We all have our favorite beach whether it is a crescent of soft white sand bathed by the gentle waves of a tropical sea or a windswept shoreline in northern climes that is ideal for a bracing walk. If you are in search of the perfect beach, the Mexican Caribbean is the place for you, its famous coastline stretches for well over 500 miles and here are some of our favorite spots in Cancun, the Riviera Maya, other parts of the state of Quintana Roo, and also in the neighboring state of Yucatan, they aren’t in any particular order but they are all beautiful in their own way. Read on and discover them.
We have to include Cancun! After all, its sweeping vistas of powder-white sand and turquoise waters first alerted the world to the beauty of the Mexican Caribbean. Its appeal is enduring, it has been rated No. 2 in the Trip Advisor 2012 list of Mexico’s Most Beautiful Beaches. Whether it is the open ocean shore of Cancun Island or the sheltered bay side protected by Isla Mujeres, 22 kilometers of beach with names such as Playa Las Perlas, Playa Langosta and Tortugas, Playa Gaviota Azul, Marlin, Ballenas, Delfines and Punta Nizuc await sun worshippers.
With their gentle surf the bayside beaches looking out towards Isla Mujeres are ideal for small children and you shouldn’t miss the chance to stroll along the Caribbean shoreline from Punta Cancun to Punta Nizuc.
Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres
Just a 20-minute boat ride away from Cancun, Isla Mujeres boasts several beautiful beaches, but the jewel in the crown is Playa Norte. This swathe of white sand bathed by impossibly turquoise waters is a magnet for sun lovers who while away the hours on sun beds or at bars under the palm trees. Go snorkeling, watch the yachts sail past and stay on for spectacular sunsets.
This peaceful fishing community has its own slice of paradise, it is nestled on a wide white beach that stretches to the north and south and is sheltered by an offshore reef that is a National Marine Park. The waters are calm and the corals harbor a variety of colorful fish and other sea creatures.
Walk along the beach from the leaning lighthouse that has become a Puerto Morelos landmark and enjoy the enchanting views of sparkling water and life in a traditional coastal village.
Tulum Voted No. 1 on Trip Advisor’s list of Mexico’s Most Beautiful Beaches for 2012, and with good reason, Tulum is breathtaking. Mexico’s most visited Mayan city perches on a cliff top overlooking the Caribbean and wooden steps lead down to a tiny bay where trading canoes once rocked gently at their moorings more than 1,000 years ago. The views along the coast from such a majestic vantage point are of headlands and white bays stretching as far as the eye can see.
In ancient times Tulum was known as Zama, which means “Dawn” and this magical place is certainly a great spot to watch the sunrise.
Playa del Carmen
Whether it is for sunbathing, a game of beach volleyball or candlelit parties at chic waterfront bars and clubs, Playa del Carmen’s shoreline draws an international crowd. Playa Mamitas is a popular haunt and is the venue for the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival in November. Just imagine, rustling palm trees and mellow music by the light of the Caribbean moon.
Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya
A perennial favorite, Akumal is a picture-perfect beach dotted with palm trees. The bay is protected by a coral reef and the shallow waters are calm and crystal-clear, making it an ideal spot to take children. Spend the day building sand castles – Mayan pyramids, fish and turtles are popular subjects – and snorkeling, you’ll see a variety of colorful fish and you may even see one of the turtles that gives this idyllic spot its name. In Maya Akumal means “place of the turtles.”
A short drive along the coast road to the north of Akumal beach is Half Moon Bay, a rocky cove dotted with coral heads where the reef is closer to shore. The snorkeling is even better here and you can laze on the sand after swimming. There’s a funky tropical beach bar with swings, hammocks, thatched lookout towers and tables and benches made of tree trunks. Order a cocktail and enjoy the view. The water is so clear that you can sometimes see turtles coming up for air and rays and parrotfish swimming in the shallows.
This peerless stretch of dazzling white sand has featured in many an international travel magazine and was once hailed as the world’s most beautiful beach. A secluded hideaway favored by the rich and famous, it is still possible to wander along the beach here in the morning and enjoy the solitude.
Located between Akumal and Xel-Ha, the beach at Xcacel is an important nesting site for sea turtles and was declared a sea turtle sanctuary by the Quintana Roo state government several years ago in order to protect it. Access is difficult but it is a magical spot, a crescent of powder-white sand backed by a palm grove and dunes covered in native shrubs such as the ciricote and sea grape.
To visit lovely Boca Paila beach you must venture into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, one of Mexico’s largest protected areas. While you can enter this wilderness south of Tulum and drive to the beach along the bumpy coast road (there are lots of potholes), we think it is much more fun and rewarding to sign up for an eco trip.
This option will take you to the archaeological site of Muyil, on an exhilarating boat trip through the Chunyaxche Lagoon system and along a natural canal in the wetlands that was widened and deepened by Mayan traders over 1,000 years ago. You’ll actually sail past one of their temples en route to the coast and you’ll see herons, egrets, ibis and other birds in the marshes and mangroves.
The channel eventually widens to reveal a bridge and beyond that a white beach and the Caribbean. “Boca Paila” means the “mouth of the pail” and it is the only place in northern Sian Ka’an where a freshwater canal fed by cenotes and underground rivers flows into the Caribbean, and fish from wetland and marine ecosystems can move between both worlds.
Sit in the warm sun, enjoy the soft Caribbean breeze and take in the view. Ospreys nest in an abandoned watchtower, terns and pelicans dive into the waves, and herons and other waders wait patiently in the shallows for their prey.
A 30-minute ferry ride from Chiquila on the north coast of Quintana Roo, Holbox is an island fishing community on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. White beaches, aquamarine and green waters and rustic charm are its hallmarks. This is a spot to laze on the beach and watch the fishermen unload the catch of the day, go for long strolls along the shoreline or charter a boat to explore the surrounding wetlands and Yalahau Lagoon, part of the Yum Balam Reserve. During the summer you can go in search of whale sharks, dolphins and manta rays.
A two-hour boat ride to the north of Cancun lies Contoy, a true desert island. This narrow strip of land is a bird sanctuary with colonies of frigate birds, cormorants and ibis nesting in the mangroves, but it also has several beautiful beaches. Visitors on eco trips to the island can spend their time relaxing on the sand on the leeward shore, swimming with stingrays in the bay or walk the coast paths on the windward side where the surf is stronger.
Most visitors make a beeline for Cozumel’s world-famous coral reefs for diving and snorkeling and the sheltered beaches along the west coast of the island, however, the east coast also merits a visit. While many stretches of this windswept shoreline are not recommended for swimming due to strong currents and undertow, there are many pristine beaches and bays that are perfect for a stroll and have magnificent views of the Caribbean.
West coast of Cozumel
Another popular stretch of soft white sand in the Riviera Maya lined with hotels, luxury beach homes and a couple of beach bars.
Southern Quintana Roo also has a chain of little known beaches known as the Costa Maya. The fishing village and cruise ship port of Majahual is the gateway to this area, which also offers good diving, snorkeling and fishing. The area has been earmarked for low-density tourist development with small hotels, dive lodges and cabañas for visitors in search of nature.
Gulf Coast Beaches in the Yucatan
From San Felipe and Dzilam de Bravo in the east to Celestun in the west, the Gulf Coast beaches of the Yucatan have their share of white sand and are backed by lagoons and wetlands that are rich in wildlife.
Watch the sun go down over the Gulf of Mexico at Dzilam de Bravo and you may catch a glimpse of flamingos flying back to Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve to roost after a day foraging for tiny shrimp and other crustaceans in the coastal lagoons. Keep your eyes on the horizon and as the sun sets you may even spot the famous green flash.
Rio Lagartos, Yucatan
Mexican Caribbean Sand is Always Cool to the Touch!
Of course, the Mexican Caribbean has another blessing; the white sand is always cool to the touch, unlike the black and golden sands of other tropical destinations which can heat up to uncomfortable levels. This is due to the fact that it is composed of minute particles of calcium carbonate from limestone and fragments of coral and shells that have been eroded and ground up by the waves over time. These reflect the sunlight and keep the temperatures down.
Keep our Beaches Beautiful
Help us keep the beaches of the Mexican Caribbean clean. We all need to do our part to protect the world’s beaches and oceans.
The beauty of Cancun - Photo by Claudia M
• Always take your garbage with you when you leave.
• Recycle and reuse. The world’s oceans are full of plastic and there are huge islands of garbage. Waste is also carried for thousands of miles by currents and much of it eventually washes up on beaches. The harmful chemicals in plastics and minute fragments called micro-plastics accumulate in the food chain affecting the health of fish, birds and other marine creatures and ultimately our own.
• Dispose of ring pulls, plastic beer packaging and cellophane bags correctly. They are all harmful to seabirds and marine life, including the sea turtle, which mistake bags for jellyfish, one of its foods.
• Do not stub cigarettes out in the sand, the beach is not an ashtray! Not only is it unsightly and unhygienic, the UN International Maritime Organization also estimates that tobacco litter is harmful to 177 species of marine animals and 111 species of shorebirds.
• Staff at the six Royal Resorts in Cancun and Playa del Carmen participate in a daily beach-cleaning program, as do many other resorts in the area,and local NGOs such as Amigos de Sian Ka’an A.C., Flora, Fauna y Cultura and the Centro Ecologico de Akumal organize regular beach clean ups in different parts of the Mexican Caribbean. You can lend them a helping hand.
Royal Resorts staff participating in the daily beach cleaning
Beach lover? Don’t miss our “Beach Thursday” page! A weekly selection of beautiful beach pictures submitted by Royal Resorts members and guests.
Tell us about Your Favorite Beach
We are sure that you have your own favorite beaches too, so why not drop us a line and tell us about them and don’t forget Beach Thursday! Send us your pictures and you could see them published on this blog.