White sand, warm water, idyllic views: There’s a reason Mexico is a popular beach destination. And while sand-and-surf stretches like Cancún and Acapulco often dominate the conversation (at least for spring breakers), these 13 beaches stand out for their resorts, unique activities, and overall beauty. From popular vacation spots to hidden island gems, here are the best beaches in Mexico.
Costa Alegre, Jalisco
The Costa Alegre spans Mexico’s Pacific Coast into the states of Jalisco and Colima, where luxury hotels stand adjacent to wild landscapes. Just look at Cuixmala along the Costa Alegre for proof, one of our readers’ favorite resorts in Western Mexico in our annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey. Aside from its oceanfront infinity pool, private beach, and extremely luxurious suites, the estate has a 30,000-acre wildlife preserve literally in its backyard. How’s that for indulgence?
Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo
We dubbed Isla Holbox, just north of Cancún, “One of Mexico’s Last Secret Beach Towns” a few years ago; and while it might not be such a secret anymore, it still dazzles with its stretch of beaches, aqua-blue water, and nature preserve. Spend your days shopping the markets and textile shops in town, and don’t you dare forget to visit the island’s famous over-water hammocks. Punta Caliza, a newcomer to the scene, is one of our favorite places to stay.
Isla Espíritu Santo, Baja California Sur
Located in the beautiful Sea of Cortez, Isla Espíritu Santo is a short boat trip away from La Paz on the lower half of the Baja California Peninsula. The uninhabited island is full of red rocks, pristine white beaches, and many species of exotic wildlife. Swimming with a colony of sea lions is the highlight of many an expedition, followed by a relaxing picnic on the shoreline.
Playa Mazunte, Oaxaca
Surrounded by rocky headlands, Playa Mazunte is a quiet stretch of sand known for its bohemian atmosphere and rough waves (you’ll find a lot of bodysurfers here). But the beach holds appeal for folks without surfboards, as well: The coast is dotted with seafood shacks perfect for a cold beer or two, and few can turn down a visit to the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, a local turtle sanctuary.
Las Gatas, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
The Pacific Coast surf town of Zihuatanejo (often shortened to “Zihua”) has natural beauty that is equal parts alluring and hard-to-reach (hence the lack of crowds). We keep going back for the cliffs and ravines blanketed by mangroves, scooped-out bays, and a backdrop of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. Zihua has four beaches that are reachable from the city center, the best—and most remote—being Playa Las Gatas. The white sand and cyan lagoon are perfect for lounging with a beer, snorkeling, and maybe spotting a humpback whale on the horizon.
Tulum, Quintana Roo
About an hour south of Cancún, Tulum has emerged as one of Mexico’s most beloved beach destinations—and perhaps the most beloved by Instagram influencers. Little wonder, given the white sand, warm, turquoise water, and jungle-lined roads. Add to that a seriously innovative food scene and some top-notch new design hotels (like the Hot List-winning Casa Pueblo and its beachfront sister, Casa Pueblo Boca Paila), and you have yourself an obvious pick for your next vacation.
Playa del Amor, Marieta Islands, Nayarit
It looks like something out of a fantasy movie, but Playa del Amor (more commonly referred to as “Hidden Beach”) is a very real, albeit hard to reach, attraction. West of Puerto Vallarta, the beach is engulfed by a cave with a gaping hole in the roof—a hole rumored to be the result of bombs from military testing by the Mexican government during the early 1900s. Sinister origin aside, the hole now serves as a unique skylight that opens the beach up for sunbathing and photo ops, but the extremely strong currents here make swimming a risky endeavor.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
Cabo San Lucas is known as a popular tourist destination—hello, spring breakers!—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The resort city happens to have some of the best beaches in Mexico, including the remote Playas La Palmas (rent a 4×4 to get there) and Playa Acapulquito, a veritable surfer’s paradise. And then there are the resorts. You have tons of options here, but you won’t do much better than Chileno Bay Resort, featured on our 2019 Hot List. Aside from its beautiful and breezy villas, its location on one of Cabo’s most swim-friendly beaches can’t be beat.
Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo
While often thought of as a side trip from Cancún, Isla Mujeres is a destination is its own right. The main beach of Playa Norte is made of crushed coral, has warm shallow waters, and is much quieter than the beaches across the bay. Scuba enthusiasts should take note: The island is home to the largest concentration of whale sharks on the planet.
Formerly a quiet fishing village, 46 miles north of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport, Troncones has become an under-the-radar escape for adventurous travelers. The three-mile-long beach draws surfers from all over the world, while eco-tourists love horseback riding on the sand and hiking in the nearby Sierra Madre mountains. Best of all, with a population hovering around 500-600 permanent residents, Troncones always maintains a wonderful sense of isolation.
Yelapa, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
Yelapa is only accessible via a 30-minute boat ride from Puerto Vallarta. Therein lies the appeal of this off-the-radar paradise, where the beach is long and the tourists are sparse. Step directly off the boat onto the crescent-shaped sand, grab some fish tacos and beer at the thatched-roof bar Angelina’s Gardens Beach Club, and spend the rest of the day swaying in one of the many hammocks strung up beneath the palms.
Playa La Boquilla, Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca
The town of Puerto Ángel sits on a picturesque horseshoe-shaped bay, bookended by craggy rocks and surrounded by wooded hills. The waters here are calm and bright blue, although the town mostly serves as a small fishing port. The best beach scene is found at Playa La Boquilla, about three miles east of the bay, where the shallow waters make for excellent snorkeling.
Playa Los Cerritos, Todos Santos, Baja California Sur
Five-mile-long Playa Los Cerritos is one of the safest swimming spots near funky Todos Santos, an hour north of Cabo on the Pacific. It’s a popular spot for surfing (and lessons are easy to find), shell collecting, and family outings. It is also one of the most developed beaches in the area: Aside from an on-site bar and restaurant, the hippie-chic boutique hotel from Liz Lambert, Hotel San Cristóbal, is just a short drive away in Playa Punta Lobos.