Mexico is blessed with a coastline of 10,000 km along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. As a result, it houses countless beach destinations that offer a variety of activities for tourists.
Mexico has gained a bit of a reputation as a vacation for the affluent, due to the rise of glitzy resorts such as Cancún and Acapulco. However, though that may well have been the case in the past, it is now accessible to tourists on every budget.
Here are Mexico’s best coastal resorts, the best of the gems that this wonderful country has to offer.
Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, is the ideal gateway into Mexico for most international travelers. Cities such as Mexico City, Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, and Playa del Carmen have hundreds of Couchsurfing and Airbnb hosts for budget travelers. For those on a more ‘vacation budget’, there is a wealth of countless seaside resorts in each of these coastal destinations.
Mexico’s Best Beach Destinations
Getting There: Various American cities, including major hubs such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, are connected to Cancún by air. It is a major city in Mexico, and is connected to all other major Mexican cities.
➙ Starting off with the most Westernized, and consequently popular, of all of Mexico’s beach destinations, Cancún is one of the best beach vacation spots in the world. It has huge sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, which have kept it high in the tourism lists for so many years. Being a tourism-centered city, it offers a variety of restaurants, resorts, and shopping centers for the typical tourist, and some of the best nightlife in Mexico.
➙ Apart from the seaside entertainment, it has two notable museums: the Museo Subacuático de Arte, an eccentric underwater museum consisting of 403 life-size sculptures, and the Museo Maya de Cancún, which houses one of the best collections of Maya artifacts in Mexico.
➙ A day trip to Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan complex, is also a highly recommended and usually selected option.
Getting There: This island is situated very close to Cancún, and can be accessed via regular ferries.
➙ Isla Mujeres, situated about 9 miles off the coast of Cancún, is a complete contrast to the most touristy city in Mexico. It is ideal for relaxation, and is the perfect place for someone who gets bored and frustrated in the commercialized environs of Cancún. There are a few rocky caves to explore, but the USP of Isla Mujeres is its contrast with Cancún: relaxing environs, relatively uncrowded beaches, and fresh, home-cooked seafood in the thatched palapa restaurants by the beach.
➙ The inexpensive and homely inns found here are complemented by a few boutique resorts, and together provide accommodation in every price range.
➙ Biking or driving a golf cart around this tranquil island is the best way to roam it (or just walk, if you want!).
Getting There: It is quite close to Cancún, and all the destinations on the Mayan Riviera can easily be reached from there by bus.
➙ The Riviera Maya, or the Mayan Riviera, is a tourism-centric region along the Caribbean coastline of Quintana Roo, a Mexican state. It consists of several Caribbean beaches, such as Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel, as well as the Mayan ruins of Tulum.
➙ Playa del Carmen, in particular, is being developed massively in order to be more attractive to tourists and to serve as a center of the region.
➙ The primary attractions in this region are snorkeling and scuba diving in the Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second longest barrier reef system in the world, and the archeological finds of Tulum and the more inland Coba. Swimming with dolphins is also a major draw in this region.
Getting There: Los Cabos is connected by air to Mexico City, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Ontario, among other cities.
➙ Of all the seaside destinations in Mexico, Los Cabos offers the best of both worlds. It is made up of two cities: San Jose del Cabo, which has retained the persona of a traditional, quaint Mexican town, and Cabo San Lucas, which is the black sheep of the two and has become renowned for its nightlife.
➙ Located in Baja California, it is highly convenient for US tourists, and has consequently molded itself to attract more Americans. The region between the two cities, particularly, has become famous for its championship golf courses, an activity pursued in the US with almost religious fervor.
➙ El Arco, or The Arch, is a famous and distinctive landmark in Los Cabos, and is a frequent gathering point for sea lions. Whale watching is also a worthwhile activity in the winter; whales migrate here for the warmer waters. Due to the variety of activities available in this twin resort, Los Cabos is arguably the best of Mexico’s top seaside vacation spots.
Getting There: It is connected by air to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.
➙ Like Los Cabos, Mazatlán presents two destinations in one: the touristy seaside resorts and shopping areas, and the preserved old city, which provides a fascinating glimpse into life in Mexico.
➙ The pueblo viejo (old town) has been renovated in several places, and the renaissance that turned Mazatlán from a Cancún-esque resort to one of the most lovable seaside destinations in North America is still underway. A guided tour of 3-4 hours for short groups, which can be arranged at most hotels for approx. USD 30, is a great way of getting to know the new and the old of this city.
➙ Whale watching (winter) and dolphin watching (year-round) tours, conducted by marine ecologist Oscar Guzon, are also famous.
➙ Mazatlán also contains a few options for the heritage tourist, such as the Museo de Arte and the Teatro Angela Peralta.
Getting There: It is connected by air to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, Atalanta, Dallas, Chicago, etc., and by a daily bus to Mexico City.
➙ The original Mexican party center before the rise of Cancún, Acapulco still holds the air of a typical touristy seaside resort rather than an enriching heritage destination.
➙ Being a cosmopolitan destination, it excels in providing all kinds of entertainment, ranging from pristine beaches to thrilling cliff divers. The latter, taking place at La Quebrada, is arguably Acapulco’s most famous tourist attraction; the prime time to catch the show is after 7-8 pm, when the divers hold torches while performing their routine.
➙ Its old town square is a veritable treasure trove of entertainment after evening, when various street performers add to the setting provided by the numerous sidewalk cafés.
Getting There: It is connected by air to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Toronto, among others, and by bus to Guadalajara.
➙ Once named as the Friendliest City in the World, Puerto Vallarta still retains that friendly, welcoming air.
➙ It has several unique features among Mexican seaside attractions, such as being the preferred coastal retreat for the domestic Mexican tourist. It is also emerging as a popular retirement spot for Americans and Canadians. It is also known as one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the whole of Latin America.
➙ Apart from its beaches, boardwalks, and entertainment-filled sidewalks, Puerto Vallarta is home to the beautiful Vallarta Botanical Gardens, and the small but interesting pottery museum, Museo de Cuale.
These are some of the best beach destinations Mexico has to offer. Pack your bags, and start imagining yourself on the sun-kissed sands, amid fascinating relics of Mayan history, or stuffing yourself with delicious Mexican food!