RIU Palace resort in Cabo San Lucas on Mexico's Pacific Coast. Photo by Clemens Vasters.
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Cancun Acapulco & Puerto Vallarta Maya Riviera Cabo San Lucas
Mexican Beach Vacations
Apart from large stretches of soft sand and warm waters, Mexican beaches offer laid back lifestyles, good facilities, excellent food and drink at reasonable prices, lively evenings
with music and/or dance if you care for it, superb coral in some places and
nearby ancient sites in others.
On the negative side beaches in Mexico are frequently overrun with package tourists, souvenirs are clichéd and poor quality, petty
theft happens and local service people can be sour and unhelpful if things go wrong or tips are not evident.
Best beach season
Mid November to May are the best months for regular sunshine and calm seas on Mexican beaches, whether it's the Pacific Coast (west side) or Maya Riviera (east side). Naturally July-August,
Christmas and Easter seasons attract huge numbers of vacationers from both
inside and outside the country, but the heat is on as well as overpowering humidity and the storm clouds are gathering...
are the hottest and most humid months, August - September, with heavy rain, cloud, and an insect
problem too. However, note that during the winter months trips to higher altitude locations such as Mexico City may be very chilly.
August-November has the possibility of rough seas on the Pacific coast due
For diving off Baja California August - November is best, with warm,
Beware the famously boisterous US college Spring Break that happens annually, mostly during March with a handful colleges vacationing in early April. Mexican destinations that suffer (enjoy?) the youthful madness are Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. Prices up, tranquility down, but if you're young and wild then this season could be perfect.
A hatchling on it's way to the sea in Mazunte, Pacific Coast.
Mexico's beaches divided into three zones
• The Gulf Coast (Gulf of Mexico)
• Maya Riviera (Caribbean Coast)
• Pacific coast
Gulf of Mexico
Not a lot of great beaches on this curving, tropical shore, though plenty of oil wells.
The state of Veracruz occupies a large part of the coast and is scattered with still unspoilt towns and archeological sites as this is a less-travelled part of the country.
The state's best beaches run along the Costa Esmeralda, a 31 mile (50km) strip north of the Veracruz port (5 hours drive from Mexico City). The sand tends to be grey-brown, waters warm and large stretches are devoid of crowds so this is one of the better places in the country to find isolation. Nearby is the UNESCO World Heritage site of El Tajin, a ceremonial center of the Totonacs.
Maya Riviera, Caribbean coast
An unusually low-rise Cancun beach seen from the Fiesta Americana resort. Photo by Serge Melki
Mexico's most famous beach resort zone on the Riviera Maya, Cancun, is overbuilt but nevertheless home to some superb beach resort hotels, fine white sand beaches,
warm shallow waters, cool strong drinks and everything else a tourist might need except real ethnic
colour, style or unspoilt serenity.
Puerto Moreles, Excellence Beach. Photo by Tony Hisgett.
A fishing village and small beach resort between Cancun and Playa del Carmen with fine sand, warm water and for a great bonus, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef just 500 meters offshore for snorkelling or diving...more
Playa del Carmen on the Maya Riviera (Caribbean coast).
A cool, casual beach scene with plenty of accommodation (though there's an increasing imbalance towards huge, all-inclusive hotels these days), excellent bars, restaurants and shops. Although
it is very popular Playa del Carmen is reasonably low-key and relaxing.
This is one of the better places in Mexico to buy high quality crafts, especially
Playa also has boats to Cozumel island - for
world class diving, pricey shopping (catering to cruise ships), a couple of fine beaches and a marine park for swimming with dolphins - at considerable
Tulum beach and the Maya Templo Dios del Viento, Maya Riviera.
Photo by Dennis Jarvis.
Tulum is one of the prettiest beaches in the Americas, albeit very small, but with a picturesque Mayan
temple overlooking the sand and more ruins away from the shore.
130 km south of the massive and style-free resort of Cancún,
it is a tiny but perfectly-formed white sandy cove, with a few palm
shade and the azure Caribbean sea to swim in.
The entrance to Tulum is totally touristy, with a huge car park,
souvenir shops, café and restaurants. There are a few hotels and restaurants in
Tulum village and also (far better option) plenty of resort type
places, cabañas (beach huts) and campsites along the coast
road south to Punta Allen.
Temple of the Wind Gods: It's thought that the holes in the temple roof made a whistling noise when the wind picked up speed, thus warning locals of impending storms or even hurricanes and giving them time to move to a more protected area. The structure is not especially impressive but the location is magnificent.
For seekers of more Maya culture and relics one of the world's best ancient sites is just a couple of hours away by car or 4 hours by bus - Chichen Itza.
Mexico's Pacific Coast
This coast offers the greatest variety of beaches and can be divided into two parts - Baja California, along peninsula bordering the USA's California (half washed by the North Pacific Ocean, the other half by the Sea of Cortez) and the more southerly mainland Pacific Coast.
Lands End snorkeling near Cabo San Lucas, Pacific Coast.
Baja California (peninsula)
Los Cabos - Cabo
San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo
The best part of Cabo San Lucas is its small town feel, even if it has balooned in size in the last 25 years. The town is compact and easy to get around on foot - unlike Cancun where hopping buses is essential. Cabo San Lucas also manages to maintain a moderately Mexican atmosphere in spite of the American tourist dominance.
Escaping from the town is easy if you bring or rent a vehicle (ATVs are popular), enabling trips to isolated beaches, desert walks, rock climbs
and mountain adventures.
Playa El Medano is the core of tourist activity in Cabo San Lucas. It stretches out for about 2 miles (3 kms) from the harbour/marina and is lined with high-rise resorts and restaurants/cantinas. Medano is coated with soft sand and washed by clear, calm seas but in season is crowded, hyperactive and packed with persistent vendors so if you're looking for peace and quiet better head elsewhere by water or wheels. If you want action however, be it partying or marine activities, then Medano is the best place to start.
Note that Los Cabos are a popular 'Spring Break' location so muchos locos descend upon the area during March every year and tranquility may be hard to find. More Cabo San Lucas information and photos
Concepción, near La Paz
The shore of Bahia Concepcion (Conception Bay), just south of Mulegé (near La Paz), has several beaches that many consider are the best in the Baja, including
Playa Requesón, Playa Buenaventura, and Playa Coyote. The
bay is on the coast of Sea of Cortez, which is a protected marine
sanctuary and offers quieter, warmer waters than the Pacific side.
The facilities are fairly basic (some places have no
fresh water), but there is wildness, natural beauty and tranquility.
Excellent for watersports and great for seafood, especially clams.
Playa Santispac has the best campsite, with a fine restaurant. If
you are up to kayaking, try Playa Buenaventura.
Playa Linda in Ixtapa. Photo by Luidger.
The Pacific mainland coast from north to south
A vibrant port town, both a transport hub with ferries to Baja California and a beach destination with huge stretches of sand and warm waters, Mazatlan is a popular budget Spring Break destination due to its variety of low-cost accommodation.
de Matanchen, San Blas
This small and very Mexican fishing village of San Blas (nearish to Tepic) has an excellent
town beach, but the best in the area is just 4 km away - Bahia
de Matanchen, a broad crescent bay with splendid beaches
of prime soft sand and a relaxing atmosphere.
The main drawback is summertime mosquito and sand fly problems.
Photo by Khayman
Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco
The central Pacific Coast has
several hundred miles of coastline with fine sandy beaches and excellent
facilities. The choices are enormous from international resorts
like Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco for monster all-inclusive resorts packed densely, to smaller resorts
with local colour such as: Chamela (the prettiest, 165 km south of Puerto Vallarta), Barra de Navidad and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo.
Great activities, fantastic seafood, and lively night life.
Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
Visitors to the Zihuatanejo region have a choice of more than 20 miles of beaches that are still reasonably uncrowded, laid back and clean, though high-rise resorts are inevitably popping up as the years advance, like concrete acne.
Bahia de Ixtapa, for example, encloses four wide, lengthy beaches with soft sand of a slightly muddy color, while outside the bay a more adventurous traveler can find El Palmar's two miles of white sand along with Playa Linda's unspoilt curve of tree-lined sand. More Ixtapa information and photos.
Oaxaca Riviera (far south Pacific Coast)
Puerto Escondido's Playa Principal on a busy summer weekend - busy with budget travelers and Mexican families.
Escondido, Oaxaca state, SE of Acapulco
Puerto Escondido has
several stretches of magnificent sandy beach with a laid-back ambience
and plenty of inexpensive accommodation. Beaches range from
2 km long Zicatela, the surfing
mecca (nicknamed the Mexican Pipeline) east of the town,
to the calmer three coves including Playa
Puerto Angelito on the west.
August - November surf reaches 7-8 metre due to south Pacific storms. More Puerto Escondido information
Angel, Oaxaca state, 50 miles east of Puerto Escondido. From Oaxaca City the journey isn't too far at 150 miles (240kms) but it's a very winding road going through the Sierra Madre del Sur so bus travel will take up to seven hours.
Tranquil Puerto Angel encompasses two small town beaches, plenty of low-cost facilities and a couple of bigger, prettier strips of sand nearby at Playa Boquilla.
Zipolite beach, west end. Photo by Alejandro Garcia
favourite, Zipolite Beach, is 4 kms from Puerto Angel (take a taxi) and about
60 km east of Puerto
Zipolite offers simplicity and relaxation
(except for the overdeveloped west end), with a good selection of low-cost accommodation and eateries beside the sand, wifi too!
Recently there has been an increasing security problem. Beware of
high surf (particularly August - November) and strong currents in
deep water. n.b. Surf board rentals are not easy to locate. Zipolite Photos.
Mazunte hosts not only an eco-tourist village but also a turtle museum and real live Olive Ridley, Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles burying their eggs in the half mile long turtle-reserve beach from May for several months. Mazunte Photos
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