20 Top-Rated Beaches in Mexico

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Updated Jan 19, 2024
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With nearly 5,800 miles of coastline spread across four bodies of water, Mexico has no shortage of surf and sand. The country's land touches the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Sea of Cortez, with dozens of islands, ranging from the most famous like Isla Mujeres and Cozumel to the more remote and undeveloped like Islas Marietas and Espiritu Santo.

Waves rolling onto the beach in Cancun
Waves rolling onto the beach in Cancun | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Whether you're looking for a lazy holiday spent staring into the brilliant turquoise hues of the Caribbean Sea on the Riviera Maya or an action-packed, adrenaline-chasing vacation surfing the epic Mexi-pipeline in Oaxaca, Mexico has a beach destination that is perfect for you.

Beyond the beaches themselves, you'll also find charming small towns like Zipolite, where the pace of life runs slow, or larger resort areas like Puerto Vallarta, where you can dance the night away to live music or shop designer stores.

There are also areas surrounded by jungle that house ancient Mayan Ruins near Tulum and Cancun. And spots where you can go deep sea fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and, of course, surfing. From the popular to the relatively undiscovered, find an idyllic stretch of sand and sea with our list of the best beaches in Mexico.

1. Tulum, Riviera Maya, Yucatan Peninsula

Playa Paraiso, Tulum
Playa Paraiso, Tulum | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Tulum's beaches have been made famous all around the world, splashed across the pages of glossy international travel magazines. It's not without good reason. The sugar-colored, powder-soft sandy beaches of Tulum are just as breathtaking in person.

The long stretch of sand runs all the way from the historic Mayan Ruins in the north, down towards the more remote stretch of shoreline in Punta Allen. The beach in Tulum is one continuous coastline, but every few hundred meters the beaches change names, and each one offers a little something different. The most famous beaches in Tulum are Playa Paraiso and Playa Ruinas.

Playa Ruinas, Tulum
Playa Ruinas, Tulum

Playa Paraiso has a host of services and restaurants, while Playa Ruinas, which sits at the base of the historic ruins, is much less catered to. Playa Paraiso Beach Club is one of the most famous spots on the beach, famous for its plush beach beds, restaurant, and picture-perfect location directly on the stretch of sand.

Located about a two-hour drive south of Cancun, Tulum was once a jungle-buried paradise known only by locals and jet-setting Bohemians in the know. Today it is one of the most popular beach destinations in all of Mexico and now has its own airport, Tulum International Airport, which opened in December of 2023.

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2. Akumal Beach, Riviera Maya

Akumal Beach
Akumal Beach

Akumal Beach is also in the Tulum area. The gorgeous white-sand beach is less touristy than other Riviera Maya beaches and is where to come if you are an animal lover.

The name Akumal translates to "place of the turtle" in Mayan, and this is a favorite place for large sea turtles to lay their eggs. Spotting turtles on this beach is pretty much a given during this season.

The water just offshore is clear and calm and perfect for swimming, which makes Akumal a great choice for families. There is also a thriving coral reef just offshore that is perfect for snorkeling excursions.

3. Maroma Beach, Riviera Maya

Maroma Beach on the Riviera Maya
Maroma Beach on the Riviera Maya

To access this beautiful stretch of white sand meets the aquamarine sea in the Riviera Maya, you'll need to book into one of the luxury properties located along it. Maroma Beach is part of the gated Maroma community here. If you can pay to stay, however, it is worth it if your ideal vacation includes powder-soft sand and those stunning shades of blue the Caribbean Sea is known for.

It's also a good choice if you don't want as many crowds as you'll find on nearby Playa del Carmen or Cancun beaches. Oh, and the water here is calm and perfect for swimming.

For accommodation, try the luxury boutique Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, which recently reopened in 2023 following a massive multi-million-dollar renovation. The resort is kid-friendly with a daily Adventure Camp for children.

4. Playa del Amor, Cabo San Lucas

Playa del Amor, Cabo San Lucas
Playa del Amor, Cabo San Lucas

At the tip of Mexico's Baja California Sur peninsula, which extends like a finger south of California in the U.S., Cabo San Lucas is unlike any other place in Mexico. Here, the desert meets the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other, and you'll find giant cacti and soaring sand dunes bumped up against the deep blue sea.

Accessible only by water taxi, Playa del Amor is Cabo's most beautiful beach. On Land's End at the far southern edge of Cabo San Lucas, at "Lover's Beach," craggy rock formations meet the sand and crashing waves in dramatic fashion.

The beach runs between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, so you can experience the wild waves on one side and the gentler sea on the other. From here, you can also see Cabo's most famous natural landmark, El Arco, which is a stunning rock arc formation in the ocean.

5. Balandra Beach, La Paz

Aerial view of Balandra Beach
Aerial view of Balandra Beach

Also on the California Baja Sur peninsula, La Paz is the state capital and home to beautiful Balandra Beach. This is a great choice if you are looking to get off the main tourist trail and visit a picture-perfect stretch of sand and sea without the crowds you'll find in nearby Cabo San Lucas.

Balandra is special for resembling a lagoon despite just being a bay. The illusion comes from high cliffs that almost entirely encircle the beach and shallow waters that let you wade from one side to another is an excellent choice for young children. There is also great snorkeling in the vicinity, both in the bay and in the reef beyond it.

6. Cancun Beach, Riviera Maya

The beach in Cancun
The beach in Cancun | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Much like Tulum, the beachfront of Cancun runs continuously for a lengthy 14 miles. Along the way, the different stretches of beaches change their names, but what they all have in common is that they are the same shades of iconic sun-bleached white and sparkling aquamarine.

At one time the beach here was actually part of the ancient Mayan civilization in this area, and you can take day trips to a number of Mayan temples and ruins.

On the beach itself, you'll find numerous restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as dozens of resorts and a very buzzy vibe. All sorts of water sports can also be arranged here, and there is great snorkeling and diving in the reef just offshore.

Cancun Beach
Cancun Beach

Tip: My favorite beachfront resorts in Cancun are Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun, Kempinski Hotel Cancun, and Excellence Playa Mujeres. While Cancun has dozens of fantastic beach resorts, these three have the best sections of beach, in my opinion.

7. Sayulita, Riviera Nayarit

Aerial view of the beach at Sayulita
Aerial view of the beach at Sayulita

For a taste of surf culture and charming small-town life head to Sayulita Beach on the Riviera Nayarit. On the Pacific Ocean coastline, about 30 miles from Puerto Vallarta, it is a wide golden-sand beach backed by the town and the Occidental Mountains beyond. This beach is a surfing mecca of sorts with consistent breaks, surf camps, and surf schools.

The town is also filled with restaurants, artisan shops, and plenty of eco-friendly boutique resorts. My favorite boutique hotel in Sayulita is Aurinka Bungalows, which boasts humble rooms and open-air kitchens just a few blocks from the beach.

For a great beachfront dining experience, I recommend Capitan Pablo's. The humble beach restaurant has tables on the sand and a super laid-back vibe. In town, I love The Real Fish Taco for its super fresh and succulent fish tacos that come at an extremely reasonable price.

Although to be honest, Sayulita has grown far beyond a small town these days. It is now of the most popular vacation destinations in Pacific Mexico. This means crowds can be a lot bigger in high season, so if you want to see Sayulita at its most low-key, plan a trip in the off-season.

8. Medano Beach, Cabo San Lucas

Aerial view of Medano Beach, Cabo San Lucas
Aerial view of Medano Beach, Cabo San Lucas

Unlike many Los Cabos area beaches where the current is way too rough to swim, Medano Beach boasts safe swimming. The long golden stretch of sand is perfect for relaxing, swimming, or action, depending on what you're looking for.

Cabo San Lucas' main beach is home to all sorts of water sports, from Jet Skis to banana boat rentals, and boat excursions to popular spots like Lover's Beach and El Arco with stops for snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez can also be arranged here. There are plenty of restaurants on the pavement beyond the sand catering to hungry travelers.

9. Isla Holbox, Yucatan Peninsula

Palm-lined beach on Isla Holbox
Palm-lined beach on Isla Holbox

While much of the Yucatan Peninsula and nearby islands like Cozumel and Isla Mujeres are very touristy, Isla Holbox, about three hours north of Cancun in the Caribbean Sea, is an exception. The small island features deserted beaches, including a white coral beach on its north side that has excellent windsurfing. The water here is also shallow and crystal clear and there are great spots for long swims.

Isla Holbox is also protected as part of an ecological reserve and has a large seabird population. There are a number of hotels and guesthouses on the island. One beach hotel that has truly made a splash is Nomade Holbox. The boho-chic, super luxe boutique hotel offers only 30 rooms and is focused on wellness and healing, fantastic food, and gorgeous design.

10. Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Sunset over the beach in Puerto Escondido
Sunset over the beach in Puerto Escondido | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

For a surf-focused vacation, head to Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast in Oaxaca. The town is a popular spot for expats from around the world, as well as surf and budget travelers, and as yet is spared from mass development.

The waves here are no joke, some 10 feet high at times. This is one of the best surfing spots in Mexico. There are also a slew of hotels, guesthouses, and mom-and-pop restaurants cooking up street tacos and other local fare.

Big wave surfing at Puerto Escondido
Big wave surfing at Puerto Escondido

Playa Zicatela is the main beach in Puerto Escondido, known for the epic Mexi-pipeline. This is one of the biggest surf breaks on the planet and draws pro surfers from all around the world.

The beachfront along Playa Zicatela has a large selection of great restaurants and beach clubs. Personal favorites include El Costa Ceviche & Grill, Palapita Beach Club, Bananas, and El Cafecito.

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11. Los Muertos Beach, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

Los Muertos Beach at sunset
Los Muertos Beach at sunset | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

On the Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta's Los Muertos Beach offers a long stretch of golden sand backed by deep blue water on one side and the Sierra Madre Mountains on the other. There is excellent snorkeling in the sheltered coves around the beach. All sorts of excursions are also organized here, from deep-sea fishing trips to sailing and whale-watching adventures.

The town of Puerto Vallarta is also charming with a Zona Romantica old town filled with cobblestone streets, local shops, and plenty of restaurants. For a toes-in-the-sand experience on Playa Los Muertos, I love Swell Beach Restaurant. They serve an all-day menu and have one of the best locations on the beach. Of course, you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to beachfront entertainment in Puerto Vallarta. Throw a stone five feet in any direction and you'll hit a great place to check out.

Sunset on Puerto Vallarta Beach
Sunset on Puerto Vallarta Beach

Feeling adventurous? Several beaches around Puerto Vallarta are also worth seeing and spending time on.

12. Zipolite Beach, Oaxaca

Zipolite Beach, Oaxaca
Zipolite Beach, Oaxaca

Long and pretty Zipolite Beach in Oaxaca is set between two rocky headlands and is a top surfing beach. The undercurrent can be strong here, so you'll need to know what you are doing if you venture beyond the designated safe swimming zones with lifeguards.

There are numerous thatched-roof restaurants lining Colonia Roca Blanca, the town's main drag. If you are interested in learning more about sea turtle preservation then head to the Mexican Turtle Center on nearby Mazunte Beach.

13. Yelapa Beach, Jalisco

Yelapa Beach
Yelapa Beach

The small and remote fishing village of Yelapa and its beautiful gold-sand beach fronts the world's seventh-largest bay, Bahia de Banderas. This beach is a great choice if you want to experience small-town Mexican life and few crowds on an unspoiled stretch of sand.

Take a kayak out into the bay and paddle the calm waters or check out the view below with a mask and fins. There is good snorkeling here as well. Yelapa is located about 40 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta by water taxi.

14. Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya

Crystal clear water at Playa del Carmen
Crystal-clear water at Playa del Carmen

One of the most well-known spots on the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen has many beautiful beaches — one right after the other. The beaches in Playa del Carmen are all beautiful, with white sand beaches and aquamarine water. But my personal favorites are Playacar and Punta Esmeralda. The former is within a gated community and features a wide, pristine, beautiful beach, while Punta Esmeralda is a bit more outside of town and mostly visited by locals in the know.

After a day at the beach, take a stroll down the town's famous 5th Ave for shopping and dining options galore. Lido Beach Club is my favorite spot in town for a beachfront lunch and a dip in the warm, Caribbean water.

15. Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Yucatan Peninsula

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres
Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Less than an hour by boat from Cancun in the Caribbean Sea, lively Isla Mujeres is another favorite vacation destination. Here, you'll find Playa Norte, which is one of the prettiest beaches around. The shallow turquoise water is calm and great for swimming. Offshore there is excellent snorkeling and scuba diving in the coral reefs surrounding the island.

You can visit Isla Mujeres on a day trip from the Riviera Maya beach towns or make it a destination and stay at one of the island's resorts. There are also numerous restaurants and shops in the main town.

16. Playa Las Gatas, Zihuatanejo

Playa Las Gatas
Playa Las Gatas

Just a few miles from Zihuatanejo and accessible by boat from the town's pier, Playa Las Gatas is a beautiful white-sand beach protected from wind and currents. There is good snorkeling offshore and around the rocky coves surrounding the beach, and gear can be rented from a vendor on the beach.

The calm water also makes it popular with parents looking for a safe spot for the kids to swim. There are a number of restaurants should you get hungry. Also, check out the view from the lighthouse on a cliff near Playa Las Gatas.

17. Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco

Cabo Corrientes
Cabo Corrientes | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Truth be told, the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta are actually found outside the city. Traveling south from the Zona Romantica along Highway 200 reveals a snaking stretch of coastline with stunning, photoshoot-worthy beaches. Among the best can be found along Cabo Corrientes.

The beaches are not always the easiest to access – you may have to take a water taxi from Puerto Vallarta or the small village of Boca de Tomatlan. But the views are worth the extra legwork, plus the fact that you'll likely have the beaches along Cabo Corrientes all to yourself.

I love to take the coastal hike from Boca de Tomatlan to find even more secret, cove-protected beaches. The hike ends at the buzzy Playa Las Animas, known for its energetic beachfront restaurants and vendors. If you want something more low-key, make a reservation at Casitas Maraikas.

18. Playa Canalan, Riviera Nayarit

Playa Canalan
Playa Canalan | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

If you have not heard of Mexico's Riviera Nayarit, you likely will in the near future. This unspoiled stretch of coastline that runs north from Puerto Vallarta throughout the state of Nayarit is home to some of Mexico's most raw, untouched jungle and beach landscapes. Still, resorts and development are just around the corner, so if a pristine vibe is your style, you'll want to go sooner rather than later.

Flanked on either end by jungle-covered cliffs, Playa Canalan is still as ruggedly beautiful as it was before a beachfront lounge opened here. Still, the lounge does its best to blend seamlessly into the natural beauty of the beach.

19. Playa Carrizalillo, Oaxaca

Playa Carrizalillo
Playa Carrizalillo | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

Located in the small surf town of Puerto Escondido, Playa Carrizalillo is a local favorite. This small, crescent-shaped beach is an explosive pop of turquoise that shimmers in a protected bay at the base of more than 150 steps.

The waves here are gentle and calm, making it a prime spot for beginner surfers. It's always buzzing with activity from the strip of beachfront restaurants, as well. Stop by this beach to see where the locals like to play, and marvel in the jewel-colored beauty of the water that is rare along the Pacific Coast. Keep in mind that the beach is only accessible via more than 150 steps, so if mobility is an issue, it may be worth exploring one of the many other accessible beaches in Puerto Escondido.

20. Playa Las Palmas, Tulum

Playa Las Palmas
Playa Las Palmas | Photo Copyright: Meagan Drillinger

It's difficult to have a bad beach experience anywhere in Tulum. This world-famous Mexican beach destination became so famous because its beaches are among the best in the country, if not the world. But because of this, many of the beaches in Tulum can often get overcrowded, and it may be difficult to find a spot to sit.

Playa Las Palmas, at the southern end of the long, sugary white stretch, is the answer to this. This is one of the quietest beaches in Tulum but is no less beautiful. In fact, the solitude and rocky outcrops only contribute to its beauty.