because they’ve all decamped to the beach, the longest, most impeccable stretch of sand along Cancún. The easiest access is at one of the beach clubs, where you pay for lounge chairs and drinks; far south, especially in the biosphere reserve, there’s easier free access. The most popular clubs are walking distance from the ruins, making it easy to sightsee, then grab lunch and a spot in the sun. El Paraiso Beach Club, about 500m south of the ruins’ black entrance, has a generous stretch of sand, often with bands, beach soccer and volleyball.
Playa La Entrega, Huatulco
Just around the bay from Santa Cruz, Playa La Entrega is a lovely white-sand beach with trees for shade. Easy access means it’s always pretty busy, predominantly with Mexican families who congregate at the numerous palapas serving fresh seafood.
Playa de Balandra, La Paz
The most unspoiled beach in this area is Playa de Balandra, a series of shall bays, most of which are no more than waist deep (great for families and snorkelling). There are minimal vendors here and few people on weekdays – you can also rent kayaks.
Playa la Ropa, Zihuatanejo
A kilometre or so over the headland from Playa Madera, past the mirador with great views across the bay, lies Playa La Ropa which takes its name – “Clothes Beach” – from silks washed up here when one of the nao de China (trading chips from China) was wrecked offshore. This is Zihuatanejo’s finest road-accessible beach, perfect for swimming and palm-fringed for more than a kilometre, with a variety of beachfront restaurants and hotels.
Playa Cerritos and Playa Bruja, Mazatlán
If your goal is to reach a beautifully serene beach, head north of Mazatlán to either Playa Cerritos or Playa Bruja (both accessible by bus). These are at the heart of the new mega resorts and development of Nuevo Mazatlán, but the beaches remain fairly free of crowds and there are plenty of restaurants and places for a post-beach drink.
Punta de Mita, Riviera Nayarit
Punta de Mita is more developed than Bucerías (19km away), with most of the bars, cafés and seafood restaurants along the handsome beach attached to hotels and resorts in the area known as Playa Anclote. The beach here is a wide, kilometre long curve of silky coral sand, and the water is shallow with long wave breaks, making it perfect for beginning surfers.
Playa de Yelapa, Puerto Vallata
The old hippy hangout of Yelapa remains the most enticing target along this stretch of coast, some thirty minutes from Boca and the final water-taxi stop. Beautifully located on a gorgeous bay, hemmed in by tropical hills and coconut palms, it has managed to retain a rustic, laidback vibe, despite the arrival of day-trippers, electricity and satellite dishes; locals still hook octopus and surgeonfish right off the pier, frigate birds glide over the water and turkey vultures skulk in the trees.
Zipolite, Puerto Ángel
The origin of the name “Zipolite” is uncertain – one theory is that it comes from the Nàhuatl word meaning “beach of the dead”, hence the constant references to it as the “playa de los muertos”. The beach itself is magnificent, long and gently curving, pounded by heavy surf with a riptide that requires some caution.
Playa el Requesón, Mulege
Here there are few facilities for anything other than camping: the popular, bone-white beaches of Playa El Coyote and Playa El Requesón, a dazzling sandbar poking into the bay, are the last and the best opportunities for this (M$80 for each). Note that there’s no fresh water (pit toilets and palapas only) available at either, but locals drop by in the early morning and afternoon selling everything from water to fresh shrimps.
Playa Santispac, Mulege
Playa Santispac is right on the highway – despite the occasional crowds of RVs, it has plenty of room to camp (M$80) and enough life to make staying here longer-term a realistic option (toilets, showers, basic groceries). Stop at Ana’s for cheap fish tacos and potent Bloody Marys; you can also rent kayaks and snorkelling gear.
Playa Cacaluta, Huatulco
West of Bahía Maguey, the pristine sand dunes of Playa Cacaluta (and its neighbour Chachacual) are protected in a national park and accessible only by boat. Cacaluta is where much of the movie Y Tu Mamá También (2001) was filmed, and it really is almost as magical as it appears there; at least if not too many boats are visiting.
Mahahual beach, Costa Maya
Puerto Costa Maya, where the cruise ships dock, is out of sigh north of Mahahual, but its influence is felt on cruise-ship days, when the village springs to life with souvenir stands and jet-ski rentals along the slick seafront promenade, an extremely miniature version of Playa del Carmen. It’s a surreal juxtaposition with the rest of the ramshackle town. To avoid any crowds and capture the real Robinson Crusoe vibe, just head down the bumpy dirt beach road south of town.
Playa de Tecolete, La Paz
The biggest and busiest beach in La Paz is Playa de Tecolete, with a real party atmosphere at the weekend – it’s also the best for swimming, with views across to Isla Espíritu Santa and El Tecolote restaurant and bar, offering seafood, drinks and boat tours (M$950).