Mexico boasts a mesmerizing coastline of around 9,330km, with millions of tourists coming here solely for the country’s exceptional beaches. The following are the best beaches in Mexico. They have been selected as much for the scene – whether backpacker or spring-breaker – as much as sand quality, water and scenery.
Off of the Caribbean coast lies the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum. These well-preserved ruins can be breathtaking, despite the small scale of their buildings. On a sunny day, this effect is doubled by the stunning coastline that backdrops this archaeological site.
The site itself takes only an hour or so to see. However, you will want to allow more time to swim at this small and special Tulum beach. These calm waters are expansive and intensely blue. Beachgoers are often visited by local iguanas in search of food.
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Like many of the beautiful beaches in Mexico, Playa del Carmen is a great place to enjoy powdery sand and crystal-clear waters. This gorgeous coastal gem sits in the very heart of the Mexican Caribbean Sea. However, what makes this a popular beach destination is the local nightlife.
Playa has emerged as the area’s main “alternative” nightlife centre to Cancún. The venues here have a much more hip style, more conscious of trends from Mexico City and abroad. Try Alux — a labyrinth of romantically intimate spaces deep down in a real cave. Or Coco Maya — for all-night parties featuring an adventurous slate of Mexican and international DJs.
In addition to all of the above, close to the beach are some of the best cenotes in Mexico.
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This alluring beach consists of shallow lagoons of crystal-clear water, meeting a wide stretch of white sand. Cardon cacti — the largest known species of cactus in the world — line the arid mountains that serve as a backdrop.
Due to the shallow waters, Balandra Beach is a favourite among beachgoers with families. Be sure to check the hours of this beach before making the trip out.
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Playa Norte is one of the best beaches in Mexico and is a great place to enjoy a sunset. You'll find here extremely pristine and calm waters. This is a perfect place for snorkelling and one of the best swimming beaches in the area. It is also a fantastic place to enjoy the white sand under swaying palm trees.
While here, don't miss the opportunity to visit the Tortugranja Turtle Sanctuary — which safely houses endangered sea turtles. The eggs are rescued from predators and raised until hatched before being released back into the wild.
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If you are looking to spend your beach holiday in absolute luxury, this is certainly the beach for you. This palm-tree hemmed coast is located within walking distance of many great resorts and restaurants.
Spend your day in the powder-soft sand while waiters come to take your drink order. La Ropa Beach is one of the best beaches in Mexico for an all-inclusive experience.
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The hidden cove of Playa del Amor, or Lover's Beach, is arguably the most beautiful beach in Cabo San Lucas. One must take a water taxi to access this hidden beach. Get a good view of the sea life in the area by taking a glass-bottomed boat.
Once there, you will find a secluded and serene golden sand oasis, flanked by large rock formations. This beach is just a climb away from its counterpart, Divorce Beach.
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Puerto Vallarta Beach is known for its mesmerisingly orange sunsets and endless stretches of white sand backed by the Sierra Madre Mountains. Located off of the Pacific coast, this is a great place for those who wish to witness the frolicking of local humpback whales.
Visit the nearby Puerto Vallarta for a charming beach town that is known for its street food and raicilla. It is a popular stop for LGBTQ+ travellers and is over time becoming known as an emerging gay centre in Mexico.
Virtually every kind of modern architectural fantasy can be found in the Cancun Hotel Zone. Neo-Parisian mansions rub lawns with Las Vegas-Baroque and neo-Maya pyramids. This bustling area is home to over seventy of the area's luxury hotels and resorts. Riviera Maya is also an ideal destination for family holidays thanks to its beautiful beaches, family-friendly resorts and a variety of activities for children.
Cancún provides luxuries on tap and on a big scale: glittering restaurants, eye-popping nightclubs, and stunning pools with swim-up bars. Cancun Beach is a giant 23km (14-mile) white strip of white sand off the Caribbean coast. Many activities are within easy reach here, such as windsurfing, scuba diving, jet-skiing, sailing or deep-sea fishing.
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Because of its blissfully calm and pristine waters, Playa Las Gatas is one the best beaches in Mexico for scuba diving and snorkelling. This lesser-known spot is a fantastic place for those in search of secluded beaches.
This magnificent crescent-shaped beach off the Pacific coast is mainly reached by boat from Zihuatenejo. It gets its namesake "Cat Beach" from the wildcats that used to live in the area.
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Another great Tulum beach, Playa Paraiso is laid back stretch of white sand beaches. Paradise Beach lives up to its name and is without question one of the best beaches in Mexico. This relaxing oasis is known for its perfect water temperature and inexpensive local seafood restaurants.
The Playa Paraiso beach club is a great place to grab a drink and enjoy one of the many comfortable sunbeds.
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Playa Zicatela is a massive expanse of pristine beaches with golden sand. Located in Oaxaca off of the Pacific Ocean, this beach is known for its notorious 'Mexican Pipeline'. Surfers from around the world flock to this site for tubular swells of up to 20 feet. Not for the faint of heart, Playa Zicatela is one of the best beaches in Mexico for those who surf.
The nearby small beach town, Puerto Escondido, is also worth a visit. This charming area is known for its great laid-back restaurants and surfer culture.
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Huatulco is known for its nine popular beaches. With thatched roof structures and calm glittering waters, Playa la Entrega is clearly one of the best. Less crowded than its neighbouring beaches this is a fantastic place to spend the day snorkelling. Or spend the evening enjoying the sunset.
Don't forget to bring cash in order to enjoy the beachfront restaurants and local seafood. While in the area, don't miss the chance to explore the local waterfalls and coffee farms.
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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.
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Puerto Costa Maya, where the cruise ships dock, is out of sight north of Mahahual. 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. Just head down the bumpy dirt beach road south of town to avoid crowds and capture the real Robinson Crusoe vibe.
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The most popular beach, just five minutes walk from the town plaza, is Playa Norte – curving up and around the northern tip of the Isla Mujeres but protected from the open sea by a promontory on which stands a large resort.
Aim to be under the palms here by late afternoon, as it’s one of the few places along Mexico’s east coast where you can enjoy a glowing sunset over the water. After dark, the palapa-roofed bars become the island’s mellow nightlife centre.
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Near the northeastern corner of the Yucatán, Holbox (pronounced “ol-BOSH”) has just one small sand-street village of about two thousand people, wooden houses and virtually no cars. It’s technically not an island, but a very long peninsula – but you still must cross by ferry from the village of Chiquilá.
The gulf waters here do not have the same glittering clarity as the Caribbean (nor the vibrant reefs), but they’re warm and clean and perfect for swimming and cooling off on a particularly hot and humid day. Isla Holbox is rapidly becoming the contender for one of the best beaches in Mexico.
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