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We’ve been lucky enough to travel to many regions of the world, and when we’re traveling, we always try to check out that country’s best beaches, and we’ve seen so many beautiful beaches. But, dare I say, some of my favorite beaches in the world are located right here in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Yep, the beaches in the Yucatan boast white sand and turquoise water and look like they belong on a postcard. This large peninsula separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea, so it’s easy to understand why this slice of land is home to so many stunning beaches!
And a beach day is a great way to recharge after enjoying all the awesome adrenalin-filed activities this region offers. But with so many beautiful beaches in Mexico, it can be hard to pick one. I mean, Cancun is literally lined with beaches, and it’s the main reason people visit this bustling town. While Tulum is home to Paradise Beach, which is one of the prettiest beaches in the world, and Playa del Carmen is home to an epic party beach that runs the length of the town. And then you have lesser-known gems like Playa Norte Celestun in Merida, which is home to flamingos!
This is why I’ve written this detailed blog post to shine a spotlight on the incredible beaches within the Yucatan and help make your decision easier!
The Yucatan Peninsula is the perfect location in Mexico for a beach getaway, and in this blog post, I list 15 of the very best beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula. I’ve included beaches in Tulum, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Merida, and more, so wherever you decide to base yourself, you’ll be within easy access to a stunning beach!
Don’t have time to read the full article? Whether you’re looking forward to sunbathing or exploring the deep blue see, some of our favorite beaches in the Yucatan are below:
- You won’t regret checking out this awesome full-day tour near Playa Ruinas in Tulum – it’s got over 3,000 five-star reviews!
- Prepare to be mesmerized by the beauty of Playa Gaviota Azul in Cancun.
- Swim with sea turtles in Playa Akumal!
- Relax and enjoy surrounding restaurants on Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres
- Snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Playa Paraiso in Tulum
The BEST Beaches in the Yucatan, Mexico
Just to avoid any confusion, there’s the Yucatan Peninsula and then Yucatan State. For the purpose of this blog, we are focusing on beaches located in the Yucatan Peninsula, which covers Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and more.
1. Playa Ruinas, Tulum
First up is one of the most famous beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula – Playa Ruinas in Tulum. In fact, “ruins beach,” as it’s known in English, is located beneath the Tulum Ruins, a Mayan archaeological site of great importance! In fact, many people visit this beach after wandering the ruins to cool down with a refreshing swim in the turquoise ocean.
As you can imagine, Playa Ruinas gets really busy – when you consider that approximately 2 million people visit the Tulum Ruins annually and most of them head to the beach after – it’s best to get here early (before 10 am) or late (after 3 pm) to enjoy its beauty without the crowds!
Playa Ruinas is surrounded by 12-meter tall cliffs, has white powder sand, and is a pretty small beach by Yucatan standards. Here, not only can you indulge in a refreshing swim, but you can also go snorkeling or scuba diving in search of the abundant marine life this area is known for. Keep an eye out for turtles and manta rays, especially!
Playa Ruinas is easily accessible from most of the major resort-towns on the Yucatan Peninsula. For example, Tulum is just 2.5 miles (4 km) away – and because it’s so close many people choose to rent a bike and cycle here! The beach is an hour’s drive from Playa del Carmen and two hours from Cancun. You can rent a car and drive yourself here or join an organized tour like this one (that’s one of the best tours in Tulum!)
Related Read: Playa Ruinas is one of the best beaches in Tulum, read about the best cenotes in Tulum here!
2. Akumal Beach, Akumal
Playa Akumal (aka Akumal Beach) is located in the town of Akumal, a 30-minute drive from Tulum, 1 hour and 25 minutes from Cancun, and 40-minutes from Playa del Carmen. The beach’s name means “place of the turtle” because it’s one of the best places in the world to see sea turtles.
In fact, you can go swimming with them here, which is one of the best things to do in Mexico!
We recommend hiring a guide from the beach to take you to see the turtles, as they are the only ones allowed to take you to the sectioned-off area in the water where most of the turtles are located. Of course, you can do it without a guide – but you can’t enter the sectioned-off area and so will need to swim to the East of this area and hope to see them.
Overall, we think paying to swim with turtles at Akumal Beach is worth it. A sighting isn’t guaranteed outside this area, which is why we recommend hiring a guide! As you can imagine, it’s a very popular activity, and because only 200 people are allowed to swim with the turtles each day, you will definitely need to get here early to get a guide to take you.
As with any wildlife in Mexico – be sure not to get too close to the turtles, and certainly don’t touch them!
While swimming or snorkeling here, you’ll also likely spot other marine life like manta rays, barracudas, and stingrays! Playa Akumal is considered to be one of the safest beaches in Mexico for swimming and snorkeling because it is patrolled by lifeguards and the water is shallow – so it’s ideal for young children and first-time snorkelers!
There are also plenty of other water activities to keep you entertained, like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Plus, there are a few restaurants and bars along the beach where you can grab some delicious food and drinks! So, you can spend the whole day here and not have to worry about leaving to grab some food!
This private snorkeling tour with sea turtles is highly recommended and starts from Akumal town. It costs $45 USD per person and includes equipment and entrance fees!
Related Read: Playa Akumal is one of the best day trips from Cancun, read about the others here!
3. Playa Gaviota Azul, Cancun
Playa Gaviota Azul in Cancun is one of the most popular places for tourists in Cancun to spend a beach day – thanks to its long, wide white sand shoreline and turquoise water. It’s also one of the prettiest beaches in this area!
Located in the bustling Cancun Hotel Zone, it’s a popular spot for windsurfing, snorkeling, and of course, swimming. It’s also lined with many beach clubs and restaurants, so you’re spoiled for choice with food and drink options on this stretch of paradise!
Stand-up paddleboarding is also popular here, and it’s one of my favorite things to do on Cancun’s beaches because it is a great workout, and you can take in some spectacular scenery and catch a suntan while doing so. You can rent paddleboards from most of the hotels and resorts surrounding the beach.
Access to Playa Gaviota Azul is from the north side of the famed Cocobongo.
Related Read: there are plenty of restaurants serving up delicious Mexican food in Canucn – read about my favorites!
4. Playa Holbox, Isla Holbox
Next up is Playa Holbox, a stunning beach on the bohemian Isla Holbox, which is a 15-minute ferry ride from the town of Chiquila. It’s one of our favorite islands in Mexico, mainly because it’s home to some seriously stunning beaches, but it’s also car-free. Yep, on this small island, you’ll likely only come across one or two vans that are used to transport goods around the island.
Some of the most popular things to do on Isla Holbox include swimming with whale sharks, a kayaking tour through the mangroves, and relaxing on Playa Holbox – the best beach on the island! It’s home to the famous hammocks which hang in the crystal clear shallows here. In fact, if you want to make your friends at home jealous, be sure to take a photo here. There are various hammocks dotted along the beach, and to use them, you may either need to buy food or drinks from the restaurant that owns them or rent it for 50 pesos ($2.50 USD) an hour.
Another great photo spot at Playa Holbox is the giant Holbox letters located at the North end of the beach. Many towns have letters like these, but the Holbox one is unique because the letter “L” is missing, so you need to stand in its place and try to make the letter with your arms!
Getting to Isla Holbox is easy but can be lengthy from the major towns on the Yucatan Peninsula. For example, from Cancun to Chiquila (where you catch the ferry) is a 2-hour drive (140 km/87 miles); from Playa del Carmen, it’s 122 km (76 miles); and from Tulum, it’s 168 km (104 miles). This is why we highly recommend staying a few nights on the island if your itinerary allows it!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
5. Paradise Beach, Cozumel
Another incredible island beach on the Yucatan Peninsula is Paradise Beach in Cozumel, which is, in fact, a private beach club that is famed for its palm tree fringed beach and turquoise water. It’s the ideal spot to relax after a busy morning trying out some of the best things to do on Cozumel!
Paradise Beach is located near the island’s main town – San Miguel, and there are loads of water activities available here that are sure to keep you entertained. You can try snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, and even hop on a thrilling banana boat ride! Or, of course, you could simply relax in the sunshine with a drink from the bar at the beach club!
If you’re sick of the salt water, you may instead choose to cool down in the beach club’s pool! As I mentioned, Paradise Beach is a private beach club, and so you must purchase a day pass to use it; this costs $64 USD, but it’s an all-inclusive package. Meaning free drinks and food all day long (8 hours total) plus lounge chair rental!
Ferries to Cozumel Island depart from Playa del Carmen and the crossing takes 45 minutes!
6. Playa Caracol, Cancun
Playa Caracol is a small beach located on the Northern end of Cancun’s hotel zone. It’s bordered by two docks, and the crystal clear water here is shallower and calmer than the more popular beaches on the eastern side – meaning it’s ideal for families!
A top tip is to get here for sunset, as the photo opportunities from either of the two docks as the sun sinks into the ocean are outstanding!
Because there aren’t many free parking spaces at Playa Caracol, it’s best to catch the Cancun Hotel Zone public bus here. The closest hotel to this beach is the Riu hotel, and that, along with other hotels on this stretch of beach, has sun loungers that you can rent for a fee. If you don’t wish to rent a sunlounger, note that there are only certain areas of the beach that you can relax on – that’s because hotels block off certain sections for their guests.
7. Playa del Carmen, Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen, the main beach in its namesake Playa del Carmen, is one of the longest (it’s 2 miles in length) and most renowned beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula. This white sand beach boasts an electric party atmosphere thanks to the many beach bars and nightclubs situated along this stretch of paradise, and it is a great place to come for a sunset drink.
But it’s also a great daytime beach spot, and because of its calm water, it’s ideal for swimming and snorkeling. But be warned, it tends to get very busy, so if you’re looking for a quiet beach day, this may not be the spot for you! It can get pretty loud here, even during the day, as most of the bars and beach clubs pump out music even during daylight.
The beach is divided into Central Playa del Carmen beach and North Playa del Carmen beach. And both have quite a different vibe; for example, Central Playa del Carmen is where the ferry to Cozumel leaves from, and it’s home to most of the beach clubs, restaurants, and water sports vendors like parasailing. North Playa del Carmen, on the other hand, is home to a few beach clubs, but they tend to be busier during the day and quieter at night.
Overall, Playa del Carmen beach is one of my favorite places in the region to people-watch – there’s just so much happening here. Local vendors will also likely try to sell souvenirs and other wares to you while you’re sunbathing, so if you like, you can do some shopping from your lounge chair or towel!
If you happen to be flying into Cancun, make sure you check out the best options to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen! Spoiler: don’t take a taxi!
8. Playa Delfines, Cancun
Another awesome beach in Cancun is Playa Delfines, which translates to “Dolphin Beach,” and there’s a good reason this beach got its name. Yep, if you’re lucky, you may see a pod of dolphins frolicking in the water from the shore. In fact, it’s one of the best places on the Yucatan Peninsula to see dolphins.
The best place to see the dolphins is from the platform overlooking the beach called El Mirador, which also has a huge Cancun sign that’s a great place to pose for pictures!
The beach is also famous for its bright turquoise water, and you honestly won’t believe how blue it is until you see it in person. You’ll certainly want to swim in it but beware that the undertow can be strong here, so watch out for any red flags on the beach and avoid that area. This beach is patrolled by lifeguards too!
Getting here from the Cancun hotel zone is pretty simple because Playa Delfines is right off the main road and has a large, free parking lot and bus stops nearby. You can catch the Cancun Hotel Zone public bus here!
Because Playa Delfines is so popular with both locals and tourists, I advise getting here early to nab one of the free palapas (thatch-roof umbrellas) set up on the beach. There is no shade on the beach and having a palapa is the only way to get shade unless you have your own beach umbrella. However, if all the free ones are gone by the time you get there, you can rent an umbrella and chairs for approximately 200 pesos ($10 USD).
There are some vendors dotted along the beach from who you can buy snacks and drinks, or alternatively, there’s a convenience store a short walk away where you can pick up some goods for a picnic!
9. Playa Norte Celestun, Merida
A lesser-known gem of a beach is Playa Norte Celestún in the town of Celestún, which is an hour and a half drive from Merida. And it’s one of the best beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula to see flamingos!
So if you’re looking for a quiet beach day, then this spot is the perfect place to unwind! There are also lots of restaurants and beach bars along the beach where you can grab a yummy cocktail or lunch while keeping your eyes peeled for the pink flamingos. Or, if you want to fill a full day here – why not try out a scuba diving or snorkeling tour to the nearby coral reefs?
If you have time, we also recommend checking out the Celestun Biosphere Reserve, which is close by and is home to a whopping 300 different types of birds. The best way to explore this region is on a guided tour. This Celestún Biosphere Reserve boat tour will get you up close to the flamingos and some other wildlife like lizards, ducks and gulls. It includes transport to/from your accommodation in Merida, entry fees, plus a bilingual English and Spanish-speaking guide! It’s also ranked of the top tours in the Yucatan!
10. Playa Chac Mool, Cancun
Playa Chac Mool is another one of the prettiest beaches in Cancun and is located in the vibrant hotel zone. And even though it’s located in Cancun’s busiest district, it retains a laidback vibe and is generally quieter than many of the other beaches in the hotel zone.
It’s a safe place to swim, but waves can be strong, so only swim within the flags. This beach is lifeguard patrolled and has blue flag status – so you shouldn’t miss out on swimming in its turquoise water! Snorkeling or scuba diving here is also a great idea, with green, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles to be found in the water. If you visit this beach between May and October, you may be lucky enough to see female turtles nesting on the beach!
There are plenty of beach umbrellas and sun loungers for you to lounge on if you want to top up your tan, or why not stretch your legs on the scenic coastal path that starts from the beach?
There aren’t many restaurants and bars on this stretch of beach, but there are plenty of both, as well as stores a short walk away. And because this beach is quieter than others in Cancun, we recommend packing a picnic and enjoying a relaxing beachside lunch here!
11. Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres
Next on the list is Playa Norte on the tiny island of Isla Mujeres, which is easily one of the prettiest islands in Mexico, thanks to its location in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea!
Isla Mujeres is only 4.3 miles (7 km) long, but it sure packs a punch with colorful buildings, excellent hotels and resorts, and plenty of activities. However, the main drawcard here is Playa Norte, one of the most popular beaches on the island!
Playa Norte, as the name suggests, is situated to the north of the island and is just a 10-minute walk from the ferry port. Boasting crystal clear water and fine white sand, it’s no wonder this beach gets so packed during the busier summer months. The best things to do here include swimming and snorkeling or scuba diving out to the island’s reefs. Or, if you fancy a walk, Isla Mujeres has plenty of jungle trails for you to choose from!
Chairs and umbrellas are available to rent from the hotels and beach clubs that line this beach, and they cost from $10-20 USD per day. I highly recommend renting these because there isn’t much shade on this beach, and the Mexican sun can be pretty intense! What we really loved is that many of the restaurants here will serve food and drinks to your sunbed, meaning you don’t have to get up and can enjoy the ocean views while you eat!
This beach is also a popular spot on some of the whale shark tours from Isla Mujeres. That way you can combine that epic experience with the gentle giants of the sea and get a beach day in too!
Another cool thing you can do in Playa Norte is yoga, which takes place above Buho’s Bar. The Treehouse Yoga holds 2-3 classes 6 days a week (it’s closed on Sundays). Classes cost just 200 pesos ($10 USD) and include a yoga mat. Plus, the ocean views from their studio are stunning!
Ferries to Isla Mujeres depart every 30 minutes to an hour between 5:30 am and 11 pm from Puerto Juarez; the ferry crossing takes 20-30 minutes. You can also opt for a tour to Isla Mujeres from Cancun where transportation (aboard a catamaran!) is taken care of for you.
12. Playa Tortugas, Cancun
Another top Cancun beach that made this list of the best beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula is Playa Tortugas. Again, it’s located in the hotel zone, on the Northern tip to be exact, and tends to attract a lot of locals.
This family-friendly beach boasts calm, shallow waters making it the ideal place to swim for young children or those not confident in the water! However, it’s worth noting that as evening comes, the beach adopts a party vibe and can get very busy!
During the day, though, you can enjoy beach volleyball, bungy jumping, and pier jumping! Yep, you read right! There’s a 25-meter (82-foot) bungee located here that’s operated by Bungee in Cancun! Due to its beachside location, as you can imagine, the view from the top is epic! It’s a truly thrilling way to start or end your beach day here. Jump times are offered every 15 minutes from 11 am to 6 pm daily, but they are closed on Sundays.
Whereas if you’re after a more relaxing beachside experience, then you can grab a delicious cocktail from one of the restaurants along the beach. Or grab your snorkeling gear and head out to one of the nearby coral reefs, where you’ll be treated to sightings of many different marine species, like turtles and colorful fish!
Or there’s a ferry to Isla Mujeres, which departs from here. You’re spoiled for choice with things to do on Playa Tortugas, so we recommend spending the full day here!
13. Paradise Beach, Tulum
Paradise Beach is located just 6 km (3.7 miles) from downtown Tulum; it’s known as one of the most beautiful beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula (if not the entire world!!) and boasts powdery white sand and crystal clear water!
Also known as Playa Paraiso, it really is paradise here – the waters are calm, shallow, and family-friendly. And because the water here is so clear, it’s the perfect place to indulge in some snorkeling so that you can see the colorful fishes up close! Or, if you’re looking for a slightly more active day, you can go scuba diving to explore the nearby reefs.
You can choose to simply lay your towel on the sand here or rent a sunbed and umbrella from El Paraíso Beach Club and Restaurant for a fee. Other than the beach club, there are plenty of other beach bars and restaurants where you can grab some food and drink and enjoy them with a view of the ocean.
14. Playa Marlin, Cancun
Another great beach in Cancun’s hotel zone is Playa Marlin, a typically quiet beach that boasts lots of space. You can access the beach from behind Plaza Kukulcán, which is in the center of the eastern strip. But it’s worth noting that the free street parking here does fill up quickly, so it’s worth getting early to grab a space (even on weekdays).
Playa Marlin boasts white sand and bright blue water and looks like it belongs in a travel brochure! Because the hotels lining the beach are in the higher price range, this beach is well taken care of (no seaweed or litter)!
If your itinerary allows, try to visit on a weekday morning when you’re likely to have most of the beach to yourself. The waves here can be pretty big, so just be mindful of this and only swim within your limit. As I mentioned, there are many hotels lining this stretch of beach, and they have their own sunbeds on the beach; just don’t use these sunbeds unless you’re a hotel guest.
If you do come on a weekend or a busier time, try walking in either direction to find a quieter spot. Honestly, the center section is always the busiest, and I try to avoid it!
15. Playa Ancha, Cancun
And finally, Playa Ancha is last but certainly not least on this list of the best beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula. This small beach is situated right in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone and so is within walking distance of most hotels on “the strip,” as it’s also called. Despite its easy accessibility, it doesn’t tend to get as busy as other beaches in Cancun! Which is what I love about it; I love coming here with a good book and relaxing for the afternoon!
The water here is crystal clear and calm, making it one of the best places to go snorkeling around Cancun. And another big advantage to visiting this particular beach is that the best stores and Cancun restaurants are conveniently located across the street.
Another great thing to do on Playa Anchal is watching the sunset; the sky really does put on a show in this part of Cancun, and then once darkness falls, hit one of the many nightclubs situated along nearby Kukulkan Boulevard!
Related Read: One of the best activities in the area is swimming with whale sharks from Cancun!
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2023, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Well, there you have it – 15 of the best beaches in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula! No matter where you stay on this breathtaking peninsula, you’re sure to have a stunning beach within close proximity; that’s the beauty of this part of Mexico and what makes it one of my favorite beach destinations in the world!
If you liked this blog and want more Mexican travel inspiration, take a peek at our other Mexico blogs! Below are some of our favorites –