Whether you want to surf, sunbathe, or people-watch, there’s a Cancún beach for you.
Mexico may have a 6,200-mile-long coastline, but few places rival Cancún and the surroundings when it comes to pristine white sands and turquoise waters. Most famously, Cancún’s Hotel Zone—a number 7 shaped sandbar hemmed by upscale resorts and hotels—is the epicenter of beach-y perfection, with a calmer north end perfect for kids and couples and a lively Caribbean side with choppier waters and bigger crowds. Here are nine of the best beaches in Cancún to add to your itinerary.
Playa Gaviota Azul
In Punta Cancún, at km 9.5 of the Caribbean side of Cancún’s Hotel Zone beach strip, Playa Gaviota Azul (also known as Playa Forum) is one of the area’s most popular public access beaches (technically, all beaches are public access in Mexico, but hotels will often circumvent the law by refusing access to the beach unless you’re a guest). It’s also conveniently located near both Coco Bongo and Mandala, with their especially lively weekends making it perfect for partygoers. Go all out and spend a day at the Mandala Beach Club or simply lounge on the sand (beware: it gets very busy) and enjoy the nearby bars and restaurants. Traveling with kids? This might not be the beach for you.
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Playa Chac Mool
Next door to the rather vivacious Playa Gaviota Azul, you’ll find the understated and casual Playa Chac Mool. While this spot certainly attracts a certain amount of spillover crowds, it’s not quite as busy as other central Cancún beaches despite sharing the same bone-white sandy appeal, green-blue waters, and spectacular views over the Cancún Hotel Zone. Visit at sunrise when the beach is all but bare and watch the sun come up over the ocean.
INSIDER TIPPlaya Chac Mool has great onsite facilities, including free-to-access showers and palapa rental.
White sand, a near absence of waves, and nearby amenities—think: restaurants, numerous souvenir shops, and bathroom facilities—make the petite Playa Tortugas an especially family-friendly beach. While most simply pass by Playa Tortugas, it’s worth sticking around to make the most of this beach’s excellent swimming, snorkeling, and paragliding conditions at least once during your vacation. Situated towards the north end of the Hotel Zone and right next to the Isla Mujeres ferry departure dock, it can certainly get crowded at peak times and weekends, so plan your visit accordingly.
INSIDER TIPPlaya Tortugas offers a one-of-a-kind over-the-ocean bungee jumping experience. Make sure to ensure your spot in line by booking ahead.
Moving down the Caribbean coastline—to km 19.5 of the Hotel Zone, to be precise—you’ll find perhaps the most quintessential of all Cancún beaches: Playa Delfines. While admittedly not great for swimming—steer clear if you’re in Cancún with little kids—it’s the perfect place to lounge on the sand and enjoy the views because, somewhat remarkably, there are currently no hotels or resorts on this stretch of the shore. While you’re in the area, you’ll also want to make time to spice up your social media by snapping a photo with the nearby multicolored Cancún sign.
INSIDER TIPPlaya Delfines has chairs and umbrellas for rent, as well as onsite bathrooms, palapas, and a kids’ playground.
Playa Punta Nizuc
If you’re looking for a beach with great underwater attractions, Playa Punta Nizuc is the place. Situated at the extreme south of the Hotel Zone’s Caribbean stretch, here you’ll find shallow waters and coral reefs, making it the ideal place to practice kayaking, snorkeling and plain ol’ swimming. Look out for the underwater sculpture known as The Gardener of Hope by Jason Decaires Taylor that makes up part of the MUSA collection. If you tire of the beach, head over to one of the many nearby restaurants for dinner and a drink.
INSIDER TIPPlaya Punta Nizuc is one of the few pet-friendly beaches in Cancún. Visit with your dog from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Sticking to the mainland but moving down the coast somewhat, you’ll find the Puerto Morelos beach. Perfect for when you tire of the pristine Cancún coastline, Puerto Morelos offers swimmable surf, more affordable bars and restaurants—don’t miss the ceviche—and boats that will shuttle you out to snorkel or scuba dive in the nearby coral reefs. Hole up at one of the many beach clubs which line the shore if you want waiter service and shaded seating.
If you want to really escape the crowds of Cancún’s Hotel Zone beaches but aren’t convinced about heading to a nearby town or island, Isla Blanca makes for an ideal middle-ground. Around 30-minutes north of the Cancún epicenter, this overlooked peninsula is dominated by jungle, sand, and the Chacmuchuk Lagoon. While you’ll probably need to rent a car to get there—there’s no public transport, unfortunately—it’s worth the trip. Just remember that cell phone coverage and corner shops are basically non-existent, so you’ll need to pack supplies.
Like most of the north zone beaches, Playa Langosta is easily accessible on public transport and an ideal spot to enjoy with kids. It’s also situated close to the ferry dock—similarly to Playa Tortugas—which makes it an excellent jumping-off point for excursions and tours. However, you should also stick around to take advantage of the gentle, swimmable ocean and nearby restaurants.
While not technically situated in Cancún, Isla Mujeres’ Playa Norte (North Beach) is spectacular enough to warrant an honorary mention. As the name suggests, you’ll find Playa Norte at the northern tip of Isla Mujeres, which itself is just a 20-minute boat ride from Cancún proper. Playa Norte has loungers, palms, and practically transparent waters, plus more beach bars than you can shake a stick at. Make the most of a full day there or visit in the evening for one of the few over-the-ocean sunsets in the region.