Mexico, North America, Travellers

Top 9 Best Beaches of Yucatán, Mexico

Imagine endless azure blue water, washing up the white sand shores. That is the reality of the peninsula Yucatán in Mexico. I spent three months studying Spanish in Playa del Carmen, one of the charming villages along the Caribbean coast. I have compiled a list of best (touristy) beaches you cannot skip during your time in Mexico. So if you want to know what beaches to go to in Yucatán, Mexico, here you go.

1. Playa del Carmen

Starting off this list with the beach I visited every single day during my three-month stay, is of course the beach along Playa del Carmen. The sand is white, the water is a beautiful colour blue, and it is close to a lot of hotels. I usually went to the strip of sand just in front of the bar Señor Frog, but honestly, the whole coastline of the Yucatán peninsula is gorgeous, so you cannot go wrong here.

Playa del Carmen on the peninsula Yucatan in Mexico has a stunning coast line of white beaches and azure blue water

2. Cancún Beach

If you haven’t been to Cancún, you probably still know it anyways from Hollywood movies covering spring break. And yes, the party scene in Cancún is pretty epic. However, so are the beaches.

Cancún itself is not a very spectacular city, but the hotel strip (Zona Hotelera) is covered in beautiful all-inclusive hotels lined up on the beautiful shores that touch the Caribbean Sea. Stay in one of these hotels for a bit, or pay for a day pass to spend a day at the beach and enjoy the all-inclusive menu.

Cancún beach on the peninsula Yucatan in Mexico. The stretched white sand beaches are iconic for this coast town in Mexico.

 If you’re more into doing water activities than chilling on the beach, there is an ‘underwater museum‘ called MUSA in Cancún. Go snorkelling or scuba diving with statues that were placed underwater to preserve the coral and promote coral life on the 500 statues.

Visit the Underwater Museum MUSA when in Cancun, Mexico
Picture by Arsunic

Address MUSA: Cerrada Las Golondrinas 24, Alfredo Bonfil, Cancún

3. Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a small island just off the coast of Cancún. On the island you can rent a golf cart to go around the island, visit the turtle sanctuary La Tortuga Granja, and of course you can enjoy the beautiful beaches.

Isla Mujeres has beautiful beaches all over the island. This is one of my favourites in Mexico

Also from Isla Mujeres (as well as Isla Holbox and Cancún), you can do a day trip to swim with whale sharks. The best time of year to do this is from 1 June to 15 September. I did this in June and honestly, this was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Do take into account that you can (and will) get really sea sick as soon as the boat stops in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, but it is so worth it.

If you are visiting Mexico between June and September during the whale shark season, definitely go swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Cancun and Isla Mujeres, Yucatan.

4. Tulúm (& Playa Paraíso)

From Playa del Carmen it is a simple 1 hour drive to the South before you arrive in Tulúm. This beach paradise is famous for its temples, but also for its pristine beaches.

Tulum is famous for its beautiful blue water and beaches

Take the time to check out Playa Paraíso (yes, that means Paradise Beach in Spanish!), as the beauty of this beach took my breath away.

Playa Paraíso in Tulum, Mexico has its own beach crossroad direction sign    Playa Paraíso, or Paradise Beach in English, with my friend Emilie

5. Akumal 

Akumal is a small beach right in between Playa del Carmen and Tulúm. What makes this beach special is that you can rent snorkelling equipment, walk into the water, and be surrounded by turtles and manta rays. Yes, you can actually swim with turtles here.

When I lived in Mexico from April to June 2013, Akumal was still a hidden gem. I have to warn you though, I cannot imagine that this is still the case in 2019. Be prepared to share the waters with other tourists.

Definitely don't skip Akumal Beach when you are in Mexico. You can snorkel and swim with turtles and manta rays here

6. Isla Cozumel 

Just off the coast of Playa del Carmen is Isla Cozumel. I haven’t visited this island personally, but I heard it is a great spot for diving, and that the beaches are beautiful. However, the reason I didn’t visit, is because I heard Isla Mujeres is the better of the two islands. 

If you visit both, let me know what you think which one really deserves to be on the list of best beaches of Yucatán, Mexico!

7. Xel-Ha Beach

Is it a tourist trap? Or is it just great fun? I spent a day at Xel-Ha (pronounced as Shell-Ha), a large preserved area that is not your average water attraction park, and I think it is definitely a lot of fun. For €80 you can spent a day all-inclusive at the beautiful waters of this park. You can snorkel, go tubing, enjoy the view from the scenic lighthouse, explore caves and mangroves, go cliff diving, zip lining, walk jungle trails, bike around the Xel-Ha grounds, or you can simply swim and relax while sipping from your cocktails. 

Whether it is your crowd or not, one thing is for sure. Xel-Ha, which means “where the water is born” in Mayan, offers beautiful views from all angles. Therefore, it deserves a spot in the list of best beaches in Mexico.

Xel-Ha is a natural aquarium in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Xel-Ha means "where the water is born" in Mayan.

8. Sian Ka’an – Best Beaches in Mexico

Discover the natural beauty of the Riviera Maya in Sian Ka’an‘s Biosphere Reserve. Sian Ka’an is committed to preserving the thousands of species of flora and fauna found in the area. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean, and there are great tours to explore the area. You can do a boat tour through the mangroves, spot crocodiles from the boat, go snorkelling in the beautiful waters, go bird watching, or relax in the water. Check out the picture below and tell me this is not one of the best beaches in Mexico.

Sian Ka'an is the largest nature reserve in the Mexican Caribbean
Unbelievable yet true, there is no filter applied to this picture.

9. Rio Lagartos

The last place to visit on this list of best beaches in Yucatan, Mexico, has to be Rio Lagartos. Rio Lagartos is so much more than just a beach though. I will take you through the day I spent here back in 2013.

The day started in Playa del Carmen, where I rented a car together with a group of 4 friends. We drove up to Rio Lagartos, where we had a boat tour planned. Goal of the day: Seeing flamingos. Little did we know that this day would bring so much more.

Spot flamingos at Rio Lagartos on Yucatan, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Day trip at Rio Lagartos: Crocodiles, flamingos, a pink lake and a mud bath

As soon as we started the boat tour, the tour guide wanted to look for crocodiles, even though we had not paid for the crocodile tour. In no time he noticed a crocodile in the water and steered towards it. Even though it was a wild crocodile, we could all pet its head. Of course the crocodile decided it was fed up with us touching him right when I touched its back, so after a small heart attack because the large, dinosaur-like creature turned around at the speed of light, we moved on.

Flamingos and pink lake Las Coloradas

After a short while we saw large flocks of pink birds on the horizon: flamingos! We cruised through the several flocks and stopped right in the middle of one. We didn’t expect we had to get out, but our guide ordered us to climb out of the boat and onto the small strip of land in front of us. On the other side, we found out, was a pink lake. Yes. A real, pink lake, named Las Coloradas. So salty, you can float in it. This pink lake is definitely on of the best beaches in Mexico.

Mud bath and swimming

As if petting a crocodile, seeing flamingos and floating in a salty pink lake were not enough, at the next stop we took a mud bath with mud that would cost a fortune if it were in a jar. Finally, we ended the tour swimming in water that was the Gulf of Mexico on the left side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. Honestly, this was probably one of the best day trips I have done during my three months in Mexico.

Pink beach Las Coloradas at Rio Lagartos, Mexico

I hope you enjoyed this post and feel ready to conquer the most beautiful beaches in Mexico on the peninsula Yucatán. Let me know what your favourite beaches are!

Enjoyed this post? Check out this post about Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.

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Melissa is the founder of Hashtag Explorers. She is a Dutch, chocolate loving, book reading, enthusiastic, and open-minded world traveller. Melissa enjoys her time researching new travel destinations or learning new languages. Her strong desire to experience new cultures and meet new people has led to creating #Explorers. If you cannot find her in The Hague, where she is working as a Marketeer, she is probably exploring the rest of the world, where she is reliving memories from the times she lived in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Malta.

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