Researching for your upcoming trip? Or just daydreaming about taking a dip in paradise? Make a pit stop here for the best beaches, some you already know, as they are popular (for good reason) and some others you’ll be hard pressed to find information about anywhere else.
Undoubtedly, what makes Cancun the world-class vacation destination it is today is its gorgeous beaches. The coastal Mexican city hosts about 7 million tourists each year, people just can’t get enough. There’s something so special about its crystalline waters, you can literally see everything lying below the surface — and the staple turquoise color that you’ll find featured in glossy magazine spreads or just a quick Google image search. The thing is, some pretty awesome natural factors got together to make Cancun the paradise spot it is. The deep never-ending blue? It’s because the waters are so shallow and the sand so white that the reflection of the sun bounces off into the ocean — neat light trick, right?
If you’ve already been, you’ve probably experienced some iteration of this scenario: making your way out into the beach, the sun beating down on your back, your tiny flip flops revving for the challenge as you gingerly approach the sand bracing for the burn of the little bits that make it into your toes, to find cool grainy sand instead. Surprised and delighted, you kick off your flip flops in victory as you search for the perfect place to set up for the day, close to the margaritas, but far from too many people.
The sand in Cancun isn’t hot. It’s unique since it isn’t actually sand, rather millions of fragmented shells that have polished over the years making up the white, soft, and cool sand we know and love. The only problem really is finding a semi-secluded spot and that’s what I want to help you with today.
Here are the best beaches in Cancun. Some of these are about an hour away, but definitely worth the day trip. Stick around until the end for a few additional hidden gems (but share this article with caution) I’m giving away all our secrets here.
What is the Best Beach Area in Cancun?
Cancun and the Riviera Maya to the south together make up 150 uninterrupted miles of beach. You’ll find the best beach area to the east and the north. The eastside beaches are the ones you’ve already heard about and seen in all those Cancun blog posts.
The beaches to the north are less popular (but no less beautiful) offering up more privacy and relaxation. They’re also becoming more accessible, offering more amenities for beachgoers while still keeping the peaceful environment. Isla Blanca is one such northern beach. I’m sure you’ll be itching to look into it and see for yourself what all the buzz is about.
If you’re not really into day-tripping and would rather stay in your gorgeous hotel, I feel that vibe. Luckily, a few Cancun hotels are home to spectacular beaches, just step out of your room and into paradise. You might also want to check out Hotel Nizuc, a newish and trendy beach escape that’s really been putting the southside beaches on the map.
What are the Best Beaches in Cancun?
Now let’s get to what you came here for. Here’s a list with info on the best beaches in Cancun, why they’ve earned that title, and how to get there.
5. “Playa del Presidente”
Why is this in quotes? Because no one knows the official name, or maybe it doesn’t have one. It’s a beach in Cancun, close to private homes and hotels (right in front of the Presidente hotel, hence the unofficial name). This makes it really special to us — for many including myself, it’s our first contact we had with the beach. It’s also certified by Discovery Channel and National Geographic, so you don’t have to take my word for it, take theirs, it’s a beautiful place. We love it because the water is calm, no need to worry about waves or strong currents.
There are two ways of accessing it, one is fairly simple, just purchase a day pass from the hotel, it’s a sweet deal since it gives you access to the beach and all the installations. But, if you’re not about that day-pass life, you can also take a little hike from Playa Tortuga or Playa Caracol. All beaches in Mexico are technically “public” so once you’re there you’re allowed to be, you just can’t walk in from the main entrance through the hotel.
4. Playa Chac-Mool
Chac-Mool is a public beach in the heart of the “Zona Hotelera” or hotel area, where the best hotels are lined up. It’s in the epicenter of the fun, where you’ll find tourists and locals alike, from all walks of life engaging in water sports, eating, and drinking — in total vacation mode. If you get there early enough you can score a palapa, they’re free, but first come first serve. You can also rent tables and chairs. Don’t forget to bring pesos in cash in case you want to indulge in the various treats sold by beach vendors like mango or jicama with the spicy tajin. Restaurants and bars are also available and they’ll serve you as you sit right on the beach.
The quickest way to get there? Hail a cab, Uber isn’t really a thing in Cancun. Depending on where you’re staying it should be about a 10-20 minute ride. Public transport is also available, check the schedule to find the most convenient bus route depending on your location.
3. Isla Blanca Beach
Secluded and private. This beach really gives off major nature vibes, with the ocean on one side and a lagoon on the other it’s perfect for relaxing and taking in the salty sea air with few distractions. Bring a little cooler with refreshments and snacks and you’ve got yourself the perfect picnic. It has a small restaurant which is open until 6 pm. It’s far from the hustle and bustle of the city, no buildings in sight and no public transportation route — you won’t find many tourists there.
To get here from the city, you’ll have to cab it or rent a car — it’s about a 30-45 minute ride from Downtown Cancun. Keep in mind you’ll pass through a toll and parking is 50 pesos. It’s always a safe bet to carry cash when moving around in Cancun.
2. Playa Delfines
This is a big beach, so even though a lot of people go, there’s usually enough space without overcrowding. Going here requires a little less prep than Isla Blanca, with palapas, fruit stands, tiki bars, and rinsing areas readily available. This is where you get to snap the staple Cancun sign pic for your insta, if you have the patience to wait in line. It’s also one of the beaches that features those big waves Cancun is famous for.
It’s right at the tail end of the hotel area, parking is available. The public bus route has a very convenient spot that drops you off right on the sidewalk with access to the beach.
1. Playa Gaviota Azul
My favorite. This beach offers the best of both worlds, with a man-made structure of rocks (which looks super natural) to create a bay and offer swimmers a respite from the waves you get in the open sea. You’ll still feel the movement of the water, but no risk of getting swallowed by the current.
This is one of the beaches that will take your breath away, boasting that turquoise color more deeply and brighter than most, you’ll find it at its best between 11 am and 3 pm. It’s definitely a party beach, with music and drinks flowing freely from a variety of establishments. There are also a few photo ops: a rock to the south of the public access which you can climb to get a picture of the perfect view and the secluded “escollera” to the north, which protects the coast from the open sea.
It’s located in the south of Punta Cancun, easy to access via public transport or cab.
All of these beaches are ideal if you’re staying in Cancun and they’re all public. They’re relatively easy to get to either by cab or bus. If you have any questions drop me a line and I’ll be happy to help you figure out the most convenient transport depending on your location.
What are the best beaches near Cancun for a day trip?
Next up, a few beaches that require different transportation arrangements, since they’re about 1 hour or 1:30 hour away from the city. The best beaches near Cancun are an excellent day trip and an opportunity to explore a little bit outside the confines of Cancun and score some authentic traveler cred.
To help you plan your excursions you can check out this article with resources on how to move around and out of Cancun: Link into article about transportation in Cancun
5. Playa Maroma
Maroma is perfect for those who’re looking for a more exclusive experience, outside of the confines of the city. It’s got a mix of privacy, nature, and activities like water sports and restaurants from the surrounding hotels in the area, you can even ride a camel! To access this beach you have to make a restaurant reservation or stay at one of the small boutique hotels along the shore. Not to worry though, if you’re not staying in Playa Maroma, you can still enjoy the amenities from hotels by renting out lounge chairs, palapas and partake in all the available activities (again, bring cash). It’s located in the Riviera Maya, about an hour away from Cancun via Carretera Tulum. Your best bet would be to schedule a group transport and book a return trip with a set time.
It’s a really special place, with no beach clubs, so you’re safe from Spring Break madness, but it’s not boring by any means. You’ll find plenty of distractions and tasty eats. It’s been rated year after year by the Discovery and Living Channel as one of the world’s best beaches.
4. Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres
You can’t go to Cancun without taking the ferry out to Isla Mujeres. That in itself is a worthwhile experience. Once you’re in Isla Mujeres, Playa Norte should be your destination. It’s got everything, restaurants with sea-side service, and the whitest sand you’ll ever find. If you’re planning on securing some chairs to rent make sure to get there earlier because it does get a bit crowded. Also, you get to watch the boats as they anchor in the nearby port and wade in tranquil waist-deep turquoise waters.
There’s a convenient ferry stop in the hotel area with boats leaving about every half hour. Once there, you’ll take a little golf cart to Playa Norte.
3. Akumal Beach
The best thing about Akumal? The snorkeling. If you’re into colorful coral and swimming up close with all kinds of fish, and turtles, this is the spot to do it. Akumal also has boutique hotels along its shoreline, where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat right on the beach. To access this beach there are two options: a national park fee that goes towards preserving it or making a reservation in one of the hotel restaurants. It’s a preferred spot among us Cancunians, for a quick beach day escape.
Akumal is along with the Carretera Tulum, 62 miles south of Cancun between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
2. Xpu-Ha Beach
Xpu-Ha offers beach-goers a remote experience, while still providing plenty of amenities. The waters here are uncharacteristically calm and the snorkeling is also great. There’s a 50 pesos entrance fee to access this beach as well as beach clubs like Serenity where you can lounge, drink, eat, and enjoy the beach.
Xpu-Ha is also between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
1. Puerto Morelos
Puerto Morelos is a small sea-side village on the coast of the Riviera Maya. It’s quite peaceful since its beaches and village are both protected from development by government eco-reserve designations. It has one of the largest stretches of beach in the Yucatan peninsula and can be easily accessed from the center of town! The main beach is public with a few smaller side beaches reserved for hotels and beach clubs. But, we know that the best spot is towards the south past the freighter pier. This is a great beach for relaxing, renting out a couple of beach chairs, and just taking a laid back day. Not a lot of commotion or excessive partying around these areas, more of a family-friendly vibe. The cool thing about Puerto Morelos is that it retains a lot of that old-Mexico charm. You’ll find delicious seafarer and traditional Mexican dishes.
BONUS: Hidden beaches near Cancun
And now that you’ve made it this far you’re in for a real treat. I might get in trouble at home for telling you these, but these next three are the absolute best, even though we like to keep them to ourselves. You won’t find much info on these, so be selective with your sharing!
Without further ado, let’s get into a hidden beach Cancun, I’m counting on you to keep the secret.
One of my favorites, coming to X’cacel is like going to the beach before Cancun became a global phenomenon 30 years ago. Not that I’d remember, but so the story goes. You know who else knows about the remoteness of X’cacel? Turtles. Hundreds of them. They come every spring to lay their eggs. There’s also a freshwater cenote you can dip into and offshore snorkeling. Come prepared for an excursion, bring food and refreshments if you want to spend the day.
X’cacel is located between Chemuyil and Xel-Ha water park, off-highway 307. If you’re driving there yourself, keep your eyes peeled as you pass Chemuyil since it’s really easy to miss.
Playa del Secreto
Like its name suggests, this beach is one of Cancun’s best-kept secrets. It’s great to relax and get away from the crowds. It’s remained untouched, so you’ll find nature at its best — the sand as white as can be, the ocean as blue, and the birds and turtles roaming freely. Completely eco-friendly, it allows its guests to experience the ecosystem without disrupting it. Bring a sunhat and sunblock!
Located a few minutes south of Puerto Morelos and north of Playa del Carmen, so you’ll have easy access to civilization should you need it.
And there you have it, the ultimate list of beaches in Cancun, for every mood and every occasion.