Mexico has a multitude of beautiful beach destinations. Some were Mexican towns that gradually gained popularity as tourist hotspots and others were conceived as resort towns from the outset. These popular Mexico beach destinations offer powdery sand and crystalline water along with an abundance of tourist amenities and attractions.
If you'd rather spend your beach vacation somewhere that's just as gorgeous but not so crowded, you may prefer to visit one of Mexico's less well-known beach destinations.
For sheer variety of resorts, nightlife, shopping, and activities, Cancun can't be beaten. It's got some of the most picturesque beaches in the country (some say in the world!). While some travelers may avoid it because of its reputation as a party destination and spring break-type revelry, families with children will also find plenty of options here. Many of the beachfront resorts are all-inclusive, which may tempt you to stay on site for your entire stay, but you shouldn't miss out on visiting some of the local attractions by going on a few day-trips around Cancun.
Playa del Carmen
Located about 35 miles south of Cancun, Playa del Carmen has in the past twenty years or so undergone a radical transformation from a fishing village with hippie appeal to a lively cosmopolitan city. "Playa," as it's called by locals and visitors alike, offers an array of diversions and accommodations which range from laid-back to sophisticated. The pedestrian street Quinta Avenida ("5th Avenue") is one block west of the beach and runs parallel to it. This is the main promenade and after the sun goes down, it's always bustling as tourists flock to its souvenir shops, bars, dance clubs and restaurants, or just for a stroll along the lively walkway that stretches along some three miles.
Just a bit farther south of the town of Playa del Carmen, there's an upscale tourist development called Playacar where most of the area's all-inclusive resorts are located. Travelers wanting to visit Isla Mujeres or Cozumel Island for a day trip or a longer stay can catch the ferry at the Playa del Carmen ferry pier.
First brought to the attention of the world in the 1960s by Hollywood stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Puerto Vallarta maintains a strong appeal among vacationers. The city's choice location on the picturesque Bahia de Banderas as well as its cobblestone streets, white-walled houses, wrought-iron balconies and red-tiled roofs give the city its signature look. There are a great many things to do in Puerto Vallarta, from zip-lining through the jungle to visiting beautiful botanical gardens, taking a stroll along the Malecón (beachfront promenade) and enjoying the spectacular sunsets. This is a perfect destination for a romantic getaway, and one of Mexico's top dining destinations, with a reputation for great restaurants.
Located on the southern tip of Baja California Sur where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, Los Cabos is made up of the two distinct cities of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, and the twenty-mile corridor between the two. This is a favorite getaway of Hollywood stars and celebrities who enjoy the gorgeous landscape and ultra-luxurious resorts. Only a few of Los Cabos' beaches are suitable for swimming, but there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained, such as whale watching, sportfishing, and golfing. You can even ride a camel! Cabo San Lucas has plenty of restaurants, resorts and nightclubs, whereas San Jose del Cabo is a charming town with a lot of art galleries and boutiques. Take a walking tour of San Jose del Cabo to get a feel for its history, architecture and monuments.
Arguably Mexico's most stunning beach is located in the heart of the Riviera Maya. Tulum is made up of a fascinating archaeological site, a hotel zone and the town of Tulum. Accommodations in Tulum range from rustic cabanas to hip boutique hotels and grand all-inclusives. Those looking for a romantic beach getaway will find some lovely spots for an amorous retreat, and you won't break the bank if you decide to honeymoon here.
Mazatlán is a well-established tourist destination on Mexico's Pacific coast in the state of Sinaloa that maintains its Mexican traditions and atmosphere. Here visitors can experience an authentic mix of culture and history within a modern destination. Stroll around old Mazatlan to get a feel for the history of the place, then head to the Golden Zone to see some beautiful beaches and hip restaurants and nightclubs. Known worldwide as a sportfishing destination, visitors can also enjoy surfing, horseback riding, mountain biking, bird watching and golf in Mazatlan, as well as sunning and swimming along its 16 miles of golden beaches. This is an important cruise ship port of call on the Mexican Riviera, but it's certainly worth coming and staying for a good long while.
An island off of the Riviera Maya that is just 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, Cozumel is Mexico's premier diving destination, as well as Mexico's most visited port of call by cruise ships. The warm, clear, turquoise waters and abundance of coral reefs and sea life attract divers from around the world. This Caribbean island also has several nature preserves: the Cozumel Reefs National Park, Chankanaab Park and Lagoon, and Punta Sur Ecological Reserve. Plus, there's more to do in Cozumel than just diving.
There are only a few all-inclusive resorts on the island. Iberostar Cozumel offers laidback comfort and diving excursions off its pier.
Huatulco is a beach destination on Mexico's Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca with nine bays and 36 beaches, many of which are protected as part of the Bahias de Huatulco National Park. Most of the beaches have calm blue-green waters. Tangolunda Bay is where travelers will find top-of-the-line resorts such as Las Brisas Huatulco and one of the best golf courses on the Pacific Coast. Its biodiversity and pristine landscapes make Huatulco a superb place to observe flora and fauna both on land and in the sea. This was one of the destinations selected for tourism development by the Mexican government, but for some reason, it hasn't been as developed as some others, so you'll find many virgin beaches and natural areas to explore.
The resort town of Ixtapa in the state of Guerrero was founded in the early 1970s by FONATUR (the National Fund for Tourism Development). Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa's sister city, is located only four miles to the south and retains the feel of an authentic Mexican small fishing town. These twin destinations share a beautiful setting, with the crashing waves of the Pacific to the west and the Sierra Madre mountain chain to the east. However, Ixtapa has a modern vibe whereas Zihuatanejo has an old-Mexico feel to it. Some of the more popular activities in this area include scuba diving, surfing, and deep-sea fishing. Ixtapa has many large resorts to choose from and in Zihuatanejo accommodation run the range from budget digs to ultra luxurious boutique hotels such as the Thompson Zihuatanejo.
Acapulco was Mexico's foremost beach destination from the 1950s until it was surpassed by Cancun in the 1980s. It has a nostalgic appeal, as folks remember the Hollywood stars who used to vacation here and the Elvis Presley movie Fun in Acapulco. This remains one of Mexico's most popular resort areas and a favorite destination of spring breakers. With non-stop nightlife, great shopping centers, and restaurants, this vibrant port city is bustling 24 hours a day. There's more to do than just enjoy the beaches and clubs, however. you can see the now iconic cliff divers perform their death-defying jumps from La Quebrada, or learn about the area's history as an important port during the colonial period at the Fuerte San Diego.