The Most Epic Guide to Cancun Beaches, Mexico
Want to plan a beach vacation? This epic guide will help you decide which Cancun Beaches (Mexico) are best. Keep reading to find your dream beach.
Have you already booked your flights to the beach? Or are you cuddled on the couch in the middle of winter, dreaming of a beach holiday? Regardless, after reading about the best Cancun beaches in Mexico, you will wish you could teleport yourself there right now.
Famous for its beaches with clear turquoise water and white sand, Cancun is a popular spot for holiday goers of all ages. Whether you prefer a quiet beach where you can read a book or a family-friendly option, there is an ideal spot for all. Even if you’re a couple looking for an all-inclusive beachfront resort, you can find that in Cancun.
With 150 miles of beaches in the area, it can be hard to know where to start. So, below we will take a look at the dreamiest beaches in the city as well as some incredible beaches near Cancun, Mexico.
Where is Cancun, Mexico?
Cancun is located in southeastern Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula, facing the breathtaking Caribbean Sea.
The city consists of a traditional downtown area and the touristy Hotel Zone, where most popular attractions are located.
Tips about the beaches of Cancun, Mexico
The good news is that the city of Cancun is home to some incredible beaches, so you don’t have to travel far to hit the sand. However, if time permits, head south through the 241 kilometers (150 miles) of beachfront along the Riviera Maya to explore.
You may be wondering, are Cancun beaches public?
Well, yes, technically, they all are.
However, even though hotels can’t own the beach, they can own access to it.
If you are not staying at one of the beachfront hotels, don’t stress, as some allow guests to buy a day pass. Otherwise, there are plenty of free beaches which are still as enjoyable and stunning.
Pro tip: Always pay attention to the flags on the beach. They decipher how safe it is to enter the ocean.
- A black flag is the highest warning level, and means do not swim.
- It’s not advised to swim if there is a red flag, so if you choose to, do so with caution.
- A yellow flag indicates there is no immediate danger.
- A green flag means it is completely safe to swim.
Some of the more remote beaches may not have flags, so it’s particularly important to swim with caution.
Top-rated beaches in Cancun
Playa Las Perlas
Public beach with great amenities.
When looking at a Cancun beaches map from downtown to the Hotel Zone, Playa Las Perlas is the first beach you will come across.
The best part? It’s one of the public beaches in Cancun, Mexico, with great amenities. Not only are there showers and restrooms, but there are shaded umbrellas to relax under.
It’s a relatively small beach with sparkling white sand and protected waters.
Come here during the morning for a workout while the sun rises. Not many people are around, and the sand is nice and firm, making it a great beach to jog.
Pro tip: There are no shops on the beachfront, so be sure to bring your own water and food supplies for the day.
Perfect swimming spot for families.
The location of Playa Langosta makes it one of the most easily accessible beaches in Cancun’s Hotel Zone. It’s no surprise that it can get very busy with locals and tourists alike.
With dazzling white sand and sparkling blue water, this beach is ideal for families because the water is calm and shallow. Even better, children will love the on-site playground.
The pier in the middle of the beach is where most of the action happens. So if you are looking for peace and quiet, head to a shaded spot at either end of the beach.
You can find several bars and restaurants lining the beachfront when it’s time to grab something for lunch.
Playa Pez Volador
Lesser known aquatic playground for families.
Playa Pez Volador is actually connected to Playa Langosta, so it’s a great option if the latter is too crowded, especially on weekends.
Keep in mind there is no direct access. Instead, you will need to walk through Playa Langosta.
The waters are perfect for families looking to relax with children in the shallows.
Pro tip: Pez Volador means flying fish in Spanish, and you will likely spot some on your beach day out.
Ideal for adrenaline junkies.
On the northern end of the Hotel Zone, this is one of the busiest Cancun beaches in Mexico, primarily because it’s one of the locations where the Isla Mujeres ferry departs.
The beach features a long stretch of soft white sand (be careful of the few rock formations) with vivid blue waters. It has more of a partygoer atmosphere, but it’s still a great place to come with families due to the calm water conditions.
During the day, a lifeguard is always on watch at Playa Tortuga.
What makes this spot unique is the 25-meter (82-foot) bungee jumping platform on the pier. If you can stomach it, the views from the top are incredible.
If bungee jumping is out of your comfort zone, don’t stress. Playa Tortuga still offers a range of other activities. From beach volleyball to snorkeling or relaxing with a cocktail at one of the beachfront restaurants, there is something for everyone.
Convenience at its best.
This has to be one of the best beaches in Cancun, Mexico, for those looking for peace and quiet.
Located right in the heart of the Hotel Zone, Playa Ancha isn’t the easiest to get to unless you are staying at Presidente Intercontinental Hotel. Otherwise, head to Playa Caracol and take a short walk from there.
While the golden sandy beach is on the smaller side, the water is heavenly to swim in. Another plus is that it doesn’t get as crowded as some neighboring beaches.
In terms of amenities, you will find restrooms, changing rooms, showers, loungers, and umbrellas.
The unlimited shops and restaurants across the street are a great advantage of visiting this beach. You’ll find plenty of places to grab lunch, or if you plan to head out for the night, don’t miss the nightclubs along Kukulcan Boulevard.
Great spot for sunset snaps.
Playa Caracol is located in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone, near Playa Ancha. The conditions are very similar, with gentle water for swimming and little to no currents.
Although the beach is small, a few platforms stretch over the sea, offering amazing views of the sparkling crystal-clear water. If you want to take a great photo, head out onto the platforms at sunset.
If you are planning a full day at the beach, don’t worry, there are beach umbrellas or palapas (thatched roof structures) to rent. Some areas may be blocked for hotel guests, but it is still a public beach.
Pro tip: If you can’t find any nearby parking, head to the Chedraui Select supermarket, where you can pay for your parking when you leave.
Playa El Nino
Best for families with young children.
Particularly popular amongst locals, Playa El Nino is another great spot for families heading to Cancun. Children will love the swings and play structures to climb on.
It is located just outside the Hotel Zone, but it’s an easy 15-minute drive from the northeast center of Cancun.
The water here is so flat that locals compare the beach to a pool.
Whether you prefer to try some fresh tacos from the local street vendors or dine in one of the small restaurants nearby, there are enough amenities to keep you occupied.
Known for its long, wide stretch of powdery sand.
What makes Playa Gaviota special is its location at the end of the Cancun beach Hotel Zone. Situated on a curved bay, this spot offers incredible views when looking backward along the beachfront.
Like many Cancun beaches in Mexico, the beach offers soft, powdery sand and is a great place for swimming. Keep in mind that the water is not as shallow as many other nearby beaches.
If you are interested in kayaking, rent one for an hour and head past the man-made sea barrier made of giant concrete cubes. There you will find a lot of brightly colored tropical fish to spy on.
Pro tip: If you want to experience the luxury of a 5-star hotel for the day, purchase a beach club day pass at the Hotel Kristal Altitude. You’ll find peace and quiet there compared to other parts of Playa Gaviota, which have more of a party atmosphere.
Come to enjoy the lively beach clubs.
For those looking for even more action, walk south of Playa Gaviota to Playa Lagarto, where some of the best beach clubs in Cancun are.
Check out Mandala Beach Club, where you can expect to be waited on for the day. Choose between a lounger or a cabana and stick around in the evening—the resident DJs will keep the party going.
Some days you’ll find the water to be calm and still, but at times the currents can be strong, and it is advised not to swim at Playa Lagarto.
Isla Blanca Beach
Perfect if you love adventure.
While Isla Blanca Beach is still in Cancun, it is much more of a hidden paradise than those in the heart of the Hotel Zone. If you have a rental car, it’s an easy 45-minute drive from downtown. Just be wary. The last few kilometers can be rough, with multiple potholes to tackle.
This beach near Cancun is unique—on one side, you’ll find the ocean, and on the other is a beautiful lagoon. It’s one of those wow places you will be eager to tell your friends at home about.
If you are looking for an adrenaline-inducing activity while in the area, try your luck at kitesurfing. There are a few schools where you can join a group lesson.
Pro tip: Don’t make the mistake of taking a taxi. Since it’s a bit out of the way, there won’t be any waiting when you wish to head home.
Ideal if you want peace and quiet but to be close to the action.
Playa Chac-Mool is in the heart of the Hotel Zone, yet known as the ideal spot for reading a book or relaxing on the shores of the sea. It’s one of those hidden Cancun, Mexico, beaches waiting to be explored.
The beach features a wide stretch of white sand and vibrantly blue water. It’s frequented by beachgoers of all ages who are looking to enjoy a couple of hours on a relatively quiet beach.
If you’re looking for something to liven up your day, join in some water sports or take a lesson at a surf school. At most times of the year, the waves are ideal for beginners.
For families, you can feel comfortable knowing there are lifeguards on the beach until 5 pm.
There are also public restrooms and showers.
Pro tip: The hotels on this beach have turtle conservation programs to protect the part of the beach where the reptiles lay their eggs. If you travel there from July through September, you may get to witness the beach guardians picking up the newly hatched turtles before releasing them back into the sea.
Best beach for partygoers.
Heading to Cancun beach in Mexico to party?
Then position yourself close to Playa Forum, so you can enjoy the beach and be close to the action.
You will find lively beachside restaurants and bars playing music, particularly in the evenings.
During the day, the atmosphere is buzzing. Many of the vendors offer lounge chair service. Food options include delicious Mexican dishes and a range of international cuisine.
The two most popular nightclubs to head to nearby are Mandala Cancun and Coco Bongo; the latter hosts colorful dancers and performances in the evening.
But Playa Forum is more than just a party beach. Its sparkling white sand and dazzling azures are idyllic if you need a morning swim after a long night out.
One of Cancun, Mexico’s best beaches.
Although there are a lot of hotels with private lounge chairs on this beach, it’s possible to visit if you aren’t staying there. Even on busy days, it’s easy to find a place to relax—this beach is wonderfully wide.
Playa Marlin is one of the top-rated beaches in the area due to its clear and warm, deep turquoise waters.
Its location just behind Plaza Kukulcán means you can enjoy the sun, have a picnic on the beach and when the sun sets, take a seat at one of the bars, restaurants or cafes.
Pro tip: If you are bringing your children, be careful of the currents as they can get strong.
Playa San Miguelito
A postcard-worthy beach.
Right next to the Kempinski Hotel Cancun is Playa San Miguelito. A lane right next to the hotel will lead you to this postcard-worthy beach.
If you are a guest at the hotel, you will have access to lounge chairs and facilities. If you are just visiting for the day, unfortunately, you will not have access to any amenities besides water sports. So be sure to bring your own drinks and food for the day.
Come early morning, and you may even have this fine white sandy beach to yourself!
The longest beach in Cancun.
If you want to visit one of the best beaches in Cancun, then look no further than Playa Delfines.
There’s a reason this spot is rated one of the highest in the city, with bright blue water and fine, soft white sand.
Also known as Dolphin beach, this is the largest beach in Cancun. So keep your eyes peeled for dolphins in the distance.
Unlike most other beaches in Cancun, there are no hotels or restaurants on the beachfront. It’s one of the reasons this spot is so special. You will, however, be able to rent beach chairs and umbrellas. There are also restrooms.
If you can’t sit still on the beach, why not take a surfing lesson or head out for a snorkel? The best spot to put on your fins for a marine life meet-and-greet is next to Club Med at the very southern end.
Pro tip: Even though this beach is the largest, be mindful of the flag colors indicating which areas are safe to swim. The waves can sometimes get choppy, and swimming after the lifeguards leave is not recommended.
Day trips to other beaches from Cancun
Although close to Cancun, exploring Tulum is like traveling to another world. It’s night and day from Cancun’s vibe, and it’s definitely worth the journey.
The beach is dotted with swaying palm trees, speckled soft white sand and bright turquoise water. It’s the perfect place to soak up some sun rays while reading a book before heading barefoot into one of the beach bars.
You will not find any high-rise resorts and hotels, instead, expect a bohemian beach vibe with boutique hotels spread amongst open-air cafes and eateries.
If you have time, don’t miss a visit to the ancient Tulum Mayan ruins. There is also a beach at the ruins for you to enjoy.
It’s only 129 kilometers (80 miles) south of the Cancun Hotel Zone. The fastest way to get from Cancun to Tulum is by taking a shuttle minivan which takes 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Pro tip: If you have time to spare, head further south to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 23 archaeological sites, some dating back 2300 years. There are a few virgin beaches as well, but you will need to bring all your necessities as the area doesn’t have any stores or vendors.
Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres
Looking for a change of pace? How about heading off to a cute little island for a day of exploring?
Isla Mujeres is a tropical island off the Caribbean Coast of Cancun, but within easy reach, and it’s calling your name.
Start by renting a golf buggy to explore the island before heading to the stunning Playa Norte beach to chill with a margarita.
The beach is beautiful and quiet, with a huge stretch of sparkling white sand and crystal-clear water. It’s possible to rent chairs and umbrellas so you can relax in comfort.
Since it faces the coast of Cancun and is not exposed to the open sea, it’s a safe beach to swim at.
To end your magical day, head to one of the beach clubs where you can enjoy tacos, ceviche and endless margaritas.
From Cancun to Isla Mujeres, take the high-speed ferry from Puerto Juarez Pier, Playa Tortugas Pier or Playa Caracol Pier.
Playa Del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen is another popular beach resort destination located 68 kilometers (42 miles) from Cancun. You won’t find as much nightlife as the overall vibe is more laid back.
Is the beach better in Cancun or Playa Del Carmen?
Both have great beaches. The main difference is that Playa Del Carmen has more of a beach town feel than the buzzy city vibes of Cancun.
There are two unmissable spots just outside of the funky town, Playacar Beach and Playa Xcalacoco.
Playacar Beach is situated within a gated community with an array of beach clubs and resorts to check out. But the real highlight is the secluded beaches.
You can buy a day pass for one of the accommodations, giving you access to umbrellas, daybeds and food and beverage options.
Playa Xcalacoco is the place to come to escape the crowds. The water is calm, and there are excellent snorkeling opportunities with reefs just off the beach to spot lots of colorful fish.
Pro tip: There is limited parking at Playa Xcalacoco, so you may need to park a bit further away and walk.
Getting from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen will take 45 minutes in a minivan or 1 hour 30 minutes by bus.
For an easy day trip from the Cancun main beach area, visit Playa Maroma. Located 55 kilometers (34 miles) away, Cancun to Playa Maroma will take one hour by car.
This beach has a reputation worldwide for its size, velvety white sand and dazzling sea color.
The snorkeling off the shore is fantastic but be sure to head out from Maroma Point, as there are always jet skis and boats operating in the area.
Pro tip: This is not a free beach in Cancun (unless you are staying at one of the hotels), so the best option is to buy a day pass at Maroma Beach Club.
Akumal and Xpu-ha Beach
Akumal Beach and Xpu-ha Beach, both south of Cancun and only 10 minutes apart, are great to combine as a day trip.
If you want to swim with turtles, explore Akumal Beach, also known as the Turtle Beach of Cancun, Mexico. It is an easy 55-minute drive by minivan to get to Akumal from Cancun.
With sea turtles right offshore, you don’t need to book a tour. Just bring your snorkeling gear along. However, there are certain areas the guides will take you for a better chance of spotting turtles—hiring a local guide is worth it.
If you visit during the evening from April to October, you may get lucky to spot female turtles laying eggs on the beach.
At Xpu-ha Beach, you will be asked to pay a small fee to enter, but it’s worth it for the sublime white sand and calm waters within a cove. On the plus side, the fee can be put towards food and beverages at La Playa Xpu-ha Beach Club.
If traveling from Cancun to Xpu-ha by car, it will take you 1 hour and 20 minutes.
It’s not a trip to Mexico without visiting a cenote.
While the beach is a beautiful place to swim and snorkel, be sure to leave time to check out the freshwater cenote—a natural sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone.
Bring everything in terms of snorkeling gear, food and drinks, as there are no shops or restaurants nearby.
X’cacel Beach is about 112 kilometers (70 miles) south of Cancun.
Pro tip: You will be asked to pay a small fee on entry which goes back to the sea turtle conservation program.
Puerto Morelos Beach
The wide white sandy beach is much quieter than other spots, so it’s the perfect place to relax and take in the sounds of the ocean.
For snorkeling lovers, organize a guided tour, as the reef further from the shore can only be accessed by boat. But this is where the best marine life is found!
From the cosmopolitan city of Cancun to Puerto Morelos Beach, a sleepy fishing village, it will take 40 minutes by minivan.
Weather in Cancun
If you are planning to hit the beaches in Cancun, Mexico, then when is the best time?
The cooler (well, not that cool) months of December through April are generally considered the best time to visit. The skies are clear and dry. Expect sunny days with temperatures between 75° and 90° Fahrenheit (24° to 32° Celsius).
You will experience ideal weather conditions during these months. Still, you may wish to plan around the Christmas/New Year break as well as Spring Break, which occurs in March and early April. During these periods, crowds are at their peak and in turn, hotel room rates will increase. Therefore, booking in advance is essential.
Between June and November, there is an increased chance of rainfall. Expect more humid conditions with overcast days. These months also coincide with Mexico’s hurricane season.
Packing list essentials for Cancun
You are heading on a beach holiday! Which, let’s be real, is a lot easier than packing for a winter vacation. As long as you have your swimmers, a few cover-ups, a pair of sandals and a few decent books, you are pretty much ready to go.
Below are a few items that may not come to mind but are totally worth packing:
- Anti-diarrhea medication: Let’s hope you don’t end up with Montezuma’s Revenge or traveler’s diarrhea, but it does occur, so it’s best to be prepared.
- 50+ sunscreen: There is nothing worse than pushing through the pain of sunburn, so be sure to bring your favorite sunscreen with you.
- Insulated water bottle: There are no shops at some of these beaches, so bring your own water bottle that keeps your water chilled even when sunbaking.
- A day bag: This is a lifesaver when heading on day trips. Bring one that is big enough to store your water bottle, phone, towel and a change of clothes.
Map of Cancun Beach, Mexico
How to get to Cancun Beach, Mexico
Great news! Cancun International Airport is not far away from the action. By standard minivan, it will take you 20 minutes. Alternatively, by bus, it will take you 45 minutes.
Otherwise, if your international flight arrives in Mexico City, the easiest option is to take a connecting domestic flight from Mexico City to Cancun.
If you are not arriving by air and have already been to the nearby towns of Playa Del Carmen or Tulum, it’s easy to get to Cancun.
From Playa del Carmen to Cancun, it’s only a 45-minute journey in a minivan or SUV car. Otherwise, jump on board a bus which will take you just over an hour.
From Tulum to Cancun, the options are similar. A minivan takes one hour and 15 minutes, and the bus will take two hours and 15 minutes.
To complete your trip, take a look at all the Mexico routes Bookaway offers.
Cancun International Airport is only 26 kilometers (16 miles) from downtown Cancun.
Cancun is a bustling city with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, cafes, beaches and amenities. You really don’t need to leave! However, nearby towns include Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and Isla Mujeres.
Being a tourist hot spot, Cancun is considered a safe place to travel. However, as with any unfamiliar location, it’s best not to wander the beaches alone at night or leave anything valuable in your car unattended.
That’s a big yes! There are so many incredible beaches to choose from. Just be aware of the flag color on the beach, indicating whether it’s safe to swim. Have a read above for the beaches best suited to those traveling with children.