Caribbean Coast Feature


Caribbean Coast's Best Beaches

The stretch from Cancún to Tulum comprises one perfect beach after the next: turquoise waters; sugary sand; tall, skinny palms swaying in the breeze. Both wilder and milder than the Caribbean islands, the beaches here are long and windswept, often with jungle growing right up to the sand.

Much of this earthly paradise remains as nature made it—wild, lush, and lovely, but development has left its mark in the burgeoning cities with resorts both mega and mini. Public access to some of the Riviera Maya's loveliest beaches is complicated by resort development, which has gated many access points between Cancún and Tulum. Choose to stay at a beachfront resort, or try beaches in Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Puerto Aventuras, and Tulum, all of which have good public access. If you take your sun with some fun, look no further than Playa del Carmen's beach clubs, where you can spend the day playing in the waves or chilling to the beat.

Safety First

Deserted beaches invite thieves—never leave anything visible in your car. Remember that even the calmest-looking waters can have currents and riptides. If visiting isolated beaches, bring sunscreen and drinking water to avoid overexposure and dehydration. Take note that waves are most powerful during December, and that hurricane season lasts from June through November.

Best Beaches

Playa del Secreto (North of Punta Maroma)

The soft white sand at this "secret" beach sparkles under the sun like fine powdered crystal, and is kept spotless by neighboring resorts that groom it daily. The turquoise water is warm, and there are no sudden drop-offs or rocks in sight; although not completely calm, it's never too rough for swimming. Farther north is a stretch of coastline where clothing is optional.

Playa del Carmen

Playa's deep, sandy beach scattered with palms and licked by clear, rolling waves is delightful in itself. But for the international party crowd, it's a photo-op backdrop to some of the Caribbean's best fun in the sun. The chic beach clubs clustered on the shore set your vacation to a dance club beat, with sexy music, stylish food, and glamorous services from lounge-chair-side martinis to beachside massage. Adrenaline's on the menu, too, with Wave Runners, parasailing, and kite surfing.

Tankah Bay (Tankah)

This wide, protected beach just north of Tulum has an outer reef that blocks the wind and waves. The bay itself offers excellent snorkeling and kayaking, but it's not great for swimming, since a few rocks line the shore. Throw down a towel and sink into the sugary-white sand or head to the neighboring Manatee Cenote for an underwater adventure. Surrounded by mangroves, this freshwater pool is rich with abundant sea life, and spills directly into the bay. Although there are no amenities directly on the beach, you'll find a good restaurant nearby at Blue Sky Hotel.

Tulum Beach (Tulum)

Tulum's star attraction is the ancient Mayan temple site on the cliff above a small, white-sand cove. It may be the most picturesque beach in Mexico, starring in many tourism board ad spots. You'll be torn between shooting photos and diving into the waves, accessible from the site (entrance fee $4) by way of a long wooden staircase. Here you'll find some of the softest sand on the coast, with water that illuminates four shades of turquoise. Once you've taken in the ruins, explore farther south along the Boca Paila road, where Tulum's main beach makes up for its lack of ruins with seven miles of glorious calm waters and white sand.

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